Volunteering and community service were not optional during my childhood because my parents’ were and continue to be avid volunteers. My youth volunteer experience included cultivating gardens, food delivery, ushering at church, transporting church members, participating in home renovations, and a candy striper at the VA hospital. During the summers, my siblings and I hated volunteering because we wanted to spend our time playing outside. Now, I realize that my parents were passing on their passion for volunteering to the next generation.
Land of Promise is physically located in an elementary school. The students here are very curious about the food pantry. What a perfect time to introduce volunteer service to these students!
According to a study hosted by the University of Texas at Austin, the importance of children as volunteers promotes a healthy lifestyle and choices, enhances development, teaches life skills, improves the community, and encourages a lifelong service ethic. https://www.serviceleader.org/instructors/studentpaper7#3
Promotes Healthy lifestyle and choices:
Children who served just one hour or more a week were less likely to be involved in at-risk behaviors.
Children who volunteer develop self-confidence, new social skills and a stronger sense of duty. In most instances, volunteer activities presents new materials and opportunities to apply what has been learned.
Teaches Life Skills:
Volunteer opportunities stimulate skills necessary in becoming a productive adult. Some of these skills gained through volunteering, which many children may not see modeled in their daily lives, include responsibility for task completion, punctuality, reliability, good grooming and getting along with others.
Improves the community:
A report from the William T. Grant Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship states, “As children in a community become more involved in volunteering and as it is seen as more common, children will increasingly be viewed as resources, rather than helpless or non-contributors.”
Encourages a lifelong service ethic:
Developmental theorists also suggest that experiences during childhood and early adolescence have a powerful shaping force on lifelong values and sense of purpose.
The student volunteers mirror some of the characteristics mentioned in the study. For example, one student wanted to start and stop volunteering at will, his work performance was below average, and he was not a team player. The other students quickly noticed this and they insisted that he continue to work with the team. These students understood that volunteering is an enjoyable activity and it makes a difference in other’s lives. When I placed him on probation, he did not like it and he could have quit, but he made the decision to stay. Immediately his behavior improved. Currently his performance is above average, he arrives on time, works with the other students, and he finishes his duties. The students noticed this as well and now we work in harmony to provide food backpacks for children on the weekends. These students are learning life skills that will have a positive effect on their future work performance.
Teaching others in volunteer service has provided me an opportunity to reflect and appreciate what my parents instilled in me. More importantly, the opportunity to pass on the experience to the next generation. Every time the students see me in the hallway they always ask if they can volunteer today. This is music to my ears. Martin Luther King expressed it best, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”