Family Volunteering: Teaching Kids to Care (page 2)
- Family Volunteering: How to Find the Perfect Match
- Volunteer! Getting Your Child and Family Involved
- Get Kids Volunteering! Why and How to Make a Difference
- Summer Volunteering 101
- Teaching Kids the Financial Facts of Life
- Beyond the Piggy Bank: Teaching Kids About Money
Volunteerism is one of the greatest experiences a child can receive. Volunteers are exposed to other lifestyles and cultures through the diverse communities they serve. They learn about themselves and begin thinking about what they would like their role in the world to be. Families who volunteer together strengthen their bonds by working towards a common cause.
The greatest part is—there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available, no matter what age you are! Below are some helpful tips and advice that will guide you in your search for the perfect volunteer opportunity.
Volunteerism for Children:
Seek out volunteer opportunities at school, from picking up litter on the playground to helping teachers clean and set up classroom activities during recess, lunch, or after classes end for the day. Many schools even offer rewards to student volunteers, such as extra credit, candy, or small prizes. Encourage your child to ask his teacher about volunteering or inquire about it during your next meeting!
Join the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts of America to open doors to local volunteer opportunities, such as charity bake sales and canned food drives. Small acts of kindness within the local community now can lead to future volunteer opportunities through scouting, such as becoming a World Center volunteer in India, Mexico, England, or Switzerland once your child is 18 or older. Volunteering through scouting is best for kids who are committed to volunteering and are willing to devote their time.
Accompany your kid and venture out into your neighborhood and surrounding community to seek out volunteer opportunities and meet new people. An elderly neighbor may need help mowing his lawn or walking his dog. Your friend’s first grader could benefit from receiving homework help from your child after school. Maybe there is a great need for someone to pick up litter in the neighborhood. Whatever the service may be, the important thing is for your child to understand the importance of helping others and giving back to his community.
Families can search the web for local organizations in need of help or use the databases of websites geared towards filling volunteer positions. Many websites structure their databases to allow users to search for family or group volunteer opportunities. Users can also search for available opportunities based on the age of the volunteer. Food banks and family shelters usually allow children to volunteer alongside their parents as part of a group as long as the majority of the group’s members are 18 or older.
Through Your City or Town
Check out your city or town's website for family volunteer opportunities. There are service projects that kids can participate in alongside their parents to make a difference in the city or town they call home. Some examples include litter pick-up, graffiti removal, or assisting at library summer programs and fairs.
Why not turn your next family vacation into an opportunity to make a difference and expose the kids to other cultures? The Global Citizens Network and Global Volunteers are volunteer travel organizations who work with families, designating team leaders specifically trained to accompany them on their adventures abroad. Opportunities to serve within communities in need span across nearly every continent in the world. You can search their websites for a pre-existing trip or plan a private trip as long as you have at least six participants. Trips usually last for one to three weeks and costs range from $450 to $2,795 per participant, before airfare. The minimum age for children who want to volunteer alongside their family varies depending on the service project and country, but there are trips available for children as young as five to participate in.
Teens eager to volunteer can join the Key Club, a high school organization sponsored by Kiwanis International. Through Key Club, teens perform acts of service in their communities, such as cleaning up parks, collecting clothing, and organizing food drives. Teens can also develop their leadership skills by organizing meetings, planning projects, and holding leadership positions. Members must be willing to fulfill at least 50 hours of service to their home, school, and community each year. Check out the Key Club’s website to find out if your high school has a club you can join or get information on how you can start your own.
Many high schools provide additional outlets for teens to give back to the local community; at some schools, completing a certain number of community service hours is a requirement for graduation. Sir Francis Drake High School in Marin, CA hosts the Habitat for Humanity Club, a student-run club that fundraises for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. The Habitat Club is a great example of proactive, self-sufficient teens working together for a great cause. Volunteering is satisfying for teens because they are able to see the fruits of their labor and seeing what they are capable of boosts their self-esteem,” says Erin Beeson, Volunteer Services Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. Teens who are passionate about specific causes can partner with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to find ways to help.
Every teen has a skill or a talent that can be developed into a way to give back to others. Teens who excel in academics can volunteer as a tutor or classroom aide at elementary and middle schools to help students with their homework. Teens who enjoy reading can volunteer at the local library. If you have an athletic teen, encourage her to seek out opportunities to volunteer at children’s sports or summer camps. Depending on the organization, teens 16 and older can usually begin volunteering on their own, without parental guidance or permission.
There are many websites where college-aged individuals can simply log in and search for local volunteer opportunities by location, organization, and job type. It is important to choose a volunteer position that interests them, whether they are passionate about the cause, or feel that it will be beneficial to them personally or professionally. Some organizations even hire regular volunteers for employment positions. If your college-aged child is considering a career in the non-profit or public sector or within a specific field, volunteering will give them the hands-on experience now that employers will want to see on their resume in the future.
The AmeriCorps program is a nationwide program offering modestly paid service opportunities for an 11-month period at participating non-profit organizations throughout the U.S. Participants must be at least 17 years old. The Peace Corps program provides an opportunity for participants to serve in another country for 27 months, addressing a global concern such as promoting HIV/Aids awareness and safety in Africa. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Both programs offer many incentives, such as free travel, free housing or housing assistance, earned vacation time, an educational stipend, and more. So much comes out of long-term volunteer service because it resonates deeper than just volunteering for a few days. It allows the person to develop a greater perspective and understanding of the community he/she is serving,” says Georgina Hernandez, AmeriCorps Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and a former member of the Peace Corps.
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