There are many challenges in today’s world: vanishing rain forests, debilitating diseases, hunger and poverty… there seems to be no end to the calls for help. Luckily, there are kids who are responding to these calls. Take a look at the examples below:
Kids Get Involved
Hannah McHardy, a high school student in Washington, spearheaded efforts which led to the increased protection of 1.4 million acres of forest land. She also started the Old Growth Project at her school, where she and her classmates convinced the school to switch to 100% recycled, chlorine-free paper, saving over 50 large trees per year.
Justin Blau, a high school senior in Las Vegas, founded the Meadows School MicroBank, one of the first micro lending initiatives based at a high school. This micro bank has raised $27,000, which will be invested in businesses in developing countries around the world.
In participation with the Kids Can Make a Difference program, elementary students in Gorham, Maine, set out to educate their community on the widespread issues of hunger and poverty, not only in their community, but in the world at large. They talked to people within the community, passed out flyers, and worked at food banks.
Why Some Kids Make a Difference
The kids in the above examples are making a difference. They’ve learned that there are people in their communities and in the world who are less fortunate than themselves, and have resolved to do something about it. This is commendable in any society, but especially in the U.S., where consumerism runs rampant and many kids are only interested in the latest high-tech gadget or computer game. The kids in the examples above have risen above that isolated and self-centered mentality; they do more important things with their free time.
Why is it that some kids understand the concepts of social activism, responsibility, and philanthropy and others don’t? A lot of it has to do with the examples they’re given as they grow up. Parents and teachers are instrumental in teaching these concepts to kids, starting at a young age. If kids aren’t exposed to good examples of social responsibility during their formative years, they may miss the message entirely.
The Role of Parents and Schools
Parents can be strong role models, but if parents don’t show concern for others less fortunate than themselves, their children are likely to grow up to do the same. A conscientious parent instills ideas of volunteerism in their child by volunteering themselves. The lesson is even stronger if they give in a venue where the child can also participate. Working together to benefit someone else provides a shared experience, fosters a stronger bond between parent and child, and teaches the child that it’s good to help others.
Many schools are not able to set aside time during the year for volunteer activities. Nevertheless, schools can teach kids about social responsibility by working it into the existing curriculum. The concepts of giving and volunteerism, civic engagement, and character building through service to others can be incorporated with the help of programs such as The League’s Learning to Give. This program and others provide teachers with resources and ideas for instilling these important values in students throughout the school year. This is a great way to get kids thinking about what they can do to make a difference.
Facilitating Social Responsibility in Kids
In order for kids to fully embrace the message inherent in social responsibility and volunteerism, the following thoughts should be kept in mind. Take these points into consideration when choosing a volunteer project to help facilitate the learning process:
Relevance — Find out what’s important to the child, and find an activity that supports that interest. This increases engagement, makes the activity more fun, and helps the child see how their actions relate to their own world.
Ability — Choose an activity that’s appropriate to the age of the child. There are lots of volunteer tasks that even very young children can handle successfully. This builds a feeling of accomplishment and strengthens the notion of their ability to impact their world.
Discuss — After the volunteer activity, chat with the child about it. Listen to them and help them process what they learned through the experience. This goes a long way toward fostering the type of attitude that’s conducive to helping others.
Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong with the world we live in. But there’s also a lot that’s right about it. There are kids out there who are working hard to make a difference. These are our future leaders. Their efforts should be supported so that they’re encouraged to continue their work in the future. Our world may depend on it.