Volunteering is an opportunity to change lives, including your own. It is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect.
As a family, we have made volunteering and service learning a major component of our homeschool. Over the years, we have had opportunities to volunteer in a variety of ways. I’d like to share some of those experiences with you in hopes of inspiring you to seek out volunteer opportunities for kids in your local community.
Roots & Shoots
My children and I have been active in Roots & Shoots since they were toddlers. Roots & Shoots is a youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. They are encouraged to work towards three goals: Care & Concern for the Environment, Care & Concern for Animals, and Care & Concern for the Community.
One of the things I love about Roots & Shoots is the flexibility. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face. From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.
We were recently interviewed for a local magazine about our volunteer efforts with Roots & Shoots. My kids loved talking with the reporter about their projects – each sharing what was in their heart and how they have been inspired to do locally.
My son shared his passion for music and talked about how he volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to perform for the residents. He stated, “I really look forward to going. I like giving them something to listen to and I like hearing them share about how music has touched their lives.”
Read my post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots to learn more about this dynamic program. You might also consider joining me for a free online course this summer, Turning Learners Into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education.
Humane Society / Animal Shelter
Volunteering at a local animal shelter is one of the easiest ways to make a difference. Children can decorate kennels, help with events, foster an animal, or even walk the dogs. Children may be interested in raising monies to purchase food, bedding, or goods as a donation.
When my kids were younger, we volunteered at a shelter regularly to simply play with the cats. They wanted to walk the dogs as well but weren’t quite old enough. Age restrictions will vary so check with your local shelter to learn more.
Rescue Mission / Homeless Shelter
Another great way to give back is to volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter. A few years ago, I volunteered in the education department of our local mission and my children were allowed to accompany me. They worked on their own assignments as I walked around the room and helped the women with their coursework and job training skills.
Some of our fondest memories of volunteering come from our experiences at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, where we volunteered as living history interpreters, Homeschooling in 1880: Living History Volunteers. In this role, we spent one day a week dressed up in period clothing and told the story of the early pioneers in the high desert. Our story was based loosely on our own ancestors. It was an awesome way to connect with the past as well as develop public speaking skills.
My daughter is anxiously awaiting her 13th birthday so that she can serve on our local library’s teen advisory board. In this role she would get to interact with other avid readers, make recommendations to library staff on books, programs, and services, and inform patrons of her favorite books via shelf flags.
What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. ~ Jane Goodall
Many municipalities utilize partnerships with local organizations to preserve, beautify and maintain neighborhood parks. Some of the tasks could include pruning, raking, weeding, light painting, graffiti removal, litter removal, tree and flower planting. As a part of the turtle project, my daughter is considering this option for the future.
Community Cleanups & Weed Pulls
Lastly, another way to tap into volunteer work is through organizations like church youth groups, scouts, and local agencies. The California Coastal Commission organizes an annual beach cleanup event in the fall each year.
Invasive species have always been a passion for me and we’ve thereby participated in many community weed pulls – both locally and while on vacation. You can read about our weed pull experience in Hawai’i in my post, Hoaloha ‘aina Weed Pull. Can you find a weed pull or cleanup in your community?
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I have shared additional resources and ideas for volunteer opportunities in my post, It’s Our Turn to Lead: Earth Day 2015, at Multicultural Kid Blogs. I encourage you to take time to talk over the interests you share as a family and seek out options in your area. In what ways can YOU make a difference?