Happy New Year, WE Volunteers!

It’s time for us to add the 2012 days of service to our new calendars. These can be terrific times to mobilize your community around a project, or to volunteer with a local nonprofit:

January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

February 13-19: Random Acts of Kindness Week

March 10-18: AmeriCorps Week

March 31: Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning

April 15-21: National Volunteer Week

April 20-22: National and Global Youth Service Days

April 22: Earth Day

July 18: Mandela Day

September 11: National Day of Service and Remembrance

October: Make Your Mark Week (formerly Kids Care Week)

October 27: Make a Difference Day

November 17: Family Volunteer Day

December 5: International Volunteer Day

I hope that your 2012 is filled with service and joy!

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore


Is volunteering one of your New Year’s Resolutions? Below are nine questions to help you decide how to volunteer this year:

1. What cause(s) are you passionate about?

2. Do you want to create your own project to support your favorite cause, or work with an existing organization?

3. What organizations, or projects related to this cause already exist?

4. Do you want to work internationally, nationally, or locally?

5. Do you want to volunteer for one organization, or more than one?

6. Do you want an ongoing, or one-time volunteer opportunity?

7. Do you want to volunteer in person, or virtually?

8. Do you want to take a volunteer vacation?

9. How much time do you have to volunteer this year?

You can search for volunteer opportunities on Volunteermatch.org, and Serv.gov has tool kits to help you create your own project.


Do you know a young person, 25 and under, who is tackling a problem and changing the world? Why not nominate him, or her for a Do Something Award?

Up to five nominees will be rewarded with a $10,000 community grant, participation in a VH1 televised show, media coverage, and continued support from DoSomething.org. The grand prize winner will receive a $100,000 community grant. You can apply, or nominate a world-changing young person at DoSomething.org/awards. Applications close March 1, 2012.

Whether, or not you nominate someone, check out the inspiring stories of the 2011 Do Something Awards Finalists and Semi-Finalists like:


Last summer you nominated outstanding women volunteers for a chance to win a Ladies’ Home Journal/WE Volunteer Award. You can learn more about the three inspiring winners below:

Alison Bearman volunteers with the Atlanta Humane Society, one of the largest animal shelters in Atlanta. It handles about 8,000 animals per year, and facilitates 80-120 adoptions per week. When the animals come to the shelter, they’ve been abused and neglected, or haven’t been socialized properly. Alison helps to get the animals ready for adoption. She volunteers six days a week, and is responsible for hundreds of matches between people and pets. Often, when Alison helps people adopt an animal, they’re so inspired by her work that they become volunteers too. You can watch a video about Alison here.

Holly Nill-McKay aka “Mad Scientist McKay” is a parent volunteer of almost 10 years who loves to get students excited about science. Wearing a wig and a “mad scientist” outfit, Holly volunteers twice a week, and works in about five classes a day. In addition to working in the classroom, she also spends a lot of time gathering materials and doing research for her lessons. She has created about 45 lessons on a variety of subjects to share with her students. The young people are so inspired by her classes that many have told her that they would like to become scientists.  You can watch a video about Holly here.

Tessa Wehrman volunteers with Achilles, a nonprofit that enables people with all types of physical disabilities to participate in mainstream sports. Tessa is eyes to someone who is blind, legs to someone who can’t power their own bicycle, and an arm to someone who is walking, but has mobility impairment. When she was diagnosed last year with breast cancer, she continued to volunteer with Achilles. You can watch a video about Tessa here, and read a story about her, Nothing Can Slow Her Down, on lhj.com.


