Shanghai is a continually evolving and extremely dynamic city. With this comes a need to not only find your place in it, but to also find value in what you are doing. Whether you have lived here for years or are new to this thriving metropolis, the desire and opportunities to reinvent your existence are ongoing. Friends come and go, and circumstances change, often prompting us to step back and re-evaluate the things that make life fulfilling. This is where our Mind, Body and Soul cover story can help.
Instead of providing a back-to-school guide for the kids as the summer draws to an end, this one is for the moms and dads out there. Our three sections are filled with inspirations to help you settle into a healthy routine and re-establish yourself within it after a relaxing summer holiday.
When I think of what's good for the soul, two things come to mind: friendships with those who bring out the best in you and make you feel alive, and doing what you can to bring out the best in others. Creating friendships that are meaningful takes time, but thankfully there are many groups in Shanghai ready to welcome you and genuinely nurture your social life. Likewise, whatever your passion is with regards to giving back to the community, Shanghai has an organization eager for you to join. We all have our well-honed skills from a previous life, so why not match these with a charity that will benefit greatly from what you have to offer? Volunteering yourself is meaningful work, and spending time with those at the helm of the charities is nothing short of inspiring; they make you want to be a better person. So, let's take a look at what you can do in Shanghai that fulfills the side in all of us that yearns for meaning – our soul.
Volunteer Yourself - Community
Everyone experiences challenging times, and sometimes we need to reach out, be heard and understood. Lifeline Shanghai provides a helpline and online chat service for the English- speaking community throughout China, and their volunteers work tirelessly advocating mental health issues throughout the year. The helpline is open daily, all year round from 10am to 10pm, and the helpline assistants offer understanding and non-judgmental support. It’s a place for those in need to call and speak openly and confidentially. The callers can provide information and referrals to other professional services to help people receive the extra support they may need.
As a 100 percent volunteer organization, Lifeline Shanghai relies solely on community support to continue their work, and there are many ways to get involved. They recruit helpline assistants twice a year, with thorough training for those who join the team. In addition, they have positions within their organization to undertake fundraising, office administration, event management and editorial support. Reach out to the team today and see where you can lend your valuable skills by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
See listing for Lifeline Shanghai here.
Image via Lifeline Shanghai
Safe Haven Shanghai
Safe Haven Shanghai is a new organization composed of volunteers who provide information, support and services to individuals and families suffering domestic and relationship abuse. This helpline is an avenue to reach out for guidance and assistance with what steps callers can take to break the cycle of violence.
There are four different types of volunteer positions available. Phone intake volunteers are the initial point of contact for callers, and they collect the information needed to connect them with the right resources. Advocate volunteers assist with the implementation of a safety plan to empower survivors and provide them with emotional and personal welfare support. Administrative roles help with tasks such as roster scheduling, donation tracking and data analytics. Fundraising volunteers support the efforts to raise the much-needed funds to maintain the ongoing services available to the victims of domestic violence. This includes grant and sponsorship management and raising awareness in the community. If you possess a professional background in psychology or social work, please consider volunteering yourself to Safe Haven Shanghai, as you can provide valuable support to the clinical team’s case management.
All recruits will undertake in-depth training and Safe Haven Shanghai is looking for those who are compassionate, dependable and sincere and can commit to a regular schedule to assist in managing this valuable resource for the Shanghai community. Contact them via email: email@example.com.
See listing for Safe Haven here.
Image via Safe Haven Shanghai
Volunteer Yourself - Children
Heart to Heart Shanghai
Heart to Heart is a volunteer organization that helps provide corrective surgeries for children born with congenital heart defects (CHD) whose families are under financial constraints. Since its foundation in 2003, they have sponsored more than 1,230 children across China. These surgeries not only save the child’s life but also enhance the lives of their families. Heart to Heart is a 100 percent volunteer organization, so they are always looking for more volunteers.
Volunteers can visit the hospital playroom or help the assembly team create schedules and activities for the sponsored children and their families. Another way to support these children is by purchasing a ‘Heart Bear.’ These bears wear hand-made clothing with a crystal heart that is made by the Heart to Heart volunteers. To date, over 20,200 bears have been sold, and all proceeds go towards children's medical bills. You can find them at bazaars around Shanghai throughout the year or contact the email address below. Contact them via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See listing for Heart to Heart Shanghai here.
Image via Heart to Heart Shanghai
Volunteer Yourself - Education
Shanghai Sunrise is a non-profit organization which breaks the cycle of poverty by raising educational funds for underprivileged and at-risk youths in Shanghai. Founded in 1996, Shanghai Sunrise has raised over RMB30 million, an equivalent of 11,000 high school and university scholarships for over 2,500 students. Volunteers are at the core of the Shanghai Sunrise operation, and they are always on the lookout for people to generously invest their skills, minds and hearts to support the needs of the young people they strive to assist.
