In recent years, volunteerism has become vital to the health of our nation’s communities as nonprofit organizations struggle with limited budgets and resources. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than a third of nonprofit organizations reported a significant increase in the number of volunteers they use throughout the year.
By teaching our children the importance of volunteerism and instilling values that promote community service, teachers, parents and caring adults have the power to inspire the next generation of America’s leaders to be active members of society and give to those in need.
Here are a few innovative ways to promote community service and volunteerism among children in the classroom, at home and in the community.
Service learning offers a unique opportunity for our nation’s youth – from kindergarteners to college students – to get involved with their communities in a tangible way by integrating service projects with classroom learning. Service learning engages students in the educational process, using what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems.
Through service learning, students build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community. For example, students can visit with and entertain seniors at a local senior housing community or prepare disaster relief kits for families in need as part of a lesson on natural disasters. Or to learn about construction and the plant life cycle, students can make wood planter boxes and plant seeds – placing them around the grounds to beautify the school.
In addition to promoting volunteerism within the classroom, there are many ways that parents and caring adults can encourage public service at home. For example, parents can plan a neighborhood clean up to make bettering the community fun for the entire family. Activities like these provide parents with the chance to show their children the importance of volunteering and the impact it can have. And studies show that children who volunteer are much more likely to continue as adults and carry on the tradition with their own children.
Identifying volunteer opportunities that inspire the whole family starts with picking an issue of interest. Web services, like VolunteerMatch.org, offer resources to help families find volunteer opportunities that are both meaningful and fulfilling. VolunteerMatch.org offers thousands of volunteer opportunities that connect people with causes 365 days a year, and any nonprofit organization can join its network.
Local companies also can reinforce and model the importance of public service among children. For example, team members at Target have volunteered millions of hours to community projects which effect children, from reading to young people to helping make over school libraries across the country. They also provide specialized business knowledge to community and nonprofit partners through a variety of unique skills-based volunteering opportunities in areas including marketing, forensics and design and construction.