Community service for our youth
July 2, 2012
by Jenni Sebora

Our schools are not the only places that our children gain an education. Our communities are sources and settings beyond the walls of school for our youth to gain benefits and education.

Community service provides benefits for all involved. Scouting groups, 4-H, and church youth groups are just some of the programs that involve youth in providing civic service for their local communities and beyond.

Our son, who is in high school, traveled to Michigan with our church’s youth group, its youth director, and her husband. They worked with underprivileged children who live on a poverty-stricken former Army base.

The youth group and the adults organized and implemented a vacation Bible school for these children. The children and youth met in a church, where our youth taught, played with, and developed connections with them.

My son talked of a girl who attended who lost her house to a fire and her parents to prison. The cause – a meth lab the parents were running in their home – blew up. In fact, right next to the church was a house that was considered a drug house.

For this one week, these children could forget about their troubles and receive attention, support, instruction, and mentorship from our youth.

For this week, our servant youth learned about citizenship, caring, leadership, communication, empathy, and an increased sense of empowerment. They learned to work with diverse groups of people of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

When the week was over, tears were shed – not only by the children in the community, but also by the servant youth. Relationships were formed. I know, my son was not ready to leave. He knew he made an impact on the children he worked with for that one week.

Our youth can make an impact on social challenges. From community service such as mission trips, they develop a sense of being responsible for their community. We are developing another generation of caring people. That is why involving our children in community service projects is so important.

When we feel a sense of accomplishment – that we have really made a difference for someone – it boosts our self-esteem, and our sense of value in this world. It gives our youth knowledge that they can succeed in areas other than sports or academics.

Through such experiences, youth also learn that not everyone lives in a stable home or healthy environment. Learning about gratitude and graciousness is important.

One third-grade girl my son worked with could read just minimally. During the week, he tried to teach her some common words by writing them on paper and repeating them with her. We can all make a difference – no matter what age we are.

This is a lesson for all of us; putting in perspective what we have – our relationships, experiences, knowledge, and faith.

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