Teaching kids about serving others often looks like donations to a food bank or collecting items to be shared with other children during the holiday season. While there is nothing wrong with those types of community service, it often leaves the young people removed from seeing the benefit of their contribution to the people who received it. Research has shown that young people want to know they are making a difference and one way to do that is to allow them to see the faces of the people they are impacting. “Young Americans want the chance to make a difference and learn new skills, not work in the back-office stuffing envelopes” (Nesbit & Brudney, 2010).
Some simple ways that young people can make a difference and see their impact is by starting in the community they live. Look around your neighborhood and identify ways you might be able to help- you may just get to know your neighbors along the way.
Neighborly service ideas:
- Clean up the yard for a neighbor who may not have the time or ability to do it.
- Help a neighbor plant or maintain their garden.
- Offer to pick up groceries for someone who isn’t able to go out.
- Cook a meal for a family -especially if they have just had a new addition to the family, have dealt with a family illness or may just seem to be overwhelmed.
- Make small meals for older neighbors they could freeze and heat up later.
- Offer to walk a neighbor’s dog or feed their animals if you know they are going to be away.
- Simply visit your neighbors, get to know them, and listen to their stories.
These ideas may seem simple, but can mean a lot to your neighbors and can light a spark in the young people as they get the chance to see the impact of their actions on others.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Judy Schmidt provides leadership to 4-H metro programming in Peoria County. Schmidt joined Extension in 2001, working as a Youth Development Educator at the East Peoria Center and joined the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit in 2011. Her work focuses on 4-H youth development programming in the local metropolitan area, specifically leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Her areas of expertise include positive youth development principles, youth leadership, and work with teens as teachers.
Schmidt attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her bachelor's degree in psychology and also for her master's degrees in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a certified facilitator of the Matrixx System/Real Colors program by the National Curriculum and Training Institute.
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Connection Corner: is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.