What do you do when you want to change the world but have only your time to offer? Below are some opportunities to better a life, even if it is just yours.
Centers for Street children
There are children with few means of survival, and a bleak existence. There are two types of street children: “children of the street” are homeless and on their own while “children on the street” earn but return home at night. While their lives and meager livelihoods exist outside and on the streets, there are many organizations that help make their living more comfortable. These range from facilities providing free showers to wash off the daily dirt and grit of their work, to ones imparting employable skills so they can make a better living in the future. These children can thrive with proper mentorship and attention, countering all the negativity that surrounds them out in the real world on a daily basis.
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) has Centers for Street Children which provide leisure activities, sanitation and non-formal education, and are a great place to start if you are interested in the cause.
Innocent and voiceless as these creatures are, they are still mistreated and tortured at every turn to an inhumane extent. Rescued animals are in desperate need to be handled lovingly and rehabilitated after their horrifying experiences. From injured cats to abused dogs, every neglected creature could thrive with proper care and a comforting human touch. You can adopt one to call your own, foster them for a while, or visit a shelter to spend some time with them. The love you receive will be one of the few unconditional kinds that exist in this world.
Writers, artists, vets, filmmakers, anyone and everyone is encourage to apply to further the cause of Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) or make furry friends at Adopt a Pet.
The ones most deserving of love and attention are those who have no one to call their own. These are the future of our country, left to grow up on their own, with no one taking the responsibility of ensuring their wellbeing except for God. The more you consider how much effort and care goes into raising a child, be it keeping them away from electrical outlets or monitoring their baby food, the more bewildering it is that many grow up with seemingly no one to kiss their skinned knees or take sharp objects out of their mouth.
Organizations bringing up the ones abandoned, whether for lack of care or money, always welcome volunteers willing to bring some joy into these lives. SOS Village orphanages are based on the premise of “It takes a village to raise a child” and provide state-of-the-art care to those it takes in, and can be made better with your time.
There are organizations aimed at teaching employable skills or counseling survivors of abuse. These include women left destitute and defenseless after being thrown out of their homes, divorced or with the unexpected deaths of their loved ones. In a country where many still consider educating their daughters less important than educating their sons, any and all adverse situations can leave a woman at the mercy of others. It is an extreme need of the hour to enable these women to stand on their own two feet and break the shackles of dependency, all the while helping them fight their psychological demons. You can volunteer at Panah Shelter Homes and teach the residents basic skills such as operating computers.
Old age homes
You bring up your little ones with love and care, comforting after each fall and cheering after every rise, from their first steps to their first car. But one day, if they decide there is no longer anything you can give them besides your prayers and thoughts, they decide to leave you in an old age home to await your death. No matter what they use to pacify their conscience, the abandonment is clear and brutal. Many in the old age homes spend their remaining lives believing and hoping beyond hope that their loved ones would come take them back any time. Some while away the time waiting for Eid to come in order to merit a visit from their children, which is not a guarantee either.
Loneliness is not a pleasant feeling for even the most self-sufficient, and these elders are at a stage where they deserve all the love and care anyone can muster. If you choose to volunteer your time and energy here, you will not regret it. Whether it is the regaling tales of past glory and another life, or a comforting hand on your head and a whispered dua, you will take much away from the experience of caring for someone who spent their lives caring for everyone else. You can receive some love from those who have much to give at centers such as Binte Fatima Old Home.
All anyone really wants in this world is to be accepted for who they are, as they are. While many achieve his great feat through success or loved ones, those who are special struggle more than the rest. In a country where it is still not socially acceptable to be physically disabled, caring for those mentally handicapped is a far cry from the norm. We have seen the beautiful talents and success stories, yet we still fail to nurture and integrate those who are different. To do your part, you can volunteer to coach at Pakistan Special Olympics or with the beautiful children at Dar ul Sukun.
What if the cure to cancer, the secrets of the cosmos, and the answer to all our prayers were locked away in the brains of a child who cannot afford to be educated? Is it not a grave injustice that we force many disinterested children to sit through lessons but neglect those who could make the best use of it? When will we reward those wanting to study under streetlights and on their breaks from hawking with the possibility of quality education?
You can volunteer your time at any organization imparting quality education to the masses. One excellent opportunity is the Alumni Development Programme which aims to help The Citizens Foundation alumni gain admission in the best universities in Pakistan and abroad by tutoring them for entry tests. Besides volunteering at an existing organization and teaching the basics to children, you can also take a leaf out of Master Ayub’s book and either join his Volunteer programs or open your own open air school. Who knows how many destinies you could change?