Contributor: Beth Heyer, Little Allies Ambassador
Little Allies provides a unique opportunity for littles (age 5 and under) to volunteer. Most volunteer opportunities are directed at adults, or at least teenagers, but Austin Allies works diligently to find opportunities for children of all ages to give back. It is never too early to become an Ally.
Finding ways for the littlest Allies to volunteer isn’t always easy. Some organizations, for safety or security, don’t let people under 18 even volunteer. Or, when volunteering to cook a meal or work with animals, a volunteer may need to be over 12 or 14.
Erika and I have worked closely together to find both age appropriate and meaningful ways for these littles to volunteer. One thing I have found amazing about working with the littles is that the opportunity is so beneficial to them in such a variety of ways.
For one event, we sorted colored pencils for Austin Creative Reuse and put them in bundles of 8 and rubber banded them. In the scheme of things, it’s kind of a silly way to volunteer, and something a grown up could have done in 1/10th of the time as a half dozen 3 year olds, but it opened up the conversation. We talked about helping others, reusing materials, and colors and numbers and worked their fine motor skills trying to use the rubber bands and to hold 8 pencils at once in their little hands.
At another event, we made treats for Veterans at the VA Center. We measured flour, counted cupcake wrappers, scooped cookies, and talked about Veterans - who they are, what they do, who they helped, why they helped and why WE are helping them.
These Little Allies events also provide such an amazing opportunity to bring all the big, sad and scary things in the world down to an age-appropriate level.
We recently made cards for Austin Recovery. Explaining drug addiction isn’t exactly something most 4 year olds understand, nor should they have to, but it opens up the conversation. We talked about how people are sick and how they are trying to get better and working hard at it, and how our cards provide them with hope and inspiration. In their own preschool way, they feel like they are helping and know that they are helping someone who needs it.
I’ve been so lucky to work with Austin Allies over the last year and am grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn about such amazing local charities and find ways to support them, in our own perfect little preschool way.