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Work for a cause, not for applause by Janine Magree

 Celebrating Youth Day today by being change-makers for tomorrow

What are our youth doing to be the change they hope to see in our country?
Whilst some individuals are ordered to do community service hours as a punishment befitting certain crimes, students often choose to strengthen their varsity applications by working in their communities. But it is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it, and there are actually people who enjoy helping others and improving their community without any incentive. So how can you get involved?

Ways to contribute don’t always require a massive amount of effort; you could, for instance, sign up as an organ donor  or  Teens and young adults have boundless energy, so if you want to go the extra mile, we would love to hear from you about how we can make more impact on the youth. If there are aspiring filmmakers who are willing to give of their time to help us reach more up and coming movers and shakers, we welcome your assistance.

You could also become a stem cell and bone marrow donor These simple, three- or five-minute acts are so vital that they could, one day, save lives and yet they cost you nothing.

Or why not contribute by donating blood This is a simple way of serving your community, yet it is so valuable to the family whose loved one may have been badly injured in a motor accident, and who needs a pint of your particular blood type.

What’s more, you’ll even be given juice and biscuits for donating! Who said there were no free lunches in this world? You may even be lucky enough to score a pen, juice bottle, gym towel, mug or similar small gift, in return for merely sitting back and allowing the phlebotomist to insert a needle into your arm to extract a single pint of your blood.

Here are a few other ideas on how anyone can get involved in community service and show South Africans at large that our youth really does have a role to play in our future.

ï         Host a community blood drive and advertise the heck out of it so that it’s a worthwhile day for SANBS to attend.

ï         Hold a cake sale at your school or church to raise funds for your favourite charity.

ï         Organise a party for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Ask donors to sponsor the food and drink, have your friends act as facepainters, balloon artists, clowns, henna tattoo artists, or DJs. Spray the children’s hair, play soccer or draw with them, paint their nails and give them a day to remember, complete with food parcels to take home for their families.

ï         Start a committee to raise money towards the building of a school, or clinic.

ï         Clean up a local park, paint park benches, start a community butterfly garden, or plant native flowers or plants along highways. Organise a campaign to raise money to buy or build playground equipment and help fix or raise funds to repair a run-down playground.

ï         Adopt verges to keep tidy and/or paint over graffiti in your neighbourhood.

ï         Participate in the clean-up of a local river, pond, or lake.

ï         Collect and clean bottle lids and bread tags to help buy a wheelchair for someone in need.

ï         Volunteer to read to a person who is visually impaired, maybe someone in a nursing home.

ï         Make and deliver meals and/or gifts to patients at a local hospital.

ï         Write articles / give speeches advocating for a specific cause that you know a lot about and where you would like to see change.

ï         Tutor young children in subjects they struggle with, or give free music, sewing, woodwork or art lessons, depending on where your talents lie.

ï         Collect used sports equipment to donate to families and after-school care programmes and / or coach a youth sports team.

ï         Organise a reading hour for children at a local school or library, complete with creative activities, or volunteer to spend time with babies at a baby home. Otherwise, offer to babysit children in your area for mums who need a night off.

ï         Make or collect stuffed toys and art supplies for the children in hospitals.

ï         Knit or crochet blankets to be donated to baby homes, or collect baby clothes, nappies and toiletries to donate to new parents.

ï         Create grief baskets and take them to bereaved parents. You might include a handmade card with thoughtful message, a journal, scented candles, an ink pad to take finger or handprints, a keepsake box, photo frames, chocolate, a box of tissues, meditation CD, essential oils, a cosy blanket, gift vouchers for a massage or self-care items and /or perhaps an item of jewellery to remember the loved one by.

ï         Deliver groceries and meals to elderly neighbours. Offer to mow their lawn or wash windows for them.

ï         Offer to decorate a Christmas tree at a nursing/children’s home.

ï         Find an organisation that looks after people with disabilities and ask if there is some way you can assist.

ï         Visit and ask residents of a retirement home to tell you about their lives. Make little posies from your garden to give to them.

ï         Phone up and ask an animal shelter if you can help take care of cats and dogs.

ï         Organise a spaying and neutering programme in your area.

ï         Donate food to an organisation like The Angel Wings Foundation or offer your services at a soup kitchen.

ï         Contact your local Rotary or Lions Club, who collect items like old specs and clothes, food and blankets to distribute to the needy.

ï         Help repair or paint a local children’s shelter.

ï         Help organise and sort donations at an organisation which needs assistance.

ï         Join a club, become a lifesaver, get certified to administer CPR and volunteer at a local pool or beach.

ï         Donate used books to Hospice or other organisation that needs them. Although few and far between, there are also mini libraries in some areas, where those who stock them will gladly take reading books off your hands. You could even start one yourself.

Finding projects that incorporate your passions make them less of a chore and will make the work you do more meaningful to the community you are serving. From the above list, it is obvious community service helps all kinds of people, from children, to senior citizens, people with disabilities, even animals and the environment. Here is an article which may give you some ideas of where to find charities/community care organisations which need help.

It’s important to identify issues and people that matter to YOU. Follow your heart, rather than half-heartedly taking on a project which doesn’t interest you. If there’s a specific group of people you enjoy being around, such as the elderly, find a way to spend time with them doing something you enjoy. If you play a musical instrument, you might get involved at a retirement village and spend time entertaining the residents.

Community service activities can also help you gain skills, from teaching to first aid, gardening, filmmaking or fundraising and arranging functions. If there is a skill you’d like to work on to improve your prospects for future courses or jobs, or simply out of personal interest, you might decide to investigate whether there is a community service activity that helps you learn this skill.

Societal awareness helps us understand how we fit into and give back to our community and the world, as well as how we get what we need in return. Social awareness also helps us develop understanding about the social ills faced by others, which in turn, develops our compassion and empathy. As Stephen Covey states in his popular book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

We are also encouraged to understand our strengths and weaknesses in order to find solutions to problems. Meeting new people from different social and cultural backgrounds through activities which give satisfaction results in personal growth, teaches us about working with others in certain occupations, as well as affording valuable work experience. From these relationships, we may even form strong friendships.

Social awareness is integral to emotional intelligence. If you complain about others who do not understand your needs, you may find you need to work on your own emotional intelligence and operate more from a place of empathy for others, service as well as organisational awareness – which implies gaining an understanding of political, social and economic issues at play.

Ultimately, community service helps improve both our social and emotional well-being, so get on board and make this Youth Day the start of something great for our country.

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