Group of kids school volunteer charity environment

Raising Kids Who Give Back

Now that we’re in the heart of summer—and school vacation—many parents are left wondering how their children can best spend all of this free time. While some opt for camps to fill the summer months,as a parenting expert for Brainly, I think it is the perfect time to get your kids involved in volunteer work.Here are six volunteer ideas to help your kids add a little more purpose to their lives this summer. Identify Your Kid’s Interests Before Deciding on Any Activity If your child is not interested in sports, volunteering with the Special Olympics will most likely be a flop. On the other hand, if your kid loves art, volunteering for a local museum may be a great match. Focus on what your kid loves, and then use that to find philanthropic inspiration. After all, you do want your child to enjoy giving back so that he or she continues with the charity throughout adulthood! Match the Activity with your Child’s Age While volunteering positions offer a fantastic foray into the worlds of both philanthropy and work for teenagers that are middle school- and high school-age, there are countless ways for younger children to give back. The developmental importance of more elementary philanthropic activities should not be underestimated. Start off your young kids with fun, age-appropriate activities. Think of charitable day camps or even simple at-home activities like going through a kid’s possessions and deciding what they would like to donate. Opening a dialogue on privilege and disadvantage, especially among other children, is vital for helping your children cultivate a benevolent attitude. Consider Collaborating with Your Kids You don’t want your child to feel overwhelmed, or else they may grow to resent philanthropic work. Instead, choose an altruistic activity that can be used as a means of spending time together so that you can bond, work together, and give back all with the same project. This way, your kid can feel proud to be part of something bigger than he or she could accomplish alone. Such an endeavor may look like a toy or food drive, where you and your child can gather toys from your community in order to donate them to less privileged children. Explore Opportunities that are Educational in Nature Volunteering gives kids a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills, and it can also help them reinforce knowledge and enhance their academics. You and your child can opt to volunteer virtually, adhering to CDC guidelines and staying out of COVID-19’s way. For example, by becoming avirtual volunteeron a peer-to-peer learning community such asBrainly, volunteers build lasting relationships, get access to special tools, features, events, and contests, and gain recognition across the broader Brainly community. There are various volunteer tasks and responsibilities that students can choose from based on their personal preferences and unique skills. Whether that’s welcoming newcomers, sharing tips and tricks on creating a great question or answer, or sharing feedback on Brainly features – their contributions help the Brainly community thrive and grow each and every day. Teenagers and high schoolers can also earn the prestigious title of being a certified moderator on the world’s largest online learning community, which looks great on college applications or resumes. Emphasize Togetherness Whether your kid is more interested in spending time with friends or getting quality family time in, use philanthropy as a social activity. For example, you can either accompany your kid to a soup kitchen or better yet bring his or her friends along so that they can have fun spending time together while simultaneously giving back and doing something great for the community. Utilize the Power of Virtual Philanthropy Consider a simpler means of giving back: online philanthropy. As an example, you could use the internet to research ways you can help your child sponsor a child in need or protect an endangered species. You would be surprised how much change can be made with just a small investment of time.From video chatting with lonely senior citizens and operating crisis call lines to provide at-risk youth with guidance, or transcribing historical documents for nonprofit museums to make their collections more accessible, there’s something out there for everyone.Catchafireis a volunteer search tool exclusively for online volunteer projects, and it’s a great place to start.You may find this approach excites your kids, as they can establish connections with kids, causes, or animals around the globe! These are just a few ideas for students of all ages—from elementary school to high school and college—can step up to give back to their communities during the summer downtime (notto step up their resumes or college applications a notch above the rest during their summer downtime.
Read More
Computer that says 'volunteer'

