One of my heroes is my friend Mel. She works in South Sudan, documenting human rights abuses. Mel has a specific set of skills and strengths that make it possible for her to work in such an intense environment. I love how she stands up for others and tirelessly works for justice.

My friend Michael lives in Guatemala with his wife and children. They volunteer at a medical clinic and do service projects like delivering solar lights to remote mountain villages. I admire their passion for loving and serving others.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what I do isn’t as important as what they do, or that I have to be out there with them in order to make a difference. But we can all make a difference wherever we are! Here are 5 easy ways to change the world without needing a passport or a mosquito net.

1. Volunteer at your local food bank.

There are so many ways you can help out at your local food bank. The great thing about volunteering at a food bank is that it usually doesn’t require a big time investment but you will make such a difference. Depending on the size and scope of the organization, there are usually a wide variety of ways you can help. You can pick up donations from grocery stores and restaurants, help sort food, assist clients, or help with administrative tasks. Some food banks even have community gardens that you can volunteer at!

Contact the food bank(s) in your area to find out what you can do to help feed people in your community.

2. Support kids in foster care.

Not everyone is able to foster, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help kids who are in foster care! If you know of a family who cares for foster kids, ask them how you can help. Send them a surprise gift certificate for a family dinner out or an iTunes gift card and some snacks so they can have a movie night at home. Offer to mow their lawn or plow their driveway. Offer your spare room or a vacation cottage to a foster parent for short-term respite care.

There are TONS of ways you can help – check out this blog post on 101 ways you can get involved in foster care!

3. Visit a nursing home.

I used to take groups of youth to nursing homes on Valentine’s Day and hand out valentines to the residents. Many of the elderly people didn’t get regular visitors, so they loved hanging out with the teens. Often the kids would be nervous before we went, but by the time we left they were smiling and swapping stories of the interesting people they had met. Everyone has value, no matter their age. Take some time to affirm the importance of people who are often dismissed or forgotten.

4. Give your skills and expertise.

Nonprofits are always looking for graphic designers, web developers, photographers, copywriters and other talented people to help their cause. (And if you have experience writing grants, they will probably cry with joy!) Really, any skills you have will be helpful to someone else in your community that doesn’t have your experience.

Maybe you love working with numbers and setting up budgets. Why not contact your local high school or nonprofit and offer to teach a free budgeting class? It may sound small, but many people don’t know how to set up a personal budget. Your knowledge and experience is needed!

5. Look around you for opportunities to be kind.

This one may sound simple, but it can sometimes be the most difficult. It feels awkward to try to connect with someone who is guarded and suspicious of your motivations, but press on! Keep smiling at that cashier who never smiles back, ask your barista how her day is going and really listen to her response, bake cookies and re-introduce yourself to that neighbor you haven’t talked to since you first moved in. Be on the lookout for people who could use a little kindness today – you’ll be surprised by all the opportunities you’ll find!

What are your suggestions?

How about you, fellow world-changer? How do you make a difference in the world? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below 🙂