In the United States, volunteers help their communities in many ways. They donate money, feed the poor, build homes for the homeless, and much more. No matter what they do, volunteers say giving is rewarding. That's why writer Carol Weisman urges parents to help their children experience the joy of giving. Faiza Elmasry has more details.
Donating just a small amount of money can be the first step in getting children involved in volunteerism.
"On a child's birthday, make a donation to a charity of the child's choice, in addition to [giving the child] a small present." That's one bit of advice Carol Weisman gives parents in her book, Raising Charitable Children. She says her son Jono made his first donation when he was four or five.
Weisman says parents should ask questions that help a child decide what causes to support, questions like: "How would you like the world to be a better place in the next year?" she suggests, or, "What bothered you in the past year? What did you really enjoy that you would like other children to enjoy?"
"Children often have very caring ideas," says Dana Leman, who listens carefully to what her daughter Talia says. "When Talia came to us with the idea of helping with the hurricane relief, I could have said, 'that's so sweet, honey.' But instead I said, 'O.K. this is how you feel, this is what you want to do, then do it.'"
With her mother's support, Talia organized a campaign called, Trick or Treat for the Levee Catastrophe. She was 10 years old at the time.
"I got kids across the nation to trick or treat on Halloween for coins instead of candy," she says, "then give that money they raised to hurricane relief. We ended up raising $10 million. We ended up inspiring and unifying nearly 5000 school districts."
That project was so rewarding that Talia wanted to do more. She started her own non-profit organization, RandomKid.
"We help kids to help others. Kids come to our website, they register," she says. "Then we offer them support services. We sit down and talk about their projects. We get them really geared up."
One of the projects Talia helped establish is called "For Each Other."
"It's kind of a miniature of the United Nations," she says. "To date, this group raised $6,000 for AIDS and another $26,000 to build a school on rural Cambodia. We have kids from 20 countries. There is one person from each country. Every country has one vote. We issue official statements about world news and events. We pass resolutions. We are able to send in peacekeeping letters."
Anthony Leanna has also been involved in charitable activities since he was a child. Five years ago, at age 16, he started Heavenly Hats, a charity for cancer patients, who often lose their hair during treatment.
"It's a program that donates brand new hats to cancer patients," he says. "We've donated over 130,000 hats to cancer patients worldwide."
Young people behind efforts like these are recognized every year by the Build a Bear Workshop Company. They're named Huggable Heroes. In her book, Carol Weisman identifies Huggable Heroes as one of the programs that actively searches out young people who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities and rewards them. That attention, she explains, can encourage them to continue and inspire other children.
"The winning kids get $10,000 worth of awards," she says. "They get a $7,500 scholarship and $2,500 to the charity of their choice. And they get featured on the Huggable Hero Calendar. And kids love the photo shoots."
But the benefits these kids get through volunteering go beyond any cash award, says Weisman. They develop their character, become more aware of their responsibilities and grow into caring adults who find happiness in giving.