Is there a way to do volunteer work at home from my PC?
November 10, 2010 10:36 AM   Subscribe

After 5 years with no work and little activity due to bipolar disorder, I'd like to do a small amount of something useful every week (maybe 5 hours). However I have special circumstances (see below) which mean I can't do work outside of the house or attend training sessions. I need something I can do on my PC at flexible times, such as e-mentoring. Alternatively maybe there is something similar to a virtual assistant type work which I could do for a charity. Does anyone have experience of this which they could share or suggestions for type of work I could do? I am in Glasgow, Scotland but since I would work online I don't mind where the charity/ nonprofit would be.

My circumstances are these :- I am on disability benefits because of my bipolar which leaves my lacking the concentration and motivation to do proper work, as well as handle the stresses of the workplace without having a relapse. I would like to do something useful to have a feeling of some purpose back in my life, and maybe start the long path back to employment some day. My fiancee and I live together and she suffers from panic and anxiety disorder specifically a lot of anticipatory anxiety. So I am not able to make appointments or attend regular events planned in advance, it brings out a panic in her and I would have to cancel. I couldn't, for example, volunteer in a charity shop at the moment or go to something that required a lot of training sessions. That's why I need to do something at infrequent hours here and there and based on my PC at home. Also I need to get approval from the govt. agency who pays my benefits - if they think I have recovered sufficiently they will cut my benefits and assess me as fit for work (which I know I am far away from). So I need to do something modest (the equivalent of those people who write to prisoners, except I don't feel a calling to do that). I have discovered a site in the UK called which seems a good option for me, it brings together online mentors which can be anyone with life experience and those needing advice. Another option is getting involved with a Scottish web site for social anxiety sufferers which my friend is starting soon (I have already agreed to write some book reviews for it, but there is likely more I could do such as replying to most of the posts since I don't expect it will be too busy to begin with). When I did work I did some very basic marketing (that's what my degree is in) so possibly I could do some of the "donkey work" or online research for a nonprofit in that area, although most may have someone better qualified than me doing that already. Can anyone else suggest other at-home options that they have heard of or done themselves? Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by AuroraSky to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure it'll sound harsh, but living with someone that has as many, if not more issues is not among the healthiest of ways to improve YOUR OWN situation. Two drowning people aren't going to spontaneously teach each other to swim to shore. More likely they'll both just tread water until they drown. That is not progress.

Secondly, work WITH the agencies that can help you. Don't assume you're the best judge of your progress. Many time the agencies have programs designed to place individuals with disabilities into working environments. The organizations taking the people understand this. Work WITH them to get yourself back onto a working path.

Trying to figure it out on your own is what's gotten you to where you are. Try working with the benefits agencies. Not just scheme to work around them.
posted by wkearney99 at 10:47 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You cannot let your fiancee's anxieties control your life. You just can't. She's struggling, she's not being malicious, but she's controlling you and making your life worse. Significantly worse. You don't say if she's getting help, but acquiescing to her desires for you to functionally never leave the house is not an acceptable way for either of you to live.
posted by brainmouse at 10:51 AM on November 10, 2010 [10 favorites]

I'm in the US, so this might not work for you at all.

Have you contacted the local schools? Around here the schools are always short on money and love having volunteers. If you're willing maybe you could help teachers by grading papers or doing basic computer work. I'd just call around to the local schools and put the word out that you're available for them to use. You never know who might need you.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:07 AM on November 10, 2010

Another volunteer activity you can do from home is Distributed Proofreading - you'd be helping digitize public domain books and other materials. The work is... tedious but also satisfying. Getting started is incredibly easy - very low barrier to entry. You could be doing this before bed tonight. I know it doesn't sound like a world-changing kind of job, but I believe that it's really important work.

But seconding others who've said that your situation doesn't sound OK at all; you know how they say charity starts at home? Anything you can do to help your fiancee (and yourself) get the help you need would be a great kind of volunteer work.
posted by mskyle at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2010

Not voluntary, but have you tried one of those text answering services like AQA? if you have broadband that would be great for you.
posted by mippy at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2010

Amnesty International is always after people to write letters, send postcards, etc.
posted by lollusc at 2:50 PM on November 10, 2010

Similar to Distributed Proofreading (i.e. still tedious, but marginally "fun") would be Librivox.
posted by oohisay at 2:54 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

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