Here at The Metal Peddler, we truly believe that volunteering is great for the soul. Not only are you giving back to the community in small ways, making a difference in someone's life or in your town somehow, but we really believe that sacrificing time and energy has a way of making us more compassionate and empathetic–and heaven knows, we need more compassion & empathy in the world!
I first began volunteering in the 1980s through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme in the UK, and Jason through his time in Boy Scouts. After we married, we started doing a lot of service work together and with our kids. Some of those projects were small – a day picking up litter in a nearby town, for example, or helping out at a center that put together disaster relief supplies.
In 2013, we felt the nudge to do more, and that started an 8-year-long journey of fundraising and team meetings as we travelled to Honduras year after year, volunteering at a children's home and school for kids who would otherwise be homeless or spending their days on the streets. It was really incredible to watch the youngsters grow, with the young teens maturing into young adults: attending trade schools, completing high school, and hoping for college. And each year we loved to see some of the little ones as they became pre-teens and teens, developing very typical teenage personalities, playful, hopeful, and ambitious. They could never do these things without the hope and opportunity offered by places like that kids' home.
Each year, our jobs were vastly different, from cleaning & painting their cafeteria to helping haul sand for the concrete for a new school or building a pavilion where children could spend time with their parents. Jason installed heavy-duty metal screens to reduce the flies and mosquitoes in the kitchen & dormitories. At the same time, I did crafts with some of the younger children – giving them the time and kindness that all children desperately need. Hearing testimonies from the children and working with them strengthened not only my faith, but also my ability to help others in our own community at home.
When the COVID pandemic hit and we were unable to travel to Honduras, we focused our efforts closer to home, spending a week doing projects on a senior's house and volunteering at a local organization for female Veterans. In the following months, our own hearts were challenged about where we should be serving, and at this time we felt the need to spend more time in our hometown. Every town has problems, some worse than others, whether it's poverty, violence, homelessness, animal welfare, poor literacy, alcohol and substance abuse, and so much more. There are usually nonprofits that serve in all of these areas, and they are often desperate for help – whether it's doing physical labor, helping with fundraising or donation drives, or simply raising awareness of the problems, their causes, and the solutions.
Earlier this year, I taught a free budgeting class at our local library and also began volunteering on the board of a local organization called VOICe–Victim Outreach & Intervention Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide support and advocacy for victims and survivors of violent situations & trafficking and to raise awareness through educational programs with the goal of reducing violence in the community. I chose this organization in particular as violence has peppered my own life at times, and I am deeply aware of its long-lasting impact on a person's life and family. My hope is that through serving here, I am able to be a part of a movement that reduces violence and empowers victims and survivors to lead hopeful and fulfilling lives.
It's not all work work work! Jason has some fun on the world's dodgiest "scaffolding".
I'd love to know more about how you serve and what difference it's made to your own life. If you've never considered volunteering or you've dismissed it thinking you don't have the time or you don't think you have anything to offer, I urge you to take another look. Our communities need every little bit of empathy and bold compassion that we can offer. And by bold compassion, I mean one that acts, not just sympathizes. We might not be able to change the world individually, but collectively we can. Decide what causes you care about, and think about your skills. You have something to offer!
- Reading to children at a local library.
- Helping at an animal shelter or fostering animals.
- Helping at a local food bank.
- Being a Big Brother or Big Sister as a mentor to a child or teen.
- Joining the volunteer Master Gardener program, learning skills needed for homesteading or growing a pollinator garden, for example.
- Visiting patients in the hospital to listen or chat.
- Delivering Meals on Wheels or being a companion to a shut-in (someone stuck at home due to disability or age)..
- Volunteer on a Board of Directors of a local nonprofit.
- Be a volunteer driver for people who need transportation to appointments.
- Clean up at a local park.
- Join a Rotary Club or church for volunteer opportunities.
- Provide fun and activities at a nursing home.
- Sign up as a volunteer at your local fire department - there are lots of non-firefighting opportunities.
Check out sites like www.volunteermatch.org for opportunities in your area.
Reach out and let us know about your volunteering experiences. You can message us on here or on our social media pages @themetalpeddler. We would love to hear your stories too!
Danielle & Jason