The benefits of volunteer work are widely documented, but some factors are still preventing students from getting involved in their communities. One of the most common excuses that students make is that they don’t have the time to volunteer. For the most part, this is a valid excuse: the typical university student has a full course load, a part-time job, and obligations with family and friends.
Lack of time shouldn’t discourage you from volunteering though. With a good plan and the right frame of mind, you can easily find the time to include volunteer work in your weekly schedule.
Here are some ideas how on how you can sneak in an hour or two of volunteer work in your busy schedule:
1. Volunteer with friends, family or co-workers. Volunteer work doesn’t have to be a separate activity from your quality family or social time. You can even volunteer with co-workers — organizations such as Habitat for Humanity encourages company employees to volunteer together.
2. Give up one or two TV shows per week. You’ll be surprised at how much you can contribute to non-profit organizations just for volunteering one hour per week. For most of us, that just means missing an hour of TV shows.
3. Use your commute time wisely. If you’re not living on campus, using the transit to go to school usually takes a good chunk of time. You can do a lot while you’re on the bus. Catching up on your readings is a good idea. The extra time you save here will allow you to open up some time for volunteer work.
You can even volunteer while you’re on the bus! The iPhone app The Extraordinaries lets you “have a fun, rewarding, cause-related, social, repeatable experience with a few minutes” of your spare time.
4. Volunteer for events or special occasions. Look for events such as the Underwear Affair where you only need to volunteer for one or two days. These events are a good way to get involved without necessarily taking too much of your time.
5. Seek out flexible volunteer opportunities. Some volunteer opportunities allow you to work from home. For example, if you volunteer with us at SFU Volunteer Services as a blogger, you get to write your articles at a time when it’s convenient for you (provided you meet the minimum number of articles per month, of course).
Many non-profits understand the demands of being a student. Look for opportunities that allow you to contribute less during midterms or finals — I guarantee they exist!
6. Look for opportunities that involve physical activity. This is a fantastic way of getting exercise while also doing something good for the community.
The Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland provides a good example — their Go Girls! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Program is a mentorship program that has emphasis on physical activity. Change a girl’s life and also exercise — not a bad deal, right?
7. Consider going on a volunteer vacation. We all need a vacation at one point, so if you’re looking to go abroad for some vacation time, check out what “voluntourism” is all about. As the name implies, this combines volunteer work with some of your vacation time. I encourage you to do lots of research before embarking on this to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
8. Find an issue that you truly care deeply about. I find that if you’re so passionate about a cause, you’ll somehow find the time for it. If you have a personal connection to a cause, you’re more likely to integrate it into your life.
What makes you tick? What would you like to change in the world? Answering these questions will help you connect with organizations that fight for the cause you care about.
This list is not exhaustive, of course, but I hope that it has given you some ideas on how you can find time to volunteer. The point is that if you are determined to find time to volunteer, you will find that extra time. It’s just a matter of using your time strategically and finding the right balance between all your priorities.
By Kelvin Claveria