50 Ways to Volunteer in Hawai‘i in 2020

From drop-in workdays that take just a few hours to opportunities to train in a new skill, here are dozens of ways to make a difference in 2020.


Commitment ranges from 1 star ★, where you can drop in with no training, to 5 stars ★★★★★, where you are required to go through training and commit long-term.


Waimea Valley Volunteer Day

Photo: Karen DB Photography


Waimea Valley (North Shore)

Outdoors, Family, Work with People, Culture/History | ★ to ★★★


The valley is home to more than 5,000 different types of plants—and volunteers are needed to keep the invasive ones out. At regular workdays, you can weed, prune and maintain the botanical gardens or plant native varieties along the mountainside. The nonprofit also could use greeters and ambassadors to welcome visitors, and administrative help in the office.





808 Cleanups (statewide)

Outdoors, Family | ★ to ★★★


808 Cleanups has beach, park, coral reef and graffiti cleanups multiple times a week all around the state. If the organized events at 808cleanups.org don’t fit your schedule, adopt a site to clean up with friends or family on your own time or visit classrooms to teach kids to keep our communities clean.



Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest (Waikīkī)

Outdoors, Family | ★


Plant seedlings, pull weeds, learn to cultivate native Hawaiian plants and develop respect for the ‘āina with the Hawai‘i Forest Institute. The family-friendly setting is a plus. Please note that the volunteer work does not come with free admission to the zoo.





James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge (Kahuku)

Outdoors, Animals | ★★ to ★★★


On the first Saturday of every month, people are welcomed to pull weeds, plant native seedlings and take care of this bird sanctuary. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which maintains the refuge, also needs people to lead tours, clean up trash on the beach and survey the wildlife there. Some activities will require training.


Call (808) 637-6330 to get started.



Hawai‘i Foodbank (statewide)

Work with People | ★


Hawai‘i Foodbank feeds more than 287,000 people around the state. Volunteers are needed for various jobs but especially in the daily inspection of canned and produce donations. Commitments range from single four-hour shifts to weekly work for a month.


(808) 954-7869, hawaiifoodbank.org



Hawai‘i Nature Center (Makiki)

Outdoors, Work with People | ★★


Teach kids about the outdoors, weed and plant, repair facilities, work in the office or talk with people at community events about the mission of the nonprofit. Time commitment and training vary depending on the activity.





Ka Papa Lo‘i O Knewai (Mānoa)

Outdoors, Culture/History, Family | ★


Workdays on the first Saturday of the month begin with a brief introduction to the history of the area, followed by a quick walk to see the water running through Kānewai, and end with work in the lo‘i just in front of UH’s School of Hawaiian Knowledge. UH also has work days at its bigger lo‘i in Punalu‘u.





O‘ahu SPCA (Wahiawā)

Outdoors, Animals | ★★★


Animal lovers can make a difference with the O‘ahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a variety of ways: dog walking; office administration and data entry; outreach and special events; and cleaning, grooming, socializing and exercising its animals. Volunteers must commit to a three-hour shift one day a week for three months. Minors are required to have a parent or guardian with them at all times.





Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i (statewide)

Outdoors, Family | ★


Local nonprofit Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i keeps our beaches clean and oceans healthy by removing rubbish and debris during several beach cleanup events each year. The organization also works with corporate groups to arrange private cleanups. While all ages are welcome, keiki must have a parent or guardian present to participate.




01 20 Hm Volunteer Courtesy Of Malama Maunalua Malama Maunalua Girl Algae

Photo: Courtesy of Mālama Maunalua


Mālama Maunalua (Hawai‘i Kai)

Outdoors, Family | ★


Pull invasive algae from Maunalua Bay when the tides are low. Check the schedule online—cleanups are usually on a Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Meet at Kuli‘ou‘ou Beach Park and bring water, sunscreen and water shoes if possible.




SEE ALSO: Field Notes: Removing Invasive Algae With Mālama Maunalua


01 20 Hm Volunteer Courtesy Of Camp Anuenue

Photo: Courtesy of Camp Anuenue


Camp Ānuenue (North Shore)

Work with People | ★★★★★


Become a counselor at this free weeklong summer program at Camp Mokulē‘ia for kids who have or have had cancer. Counselors must be at least 18 and at camp 24/7 from May 30 to June 6 this year. Fill out an application at campanuenue.com and email it to campanuenue@gmail.com by March 31.



