Lend a helping hand around Charleston

As college students, we are always looking for opportunities to enrich our lives and educational experience through volunteering our time to service opportunities. (Or we may just need to complete required service hours for organizations  we are involved in around campus.) Either way, here are the top five volunteer opportunities – at the College and around town – where you can volunteer your time to a great cause and help change the world.

1. Habitat For Humanity

CofC's Habitat for Humanity chapter builds a house in Mount Pleasant.  The houses are sold at low prices to families in need. (Photo courtesy of Tessa Lee Di Gennaro via Facebook)

CofC’s Habitat for Humanity chapter builds a house in Mount Pleasant. The houses are sold at low prices to families in need. (Photo courtesy of Tessa Lee Di Gennaro via Facebook)

This organization is not unique to the College of Charleston. It is an international organization that builds homes for families in need. The homes are not given to the families for free, but sold at affordable prices with an interest-free mortgage. CofC chapter president, Tessa Lee Di Gennaro dedicates much of her time to organizing this group of volunteers and going to “build days” to make the Charleston community a safer, warmer and happier place. Di Gennaro said the volunteers at the build site are “welcoming, friendly and willing to help, which is nice since many volunteers have little construction experience when they start.” Being a part of this organization can give you so many experience that you would never have otherwise. Di Gennero said, “My favorite memories would definitely include any time the future homeowners come to the site. It makes the experience a bit more concrete when we actually get to know the people we’re helping!” If interested in joining this awesome organization, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/145067505072/

2. The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry

Volunteers at CML help with a kid's camp at Marion Square. There are a number of opportunities to serve at the museum and get involved with kids. (Photo courtesy of Kendta McCabe via explorecml.org)

Volunteers at CML help with a kid’s camp at Marion Square. There are a number of opportunities to serve at the museum and get involved with kids. (Photo courtesy of Kendta McCabe via explorecml.org)

If you’re looking to get volunteer experience with children, this is the place for you! At CML, you can be help with camp counseling, special events, community outreach, or be a “PLAY” guide. All of these opportunities center around the education of children and having fun at the same time. Kids visiting Charleston come to the museum to experience hands-on play and learning, and you could be a part of that experience for them. Education coordinator Kendra McCabe thinks volunteering at CML is interesting and exciting. She said, “you never know if you will be creating robots and castles out of cardboard & recyclables, weathering a storm on the pirate ship or finding treasure in the garden, it is always an adventure here!” If interested in volunteering, visit the CML website at http://explorecml.org/cml/

CofC Sustainability Office volunteering at a landfill. The office has many different committees that help make Charleston more sustainable in a variety of ways. (Photo courtesy of CofC Sustainability via Facebook).

CofC Office of Sustainability volunteering at a landfill. The office has many different committees that help make Charleston more sustainable in a variety of ways. (Photo courtesy of CofC Sustainability via Facebook)

3. The College of Charleston Office of Sustainability

The Office of Sustainability works hard everyday to ensure that the College, and the Charleston community, is “green” and sustainable. The office has a large and diverse internship program that focuses on personal and professional development, a number of project initiatives, as well as spearheading efforts to make the College zero waste and carbon neutral. Ashlyn Hochschild, Internship and Student Coordinator at the office, loves seeing CofC students sign up to intern and volunteer to help make the College more sustainable. She said, “The relationships that have been built across campus are another success as we can’t build a more sustainable campus alone. One of my favorite successes has to be making A Charleston Affair zero waste in 2014.” Hochschild explained that the internship program has a lot of volunteer opportunities within different committees. The committees range from the Sustainable Greek Chair Inititaive, which works to implement sustainability within Greek chapters, to the Garden Apprentice Program, which helps plant gardens throughout campus. Hochschild said, “We really focus on giving students the experience, confidence and personal growth they need so they can go out in the world after graduation and be change agents.” This is a great opportunity to get involved with the “go-green” initiatives and to become more aware of the ways in which we can help save the Earth and the environment. To learn more, visit the office’s website at http://sustainability.cofc.edu

An aquarium volunteer showing a guest some fossils. Volunteers can be exhibit guides, aquarists or even divers! (Photo courtesy of SC Aquarium via Facebook).

An aquarium volunteer showing a guest some fossils. Volunteers can be exhibit guides, aquarists or even divers. (Photo courtesy of SC Aquarium via Facebook)

4. The South Carolina Aquarium

If the exciting under-the-sea world of marine biology and oceanography is more your forte, the SC Aquarium is where you need to be. If you’ve ever had experience taking care of pets, you can volunteer to be an aquarist at the aquarium. They help with maintenance of freshwater and saltwater exhibits by feeding the fish, cleaning tanks, keeping records and maintaining the overall well-being of the aquarium. If you’re more of an experienced ocean expert and have a Scuba diving certificate, you can volunteer to be a diver. Divers help feed animals, maintain exhibits and interact with visitors. If you’re more into the education side of marine biology, being an exhibit guide is the service opportunity perfect for you. These volunteers serve as exhibit interpreters for guests and educate visitors on the different animals around the aquarium. CofC freshman, Megan Plumb, said volunteering at the aquarium was a life-changing experience. “It gave me some more knowledge of the South Carolina ecosystems,” said Plumb, “and helped me realize I wanted to be a teacher.” To sign up for this awesome opportunity and to help keep the aquarium afloat, visit http://scaquarium.org

The MUSC children's hospital has numerous volunteer programs to get involved with ranging from weekly commitments to short term opportunities. (Photo courtesy of MUSC Children's Hospital via Facebook).

The MUSC children’s hospital has numerous volunteer programs with which to get involved, ranging from weekly commitments to short term opportunities. (Photo courtesy of MUSC Children’s Hospital via Facebook)

5. MUSC Children’s Hospital

Looking to go into the medical field and need volunteer experience? Check out MUSC’s service opportunities! The children’s hospital could not function without the help of generous volunteers. The types of opportunities available depend on the time commitment volunteers are willing to serve. Weekly programs include the Courtesy Cart, which goes to doors of patients and offers coffee, tea and hot cocoa to the parents of the sick kids. Happy Wheels is a program in which volunteers carry books and toys to the children each day so they can “shop” for new things to play with. More short-time commitments include the Family Meals program, which helps supply families of patients with meals to minimize their financial hardship while staying at the hospital. The Case for Smiles program makes colorful and cheerful pillowcases for children staying at the hospital to make them feel more at home and comfortable in the hospital environment. To learn more about these programs and to see what other service opportunities the hospital has to offer, check out their website at http://musckids.org

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Jessica Wilkinson is a feature writer at CisternYard News. She is a sophomore majoring in Secondary Education and History with a minor in Political Science. In her free time, she can be found binge-watching Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars on Netflix, doing Muay Thai Kickboxing and spending as much time as possible on Pinterest. She aspires to be the best history teacher your kids will ever have while spending her summers writing and traveling the world.


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