You've seen people in need on the news after a hurricane,
earthquake, or other disaster. Perhaps you've walked past homeless people who are
living on the streets. Or maybe you've been to an animal shelter and wished you could
give every pet a home.
So what can you do to help people (or animals) who need it? The answer is —
Volunteering means spending some of your free time helping others. You may volunteer
to help other people, such as the families who lost their homes after a natural disaster.
But you can also volunteer to protect animals, the environment, or any other cause
that you care about.
Help Yourself by Helping Others
Volunteering helps others, but it can also help you, too. If you're upset about
something that's happened — like a hurricane or other disaster — doing
something about it can be a great way to cope with your feelings.
Volunteering also lets you see your own life in new ways. Sometimes it's easy to
worry about stuff like grades or get annoyed because you don't have the most expensive
sneakers or the newest computer game. Volunteering lets you spend some time focusing
on others for a while.
Lots of people — and kids — find that they really enjoy volunteering.
Volunteer experiences often put you in a different environment and expose you to people
and situations that you wouldn't have come across in your regular life. For instance,
you might learn that just on the edge of your town are some kids who really need winter
It feels good to be able to meet a need like that. You'll know that, thanks to
you, some kids have warm coats, hats, mittens, and boots. So whether it's winter clothes,
food for the hungry, or homes for unwanted pets, doing volunteer work means one very
important thing: You make a difference in the world.
So where do you start?
Some of you may already know about volunteering and service through 4H, Boy Scouts,
or Girl Scouts. Religious organizations, like churches, synagogues, and mosques, also
organize volunteer and charity work.
School is another good place to start if you're looking for volunteer ideas. Ask
a teacher, school counselor, or librarian for ideas. Your local parks department also
might have some suggestions for how kids can volunteer.
Some places want volunteers who are 12 or even older, depending on the job. Often
kids start volunteering by working alongside their parents. For instance, you might
be too young to prepare food at a soup kitchen, but if your parents volunteer there
you might be able to go along and pitch in.
One girl who sent us an email said she helps out at a soup kitchen by playing cards
with the homeless people who eat there. "It's nice to see them smile," said Sammy,
Things to Do With Parents or Family Members
Volunteering is a great way to have fun with your family. Talk to your parents,
brothers, or sisters and see what they might be interested in doing. Find something
you all agree on.
Here are some ideas for things you can do as a family — or with a group that
has adult supervision:
Clean up a park or along a river.
Plant trees or flowers in your local community.
Serve food at a homeless shelter.
Deliver meals to people who are elderly or ill at home.
Clean up a school or other public building.
Count wildlife or plants for environmental groups.
Invent Your Own Opportunity
Kids also can come up with their own ways to raise money or provide needed services.
Here are some ideas:
Make and sell products and donate the money to charity. Carly, 11, and her sister
Molly, 13, raised almost $10,000 for the American Cancer Society by selling honey
at farmer's markets and fairs.
Collect or earn money for charity. Talia, 10, trick-or-treated for donations to
Hurricane Katrina victims; Kyra, 11 donated the money she made pet-sitting to a local
Start your own charity group. Three sisters, ages 8, 11, and 14, started Project
Backpack to help kids who were evacuated after hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
Some schools now require kids to spend some time in service to others. Why? Because
grown-ups hope kids will become caring people who see the value in giving of their
time, talents, and resources (like money, toys, or clothes they might donate). Volunteering
gives kids a taste of responsibility because people are depending on them for something
Volunteering also can help kids learn important stuff about themselves —
like what kinds of things they're best at and enjoy the most. A volunteer job can
even help some kids decide what they want to do when they grow up. So what are you
waiting for? Make a plan to start volunteering today!