There has never been a better time for charities to embrace a generation of school-aged volunteers, so why do so many young people and children find it so hard to locate meaningful volunteering opportunities?
Young volunteers have a vast amount to give, and yet a lot of charities are missing out on this vital opportunity, citing a number of common myths surrounding youth volunteering. If charities don’t support young volunteers, then we are not safeguarding our own futures by supporting the next generation of volunteers and, more importantly, we’re missing out on all the benefits that young volunteers can bring to our organisations.
At the JLGB (Jewish Lads’ & Girls’ Brigade), we have worked hard to remove barriers to participation for young Jewish people in a whole host of national award schemes, most notably the Duke of Edinburgh Award. As a result, we have seen an enormous increase in participation with 50% of young Jewish people in faith schools now taking part in this award. However, 65% indicated that they required extra support in finding a suitable volunteering placement.
The same topics arise in every discussion of under-16s volunteering: insurance won’t cover this age group, young people would need too much training, there’s no one to supervise them, or perhaps they’ve had bad experiences with young volunteers before. Some of these are valid worries, many are urban myths, but more often than not, it’s just been easier for many charities to stick to the status quo than tackle the (sometimes remarkably simple) changes that are needed in order to embrace young volunteers.
Of course, many charities lack vital resources and capacity so key to this initiative will be helping more charities to look at their current approaches and understanding of young volunteers. It is encouraging that, with some simple steps, a great amount can be achieved.
You can read more about embracing young volunteers on The Guardian website.