When listening to the news, it can be easy to feel disheartened at the misery in the world. It seems that every day, whether it is in the U.K. or abroad, there are lots of stories about bad people doing bad things.
Don't let the news get you down. It's much better to focus on the fact that all around you, there are good people doing fantastic things to help make the world a better place. You can be one of them. It doesn't have to be too drastic; sometimes it's the small things that really make a difference. If you're looking at helping to make your community a more hopeful place to live in, here are some of the things you can do.
Don't treat the homeless as if they were invisible
In cities all over the U.K, homelessness is a huge problem, with more and more people sleeping rough on the streets. It can be easy to feel helpless, I mean where should you start? You can't give money to everyone you meet, and should you be giving money at all or are you further feeding an addiction? If you want to help, here are the best things that you can do.
Donate to charities which support homeless people such as The Salvation Army, Shelter and Crisis. These charities help provide temporary accommodation, food and clothing, as well as advice and courses to help improve the prospects of those who are experiencing homelessness.
Rather than giving money, offer food and a hot drink instead. If they are really hungry they will appreciate it. Another great way of helping is to save up your loyalty cards, the ones that give you a free sandwich or coffee, and giving them instead. That way, they can save that hot drink for when they really need it.
Give your time. Treat the people you pass with dignity, don't pretend they're invisible. Say hello, spare five minutes for a chat, and make that person on the street feel that they count.
It's easy to walk through your local park and complain about the litter or the state of the graffiti and then do nothing. If you really want your local green space to remain a nice place to visit, why not help make a difference. You will find there are lots of local groups working hard to make your public park look nice. With cuts to council services, many locals have set of "Friends of" groups who work together to improve the space, whether it be fundraising to help fund improvements to the park, or spending time weeding and on litter picking. Find out if your local group needs help, and if there isn't one, why not set one up yourself?
Be a good neighbour
Take the time to get to know your neighbours, and take pride in your street. Pick up litter on your way home and take some responsibility for helping to keep your street a nice place to live. Knock on the door of that elderly neighbour to check he's alright and whether he needs anything doing. Take the bins out for your neighbours whilst they are on holiday. It only takes one person to start to make that change. As people watch you, they will be encouraged and will hopefully begin to do the same. If not, don't lose heart, just carry on. You will be making a difference to someone's life, even if you don't know it yet.
Volunteer at your local girl guiding or scouting unit
Many parents complain about the long waiting list for Beavers, Cubs, Rainbows and Brownies and yet don't think to do anything about it. It's well recognised that these groups are wonderful for developing self-confidence and skills in young people, but unfortunately, there is a huge shortage of people willing to give their time. Why not volunteer with your local group and really make a difference to young people? There are lots of ways of volunteering, whether you become a leader, help out at the occasional cub camp, or help run their PR.
Cubs, Scouts and Brownies can make a big difference to young people
Age UK reports that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month, whilst 3.9 million older people agree that television is their main form of company. Charities such as Age UK, Friends of the Elderly and Community Network recruit volunteers to regularly phone or visit someone who is at home alone, or to run social events to bring people together.
Encourage children's reading skills
Reading is a vital skill for children to master but unfortunately there are still children struggling. Schools are more stretched than ever before to ensure all children receive the one-to-one time that some children need. Charities such as Beanstalk and School Readers train volunteers who then go into schools to help children who are struggling. What better skill could you give to children?
Improving our communities means investing in young people, and some children have a very rough start in life. If you have a spare room and feel you could make a difference to a child who hasn't received the love and care they deserve, why not consider fostering? Yes, it's a huge commitment, and is bound to be challenging at times, but how rewarding would it be to feel that you have improved a child's quality of life, and proven that someone does care.
Volunteer for a local charity
There are hundreds of organisations in the U.K. who are desperate for volunteers. If you want to make a difference to your community, why not pick one and promise to spend some time improving lives. There's a great website called the Do It Trust where you simply put in your postcode and can find a list of voluntary vacancies in your area.
Be a 'Yes' person
Lastly, say "yes" to anything that comes your way. Does that young mum look like she could do with a night off? Say yes to babysitting for a few hours. Is there an elderly lady struggling with her shopping? Say yes to carrying the shopping to her door. Does the kids' school need help moving furniture, or are they looking or volunteers for the summer fair. Say yes and make their day. We're all time-poor, but it doesn't have to be something huge. It's only by helping others that our local communities will really begin to flourish.