Please welcome Kai Strand, author of Save the Lemmings! posting about the timely topic of kids and volunteering. Kai includes segments of an interview she did with Betsy Warriner of Volunteer Connect in Bend, Oregon.
In my newest novel, SAVE THE LEMMINGS, Natalie falls in love with lemmings and learns of their tendency to commit mass suicide. It breaks her heart to think of all those needless deaths, so she joins the Save the Lemmings! Foundation. Her support helps build tiny picket fences along the cliffs of the arctic so that lemmings can no longer jump to their deaths.
When I worked for Habitat for Humanity, we had a lot of children and parents contact us to ask about volunteer opportunities for kids. It can be difficult to find good non-profits for kids to get involved with…unless you know where to look. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. I recently spoke with Betsy Warriner, the Executive Director of Volunteer Connect in Bend, Oregon.
Kai Strand: Betsy, thanks for joining us. We are hoping to pick your brain about kids volunteering; mainly kids nine years old and up. Are children able to volunteer? What are some of the different opportunities they might get involved in?
Betsy Warriner: Yes, children are able to volunteer. Pre-teens are often welcome to help out with projects with animals and environmental restoration. Some opportunities have a minimum age qualification, but sometimes the organization can go below that age if the child is with an adult. Children also often do projects from home and school, such as organizing canned food drives or creating a community garden. A good resource for getting involved is Youth Service America at www.ysa.org
Kai: If a child or teen has a particular interest; animals, books, art, how will volunteering help them learn more about it?
Betsy: Children and adults can learn a lot about particular interests by volunteering with organizations focused on those interests. By volunteering, you get to experience the topic personally and work with other people who know a lot about it.
To find good volunteer opportunities related to your interest, ask your local volunteer center or do an online search for the interest topic, including the word "volunteer."
Here is a good strategy for learning as you volunteer:
-- Figure out what you want to learn and how you want to help out. Doing this together with family or friends can bring up some great ideas. Write these goals down.
-- Contact local or international organizations serving your area of interest, and share your goals with them. They will probably be impressed that you have thought your goals out and welcome you to come and talk more about your ideas.
-- As you volunteer, keep a journal of what you do, what you see and hear, how you feel about what you are doing, and what you are learning. Share some of what you journal with family and friends. Maybe you could write a letter to the local newspaper about what you observed and learned and about what other people can do to help out. You could take pictures, and do a presentation for your class or a local service club. Sharing what you are learning makes it come even more alive.
-- As you reflect on your volunteer experience, figure out what you want to do next -- maybe a new volunteer endeavor, or maybe a way to make your current volunteering even better.
The best resource for ideas on how to learn while volunteering is Catherine Berger Kaye's The Complete Guide to Service Learning.
Kai: What are some of the most favorite youth volunteer opportunities here in Central Oregon?
Betsy: Events for Healthy Beginnings, the Latino Community Association, and other organizations
The garden at The Environmental Center
Repacking food at NeighborImpact
Preparing bag lunches at Bend's Community Center
Assisting at a branch of the Deschutes Public Library
Cleaning and yard work at Ronald McDonald House
Search on the Volunteer Connect website for other ideas: www.volunteerconnectnow.org. Volunteer Connect also has ideas for projects that families can do at home.
Kai: How can children and their parents learn about youth volunteer opportunities in their area?
Betsy: Check with your local volunteer center or United Way for ideas. Search online, using key words such as "volunteer" plus your community name.
Kai: Last but not least, Betsy….WHY should kids volunteer?
Betsy: Volunteering brings people together, builds confidence and purpose, and can be a lot of fun, while making a real difference in the community.
Kai: Thank you, Betsy, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about volunteering. Parents, if you want to encourage your children to volunteer, be sure to find out what their real interests are and then search for an opportunity together.
Have you volunteered before? What did you do? Who did you do it for? What was the best part of the experience? We’d love to know.
Thank you, Kai and Betsy, for this informative and helpful interview!
About the author: Kai Strand writes fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where they call home.
To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: www.kaistrand.com. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author.
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf