While many schools have volunteer projects as part of their curriculum, sometimes this only happens in high school, while others have programmes that are centred around charity, and not necessarily the active role of doing volunteer work.
If you'd like to teach your child to get more involved in volunteer work, and thus teach the act of kindness and helping, plus foster their own development, read on for some tips, via Helene Brand, marketing manager of MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet (if you don't know the work that they do, or how to donate just by swiping your MySchool card when you shop at the likes of Woolworths or Loot, click here).
Helene says: "When it comes to children you have to show them not tell them. They learn by watching adults. Kids notice if you treat the car-guard well, if you donate towards the blind guy on the corner, if you share. By involving your child with volunteerism opportunities that you are also involved in they start to see it as part of life, rather than an add-on for special occasions."
And if you think that kids need to be in high school before they can volunteer, this isn't so. Roberta Donovan, the founder of Better SA, says that her organisation (described as the "Uber of volunteering") says that they accept volunteers as young as four years old on their buses. Some events have higher age limits like the hospital events (volunteers have to be 16 years or older) and painting events (volunteers have to be eight years or older):
Roberta says: "We strongly believe in the power of volunteering as a family unit and have many families who all volunteer together with us. To develop a volunteer culture, people need to be exposed to volunteer activities as early as possible and we want children to learn early that attending a volunteer event on the weekend is as normal or common as going to the moves or going out for lunch."
Aside from volunteering being a great activity for the whole family. it also benefits kids in other ways:
- Exposes children to people from very different walks of life
- Exposes children to the harsh conditions many South African's live in and does so in a non-threatening way
- Fosters an appreciation for all the nice things they have e.g. A great family activity is making sleeping bags out of recycled material (newspaper and plastic) for the homeless in winter. A child will participate in that event and then climb into their nice bed later that night and think about how a homeless person doesn't have a bed or a mattress or a duvet.
- Teaches them to share and donate to the less fortunate
- Gives children a sense of purpose and shows them how the little things can make a big difference
- Fosters confidence, and teaches leadership skills
To make your and your kids' volunteering life easier, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet has partnered with Johannesburg-based non-profit organisation Better SA, and has donated a minibus to enable volunteers to travel to various beneficiaries, making it easier for people to volunteer.
All a volunteer has to do is book their spot on one of the busses and arrive at the bus hub. The service is free of charge and co-ordinated from start to finish. Anyone who wants to volunteer can log on to www.bettersa.org, review the upcoming calendar of events and then complete the booking form for the event that most appeals to them. They then need to go to the bus hub, which will take them to the venue they're volunteering at.
The Hop on Hop off volunteer bus service runs every Saturday morning, between 8am and 12pm from the following hubs:
· From Illovo heading into Alexandra and surrounds
· From Broadacres heading into Diepsloot
· From Roodepoort heading into Soweto
· From Midrand heading into Olievenhoutbosch
When volunteers arrive at a BetterSA hub they are met by team leaders who brief them on the community and organisation they are visiting and the volunteer activity they have booked for. Each volunteer receives a pack with a step-by-step guide on how to complete the activity and all supplies they may need. Volunteers spend 90 minutes at the organisation before boarding the bus and returning to the hub.
If you're keen to start volunteering, head to the BetterSA to find a project that suits you.