Waikīkī Aquarium (Waikīkī)

Outdoors, Animals, Work with People | ★★★★★


There are 14 different ways for adults to volunteer at the Waikīkī Aquarium, from guiding tours as a docent to helping customers in the gift shop to tending the gardens. Teens can get involved year-round with beach and algae cleanups and as educators via the summer teen interpreter program. A commitment of three or six months is required and prospective volunteers must meet in-person with volunteer staff and pass a criminal background check.





Blood Bank of Hawai‘i (statewide)

Work with People | ★★


Opportunities range from handing out refreshments at blood drives and calling donors to confirm their appointments, to more seasonal admin work and other projects. Volunteers are required to work at least one two-hour shift per week for four months.


bbh.org, volunteer@bbh.org



Hawai‘i State Art Museum (Downtown)

Theater/Arts | ★ to ★★★


Volunteer at the museum’s reception desk once a week for a three-hour shift, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Long-term volunteers requested. Can’t commit? The museum often needs volunteers for evening events.





Hawai‘i International Film Festival (Iwilei)

Theater/Arts | ★★


See films for free when you work at least two five-hour shifts during the spring or fall showcases. The greatest need is with theater operations, where you help take tickets and guide guests to the correct screenings. New volunteers must attend orientation.





Goodwill Hawai‘i (multiple locations)

Work with People | ★ to ★★★


There are two main areas where Goodwill needs assistance. During the spring, help low-to-moderate-income families and individuals prepare and file their tax returns online. At Goodwill Goes Glam! in July, volunteers organize and stock merchandise for the annual fashion gala and fundraiser. In return, volunteers get 20% off after their three-to-four-hour shift. No experience necessary.





Hawai‘i Opera Theatre (Beretania)

Theater/Arts | ★ to ★★★★


If you’ve got a talent for makeup or just want to provide great hospitality, the opera needs you. Artistic and special events manager Jordan Cho says the wig and makeup crew, which works every dress rehearsal and performance, is looking for people willing to make the commitment and learn these skills. Single-evening opportunities include working special events, security or at the info desk.




01 20 Hm Volunteer Courtesy Of Hnl Tool Library

Photo: Courtesy of HNL Tool Library


HNL Tool Library (Kaka‘ako)

Work with People | ★★


This tool-rental nonprofit needs a tool librarian, social media coordinator, workshop instructors and more.





Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation (statewide)

Outdoors, Work with People | ★★★


Teach elementary school children about gardening, the importance of making healthy food choices and minimizing single-use plastics. Learn more about Kōkua Hawai‘i’s ‘Āina in Schools and Plastic Free Hawai‘i educational programs online.




SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Warriors Weigh in on How to Live a Sustainable Life in Hawai‘i


Aloha United Way (statewide)

Outdoors, Animals, Work with People, Theater/Arts, Culture/History, Family  | ★ to ★★★★★


Operate phone banks, assist with food drives and even shuck oysters (to pop out pearls for fundraising). Aloha United Way offers an online guide to some of the 320 local nonprofit organizations it supports.


auw.org, auw.org


SEE ALSO: Hawai‘i Gives Back


Susan G. Komen Hawai‘i (multiple locations)

Work with People, Family | ★ to ★★★★


Manage booths at events such as Komen’s Race for the Cure in October, or help with administrative tasks, including social media management and fundraiser coordination.





Hawai‘i Children’s Discovery Center (Kaka‘ako)

Work with People, Theater/Arts | ★ to ★★★★


Become a PAL (People Assisting Learning) teaching children exploring the exhibits at the Discovery Center, assisting with mailings or by volunteering at Discovery Camp during spring break in March.





Institute for Human Services (statewide)

Work with People | ★★★★★


Sign up for everything from meal service and summer fun programs to case management and health services. Volunteers, who are screened and required to attend orientation, need their own medical and liability insurance in case of an emergency, and skilled volunteers must be certified. The agency asks for long-term commitments due to the time needed for training.





Mele Murals (statewide)

Outdoors, Culture/History, Theater/Arts, Family | ★ to ★★★


Run by local nonprofit Estria Foundation, the Mele Murals program brings in artists, educators and activists to teach Island youth about Hawaiian history and culture through the creation of outdoor murals themed around Hawaiian song lyrics. Adults can fundraise and help with event organization and sign-ups. Adults and keiki can paint during events.





Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter (statewide)

Work with People | ★★★


The local chapter of the national nonprofit provides those with Alzheimer’s disease and their families with support groups and resources. The group also funds research and offers volunteer opportunities in fundraising, physician outreach, caregiver support and more that typically require training and an orientation.





