Monday, October 29, 2012

Making A Positive Impact: Community Service for Everyone

Raising a giving child starts with a giving family. Volunteering as a family or as a nanny/child activity to help others can help everyone learn the joy of giving and sharing. Children have a natural tendency toward self-focus, volunteerism brings the focus off self and onto others.

When you volunteer as a "team" you can feel good about giving back to your community. The benefits to everyone in the family - nanny included - include the strengthening of bonds, enhanced communication and sends the message that you are all in this together.

Deciding what organization to give to is typically the first step. Doing the research withe the children will help them take ownership of the project. When you find an organization that everyone feels good about, find out the methods of giving that are most helpful and effective for that organization. Some groups prefer to receive donations, others may encourage charity drives, and still others look for hands-on volunteers.

Donate items to organizations for resale. Encourage children to go through their things and choose items in excellent condition. Avoid choosing broken items or those in poor condition. Finding the best strategy for donating items is key. You may try having the children each choose 10 items to donate (parent/nanny approved). As part of this process acknowledge the children's gift to others. You may want to make the donation day special with a trip to the park or other event. There are no rules about helping children feel good about donating.

Organize a food, clothing, toy or book drive in your neighborhood or through an existing group or school. This is a multi-level process that develops skills beyond the act of giving. Everyone will build skills in planning, organization, publicity, delegation, working cooperatively, sorting and categorizing, and much more.

Purchase items for donation with an organization that has specific needs. We often think of this type of giving opportunity during the holidays or in connection to disaster relief, but there are groups that look for items all your long. Your school may be looking for donations of school supplies for student who need some assistance. A neighborhood church or temple may be looking for donations of clothing, household goods or food to assist area families.

We give gifts to celebrate events in our families such as birthdays, anniversaries or other special dates. Why not expand the giving idea to include a monetary gift or personal donation to an organization in honor of the day. It's a great feeling for everyone to know that others are being helped and touched by you. Who knows, you may start a new family tradition.

Volunteering your time, talent and energy is another way to make a difference. Hands-on involvement by adults and children is such a rewarding experience. Opportunities abound in most communities including programs with elderly citizens, planting flowers or trees, neighborhood clean-up or adopt a road program, and a host of other options. Older children may be ready for expanding their community service experience to volunteering to serve food to the needy, helping organizations who distribute goods for foreign relief, or building projects such as Habitat for Humanity.

In the 23 years as a nanny I have participated with children in several community service opportunities. We have sponsored children in other countries through an established outreach program. The children loved seeing the drawings and letters from the sponsored child and be able to write back to them. We've made fleece blankets and scarves, picked up trash in local parks during Spring clean-up, planted plants and flowers in community areas, made comfort kits for adults and children affected by disasters, and participated in various charitable drives of food, books or toys. By participating together we engaged in discussions that strengthened our sense of community. We all felt good about the work and the results of our efforts and had fun along the way.

Consider rolling up your sleeves, opening your hearts and enjoying the benefits that giving to others can bring.

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