7 Apps to Get You More Involved in Your Community and the World

The summer after my first year in business school, I accepted an internship at the United Way in Gulfport, Mississippi. The year was 2005 and my assignment was to update the organization’s infrastructure by developing new systems for online giving, emergency protocols and sustainability planning. I had no idea how soon my efforts would be put to the test. I wish I could say my work that summer was part of a crucial response initiative, but when Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, I learned that my carefully written protocol, along with the desk I wrote it on, were literally floating somewhere in the ocean. The emergency we never planned for Following my limited memory of my protocol, I called the other staff, only to learn that everyone was in crisis and our executive director was missing (we were able to connect with her a few days later, and she was fine). I remember feeling so helpless—our organization was supposed to be a hub for disaster response in the area, but our operation was devastated. Yet in the interim, digital humanitarian groups from around the globe stepped up, helping to upgrade our infrastructure for communication and filling in where we simply could not. Crisis management in the digital era Since Hurricane Katrina, technology for disaster response has improved by leaps and bounds. In times of crisis, humanitarians with digital tools can help sift through the high volume of user-generated content (texts, photos, aerial imagery, videos and more) so that aid workers can focus on doing what they do best: providing aid. For example, when an earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, more than 7,500 digital volunteers contributed to improving Wikipedia’s OpenStreetMap so that aid workers could navigate the area efficiently and even use satellite imagery to determine the regions of Nepal affected. Similarly, Humanity Road and Standby Task Force curated social information and coordinated volunteers, while other groups like Translators Without Borders bridged language gaps. The cliché that works: Think globally, act locally You don’t have to traverse the globe to get involved in making your own community a better place. Some of the highest-impact work can take place right within your neighborhood. When I moved into my new neighborhood in Dallas, I learned that a huge percentage of residents use the app NextDoor as a sort of virtual community kiosk. I was amazed to see how this simple, free online bulletin board added to our neighborhood, deepening connections and enabling a whole different level of social support. Every day, users post about dogs on the loose, teenagers driving recklessly, families in need and more. On one memorable day, a man collapsed on a sidewalk and another neighbor found him. He had no identification on him, so the neighbor called 911 and then posted a description of him to alert his family. Within five minutes, his family was found and he was safely on his way to the hospital. If you’re interested in becoming a digital volunteer, either at home or further afield, check out these great apps and dive in! Build community in your neighborhood. SeeClickFix: Report issues like potholes and street signs that need to get fixed in your city. PublicStuff: Drive positive change in your community through online campaigns. Start petitions and gain support for causes. BeMyEyes: Help a blind individual see through video chat. Invest in public projects that you care about through crowdfunding and civic engagement. Translators Without Borders: Offer to translate oral and written documents for people in need. Listen to our podcast: The Future of Happiness With Amy Blankson Read more from Amy: Let Technology Lift Your Life Amy Blankson, aka the ‘Happy Tech Girl,’ is on a quest to help individuals balance productivity and well-being in the digital era. Amy, with her brother Shawn Achor, co-founded GoodThink, which brings the principles of positive psychology to lifeand works with organizations such as Google, NASA and the U.S. Army. Her new book is called The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-being in the Digital Era.
Read More
Trips are for kids

