By Barbara A. Lewis, author of The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects
Can you believe that in the wealthiest large nation of the United States, nearly 50 million Americans struggle to keep food on their tables? If you look further, about one in nine people on Earth do not have enough food to live a healthy and active life.
Help is on the way with nine-year-old Jake Lemon of Boynton Beach, California. He enjoys making Cupcakes with a Cop to raise money to feed hungry children.
It might take mountains of cupcake sales to raise enough money to put a dent in the hunger problem, but young Jake is learning that he can make a difference. Other groups and organizations are involved with the fight against hunger. For example, Teens Fighting Hunger has raised over $75,000 for feeding hungry children in America.
With two big service events on the horizon, young people and adults everywhere are rolling up their sleeves and digging into service of all kinds around the world:
- National Volunteer Week occurs April 12–18 and boasts 250,000 service projects per year.
- Global Youth Service Day, April 17–19, celebrates service in over 100 countries around the world. You can go to their website to find service projects wherever you live.
But if you want to hunker down on your own, there are lots of ways to inspire kids and adults to get involved in service.
Hot Service Ideas for Younger Kids
- Collect grocery coupons to give to a local food bank.
- Adopt a “grand friend,” a senior who would like your company.
- Stuff some mittens with small candies and donate them to a homeless shelter that has children living there.
- Plant a garden with some vegetables. Harvest the vegetables and donate them to a charity of your choice.
- Gather up your gently used books and donate them to a children’s hospital.
Cool Service Ideas for Older Kids and Teens . . . and even older
- Clean up a vacant lot with your friends.
- Paint an elderly person’s house (with their permission, of course).
- Raise money to adopt an acre of a rainforest or an endangered species of your choice.
- Hold a reuse/recycle day invention contest at your school or club using discarded Styrofoam, plates, cups, string, cardboard, and anything else you can find. Give prizes for the best.
- Write letters to soldiers and send them with treats in a package.
- Involve kids and adults in brainstorming a project. Allow kids to choose.
- Research the project to make sure it is safe and needed.
- Obtain all the necessary permissions and chaperones.
- Get necessary supplies donated, if you can, or hold a fundraiser.
- Celebrate and evaluate the service when you are finished.
Being involved in service offers many benefits. People who actively engage in volunteering actually have lower mortality rates and better mental and physical health, along with positive attitudes. Young people involved in service grow in self-confidence and leadership. They become better connected to their communities and can start seeing a reason why they are learning skills in school. More of them score higher on tests and go on to college and experience a fulfilling life of service. They learn that when they give, they receive.
People who think volunteers are free are wrong. They are priceless!
Barbara A. Lewis is an author and educator who teaches kids how to think and solve real problems. Her elementary school students initiated the cleanup of hazardous waste, improved sidewalks, planted thousands of trees, and even instigated and pushed through several state laws and an amendment to a national law. She has been featured in/on many national newspapers, magazines, and news programs, and her books have won Parenting’s Reading Magic Award and been named “Best of the Best for Children” by the American Library Association, among other honors. Barbara’s many books include What Do You Stand For? For Kids, What Do You Stand For? For Teens, The Kid’s Guide to Social Action, Kids with Courage, The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects, and The Teen Guide to Global Action.
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