The winter holidays have arrived, and no matter how you celebrate, we hope you and your family are enjoying the season!
Community and service are important facets of the Bryn Mawr camp culture, and many of our campers carry that spirit over into their year-round lives through fundraising and volunteering. At this time of year, when we are focused on family, food and warm feelings, it can be hard to break away from the fun to think about those less fortunate. Integrating community service into your child’s holiday season, though, has benefits not just for those you help but for your own family:
● Volunteering becomes a lifelong habit. Children who grow up participating in community service grow up to become adults who participate in community service. When we teach our children the value of giving back, we’re helping ensure a new generation of giving.
● Research has linked youth volunteering to reduced rates of teen pregnancy, drug use and dropouts, as well as a higher quality of life in adulthood.
● Many of our camp families don’t celebrate Christmas, and with Hanukkah so early this year, some children may feel left out of the rest of the holiday fun. Getting the whole family involved in doing something good in the community is a great way to continue to share the season of light.
Not sure where to get started? This is the perfect time of year to begin wading into community service, as volunteer opportunities tend to be plentiful between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Here are a few suggestions:
● Contact your local United Way or religious social services organization to find out where you can find family-friendly volunteering opportunities.
● Use a website like VolunteerMatch.org or Idealist.org to locate kid-friendly volunteer opportunities in your area.
● Check with your child’s school; they may be aware of volunteer organizations or opportunities suitable for children.
● This can be a lonely time of year for those who aren’t near family; there may be opportunities to reach out to residents of local nursing homes or military installations.
● Research local charities that may be of interest to your child. Young people are more likely to be interested in getting involved in a cause that appeals to them personally, such as fundraising for a disease that affects someone they know or volunteering in a local animal shelter. Programs that directly benefit other children are great choices; often a child will respond to the idea of helping other children “like me.”
● Insurance and other restrictions mean not every community service opportunity is available to children, so be sure to contact your charity ahead of time to make sure they can accommodate young volunteers.
Giving back can be as easy as contributing to a clothing drive or as ambitious as taking a service trip to a foreign country. But whether you’re spending an hour sorting cans at the food bank or planning a “volun-tourism” trip overseas, you’re helping your child learn that it’s a wonderful thing to give back to others — and that helping others feels great at any time of year!