Four Reasons, Four Sons, For Goodness’ Sake – We Need Young Volunteers!

Many of us who volunteer use our skills to do so. Whether we have learnt them through academia, during the course of our professional careers or simply out of life experience, the tools and talents that we have developed throughout our lives can really shine through in the world of volunteering. Whether you are a treasurer keeping the books in check, speaking passionately about a cause or in the office typing fifty words per minute, charities will be extremely grateful if you can bring particular expertise or a niche attribute to their work. Such skills are typically owned by those of a certain age, or with a certain level of professional experience and a proven track record. Many people – especially young people and students – are viewed as falling outside this bracket, and are consequently often overlooked. But this is the wrong view. Young people do have skills, they do have talents, and they often have the willingness (even if they need a little encouragement) to make change happen.

Read on to find out why we should involve young people in volunteering...

Read on to find out why we should involve young people in volunteering…

Charities are sometimes unwilling to involve “young people” – who I am defining for the moment as under-18s – in their work. But there are at least four compelling reasons as to why young people could, and should, be given more of a chance to make their mark on the charity sector. These reasons are:

  1. They are influential and a powerful force in affecting change.
  2. They have a lot to offer in terms of skills and ideas.
  3. They are passionate and willing to help.
  4. The benefits volunteering can offer young people are great both in number and impact.

The power of young people can be underestimated. And, if not underestimated, it is not uncommon to view the power of young people,

Last summer's Redbridge NCS programme demonstrated the powerful effect young people can have on social change.

Last summer’s JLGB-led Redbridge NCS programme demonstrated the powerful effect young people can have on social change.

sometimes justifiably, in a negative light. Even 18 months on, the riots in London and other major cities up and down the country are still fresh in our minds. The violence was associated with primarily young people, identified as thuggish and unemployed. And many were shocked at the scale at which this relatively silent minority could burn, damage and destroy. Yet this distracts us from plenty of ways the power of young people can be harnessed and used to great and positive effect. I was involved in the fantastic JLGB-led National Citizenship Project (NCS) in the London Borough of Redbridge last summer and found it quite remarkable how a group of boys and girls aged 16-18 could identify a problem, come up with an idea and implement a social action project with minimal assistance, all in the space of three weeks. And last year, 120 students on the Yoni Jesner Award Scheme for students aged 11-14, run by JVN, attracted so much attention that a Lord, an Ambassador and a government minister all agreed to attend the awards ceremony to sing their praises.

Overlooking the skills, talents and bright ideas of young people is also too common. The theory of “no degree, no value” is totally wrong, especially when it comes to charity work. This has been exemplified recently by the efforts of four boys, all aged between 11 and 14, who decided to come together and sing to raise money for charity. The time they spend volunteering to raise their profile, writing their own arrangements of Jewish songs and using their talents to benefit good causes demonstrates the potential of a bright idea and a talented group of youngsters. The group, called The Four Sons, released their first album, Arba’a Banim, last weekend. It has already sold over 250 copies and the proceeds from this, in addition to the money they raised over Purim in their Purim spiel marathon, comes to over £3,000, which will be donated to Water Aid, Chai Cancer Care and Emunah.

The Four Sons have so far raised over £3,000 for charity through their innovative volunteering campaign.

The Four Sons have so far raised over £3,000 for charity through their innovative volunteering campaign.

More information about The Four Sons – who are available for charity and other events – can be found at their website, www.the4sons.com, where you can also buy a CD and donate to their charities. Further donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/teams/thefoursons. The Four Sons was the idea of its members – four young boys – and it is not only an innovative way of volunteering but also has brought huge success in terms of the money they have raised. The talents and ideas of young people simply cannot afford to be ignored by charities.

Not only are young people talented, bright and able, but they are also willing to change the world in whatever way they can. They want to use their time to support good causes. Sometimes, all they need is the guidance and a nudge in the right direction. In order to make the most out of their enthusiasm, energy and goodwill, charities must actively seek out, educate and embrace young people who are passionate about their cause. It is not enough to sit there and wait for the phone to ring. Young people will take the bait, but we first need to cast the rod. The willingness of young people is all too clear – the moment the opportunity for social and political action is dangled in front of them at university, they snatch at it. Remember the nationwide student protests of 2011 and 2012? Charities need to tap into this resource of passion, desire and idealism early on in order to focus young people’s actions on something that really can make a difference. We know how our campaigns and resources, when used effectively, can influence real social change. We now need to appreciate that the volunteers out there who are ready and eager to help implement it are not necessarily adults.

Volunteering is a fantastic addition to a young person's CV.

Volunteering is a fantastic addition to a young person’s CV.

And finally, the benefits of volunteering for young people are invaluable – a more developed skills base, improved confidence and a better-looking CV are just a few examples of the ways in which volunteering can help them. Volunteering can literally affect their university and career prospects. And the benefits are also long-term for our charities. Young, passionate people who have experience of volunteering are the next generation’s leaders of the voluntary sector. We need to welcome young people to volunteer not only to improve their future prospects, but also to secure the future of the charities we need.

Through these reasons, we can see a compelling case for actively encouraging young people to get involved in volunteering. They are able, they are innovative, they are keen and they are necessary to sustain the charity sector. Young people are ideally placed to benefit both themselves, their local communities and wider society, and we need to take advantage of their enthusiasm to implement social change, both for their sake and for ours.

If your charity involves or is interested in involving young people more, contact JVN for more information on how we are bringing charities together to better co-ordinate young Jewish people’s volunteering through schools, synagogues and youth clubs with our partners at JLGB.

Sign up for JVN and Interact UK's new, unique and challenging project, Rise Up for Redbridge.

Sign up for JVN and Interact UK’s new, unique and challenging project, Rise Up for Redbridge.

JVN’s new project, Rise Up for Redbridge, in partnership with Interact UK, will bring young people aged 16-18 of different faiths from the London Borough of Redbridge together to devise their own volunteering projects to benefit charities in their local area. For more information and to sign up for this unique and exciting programme, click here.

Do you think there are other compelling reasons for young people to volunteer, and for charities to better involve them? Or are there reasons why we shouldn’t involve them too much? Are you a young person who wants to share your experience of volunteering? Leave us your comments below, or contact us on Twitter using the hashtag #youngvolunteering.

Tags:

Categories: Volunteering, Volunteering Issues, Volunteering Perspectives

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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