Hawai‘i Audubon Society (multiple locations)

Outdoors, Family | ★★ to ★★★


Besides annual bird counts, help in the office as well as with pulling weeds and maintaining the Black Point Freeman Seabird Preserve, says Wendy Johnson, executive director. “The Freeman is not for everybody; there’s a steep hillside and it’s hot, but we want you to try it out.”


hiaudsoc@gmail.com, hawaiiaudubon.org



Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (Pearl Harbor)

Theater/Arts, Culture/History | ★★★★


Bring history to life by leading tours of the museum, restoring aircraft and displays, assisting at special events and more. Attend a volunteer orientation to talk about what you can do to help. The museum asks for a minimum commitment of four hours each week.





Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (Mō‘ili‘ili)

Culture/History | ★★★★


Join more than 200 volunteers to educate and spread awareness about Japanese American history in Hawai‘i. The two most needed positions are exhibit guides and workers in the gift shop. Volunteers typically sign up for three-hour shifts once or twice a week.




01 20 Hm Volunteer Courtesy Of Malamalokoea

Photo: Courtesy of Mālama Loko Ea


Mālama Loko Ea Foundation (North Shore)

Outdoors, Culture/History, Family | ★


Help restore this 400-year-old fishpond while learning about Hawaiian values and the history of the area every third Saturday from 8:45 a.m. to noon. Lunch is provided but you’re welcome to bring something to share.





Malama Mānoa (Mānoa)

Culture/History, Family | ★ to ★★


Pull debris and trash out of Mānoa Stream at Saturday workdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the Woodlawn Bridge across from Longs. The group is also looking for docents and registration workers for its Mānoa homes walking tour, held every three years.





Papahana Kuaola (He‘eia)

Outdoors, Work with People, Culture/History | ★


Papahana Kuaola is a mālama ‘āina-based learning organization that holds volunteer workdays on two Saturdays of most months, from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers help with stream restoration and lo‘i kalo management; work usually includes weeding, mulching, planting and sometimes harvesting.




SEE ALSO: The Fortunate Foodie: Volunteer at These Nonprofit Kalo Farms in He‘eia


Navian Hawai‘i (formerly hospice hawai‘i) (multiple locations)

Work with People, Family | ★★★


“Our volunteers make meaningful and lasting differences in the lives of so many people,” says President and CEO Tori Abe Carapelho, by offering companionship to patients and relief for caregivers, as well as through scrapbooking and creative arts activities. You can also help in the office and with marketing.





Hawai‘i Meals on Wheels (islandwide)

Work with People | ★★


Volunteering opportunities at Hawai‘i Meals on Wheels include home delivery driver, meal packer, spending time with seniors, hosting extracurricular classes and maintaining Lanakila Pacific’s property.


(808) 531-0555, lanakilapacific.org



Lunalilo Home (Hawai‘i Kai)

Work with People | ★★


Care for kūpuna at Lunalilo Home by spending quality one-on-one time with them creating crafts, playing bingo or dancing hula. Larger groups can tend to the facility and grounds. Volunteers must be 14 years or older and provide a negative TB test.





AccesSurf (‘Ewa Beach)

Outdoors, Work with People | ★ to ★★


AccesSurf empowers people with disabilities through its monthly accessible Day at the Beach program. Volunteers can help with setup, check-in, equipment maintenance and checkout, getting folks into and out of the water, surfing, assisted swimming, water safety, the food area and teardown. Other general office and data entry volunteers are also needed. Plan to attend an 8 a.m. orientation at the beach.




Volunteering with Salvation Army

Photo: Courtesy of Salvation Army


Salvation Army (statewide)

Work with People, Outdoors | ★★★ to ★★★★★


During the holidays you can still ring a bell and serve dinners to the needy, but with hurricanes and floods and lava on the rise throughout the Pacific, “those with organizational and administrative skills are needed,” says Victor Leonardi, divisional director for emergency services and safety. To help manage donation centers and prepare and serve food and aloha, register at salvationarmyhawaii.org.



Kumu Kahua Theatre (Downtown)

Theater/Arts | ★★★


As downtown Honolulu’s theater that focuses on inspiring, creating and staging locally written plays, Kumu Kahua is primarily volunteer driven. The theater offers on-the-spot training throughout the year for artists, organizers, builders and back-office help as well as for ushers and house managers, who receive two tickets to each show they work on.





Helping Hands Hawai‘i (Nimitz)

Work with People | ★★★ to ★★★★★


Assisting as a human services or behavioral health volunteer, or as a receptionist at the office, supports Helping Hands’ outreach to those in need. Duties include a range of administrative and clerical support. “Showing up consistently is important,” says program manager James Li.





