Volunteerism develops culture of empathy, sincerity

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Hooked up: St. Joan of Arc School raised funds and donated Netbooks to Uganda. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Parents have a tough gig. They are responsible for providing all of the basic needs for their children — a warm and safe home, nourishing sustenance, affection — and they are tasked with the amazing job of shaping their children into happy, healthy and upstanding adults. Parents are accountable for teaching their children how to not only survive but also how to relish in their existence and the world around them. One of the best ways to develop a strong character in children is volunteering, which helps kids to think about others in need. By becoming active participants in their own community, children are able to feel a sense of responsibility for their actions as well as feel confidence and pride in their abilities to be advocates for good causes.

Many places around Chicago function with help from volunteers. One organization that depends greatly on the kind hearts of others is the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), where 98,000 volunteer hours were served last year. Children as young as 5 can begin volunteering at the GCFD. Individuals, groups, schools or families can get together and really make a difference at this non-profit organization that aims to end hunger in the community by providing meals and integrative training to people in need.

Visit www.chicagosfoodbank.org for more information on how you, your child or your child’s school can help.

Fortunately, parents are not alone in the goal of teaching our children about volunteerism. Many schools integrate volunteer service into the prospectus. Fenwick High School, a Catholic college preparatory school in Oak Park, for example, has a Christian Service Project (CSP) as part of the Moral Theology curriculum. Juniors are required to complete a minimum of 40 up-paid service hours at a non-profit organization in order to receive credit necessary for graduation.

In a welcome letter on the school website, Fenwick High School president, Fr. Richard A. Peddicord said: “Since 1929 we have equipped young people with the tools necessary for successful, meaningful and faith-filled lives. In this, we continue to rely on a dedicated and highly credentialed faculty-men and women, lay and religious-who are committed to forming the next generation of society’s leaders.”

Peddicord goes on to say, “Wisdom, truth, vision and love: as more and more people receive these gifts, our world will be transformed for the good of all.”

St. Joan of Arc School in Evanston is another values-driven school that emphasizes the importance of contributing to and serving society. According to its website, “The school promotes Catholic social teachings through student participation in service projects, which encourage an understanding of the dignity of every person and a respect for God’s creation. Recognizing the support of the parish, St. Joan of Arc School emphasizes the importance of students giving back to their communities through participation in parish ministries and hosting events for the community at large. School faculty, parish staff, parents, and students share the responsibility for developing compassionate young adults who will understand and respect the differences among people, and who will work cooperatively with others to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.”

Parents who use the resources around them, including the schools their children attend, will find that there are many volunteer opportunities available for their children. Volunteering promotes a healthy lifestyle in children by enhancing their development and life skills, improving the community they live in and encouraging a strong service ethic.