Adventures on Two Wheels

Before going on a bike ride with Trips for Kids, many of trip leader Michael Rogers' young riders had never been to the ocean.These are teens and tweens from Oakland, Calif., a city located directly on the Pacific Ocean, mind you. Some of them have views of the San Francisco Bay right from their bedroom windows. But they'd never seen it in person: dazzling sand, vivid blue water, waves foaming and breaking in a way that that's far more immense and awe-inspiring than it looks on TV or a movie screen."Talk about something that can transform you," says Michael, a perpetually smiling man with a head of springy blond curls. "No one ever thought to take them there. They never thought to walk there or take the bus. But once we take them on a bike, they know there's something amazing practically in their own backyards that they can go to any time."Biking for changeTrips for Kids is an international nonprofit with more than 80 chapters in the U.S., Canada, Israel and Sierra Leone that leads mountain biking trips for at-risk kids. The most active chapter is the Marin/Bay Area location, where Marilyn Price kicked the program off in 1988. Marilyn estimates the Marin chapter takes 1,600 kids ages 9 to 17 a year on rides. They are referred to the organization by schools and social service agencies who are trying to keep these young people on the right track.Michael, an intrepid bicyclist who leads trips five days a week, says something magic happens when he coaches a group of teens through hair-raising trails."When I'm working with older kids, I want them to explore the boundaries of physical exhaustion and where it meets with euphoria," says Michael. "When you push yourself to do something dangerous you've never done before, it makes you feel things you haven't felt before."Nature is nurturingHarvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brainand forthcoming book Go Wild, tends to agree.He says that exercise in any form increases the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, activates endorphins, and encourages the production of BDNF, an important protein that John calls "Miracle-Gro for the brain." BDNF is also intimately bound up with depression: The less your brain has to work with, the more likely you are to be depressed."And then when you're cycling, particularly mountain biking, you're using your sense of balance, and alertness, you're varying your speed, you're watching what's ahead, what's on your side," says Dr. Ratey. "It all leads to a very active brain. And when the brain is active, it releases all those chemicals that make you smile."The group that rides together, confides togetherYes, there is that, Michael agrees. But there's something else, too. The riders are facing the (mild) danger of their rides together, screaming out encouragement, high-fiving when they all make it to the bottom of the hill together."If a kid falls they might laugh, but if someone's having trouble getting up a hill, everyone claps and says 'Go, go, go! You can do it!' And they always do! Having that kind of support, being with a group of people, working hard on something, and then making it happen -- I can't think of a better metaphor for life: You put in the hard work of getting to the top, and then there's the long, amazing ride down."The teens and tweens talk about things on the rides, too, says Michael. Personal things. Things they may not be able to tell the kids they know at school, or their parents. They connect, and learn that many of them share the same problems."It's all very natural; the kids don't even realize they're getting fed information about making better choices," says Michael.Open your psycheParents who have noticed they have great conversations with the kids while driving would agree: There's something special about talking with other people while you're not staring each other in the eye. When you're both engaged in something taking part of your concentration, the pressure's off to fill awkward silence. Interesting things emerge."And so the Trips for Kids riders befriend each other in this easy, simple way, while at the same time connecting with nature as well as their own psyches.And these bike riding bonding experiences can be monumental and even life-changingevents for adult as well as kids. As Barb Chamberlain, the executive director of Spokane bike advocacy organization Washington Bikes, wrote in a recent series about how cycling every day changed her life:"Adults don’t have many playgrounds: Places in which to hang out with a stranger side by side, testing the same new experience or challenge, and starting to talk with each other or help each other out, thus easing into a new relationship. In grade school that swing set or tetherball encounter might launch a lifelong friendship simply through the shared activity that gives you time to talk and get to know each other.""When you're on a bike, you're free. Not just free, but unbound," says Michael, a faraway look in his eye. "There's nothing between you and the wind and the air. It's exhilarating. It's like nothing else."Interested in volunteering or learning more about biking for fitness, friendship or philanthropy? Trips for Kids has chapters all over the country. And many metropolitan areas have community-based cycling organizations, such asAtlanta's Beltline Bike Shop or Seattle's Bike Works.Joyce Slatonis a freelance writer who lives in San Francisco. She blogs regularly for
Read More
Volunteer with Issa Trust Foundation takes a girl's blood pressure.

