To volunteer means to freely offer one’s services to an individual, an organisation or the community. When numerous individuals commit to serve in some way or the other, the impact will be of epic proportions. Of late, more and more young people are offering their services voluntarily to make the world a better place. In fact, they consider it a privilege to do volunteer work. And there’s no age bar. You child can contribute even if she is only a toddler. Volunteering can be infectious, as children influence other children and even adults to be a part of the wave of compassion that our world is thirsting for.
The fact that volunteering blesses the giver as much as it does the receiver may come as news to you, but it’s true! What’s listed below is only the tip of the ice-berg when it comes to the benefits that volunteering can bequeath your child.
1. Teaches civic responsibility
India has a reputation for being dirty - a reputation that stems from the lack of civic responsibility. Volunteer work can teach your child to hold himself responsible for what’s happening to the world around him by developing in him a service-mindedness which will last a lifetime. Who knows? His volunteer activity may spark a much-needed revolution like Lucky Upadhyay’s did. He and his dad go for walks in their neighbourhood park at 5 a.m. every day, armed with garbage bags in which they collect litter. Within a few weeks at least five other walkers followed their example and today it is the only 24/7 litter-free park in Nolambur, Chennai!
2. Increases sociability and social awareness
Volunteering brings together people from diverse age-groups, backgrounds, locations and institutions. It is an activity heavily laden with exposure to relationships that exert a positive influence. Your child can expand her social circle and social awareness within the clique she is volunteering with. It can aid in the development of an understanding of managing relationships with older persons and mentors. It provides a safe way to learn more of life’s lessons and gain knowledge. In a world where human relationships are quickly being overtaken by pseudo connections through social media, this is a healthier and safer way for your child to make friends.
3. Nurtures the soul
The equation ‘Soul = mind + will + emotions’ refers to the psyche of your little one. Volunteering can help him develop an identity of his own. It will also change his view of himself when adults and significant others respect him for his selfless giving. This will nurture a sense of self-worth and a positive self-image in him. Volunteering provides a stress-free environment, as it is a space void of factors like ego, wealth and competition. It also opens a window to the lives of the less fortunate, which can nurture a sense of gratitude for the blessings in the child’s own life and generate compassion towards others. Therefore, it has an alleviating effect on functional inabilities related to depression, suicide and negativity.
4. Offers professional experience
As your youngster uses her talents and strengths to help the community, she fosters skills that can benefit her professionally in the future. It is not rare that children stumble upon their future vocation while volunteering in some capacity. Volunteering familiarizes them with essential job skills such as leadership, problem-solving, delegation of duties, accountability and service-mindedness. Teenagers Susan Alexander and Rohan Ahuja decided on careers in Educational Psychology and Hotel Management, respectively, while they spent a holiday volunteering to teach and cook in a Chennai slum.
5. Fuels activity
Joining a volunteer effort means your child is going to be walking, talking and moving around more. This is a welcome change from being a couch-potato when he is not engaged in the ‘activity’ of texting! Obesity, heart disease, hypertension, sleeplessness and eating disorders are major health threats among children these days. Perhaps your child will find inspiration from Dhairya Malhotra of Mumbai who lost 13 kilos by walking his neighbour’s golden retriever for half an hour every day.
Now that you have got basic insights into the benefits that volunteer work offers children, it’s time to encourage your child to start involving herself in volunteer programmes. To begin with, check out programmes available in your own locality and get her enrolled in them.
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.