Be a Youth Volunteer
Youth volunteers can make a huge difference in their local communities and in the world at large.
Sure, there are some organizations that require volunteers to be certain ages (like
our local animial shelter which requires kids to be 12 or older). Still, there are plenty of options for kids of all ages.
A volunteer is someone who performs a service
Before jumping into the list of all the things kids can do, let's answer the basic question: What is a volunteer? If you ask this question of 10 people, you'll likely get 10 different
answers. Here's a simple definition:
to help others, directly or indirectly, without getting paid.
If you think about it, your child or teen might already be a youth volunteer and not even know it. Do they offer to walk younger kids to school? Are they picking up trash with
another group of friends? Then they are volunteering. It's important to remember that being a volunteer doesn't have to be limited to the larger efforts that get all the publicity. In fact, it's really the everyday actions that make the difference. If you already have a great volunteer idea, share it here!
What kids can do
Most people think of donating money when the subject of charity donations comes up. Money isn't the only way to contribute, though. In fact you might be surprised about what types of donations you can make. Kids and teens can play a big part in this process by becoming a youth volunteer. Here are just some ideas for youth volunteers of all ages:
- Organize a collection or drive. This can be a teddy bear drive for a local kids' charity or cell phones for a women's shelter. You can also participate in nationwide
campaigns and be the local contact in your area. One of the best examples of this is to organize a lemonade stand in support of Alex's Lemonade Stand charity.But there are some other ones too.
Check out these kids who turned their great ideas into their own volunteer opportunities.
- Give hair. Sound crazy? If you have long hair, you can contribute it to Locks of Love which collects hair to make wigs for kids. My daughter recently did this and couldn't have been prouder of her donation.
- Donate time. Pick up trash, babysit in the church nursery, walk dogs at the animal shelter, bake cookies to share with a Ronald McDonald house, read to kid's in a local
hospital, visit a nursing home...how's that for a start?
- Offer your expertise. This will require time, too, but it can also require special skills. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or
Christmas in October programs may require some special skills or physical abilities - although you should definitely check
out Habitat's youth program site which has ideas for kids as young as 5. If you are talented in web design or have other computer-related skills, many local groups can use the help to get their sites set up and maintained.
- Look around your community. It is really interesting what youth volunteer options you can find if you start looking around. Have you ever noticed how many red cars you see if you start looking for them? It's the same way with volunteering. You can find signs posted at your school, in the library and at your favorite pet store. Getting involved can be a simple as a phone call and talking to someone.
- Form your own Do Something club.
Can't find any idea or group that excites you? Create your own with your friends with the support of Do Something.org which provides loads of flexibility in what you do and when you
do it. And you only need 5 people to get started!
These ideas are just the beginning. Now it's your turn to start brainstorming your list of youth volunteer ideas. Start by thinking of all the things you like to do. Now write down ways
you can volunteer for each of them. Get creative!
If you can't think of how you would volunteer, write down an organization or someone you can contact to ask. For example, a call to our local animal shelter helped us find out we could collect tennis balls and old towels to donate.
Another great resource to consider is Sondra Clark's 77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve. It is packed full of ideas that kids and teens of all ages can do to make a difference.
Be a Youth Volunteer
to Giving Back
Go to Community Service Volunteers: Get Your Family Involved
Go to money-and-kids.com