Weekly Feature

kids volunteer
Jaime Puebla/AP

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids

July 07, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
For kids who might get bored over summer vacation, volunteering might be just the thing. A study by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that in 2004, 15.5 million kids between the ages of 12 and 18 volunteered more than 1.3 billion hours. If you’re a busy parent or teacher, or a student looking for ways to get involved, try the resources we’ve found, which include kid-specific volunteer opportunities and tips for getting kids motivated.

Young People Are Changing the World

In 2004, 55 percent of young people volunteered, compared to 29 percent of adults. World Volunteer Web posts other notable stats from the study.

Why and How Kids Are Getting Involved

A 2004 article in The New York Times featured high school and middle school students who spend summers volunteering at nonprofit organizations. These kids aren’t afraid to clean cages at the local zoo, are energetic enough to work with special needs children and have learned how to turn volunteer experience into a great college essay.

Motivating Kids to Volunteer

Divine Caroline is led by a coalition of female writers who discuss various topics, including how to help your children get involved in volunteering. The author believes that “inspiring children to volunteer starts at home,” and describes techniques her mother used on her, while she was growing up. It’s simply a matter of incorporating the practice into everyday life, she explains.
The Family Education Network offers “10 Great Volunteer Ideas for Teens.” There are no-fuss opportunities to be found in almost any town or city, such as helping out at a hospital or animal shelter, or joining the Sierra Student Coalition.

Volunteer Organizations and Projects Just for Kids

Idealist Kids & Teens is an essential resource for kids who want to start a project of their own, or connect with youth organizations already involved in human rights, the environment or the arts.
USA Freedom Corps is an office of the White House that presents a fun, informal site for kids who want to make a difference. Browse games and activities, read personal accounts of service projects (including a couple written by the President and First Lady), and get ideas for volunteering. Also access other government Web sites for young volunteers, and peruse resources for teachers and parents.
UNICEF UK Youth Voice is a network for young people interested in global issues, particularly children’s rights. This site introduces a range of important topics and areas of need, such as children with AIDS, and presents opportunities for involvement. Also learn about upcoming UNICEF events, such as the UNICEF Road Show, which travels the world, teaching kids about global issues.
Do Something strives to “use the power of the Internet to help young people change the world.” It’s an admirable goal, and the site has the resources to back it up. Find volunteer opportunities right in your very own neighborhood, learn about important causes like global warming and gay rights, comment on issues in the Do Something forum, learn about ongoing projects and apply for grants to start your own.

Grants and Funding for Volunteer Projects

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes selects 10 young leaders nationwide each year for their contribution to people and the planet. Past winners have rid beaches of litter and pollution, and set up reading mentorship programs in local libraries. Winners receive $2,000, to go toward higher education or a service project.

Careers for Kids Who Want to Help

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics outlines possible careers for kids who like helping out; these include teacher, social worker, childcare worker, doctor, firefighter and nurse. Each career is explained, and supplemented with advice on how to pursue it. Even if it’s too soon for your child to be thinking about careers, dreaming about being a teacher might just inspire your little one to emulate one in his or her daily life.

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