Volunteering opportunities range from event management and generating public awareness to fundraising, sponsor engagement, community outreach, marketing, accounting and IT. Volunteers can offer their time daily, weekly or monthly. During this time they will foster friendships and be given a sense of purpose that comes from working with a team and helping people in need. Contact them via email: email@example.com.
See listing for Shanghai Sunrise here.
Image via Shanghai Sunrise
Stepping Stones is a charity organization that bridges the rural-urban educational divide through English education. This organization strives to help kids receive a better education by sending volunteers to different schools every week to teach English. They reach thousands of students by working in more than 30 migrant workers’ schools and community centers in Shanghai and Zhejiang province, and more than a dozen schools in rural China.
This program offers a rewarding way to educate children. With over 5,000 students receiving English tuition each week, you can take on a variety of roles from English teaching, tutoring, video link teaching or a tour volunteer at rural locations. Volunteers are asked to teach three to six hours per week for a minimum of three to four months. There are also other positions available, such as tutoring and working as a substitute teacher. For those who prefer to work from outside the classroom, they can volunteer in a fundraising, digital content management, marketing, translation, editorial, finance or photography role.
See listing for Stepping Stones here.
Image via Stepping Stones
Volunteer Yourself - Animals
Best Friends China
Every year, many abandoned animals suffer from lack of adequate care. Founded in 2012, Best Friends China is an animal adoption agency that strives to help as many cats and dogs as possible to receive the care they need to survive and thrive. Best Friends China uses its digital platform and partnerships with rescue groups to publicize animals in need of a loving home. Their goal is to set up rescue and adoption protocols that ensure animals go to responsible families. And, if pet lovers are not ready to adopt, they can always foster a pet until they find a permanent home. This process gives the precious animals a break from the shelter, and besides, they are a great company to have at home.
Best Friends China is managed entirely by volunteers who promote the program on Chinese and English websites and host regular adoption days downtown. They are always looking for people who are passionate about animals to join their dedicated team or adopt a pet in need. The team at Best Friends China also runs a WeChat Mini Program which you can follow to learn more about the animals who need a family and how you can sign up to volunteer yourself at one of their events.
See listing for Best Friends China here.
Image via Best Friends China
Spare Leash makes life easier by providing pet sitters for busy people in China. Whether it’s a long day at work or a vacation, Spare Leash sitters will take care of your pet while you’re away. These pet-sitters can walk your dog, care for your furry friend in your apartment, or you can drop off your pet at their home. Vet runs are also available. The Spare Leash pet caring services are cage-free, safe and reliable.
You can get involved with Spare Leash by becoming a pet-sitter yourself. They currently have over 800 registered pet-sitters and are always looking for dedicated animal lovers to join their teams in Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Hangzhou and Suzhou.
See listing for Spare Leash here.
Image via Spare Leash
Founded in 2006 by an American mom, Shanghai Mamas is recognized as the largest online community for international families in Shanghai. With over 5,000 members, they provide a stable support system to help you settle in and make lifelong friends, a safe place to ask for advice and find practical and emotional support. Among their many activities are their weekday coffee mornings, held in different areas of the city. They have an open invitation drop-in, so whenever you’re free, you can always count on a member of Shanghai Mamas to welcome you. They also have their ‘Shanghai Talk’ series covering topics from finance to raising third culture kids, a book club for the readers out there, a mom’s night out and an online forum to ensure working parents can access their services and information too.
In addition to joining in their community activities, Shanghai Mamas are always on the lookout for volunteers across many areas of the group. Help them plan an event, be part of their editorial team or host a playdate or get-together, there is something for everyone, and it makes their community stronger. Their website is very comprehensive, with guides to living in Shanghai, blogs that provide an anecdotal touch, or a more in-depth view on a topic and extremely useful classifieds. This impressive group of volunteers genuinely make a difference to international families living in Shanghai, so reach out to them to join the group and gain all you can from life in this fantastic city.
See listing for Shanghai Mamas here.
Image via Shanghai Mamas
Blind Date Lunches with Vini J
Image via Vini J Sajnani
Want to join a group of fun, food-loving women? Get in touch with Vini J Sajnani and become a part of her Blind Date group. Whether you’re new to Shanghai or have been here for years, it’s a chance to make new friends and enjoy the culinary delights of Shanghai. Bringing together women from all corners of the globe, Vini has made it her mission to bring people together with food that welcomes everyone. What started in 2016 with a group of four has since turned into monthly 'Blind Date' lunch parties consisted of more than 100 ladies. It's a sure way to immerse yourself in the city and enjoy the company of new friends in a casual, relaxed style. She also arranges special dinners throughout the year, like her recent Bollywood-inspired night which inspired the ladies to dress up to support the theme. Reach out to Vini J and take up the open invitation to her next lunch. Her personality is infectious, and the events are well worth attending.
For a comprehensive list of Shanghai-based volunteering opportunities, click here
[Title image via pexels.com]