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Making a Difference Together

Simple ideas for helping your family volunteer

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Many busy families would like to have more time to volunteer for causes they believe in or to give something back to their communities. Volunteering as a family instils these values in children, even from an early age.

Many busy families would like to have more time to volunteer for causes they believe in or to give something back to their communities. Volunteering as a family instils these values in children, even from an early age.

To make volunteering a part of your family life, create a tradition by making it a regularly scheduled event, whether once a week, once a month, or once a year. The key is finding a cause that stirs everyone’s passions. Here are some ideas.

Choose a Cause

One family in Thompson, Manitoba, chose their local food bank, where they stock shelves and serve food in tandem. By focusing on one charity and staying involved over a number of years, this family has built a tradition of volunteering.

Yearly Events

If your family can choose but one big event each year to participate in, consider a walkathon. In many communities, charitable organizations sponsor walkathons to support various causes, from raising money for disease prevention to raising awareness of human rights. Another worthy annual event to consider is participating in the cleanup of a public place, especially ecologically sensitive areas. Ask environmental organizations in your area.

Creative Fundraising

In our family we’ve always liked to raise and donate money for our favourite causes, and this caught on with our younger son. He makes beautiful cards with his photography, sells them at craft shows and other events, and donates the profits to local charities. Similarly, kids can sell crafts and baked goods at school or other community functions, letting their customers know that the profits are earmarked for donation.

Go Beyond the Obvious

The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering by Jenny Friedman (Robins Lane Press, 2003) is a fantastic resource with dozens of ideas that may not immediately come to mind when you think of volunteering. These include working for human rights and peace, helping your local library, enhancing arts and culture, supporting the rights of animals, donating “stuff,” and lots more. You’ll also find many ideas on Jenny’s website at doinggoodtogether.org.

Think Small

You do not need lots of time or money to be a volunteer. Just one small act a day can make a big difference. For these kinds of bite-sized ideas, check out The Difference a Day Makes by Karen Jones (New World Library, 2005). Karen offers 365 helping ideas that can be started and finished in one day or less, such as taking a day off from consumerism or recycling old running shoes.

Show your kids that it’s amazingly easy to make a difference. By incorporating volunteering into your family life, your children internalize the message that we are all stewards of the Earth and that compassion is a prime value. Make volunteering a family tradition one day a year, half a day per month, or an hour a week.

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