When you look at the headlines, you may be overwhelmed by the scale of the world’s problems, wondering if you can do anything to help. The answer is both no and yes — you cannot solve the world’s problems alone, but you can make a difference if you volunteer online in a thoughtful way. The five websites below can help you get started.
1. Be A Good Global Citizen, Work as a UN Volunteer
The United Nations runs a volunteer program that connects 12,000 volunteers per year from around the globe with organizations that are helping work toward the UN’s sustainable development goals. The sustainable development goals include ending poverty and hunger, promoting high quality education and health care and working toward gender equity. Additional goals include clean energy, clean water, reducing inequity, protecting the environment and promoting peace. You can search for volunteer opportunities by development goal, allowing you to learn and engage in a focused way.
Potential tasks for those who volunteer online for the UN volunteer program include writing and editing, making art, creating translations, developing technology, community outreach and teaching. You can contribute to nonprofit organizations around the world using your own skill set.
2. Put Your Language Skills to Good Use — Work For Translators Without Borders
If you are fluent in more than one language, you can help provide remote translation services by working for Translators Without Borders. TWB provides translation services for organizations providing health services, education and crisis relief. Additionally, TWB works to train translators for under-resourced languages and raise awareness for the need for translation services as part of humanitarian aid. As TWB likes to say, “Information in the wrong language is useless,” so translation is essential.
TWB translators have assisted with disaster response in Europe, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bangladesh. In addition to assisting during crises, TWB builds disaster response capacity through long term projects to create databases of key health words across world languages and translate health information into different languages. TWB has also worked to develop offline translation service apps to facilitate communication between refugees and aid workers, harnessing the power of technology to organize communication. You can volunteer to be a translator, as well as contribute through other roles such as graphic design and fundraising.
3. Work For Human Rights — Be An Amnesty Decoder for Amnesty International
Established over 50 years ago, Amnesty International continues to adapt in order to work toward its mission of bettering the human rights of people all over the world through research, political advocacy and campaigns. Amnesty International works to address issues including armed conflict, climate change, disappearances, the death penalty, police violence, torture, the mistreatment/repression of indigenous people, freedom of expression, sexual/gender freedom and international justice.
Amnesty decoders are volunteers who use their phones and computers to assist Amnesty International researchers sort through documents, information and pictures to find vital information. Recently completed projects include documenting the effect of U.S. drone strikes in Syria, analyzing the effects of oil spills in Nigeria and mapping remote villages in Darfur that may have been attacked by Sudan’s government. This research and analysis was made possible by hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours from people around the world, and you can join them by signing up to be an Amnesty decoder.
4. Be A Supportive Listener for 7 Cups
7 Cups is a non-crisis support platform that provides psychological support, which is particularly important as people across the U.S. struggle with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While 7 Cups is not a replacement for professional help, support from a sympathetic listener can make people feel less alone and provide a judgement-free zone for talking through concerns. Volunteers are trained in active listening, and will ask open ended questions to guide conversation. If you want to become a 7 Cups volunteer, you can sign up to take an online class in active listening. After passing this training, you can start work supporting people who use the platform.
5. If the above options don’t work for you, check out DoSomething.org
DoSomething.org is a nonprofit dedicated to organizing young people to enact social change through large campaigns, as well as providing them opportunities to connect with one another and apply for scholarships. Causes that DoSomething.org addresses include gender rights, health, bullying, homelessness, education, immigration, racial equity, LGBTQ rights and environmental issues.
Completed campaigns include registering over 118,000 new voters in 2018 and a national donation drive that collected over 580,000 period products for women who live in homeless shelters. DoSomething.org also has an articles section to help you learn more about the issues they are addressing, and has distributed over 1.2 million dollars in scholarships to 300 people over the course of the last six years. You can find more information about campaigns to join, causes to understand better and scholarships to apply for on their website.
Before You Get Started
Before you volunteer online at one of the organizations listed above, take some time to learn about the issue you will be working on and the community you plan to serve. Read perspectives from people within the nonprofit world who are engaging in community need-centered service work, rather than paternalistic efforts to “save” marginalized communities. Treat the communities you assist as experts in their own experiences and needs, and be willing to take feedback from them. If you approach the work you do with humility, a willingness to collaborate and a readiness to learn, you can help build a more just world, one online volunteer act of service at a time.