How to make a difference in a community that matters to you


— You may not realize it, but you have the power to make a big difference in your community. There are so many ways to help a cause and you’ll be more fired up to devote your time, energy and talents when your efforts will benefit a community that matters to you, say experts.

Abdullah Sharif knows that better than anyone. Upon returning from the United States to his home country Afghanistan for a brief visit in 2007, Sharif was horrified to see the peaceful, progressive nation he left in 1976 laid to ruins, war-torn and economically devastated after decades of conflict. The heartbreaking sight inspired him to do all he could to help restore his country.

After joining the U.S. State Department in 2009, Sharif returned to Afghanistan to serve both his adoptive and native countries as a peace diplomat. In his new memoir, “Return to Kabul: An Afghan American’s Odyssey in Afghanistan,” which is the second book in a series of reminiscences, he recounts the past several years that he spent helping to rebuild his homeland working both for the State Department and the Department of Defense. 

You don’t have to participate in a big initiative to make a difference to your community, however. Anyone looking to make a meaningful impact need only discover where their passion lies and apply that to doing good, Sharif points out.

Here are some ideas for those looking to make a difference:

• Make a visit: Return to the places that matter to you — your former neighborhood, schools you attended, your old hometown. If it’s been long since your last visit, you may discover that these locations and institutions now need your help. Pay attention to small details. Engage with others and learn how you can be of service.

• Expand your community: Do your hobbies improve your life? Bring those benefits to a wider scope of people. For example, perhaps you’re a runner. Consider starting a youth running program in an underserved neighborhood. Or maybe you play music locally at night. Plan a daytime block party so families can enjoy the local music scene. It’s easy to get inspired when you’re working within a community based on shared interests.

• Go online: In the connected world we live in today, the term “global community” is now more a reality than ever. There are many online sites that let you explore the work of different charities, so you can one-stop shop for a cause that speaks to you, and wisely donate your charitable dollars. There also are volunteerism sites that match would-be volunteers to programs and initiatives in need of help.

“Every individual is born with unique opportunities to serve the world as best he or she can,” emphasizes two-time U.S. diplomat to Afghanistan, Sharif.

More information about Sharif’s memoirs can be found at

To make a difference, look for those opportunities in the communities that matter to you most.