Last week I took my first trip to New York City. Alicia Keys wasn’t joking when she called it a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of…” But I wasn’t there for the Time Square selfies (well, maybe just one). I was in NYC to attend the Global Engagement Summit at the UN Headquarters, a place where world leaders meet to resolve humankind’s most critical issues. Sitting in this historic hall gave me chills.

Yet, the power to change our world doesn’t only rest in the hands of the few in these powerful positions; it lies within us. President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, said it best when he told us, “Young people are the future now.”

Don’t wait to be an engaged global citizen. Below are some ideas to start making a difference as soon as this spring break.

Love Locally. Who better to serve your community than you? After all, if you currently live in a city or have lived in it most of your life, you may know EXACTLY what help it needs most. If you don’t know, it’s easy to find out. Follow these ideas to find a local project or create your own:

  • Call your Community Foundation to get an idea of what community projects are in progress or what service organizations exist. Your help can lighten their workload and further their goals. Plus, this helps you make great connections for future internships or jobs.
  • Collaborate with your place of worship. Many faiths value service to others and often have year-round projects you can contribute to.
  • Create your movement. Consider starting a project that combines your passion with your skills. Think about what matters most to you and then how your talents and skills can help. Some of my former students have initiated culture groups, established bilingual libraries, or educated their community about recycling.

Spread the Love. Emphasize the United in the United States of America and lend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters across the country who are experiencing hard times. Click on the links below to find organizations helping in these areas:

Florida                                     Puerto Rico                                          California

Go Above and Abroad. Like I mentioned in this blog, I’ve learned the most from my trips abroad that have revolved around service work. Below are some opportunities to go abroad over your break as well as some things to keep in mind if you do.

Find Volunteer opportunities here or here!

Advice:

  • You are temporary. Remember that your time helping abroad will be just a snapshot in the bigger picture. Be sensitive of the impact that might have on children and communities. One way to account for this is to be very supportive of the established goals and to let locals lead.
  • Join a long-term project through a US organization that has a partnership with the abroad program that they support. It’s best to find one where you can receive training before you go!
  • Don’t take a local’s job. Many volunteer programs import US citizens when they should hire locals. Make sure that the job you’re doing is truly something that only you can do. Maybe it is teaching English to locals so that they can continue investing in their own country.