Importance of Children Serving as Volunteers
Volunteering can have benefits for young people’s personal development; building self-esteem and confidence as they are experiencing a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction from being a part of something meaningful, helping others, and seeing the positive results of the work carried out.(1)
Young volunteers value meeting people and making friends through their volunteering.(2) Volunteering has been found to provide young people with opportunities to develop new social networks and relationships with people from similar situations or backgrounds to theirs (‘bonding’ social capital); and different backgrounds who they would not normally have the opportunity to get to know (‘bridging’ social capital).
This benefit relates to changes in young volunteers’ awareness of their community, their ability to engage with it and feel part of it. By bringing young people together with people from other parts of their community, volunteering has been found to bring about a greater awareness among young people of the issues faced by their community or society more generally, and develop a greater sense of belonging.(3)
Giving also promotes lifelong giving.(4) Adults decide whether to volunteer based on the experiences they had with volunteering and helping when they were children between the ages of 5 to 12. If your kids start volunteering and helping others now they will be more like to continue when they become teenagers and adults.(5)
Why Children Volunteer
We, parents, know why we and our children want to give back to the community, but are the children aware of these reasons?
Researchers have found that kids give and volunteer for the below reasons:(6)
- They feel compassionate toward people in need.
- They believe that if they help others, then others will help them.
- For a cause that’s important to them.
1. Gaskin, K., and Davis Smith, J. (1995) A New Civic Europe: The Extent and Nature of Volunteering in Europe, Institute for Volunteering Research.
2. McNaughton, C. (2008) Transitions Through Homelessness: Lives On The Edge. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
3. Eley d (2003) ‘Perceptions of and Reflections On Volunteering: The Impact of Community Service on Citizenship In Students’ Voluntary Action 5/3: 27-46.
4. Gabina Torres, “The Future of Volunteering: Children Under the Age of 14 as Volunteers,” Serviceleader.org., December 2003.
5. Peter Benson and Eugene Roehlkepartain, Beyond Leaf Raking: Learning to Serve/Serving to Learn (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
6. Virginia A. Hodgkinson and Murray S. Weitzman, Volunteering and Giving among Teenagers 12 to 17 Years of Age: Findings from a National Survey (Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector, 1997).