Make an Impact on Create the Change Day in 2018!

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

– John F. Kennedy

They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. That it takes a lot of hard work to see a small change. And that tiny steps are worth celebrating just as much as big ones.

All these things are true. But sometimes, we can see a big, tangible change unfold in real time, right in front of our eyes.

Since 2016, hundreds of volunteers, including kids, parents and other community members, gather each fall in Project Giving Kids’ three home cities to spend a day making a difference. As PGK gears up for its third annual Create the Change Day, we’re reflecting on where we’ve been – and what we can still accomplish.

Create the Change events combine service opportunities for many local organizations under one roof, along with fun activities, inspirational speakers and the chance to see an immediate impact.

Interested in joining our events in Boston, San Francisco or Los Angeles (new this year)? Learn more about each
event on our website.

Last year, we:

  • Created 200 thank-you cards for veterans.
  • Assembled 520 toiletry kits for low-income and homeless individuals and families.
  • Crafted 200 pet toys for local animal shelters.
  • Collected 200 books for a library in Africa.
  • Prepped 1,000 silverware packets for St. Francis House’s annual Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Made 100 welcome-home keytags for people moving into homes for the first time.
  • Wrote 40 letters to city council members advocating for affordable housing.
  • Put together 150 shower bags for homeless women in the Boston area.

And if you don’t live in a PGK city, don’t worry; there are still plenty of ways you and your family can get involved this fall. Check out our redesigned activity finder to pick a cause and start making a difference today, wherever you are.

Help Your Kid Build Emotional Intelligence in 3 Simple Ways

We all want our kids to succeed, and we want to give them the skills they need to do it. But are you putting volunteer service on your child’s list of crucial extra-curriculars?

If you aren’t, here’s why you should.

Did you know that emotional intelligence is a bigger predictor of long term success than good grades?
Source: GIPHY

The biggest thing that is going to help your kid through their life and future career isn’t IQ, test scores, or academic skill – it’s emotional intelligence. Decades of research shows that kids who develop skills like empathy, resilience, and how to differentiate and name emotions are much more successful as adults, and much less likely to self-harm and engage in risky behavior as teens.

Volunteer service helps prepare teens for college, not just by looking good on college applications or qualifying them for service-oriented scholarships, but by strengthening their character.

It’s been proven that volunteer service is strongly associated with more positive outcomes such as higher grades, better mental health, and better follow-through with commitments.

Learning emotional intelligence through service to others is important at every age.
Source: GIPHY

Volunteer service helps kids seek out and listen to what others need, connect with them, and create meaningful emotional connections. We can help them name all those feelings and get comfortable talking about them, help them better understand how their actions impact others, and help them process how service affects their own lives.

Teens lose half their brains in puberty, and what they do in their teen years matters.
Source: Reaction GIFs

With teens, it’s especially important to reinforce lessons of empathy and giving. The pre-teen and teenage brain goes through several (literally!) mind-blowing biological transformations, and things like regular volunteer service can help teens establish and feed life-long habits rooted in personal responsibility, empathy, and compassion.

Showing kids and teens in real, concrete terms how their actions affect others can be challenging, but it’s also vital. Service helps make those lessons easy and positive.

We’ve created a simple challenge for kids and teens of all ages to help you get started.
Source: Gifer

A Little #GivingChallenge is designed to help young people of all ages reflect on these things simply and easily, so the lessons stick, reinforcing pathways in the brain that support empathy and kindness.

With A Little #GivingChallenge, we’ve taken out all the guesswork to help you get started. Three days for kids and teens to give back in three different ways, with three concrete actions.

 

A Little #GivingChallenge

  • Day 1: Help your family
  • Day 2: Do something kind for a teacher, friend, or neighbor
  • Day 3: Give back to your community

 

With our downloadable quick guide, you’ll get ideas for each day of the challenge and a place where kids can reflect on why they chose a particular activity. This moment of reflection is super important, as it’s what builds those pathways in the brain that help kids process and retain these lessons of empathy, service, and kindness.

Download the PDF here!


 

Create a Giving Kids Day!

I recently volunteered in my daughter’s preschool, organizing a Giving Kids Day. What a wonderful experience, from start to finish! Using the PGK website, we found three age-appropriate, fun projects for the kids to complete: assembling snack bags for the homeless, making cat toys for shelter animals, and decorating cards for homebound seniors.

We got started with a discussion about what it means to be a helper.  The kids quickly made connections to their own lives, discussing classroom jobs and sharing ways they like to help out at home.

Each project had an adult helper, and the students rotated through each. It was amazing to see how focused they were on the projects. The cat toys were challenging for many, but they persevered, many shouting in excitement, “I finally got it!”  I was impressed by how much time and care they put into their cards for seniors. Each card truly reflected their love and kindness. And to my surprise, their favorite activity was assembling snack bags. The kids liked it so much, many asked to assemble more. One sweet girl asked if she could add a second water bottle to her bag, noting one bottle was not enough to stay hydrated. Bless her little heart!

