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23 Volunteer Ideas in Hawai‘i

Here’s our guide to giving back, from removing invasive species to decorating theater sets.


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Work With People

Whether you like spending time with children, the elderly or anyone in between, your kōkua is invaluable. Depending on what you’ll be doing, you may need medical clearances, and you’ll always need a positive attitude.


Big Brothers Big Sisters

Volunteers become role models for children and spend time taking them out, mentoring them and forming a bond that will help them grow. You’ll be responsible for driving your Little around, so a relatively clean driving record is a must. You’ll also need to pay for wherever you go, such as the movies or lunch. Volunteers are asked to make a one-year commitment and meet with their Littles twice a month for two to four hours at a time. Mentors must be at least 18 to work with keiki ages 6 through 16. bbbshawaii.org

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The Internal Revenue Service

Become a certified tax volunteer to help people file simple federal and state returns. Training takes place between November and January. Volunteers are asked to commit to as little as three to four hours per week from February through April. Find out more at aarp.org/taxvolunteer, hawaiitaxhelp.org and legalaidhawaii.org. irs.gov

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Lunalilo Home

Founded by King William Charles Lunalilo in 1883, the original Lunalilo Home in Kewalo was open to Hawaiians who were poor, destitute or infirm. Today, the relocated home in Hawai‘i Kai provides compassionate care for all kūpuna. Volunteers are welcome to spend time with residents, share a talent, assist with crafts, play games or help out in the office. lunalilo.org/giving/volunteer



The Institute for Human Services

An Institute for Human Services worker checks on the agency’s Rooftop Training and Education Center, which produces 50-75 pounds of vegetables every one to two weeks to keep food costs down, provide healthier meal options and provide urban agriculture training for IHS guests.
Photo: Jeptha Eddy, Jr.

Assist the homeless by serving meals, maintaining the shelter, teaching résumé writing and other skills. You must fill out an application, attend an orientation, commit to three months of volunteering and submit a TB test or chest X-ray to work in the meal program. ihshawaii.org/volunteer/individual

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YWCA of O‘ahu

Photo: Courtesy YWCA

YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women through housing, economic self-sufficiency, professional development, and health and wellness. Volunteer opportunities exist in each of these areas, from sorting donated clothing to teaching women basic computer skills. You can even coach swimming or help build shelves for classrooms. ywcaoahu.org/volunteer



Theater & the Arts

Theaters and museums abound on O‘ahu, so check with your favorites to find what they specifically need. Here are some examples to get you started. Prior experience and knowledge are not always necessary.


The Hawai‘i State Art Museum

Welcome guests to the museum or assist with special events, such as First Friday. It’s an art lover’s dream to work in that gorgeous building. High school-age volunteers are welcome with their parents’ permission. For details, email hisamvolunteers@gmail.com or call 586-9959. sfca.hawaii.gov/hisam/volunteers



Mānoa Valley Theatre

If you love acting, painting or sewing, MVT has something for you. Everything from lighting to props to ushering is done by volunteers and, in return, you’ll get to see a show for free (and maybe even become a famous actor!). Volunteers must be available throughout the performance dates. manoavalleytheatre.com/volunteer_program.html

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The Hawai‘i International Film Festival

Enter the exciting world of locally and internationally produced films. Twice a year, in late October/early November and during the spring showcase, HIFF relies on a network of volunteers to distribute program guides, direct filmgoers to the proper lines and theaters, take tickets and help keep theaters clean. When you attend orientation and commit to a minimum of three five-hour shifts, you’ll receive a volunteer shirt and get one movie pass for each shift you work. Plus, if it’s a slow time, you can often sit in on panels or films for free. hiff.org/about-hiff/volunteer

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Hawai‘i Opera Theatre

Photo: COry lum

While behind-the-scenes volunteers are needed for HOT productions, an unexpected way to lend your talents is onstage. You must pass an audition to join the HOT Chorus, and if you can act but can’t sing, try out for a non-singing role as a supernumerary. Commitment varies depending on your role. Contact Beth Crumrine at 596-7372 ext. 214 or productioncoordinator@hawaiiopera.org. hawaiiopera.org/support-us/volunteer

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Honolulu Magazine February 2020