How To

Virtue: Volunteering From Home

You planned to spend the morning hammering together a shelter for the homeless, but your hangover is better suited to a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper. In the second installment of her Virtue series, Margaret Berry shows you how to get off your duff without leaving the couch.

You have yet to help out at your local food bank, look into the tutoring center, join a tree-planting group, or read over those Peace Corps brochures you sent for in college. All of it seems like too much of a pain. You want to save the world, but only if you can do it in your pajamas.

Put your good intentions to use with some low-impact, high-yield volunteer projects you can tackle from home. Here are a few convenient ways to help others without cramping your rock-and-roll lifestyle.

Watch your hair grow.

Locks of Love takes donated human hair and makes wigs for underprivileged kids suffering from medical hair loss. It works like this: You sit on your bum and grow your hair out until you can cut off at least ten inches. You put it in a ponytail, cut it, then send the ponytail to Locks of Love in an envelope. They send you a thank-you note, and you feel all aw-shucksy inside.

Knit a bear.

Teddies for Tragedies sends hand-knitted teddy bears to child victims of tragedy around the world. So far they’ve sent over a thousand bears. You can send them some wool yarn or stuffing and they’ll put it to good use. Or, if you know how to knit, choose one of their patterns, knit up your own bear, and send it in. There are no deadlines or quotas. Besides, why make yet another scarf when you could be making a cuddly teddy bear for a scared little kid?

Send a card.

Remember how excited you were to get mail when you were little? Make a Child Smile is a website that publishes information about kids with life-threatening illnesses and asks you to send them cards and small gifts. It’s a fun, easy way to lift their spirits while they’re getting through a tough time. Plus, it gives you an excuse to buy stickers again.

Write for change.

Amnesty International’s Freedom Writers program chooses three human rights cases each month that deserve your attention. The site gives you information and a sample letter with an address. If you support a particular cause, you can print and send the letter that Amnesty provides, or write your own. If you don’t see anything that moves you, check back next month for updates.

Sew a security blanket.

Many of us have fond memories of our security blanket; some of us still have it. The aptly named Project Linus gives the same sense of comfort to seriously ill children, or those who’ve experienced trauma. The program provides new, handmade blankets in any style or size. They have patterns available on the site to get you started. Maybe you’re not a whiz with a needle and thread, but we’re talking about small squares of fabric stitched together. I have faith in you.

Stop surfing, start helping.

Online Volunteering hooks up ‘virtual volunteers’ with organizations in need of their expertise. If you have access to a computer and the Internet (check … check), and you know something about programming, writing, project management, translation, law, education, or any other area of expertise that works over email, you’re in business. You’ll use your skills to provide online help for your chosen organization. Yet another job you can do in your underwear.