By Barbara A. Lewis, author of The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects
Have you ever watched TV or spent a few moments on social media, noticed a problem that a student or someone else in your neighborhood had, and gotten a weird idea about what people could do to help out?
That is what Caragan Olles did. She was diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade. The diagnosis made sense and explained why she had so much trouble remembering school assignments. She learned that one in five students struggle with this condition.
Caragan received special tutoring, but she wanted to help other students who suffered from dyslexia. An idea bubbled in her head. In 2013, she established Bright Young Dyslexics, and through that nonprofit, she has raised $35,000 to help tutor other kids with dyslexia.
The beauty of Caragan’s story is that she turned a personal problem into something that could help others.
Honestly, helping others will make your personal life or the life of a young person you know more exciting. So stop and think. Do you have a problem in your own life—a problem that you can imagine solutions or improvements for? Could your knowledge help others? Or can you see a problem with another family member? Or a student, friend, or neighbor who needs some assistance?
Remember, usually an adult needs to help facilitate the good ideas that young people sprout. Kids often have free time in the summer, and if you have trouble thinking of a great summer service project for them or yourself, here are a few ideas. Maybe one will trigger another idea that would work even better for you. I promise you will feel happier by getting involved. The young people you work with will feel a new excitement and confidence that they have done something great. And the beautiful truth is that sometimes when we reach out to help others, we learn how to better control our own lives.
5 Ideas for Summer Service Projects for Adults and Kids
- Start a neighborhood garden. If you or someone you know has an available parcel of land, it could be a great location for a central garden. Extra produce could be donated to local food banks or other needy people.
- Make emergency bags for women’s crises centers or homeless shelters. Fill them with items such as bottled water, toothpaste, deodorant, baby wipes, or other nonperishables. If you are working with kids, allow them to brainstorm the items.
- Make it personal. Start a caring project for a family member or friend who needs some nurturing. It might include kind notes on a car window (under the wiper blades), baked or purchased treats, a book, an invitation for a fun outing, or notes promising your special service for the person.
- Contact schools and collect used books for students in Africa, Central America, or Asia. The American Library Association gives a lot of information on how to do it and where to send books.
- Pick a site on GoFundMe to donate money for someone in need. You will find campaigns for babies needing surgery, children and adults fighting cancer, and even animals with special needs or medical bills. Find a worthy candidate whose story touches you personally.
Whether you have ideas for a personal problem you could help others with or you choose something else, you will enrich your life and feel purpose by reaching outward. Mahatma Gandhi said it well: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
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 many national newspapers and magazines and on news programs, and her books have won Parenting’s Reading Magic Award and have been named “Best of the Best for Children” by the American Library Association, among other honors.
Free Spirit books by Barbara A. Lewis:
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