Go Volunteer! Ways to give back from aboard your mobility device
When kindness is your currency, you can own the world.
We all have the chance to give back, no matter our ability. Likewise, few of us can say we’ve never been on the receiving end of a volunteer’s good will.
So today, on Volunteer Recognition Day, take a moment to show a little gratitude for the people who have helped you free of charge. If you feel inspired to pay it forward in a bigger way, we have some ideas to help you get started.
Just because you rely on a mobility scooter or power chair to get around, don’t think that precludes you from volunteering. Nonprofit groups and charities offer plenty of ways to help just as long as you have extra compassion and a willingness to work.
Maybe it’s time to brush up on your administrative skills. You might find you have a knack for leading big initiatives. If that’s not your style, try helping a single person who just needs to see that someone cares.
No, you won’t be getting paid, not in cash anyway. Volunteering brings rewards you can’t put a price on.
How can I make a difference from my scooter or power chair?
Time to reframe how we talk about volunteering. It’s not always picking up trash in your neighborhood or building homes with Habitat for Humanity.
In fact, volunteers with disabilities can bring more to the table because they’re used to finding creative ways to get things done efficiently.
That’s not to say a trash clean-up or local Habitat project can’t use you. Think about running the volunteer check-in table or coordinating with vendors to make sure materials reach the job site on time.
How do I find volunteer opportunities?
If you’ve never volunteered before, consider a local chapter of a national organization. These groups are more likely to have a strong support system for bringing up new volunteers. They’re also more likely to have facilities or
For example, try the Big Brothers Big Sisters or United Way in your neighborhood. United Ways, which often rely on their own volunteer networks, also support other nonprofits through grantmaking and collaboration. So hanging out in those circles could expose you to other opportunities where you might really shine.
Many organizations use www.volunteermatch.org to seek volunteers and post open spots. The website is easy to use. Simply plug in your zip code and it spits out a list of what’s currently available.
If you have any inclination for volunteering, volunteermatch.org will get the ideas turning.
In Northeast Pennsylvania, a relatively small metro where Pride Mobility is headquartered, for example, the local historical society is looking for a collections volunteer to inventory items. A local business mentorship nonprofit is seeking a bilingual mentor. A foundation that helps disadvantaged kids learn instruments needs volunteer music teachers.
All of those things potentially can be done from a seated position, without ever leaving your mobility scooter or power chair.
I’m tech-savvy. Can I volunteer virtually?
It’s the 21st Century, and accordingly, if you know your way around a keyboard, you can give back through virtual volunteer programs.
DoSomething.org offers a great list of virtual volunteer opportunities including transcription projects at the Smithsonian, translation initiatives through Translators Without Borders and even crisis intervention programs through Crisis Text Line.
These organizations and agencies offer free training in exchange for a time commitment, usually a few hours each week.
If you’re looking for the ultimate volunteer-from-home assignment, this might be your ticket. They’re opportunities to be part of massive networks of people doing interesting things that span borders and eras, without ever leaving your dining room table.
How can I do the most good?
Any well-intentioned nonprofit or agency should seek out differently abled volunteers, and welcome them when they sign up. People who use mobility devices bring fresh perspective and context to conversations, especially when it comes to planning events and new initiatives.
You, as someone with mobility challenges, bring a viewpoint that perhaps no one else in the room will have. Just your presence there creates awareness that could be the difference between a successful campaign that includes a wider audience, or one that just continues the status quo.