Direct Action in New York City

Things may (or may not) seem helpless to you considering the current sociopolitical and racial climate within the global community. World “leaders” are forcing their constituents into existential crises and material conditions that are unacceptable and often unhealthy or violent.

What is there to do?

We all have our own ways of taking direct action and advocating for global, social justice. Below, I’ll list some options in New York City for people who have extra time, are physically able, and are eager to do something that can bring a bit more light into even one life or one community.

If you don’t live in NYC and would like me to research opportunities in your area and make a list for your city just email me! We’re all in this together.

The Petey Greene Program 

With Petey Greene, volunteers serve as academic tutors, working one-on-one or in small groups with incarcerated students in correctional facilities in order to support their academic achievement. They primarily support students enrolled in high school classes or in high school equivalency (GED / TASC) programs. They also support students in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and CUNY Assessment Test preparation classes.

Volunteer Requirements

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Scheduling Availability 

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Stoked Mentoring

Stoked Mentoring is a unique organization that develops innovative programs exposing “at risk” youth and their mentors to action sports as a means to develop and foster resiliency, determination and success. Responsible for developing the curriculum for each mentoring program/ season, Stoked will recruit and train program mentors and teachers/coaches, hand-match mentor and mentee, manage the mentoring relationship for optimal results and oversee follow up post-season. The current programs are targeted towards teens 13 – 17 years old. Stoked Mentoring began during a snowboard trip in April 2004 when Founder and Executive Director, Steve Larosiliere, is inspired to create opportunities to expose ?at-risk? youth to nature and the challenging sport of snowboarding, through a unique mentoring program.

Hour Children

Hour Children helps incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children successfully rejoin the community, reunify with their families, and build healthy, independent, and secure lives. To accomplish this, Hour Children provides compassionate and comprehensive services and encourages all to live and interact with dignity and respect. Hour Children’s vision is to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration.

Hour Children is proud of its Hour Friend In Deed Children’s Mentoring Program!
All mentors must be at least 18 years old and willing to work with a child affected by incarceration for at least 1 year. If you are interested in becoming a Child Mentor, please click here to download the HFID Mentor Application.

Hour Children is proud of its Hour Woman to Woman Mentoring Program! All mentors must be women who are at least 35 years old and willing to work with a woman from Hour Children for at least 1 year. If you are interested in becoming a Woman Mentor, please click here to download the Women’s Mentor Application.


Chhaya CDC was founded in 2000 to advocate for the housing needs of New York City’s South Asian community. Their mission is to work with New Yorkers of South Asian origin to advocate for and build economically stable, sustainable, and thriving communities.

By focusing on core areas of housing and economic development—the basic necessities essential to one’s stability—Chhaya is able to impact a range of social outcomes, including education, employment, civic participation, community pride, and mental health and well-being. Through their work, Chhaya aims to develop a framework that will achieve long-term stability for New Yorkers of South Asian origin, giving them the tools and resources that will enable them to create positive, lasting change in their lives.

NYC Parks and Recreation

Do you want to give back to your parks? NYC Parks and our hundreds of partners hold organized events throughout the year asking New Yorkers to pitch in and paint, clean, rake, and generally take care of our city’s great and vast park system. Groups and individuals are welcome at volunteer events across the city.

Looking for more volunteer opportunities? Reach out to one of our many partner organizations, or visit Partnerships for Parks , a public-private partnership between NYC Parks and City Parks Foundation that manages our network of volunteers.


CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City. They were founded in 1986 by Asian working class women alarmed by the spike of hate violence on Asian communities and its root causes stemming from institutional racism in the United States. Through their organizing model of base-building, leadership development, campaigns, alliances, and organizational development- we organize Asian communities to fight for institutional change and participates in a broader movement towards racial, gender, and economic justice.

Domestic Workers United

Domestic Workers United is an organization of Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers in New York, organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build a movement to end exploitation and oppression for all. As a membership-based organization, DWU is open to any domestic worker who is committed to our mission and goals to organize for power, respect, fair labor standards, and to build a movement for social change.

In addition to volunteering, students who would like to do research and writing about DWU are invited to submit a short proposal about your project as well as how you see your work benefiting the movement for dignity, respect, and fair labor standards for domestic workers. All proposals will be responded to within 3-4 weeks.

Radical Love Letters

Radical Love Letters is an experience that connects people that are incarcerated with pen pals to create an ongoing, friendly system of correspondence.and here are some great resources to learn more about the prison abolition movement.


The Bowery Mission

Since 1879, The Bowery Mission has served homeless, hungry and poor New Yorkers. Meals, shelter, and medical care lead to residential programs that offer men and women the opportunity to transform their lives. Children get a positive first chance through summer camp, mentoring and family support. A vital part of the Lower East Side, The Bowery Mission now offers new hope to neighborhoods like Harlem and the South Bronx.

Throughout the year, there are opportunities for individuals to apply their skills and interests to needs at The Mission.  You may want to do something very personal and one-on-one like Tutoring Men or Mentoring Youth.  Or you may have a Special Skill or Project that you would like to share.

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen 

Every day at 10:30 a.m. sharp, hundreds of hungry and homeless New Yorkers walk through the doors of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen to get a warm nutritious meal and seek help in finding their way on to a better way of life. But 45 minutes beforehand, another crowd is gathering: 50-60 volunteers who will make sure that happens.

From greeting guests to serving food, cleaning tables to passing out haircut vouchers, it is our volunteers who enable us to be here for our guests every day. One of the most important things we do is to treat our guests with dignity and respect, and as a volunteer this is part of your job too.

A warm smile or some friendly conversation can really help brighten our guests’ days – and as a volunteer you might be surprised at how much this experience will brighten yours as well!

