By Fatoumata Sidibe
While most students are introduced to community service in their high school career by its graduation requirement, this was not the case for me. Beginning in 6th grade at Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls, I was accountable to complete a service requirement on a quarterly basis.
I remember how I struggled with coming to terms with how meaningful my contribution could be. Sure, I understood the intention of service and the importance of adapting a selfless character, but it didn’t seem plausible that 13-14 years olds could truly make a difference to a world unfortunately plagued by many things seemingly greater than us – I felt that I couldn’t find a cure or solve some complex dilemma.
As I regularly participated in community service, I discovered the benefits of service are much more obvious when I didn’t search for them.
Participating in long-term projects, specifically the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, I found happiness when a familiar family came in and said hello to me on a first name basis. I felt good when we did themed boxes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead of seeing community service as something mandatory for school, I realized its necessity in the humanitarian view.
Once in high school, I filled up my requirement by the end of my first semester. I discovered that as much as I helped others, I, in turn, helped myself. Service allowed me to obtain a more worldly view, a world seen through eyes with greater consideration of others. This deeply affected my development as a community member, student, and person. I have formed many connections with people from all walks of life, become a responsive participant to my immediate community, and a more gracious, humbled teen.
I am always overjoyed when I see families out serving their community, particularly young children. There is as much to gain from service as there is to give, and the awareness of the difference a young person can make is priceless. Because of this, I greatly encourage you to do service in your community with your kids.
Here are some (kid friendly!) volunteer opportunities:
Assisting at Community Farms for RI Community Food Bank: Community Farms: Charlestown, Cumberland, Smithfield, and Warren. All Ages.
Become a Zoo Crew Counselor in Training at Roger Williams Park Zoo: Zoo Crew Counselors in Training – volunteer for a year and potentially get a job at the Zoo. Ages grades 7-12
Make donation to Goodwill or Big Brothers Big Sisters: Organize a mass clean up in the house and donate! Involve kids and encourage them to give items on the wish lists found on the websites. All ages.
One Kid Can!: Ideas for kids of all ages to help the RI Community Food Bank.
Providence Children’s Museum: Play Guide – ages 16+; Family Volunteer – all ages.
RISPCA Kids Caring Program: Ideas for children under 18 to help the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Save the Bay: Coastal cleanups, water monitors, internships, and more. Ages varies by activity.
ServeRhode Island: All ages. Learn about various volunteer programs.
Volunteering at the RI Community Food Bank: Ages 14 and up
VolunteerMatch Website: All ages. Search for local volunteer opportunities.