Most of us need cheering up from time to time, but the current economy is enough to depress everyone. What to do? Get involved and help, which will not only cheer you up, but also improve someone else's life! The following materials have excellent opportunities that will suit anyone, anywhere.
First, The busy family's guide to volunteering: do good, have fun, make a difference as a family! by Jenny Friedman is the go-to book for most of us. It is chock full of recommended websites, phone numbers, and local organizations to consult for opportunities, along with descriptions of various activities and age-appropriate lists. There are lists for what a family can do with a free half hour, hour, morning, day, and so on. This is a superb book for the family or the individual just getting started on volunteering.
Adventurous? Want to do something bolder, something "out there"? Consult the We Care Guides, including the following two books: World volunteers and Green volunteers. The first one, Green volunteers: the world guide to voluntary work in nature conservation, is in its 7th edition. Encompassing hundreds of conservancy organizations and even more individual projects, these listings are open to most people, if they can pay. Minimum age is usually 18, although some say 16. Most require the volunteer to provide their own food and travel, but some have accomodations, even including bedding. It is not unusual for volunteers to sleep in sleeping bags. Many of the opportunities can become long-term--negotiable is the way they express that possibility.
Those interested in disaster relief or alleviating world problems want World volunteers: the world guide to humanitarian and development volunteering, 4th ed. This book is accompanied by links to free updates concerning the organizations profiled. Each organization is profiled, listing a description, sector (e.g., health, child welfare, community development), countries, qualifications (if any), whether nonprofessionals are accepted, age limitations (if any), duration, language(s), benefits, costs, application info, and notes.
All good information, but, while offering a rough guide, any potentials should be followed up by serious investigation before commiting to one of these organizations. Most of the well-known groups are here, including the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, and World Vision.
If the Peace Corps is one of your potential interests, then The insider's guide to the Peace Corps: what to know before you go by Dillon Banerjee is not to be missed. This excellent book gives the unvarnished grit on life in the corps. Banerjee deals with questions from "Will I get sick?" to "What is the work schedule like?" to "Can I get kicked out of the Peace Corps?" Banerjee answers them all frankly and directly. Most everything anyone wonders about the Peace Corps is covered in this paperback.
For further opportunities, watch your local newspaper or phone the organization of interest. Whatever you do, don't forget--inspiration and good cheer await you.