Start ‘em young: Volunteering with kids

“It’s really important to me to take my boys along when I’m volunteering,” says Matthew Fleming-Duffy, a Foresters member in the U.K. “I’m really hoping that this is helping to form their character in the long run.”

Getting kids involved with volunteering at a young age shows them a reality different than their own and can help give them a broader perspective about the world around them. Better yet, it can help build a sense of community spirit that could last a lifetime.

A different kind of education

“It’s all about an education that’s broader than school,” says Matthew. “We’re all parenting our children in different ways and I think these volunteer activities, emergency kits, food parcels etc., are a really good life lesson — certainly for my kids.” 

Kids can learn a lot from volunteering. Everything from empathy and civic responsibility to life skills like budgeting, organization and scheduling. We know that giving back and living with purpose is good for our health and well-being, so why not start at a young age?

During the lockdown in the U.K., Matthew applied for a Caring Through Crisis grant to provide much-needed food to his local food bank, which he knew had seen a downturn in donations due to the pandemic. “People are referred to the food bank by doctors or by the church,” he says. “They are really in a tough time in their lives. They are in dire straits.”

After receiving the grant, he took his oldest son to the supermarket. “I made him do the math as we went around the superstore,” he remembers. “I told him, ‘We have a budget here, so I want you to get it right.’” His son confirmed his tally at the cash and the pair ended up chatting with the cashier about their volunteer grant and how they were using it. Together, they dropped of the food to a very appreciative team at the food bank. They’d helped others and spent the day together.

“All children want from you is your time,” says Matthew. “You’re giving your time to other people, but if you take your kids along, you’re giving time to them as well. And you’re teaching them great lessons — what’s not to like about that?”

Through the generations

Fiona Ho is a Foresters employee in Toronto and a member with three young kids — six-year-old triplets. She started volunteering in high school and in university taught English to newcomers to Canada. She and her husband want to to lay the foundation early when it comes to volunteering. “Hopefully, they can pass that on to their kids when they grow up and have their own family,” she says.  

COVID has made hands-on help tough, especially with three little ones along for the ride. But Fiona made it work with a Caring Through Crisis grant. They bought and packed up food for a local food bank and the kids jumped in to help mom carry the bags. “They didn’t understand the word donate,” she says. “They asked a lot of questions.” A simple drop-off turned into a learning experience for the kids when the woman accepting their donation explained how the food bank works in a kid-friendly way. “It was a nice way of introducing them to volunteering at a level they can understand,” says Fiona.

Tips and ideas to get them started

We encourage members to include their kids in Make an IMPACT or Community Volunteer grant activities whenever possible. This could be packing care kits at the dining room table, shopping for groceries, picking up garbage at a local park or writing cards for seniors. But there are many other ways — big and small — to get kids helping others. They could sweep an elderly neighbor’s porch, donate some of their toys to charity or help you take their clothes to a clothing drive when they grow out of them. Remember, it’s not the size and scope of the action, it’s the values they’ll learn from it.

Read Little volunteers: How to get your kids interested in helping others for more tips on raising the next generation of helpers.

419755 CAN/US (04/21)