In honor of Make a Difference Day Oct. 22, we asked Carrie Simmons, a Catholic mom of two who serves as Executive Producer and Host of the television series Travel With Kids, and whose sons founded Re:Help Organization, a non-profit that promotes kids helping kids, to share some insights about volunteering as a family.
She also shared an array of pictures from recent journeys that families from Ss. Simon and Jude (SSJ), Xavier College Preparatory (XCP) and Brophy College Preparatory (BCP) took to Peru, South African and Thailand.
Spending time as a family giving back to the community together can not only help promote family bonding, but teaches children responsibility and empathy. It demonstrates their importance not only within the family unit, but within our greater community.
Needs vs. Wants
Everyone has need; it just comes in different degrees. One child might feel the need to have the newest electronic gadget or high fashion jeans, what most of us would qualify as a want, while another may need school supplies to make him/her successful in their studies, a need by U.S. standards. By volunteering with your child, you can show him/her that there are needs beyond what they experience in their school or neighborhood; that there are children who lack basic human needs like food, shelter and medical care. Volunteering exposes your child to a world outside their own that is not perfect, but it also gives them the tools and resources to help make it better.
Team Work Makes Things Run Smoother
Working as a volunteer team, whether within your family unit or as part of a larger group, teaches children the dynamics of group work. It shows them the importance of each person’s role in the team and the synergy created by a group effort. Team work helps polish skills like leadership, listening, following instructions, organization and more. It shows them that if each member of the team does their best and works together, projects can be more successful in helping the community. This often spills over into family time. Kids communicate better and realize that when one member of the family is unable to help, sometimes other members of the family need to pick up the slack.
There are No Little Jobs
Volunteering on a long-term schedule teaches kids responsibility. It shows them how vital it is that they show up for each shift they schedule. If they are not there to do there work, who will do it? They learn the importance of each job, no matter how small it seems.
They learn that being prompt and staying through the end, means a job well done. That responsibility factor magnifies when you volunteer as a family. Kids feel more invested in the importance of doing their chores at home in a timely manner. Does this mean you will never have to nag them again? Ha…quit dreaming! But it does mean that they are likely to stick better to a chore chart and understand they have a job that needs to get done.
Balance it Out
In this modern world of school work and homework, sports and activities, sometimes it feels like the only family time is obtained when driving frantically from one practice or rehearsal to the next. Family volunteer time offers a different option. It is scheduled family time that is usually more fulfilling than cramming homework in between events. It also teaches children to maintain balance in their lives.
If you have to study for 20 minutes less for a test — sorry teachers — because you committed to working at the homeless shelter, well maybe that time will give you a different insight on an essay later. Or if you have to give up one night at the gym, so you can help a needy family move into a new apartment — well that’s lifting a whole different kind of weight. Kids need balance in their lives and it’s up to us as parents to model it for them. Family volunteer time can do just that.
When kids turn their compassion into action, they see that they have the ability to change the world. It shows them they have the power to get things done. If they see a wrong in the world, they can right it. If they see a need, they can fill it. It shows them that their empathy means something and that their energy and dedication can make the world a better place.
About the writer
Carrie Whitten-Simmons (XCP ’89, SFX ’85) is the Executive Producer and Host of the television series Travel With Kids, which airs in 150 cities in the U.S. and in 30 countries around the world. She is also the founder of TWK Family Adventure Travel, which offers family tours that include volunteer time in developing countries around the world including Peru, South Africa, Thailand, Fiji and more.
Her sons, Nathan (SSJ ’15) and Seamus (SSJ ’17) are the founder of Re:Help Organization, a non-profit that promotes kids helping kids.
For more information on the television series, TWK Family Adventure Travel opportunities, and the Re-Help Organization, visit www.TravelWithKids.tv
Birthday parties that give back — An article from Raising Arizona Kids
Families Giving Back — Follow on Facebook
Furnishing Dignity — Help organize, secure or relocate furniture when a previously homeless person, individual or youth aging out of foster care moves into their own place. Formed by a trio of moms who met at St. John Bosco.
Hands and Hearts Day at St. Vincent de Paul — Simple crafts for all ages. Most first Saturdays, but with Christmas coming the opportunities are greater. Register for Nov. 5, Nov. 19, Nov. 24, Dec. 3 or Dec. 17.
Hands on Greater Phoenix — Refine your search to find family-friendly options
Layettes of Love — Join Christ Child Society of Phoenix 9 a.m.-noon Oct. 22 at Mt. Claret Retreat Center for an open house in honor of Make a Difference Day and the 150th birthday of the society’s founder.
Info: Grace (623) 266-7277 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Paz de Cristo — Prepare and serve dinner nightly. Minimum age is 12.
Sleeping Mats for the Homeless — 2-5p Oct. 22 at Corpus Christi Parish in Ahwatukee. No age limit, but use of sharp scissors required. Training provided to help make plastic yarn out of old grocery bags that are weaved together into a sleeping mat. Info: email@example.com or (480) 703-2871.
Trees Matter — Volunteers from St. Mary’s Basilica will be on hand at Desert Vista High School, 16440 S. 32nd St., for this event that inspires and promotes desert-adapted shade trees. Come get yours for free. Light breakfast provided for volunteers. Info.