As a child, I was surrounded by adults who volunteered their time to their communities. Family members volunteered in a number of ways, including playing the piano for community theatre productions, shopping for our elderly neighbour, helping to staff a holiday camp for children whose siblings were living with leukaemia and working the night shift at a shelter for women who were experiencing domestic abuse. I wonder whether my commitment to volunteering as an adult is connected to the positive role modelling I had from adults when I was growing up. But what is it that our children learn when they see us, as the adults in their lives, committing to volunteer service?
If we volunteer across socio-economic, cultural and intergenerational groups, our children learn that being part of a community involves all members of society.
We actively show our children that we value work in its different forms whether paid, voluntary, full time, part time or temporary. And that at different stages in our lives and circumstances we are open to exploring a range of working opportunities.
We model to our children that we all need people to support and care for us. Sometimes that support may be receiving a winter clothes donation or taking a new parent in our community on a tour of our local shops, but more often than not it is the need for a meaningful human connection that provides each of us with care and support.
When we commit to new volunteer opportunities we demonstrate that, like our children, we are open to taking risks and new learning with members of our wider communities. This may involve a volunteer opportunity where we need to speak a new language or develop new skills e.g. learning more about how to sensitively communicate across cultures and income groups.
Our older children can sometimes equate the value of volunteering to building their CVs for university or college applications and for entering the job market. Whilst this is understandable, it is our job as adults to model behaviours to our children that are longer lasting, and that they will hopefully pass on to the next generation.