Internet Volunteering Relieves Stress
Volunteer Opportunities Abound on the Web
March 26, 2003 -- Feeling stressed and anxious? Helping out can be a great way to deal with all the emotions that surround such troubling times, say experts. In fact, if you want to help out -- donate time, energy, or money -- all sorts of volunteer opportunities are just a click away.
"It decreases anxiety and stress," says George Bray, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "You're not just worrying about things, you're taking action, making a difference, doing something."
Indeed, volunteering is about improving your community, our world, says Jason Willett, a spokesman for VolunteerMatch.com. "We believe people want to help each other, and the Internet has given us the tools to help people do that."
"The personal reward is hard to articulate," Willett tells WebMD. Volunteer opportunities put you in touch with new people, even if it's through email, and you feel like you've made a difference.
How to get started? If your bent is "volunteer" or "humanitarian," just plug those words into a search engine and let your mouse be your guide. But make sure the operation is legitimate, warns Bray. "Do some surfing, check into them. There are some scams out there."
Among the organizations offering volunteer opportunities that may pop up:
The Hunger Site Network
A click on The Hunger Site supports food for millions of starving people around the world. Now, the Hunger Site Network has partnered with Mercy Corps to support mobile medical clinics helping families living in rural parts of northern Iraq.
Sure, it's not a "volunteer opportunity" per se. You're donating money -- and not really very much -- to help lots of people. Buy a "Mercy Kit" for $40, and you have helped 25 people in northern Iraq, who have no access to medical care for themselves or their families, says Tim Kunin, CEO of the Hunger Site Network. In addition, The Hunger Site will fund 100 cups of food for each Mercy Kit you buy.
Instead of buying that grande latte every morning, you can provide water cans and hygiene for three displaced families for one month. For a bit more, you provide blankets for a displaced family of six. For a bunch more ($500), you've bought lifesaving medicine for 300 Iraqi children. (Remember, those charitable contributions help at tax time.)
"We're getting an instant response ... a tremendous response," Kunin says. "The ad just went up [on the web site], but we've already sold a lot of them. The highest click-throughs on our site have been to Mercy Corps. There's a lot of interest in being helpful."