Gandhi is attributed as saying “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If one of our goals as parents is to raise compassionate and responsible children, our children need to witness empathy, kindness, and respect towards others… and put these character traits into action. Families that do community service not only offer their children a view of different perspectives, but give them the opportunity to take action, and in a sense change the world.
There’s a story you’ve probably heard about a man on a beach, surrounded by hundreds and thousands of starfish that had been stranded in the sand by the low tide. He’s tossing them into the water one by one, when a passerby asks:
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun’s up, the tide’s going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”
“But there are miles of beach filled with starfish… You cannot possibly make a difference.”
The young man listened politely, and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, saying, “It made a difference for that one.”
As cheesy as it sounds, our kids need to learn that even one individual can make a difference. Children with empathy understand what others are feeling and wish to relieve their pain and help to better the situation. It’s not just to feel sorry for someone; it’s moving beyond sadness or pity, and aspiring to change it.
Here are examples of real children, choosing to make a difference in their communities and the wider world by taking action and participating in community service and volunteer projects. Be inspired!!! Your selfless actions will make a difference! Look for service opportunities in your town and get your kids involved in volunteering.
Examples of Kids Doing Community Service:
Here’s Kyra, (Daria’s daughter!) when she assisted in cultural exchange programs on the Jemez Pueblo. In the above picture she is sharing her traditional Peruvian clothing with her new friend, Monique, and showing dance steps. In the picture below, she is helping a grandmother make Fry Bread. She learned to do so there and then helped at MANY pow-wows here in the kitchen. She was very proud of how she was considered an important part of our local pow-wows because of how she helped.
The initial picture at the top of the article is little B and his mom last year. They wrapped gifts at Barnes and Noble to raise money for the animal rescue they volunteer for. B helped them tape presents, hand out brochures, and had so much fun! They’ve already signed up to wrap presents again this year! Here, B is at the animal rescue his family volunteers for. Since his mom is on the board of directors and she and her husband are volunteers, they usually go out for several days – spending the nights in a house on campus and their days socializing the animals.
Katie (mom), Charlie, and Ryan collected food that neighbors left out for “Hands on Kirkwood Day.” On this day, they gather people from all over their city to help and families can sign up for different jobs: families with little kids did reverse trick-or-treating, sang songs, and visited with residents at a retirement home; others collected small toiletries, large print crossword puzzles, and decorated goody bags. Some families did clean-up at a local cemetery; there were a lot of home projects, too, for residents who need help around the house but can’t afford it. There was even an electronics recycling event to keep trash out of landfills. Katie says “It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and (I hope) a good life lesson about helping our neighbors.”
I also talked with a group of families and friends with a heart for Ethiopia (above). Their goal of “One Moon Ethiopia” is to keep their children connected to each other and to Ethiopia, build self-esteem and pride in their heritage, and support projects in Ethiopia. Currently, families are working together with Ethiopia Reads to build a school. Other events for this school have included Pasta Palooza Night (run and organized by children), Destiny Children’s Africa Choir (children met and had supper together with choir members), and a dodgeball tournament (children involved this year). We are determined to create some life-lasting memories for our children while we work at building a school.
On the right, adorable Macy donated 10″ of her hair to Locks of Love, an organization that collects donated hair, and provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada that are suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.
Her brother Carter (below) and their mom volunteered at Feed My Starving Children. First, they watched a video to learn about who they were feeding and why. Carter then weighed and scooped different grains as he participated in their well-organized assembly line process.
Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding hungry children hungry. Their approach is simple: “children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and then ship the meals to nearly 70 countries around the world… the meals are used in orphanages, schools, clinics and other building blocks of healthy communities.”
Volunteering can start young! Families don’t have to wait until their children are school-aged to start to teach them about empathy and community service. Check out little Grady (on the right)- he and his mom took these sweet treats to the public library, town borough, and local second-hand store for them to put on their counters and share with customers and brighten their day a bit! Such a simple act, yet the idea was not lost on him as he learned about sharing, generosity and kindness.
This next, and final example shows how a homeschool group incorporates service learning into their lessons and experience, even while out on field trips! Erica Pereira (mom), Grant Pereira 8, Eric Pereira 4, Ayo Phipps 8, Ife Phipps 6, and Chase Dabo 6 are all students at the eSchool S.W.I.S.S. School, whose mission is to teach language, culture, etiquette, and peace. They recently took a school trip to Paris for the summer, and a big part of each trip is to give.
Everyday for three months they gave peaches out to hungry people, coins to needy in the metro station, and collected money from taxi drivers for the French Red Cross. This group picture (above) is the group at the beginning of their walk above the Louvre to the Champs Élysée to pick up all of the trash along the way to the Arc de Triumph. Erica says that this year, “we will be traveling and sharing our love with the lovely people in China!”
Whether it’s volunteering in a cultural exchange, with animals, in a city-wide effort, or as an individual, as a family, or doing community service with school group- there are infinite opportunities to give out time and talents to help others in our community and in the wider world.
Have your children ever volunteered? What type of community service did they do? Share your ideas in the comments!