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Teaching My Children How to Change the World — One Food Drive at a Time

volunteeringVolunteering as a family is rewarding in a multitude of ways. By learning to appreciate what we have instead of focusing on what we lack, we are reminded to be thankful and appreciative of our lives. This in turn inspires us to help others and create joy in someone else’s life.

I began taking my kids to cook Thanksgiving meals when they were very young (my daughter was barely two!), and it has paid off enormously in our lives. Volunteering has made them realize that they can make a difference in the lives of others, even if only in a small way. They appreciate things other children might take for granted, like a warm meal or staying dry in the midst of a storm. They see firsthand how valuable even a small amount of time (and companionship) can be for somebody who is alone in the world, which then deepens their appreciation for all that they have. When I traveled to Haiti two years after the devastating earthquake in 2010, my then 6-year-old daughter made a card for the women in the tent camps because she wanted to help them feel better. It is that awareness of others that I attribute to the time spent volunteering in the community.

If you take the time when your children are young to help others with them, it will create a long-lasting effect. They will develop a habit of doing good, and hopefully it will become second nature to them in their adult lives. My 11-year-old participated in so many fundraisers this year that I’ve now lost count. He raised money via donut sales and group car washes for kids in Israel, and he also helped to deliver meals to the elderly and gathered cans and non-perishable items for a local food bank. The happiness he felt after helping others was not only rewarding for him, but it also made me proud as his mother.

In the age of entitlement and 24/7 connectivity, volunteering as a family not only gives back to the community but it also helps you raise well-rounded children. Some kids even take it a step further and go on to inspire an entire community, like a boy I know that raised hundreds of dollars for a local food bank in just a few weeks.

Looking to start giving back to those in need? Find out how you can be of help at schools, churches, hospitals, shelters, and food banks. Gather your friends and do a food or toy drive. Donate your time. Or search online for a charity that you would like to raise money for. Most importantly, give back as a family, because it will bring you closer. (It has certainly created a special bond between my husband, myself, and my children.)

If you know an outstanding kid between the ages of 5 – 18 that is trying to improve his or her community through a youth-led project, help them receive special recognition! The ABC Summer of Service Awards, in collaboration with Disney Friends for Change, is offering $1,000 to a child who is making a difference by helping others. The campaign runs through July 31st, so find out now how you can apply or nominate somebody you know here.

 

Photo courtesy of Flicker/Constellation Kids

 

Find more of Jeannette’s writing on Hispana Global or check out her blog in Spanish. And reach out to her on Twitter and Facebook. She loves it!

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