Finding the right volunteer opportunity isn’t always easy, especially when trying to match the passions—and hectic schedules—of both parents and kids. Here’s how to get started.
By Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger
Food bank? Boring. River cleanup? Whatever.
If you think it’s hard to get kids to clean their room or take out the recycling, try convincing them to spend a cherished Saturday helping somebody else.
Sure, we work with thousands of young people who are eagerly and passionately involved in their communities—volunteering, organizing petitions, holding creative fundraisers—but we know there are millions more who prefer the soccer field over the soup kitchen, and hanging out over helping out.
Research shows that when families volunteer together, everyone wins. Benefits include an increase in self-esteem, responsibility and an interest in learning. Volunteering helps children practice new social skills, develop empathy and learn that one person can make an impact in their community.
Finding the right volunteer opportunity isn’t always easy, especially when trying to match the passions—and hectic schedules—of both parents and kids. Here’s how to get started:
ASK FOR HELP
Visit the experts at your local volunteer center to connect with the best fit for your family’s interests and abilities. If there are few formal volunteer opportunities where you live, it may require some do-it-yourself creativity such as helping elderly neighbors or baking cookies for the volunteer firefighters. Maybe there’s a way to hang out at the soccer field and help out the soup kitchen at the same time, with a charity tournament or a canned-food entry fee for a big game.
“Begin with a one-time volunteer activity that fits your child’s interests and abilities,” says Jenny Friedman, Executive Director, Doing Good Together in Minneapolis, Minn. “A clean up day at the local park or fostering rescued dogs are good places to start. You can also serve others right from your kitchen table by creating a blanket for a someone in need, making sandwiches for guests at a homeless shelter or bringing your child’s art work to a local nursing home.”
MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR
“Make a list of the things that interest everyone in your family, and rotate the causes you work on together,” advises Veronica McNeil, Founding Member, Voluntary Sector Consultants in Dartmouth, NS. “At public fundraisers or charitable events, find a role for everyone to play, supervising younger kids as they gain experience and praise for their work. There are numerous charities that hold annual events and they love to have family support.”
“Avoiding repetitive tasks and focusing on the positive outcomes goes a long way in creating mutual benefit for both the volunteers and the organization,” cautions Kassie Burkholder, Communications Coordinator, Volunteer Alberta.
National Volunteer Week in April every year in Canada and the US is a perfect opportunity for families to find creative and exciting ways to contribute to your community together. Download our WE Volunteer Now resources here.