When third-grader Noor felt inspired to start a school club devoted to cleaning up trash on the playground, the adults in her life fully encouraged her every step of the way. “My dad bought gloves for the club members to wear,” Noor says. “I scheduled a meeting with the co-principals, and they suggested ordering green ‘uniforms’ for the trash collectors.” Noor made up announcements, and so many people wanted to sign up, it was hard for her to write down all their names.
Her Green Team, scheduled to go over the playground once a week, has received lots of positive feedback. “I was proud that when a teacher sent a student from another class out to pick up trash and they couldn’t find one piece of paper on the playground.”
In the last two decades, children have shown us again and again that their creative ideas for helping others and the planet can bring about astounding results.
At the age of eight, Marin County resident Vivienne Harr saw pictures of two child slaves carrying huge burdens and told her parents she wanted to help stop child slavery by selling lemonade. They took her seriously. In the first six months, she raised $100,000, but that was just the beginning of her philanthropy. Now 17, Vivienne has turned her efforts to many causes, has spoken at many events around the world, and is the youngest recipient of the George H. W. Bush Points of Light Award. Read her story here.
Greta Thunberg didn’t start her work to implement climate change until she was 15, but she has motivated people around the world to take the issues seriously.
The idea of being of service can start in small, simple ways. Families can brainstorm ideas together. Some organizations provide opportunities like the White Pony Express Baby Backpack project we’re sponsoring at school.
Summer is a good time to plan family projects, and they can start small. Clean the yard of an elderly neighbor or walk a few blocks in downtown Walnut Creek and pick up trash. Push stray shopping carts in a store parking lot back to the holding areas. Read books to younger children. Design bookmarks to leave in a local library.
We need children to become creative leaders who can find ways to put compassion for others and for the environment into action. By encouraging them to help at home and in the community in small ways, we build their confidence that they can make a difference in the world.