It is more of a blessing to give than to receive. We all probably were told this when we were kids. The interesting thing is that our parents and Sunday school teachers were right! A host of scientific studies conducted have shown that altruism actually does wonders for your health and soul. A now-famous Harvard University study conducted in the 1980s proved that people who simply watched an altruistic act — in the study’s case, a short film of Mother Teresa tending to orphans in Calcutta — got a boost in their immune systems. We think the benefits of volunteering are significant for people of all ages but I hope you will consider the tremendous value they provide for children and teens.
The benefits of volunteering for the community are obvious. Those who need the help realize others care about them. Environmental projects, such as litter and waterway cleanups and beautification efforts, not only help communities look nice, but also help cut down on crime and additional litter. At Keep Liberty Beautiful, our programming absolutely depends on the involvement of volunteers, like many community services do. Volunteering is a positive experience for the organization, the community and the volunteer.
While helping others and improving the community is what volunteerism is all about, youth volunteers also find out that by giving, they are also receiving. It is really sneaky. The receiving part may not be immediately obvious, but involvement can offer some clear benefits over time to young volunteers and their families.
By doing things that interest them, teens often gain new skills and find potential career opportunities they hadn’t thought of before. Volunteers may discover a host of opportunities in fields such as environmental science, social services, animal sciences, gerontology, the health field and more. In addition, the experiences gained in volunteer settings can provide teens with skills in leadership and decision-making. Those leadership efforts also look attractive on college and scholarship applications.
Volunteering can broaden children’s understanding of the world. Volunteers are exposed to their community and its needs. They meet people who deal with circumstances they may not have encountered before. Volunteers learn about respect and kindness through working with the homeless, serving the elderly at a retirement home or helping disabled children create art. Youth develop a better appreciation for the little things in life and can also gain personal satisfaction by knowing they have made a difference. Several studies also indicate that youth who volunteer reap health and mental health benefits.
A recent report by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Service notes that youth who volunteer just one hour a week or more are 50 percent less likely to abuse alcohol or cigarettes, become pregnant or engage in other destructive behaviors.
The report also cites the benefits of character development stemming from youth volunteer work:
• Learning to respect others
• Learning to be helpful and kind
• Learning to understand and accept others who are different
• Developing leadership skills
• Developing patience
• Developing citizenship skills
Volunteering provides teens with skills that are essential in the job market, too. Children can learn important communication and interpersonal skills. The same leadership that helps with their education also will help in the business world. Volunteering gives teenagers a chance to increase their knowledge in certain areas — definite resume-builders! The study also stated that youth who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate and vote — behaviors that promote a healthy and positive engagement in society well beyond childhood.
Volunteering with your children is also very beneficial. Make caring a family affair. It can be a wonderful way to connect with your kids. It’s a way to grow your relationship and develop a stronger bond with children as they grow up. Discuss with them how you can get involved in one project, even if it’s only once a month. Helping is good for your health, your community and your kids. Children love to be involved in service projects. Be a great role model by volunteering with them. Volunteer habits that begin at a young age typically continue into adulthood. The impact the activities have may take years to show up, but even so, the impact is there. Volunteering is a win-win situation to both the community and the volunteer — young and old.
• Feb. 10: Deadline for the Arbor Day photography contest’s youth and adult categories. An exhibition of all the entries will be Friday, Feb. 18. For contest details and more information, check out www.hinesvillearts.com or call Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880-4888.
• Through Feb. 15: Phonebook recycling collection. Turn in phonebooks at collection boxes around the county. For information, call 880-4888.
• Jan. 26: Shred Day from 1-3 p.m. at building 419 furniture store parking lot on Fort Stewart. For information, call 767-8613.
• Feb. 18: Georgia Arbor Day
• Feb. 19: Recycle It! Fair and Arbor Day tree giveaway for local residents. KLB will collect electronics, household hazardous waste items and selected household goods for reuse and recycling. We will also have trees to give away to local residents for Arbor Day. Call KLB at 880-4888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.