Royal Voluntary Service, is advising more parents to get their children involved in volunteering from a young age, on the back of new research that identifies that the positive impact it can have on their wellbeing.
According to new research commissioned, one in five children at secondary school and one in ten in primary school have volunteered their time to help others in the community. Feedback from the parents questioned about their child’s volunteering experience, identified it made them further appreciate what they have (39%), improved confidence levels (33%), provided them with a purpose (27%), and grown their communication skills (16%). More than half (51%) believed it was responsible for making their child happier.
Many of the child volunteers would have been following their parents lead - 32 per cent of parents have taken their child with them while volunteering with 18 per cent of these to a local community activity eg lunch or social club and nine per cent to a scouting or guide group that they’re involved in running.
The charity, which has recently updated its insurance to allow children to accompany their parents or grandparents in a variety of volunteering roles, would like to see more primary school age children involved and benefiting from volunteering. Engaging children while they are in primary education is particularly important as research has identified children should ideally start volunteering before they are ten years old to sew the seed.
"We’re delighted to see how many parents are introducing their children to volunteering at a young age, as the habit is more likely to stick. Not only will they reap the benefit now, but they will continue to do so through their life course. Volunteering with your children is a brilliant way to connect with them and teach them about the wider world. It can have huge benefits in teaching children about empathy, vital skills in human interaction and offers a completely different type of family activity and experience."
Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service
Stephanie Gourley (29), a Customer Service Assistant at Leeds Building Society, has been volunteering every Friday at Royal Voluntary Service’s Cornhill Centre in Banbury for two years with her son Bobby (4) and saw a hugely positive impact in his development, confidence and relationships with other people.
"Bobby is naturally loud and boisterous but through volunteering he was able to channel this energy into singing for the centre attendees and playing his guitar. I’ve watched him become independent in his interaction with people and adapt his play according to who he spends time with and their own needs. As time has gone on, all the Day Centre attendees have become Bobby’s own little family.
Stephanie’s daughter, Amelia (7) also goes along to the Centre in the school holidays.
"It’s nice to do something different with the children and it has taught them so much about life. By spending time with older people and facilitating activities, they have learned a different way of interacting with people and that not everything revolves around children! They have learned patience, listening skills, grown in confidence and formed strong cross-generational bonds. It’s such a different environment to what the children are used to when we attend the normal children-only groups."
As well as parents, schools were influential in introducing students to volunteering in 62% of cases. One such school is Sir John Hunt Community Sports College in Plymouth where six students started volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service in December 2018 after putting on a successful Christmas lunch for older people in their local community. Supported by the school, the students; Anastasia Berry (17), Alisha Hatrey (17), Ashleigh Carvell (17), Katie Hobgen (17), Holly Bone (17) and Lucie Bates (17), now run a monthly social club for older residents in Whitleigh.
"A lot of older people live near to the school. Many don’t have children or partners. They live alone. We wanted to create more opportunities to bring them together, so they wouldn’t be alone."
The first activity, a three course Christmas dinner and dance, was attended by nearly 70 older people from all over Whitleigh. Alisha Hatrey (17) says the conversations were one of the most enjoyable elements.
"All the guests were really interesting and I liked listening to their stories. One gentleman spoke of his experience in the Falklands War and a lady was telling us how she had been married three times. The most touching story of them all was from a resident who hadn’t been out since his wife’s death almost a year ago. He said that coming to such an event had made him remember what it’s like to live again."
The girls agree that the volunteering experience is proving as beneficial for them, as it is for those they are helping.
"I feel I’ve developed new skills and can talk to the older generation more confidently."
Katie has also seen changes in herself.
"Since volunteering, my confidence has really grown. I’ve loved hearing what older people in Whitleigh have to say and what they have done in their lives."
"This new research about the high level of volunteering among Britain's schoolchildren is hugely exciting. It confirms what has been known for some time that volunteering is very much an exchange relationship, with both giver and receiver benefitting. These young active citizens are not only helping others in their local community, but building skills, experience and resilience that they will take with them throughout their lives. RVS should be congratulated on their innovation, and I hope very much that other charities and schools will follow suit and look for ways to unlock this reservoir of human and social capital."
Dr Justin Davis Smith, Senior Lecturer in Voluntary Sector Management at Cass Business School
The research was conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of Royal Voluntary Service, with 2,001 parents with children aged 5-16 in the United Kingdom between 2 August 2019 to 1 August 2019.
Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
Image top: Front row (left to right) Lucie, Holly, Anastasia. Back row (left to right) Ashley, Alisha, Katie
Image bottom: Sam Wheeler (Royal Voluntary Service, Service Assistant at Cornhill Center) and her daughter Stephanie Gourley (Royal Voluntary Service, volunteer) with her two children Amelia (age 7) and Bobby (age 4).
For further information
Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary service organisations in Britain. We inspire and enable 20,000 volunteers to help people in need in hospitals, at home and in the community.
Our volunteers improve patient experience in hospital, aid recovery after a stay on ward, help older people support themselves at home, stay fit and active and build meaningful social connections.
Royal Voluntary Service supports volunteers to run services in the community such as lunch and dining clubs, physical activity classes, craft, gardening and other hobby groups. We work collaboratively with other charities, social care providers and the NHS to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved.
The charity is one of the UK’s largest hospital retailers with 230 volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services providing tea and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors.
To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.
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