Parents, I cannot stress enough how important it is to teach your child the value of serving her community. My husband and I have been dedicated to medical service in other countries for years. We’ve brought our children along for some of these medical mission trips, and it has been life changing.
COVID has made traveling abroad difficult right now, but as service opportunities pop up around your community this week, keep an eye out for virtual and in-person volunteer work you and your child can do for others.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve made a list of questions that will help guide what kind of work you and your child participate in and ensure the experience is meaningful for you as well as the ones you’re serving.
What is my child good at?
If your child is an introvert, it may feel overwhelming for him to approach a homeless person with a meal. If your child is an extrovert, it might feel boring for her to sort canned goods at the local food pantry.
Ask yourself what your child is naturally inclined to do and pick a volunteer opportunity from there. Is he good at basketball? See if there are any inner-city leagues or teams he could volunteer to coach? Is she bilingual? Check out the numerous volunteer opportunities there are to work with immigrants in your city.
Chances are, whatever your child is good at, he can use those skills to serve others.
Am I doing this for others or for me?
This one is especially important to consider if you have pre-teens or teens who use social media. The world of TikTok and Instagram have introduced a way for kids to share every detail of their lives with their followers. Your child may be tempted to do this when she’s volunteering and servings others too.
But don’t let service become yet another opportunity for your child to broadcast what she’s doing to her friends. Make sure she asks herself why she wants to volunteer at this particular place. Is it because it will make her look good? Is it because it’s a popular or trendy thing to do among her friends?
Volunteering is most meaningful when we don’t do it for ourselves, but truly do it for others. Help your child determine whom he really wants to help in your city or what cause he really cares about, and then choose a volunteer opportunity that will meet those needs.
Who around me needs help now?
When we think about volunteering, we most naturally think about the biggest non-profits or organizations in our communities such as Habitat for Humanity or the animal shelter or a homeless shelter. While volunteering at any of these places would be a wonderful experience for your child, you may have a neighbor, friend or family member who is in need right now.
My friends over at NeedU.org created this website for that very purpose. NeedU is a place to give and get help. The site allows you to create a list of specific needs you have during a difficult season or to create a list for someone else. From lawn care to meals to babysitting, NeedU is an easy way to let people know what you need or create a list for a friend in need. (It’s like GoFundMe for personal services and help.)
If you or your child knows anyone who is in need, you can create a page for them and gather volunteers to help. The single mom who could use some meals for her and her kids this week. Your elderly neighbor who needs a weekly ride to the doctor’s office. Your friends who are going through a tough time and could use help with simple things around the house like yard work, gutter cleaning, etc.
This is also a great virtual volunteer opportunity. If you’re trying to stay safe at home right now, you and your child can simply set up the page and manage it, which is a huge help for those who don’t feel comfortable setting up a page for themselves.
Volunteering is that thing that we always want to do but often don’t take the initiative to actually do it. Use this week as a jumpstart to get you and your kids out in your community, serving and building a better world.
To learn more about National Volunteer Week or to find service opportunities in your area, follow the hashtag #NVW on social media.