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Giving Back: How Camps & Teen Programs Teach Kids About Service & Philanthropy

Camps and travel programs alike teach kids the importance of giving back and expose them to multiculturalism and diversity; they take learning far beyond the classroom. Having a can-do attitude will teach children that they can really make a difference. Here and Now recently published a podcast interviewing Ron Lieber, discussing how and why teaching kids about philanthropy will highlight their natural generosity. Lieber suggests starting to converse with children about giving back as early as 3-5 years old, as this is the age kids become curious about the needs of others.

Summer camps teach many remarkable lessons, whether it be independence, cooperation, or how to overcome challenges. One of the lessons camp taught me, which has resonated through the years, is to always give back. As a camper I was given the opportunity to volunteer at a camp nearby that was a summer home to kids with life-threatening illnesses. Connecting with other people who are experiencing harsh situations in life can not only be extremely eye opening but very rewarding as well. Because I was able to make genuine connections to people and the cause itself, I was able to visualize the impact I was making at such a young age. Putting a smile on the children’s faces was absolutely priceless.

Being able to go to camp is a privilege in itself so naturally, there is a sense of genuine gratitude. Many camps embed ways of giving back into their program. One very common example is big/little sister/brother. Older campers take newer campers under their wings and help them adjust to camp while ensuring he/she has a good time. Other camps have kids donate his/her sneakers and shoes at the end of the summer to various causes serving kids in need. In addition, numerous camps incorporate service days or philanthropic events such as swim-a-thons and trips to local camps. Some camps have even developed international service trips for their oldest campers and CITs.

Like camp, teen travel programs also expose adolescents to philanthropy. Service programs, especially those that allow kids to travel and give back to a greater cause, can provide meaning to an adolescent’s summer. Not only does the trip provide a sense of social and civic responsibility, but it also exposes teens to different types of service – helping them find a cause that may resonate with them. Teens can participate in programs with a variety of service components, including constructing shelter and food sources, teaching, wildlife & environmental activism, and more. Participating in service programs allows teens to find projects that he/she can feel passionate about This ultimately creates a situation where the teens can become lifelong supporters of the causes they have been exposed to; even building on this new found passion once they return home. In addition to the physical aspect of performing service, there is an undeniable emotional facet as well. Service programs enable students to connect with the population they’re serving; they are able to build new, special, relationships they would not have otherwise, and be exposed to an aspect of humanity that they may have been sheltered from in the past.

Participating in philanthropic events can help children & teens develop life tools such as problem solving, leadership, and communication. Volunteering also promotes self-esteem and personal growth. Camp and service programs are a great way to jump-start a love for service, and to teach kids & teens the value of giving back.

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