community serviceA lot of parenting advice is focused on how to make sure your kids grow up to be good, high performing adults. Teaching children to contribute to society is part of future-proofing them.  In South Africa, grade 12’s are required to do 10 hours of community service in their matric year to complete their Life Orientation portfolio. However, many schools are encouraging their learners to become active citizens, prescribing 20 – 24 hours of community service each year in their high school curriculum. This experience can be showcased in their all important Talent Profile (the new CV).

Parents have to find/create opportunities for their children to complete their hours, children have to fit it into their already busy schedules and Life Orientation teachers have to monitor and record their learners’ progress. While it is time consuming for everyone there is also a huge upside.

Benefits of community service and volunteerism: insights for parents

Broadening perspective. When children volunteer to help others through community service projects they realise that there is more to society than what goes on in their immediate environment. Without showing children the flip side of the coin, it is easy for them to live in a bubble, so to speak, with access to the same resources and amenities as they do.

Appreciation of what they have and what others don’t. When children work in communities that are less privileged than their own, they are able to make a comparison which helps them to identify and appreciate the inequalities in society and the need to give back in time and resources to help others.  When parents tell their children to finish their supper because there are other children in the world with less than them, this is just information. However, when children get to see it for themselves, the penny drops.

Community service 2Serving and becoming a contributor instead of a taker. In a materialistic world where consumption is encouraged, volunteerism creates a balance, encouraging children to contribute their time, talents and resources instead of always being on the receiving end.  Community service provides a positive feedback mechanism – learners get to witness the impact of their work and contribution, seeing how they can create positive change in the world by doing, by getting involved. In a world where we are constantly rewarded with points or stuff, we must provide children with an opportunity where feelings are an even greater reward than the material ones. This leads to feelings of satisfaction and contentment which build self-esteem.

Building a sense of community. Communities are not one-dimensional and community service gives children a sense that they are part of something much bigger than what they are exposed to on an everyday basis.

Is community service take seriously by education institutions?

  • In order to pass matric, learners have to be able to prove they have done a minimum of 10 hours of community service. Many schools are encouraging more.
  • Schools often look at a learner’s community service hours when considering them for leadership positions.
  • Learners who have made an exceptional commitment to community service can now qualify for school colours in certain schools.
  • Community service hours are becoming a prerequisite for learners applying for tertiary education bursaries.

Help for parents, learners and teachers regarding community service hours

communityhourssaThere is a fabulous online platform called Community Hours SA, that marries learner’s interests with needs in the community. It makes it easy for learners and parents to set up community service opportunities that are a good fit, for teachers to track their efforts,and for organisations in need of volunteers to ask for help. This is brain child of Marina Constas and Karen Landi, who set it up two years ago, and it is going from strength to strength. Visit where you can register as a leaner, a school or an organisation and get started. Click here to watch an inspiring video.

Community service as a way of life

Community service and volunteerism is a growing movement around the world. What is being introduced in high school through the community service component of Life Orientation is just a beginning. The hope is that our young people will become active citizens who commit to leading a life of contribution long after they leave school.  In South Africa, we live with Nelson Mandela’s 67 Minutes legacy. While this is a fabulous initiative reminding our nation to give back every year, we want our youth to grow up to contribute regularly throughout the year and not just once a year. Let’s teach them how they can change the world through community service. Learn more about Nikki Bush’s advice for parents.