By Silvana Clark
With summer approaching, parents look for activities to fill their children's free time. This summer, take the advice of 14 year old Sondra Clark and encourage children to spend their time helping a worthy cause. With a little adult supervision, children quickly learn the inner satisfaction that comes with helping improve the lives of people, the environment or animals. Sondra, the author of five books, raised over $75,000 after visiting Africa and meeting Aids orphans. "When I saw kids in Africa my age living alone because their parents had died, I knew I had to help them", said Sondra.
The following are some simple volunteer activities suggested by Sondra in her book, "You Can Change Your World!" which describes 150 volunteer projects. (Available at major bookstores and Amazon.com)
· Bedtime Snack Sacks
Children living in homeless shelters seldom get bedtime snacks. Decorate a number of lunch bags with markers, sequins and glitter. Fill each bag with a juice pack and non-perishable treat such as granola bars, packaged crackers or dried fruit. Add a small "Happy Meals" type toy as a surprise. Deliver the snack sacks to a women's shelter.
· Dog and Cat Fun
Local humane societies look for volunteers to walk their dogs. See if your family can register as dog walkers. You'll get exercise as well as the dogs! Kids can also collect old towels and newspapers to donate to shelters to use for animal care.
· Fancy Flowers
Does your school have flowers growing around the entrance? Offer to water and weed the flowers this summer.
· Outdoor Clean-up
Contact the local Parks and Recreation department to see if they need help on trail clean-up. Children can help staff pick up litter and maintain park facilities.
Do your children have dramatic or musical talents? Encourage them to practice a skit, song or musical piece with their friends. Offer to present a "talent show" to a local nursing home.
· Reading Fun
Check with your local library if children can help with the summer reading program. They could read to younger children or make posters about upcoming events. Perhaps your children could dress up as a character from a book being read.
When not writing books, Sondra stays active with various volunteer programs. She recently contacted community business people to donate soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toys so she could put together 200 "Goody Bags" for orphans in Africa. "Summer is a time for fun and relaxation," she said. "But it's also a great time for kids to think about others and get involved with volunteer projects." A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Sondra's five books goes to Childcare International, a non-denominational relief agency.
As parents look for ways to have children involved in summer activities, check out local opportunities for volunteer work. Children learn the internal satisfaction that comes from helping make the world a better place.
Although she's only 14, Sondra has published five books and is a spokesperson for two companies. She presents motivational speeches to conferences and schools around the country. With all these accomplishments, her parents wonder why she can't figure out how to hang up her clothes and make her bed.
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