I think one of the nice things about people who want to do good in the world is that actively attempting to do so makes them literally feel good.
True, and I do not ever want to discourage someone from helping out in any way they can... but often undirected help like this does more to hurt, than help. The unintended consequences from "good feeling/low value" help can be huge.
Small example... People wanted to help out the homeless. So they put together a book drive to give them books to make their lives a little brighter, to educate them, whatever.
Everyone goes "woo hoo! great idea!" and grabs all their old Danielle Steele novels they have had in boxes in their suburban garage for a decade, and brings it to the "helpers".
The helpers deliver the books to the homeless, who are appreciative of the effort, but a little perplexed why people think they want/need books. Libraries are free. And warm. And dry.
And books are heavy. And get wet easily. Then get heavier.
And when everything you own is in a backpack, cart, or a tent illegally pitched under a freeway, you don't want more weight. Or something that becomes useless when it gets wet.
So the homeless people move on, get chased out of wherever they are.
There is an enormous scattering of pages and books and romance novels littering everywhere.
And the locals who were NOT a part of the "Help the Homeless with Books" project and are unaware of the project, see the homeless have left a huge pile of garbage. Garbage that is nothing but romance novels and other dreck. So clearly these flaky homeless people are just laying around all day, not getting a job, and reading romance novels.
So the locals get even further hardened to the homeless and the situation, and see them as "lazy bums" rather than people who had useless shit foisted off on them they didn't ask for and were unable to properly dispose of because ... well ... their broke and homeless.
This is just one example I can list of many-a-good-intention gone wrong.
Stand out volunteering experiences, you ask?
Meals On Wheels. Three years in a row I delivered fresh-cooked Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins and the elderly who didn't have family or others for the holiday.
Good deal, right?
Mostly delivered to rich neighborhoods - way richer than mine! - where I'd knock, they'd open the door a crack, snatch the box, and slam the door without saying anything. Half the time the person wasn't even a senior citizen. (Yeah, so it also helped people who were agoraphobic, etc, but ... it was clear that the vast majority of those I delivered to were gaming the system for free food, and were not in any sort of Need.)
There is no more incredible or inspiring project on the goddamn planet than FareStart.
On the street? No skills? Addicted? No support? End of your rope? Ready to turn your life around?
It is essentially a job training program to give people useful kitchen skills, and then place them in the jobs, with a support network and long-term support.
But it is so much more.
Life skills. Anger management. Checkbook balancing. How to find and rent an apartment. Drug rehab. Computer skills. Resume writing. SO MANY THINGS.
And you don't wind up being a dishwasher in a Denny's, either.
The thing is that FareStart is ALSO a restaurant. A really GOOD restaurant. In the heart of the Seattle business district. That is actively supported by the biggest names in the culinary industry.
Guest Chef Night is when a chef (sometimes world famous ones, like Tom Douglas) comes in and designs a fixed meal. The chef pays for all the food and supplies. The chef works all day with the FareStart students and teaches them to make the meal. Side-by-side.
The students are the servers. The sous chefs. The desert chefs. The cooks. The dishwashers. The drink stewards. EVERYTHING. They are trained in EVERY part of a fine dining experience.
Oh. And Guest Chef Night? It happens every single week.
When you graduate you get a choice of jobs to choose from, at high-quality restaurants, because, you know that Guest Chef that taught you to make that salad nicoise back in April? Yeah. They liked you. They saw you had knife skills, and said when you graduate, they want you to come work for them.
From homeless on the street, to working in the kitchen with Thierry Roederer, or Tom Douglas, or the Canlis kitchen, with a FUCKING CAREER PATH, and a loving support system both at FareStart, and in the restaurant itself... all in about 3 months.
And they've been doing this for thirty years.
"What about Volunteering?" I hear you cry...
Anybody can come in and volunteer to help out. Serve water. Serve drinks. Get people to their tables. Clear dishes.
My family has done this more times than I can count. I have participated with entire departments at employers, who all decided it sounded like fun, and it changed their lives.
And graduation night? Yeah. People who were homeless and broke six months ago get to stand in their dress kitchen whites, get their set of culinary knives, and talk about their story and the job they are going to.
I am actually, sitting at my desk at work, writing this with tears running down my face.
It is so fucking amazing and beautiful and fantastic.
The world can be a beautiful place, man.