Strengthening Your Community Starts with Small Acts of Service


A Mandela Washington Fellow at the 2019 Fellowship Summit.

Celebrating Nelson Mandela Day this year will look different from last year and the year before it. Worldwide efforts to recover from COVID-19 are in progress, but the road to recovery looks different for every community. 

This year, we encourage you to celebrate the legacy of Nelson Mandela by doing small acts of service. By giving goods, services, and time at no cost to those around you, you are strengthening your community and empowering yourself as a leader.

We’re sharing ideas for small acts of service to help you plan your efforts to give back to your community. No act is too small.

Note: Please be sure to follow local health guidelines about in-person gatherings. The health and safety of you, your family, and your community come first. 

Acts of service you can do for friends and family

  • Help a neighbor with groceries or other errands. They will appreciate the gesture. Your help may also protect them from exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Offer to help with childcare.  It allows caretakers to complete other errands or get some rest. But it also helps their children to bond with others and teaches you valuable life skills.
  • Donate your old clothing and other items. See if you can find a local donation center that will take clothes and other items in good condition. You could also swap items with your family, friends, and neighbors to reduce waste and save money.
  • Tutor someone in an important skill. Education is critical to help build stronger communities.  If you can speak another language or are good at a certain school subject, you can offer to tutor someone who needs the extra help. 

Acts of service you can do for the environment

  • Pick up and throw away litter. Litter can harm wildlife and pollute soil, air, and water. Protect the environment by picking up trash and disposing of it in the proper way. If you’re comfortable, you can even invite your friends to join you.
  • Upcycle items you might throw away.  Use your creativity to think of ways you can turn your trash into another useful product. From as simple as using the bottom of plastic water bottles to germinate seeds, or using bottle lids to make jewelry or art. This could even lead to a small entrepreneurial venture for you!
  • Plant a tree. Trees are a vital part of any ecosystem. You can plant a tree on your own or work with a nonprofit to organize a local tree planting initiative.
  • Start a compost pile. Instead of throwing away food scraps, you can use them to start your own compost pile. Composting helps reduce food waste and you can use it as fertilizer in gardens.  You can even start a community compost pile to compound your efforts.

Acts of service you can do in your community

Note: Please be sure to follow local health guidelines about in-person gatherings. If it’s not safe to meet with others in-person, stay home. The health and safety of you, your family, and your community come first. 

  • Organize a volunteer day. Performing one small act of service can make a big difference in the lives of those around you. Encouraging members of your community to serve together strengthens bonds and spreads joy during hard times. If safe, you can organize a group activity like litter pickup or ask others to perform a small act of service and share what they did in a community space.
  • Paint a community building. Art sends a powerful message to those who see it. Paint a mural in your local school or health center, or help students paint a mural together. Brainstorm the message you want to portray with your mural and bring it to life.
  • Combat misinformation about important issues. Are there issues that you’re passionate about but are misunderstood by many people? Use your voice to combat misinformation and misconceptions about these issues. You could speak about the issue in a community space, in a classroom, or even start a social media campaign. Whatever you can do to get the word out will help spread awareness in your community. Check out the YALIChecks page for more resources on combating misinformation.  

Acts of service you can do virtually 

If you can’t do a small act of service in person this year, you can still volunteer. You can volunteer virtually any time and any place, as long as you have a reliable internet connection.

  • Use your skills to translate or help people learn a new language. Learning another language breaks barriers between people and fosters better connections. It can also open up more economic opportunities. Volunteer your time to help students learn a language, or even translate resources into other languages to spread awareness about important topics.
  • Use your creative skills to make a difference. If you’re artistically-talented, you can use your skills to support an important cause. You could create a logo for a sustainable development project, design a pamphlet to educate people about gender-based violence, and even help produce a film about environmental issues. 
  • Help plan an event. In-person and virtual events need a lot of planning. Find an event that is important to you and offer to volunteer your time and skills for it. For example, there’s an opportunity to help plan the Africa Diaspora Youth and Students virtual conference on the UN Volunteers website. 
  • Plan a virtual YALILearns session.

The UN shares virtual volunteer opportunities from around the world. These opportunities can help you affect change across the globe. To explore other virtual volunteer opportunities, visit the UN volunteers website.

Are you ready to create change in your community by volunteering? Visit our YALIServes page to explore resources to  help you build your skills as an individual and a servant leader.



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