Sunday, October 16, 2011

The importance of volunteering in the development of children

Importance of Children Serving as Volunteers
Everyone benefits from children serving as volunteers. There are several advantageous factors that children can receive and contribute to recipient organizations and to society by serving as volunteers. Volunteer projects have the potential of dramatically making a difference in the lives of their young participants. The importance of children as volunteers include the following; promotes healthy lifestyle and choices, enhances development, teaches life skills, improves the community, and encourages a lifelong service ethic.

Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle and Choices

Children who serve others are less likely to become involved in at-risk behaviors. A research study, entitled "The Troubled Journey," conducted by the Search Institute, examined the lives of 47,000 children in 5th through 12th grades in public schools across the United States (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). The study results indicated that children who served just one hour or more a week were less likely to be involved in at-risk behaviors than those who are not active in volunteering (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). For instance, 14% of children who did not volunteer frequently used alcohol; however, only 7% of children who volunteered used alcohol (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). In addition, 13% of children who do not participate in volunteer activities skipped school in comparison to only 7% of children who participated in volunteer activities (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993).
Why does volunteering have a deterring impact on negative behaviors? A possible reason why volunteering deters negative behaviors is that volunteer projects provide positive, structured activities for children, and children who are involved in these kinds of positive activities are less likely to be involved in negative behaviors(Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Volunteering also nourishes caring values as children relate to and empathize with others, and individuals who care about others are less likely to be involved in negative behaviors (Phalen, 2003). Moreover, having the opportunity to interact with their peers and adults coupled with a positive environment counterbalances negative influences that could result in poor choices (Phalen, 2003).
Since volunteering appears to promote health life-styles and discourages negative choices, it is also an important resource for addressing some of the pressing issues youth face, such as teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, substance abuse, and violence. According to a Children's Defense Fund report, "The experience gained through volunteering or service can make a lasting difference, giving young people a sense of purpose and a reason to remain in school, strive to learn, and avoid too-early-pregnancy (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993)." With children engaging in volunteering opportunities these experiences may deter them from engaging in negative behaviors or making poor choices, which lead to youth issues such as teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.

Enhances Development

The National Assessment of Experiential Education (N.A.E.E.), of which volunteering is a significant component of these programs, conducted an evaluation that systematically evaluated 27 experiential programs which included 40,000 students (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Experiential education generally defined is an emphasis of learning through experience, and the curriculum focuses on children learning and applying the material at the same time (Lewis, 2002). According to the N.A.E.E., children participating in these programs are more likely to heighten their developmental growth in the following areas: psychological, social, and intellectual (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993).
Psychological development is enhanced by increasing self-esteem, responsibility, and interest in learning (Phalen, 2003). Furthermore, children who volunteer develop positive self-confidence (Lewis, 2002). The N.A.E.E. found that children gained both in moral reasoning and self-esteem (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993).
Social development is impacted by children developing new social skills and a stronger sense of duty or responsibility for social welfare (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). A possible reason for a stronger sense of duty is that through volunteer experiences children are able to see themselves as significant in the lives of others, and recognize that they have the ability to make a difference (Lewis, 2002). In addition, the N.A.E.E. noted that children in the programs showed greater motivation to take action, and developed more positive attitudes towards adults and other children (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993).
Intellectual development is impacted by the learning opportunities provided by volunteering, and the opportunities children have to exercise their intellectual abilities (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Volunteering frequently expands an individual's intellectual capabilities because volunteer activities, often times, presents new material and opportunities to apply the newly learned material. The N.A.E.E. found that three-fourths of the children in the experimental-learning programs reported learning more than in traditional education settings (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Moreover, the N.A.E.E. noted that the most valuable programs that enhance intellectual development are the programs which allow children to reflect on or process their experiences (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993).

Teaches Life Skills

Volunteering can nurture important life skills and values in children. Children participating in volunteer activities are rewarded with new skills and perspectives. This value can be particularly important in working with children who have fewer opportunities to develop skills and interests, such as those in low-income urban areas (Stanton, Giles, & Cruz, 1999). Volunteer opportunities stimulate skills necessary for a productive adulthood. Skills, which many children may not see modeled in their daily lives, may include: responsibility for task completion, punctuality, reliability, good grooming, and getting along with others (DiGeronimo, 1995).

Improves the Community

Volunteering is the perfect way for children to be welcomed as productive, active members of a community. Through volunteering, children can become a valuable contributor to their constantly changing society. As a report from the William T. Grant Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship argues, "There is virtually no limit to what young people can do, no social need they cannot help meet, and giving young people the opportunities to serve enable them to become contributors, problem-solvers, and partners with adults in improving their communities and larger society (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993, pg 21)." As children in a community become more involved in volunteering and as it is seen as more common, children will increasingly be viewed as resources, rather than helpless or non-contributors (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). As a trend of children serving as volunteers emerges, volunteering could become a norm for both children and adults (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). As a result, the community becomes a true community, where all individuals of that community share a common vision and watch out for one another (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). In a community climate, such as this, children and adults prosper together.

Encourages a Lifelong Service Ethic

Getting children involved in volunteering has a long-term payoff. Early volunteering experiences empower and create a lasting influence well into adulthood. For instance, Hillary Clinton credits much of her concern for low-income families and their children from her visits to inner-city Chicago with her church youth group (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Developmental theorists also suggest that experiences during childhood and early adolescence have a powerful shaping force on lifelong values and sense of purpose (Lewis, 2002).
Furthermore, data from the Effective Christian Education study further solidifies the significance of volunteering early in life (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). This study utilized survey responses from adults, who were currently volunteering, to examine the frequency which they were involved in these types of volunteer activities as children (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). The study determined that the best predictors of adult involvement were their experiences in volunteering or helping projects as children between the ages of 5-12, or adolescents between the ages of 13-18 (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Additionally, the study noted that adults who were active in social justice issues tend to have participated in service projects as children and/or teenagers (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). The inference is that early experience with giving has long-term effects, setting a pattern that can carry over into adulthood.
Moreover, studies have shown the importance of involving children in volunteering early than adolescence. Many opportunities target teenage children, ages 14 to 18, but research has implicated that the earlier children are involved in volunteering, the higher the probability of them volunteering during adolescence and possibly later in life (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). According to Search Institute research on 47,000 students in public schools, it found that volunteering declines dramatically across the adolescent's years for both males and females (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Targeting children during the ages of 10-11 or even younger will likely reduce the erosion in service values and behaviors (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993). Making volunteer opportunities available for this age group will solidify and ground the value of giving within a child's emerging self-concept (Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1993).

By participating in volunteer activities, children experience the satisfaction and other benefits that are a result from freely offering their services to help others. Some of the benefits children receive as a result of volunteering may include: an opportunity for learning, developing life skills, and civic responsibility. When volunteering becomes a common part of a child's life at an early age, it adds an important dimension to the process of growing up and, ultimately, shapes the adult that child will become.

My child: Which faculty/high school do I choose?
My child: Tiddly-winks
My child: Again on the behavior at school or about the value system
My child: My child is lying!
My child: My child swears!

1 comment:

Amy said...

If we talk about development of children we are suppose to think that we are making the future better. Today we rule our generation but in the years to come our children today will rule that generation. If we fail in their development then it only means that their generation will fail as well but if we succeed in their development then we don’t need to worry about the future.