Community Service…Punishment or Opportunity?

Seems like a silly question, right? Many are probably scrolling to the next blog or Facebook newsfeed because they believe they already know the answer – and might be correct. Many of us agree that community service is doing acts of good or providing services for the public or an institution. One of Rain of Hope’s Head Instructors, Cynthia Fedorko, shared with me that when researching the definition on the internet, the underlying meaning is the opposite.

Wikipedia begins their definition of community service as “a donated service or activity that…for the benefit of the public or its institutions.” Not bad, right? The definition continues: “Performing community service is not the same as volunteering, since it is not always done voluntarily.” Wikipedia rightly states that completing acts of community service, at times, is required by: governments in cases of military service, courts as a punitive sentence resulting from a convicted crime, or high schools for completion of high school credits. This definition provides a negative connotation of community service – providing the idea that community service is a mandated act, instead of a chosen act.

So the bigger question is – how do we change this definition and teach everyone the importance of voluntarily choosing to perform community service? One of Rain of Hope’s goal is teach children (as early as kindergarten) the importance of serving our community through grade-level lessons. The concept is simple. We complete community service projects – but there’s a deeper level to the act. We teach children to ask important questions: What is community service and why should I care?

Through community service learning, we empower children by introducing challenges facing our world – and then work together towards finding solutions that help. From problem solving to team building, our organization focuses on helping children develop and understand that all of us – regardless of age, race or background – have the power to rise up, bring change, and ultimately control our own future.

On another level, studies show that children who volunteer:

  • are less likely to become involved in “at-risk” behavior,

  • increase their own self-esteem and develop new social skills, and

  • develop desires to be ethically responsible that stay with them lifelong!

Assigning community service in lieu of imprisonment is an excellent option to show individuals what constitutes positive behavior. But teaching all individuals about the impacts of completing community service activities is a way we can encourage children to make the choice to care, a choice that will most likely stay with them as they become adults – and perhaps even parents! Rain of Hope is setting out to start an amazing new cycle – providing the fundamental building blocks children need to become caring adults.

We all have the power to make a difference. Coming together, we will succeed!

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