During the writing of Rising Shadow, I gave a lot of thought to volunteerism and how empowering it is. One of the key points I want to drive home in the books is that you don't have to have supernatural powers to be extraordinary. Empowerment comes from facing your demons, taking control of your actions, and working toward a goal that's greater than yourself. If just one person reads my books and gets the message that they're not useless and can make a difference in the world, I'll claim victory.
But where to start? It's all very nice to say "go get involved", but where, and doing what? I did a lot of thinking about the greatest areas of human need and distilled it to five categories in order of necessity: water, food, health care, safe shelter, and education. Each of these areas is very important, and some people will be more interested in helping to educate people than providing clean drinking water. The beauty of volunteering is that when you find something that really speaks to you, you get as much or more out of volunteering than you're putting into it.
Once I'd come up with these categories, I had no idea how to start selecting charities in each area until I found Charity Navigator. This is a great web site, because not only can you find charities that meet certain criteria, they also rate each charity based on their efficiency, so you can make sure that you're donating money and time to an organization that's using their resources wisely. I decided to select only those charities that had the highest rating, were international in scope (so that people all over the world could work with them), and offered opportunities for volunteering time as well as donating money.
The result is the list of charities on my site. My pledge is to donate 20% of my royalties to these charities, so when you buy a copy of one of my books, you know that some of the money you spent is going to worthy organizations. For example, I just saw that Direct Relief is committing up to 50,000 for their partners in the Philippines to help with relief from the floods. That's definitely a worthy cause.
If you're interested in hearing more about what's happening with these organizations and other ways to volunteer, you can follow me on Twitter, where I retweet information that I think will be most interesting to my readers. I also have a Facebook page where I post similar information.
Have you had an experience volunteering that you want to share? Or do you know of a great organization that you want to promote? I've set up bulletin boards on my site where you can share this information and get ideas from others. The important thing is just to get out there and start trying some things. As Ashlyn says in Rising Shadow, volunteering is just an obvious social responsibility. You'll be amazed at how quickly it makes you feel like a hero.