You might think of volunteering as only a once a week or month activity. But there are paid volunteer positions out there for those who want to dedicate a year or two to using their skills to help others. Whether funded by the government or private organizations, these public service programs prove that service can be rewarding to both the volunteers and those less fortunate.
"I think it is important for everyone to dedicate themselves to social services in some way," said Rebekah Raleigh, an AmeriCorps member in Chicago. "Along the way, pretty much all of us have gotten help from other volunteers. It was important to me to be that helping person."
Also known as the domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a national program that employs volunteers in schools, nonprofit agencies and faith-based organizations. More than 50,000 people participate in the AmeriCorps program every year, doing everything from teaching after-school programs to building houses for low-income families. AmeriCorps*VISTA and AmeriCorps*NCCC offer more service opportunities
Raleigh's AmeriCorps assignment is teaching art to high school students and helping them plan service projects. "The chance to work with students is very stimulating," she said. "You also really learn a lot about yourself."
AmeriCorps gives its members a monthly stipend, health benefits and an education award after completing a year of service. Search for a program or projects available in your state. You can find out more about membership and even apply online.
Senior citizens can keep active in their retirement by joining the Senior Corps, which is made of three programs. Foster Grandparents become role models for needy children. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) recruits members to perform hundreds of types of community service. Senior Companions assist older adults who need assistance to live independently. The program description pages contain links to projects in every state.
Learn and Serve America
You don't have to wait until you are an adult to give back to the community. Hoping to instill the value of volunteering in young people, Learn and Serve America supports service-learning programs across the country. Service-learning combines student learning and community service in a way that benefits the student and the community. Learn and Service programs are available at schools, colleges and Indian reservations.
Teach for America
Composed of recent college graduates, Teach for America employs its members for two years in urban and rural public schools. Created in 1989 by an idealistic college student, Teach for America has placed more than 8,000 people in low-income communities. Members receive training to provide the education that children from these areas might not other wise receive.
Teach for America receives support from AmeriCorps, so members are eligible for an education award at the end of their service. Members are paid full-time teacher salaries, as determined by the school. Need another reason to join? Read about the experiences of past members in their own words.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. Since then, 165,000 Americans have volunteered to work in 135 developing countries for two years. Volunteers teach English, help set up businesses, train health workers and work with farmers. Volunteers can use their experience in the education, health or business fields to help improve communities abroad.
Created by President George W. Bush in the wake of Sept. 11, the Citizen Corps is composed of volunteers who work for "homeland security." This includes programs in disaster preparedness and response, terrorism prevention and volunteer police service. The Citizen Corps programs are organized locally, but you can fill out one search for the nearest corps to receive more information. The Citizen Corps is part of Bush's USA Freedom Corps, which encourages Americans to volunteer in many capacities.