By Lisa Miller
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
How do you inspire children to be involved in community service?
I am the mother of three active boys, ranging from 12 to 16. They get good grades, have lots of friends, participate in sports and play musical instruments.
I also see a good deal of their time spent on the lure of electronic media. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard them say, “Wait 'till I get to the next level” or “I’m video chatting with a friend about something REALLY important.”
With all their social and academic commitments, trying to teach them the importance and relevance of serving others seemed almost futile, so I had to develop a strategy that inspired them to become involved in community service through their own ideas and causes.
These are the secrets that have worked for me:
1. Find a child’s passion.
It’s important to find out what kids are passionate about. It is their “cause” that will motivate them to contribute to the community. Here are some questions I ask to help kids identify a cause that is meaningful to them:
2. Form a group, hold meetings and plan fun events.
I formed a community service group called “Kids for a Cause Club.” I encourage kids to gain awareness and find their cause. We have quarterly meetings where the kids vote on what causes and activities they want to be involved in, both as a group and individually.
So far, we’ve held a fundraiser bringing awareness to teachers affected by the California budget cuts, visited with the elderly in a local rest home, participated in the Santa Monica Heal the Bay foundation’s beach clean-up event, and joined One Incredible Family’s “Easter Basket Making Marathon,” providing gifts to underprivileged and sick children. Our next major event, in partnership with The LoveHopeStrength Foundation, will be a hike to raise funds for cancer survivability.
3. Get the word out!
Facebook has become one of the main platforms of communication for kids today. Promoting our community service group on Facebook has allowed us to inform hundreds of kids about meetings, events, discussion and photos. The kids are able to express themselves on this page by adding their personal pictures and thoughts.
4. It’s caught… not taught!
Guide the kids by leading the group and empower them by sharing how their actions and deeds have directly impacted causes that are important to them.
5. Sustain the group.
Make the projects and events fun and rewarding experiences, so the kids want to stay active in the group. Ask follow-up questions and get feedback from the kids to keep their interest high:
6. Pass the torch.
Find the leaders within the group and encourage them to reach out to younger kids. Making new friends, connecting with causes and identifying successful outcomes will motivate their lifelong passion for community service – which they’ll pass on to future generations.
Lisa Miller is the founder of Kids for a Cause Club, a community service group for kids on Facebook. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Business from UCLA and lives in Calabasas, California. She will be hiking to the top of Mount Fuji this summer with the foundation LoveHopeStrength to raise funds for global cancer care.