An official website of the United States government

Ideas To Jump-Start Your Next Community Service Project
June 20, 2023

Young woman wearing “Community Service Day” T-shirt looking at camera, with people in fluorescent safety vests behind her (U.S. Embassy Kinshasa/Flickr)
The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa hosts an annual Community Service Day for alumni of their language program to gather together and improve their city. (U.S. Embassy Kinshasa/Flickr)

Every year, the YALI Network hosts #YALIServes events around Nelson Mandela Day. But, are you thinking about ways to honor his legacy all year round by hosting a #YALIServes event?

Try volunteering for a day in a clinic, school or orphanage in your village, town, city or neighborhood. Ask your friends and family to join you! Maybe you will find your calling for your next big volunteer commitment.

If you are organizing a new venture, remember that the most successful community projects include input from the community. Give the people who will benefit from your project a voice in identifying and implementing community needs.

  • ASK community members to help you identify the most important needs in their village, town or neighborhood. Organize a community meeting or workshop to gather ideas. Make sure people feel invested in the project.
  • INVOLVE community members in carrying out your project to help ensure and sustain its success.

If you have a really BIG idea on how to address global health or food security challenges, consider pitching it to USAID.

Below is a list of some suggested activities to help meet basic community needs throughout rural and urban Africa. These are meant to help inspire your next community project or find an existing program to join that fits your particular skills.

Art projects

  • Paint a mural that embodies the values of your community.
  • Paint a bus stop.
  • Volunteer at an art project event at a local school, library, community center or orphanage.
  • Teach a craft at a women’s shelter.

Community health

  • Volunteer at a medical clinic for a day.
  • Teach a short hand-washing activity at a local school.
  • Hand out fliers for an HIV/AIDS or vaccination program to increase awareness. Check out the “Effective Communication for Healthy Outcomes” course for resources to implement health communications awareness campaigns


  • Volunteer at a local school for a day.
  • Read a book to children in a local library.
  • Teach accounting, bookkeeping or other business skills at a local women’s shelter, high school or community center.
  • Check out the After School Assistance Project for ideas.
  • Organize a book drive and donate to a local library, school or community center.


  • Plant or work in a community garden.
  • Help advertise a business start-up idea like iCow.
  • Help build a community rainwater catchment.

Neighborhood improvement

  • Gather a crew and make repairs to a neighbor’s home.
  • Organize a neighborhood trash pick-up day with your friends and colleagues.
  • Collect supplies for a family that has suffered a recent crisis.
  • Campaign for additional streetlights or better ambulance service in underserved areas.


  • Help coach kids at an after-school sport program.
  • Get ideas and inspiration from programs like GCU soccer.

Raise funds for your next big community project

Here are a few volunteer projects our YALI Network Facebook followers are already carrying out this summer:

  • From Nigeria: Volunteers are “reaching out to homes of children and adults living with disabilities and to those who are physically challenged in my community.”
  • From Burundi: Volunteers are “getting students involved in the #summer event named 0 pregnancy for teenagers.”
  • From Malawi: “Mkaika Youth Organisation is planning to have a clean up exercise around Mkaika Trading Centre in Nkhotakota, Malawi. We believe in proper waste management to avoid prevalence of some diseases. Sweeping, collecting waste and disposing of it properly.”
  • From Uganda: Volunteers work with “the Nawanyingi Orphaned Families Empowerment Project (NawOFEP), whose goal is to strengthen the capacity of the orphan caregivers and to provide 124 orphans with nutritionally adequate food and other needs on a sustainable basis.”

Use the #YALIServes Toolkit to help get you started!