You can sign up to volunteer any weekday. You’ll need to be available from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Many volunteers stay for lunch afterwards and, just like our guests, enjoy the community to be found here.

Brennan Center for Justice

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice. They work to hold our political institutions and laws accountable to the twin American ideals of democracy and equal justice for all. The Center’s work ranges from voting rights to campaign finance reform, from ending mass incarceration to preserving Constitutional protection in the fight against terrorism. Part think tank, part advocacy group, part cutting-edge communications hub, we start with rigorous research. They craft innovative policies. And we fight for them — in Congress and the states, the courts, and in the court of public opinion.

The Brennan Center for Justice welcome inquiries from law students, attorneys, and other persons who would like to participate in the work of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. They encourage individuals to learn about our issues and activities, and to approach them with ideas for becoming involved. Please send a resume and cover letter to

Animal Care Centers of NYC

Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) is one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the country, taking in more than 35,000 animals each year. They are different from other rescue organizations because we never turn away any homeless, abandoned, injured or sick animal in need, including cats, dogs, rabbits, small mammals, reptiles, birds, farm animals and wildlife. ACC is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit in NYC with this unique responsibility.

Their volunteers work in several areas of our operations. Primarily, they interact with our shelter pets to provide them with exercise, attention, comfort and socialization to reduce stress, improve their health, strengthen trust with humans, and increase their adoptability factor. Secondarily, they help maintain kennels, take photographs, write bios, assist in adoption counseling, attend off-site events, provide administrative assistance and join outreach programs, all with the end-objective of helping to get their animals adopted, or of preventing animals from ending up at the shelters. Volunteers are asked to make a commitment to our program of at least six months, with a minimum of six hours in each month.

Adopt a Basket

Why Volunteer?
New Yorkers in busy areas sometimes fill litter baskets faster than our Sanitation teams can empty them. It’s better for our neighborhoods – and businesses – to help keep garbage from spilling onto sidewalks.

Participants can highlight that they’re doing their share for their community! The Department presents all participants with a Certificate of Appreciation, which can be put on display.

How Do I Help?
Sanitation provides a supply of plastic liners, a collection schedule – and a direct DSNY contact at our local office.

To help, monitor your litter baskets; when they’re three-quarters full, remove the used plastic liners, tie them, leave them next to the basket and insert a new liner.

Sponsor a Basket, Too!
To reduce litter and improve our streetscape, sponsors purchase deluxe, heavier-duty litter baskets – which Sanitation teams regularly empty.

In the Sponsor-a-Basket Program, businesses, organizations and New Yorkers supply pre-approved baskets to replace the City’s standard design. These higher-end baskets include a logo or name to highlight the sponsor’s commitment to maintaining the community’s quality of life. (Of course, you can sponsor and adopt a basket, too!)

To sponsor a basket or learn more about this initiative, email

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) is a member led Brooklyn-based multiracial program of Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) led by mostly women of color. They organize and unite low-income families to build power to fight against systems of oppression so that the work of all people is valued and all of us have the right and ability to decide and live out our own destinies. They use direct action, leadership development, community organizing and political education to win the changes our members seek. Their guiding principle is that those directly affected by the policies we are seeking to change should lead the organization because they are the true experts.

Food Bank for New York City

To end hunger by organizing food, information and support for community survival, empowerment, and dignity. Food Bank For New York City has been working to end food poverty in our five boroughs for more than 30 years. As the city’s largest hunger-relief organization, they employ a multifaceted approach centered on helping low-income New Yorkers overcome their circumstances and achieve greater independence.

Volunteers are needed throughout the year in morning, afternoon and evening shifts. Some of the important jobs include ensuring food doesn’t go to waste, packing meals for their campus pantries, helping seniors at our Harlem site, and ensuring a clean, healthy environment for the many New Yorkers turning to them daily for help. Whether you serve solo, as apart of a group, or as a family, there are many ways for you to make an impact.

The Institute for Family Health

The Institute for Family Health is a mission-driven health organization with a rich history and expert leadership. Since 1983 we have grown from a small non-profit with four staff members to one of the largest community health centers in New York State, providing 593,000 visits to over 102,000 patients annually at 30 locations.

In addition to operating health centers, they use our expertise and resources to address racial and ethnic disparities in health, advance the use of health information technology, and find innovative ways to improve care for diabetesdepressionwomen’s healthHIV and other priorities in the communities they serve. They also train health students and professionals at all levels.

Participatory Budgeting Project

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a different way to manage public money, and to engage people in government. It is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives.

Volunteering is a great way to support our organization’s day to day work.  Whether it’s copyediting, stuffing envelopes, photography, or data entry – our volunteers help us make PB possible!

In addition to volunteering for the organization, you may also want to plug into a PB process happening near you!  To learn more about how to plug into a local PB process, visit our Participate in PB page.

Big Brothers | Big Sisters

For all the thousands of kids who join our program every year, there are thousands more who can’t. There just aren’t enough Bigs to go around. We’re especially in need of minority volunteers.

As the nation’s founding and NYC’s largest mentoring organization, our program is simple: by meeting just twice a month on their own schedules in the community, our volunteers are able to make a positive, often life-long impact on a child in need. They match volunteers over the age of 21 with children between 7-17 in all 5 boroughs of New York City. They are especially in need of volunteers from or willing to travel to the outer boroughs, and have a high demand for male volunteers for the nearly 100 boys currently on our wait-list.

To volunteer now, go here. After, their enrollment specialist will contact you about scheduling an orientation date here at our office. For questions, check out their FAQ’s below, or reach out to

[Source: All text is directly from the organizations and their respective websites]