A Tech Year of Service

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Posted 10 Feb 2013 in Soulville, Technology

The National Day of Service in the United States was January 19 this year. The celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday was the 21st. Even though these are two very recognized days to spend a day on not a day off helping your fellow man (animal, nature, etc). This doesn’t mean these are the only two days that you should give service. As Marian Wright Edelman said “Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”. We all have different reasons for serving. For some, there is the intrinsic happiness we get from having served. For others, there is the happiness that comes from extrinsic motivators like recognition and honor. Either way, you need to find some service!

I fix Daddy!
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaci XIII

Today I’ve got a few apps that might help you find some service locally or around the US and a few websites where you can get started. Of course, for all of you tech lovers I’ll be giving you a few ways to do service with technology in mind.

If you’re looking for service listings in a particular locale, you should always ask around or see what non-profits exist in the area. You can do this using Google or non-profit search sites like Guidestar, Volunteer Match, Idealist, All for Good, or Get Involved. If you’re traveling, it doesn’t hurt to post something on social media and see if anyone bites. As a note, it does hurt if you are on twitter with a locked account and no one you know lives there :) Don’t just stick with the usual suspects like the American Red Cross (or if you’re outside the US another Red Cross or Red Crescent Society). Really dig in and find something that matches your passions. If it’s fun, you’ll go back again and again.

Want to work with college students and help them do service? Service organizations like Alpha Phi Omega, National co-ed Service Fraternity (yes, shameless plug – hey Brothers!) and Gamma Sigma Sigma, National Service Sorority are always looking for community members to serve as advisors or who might have skills to share once or multiple times a year (think technology workshop on campus or helping them set up and coordinate websites and social media that can easily be transitioned from one caretaker to another). If you have a technology business or serve as a leader in a company, you might have some good advice to share with students in organizations like Omicron Delta Kappa, National Leadership Honor Society, or non-greek letter groups like business or journalism clubs. Many colleges have lists of organizations on their websites.

One app that has some service postings is the Opp Guide. It was designed for youth by youth but includes several local opportunities that you can search by zip code. I found several opportunities adults would be interested in so I think it’s safe to say if you’re over 10, it’s for you. Catalista is similar and is available for both Android and iOS.

What if you want to do a service trip? Many groups focus in this area as well. One group that I’m familiar with is the Appalachia Service Project. These projects can be arranged for individuals or groups (they are geared toward groups) of many ages. Check out their app (iPhone / Android) to see if there are any you’d like to participate in. If you’re a college student, see if your college has Alternative Spring Break or if your summer internship can be a service project. Sierra Club sponsors Vacation Volunteering. REI hosts travel trips around the globe that have service at the core (they also have local service projects). Volunteer with the National Park Service. If you want a longer service trip, what about Technology Without Borders or the Peace Corps? Sometimes you can’t rely on a group to arrange things for you because nothing fits. In that case, get the contact information of someone at a place where you’d like to volunteer and ask. It can be just that simple.

How about GIS and/or GPS? If you know how to use it, you could be of great help to youth programs like 4-H. 4-H has had a GIS and GPS program for several years and is always looking for volunteers and mentors to help teach the curriculum to youth around the country. If you’re good at GPS, you might also look to help teach it to local youth that go hiking or are in scouting groups. Ask your local troops.

If you have the time and willingness to use your skills in videography or photography, you could help local sports teams or make some people smile by hosting a photo day at a local senior center.

Don’t want to really do hands on service or don’t have the time? If you’ve got some cash, you could buy supplies for a local shelter, soup kitchen, or children’s non-profit. You could see what local schools need and help out with some of those supplies. If you’ve got networks, you could help solicit donations or volunteers for organizations. And if you don’t have cash, or are willing to switch your search engine, if you use GoodSearch your favorite non-profit gets a penny per search!

As you can see, there are tons of ways to serve, so try a few or try a lot. You’ll find something you enjoy! How do you serve the community? Any service with a tech twist? Post in the comments!

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