One man is attempting to change the way we think of volunteering. He doesn't think volunteering should be difficult. There's no need to break a sweat or drive across town. He believes it can be so simple, in fact, that you don't have to leave the comfort of your living room.
Mike Bright has been volunteering from home since 2006, and this year he launched Help from Home to help others do the same. The web portal offers a collection of sites that take the commitment, the sacrifice, and the effort out of volunteering. It's altruism from an armchair.
The industrious Bright had already been in-person volunteering in his hometown in the UK when he decided to stop watching TV and instead thought, "What can I do to maximize my time as much as possible?" That's when he began finding ways to incorporate volunteering into his life at home.
He began perusing click-to-donate websites and scanning the pages of old books into a digital format before he began writing letters to terminally ill children. He says he took great joy in writing each of the letters, and he included his own origami as a present to the child.
"It really tugs at the old heartstrings, you know," he says of the times he's heard that the recipient of his letter has passed away. "Hopefully it gave them a smile in their last days on Earth."
He launched Help from Home in January of this year as a resource for people interested in at-home volunteering. Today, there are more than 450 opportunities on the website, none of which require volunteers to leave home and few of which even require them to leave the couch. Bright says he could add many more, if he only had the time.
Today there are more people than ever sitting at home bored, either unemployed, retired, or on summer vacation. Bright wants to give these potential volunteers the opportunity to make a difference.
His motto: "Change the world in just your pyjamas."
Changing the world, as Bright sees it, sometimes takes little more than a click: selecting "donate" on a sponsor's website, sending a pre-written email to a congressperson expressing concern about global warming, or filling out online forms to stop getting junk mail (and killing all those trees!)
Sometimes, volunteering requires more than just one click. But not much more.
One site asks visitors to set up micro loans for businesses in developing countries. Volunteers need only a credit card and at least $25 to loan. The entrepreneurs on the receiving end do all the hard work required of a start-up business.
Another site allows volunteers to donate unused air miles to Make-a-Wish Foundation, which uses those miles to fly terminally ill children to Disneyland or otherwise fulfill their final wishes.
For potential volunteers with little cash but much wisdom to offer the world, Help from Home offers opportunities to proofread an e-book, volunteer as a translator of a foreign language, or offer advice on any of a wide variety of topics.
The more outdoorsy of volunteers can help scientists document the world's biodiversity without straying off their own property by recording the number and type of trees, caterpillars, or moths in their own backyard.
For the more domestically talented of its volunteers, the portal connects visitors to traditional homespun volunteer projects, like sewing quilts for victims of natural disasters and knitting clothing for premature babies.
Help from Home also features group sharing sites that allow volunteers to donate items they no longer want to others who are in need. Nearly any and every household item can be gotten rid of in this way. Some sites offer free pickup for used cars and inkjet cartridges, while others provide a forum to inform neighbors of excess fruit from a fruit tree or other perishable food items. One of the more off-beat websites even helps lactating mothers to donate their breast milk.
Help from Home is empowering a new couch-potato corps. of volunteers by connecting them with opportunities that are easy to get involved with and well within their means. Bright says he gets about 200 hits per day, and he has fans in America, the UK, Australia, Germany, and Denmark. He hopes the website will give many more people the satisfaction of volunteering from home, without the effort.
"Once you've done something worthwhile, you can sit back in your chair and say with pride, 'I helped to change the world. Wow!!'"
In the hopes of inspiring people to serve, we want to hear your stories of service to your community. Whether big or small, what have you done to make a difference? Please send photos of yourself in action. We'll feature your photos alongside the best stories in the days and weeks to come.
Submit your stories in the form below by Friday, June 19th to be included in the first story about people doing good, for all. Please send your photos directly to firstname.lastname@example.org