Please welcome guest contributor, Brad Jamison, who was wonderful enough to write this article for my blog while I’m away with my family on vacation. Note: this is not a sponsored post. Just great information!
People ask me all the time why I am so dedicated to volunteering. While there are many reasons I serve, one of the main ones is that I started doing it at a young age and it simply became a core part of who I am and what I do. My parents first introduced me to service at age of eight, when we took part in a six-mile walk to raise money for those in need of food. It was then that I learned not only the importance of giving back, but that it is rewarding and can be fun. Now, thirty-two years later, I am still a very active volunteer, and there is something that excites me every time I see it: kids volunteering!
When I see families volunteering together, I think about how fortunate the kids are to have parents who are willing to expose them to the many different realities of today’s world. Far too many parents try to shield their kids from the harsher aspects of life, which I believe does not serve them well. But, there are others who provide their kids with experiences that open their eyes to the world around, allowing them to learn some of life’s most important lessons early on. I applaud those parents, as they are giving an invaluable gift to their children.
Serving others provides so many opportunities for kids. They are able to learn about compassion, empathy, gratitude, hope and more. They experience first-hand the importance of giving back and begin to learn that they have the ability to effect change in someone else’s life, in their community and in the world. They are able to try new things, which can lead to the development of new skills and self-esteem. And, if they start early, they are more likely to continue serving into adulthood.
So, how do you get your kids involved in community service? Here are a few things to ponder to help you find the right opportunity:
• Determine how much time you and your family can commit. Can you do something weekly, monthly, once a year? Do you want an ongoing commitment or do you want a one-off opportunity?
• Assess what your kid’s abilities are and how they can be applied to service. Do they need supervision? Are they good with other people? Can they work independently? Are they athletic and/or artistic? More introverted or extroverted?
• Look at what interests you and your family. Do you love being outdoors? Are you animal lovers? Book readers?
Once you have answered these questions, you can start looking for the right service opportunity. Here are some thoughts and resources:
• Consider the possibility of doing service from home. That could take the form of holding a bake sale to benefit a local organization, collecting food for the local food bank, writing letters to sick kids or many other activities. Get creative!
• Investigate local walk-a-thons. Walks, runs and relays are a great way to introduce service to kids, that’s how I started, as did my niece and nephew. One resource for finding local relays is Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society.
• Talk to local organizations. If you are part of an organized religion, ask your leader if he or she is aware of any age-appropriate service opportunities. Similarly, call your local school, hospital, food bank, nursing home, pet shelter, etc. to see what is out there.
• Hit the Web. GenerationOn is a great resource for finding kid- and teen-appropriate volunteer opportunities. Two other resources are Hands On Network and VolunteerMatch.
It is my hope that you will get your kids involved in service as early as you can. The rewards for them, and you, are endless and I truly believe it will foster the development of well-rounded, productive, confident Good Citizens.
About the author: Brad Jamison is a pro-social marketing expert, speaker, writer, producer, service advocate, philanthropist and founder of Good Citizen. A volunteer since he was 8, last year Brad conducted Thirty Days of Service – 30 service projects with 30 organizations in 30 consecutive days, for which he was honored with the Daily Point of Light Award, which recognizes the power of the individual to spark change and improve the world.
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