Figure out why you want to help. Are you helping because you believe in the cause? Because you think it sounds fun? Maybe it’s because your friends or family are helping. Or maybe it’s because you have to, because someone — a parent, a teacher a clergyman – didn’t give you a choice. Guess what? All of these reasons are excellent! The important thing is that you want to help.
Kids can help at any age. People can help one another at any age. Even if you’re too young to be reading this yourself, there’s a way you can help. Try this out: go into a nursing home and look at all the smiles you bring to the senior’s faces, just by being yourself. And if you have a younger brother or sister or friend – even if they’re a baby! – bring them, too! The seniors will love having you there, just because you’re a kid, and just because you’re you.
Kids can be leaders at any age. Even the youngest people have opinions (this is probably not news to your parents!) and things they care about. It could be lost animals, lonely seniors or kids who have no books or toys. Maybe you love skateboarding or dressing up like a princess and want to make sure kids from families without a lot of money can get skateboards or princess dresses, too. Maybe you saw someplace on t.v. where people got stuck in a hurricane or an earthquake. Every good cause out there is looking for someone who can rally their friends and make a difference, no matter what their age. But…
…let the grown-ups help, too. You are a very smart and talented kid. After all, you’re reading up on how to volunteer or maybe even lead a project. But don’t forget: even the smartest kids need help from grown-ups now and then. Whether it’s to drive you somewhere, to buy you supplies, or to make sure that everyone is happy and safe, adults can be a big help. And by the way, if a charity has age restrictions, don’t be bummed out. And don’t ask them to break the rules. There is usually a good reason for them. You’re probably not the first kid who has asked them to break it, but they can’t. Here’s a better idea: ask them to suggest another charity that needs your help.
Volunteering is a great way to meet other kids. When you volunteer, it won’t take you long to realize that everyone has some way that they can help somebody else. A great way to do this is to play with the kids you’re helping. If you visit sick kids at a hospital, or poor kids in a homeless shelter, chances are they’ll be thrilled to have someone new to play with. You may be bringing some cool stuff to them, too. But don’t forget: there’s a lot of fun kids at hospitals and shelters and they are probably really happy to share their company with you.
You’re never too young to visit someone old. It can be hard to find the right place to get started. But one great place is with seniors. Many seniors don’t get a chance to be with young people much. In fact, many kids, especially those who have no grandparents, or whose grandparents live far away, don’t get to see older folks much, either. Both groups can enjoy each other doing simple things like reading, playing games, doing crafts and singing. Spending time with seniors is a great way for kids to volunteer because all you have to do is be yourself! One note: Retirement homes and senior centers can be a wonderful place to bring kids. But it’s usually better for kids to visit active and healthy seniors. People with Alzheimer’s and other serious diseases can be too sad and scary for kids. Have your mom or dad check before going to make sure it’s the right place for you.
The whole animal thing. Lots of kids love animals and want to help them. That’s great. But animal shelters and rescues often have age restrictions, which could keep you from volunteering there. It seems unfair, but they have these rules to protect both you and the animals. If someone at an animal shelter tells you their animals are not good with kids, believe them! There are always other ways to help animals. Oh, and one other thing: adopting a pet can be great. Lots of animals need a new home. Just remember: it’s a big commitment for your whole family for a long time!
Stay safe! Volunteering should always be safe for everyone. Especially kids. There are so many great ways and places for you to help. Here are some things that are not good for you to be around, even if it’s for a good cause: chemicals, ladders and power tools. You read above about how some animals can be scary, but, sadly, some people are, too. Some people are mentally ill, or very senile. That is very sad, and there are wonderful people who can make their lives a little easier. But those are jobs that are better for grown-ups. Finally, if you’re cleaning a beach or a river or a forest, make sure you stay with your group, and let a grown-up know where you are at all times.
The best you can do is your best. Even as a kid, there is so much good you can do in the world. But remember: No matter how hard you work you can’t solve all the problems in the world. No one can! The good news is that there are lots of very cool people out there – both kids and grown-ups – who keep trying. And as long as we all keep working together, the world keeps being a better and better place.
Have fun! Just because you’re volunteering doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good time. Volunteering should be fun for everyone, especially kids. Try and find a way to volunteer that you enjoy. It may take a couple of tries, but that’s okay. Not every kid will like every volunteer activity. (And you know what? The same is true for adults!)
[Thanksgiving Stuffing Event] “Our Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without you guys. It warms my heart and replenishes my faith to witness such kindness in action.”
- -A.Z., Los Angeles
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