For whatever reason, it seems that every year as the temperatures drop, the idea of volunteering comes up. Perhaps it’s because the Fall signifies the start of the holidays and cold weather, two reasons that make it even more unbearable for many of us to imagine others alone and without basic needs being met.
But a question I keep getting asked lately is where kids can volunteer too? Though many of us poked fun at our parents for their tales of walking three miles to & from school without shoes (uphill both ways, of course), the truth is, we realize how fortunate we are compared to the majority of society….and that sentiment is even more true for our own children.
In fact, not only will most of you who read this have the means to clothe your children, but the truth is you struggle more with getting them to narrow down their birthday wish list than you do with figuring out where their next meal will come from.
We’re the first to recognize that while there are always things we want to improve on, we have great kids. But they simply didn’t grow up in the time of our parents. I mean really – my dad was born during the Great Depression & fought in World War II – I don’t stand a chance of teaching my kids the kind of gratitude and appreciation that came naturally from growing up in that era. So without guilting them daily with the fact that they better clean their dinner plate because there are starving kids in Africa, we thought we’d try something a little closer to home.
We volunteered as a family at a local soup kitchen.
The truth is, we found out about it when Disney World was offering free Disney tickets if you volunteered for a day. But what was really great about their website was that they were very clear in presenting opportunities that kids could participate in as well! That’s how we found out about Good Food for Good People in partnering with Hands on Nashville. Our kids played in the next room while we prepped & cooked food, then they came and ate with us as a group and joined in the clean up. (You can read more about our kids volunteer experience here).
Even though our kids weren’t actually chopping or cooking the food, they still got to help and more importantly, they got to meet the people being directly affected by the organization.
If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities for your kids, try some of these ideas:
*Ask at your local church or community center for family friendly volunteer opportunities already in place
*Consider sponsoring a child as a family through organizations like Compassion International or World Vision
*Encourage your children to save their money and then buy items for a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
***Better yet, have your kids clean out their rooms and use their old clothes and games for a garage/consignment sale and donate that money!!! Clean house and give to charity at the same time!
*Call your local children’s hospital and see if you and your child can come play/read/sit with some of the kids with long term illnesses.
*Visit a local nursing home with your kids to just talk, sing Christmas Carols, play cards, deliver pictures, etc
*Check out Serve.gov to find local volunteer opportunities, or better yet, CREATE YOUR OWN!
Most importantly, have a dialogue (notice I say ‘dialogue’ and not ‘speech’) with your kids about why it’s important to give of our time and gifts (both intrinsic gifts & financial gifts), discover what they’re passionate about and build a volunteer experience from there. If they love animals, look a visiting a local shelter and walking the animals. If they love art, call your local museum and find out if they can help with cleaning up the kids’ areas there. If they love kids, maybe they can volunteer at your church nursery.
Kids volunteer possibilities are endless, you just have to start somewhere