To complete this series on do-good holiday gifts, here are eight lists with even more ideas for gifts that give back:

  1. 10 Charitable Gifts for the Holidays on Real Simple
  2. Black Friday, Cyber Monday Deals: Gifts That Give Back on The Huffington Post
  3. Gifts That Give Back on Oprah.com
  4. Gifts That Give Back on Harper’s BAZAAR
  5. Gifts That Give Back This Holiday Season on USAToday.com
  6. Holiday Gifts That Give Back 2011 on CNBC
  7. We Asked, You Answered: Holiday Gifts That Give Back on ONE.org
  8. Why Goats and Chickens Make Great Holiday Gifts on CNN

For more do-good gift ideas, check out these WE Volunteer posts:


Over the past couple weeks I’ve offered holiday gifts ideas for animal-loving do-gooders, for gifts that support children’s education around the world, and for fair trade gifts. Today’s holiday gift idea, a Kiva Card, supports low-income entrepreneurs around the world. Kiva is a nonprofit that connects people through lending to alleviate poverty. Here’s how it works:

1. Give your friend a Kiva Card for $25, or more. You’ll be able to print it out, or send it to them via email, Facebook, or regular mail.

2. Your friend can redeem her Kiva Card, and make a loan to a low-income entrepreneur. She can choose a borrower based upon where they live in the world, and what their business is about (e.g. clothing, arts, agriculture).

3. As the loan is paid back, your friend will receive updates from the borrower, and be able to fund another loan. It’s a do-good gift that keeps on giving!


Over the past week, I’ve shared 6 Do-Good Gifts That Support Children Around the World and 5 Gifts for Animal Loving Do-Gooders, but what do you give folks who aren’t passionate about a particular issue? Check out these Fair Trade gift ideas:

The Fair Trade Federation 2011 Holiday Gift Guide is a 29-page downloadable PDF that features products from numerous Fair Trade organizations like SERRV and Ten Thousand Villages.  It also includes a 2-page list of Fair Trade stores and cafes across the country.

Global Girlfriend’s online store carries women-made, eco-friendly, and Fair Trade clothing, jewelry, soaps, and more. The readers on your list might also enjoy Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide by Global Girlfriend founder, Stacey Edgar.

For the food-lovers on your list, Equal Exchange offers Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate, as well as special gift combinations, like their Mind Body Soul Mug gift set.

For more fair trade gift ideas, check out Girl Power: Support Female Artisans with these Fair Trade Shops on Planetgreen.com.


If you’ve watched The Girl Effect videos, you know that educating girls is key to alleviating poverty. Today’s gift guide is for the folks on your list who want to support children’s education around the world.

1.  Send a girl to school for a year with a donation to the International Rescue Committee.

2. Help build classrooms in Uganda with a donation through GlobalGiving.

3. Buy books for children with a donation to Oxfam America.

4. Purchase school uniforms for girls with a donation to Room to Read.

5. Fund a classroom project on DonorsChoose.org.

6.  Set up a temporary school for children during times of emergency with UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box Kit.

Check out last week’s gift guide: 5 Gifts for Animal Loving Do-Gooders.


Below are 5 gift ideas for the friend, or family member on your gift list who loves animals, and is passionate about animal rights.

1. Make a date to volunteer together at her favorite animal shelter, sanctuary, or nonprofit. You can also search for a volunteer opportunity on match.wevolunteer.tv.

2. Donate to her favorite nonprofit, or to one of the animal welfare, rights and protection organizations recommended by Guidestar.

3. Purchase a gift from the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, PETA, or World Wildlife Fund‘s online store.

4. Sponsor an animal through Farm Sanctuary.

5. Give her an inspiring read (e.g. Farm Sanctuary, Best Friends, DogTown, or anything by, or about Jane Goodall).

What are some other gift ideas for animal loving do-gooders?


World AIDS Day (December 1) is a day to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Below are five ways you can get involved on World AIDS Day, and throughout the year.

1. Volunteer with an organization that works on HIV/AIDS issues with education, direct service, or advocacy. You can search for a volunteer opportunity near you at match.wevolunteer.tv.

2. Go to a Reading of the Names at an AIDS Memorial Quilt display.  You can download a list of upcoming quilt displays at aidsquilt.org.

3. Organize a fundraising bake sale for your favorite nonprofit working on HIV/AIDS issues.  For inspiration, check out the Bake Aware campaign created by the UK charity, National AIDS Trust.

4. Make a panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt for a life lost to AIDS.

5. Join the 7-day Ride to End AIDS between San Francisco and Los Angeles June 3-9, 2012.