volunteer From the days of the Vietnam War (and perhaps even before that), there has been a tacit link between opposition to war and volunteerism. Opponents of war signed up for the Peace Corps and other non-profit organizations, showing they were patriotic and cared for their country even though they weren’t prepared to fight an unjustifiable war to ‘prove’ it. Perhaps it’s time for opponents of the upcoming Iraq War to take up the cause of volunteerism as a way of showing, as they did in the streets last weekend, that being anti-war is not the same as being pro-Saddam or anti-American. There are all kinds of reasons why now is the time:

  • Volunteers are more urgently needed than ever as Bush punishes the poor and disadvantaged to give more to the rich and privileged.
  • Bush and other arch-conservatives have recently given volunteerism an unfair right-wing rep, by cloaking it in fraudulent ‘faith-based initiatives’ programs and by encouraging schools to force students to volunteer in order to pass their year (resulting in the oxymoronic phrase ‘compulsory volunteering’). We need to counter these programs that besmirch the good name of volunteering.
  • It feels good, does good, teaches you a lot, and takes away some of the feeling of helplessness we all feel right now.

An organization called Independent Sector offers these 10 tips to prospective volunteers:

  1. Research the issues and causes of issues that are important to you
  2. Consider what skills you have to offer
  3. Choose a volunteer program that will teach you something new
  4. Choose a program that will help you achieve other personal goals
  5. Don’t overcommit
  6. Be prepared to answer questions and qualify before you start
  7. Volunteer as a family, so your volunteer work doesn’t keep you apart
  8. If you can’t get out, look at ‘virtual volunteering’ programs
  9. Think outside the box for unique volunteering experiences (e.g. community theatres, prisons, or parks – the site has a whole list of others)
  10. Bring your heart and your sense of humour to whatever cause you help

If you’re willing to volunteer, here are websites that are good starting points for Americans (Volunteer Match ) and Canadians (Canadian Volunteerism Initiative ) to learn where volunteers are needed.

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