| By Ally Mueller |
Service opportunities are often easier to find than job opportunities, but can provide you with many of the benefits, both personal and professional, of a traditional job. Depending on what you hope to gain from volunteering and/or the amount of time you want to volunteer, be sure to look at the variety of service opportunities below that encompass a variety of interests and time frames. Hopefully at least one of the service options appeals to you!
- Use your academic skills:
Whether your best subject in school is math, English, economics, biology, or accounting, chances are that either a peer or someone a few grades below you would greatly benefit from your help. UP itself has paid student tutors, but many elementary/middle/high schools in the area are looking for volunteers to help out in numerous academic areas. These academic volunteer opportunities are prevalent, and exist all around the UP area (including Portland Public Schools, Sabin Schools, and Saturday Academy).
- Use your social skills:
Many homeless shelters and retirement centers in the area love to have young people come and either run a specific program (arts and crafts, playing games, Bingo night, etc.) or simply come and keep the residents company. While talking to someone and having a good conversation may hardly be considered “volunteering”, this can have a profoundly positive impact on the residents. The Macdonald Center is a great place to go if you’re interested in volunteering with the elderly, and Portland Homeless Family Solutions is perfect for those of you who are interested in interacting with both children and adults.
- Find an organization that you care about and are passionate about:
When you volunteer for an organization that you thoroughly respect and care about, your volunteer experience will be much more rewarding. For example, if you are passionate about environmental issues, volunteering for Friends of Trees or at the ReBuilding Center are two great options. Or, if you are a business major who likes fashion, Dress for Success Oregon (DFSO) is always looking for volunteers. With so many volunteer opportunities, why not volunteer somewhere that especially interests you?
- Volunteer somewhere to improve your professional development:
Even though you may not be getting paid as a volunteer, this does not mean that you are not able to gain professional experience that can be included on your resume. Many organizations are willing to work with you to allow you to develop specific skills that enhance your resume. For example, I volunteered at the ReBuilding Center in the past and was able to further develop my Microsoft Excel skills and learned about the Mail Chimp program. If you are a science major, OHSU also has volunteer research positions available.
- Volunteer on an immersion/service trip:
Although service trips often take a significant amount of time (usually at least a week), volunteer trips can be extremely rewarding. The Moreau Center sponsors a number of immersion trips, spanning from one week to a few weeks. These immersion trips include Border Immersion trips to the US/Mexico border and summer immersion trips to Nicaragua, India, Italy, and East Africa. I once participated on a service trip to Joplin, Missouri to aid with tornado relief, and the experience was very rewarding. If you have the time and are willing to step outside your comfort zone, immersion trips can be life changing.
- If you’re too busy: Donate clothing, food, or money:
For some people, taking the time to volunteer is just not feasible. Nevertheless, there are still many ways to volunteer besides volunteering one’s time. Many shelters gladly accepted gently used/new clothing, and food donations are always welcome at the Oregon Food Bank and Ronald McDonald House. If you would prefer to donate financially, giving money to an organization that you really respect and trust is still a great way to “volunteer.”
If you still are interested in volunteering but don’t know where to begin, contacting University of Portland’s Moreau Center is an easy way to get started. The Moreau Center coordinates many immersion trips and has a list of volunteer opportunities on its website (it even breaks the volunteer opportunities into categories!).
Here are some links to help you get started on your volunteer search immediately:
Moreau Center (a good place to start!): http://www.up.edu/moreaucenter/
Moreau Center (immersion information): http://www.up.edu/moreaucenter/default.aspx?cid=4160&pid=4582&gd=yes
Portland Public Schools: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/volunteer/
Macdonald Center: http://www.macdcenter.org/volunteer/
Portland Homeless Family Solutions: http://pdxhfs.org/volunteer/
Friends of Trees: http://www.friendsoftrees.org/volunteering
The ReBuilding Center: http://www.rebuildingcenter.org/volunteer
Dress for Success Oregon: https://oregon.dressforsuccess.org/