Five ways to give back this year

With 2018 well under way, here are some ideas for being ‘the best you’ – from shopping in your closet to being an extreme volunteer.

John Kehe

This column is part of an occasional series about how you, too, can make a difference. It is written by the head of our partner organization UniversalGiving, which helps people give and volunteer in more than 100 countries.

It’s a clean slate! As author and motivational speaker Les Brown says, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

Many of us are inspired to live better, cleaner, more positive lives. A lot of us have created New Year’s resolutions, although some of us have a simple, general resolution, such as being “the best you” that you can be. As Mr. Brown encourages us, it’s never too late to be a new you.

With that in mind, here are five ways to give back in the new year.

Shop in your closet. Yes, it’s time. You keep thinking that you’re going to wear that shirt or that sweater. So either do it, or gather such items up and give them away.

Please note: You will be giving not only to others, but also to yourself. After paring down your closet, you’ll be able to find your clothes and decide on outfits more quickly. Meanwhile, your clothes will be helping someone else present themselves in a better way, personally and professionally.

Give yourself a trip abroad. Have you wanted to go somewhere exotic, but felt guilty about spending the money? Don’t feel guilty anymore. Visit Vietnam and do some sightseeing, and then tag on a volunteer trip!

For example, you can volunteer in Vietnam with The Bamboo Project. Share your skills and heart in orphanages, disability centers, and schools in the capital, Hanoi.

Remember, volunteering is life-changing. Be prepared that when you return from your trip, your life won’t be the same. You may be more moved to help others live a simpler life and to give back even more.

Support women-led businesses. Such ventures often take a lot of courage to start and maintain. Look up a women-led business in your community today and patronize it.

One example is in San Francisco: Farmgirl Flowers, which was started by Christina Stembel. It sends out 1,200 to 1,400 flower arrangements a day; every month, it donates to nongovernmental organizations.

When you support a women-led business, you support women models for the younger generations to come.

Be an extreme volunteer. Many of you have done one-day volunteer projects. But have you thought about being an “extreme volunteer”? That means a weekly commitment to helping someone in serious need.

One option is serving as a CASA volunteer (the acronym is for the national organization Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children). You train to be a legal advocate for a foster-care youth who needs extra support. He or she might need to be encouraged in education, protected from a neighbor, or simply listened to. Volunteering for three to five hours a week may be the most consistent presence one of these youths has.

Give back to yourself. While I’ve talked about ways you can give to others, giving back to yourself is important to keep yourself reenergized.

Some people need downtime watching a football game. Others would like to leave work early and spend more time with their children. Some people pray or meditate. The point is, you have to do something that will allow you to breathe and attain peace. Then, go back into the world to be your best self.

Live a new life by giving back in fresh and different ways. I hope this column has given you some good ideas for 2018 that will make your life vibrant and filled with joy.

Pamela Hawley is the founder and chief executive officer of UniversalGiving. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award – the Nobel Prize of community service. She also writes the blog “Living and Giving.”

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