The drive to make a difference in the world is a powerful one, but sometimes teens don’t know where to start. Here are eight ways teens can make a difference in their local communities. Share this list with the teens in your life to encourage them to create the change they want to see in the world, beginning right in their own backyards.
- Plant a community garden. Do you like getting your hands dirty? Plant a community garden to help feed those who are hungry. In addition to producing food, cooperative gardens beautify communities, help nurture and sustain the environment, and bring people together in support of an important cause.
- Volunteer to help community members in need. There are many ways to help those who are struggling economically. Volunteer at a food bank or shelter, or check out opportunities to get involved through your school or faith group. If you’re not sure where or how you can help, visit the DoSomething website (dosomething.org) for ideas.
- Join the effort to provide housing for all. Are you the type of person who doesn’t mind rolling up your sleeves to get a job done? You might be a perfect candidate to help build homes for others. Talk with neighborhood housing organizations, or visit the websites of Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org) and UN-Habitat (unhabitat.org) to find out how you can help.
- Help kids on the streets. An estimated 200,000 young people are homeless in the United States. Kids end up on the street for many reasons. Some run away to escape abuse. Others are addicted to drugs or have homeless families. StandUp for Kids is one group confronting the issue, using a range of approaches. Find out how you can help at standupforkids.org.
- Collect items for those in need. Organize a drive to gather basic necessities and more. Ask the public for donations of nonperishable food, blankets, clothing (including winter items), toys, and any other supplies that can be distributed to local families. Collaborate with public officials, school staff, and local businesspeople to create drop-off spots around your area.
- Help others find work. Unemployment can often be a cause of homelessness. Volunteer at job training and placement centers in your community. Or, spread the word about these centers and help people who are homeless become aware of work opportunities. You might also support laws that expand job opportunities in your area.
- Spread the word about poverty in your area. Interview local experts on poverty and share what you learn with others. Raise awareness using flyers, posters, public service announcements, and video sharing. You might also express your views in newspapers (with a letter to the editor), at online news sites, or on a personal blog.
- Support laws that help the homeless. To learn about pending laws that affect the homeless, visit endhomelessness.org and nationalhomeless.org. Circulate petitions supporting laws that you believe in, or contact state representatives and ask for their help to initiate proposals helping the homeless.
For more service ideas (both local and global), check out The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis.
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