Voluntarily Happy

Diane Pollard’s job in financial services paid well, but sitting behind a desk to improve the company’s bottom line left her marginally fulfilled. “I was scared that I had only so many years left of living,” Diane says. “I thought, Wouldn’t it be sad to always take but never really give something back?”A seasoned volunteer, Diane had long recognized the satisfaction she received from helping others and desired to find similar work full-time. A family trip to Jamaica provided the impetus. When a major accident forced Diane’s bus to detour into the hillside, Diane was unknowingly en route toher destiny.“The bus stopped in a town, and a young boy emerged from a two-room humble abode wearing just underwear,” Diane recalls. She waved as the youngster approached the bus and raised his tiny arm to press his hand against the glass opposite hers. “I’ll never forget how his eyes locked on mine,” Diane recalls. “He really wanted to see us and to be seen.”Cold Calls; Warm HeartHaunted by memories of the little boy and consumed by a desire to alleviate the poverty she’d seen, Diane contacted numerous Jamaican agencies seeking a humanitarian partner. Finally her cold calls led to a warm heart: Alex Ghisays, a public relations director at Couples Resort. Diane and Alex worked together via emails, with Alex relaying needs and Diane mailing much-needed medical and educational supplies. As others began to hear about Diane’s efforts and wanted to help, Couples Resort founded the nonprofit Issa Trust Foundation, dedicated to improving health and education for needy Jamaican families. Today as Issa’s president, Diane works full-time with numerous volunteers. Programs vary from week-long medical initiatives focused on pediatric medical and vision care to educational measures, such as a recent donation of 10,000 books, 1,000 of which went to a school serving underprivileged kids with just a 61 percent literacy rate.“I feel so fortunate that my volunteer work led to living my dream,” Diane says. “It’s an experience that really gives that inner happiness. It’s fulfilling and humbling and contagious.”Give—and ReceiveVolunteering takes time and energy—both precious commodities. But there are also huge dividends. Those who give back have a chance to connect positively with people, gain new skills, find meaning in their life, even improve their mental and physical wellbeing. (Studies show that those who willingly give reduce their stress or depression, while also lowering their risk for Alzheimer’s and heart disease.) In fact, volunteers are among the happiest people in theworld.That doesn’t surprise fourth-year pharmacy student Kelsey Bayliss, who recently experienced the benefits of volunteering with Issa. She had heard positive things about the organization from her preceptor, so when her school offered rotation experiences in other countries, she simply thought: Why not give it a try? The experience proved life-changing. As Kelsey’s medical team saw nearly 900 children in five days, she witnessed firsthand how badly the kids needed medical resources and how grateful the parents were. “I have never feltas empowered and fulfilled as during my time volunteering in Jamaica,” she says. “I don’t think it’s even possible to put into words how much that experience changed my way of thinking, way of living and future career asa pharmacist.”The mere realization that her skills and knowledge could make a dramatic difference was huge for Kelsey. “It’s something I didn’t think about or feel before, but now I’m excited knowing that I will continue work like this the rest of my life,” she says. “If I can’t donate time, I’ll donate knowledge and resources.”There were character-building lessons, too, such as learning to be more grateful and to rethink things that were previously deemed important. Kelsey also learned the virtue of patience. “Seeing hundreds of people wait for hours without anyone complaining was humbling,” she recalls. “Here at home, we’re antsy if we have to wait 10 minutes for a meal in a restaurant or we’re stuck in traffic. Now I wait and think, This isn’t so bad.”Already looking forward to returning again, Kelsey is simultaneously amazed and enthused by the experience. “Volunteering gives a pure inner feeling of happiness and joy knowing that you can make a difference,” she says. “I don’t think it has anything to do with recognition or how much that you’ve helped, but just knowing that someone’s life is better because of you.”Staying GroundedBlaine and Jenny Moats were no strangers to volunteering when they traveled to Jamaica with Issa. Jenny, a social worker-turned-real estate agent, looked forward to engaging in humanitarian work again. Blaine, a photographer who was invited along by fellow shooter Brent Isenberger (both men’s pictures accompany this story), simply wanted to share his talents. “I had been asked to do something similar in Haiti for a different nonprofit years earlier,” Blaine says, adding that he almost didn’t go that time because Jenny had just lost her job due to funding cuts. “But I went. And when I came back I said, Oh yeah, we’re going to be OK. When I see how much we have compared to what they have, it’s pretty hard to worry.”For the Moats, volunteering with their two young daughters keeps the family grounded. “The way I look at things, I don’t want to get too stuck inside myself,” says Jenny, who has introduced her daughters to giving back in ways as experiential as sleeping outside on a chilly Midwestern night to raise money and awareness for the homeless. “I want the kids to see that their life isn’t what it’s all about. There are other people who have different problems and issues.”Though the girls did not accompany Blaine and Jenny on this trip, they pored over Blaine’s pictures, watched the videos and listened to the stories. “I think the volunteer work is reflected on them, and they have very caring hearts,” Blaine says. “When you give back to others, that’s where the happiness comes from. That’s important for us to teach our kids.”While Blaine downplays the importance of his role compared to that of the doctors in Jamaica, he found satisfaction in using his talents and seeing the results of the team’s work. “Some of the kids came in looking pretty limp in their mom’s arms, and then they walked out with a big smilea few hours later,” he says. “That’s pretty cool.”For her part, Jenny painted fluoride treatments on children’s teeth. One interaction with teenage girls who were helping her treat their younger sibling’s teeth left a particularly strong impression. “They were pretty cute, and I asked what they wanted to do when they were older,” Jenny says. “One didn’t know, so I said Well, maybe you could be a dentist since she was painting the teeth. You never know how what you say might change someone’s course of life, but it’s good to always keep thatin mind.”Talent to GoWord of mouth convinced nurses Kerri Cook and Sue McConville that joining Issa’s medical team would be the perfect volunteer opportunity to utilize their skills and passions. “If you’re able to do something you love where help is needed, that makes it fun because it interests you,” Sue says. “But it’s also very, very rewarding.”Finding a satisfying volunteer fit also ensures that you’ll want to continue. Case in point: Kerri recently returned from a third trip; Sue just finished her inaugural trip and is eager to go again. “It is awe-inspiring,” Kerri says. “Being able to help people who really need the help gives me that ‘ahhh’ feeling. It makes me feel so good to help others who need it so much.”Among the lessons learned, Kerri and Sue say they’re more grateful than ever before. “We have no idea how blessed we are,” Kerri says. “I saw people come to the clinics at six in the morning and wait patiently for hours with never a complaint.” Attending to the children, the nurses were also reminded that basic health care is not a given. “I spent three and a half hours helping clean and bandage the open wounds of a girl with severe eczema,” Kerri says. “That struck me because it’s such a simple treatment in the U.S., but they didn’t have the resources to treat her, and she could have died.”The experience has impacted the women’s professional life, as well. “It makes me a kinder person and more compassionate in my nursing job,” Kerri says, noting that she now summons the same feeling of satisfaction that she had in Jamaica by reminding herselfthat being a nurse makes a difference here, too.Sue agrees. “I’m so grateful to have a job, car and house,” she says. “I don’t stress about the little things anymore after what I saw. I don’t think they’re very important.”Instead, she focuses on positive little things she can do daily to help others—things like donating books to a literacy program, bringing an elderly neighbor a meal or chaperoning a school field trip. “The last day in Jamaica I was kind of sad because I was thinking “OK, where can we go tomorrow to help?” Sue says. “Then I realized, I can tap into those positive feelings by giving back wherever I am.”LuAnn Brandsen is a home and garden writerand former editor of Country Gardens and Country Home. Her work can be found in Elegant Homes, Décor, Country French, Cottage Style and Tuscan Style.
Read More
Bryce, Tiny Sparrow Photography

