Summertime is often associated with idle hands and lemonade stands, but if you’re looking for an opportunity to stay active, volunteering in the Virgin Islands is always a good option. Volunteering your time not only helps the community, but also enriches you personally. It can be as simple as helping a neighbor with yard work, or as grand as organizing a gala fundraiser. There are several ways that you can contribute this Summer, and you may just have fun doing it! Often times you will meet new friends, discover new interests, and establish stronger ties to the community you live in. If you’re new to our islands, volunteering is a great way to network with like-minded individuals! Whatever your reasons, here are a few options you can consider.
Virgin Islands Volunteer Options
Beach/Road-side Clean Up
One of the easiest things to do is clean up trash near your home, a beach or roadside. You don’t need a crew of people, just some gloves and a bag and you’re off to save the planet. Picking up trash may seem a bit daunting depending on where you are, so you may want to set a goal for yourself. There are several people that simply pick up exactly one bag of trash each time they go to the beach. The first thing they do is walk to beach, and collect straws, cans, plates, and a variety of debris left over after Summer beach parties. If you want to be more social, join others that plan big clean ups like the Westin St. John Community Clean Up which meets on the first Thursday every month or the VI Green Team or the Zing Ocean Conservancy on St. Thomas. The VI Green Team is a group of young adults who are dedicated to keeping the Virgin Islands clean. They host roadside or beach clean-ups every other Saturday. Zing Ocean Conservancy’s primary goal is environmental research and ocean conservancy. They even plan expeditions to encourage exploration and appreciation of our oceans. You can actually snorkel, dive, sail or paddleboard for a good cause!
Spend Time with the Elderly
If you’re seeking a great “feel good” experience indoors, you should consider volunteering with the elderly. Often, you don’t have to look very far. There may be an elderly neighbor that needs help around the house, and you don’t have to be particularly skilled to fix an appliance or help with chores. Many elderly folks have illnesses that prevent them from completing tasks that may seem simple to you and me. You can offer to run errands or deliver a hot meal. It’s common for people who live by themselves to feel lonely, so sitting down for a good conversation is a great way to give back. The Lucinda A. Millin Home for the elderly always welcomes volunteers. It’s especially nice during the holidays to read, sing, play games, pray or simply spend time with some of our Virgin Islands elders; you may learn some interesting history. Get ready for smiles, hugs and kisses as payment for your time well spent!
Mentor/Tutor a Child
Perhaps even more important than spending time with your elders is spending time with youth on the island. There are many single parent homes in the Virgin Islands, so it will actually take a village to raise our children. Teachers and coaches cannot fill the gap on their own. If you like spending time with kids, you may be a perfect candidate for mentoring or tutoring. Even if you don’t feel very scholarly, you may have the knowledge or studying technique that will help a child master a difficult subject. Mentoring doesn’t require you to be perfect or a genius. Many children just need to know that someone cares for them. Just listening to a child for an afternoon can mean the world to him or her. There is no pressure on you to impart wisdom. Just be yourself, be positive, and be consistent. Be sure that you are setting a good example for your mentee. Actions speak louder than words. Being punctual for your meetings shows your child that you value their time and have respect for them. The Boys and Girls Club is a great organization to volunteer with. You can reach them at 340-778-8990 or email them at email@example.com.
Host a Fundraiser
Everything is more fun with friends. If you catch the volunteer bug, why not gather some friends and organize an event together? You’d be surprised to see how many friends, family and coworkers you can pool together to create a fun event for charity. Choose a realistic date that gives you ample time to get your event planned. Location is key! Consider the type of fundraiser you’d like to host and the number of guests you expect. Regardless of the event, it’s always good to have a checklist of needs and tasks for the organizing group. There are often many moving parts for big events, so it’s important to keep everyone motivated and focused on the task(s). Sales events are very popular. You can make a lemonade stand, host a wine tasting or sell bottled water on the roadside. Organize a bake sale or a soup sale for a deliciously good time, or sell unwanted items from your home and donate the proceeds. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to keep in touch with the attendees and thank them for supporting your event. If you can capture email addresses and phone numbers, you will have an easier time of getting people to come to your next event if you choose to do it again.
Churches and Schools
If you are still stuck and can’t figure out how to get some volunteer time in, you can always contact any one of the scores of schools and churches on the island. Church groups often host summer camps that need counselors and chaperones. Schools often do the same, but may also need help around the campus with various projects. Coaches of summer sports can use a hand with team management. Offer to carry equipment or cut up fruit for a healthy snack. Just ask, and I’m sure you will soon be put to work.
Humane Society, St. Thomas and ACC, St. John
Animal lovers always enjoy volunteering at the Humane Society or the Animal Care Center. These non-profit organizations provide shelter to homeless animals of various kinds. They also do quite a bit of education and outreach as it relates to animal protection. Perhaps you’d like to help them organize one of their Doggy and Car Wash fundraisers or the Doggy Ball, or do some retail work at their Thrift Store. If you want to be more hands on with our furry friends, you may enjoy grooming and taking dogs out for walks. You can also clean up the cat cabanas or dog kennels. They may also need help in the office with answering phones, filing papers or greeting visitors to the center. Contact Humane Society at (340) 775-0599 or the Animal Care Center at (340)774-1625.
Family Resource Center
Family Resource Center is a non-profit that provides programs and services to victims of crime in the Virgin Islands. Their mission is to end family violence in the Territory. Due to the sensitivity of the cases, working with clients directly may require special certification or training. However, there are many ways to help. FRC’s second chance boutique, CeCe’s Closet, can only operate with the help of volunteer labor. If merchandising or retail is your thing, you can help them raise funds in the store on the weekday of your choice. There are always donations that require sorting at Family Resource Center. Between that and clerical/filing work, you’ll be kept quite busy. FRC also participates and organizes many fundraisers throughout the year. Lend a hand at any of these events and have a good time for a good cause. Fill out a volunteer form here or call the office at (340)776-3966.
Whatever you decide to do this Summer, make sure to keep an open mind and heart. Although you are helping others, you may find that it is you that benefits greatly from the experience. Give freely of your time, and make a difference in your community today!
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Vernon Oliver Araujo
Vernon was born in Antigua and grew up on St. John and St. Thomas, USVI from the age of three. After graduating from Antilles School, Vernon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Boston College in 2006, but returned home to St. Thomas that year. He started his career in marketing and human resources with Diamonds International, and worked for them for 4 years before turning his attention to non-profits. Mr. Araujo was the co-founder of the STT-STJ Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network, he sits on the Board of Directors for the V.I. Council on the Arts, is Director of Development for Family Resource Center, and Director of Island Vibes Summer Camp. In his remaining free time, Vernon does marketing and media consulting through 104.3FM The Buzz and Melee Media. When he isn’t working, Vernon enjoys playing sports, writing, gardening and water sports.