Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
Food bank? Boring. River clean-up? Whatever.
If you think it's hard to get kids to clean their room or take out the recycling, try convincing them to spend a cherished Saturday helping somebody else.
Sure, we work with thousands of young people who are eagerly and passionately involved in their communities – volunteering, organizing petitions, holding creative fundraisers – but we know there are millions more who prefer the soccer field over the soup kitchen, and hanging out over helping out.
Motivating a mall rat or couch potato can feel like trying to overcome the natural laws of inertia. But those keen young volunteers we know weren't born sorting canned fruit or selling lemonade for charity. They were encouraged and engaged from an early age – in most cases by their family.
Canadians are far more likely to volunteer as adults if they saw their parents volunteering, or if they volunteered themselves as kids, according to Statistics Canada. So National Volunteer Week – April 6 to 12 – is a perfect opportunity for Canadian families to find creative and exciting ways to contribute to your community together.
Finding the right volunteer opportunity isn't always easy, especially when trying to match the passions (and hectic schedules) of both parents and kids. Volunteer BC president Lawrie Portigal recommends visiting the experts at your local volunteer centre to connect with the best fit for your family members' interests and abilities.
If there are few formal volunteer opportunities where you live, it may require some do-it-yourself creativity such as helping elderly neighbours or baking cookies for the volunteer firefighters. Maybe there's a way to hang out at the soccer field and help out the soup kitchen at the same time, with a charity tournament or a canned-food entry fee for a big game.
With so much need in our communities and our world, and so much boundless energy in our youth, how can we rally our closest loved ones to come together and give?
This week's question: how can we make volunteerism appealing and fun for the whole family?
Jenny Friedman, executive director of Doing Good Together in Minneapolis, Minn.
"Begin with a one-time activity that fits your child's interests and abilities, like a clean-up day at the local park or fostering rescued dogs. You can also serve others right from your kitchen table–creating a blanket for a someone in need, making sandwiches for guests at a homeless shelter, or bringing your child's art work to a local nursing home."
Veronica McNeil, founding member of Voluntary Sector Consultants in Dartmouth, N.S.
"Make a list of the things that interest everyone in your family, and rotate the causes you work on together. At public fundraisers or charitable events, find a role for everyone to play, supervising younger kids as they gain experience and praise for their work. There are numerous charities that hold annual events and they love to have family support."
Kassie Burkholder, communications co-ordinator at Volunteer Alberta
"Avoiding repetitive tasks and focusing on the positive outcomes goes a long way in creating mutual benefit for both the volunteers and the organization."
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