How to Volunteer in Shanghai

8 Organizations to get involved with this year

by SHFamily | Tue, January 03, 2017

Have you thought about volunteering in Shanghai, but aren't sure where to start? Have you asked yourself questions like, "What programs are in English," and "How can I actually make a difference?" Volunteering abroad can be overwhelming, but it can also be extremely rewarding. We've put together a list of eight great organizations to make getting started a little easier. 


Hands On Shanghai

Founded in 2004, Hands On promotes volunteerism by matching the needs of NGOs with individuals, students, and corporate leaders. Their goal is to allow volunteers to discover (and harness) their power to make a difference, by participating in the development of healthy, vibrant, and resilient communities. This group provides support in the form of direct donations, fundraising and community project implementation. While project length and scope vary, volunteers typically commit two to three hours on weekday evenings or three to four on weekends. One of our favorite programs is the Shutterbug Project. Volunteers teach basic photography to migrant children using digital cameras lent by Kodak. Multiple exhibitions of photographs taken by the kids have proved successful fundraising events.

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Jaiya's Animal Rescue (JAR)

JAR was founded in 2009 and named in memory of the founders' daughter Jaiya Kristina who passed away because of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It is a non-profit, small animal rescue group committed to protecting and improving the health and welfare of animals. Since their beginning, they have rescued more than 1,200 animals. They offer education, pet health care and actively promote foster care and adoption as alternatives to purchasing animals in Shanghai. The group does not have a physical building or shelter, but works with dedicated volunteers to carry out their goals. They focus on domestic animal population control and working to reduce the number of incidences of pet abandonment. Fundraising supports local animal welfare projects, cooperation with sponsors and educating the public about animals. Volunteers can help by adopting, fostering, offering transportation or donating towards the costs to care for the rescued animals.

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Heart to Heart

This outreach group provides support and financial assistance to underprivileged children with congenital heart defects. Heart to Heart aims to raise funds by soliciting donations from companies and individuals, as well as through the sale of various items. Their trademark product is the Heart Bear. All proceeds from the sale of Heart Bears go towards sponsorship of heart operations for needy Chinese children. Since the organization's initiation in 2003, 17,844 Heart Bears have been sold. Outfitted in special cardigans knitted by volunteers, each of these teddy bears wears a name-tag with one of the beneficiaries' names, as well as the child's encouraging new health status: "A good doctor repaired my heart and now I can walk to school!" Volunteers can also participate in regular play sessions with children receiving operations in the local hospitals and donate necessary food, clothing and supplies.

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Roots & Shoots

Being environmentally conscious and raising awareness for action is more crucial now than ever. Founded by the Jane Goodall Institute, this global grassroots non-profit organization has a branch in Shanghai, which was among the first international NGOs in China. Through community activities and education, Roots & Shoots works to motivate young people to engage in environmental, service and wildlife causes. The Shanghai branch has a variety of long-term projects such as KidStrong, which works with five migrant elementary schools and one migrant kindergarten around Shanghai to introduce a curriculum to the schools which includes a positive emphasis on nutrition, health, hygiene and dental hygiene. Organic Garden is another program, which plants gardens at schools. There is a great deal of opportunities via service or donations, so it's not surprising that many international schools have Roots & Shoots clubs. The organization is best known for the Million Tree Project, which not only combats desertification by planting trees but also helps to improve the livelihoods of people in Inner Mongolia.

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Shanghai Healing Home

Want to make a difference in a baby's life? Part of non-profit organization Charity Dream Shanghai, Shanghai Healing Home (SHH) helps the local Chinese Children’s Welfare Institute care for abandoned children. They provide pre- and post-surgical care for babies suffering from surgically correctable medical conditions, such as cleft palate. SHH provides a natural, home-like environment catering to the babies’ emotional and social needs. This sanctuary features caregivers who are trained to care for babies with these medical problems. They look after the children for as long as it takes for them to go back to the orphanage, giving them the best possible chance of being adopted. People can help through sponsoring a child or sponsoring an operation. In addition, SHH has an active volunteer program for most ages. Baby development classes, music classes, sign language classes and more are available. Volunteers must sign up to attend an orientation and are encouraged to commit to a regular visitation schedule. 

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Shanghai Sunrise

This non-profit volunteer-led organization was established in 1995 under the Shanghai Charity Foundation. The organization's mission is to equip disadvantaged students through education, enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty, achieve meaningful careers and inspire them to give back to the community. Through a vetting process, Shanghai Sunrise considers students who cannot meet the financial burden of continuing schooling after middle school. Students must qualify based on financial need, academic standing and either be from a single parent household or a family in severe debt from medical costs due to chronic or terminal illness. The organization relies on fundraising events and selling merchandise, but its true success comes from matching sponsors with students. Sponsors play a crucial role in the success of the scholarship program, by supporting students' academic success. They appreciate individuals willing to help for a medium or long period of time, with the ability to offer professional skills and expertise.

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WILL Foundation

An eco-learning center on Chongming Island, WILL Foundation aims to give children who are left behind a chance to flourish. In 2006, WILL was born out of founder Pilar Tan's personal experience with her foster son. He needed several surgeries to correct a cleft palate among other issues and she realized he would not fit into traditional educational institutions. She dreamed of creating a learning center for kids like her foster child, slow learners but totally capable of learning and succeeding in life. The"Walk Into Life and Learn" journey emphasizes character and skills building according to each child's potential. They empower the WILL kids (all orphans with physical challenges) by giving them the opportunity to experiment and create. The mission of this center is to lead the children to a more independent future. There are many ways to help, with opportunities for mentors, student interns, medical and dental visit assistance and even administrative duties. The foundation strives to make funds through many venues, including a WILL Shop, and WILL Art project.

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Stepping Stones

The mission of this not-for-profit organization is to better the education and welfare of disadvantaged students. More than 350 proficient English speakers provide free language instruction in migrant schools and communities throughout the city. While respecting the Chinese teaching methodology and also following the Shanghai curriculum, over the last 10 years, Stepping Stones has developed a large collection of lesson plans that introduce elements of Western pedagogy (encouraging active participation). Volunteers consistently teach 4,500 students in 30 migrant schools and community centers in Shanghai. They also take groups of volunteers to rural schools outside of Shanghai and run other charitable projects including the provision of vision care and providing summer programs. Volunteers do not have to be native English speakers, but must be over 16 years of age and are encouraged to contribute between three to six hours per week.

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