Community service is a term that everyone has heard of at some point. Apart from aiding society in general, volunteer work can help children develop valuable skills such as empathy, dedication and passion.
Acknowledging the importance and value of community service, certain international curricula, such as the MYP and the IBDP, have included this as part of the programme under the CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) component. The Indian CBSE curriculum also includes community service as part of the syllabus. However, students from all curricula can consider exploring community service.
When it comes to applying to colleges, admissions officers, especially in the US, look at your child’s application holistically. Participating in extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, help showcase a student’s genuine passion while also making a positive contribution to society.
It is important to remember that engaging in a community project is not mandatory and may not be for everyone. Applicants do not need to just “tick this box” or use it as a resume filler. Your child may be a budding musician or a talented swimmer. These activities are equally valued by colleges. Community service projects or activities should only be undertaken if they motivate and interest your child.
There are various themes and areas your child can consider:
Students interested in imparting education to others can volunteer to teach underprivileged students in an NGO school or help develop a curriculum for a subject that they love and share that with local municipal schools. They can also decide to teach computer skills to the elderly, give self-defence lessons or even become a teen counsellor to younger students.
2) Environmental and sustainability projects:
For children who care deeply about sustainability, getting involved in environmental projects can be an option. They can start with simple ideas such as organising clean-up drives at the local playground, planting trees in the community park or painting over graffiti in the neighbourhood. Your child can get creative and work on slightly more elaborate projects as well. For example, some of The Red Pen’s Mentorship students have created rain barrels by partnering with local carpenters or using DIY tutorials. The water collected in these barrels was used by their community members for daily needs. Another student, who is a deep-sea diver, created an artificial 3D-printed coral reef and placed it underwater, which later developed into an ecosystem.
3) Health and mental care:
Does your child want to make a difference to individuals struggling with mental health? If so, they can consider conducting demonstrations about health and exercise at school, creating portable first aid kits for the homeless, organising a health fair that offers free check-ups or teaching children about safety and first aid. Some other avenues are volunteering as a lifeguard, getting certified in CPR, participating in civic movements and campaigns, working with special needs children on a project or helping to make their neighbourhood handicap accessible.
4) STEM-based passion projects:
Tech-savvy children can use their prowess to improve and simplify lives in a cost-effective manner. These types of projects often intersect with the education or health initiatives mentioned above by developing prototypes in specific areas to support society. In the past, The Red Pen has seen applicants who have used their computer science coding skills to create medical devices to monitor tablet dosage and compliance. Some have even created a walking stick with additional features to assist the blind.
5) Animal care:
As an animal lover, there is a lot your child can do for their welfare. They can volunteer at an animal shelter to help rescue stray dogs and cats, work on marine conservation projects or organise fundraisers to raise money for the general conservation of animals, among many others.
It is important to remember that the key to successful community engagement is consistency. Dabbling in several different projects is not as effective as persistently supporting one cause. Students that have chosen one worthwhile activity often build on what they have previously done to ensure that their work is not just a “one-time” thing. This is important as anyone can teach underprivileged children a skill or language for a week. Still, the students who are making a real impact are those who are consistently visiting the school, engaging the children further and even thinking about who will replace them when they go to college.
If your child has already engaged in a community activity, assist them in thinking of innovative ways they can continue to support their cause online. They can help write content, assist with making the NGO’s website more engaging or create a curriculum from home, among others. They can talk to the organisation they are working with and offer their time and expertise. Organisations such as TribesforGOOD and ConnectFor are new-age platforms that help students discover and contribute to various social issues about which they are passionate. The most important thing to keep in mind when helping your child decide is to ensure that they choose a cause that is close to their heart. For more ideas and pathways, get in touch with us.