Waimānalo Limu Hui (Waimānalo)

Outdoors, Culture/History | ★★


This community-based group, founded by Waimānalo residents, gets together to replenish the once-bountiful supply of limu (seaweed) found in the bay under the guidance of kūpuna and other cultural practitioners. The organization has been holding monthly planting sessions since November 2017 and can use help in the water and out.





Habitat for Humanity (Honolulu and Leeward O‘ahu)

Work with People, Outdoors | ★ to ★★


The most visible part of Habitat for Humanity is the “build days” when crews construct safe and affordable homes. But the organization also invites volunteers to help at the retail ReStore, at its offices and in other ways.


honoluluhabitat.org, leewardhabitat.org



Hawai‘i Literacy (statewide)

Work with People | ★ to ★★★


Adults can train to provide 1-to-1 tutoring, sort books, work at a bookmobile and more at Hawai‘i Literacy, which teaches people of all ages to read and write. The organization is also looking for office help, videographers/photographers or assistance with other tasks.





Ho‘oulu ‘Āina (Kalihi)

Outdoors, Culture/History, Family | ★


A part of Kōkua Kalihi Valley, Ho‘oulu ‘Āina works to improve the health of those in Kalihi Valley “by strengthening the connection between people and land” on a 100-acre farm. Volunteers can assist in mālama ‘āina and Hawaiian cultural practices that include gardening, organic reforestation and cultural sharing at weekly and monthly events.





Mānoa Valley Theatre (Mānoa)

Theater/Arts | ★★★


Sew costumes, run a spotlight during a show, research furniture for sets and build props, work in the box office and much more. In exchange for being available for rehearsals, prep work and performances, you’ll get free tickets to shows at Mānoa Valley Theatre.





Paepae O He‘eia (He‘eia)

Outdoors, Culture/History | ★


“Growing seafood for our community one pōhaku at a time” is the mission of this nonprofit founded to care for an ancient fishpond. Bring covered shoes or tabis, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, reef-friendly sunscreen and refillable water bottles. Workdays on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month are appropriate for ages 12 and older and include pulling invasive mangrove and moving rock and coral. Saturday workdays end with a staff-provided lunch. Weekday morning workdays, which focus on large tasks, do not include lunch.




Plant trees with Sierra Club

Photo: Courtesy of Sierra Club


Sierra Club (statewide)

Outdoors, Family | ★ to ★★★


Planting trees is helpful—but maintaining them is equally important because without weeding, watering and mulching, “a tree has almost no chance of making it,” says service trip director Randy Ching, who leads groups nearly every weekend to sites including Honouliuli, ‘Ewa and Wai‘anae.




Volunteering at Ulupō Heiau in Kailua

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


Ulupō Heiau (Kailua)

Outdoors, Culture/History | ★


Under the stewardship of community-based nonprofit Hika‘alani, Ulupō Heiau hosts a community workday on the second Saturday of every month from about 8:30 a.m. to noonish, followed by a meal and talk-story session. Volunteers meet behind Windward YMCA, where work crews usually cut back hau growth, help carry out branches and trimmings, weed, clear out invasive plants and maintain the lo‘i kalo.





‘Iolani Palace (Downtown)

Work with People, Culture/History | ★★★★


The only official royal palace in the United States uses a wide variety of volunteers to help share the unique story of the Hawaiian monarchy. While a docent commitment includes weeks of study, homework and readings, the palace also seeks volunteers for jobs that require less time, including greeters, guardians and folks who can help with events and in the shop.





Waikīkī Community Center (Waikīkī)

Work with People | ★★


Volunteers are needed to teach a favorite hobby or craft to others; the nonprofit is also seeking Waikīkī Lights volunteers for Sept. 18. The annual event raises funds for need-based scholarships for the center’s preschool and for services for kūpuna.





YWCA O‘ahu (multiple locations)

Work with People | ★


The YWCA O‘ahu needs help at its annual LeaderLuncheon—this year on May 7 at the Sheraton Waikīkī—which honors female leaders who are committed to eliminating racism and empowering women. Email leaderluncheon@ywcaoahu.org. The organization also has a variety of opportunities with programs focused on economic advancement, health and wellness, as well as YWCA Kokokahi family recreational and educational activities and its camp.





Hawaiian Humane Society (Mō‘ili‘ili)

Animals | ★★★★


At the time we checked, the shelter was not accepting any more volunteers. When opportunities do open, people will need to go through training and then work three-hour shifts for a minimum of three months. You can also foster animals at home.




SEE ALSO: Where to Adopt a Pet in Honolulu