I'm delighted to have time in my schedule for some volunteer work.
A few weeks ago I began volunteering for Lema'an Achai ("For the Sake of My Brothers") an organization that helps people who are in financial need. I really like their approach--they say they give people a "hand up, not a handout". They combine financial grants with psychological counseling, financial management and training, a food pantry and there's even a dental clinic on-site. Their whole approach is centered around "breaking the cycle of poverty". My job is make a database of new olim and then give each family a Lema'an Achai backpack filled with information about the organization and a cookie with the organization's logo on it. I tell families that perhaps they'd like to volunteer like I do, or maybe they might even know someone who needs help and now they'll know a good place to make a referral to. I've enjoyed getting to say hi to the other new olim (many of whom I know) and also learning my way around the area better. Here's a link to the organization. I loved reading their staff list and seeing people's backgrounds--very impressive to the see the people who work for them (and it's amazing that the secretary speaks seven languages!!!)
Every week we also volunteer for Ezrat Achim ("Help Brothers"). This organization does MANY different things--they run the Shabbos health clinic that I went to when I cut my finger, they offer a van going from here to the hospitals in Jerusalem (a huge help since it's common here not to own a car and to get from here to, say, Hadassah Ein Kerem takes three buses and a 15 minute walk). They also run a gemach to loan people medical equipment like crutches (as odd as it seems to those of us from America, the doctor's office doesn't give out/sell crutches, nor does the pharmacy. You borrow them from an organization!). Ezrat Achim also organizes the project we volunteer for every week: a program where they give baked goods for Shabbos to families in need/someone sick or in the hospital, etc. It's definitely a win-win situation because now my girls can bake whatever they want and we keep some and share most. It's also challenged me to step up my baking skills more. As someone who prefers savory over sweet, I have always focused my Shabbos efforts towards cooking, not baking ("dessert? You want dessert?!"). So this has encouraged me to get a few recipes under my belt (and actually measure ingredients, which I'm somewhat allergic to).
When Chana was here, she also volunteered at a program that takes leftover food from people's simchas and repackages it into individual meals for people in need. It's wonderful how they run the program: there is a locked refrigerator and freezer in someone's yard. They are opened with a code, so anyone can drop off food at any time, even if your bar mitzvah or wedding ends quite late. Chana is being missed around here--the woman who runs this just posted looking for a teen girl assistant to help package meals.
There's also a lot of volunteering that gets done that's not through any specific organization, usually in the form of meals for a family with a sick family member or those with a new baby at home.
Off to go make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Ezrat Achim!