I am a parent. I volunteer with the youth at church. My neices and nephews that range from teenagers to toddlers. I help with Geometry, Physics, History, and English. I cheer the team at football and volleyball games. I drive 40 minutes for a high school car wash and buy tickets for a restaurant I do not like, just to support fundraisers. I frequent science fairs, academic decathlons, cheer competitions, and soccer award ceremonies. Why? Because I want to inspire good students and encourage greatness in the youth I influence.
But, what about the greater good? With so many demands on our time, how can we instill the value of helping others? Many parents and youth leaders actively engage children of all ages in community service through volunteering. Finding the opportunity to cultivate a commitment to service while having a good time may be most challenging.
For liability and logistical reasons, many organizations do not allow volunteers under 16 to participate. Do not be discouraged! There are a myriad of opportunities to encouragechildren in volunteer work. Service clubs such as 4-H, Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of the USA are a great opportunity for youth service. Faith-based organizations and child friendly community events are another option. Include kids in employer sponsored service projects, or school and sporting events and fundraisers. Or, create your own volunteer activity with family and friends. Designing your efforts to be age-appropriate and enjoyable, expressing gratitude, and ensuring that children understand the purpose of the work and how they are making a difference is very important.
My teenage niece has volunteered with our family since she was 4 years old. She has visited many lonely elderly neighbors, participated in neighborhood clean ups, served lunch to volunteers, cared for animals, tutored fellow students, supported school events, and much more. Voluntarily, she joined her high school Key Club and volunteered all summer to support the coaches of the football team. I am very proud that she has integrated a commitment to community service in her personal values. I would like to think I played a part in that.
Some of my most exciting volunteer projects include youth. One group of honor students from a Parochial school system along the West Coast provided 3 days of service to elderly in the community. These kids were captivated by a 95 year old woman who recited poems that she wrote to her huband over 60 years prior. Another team of students from a Jewish school in Arizona helped low-income older adults with household tasks. On Family Volunteer Day, children and their parents made cards to be delivered with gifts for at-risk elderly in the community. Rotarians, their children, and grandchildren visited isolated seniors in their homes and facilities in the area. There are many ways we can help our kids to make a difference in the world they live in and develop a lifelong commitment to community service.
Are you inspiring a future of service? Leave a comment. Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!