Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hands On Bay Area

I've recently (in the last month or so) started using a site called Hands On Bay Area, which matches volunteers with various community service opportunities throughout the bay area. (There are other chapters of the Hands On Network around the country, too.) It's a handy thing, because it not only helps you find interesting organizations to work with, but makes it easy to sort of "test drive" them. You sign up for everything on a one-off basis, so you get to go help out for an afternoon or evening or something and see what it's like, without having to make a big commitment. Naturally that limits the types of things you can do (Project Read's tutoring program wouldn't fit well in this model, for instance) but you can still find other ways to contribute later on after you've "met" an organization or project you like. Here are some of the things I've done so far:
  • Sunday Friends: I spent an afternoon doing arts and crafts and playing games with kids from low income families, while they and their parents developed various positive life skills and earned points they could spend at a "store" of donated food and household items. I quite enjoyed it, and I intend to go back, though I haven't yet managed that.
  • Books Aloud: This organization runs a mail-order library of audio books for people who are blind, dyslexic, or otherwise unable to read conventionally. The evening I was there I mostly just dug through their (horrendously cataloged) collection to find things to pack up and send to people. I want to see if I can get involved in the actual recording of the books though, once my schedule allows, since I love reading aloud.
  • RAFT - Resource Area for Teachers: Here I was sorting through extremely miscellaneous boxes of office supplies donated by various companies, to be packaged up and sold at low costs to teachers. Doesn't sound like much, but turns out to be a very good flow activity, especially when a whole team of people really gets into a synchronized groove. They also have other projects, like assembling science project kits, again from donated, discarded, or recycled materials.
Anyway, that's my plug for the Hands On Network. If you've ever felt like you wanted to do something to give back to your community but didn't know where to look, this is a good way to get started. And if you find something you're interested in around here (e.g. San Mateo or Santa Clara counties), let me know and maybe I'll be able to go along with you.


Lacey said...

Yay for the Hands On Network! I fully intend to explore some opportunities through Hands on Greater Portland... once finals are over. :)

tmb said...

That sounds really neat! I've been wanting to get involved in some volunteer projects without too big of a time commitment (which I wouldn't be able to manage right now). Sunday Friends sounds a lot like what I was looking for. And I will definitely scope out Hands On for other cool projects.

ps - In high school I recorded audio books at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. You should check them out if you're interested in that sort of thing - it was fun :)