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Why being a volunteer doesn’t begin and end in the Soup Kitchen

By Alice Baines Hamblin
In Volunteering Advice
May 9th, 2014

Soup_Kitchens_2[1]When many of us imagine volunteering our first thought tends to go to straight the soup kitchen. Feeding programmes for homeless and disadvantaged, often sponsored by the church, exist in every city and are a great introduction to volunteer activities.

These are undoubtedly worthwhile projects, you might be surprised to hear that even in the world’s wealthiest country poverty and food insecurity (meaning households do not have enough money to meet their food needs) is widespread. According to Bread nearly 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children—struggle to put food on the table.

Becoming a volunteer in a Soup kitchen is a practical way to help. These projects offer families up to three healthy, free meals per day will give them both the energy to face life and the knowledge that they are valued and cared for by society. It also offers a vital outreach to people who may feel isolated or vulnerable.

If you want to make a difference and can spare a few hours for a project like this then here’s how to get started:

1. Get Involved: Get online and search for programmes in your area. Google ‘soup kitchen + your town name’ and get in touch with the project directly. Be aware that a soup kitchen is often inundated with help in the holidays, so if you are able to volunteer your time at other times of the year this will be greatly appreciated.

2. Get working: The type of volunteer work on offer here is not simply doling our soup! You may be required to help prep food, wash or clean up and shifts often last for four to five hours – so expect to work hard!

3. Be creative: If a project has enough help then ask what else you could to to be of assistance. Many soup kitchens also offer food delivery programmes for the elderly or infirm and collect donations of food from a variety of community organisations, such as schools and churches.

Think outside the soup-bowl

Soup Kitchens may be one of the longest running and best known types of volunteer work in America, but it most definitely is not the end of the story! If you have time available and the inclination to make a positive impact on society let your imagination run free and check out some of the inspiring volunteer initiatives on Do Something.

A campaign group for social change this great organisation connect motivated youth around America with programmes in their area and give tons of ideas for starting a volunteer project in your area. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Positivity Page: Set up a social media page for the exchange of positive messages and promote the culture of doing nice things for others.

Host an Incognito Clean up: Prank in a positive way and clean up your school, park or community footpath in secret. You could even do this at home – no song, dance or public recognition necessary just the knowledge that your good turn will make spread some smiles.

Throw a Frock Swap Party
: No cash to buy new clothes? On the brink of tossing perfectly good clothes in the trash? Revamp your friends wardrobes for free and spread some love by hosting a clothes swapping party or yard give away. This one’s also pretty good for the environment.

Volunteer Overseas

Becoming a volunteer has got to be one of the best feel good activities going. Giving up even a small amount of your time for free to improve another person’s lot in life is a great way to connect with others and remind yourself that despite the consumer driven society we living in…it isn’t all about ME!

However, no one said you couldn’t have a little bit of me time whilst making a difference! Firstly the positivity you spread by volunteering will have a knock on effect on your emotional wellbeing and even can help you to get where you want to be in life – connecting you with amazing people that have a similar outlook or even work opportunities along the way. Secondly it can be a great way to see the world and experience other cultures, giving you a route into foreign countries and communities, which travel as a tourist doesn’t allow.

Take a look at volunteer opportunities in Africa, Asia or South America with gap year organizations such as The Leap. Programmes last from a few weeks up to a few months in length and give opportunities to get involved in life changing community and conservation projects in fascinating parts of the world. Being a part of a programme like this, even if it’s just for a few weeks of your Summer vacation will also look fantastic on your college application. Spread the love, spread the wealth and spread some sunshine…we promise you’ll get it back in spades!


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