The 9-to-5 drill just doesn't work for you anymore. Maybe your day job lacks satisfaction or doesn't make you feel like you're doing anything meaningful. Or perhaps you're still trying to figure out "what you want to be when you grow up." Look for volunteer opportunities in your local community or go all out and find an overseas missionary or humanitarian volunteer program that speaks to you. If you're committed to volunteerism, helping others, and are able to adapt to sometimes spartan conditions, spending time as a missionary or volunteer worker could be your calling.
Home, Sweet Home
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find just the right volunteer opportunity to suit your schedule, interests or background. Check with local civic organizations, such as Rotary or Kiwanis, to see if they have ongoing community service activities in which you can get involved. Ask local government officials if there is a food pantry or soup kitchen in the area that needs volunteers. If you enjoy working with kids or animals, talk to school administrators about possible mentoring programs for at-risk teenagers or go help out at a nearby pet shelter. If sports is your thing, volunteer to coach young athletes.
Not Just for Sundays
Whether you have a home church or not, local churches are often an excellent source of information about both nearby and overseas mission work opportunities. Join members of a church congregation to prepare and serve lunches to underprivileged kids during summer months. Sign up to help build a home for a needy local family. In your own church, lend your talents to the committee charged with missions or outreach; run a bake sale to raise funds for the local food pantry, lead a weekly worship service at the nearby senior center or organize a vacation church school for an under-served neighborhood's kids.
Follow Your Heart
For those who feel truly called to minister to others, consider a long-term missionary position. Go to the website of your denomination's national organization and find a missionary program in which you can best share your talents and skills, along with your faith. Apply to be considered for a medical missionary position in a developing country, a teaching position on an American Indian reservation, or an overseas ministry opportunity to build new congregations for your denomination. You will typically need a college degree, the ability to provide a substantial portion of your own financial support, and a commitment to adhere to the faith teachings of the sponsoring church. Or contact a group such as the International Conference on Missions to get information about a wide array of opportunities.
Being a missionary isn't the only way to do volunteer work in other countries. Consider organizations that send volunteers throughout the world, such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or the Peace Corps, and follow the application instructions on their websites. The requirements to work with these organizations vary depending on the nature and location of the positions offered, but expect to need a college degree, advanced training for medical positions, foreign language ability and financial support. Some organizations, such as the Peace Corps, will provide training in critical fields to prepare their volunteers for their overseas positions.
- The United Methodist Church: Become a Missionary, Volunteer, or Partner: Learn How to Get Involved with Global Ministries
- The United Methodist Church: How to Become a Missionary
- VMM-USA: Volunteer Missionary Movement
- Peace Corps: How Do I Become a Volunteer?
- United Nations Volunteers: How to Volunteer
- ICOM: International Conference on Missions
As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.