Volunteering with Kids

August 18, 2009

This week Catherine is working on several projects for the Oregon Humane Society. She’s on her way to logging 40 hours to earn her Girl Scout Silver Award. She’s doing the work, of course, but that doesn’t mean I get a free pass to work on my projects while she’s working on hers. She’s sewing blankets for kitties, which means frequent problem solving with the sewing machine since she’s a novice at sewing. So we work on it together to some degree.

While she’s working on this project for Girl Scouts not as part of book club, I know many members of mother-daughter book clubs who choose to volunteer together and have a great time when they do. Some of them even start younger than I would have guessed was a good age, eight years old, and let their kids be in charge of planning.

As a mom, I know how difficult it can be sometimes to stand back and let the kids be in charge. Activities tend to be messier and less organized when the younger set is calling the shots. But I see a real advantage to it as well, especially with volunteering. Kids can build confidence while seeing that they can make a difference in their community. I definitely saw that with my older daughter Madeleine and her friends when they volunteered (again through Girl Scouts) to work with Habitat for Humanity last spring. The girls worked slowly, but they gained a lot of confidence learning to swing a hammer and hang drywall in a home where a needy family was soon to move in.

I think it’s most important to let the kids be in charge when deciding what kind of project to take on and how much they want to be involved. Getting this kind of buy in is most likely to lead to a successfully finished project, because kids are more likely to stay interested until the end.

If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities where you live, you may want to check out your local United Way, which often keeps a database of volunteer opportunities. I’ve also found great information using VolunteerMatch.org.

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