As 2017 is coming to a close, we look back on the accomplishments we have made, and also think about the things we could have done differently. My experience working in Cambodia has reaffirmed my passion to work in the field of public health. Knowing that I can contribute meaningfully to a community is rewarding in and of itself and I feel like I’m a changed woman! My mother visited me when I was working in Cambodia and reminded me that in the past, I used to say that I wanted to make six figures so I could live comfortably, but seeing how people can be so happy with so little has really changed my life goals.
So how can one give back this holiday season if they can’t commit to working abroad for free for three months? I have some suggestions!
- Volunteer at a local organization. This can be anywhere from a homeless shelter, hospital, soup kitchen, food pantry, animal shelter, charity etc. Time is priceless…especially when you live in a big, bustling city like NYC. If you are willing to give up your time, even if it’s as little as one hour, you are making a difference to the people that you’re serving and helping.
- Donate to a charity. We are constantly bombarded by television ads to donate to this organization, or that organization, but how many of us go the extra step to actually call the number or visit the website to donate? There are plenty of organizations that could use your help! If you are unsure where to donate and if an organization is legitimate, you can visit Charity Navigator to look up each organization’s work and its rating before you make your decision.
- (this is my shameless plug because of my transformative experience working in Cambodia this fall heh) I’ve had the pleasure to work for the Cambodian Community Dream Organization these past three months and see the great work they do in three main areas: Clean Water, Education, and Health and Wellbeing. By working in the field and seeing where the donations are going, I can personally vouch for the integrity of this organization whose goal is to transform the lives of the people living in rural Siem Reap.
- Purchase a stranger’s groceries. I haven’t gotten around to doing this yet, but I can imagine how happy this stranger would be if they are struggling with the bills and making ends meet, and a kind individual such as yourself helps to lessen their burden just a bit and brighten their day or week.
- Buy a meal for and talk to a homeless person. For all of us who are not rich, we legitimately can be one paycheck away from being homeless. People are faced with unfortunate circumstances that can lead to them losing their homes and being pushed onto the street. Not all homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics. Many are down on their luck and are seeking just a little bit of kindness from passersby. No one wants to feel invisible or that they are subhuman. If you can afford it, try to buy someone on the street a meal or two, and have a small chat with them. A little kindness can go a long way.
I am happy to share a few below that I’ve heard great things about or have personally been involved in the past 🙂
- New York Cares – tons of opportunities to volunteer in a variety of areas in the five boroughs
- Project Sunshine – a nonprofit that is in four countries that provides free recreational programming to pediatric patients to brighten their days 🙂 If you are in the US, Canada, Israel or Kenya, you can apply to volunteer with PS!
- Housing Works – its mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS through advocacy, provision of services, and entrepreneurial businesses. I volunteered at their thrift store back in undergrad and their retail staff is great!
- UBELONG – I volunteered with them twice before, and had amazing times during both of my experiences. You can volunteer at an international location in a variety of different projects, spanning from as short as one week to as many as multiple months!
Happy Giving! I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season 🙂