Supporting the growth of charitable spirit in their children is important to many families (homeschooling or not), but finding opportunity for children to engage in meaningful charity work can be challenging.
Many organizations will not accept children as volunteers because of liability concerns or other issues. Some work may have emotional or physical demands that too burdensome for children.
That said, it isn't difficult to create opportunities for children to do in charitable work.
There are three broad categories of service work, and children can find opportunities in each.
Social action is large-scale work designed to change the lives of many. This type of work involves lobbying, making speeches, writing letters, (possibly organizing demonstrations) and fund-raising.
There are many ways that kids can work to raise awareness of the issues that are important to them (be sure to check out the The Kid's Guide to Social Action and the Idealist.org link in the resources at the bottom of the page), whether those issues concern the environment, social issues in your community, country or the world, or an effort to get skate park at the local playground.
Almost all social action work involves communicating with other people....talking to them, writing stories and articles, designing flyers and brochures, talking to people on the phone, lobbying, writing letters to the editor, etc. All of these activities are accessible to children.
All service work involves volunteering to some extent. Volunteering is service work to support an organization... fund-raising, promotion, administrative work, grunt labor.
Working at a museum, the library, the zoo, selling Girl Scout cookies, working at the church, and coaching youth sports teams are all forms of volunteering.
Volunteering is probably the most common type of service work, and the most difficult for children to do. Many organizations are reluctant to use children as volunteers, for a variety of reasons, from liability concerns to mistaken perceptions about the reliability and helpfulness of children.
If your child is interested in this type of work, and is under the age of 14 or so, your best bet will likely be finding organizations that permit you to volunteer as a family.
Helping those in need involves a contribution that directly helps people.... handing out change, or sandwiches, to panhandlers, knitting afghans for children in war-torn countries, buying toys for Toys for Tots, donating hair for wigs, etc.
In my experience, this type of work is extremely satisfying, and very easy to incorporate into the flow of everyday life. Very young children can help assemble relief kits and donate their outgrown toys, books and clothes. After age 7 or 8, most kids have the dexterity to knit, crochet and sew and can be actively involved in making items to donate.
Be sure to check the links in the resource section at the bottom of the page for many ideas and resources for this type of work.
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101 Simple Service Projects Kids Can Do
From the Back Cover
Go ahead! Thumb through the pages and delight in real-life stories of kids serving God, and you'll discover that 101 Simple Service Projects Kids Can Do teaches kids as much about God as it does about serving others!
Kids will discover why God wants us to serve, what blessings come from serving, and how serving others is the best way to serve God! From mini fund raisers and simple service projects, to holiday helps and everyday acts of kindness, kids will discover that serving is as fun as it is life changing.
Children As Volunteers : Preparing for Community Service
The only book expressly for agencies about how to incorporate children into an adult volunteer program and find creative ways to use children's fresh perspectives. Includes examples of actual volunteer projects accomplished by youngsters, models of child-adult teams and tips on family volunteering. Learn how to recruit, train and design assignments for volunteers under the age of 14. BIO: Susan J. Ellis, recognized internationally as a leader in the volunteer field, has been conducting workshops on volunteer management for the past 19 years. She is founder and president of Energize, Inc. and is a national columnist on volunteerism for THE NONPROFIT TIMES. Katherine Noyes Campbell currently serves as Director of the Virginia Office of Volunteerism. She has over 22 years of experience in the field of volunteerism, both as a program manager and as a trainer and consultant.
The Kid's Guide to Service Projects :Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference
Hundreds of ideas for volunteer projects and pratical tips for organizing events...how to write press releases, design flyers, etc.
The Kid's Guide to Social Action : How To Solve the Social Problems You Choose -- And Turn Creative Thinking Into Positive Action
A guide to engaging in positive social action for teens and tweens. This book offers true stories about kids making a difference, project ideas, and practical tips, resources and instructions for everything from writing letters to making speeches.
Card Catalog Description
Resource guide for children for learning political action skills that can help them make a difference in solving social problems at the community, state, and national levels.
All Crafts 4 Charity
"All Crafts for Charity was created in the 1990's by Shelley McCoy as a way to facilitate volunteering to charitable organizations around the world. We understood the physical barriers of many volunteers and how they were sometimes unable to join in group settings because of their own physical limitations."
American Friends Service Committee
"The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization which includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice."
Caps for Kids
"Caps For Kids is a national, non-profit foundation that collects handmade caps for under-privileged children. The program is carried out through yarn shops across the country who have registered with CFK. Participating shops collect the caps which are distributed in the community of the registered stores. The hats are given to local, non-profit, non-denominational agencies to be given out."
"No matter how you define ‘family,’ volunteering together benefits your family, community, and the nation at large. The FamilyCares program, an initiative of the Points of Light Foundation, helps to promote compassion through hands-on family projects that help others in need."
An extensive list of charity project ideas from FamilyCares.
Idealist.org: Kids and Teens
Ideas and support for changing the world.
Kids Korp USA
"Kids Korps USA engages young people, 5-18 years of age, in community based service and volunteer activities."
Resourcees for parents and kids.
Knitting for Charity
A lengthy list, organized by state, of charities that accept knitted items.
Knitting for Charity
Information on various knitting charities and how you can help from About.com
Locks of Love
"Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children across the U.S. under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss."
They accept ponytails that are at least 10 inches long. Check the web site for specific guidelines.
Newborns In Need
"Newborns in Need, Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 charity organized to take care of sick and needy babies and their families; and in cases of crisis, to help where help is needed."
They accept a number of hand-made items, including knitted or crocheted items and home sewn clothing.
"An easy interactive series of questions and templates that allow you and your friends to plan your service project or program."
"Sewing Charity is a directory of all charitable sewing, knitting and crochet projects. Often times people make wonderful items of love, but don't know where to donate them to. This site can be used as a tool to find the perfect organization for your donations. So, get to work, using your talent and ability to help others in need by making blankets and clothing of love."
The Snuggles Project
Make security blankets for animals in shelters. Check the web site for local animal shelters that accept donations.
Special Knitting Forces
"Special Knitting Forces is an organization dedicated to bringing comfort to civilians during wartime, especially to the babies and children. Our goal now is to knit a million sweaters that will bring both a sense of warmth and caring to the littlest of innocent victims."
"Here are lots of resources to help you make a bigger difference in your community."
From Servenet, a project of Youth Service America.
Volunteering With Your Family
A good article with strategies for choosing family volunteer projects.
What Kids Can Do
"What Kids Can Do is a national nonprofit organization founded in the winter of 2001. We document the value of young people working with teachers and other adults on projects that combine powerful learning with public purpose for an audience of educators and policy makers, journalists, community members, and students."
ZOOM Into Action
"ZOOM has been working with PBS stations across the country to bring you some great ideas about volunteering."
Whatsoever is done in charity, however small and of no reputation it be, bringeth forth good fruit.
- Thomas ŕ Kempis
©2000-2013 Barbara L.M. Handley