A Picture of Hope

Cancer is a scary word, but that diagnosis can also be a catalyst to discovering courage with a purpose. In 2007, Lidia Grigorean learned she had stage 4 breast cancer. During gruesome months of chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy, she developed a greater appreciation for life along with a new perspective. She had always loved photography but had never attempted to pursue it professionally. That is, until death was knocking at her door. “When you have cancer, there is an unexplainable courage that comes to the surface,” Lidia says. “I did not care about anything else but to follow my dream.” She made a vow to help people if and when she got out of the hospital. Once her cancer was in remission her lifelong passion turned into a pursuit of giving back. She volunteered to photograph Kate McCrae, a 5-year-old girl battling brain cancer. It was Kate’s photo session that inspired Lidia to create the nonprofit Tiny Sparrow Foundation. Her logo design is a tribute to Kate, and the organization’s mission is to provide photography free of charge to families with children facing a terminal illness. The foundation creates a custom-printed memory album for the family as well as donates a CD of images with full copyright permission. Thanks to a network of more than 400 professional photographers nationwide who donate their time and talent, Tiny Sparrow continues to grow and inspire year after year. “You are not promised tomorrows with the people you love,” says Lisa Routh, a Picture of Hope recipient. “Now, no matter how rocky this road gets, we always have these amazing photos as memories to hold onto. Mary Beth Thomsen is a marketing professional,freelance writer and blogger from Richmond,Virginia. She has managed campaigns fornational brands such as the American DiabetesAssociation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Read More
Mother and Daughters Picking up Trash

Volunteer Match

It’s been proven that helping others makes you a happier person. And positive psychologists, behavioral economists and the Dalai Lama all agree that selfless acts can improve your well-being. More studies are beginning to show that kindness and generosity may even have an impact on human progress. A quote John F. Kennedy used often was “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It was generally associated with the economy, but along the same vein, when society as a whole becomes more benevolent—whether from giving or receiving—we can all benefit and grow. Volunteering is a great way to improve the quality of life in our society. Since there will always be people in need, the opportunities to help seem boundless. Whether it’s building a house for the less fortunate or being an uplifting influence in a young person’s life, volunteering can give you that positive feeling you may be searching for, and in turn, spreading that positivity to someone else. Volunteer matching websites are taking the legwork out of searching for the right cause and making it easier for people to find a volunteer opportunity more aligned with their interests. Here are a few websites where you can go to make a difference in the world: Volunteermatch is one of the best ways to connect to a cause, with millions of visitors and more than 95,000 participating organizations. Currently there are more than 80,000 opportunities to find the right match for you. The process is easy: Just enter your location and the cause you care about (or you can browse until you find something that is right for you). The HandsOn Network has one of the largest networks of local volunteer centers worldwide. They seem to attract a more skills-based volunteer with a focus on using their time and talent to create change in their communities. They even have a Volunteer Time Calculator so you can calculate how valuable your time contribution is in dollars and cents. is a website run by Action Without Borders, and is used as a virtual bulletin board for nonprofits and volunteers to post and seek out opportunities. Their Volunteer Resource Center has everything you need to know about being a volunteer. UniversalGiving is a nonprofit web-based marketplace that gives people an opportunity to donate money or volunteer to organizations all over the world. The website allows you to look for causes that need volunteers, or if you just want to help monetarily, you can fund an existing cause. You can even create your own personal fundraising page. UniversalGiving says all projects are vetted and 100% goes to the cause.
Read More