“Volunteering can play a key role in the formation of a person’s social identity, which is shaped by…collaborative efforts to make a difference in the community and the world.”¹
We know that the efforts of volunteers benefit those on the receiving end, but what about the benefit for those dedicating their time? Turns out that participating in volunteer or community service activities is beneficial for volunteers too! These benefits apply to volunteers of all ages.
Young people who participate in volunteer activities gain a sense of social responsibility (or feeling committed to improving society). Kids who volunteer gain a better sense of the needs in their community and develop a sense of empowerment by addressing these needs. Young volunteers are much more likely to report feeling like they can make a difference in their community than their peers who do not volunteer.
Benefits of Volunteering
Surveys conducted with young volunteers indicate that benefits include:
- Growing self awareness
- Learning leadership skills
- Increased self-esteem
- Respecting others
- Understanding people who are different
- Developing more patience
Youth who volunteer are much more likely to volunteer as adults, and much more likely to vote.² They also are much more likely to believe in their ability to complete college!
Impacts on Mental Health
Volunteering also provides a great way to combat social isolation, which is associated with depression and anxiety. Getting up and moving and being in a different environment can help us feel better, especially when we know that we are needed, and others are depending on us. Additionally, volunteering often means coordinating one’s efforts with others and working in a collaborative fashion. Gaining experience in these areas can increase adolescents’ feelings of trust in others, as well as a sense of optimism for the future of their community and country.
Volunteering Grows Practical Skills
For tweens and teens, volunteer experiences can be a great way to learn more about future potential jobs or careers.³ Youth volunteers can learn new practical skills that make them marketable to future employers, and also get to “test drive” working in a field in which they have interest.
How Do We Get Started?
For young children:
- Look for opportunities for family volunteering.
- Ask community groups, faith-based organizations or schools for ideas.
For teens and tweens:
- Teens and tweens can take a more active role in finding volunteer opportunities.
- Encourage your child to talk about ways they can help out at school.
- Have a conversation with them about what they’ve noticed in your local community that they’d like to change.
- Encourage them look for an organization that is working on that issue and research volunteer opportunities.
- Read local news stories for ideas! For example, they might learn about a litter of puppies taken to your local animal shelter and learn from that story that the shelter is in need of supplies, or other types of help, in caring for the puppies.