A 4-H teen donates a percentage of her money from the sale of her market animal to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, 4-H clubs work at the food bank, and a 4-H club picks up trash and sponsors a trail and park in North Pole These are all examples of youth volunteering their time and resources to serve their community through service projects.
Research by Colorado State University shows that 4-H youth develop a deep sense of compassion and caring for others through their service projects. 4-H members reported that they were involved in projects to make life better for other people, had given money or time to a charity or other organization that helps people, and to have spent time helping people who are poor, hungry, sick or unable to care for themselves.
Many of our presidents have supported community service through legislation over the years. There are many programs that support service also. There are so many ways to serve. According to the 2010 census, there were approximately 85 million young people ages 5-25 in the United States. What if every one of them volunteered like 4-H youth do? Volunteer programs in the United States would be significantly impacted.
4-H members don’t volunteer because of a presidential mandate — they have been volunteering for over 100 years because they know the importance of the work they do and that this work makes them feel better. People who perform acts of kindness agree that doing a kind deed for someone else makes them feel good.
As Allan Luks documented in his 1991 book, “The Healing Power of Doing Good,” a number of scientific studies show that acts of kindness result in significant health benefits, both physical and mental, for those who perform them. Luks calls the rush of euphoria followed by a longer period of calm after performing a kind act a “helper’s high.” After performing kind acts, volunteers showed improvements in stress-related health problems such as sleeplessness, acid stomach, obesity, headaches and backaches, depression, colds and flu and even cancer.
The 4-H member who donated a percentage of her market livestock auction money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation envisions a youth getting to do something that he or she may never have a chance otherwise to do. The 4-H clubs that donate time to the local food bank hope that there will be less hunger in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The 4-H club that picks up trash and sponsors a trail and park in North Pole hopes others will enjoy the park and strolling around it. These are just a few examples of what 4-H’ers in the Tanana District are doing.
4-H members also do service projects that benefit animals as well as people by making blankets for animal shelter cages and houses for bluebirds. Many traditional projects are done annually such as cleaning up roadways, helping an elderly neighbor with spring yard work or painting public buildings and fences. Community service projects are not a requirement for 4-H clubs, but most feel their year would not be complete without giving something back to the community. Members understand though that in order to receive a year pin they must complete a community service project.
For community service ideas, contact local schools, churches, senior citizen centers, animal shelters or local government offices. National projects and help with funding may be found at Youth Service America, www.ysa.org, the National Youth Leadership Council, www.nylc.org or Corporation for National and Community Service at http://www.nationalservice.gov.
4-H is a youth organization for youth K-12 that helps youth learn about certain items of interest to them, but also teaches them life skills. 4-H has a club structure with leaders who are adult volunteers with current background checks. To learn more about the local program, contact Marla Lowder, Tanana District 4-H agent, at (907)474-2427. You can also check out our web page at www.alaska4h.org/fairbankstanana-district.html. 4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.