We wrapped up the morning with a debrief of the activities and discussion about ways they can continue to be helpers. Their teacher read The Giving Tree later that day, and many of the kids continued to work on cards and toys during quiet time for the remainder of the week. Inspired and impressed by the morning, the teachers have already discussed ways they can bring more service projects to the classroom.

It’s really that simple. Take a few simple projects; add the love of youngsters; stir; and make magic.

Want to arrange a Giving Kids Day in your preschool or elementary school? The following steps will help you get started:

  • Use the PGK website to find local projects or ideas- focus on assembly style or arts and crafts projects to keep those little ones engaged!
  • Ask each of the families to donate a portion of the supplies (24 granola bars, 36 note cards, 50 Ziploc bags, etc.) Supplies should be due a few days before the event, as you may need time to fill in missing items.
  • Begin the day with a discussion or book about giving.
  • Talk to the kids about what they are doing and why. Ask them how it makes them feel to be helping others. These discussions will help them make stronger, lasting connections to service.
  • Take time to reflect and debrief with the kids. They will be so proud to see how much they accomplished together!
  • Remember to share their work with us and your community – parents, school, social media, etc. Share with us and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter so we can give them a shout out, too! It’s heartwarming to see little ones giving back, and you may inspire others to follow in your footsteps!

Meet the Family That Started PGK!

Here at Project Giving Kids, we are all constantly inspired by kids and teens who are doing good things in the world. It really gives me hope, and restores my faith in the basic goodness of people on a daily basis.

And that’s really how Project Giving Kids got started – inspired by kids who love helping their community. Our founder, Molly Yuska, was inspired by her own children, who have been volunteering their whole lives. They have helped out with food banks, disaster relief, and many other great causes.

I interviewed Molly to find out more about how this great organization got started, and about her philosophy on why it’s so important for kids and teens to get involved with volunteering and service learning.

You’ve said that your kids inspired you to start PGK. Can you tell me more about that?

I always say, I am a mom first and a nonprofit founder second. My kids inspire everything I do in some way, shape, or form.

Wanting to instill certain values, in part, drove me to start PGK. I also realized early on that their childhood, while beautiful, was very unlike most of the rest of the world. Kids only know what they experience, and I wanted to be sure my kids’ experiences were broader than what their day-to-day reality might naturally serve up. Parenting takes intentionality at a lot of different levels, and I see exposure to service and the needs of others as a one of the most important life experiences/lessons I can give my kids. I have to be very intentional about that.

What projects have your kids started that inspired you?

I see all my kids looking for little ways to bring smiles to others – whether a thoughtful card to a grandparent or a lemonade stand to support a natural disaster or sticking up for a kid at school who is “on the fringe” or otherwise being singled out.

But my oldest, Michael, took his concern for the environment to our school which had no formal recycling program when we moved to the area. He put a PowerPoint together on why recycling is so important, frightening stats on America’s waste habits, and ethical concerns about our (in)actions. He pitched the principal, and then the faculty/staff. He is now on his second year of leading the new Eco Club which he founded, and hopefully will live on long after he leaves the school.

I am inspired when I see them taking action because it is the right thing to do, even if it requires work and time and commitment. Those are good life lessons in general, but applying them selflessly to assist others is one of the most gratifying and inspiring things for me as a parent.

How do your kids inspire you every day?

Four kids is a lot! Every day there are a million things to think about and a million things to juggle, but I think having kids – my kids – have taught me, or perhaps reminded me, that the little things we do and can squeeze into the busy moments can be transformative.

I think that extends to something like service. It doesn’t have to be a big service trip to Haiti to be impactful. We raise thoughtful and caring kids through all those little moments – when we put down our phones to say “I love you” for no reason at all; or when we stop to hold the door for someone at a store, and then magically find that our kids do the same the next time around because you’ve modeled that behavior unknowingly.

Having kids quite honestly gives me hope in the future. I believe empathy and kindness are hardwired, and my kids remind me every day that all we have to do is stay connected to that.

How is volunteering good for the whole family?

I got an email the other day from a woman at our church who coordinated a family service opportunity at Christmas. We went into the home of a homebound couple from our church and spruced things up for Christmas. We ended up mostly cleaning – floors, windows, kitchen cabinets, etc. I’m not sure my kids would say it was their favorite Saturday activity, but they all got why we did it, felt good about helping someone and walked away feeling like they had been a blessing to another human being, which was great.

The email said that they couple had called last week requesting us again for this Christmas and recalling with excitement just how much that day had meant to them. I read the email to my kids and they got huge smiles on their faces. Three months after the fact, everyone was thrilled by what that small exchange had meant to all involved. I could have taken my kids to the mall that Saturday. Instead, I have a memory that none of us, or that couple, will ever forget.

As a mom, why is volunteering so important for all kids and teens?

Children have a beautiful developmental window in which volunteering can truly take root in an organic way that changes the way they view themselves and the world around them. And it has been shown that those effects last a lifetime. I want concern for neighbor to trump concern for self for my kids. I want them to know that in helping others, they are not hindering their own advancement, but rather aiding it.

I do not believe life is a zero sum game. We all do better when we help our neighbors and our communities. I want my kids to know they can make a difference, and I want them to actively seek to make that difference long after they have left our house.