by Ellen Percival, Publisher, Calgary’s Child Magazine Photo: PhotoXpress.com
Life is busy, so busy that sometimes it can feel like all we have time to do is rush from school to practice and from games to bedtime! While we are together in the car racing from errand to event or cheering from the stands, we aren’t really connecting with our families. So each year we resolve to change that. This is the year we say firmly to ourselves, we’ll find some balance and harmony in our lives and along the way, we’ll make a difference in the lives of others. Volunteering as a family is an excellent way to do both.
Volunteering also gives adults and children a shared sense of purpose, builds confidence and teaches new skills. And volunteering is easy. Whenever and how often is up to you … as often as once a week, once a month or even once a year. The choice is yours. And the best part is that everyone in the family can participate.
There are many local organizations that offer a range of opportunities for your family to volunteer together. Propellus, formerly Volunteer Calgary, Role Mother’s and United Way all have unique ways to make it easy for everyone to join in.
According to United Way, research has shown that volunteering as a family:
- Helps families learn about social issues and provides a new perspective on the world
- Provides positive role models and passes on family values to children
- Provides new learning experiences and development of new skills for both children and adults
- Provides quality time for the family to spend together
- Increases interpersonal communication and the problem-solving abilities of family members
- Helps youth decide what they want to do with their life
The experience of volunteering together can help the whole family appreciate social and cultural differences in Calgary’s community. This appreciation can lead to a healthier, caring and vibrant community. And that benefits everyone. Kids have fun when they volunteer, but volunteering also:
- Enhances development — Volunteering can benefit a child’s psychological, social and intellectual development. Volunteering increases self-esteem, responsibility and an interest in learning and helps children develop new social skills. It also provides opportunities to apply newly learned material.
- Promotes a healthy lifestyle and choices — Children who volunteer are less likely to become involved in at-risk behaviors.
- Teaches social responsibility — Volunteering helps children develop empathy and learn that one person can make a difference.
- Creates a lifelong ethic of service — Individuals who volunteer as a child or who observed their parents volunteering have a much higher probability of being a volunteer in their adult years.
- Improves the community — Volunteer activities are essential for advancing the common good, and children can be part of the change.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, you and your family can start your search by answering these questions:
- What issues in the community do your family see as critical (ie. poverty, homelessness, hunger, child care, education, cultural support, etc.)? List as many as you can
- Which issues concern or interest your family the most? List three
- As a family, how would you like to make a difference?
- Realistically, how much time can you commit?
- To create your own opportunities, how will you begin?
- Who will make the contact on behalf of the family?
Our Family Volunteer Idea File has a few ideas to get you started:
- Tape a program for your child’s school
- Pick up groceries for a senior
- Babysit for a single parent
- Go shopping together and drop off items at the Food Bank
- Shovel the snow for the elderly or others who can not physically do so
- Clean out your closets and donate your gently used clothes to the organization of your choice
- Bake cookies and deliver them to a senior’s home
- Hold a neighborhood garage sale with other families and donate the money to the organization of your choice
- Collect toiletries and take them to a shelter
For more opportunities, visit the Propellus website at http://propellus.org/get-volunteering, Role Mothers at http://www.rolemothers.ca/ and the United Way at http://www.unitedway.org/take-action/volunteer