5 Ways To Help Children In Need

Today's children have many needs that are being unmet. Here are some ways that you can help them with the most pressing of these.

Children remain our society's greatest hope and heaviest burden. All too many of them are inadequately fed, sheltered, protected, and educated. If you have a burden for children who need our help, here are some ways you may be able to pitch in:

1. Children's services. A city or county's social service organization for orphans, foster children, or abandoned kids generally provides a wide range of services to meet the needs of children who lack essential care. Contact your children's service agency to find out what kind of volunteer programs they offer. Chances are there will be one or more that you can join in order to do things like teach reading, provide mentoring, or supervise playtime.

2. Big Brother or Big Sister clubs. Many communities sponsor a club that pairs older, responsible teens or adults with young children who have special needs. Check the yellow pages or do an Internet search to find out about such groups in your area. Volunteers spend a few hours each month with a troubled or lonely youth who can benefit from time spent with a responsible, caring mentor or friend. There also may be teen parents' groups, geared to teenagers who have babies and can use much support and advice.

3. Churches, synagogues, and mosques. Religious congregations typically include youth groups that may have homeless or abused children. Find out if your place of worship sponsors this kind of activity, and talk to your worship leader to see if you would be a good candidate for working with youth in this capacity. Another option is to provide material support by donating supplies or money to fund youth activities.

4. Homeless shelters. Battered spouses' shelters or homeless shelters often house a number of children who could use some additional supervision or oversight. Contact your local agencies or the United Way to ask about this type of service in your community. Helping to serve meals at lunchtime or donating books or puzzles as teaching aids can have a positive impact on the children of residents who live there temporarily.

5. Neighborhoods. If you know that a child who lives in your area is not getting the attention he or she needs at home for any reason, consider helping out in any number of ways. Depending on the child's age and the severity of neglect, you may need to contact the children's service agency so they can investigate the situation. Or you may be able to send a hot meal to the family a couple times a week. Perhaps the child is old enough to do a few chores for you and earn pocket money. Or the two of you can spend time on the front porch as you share a few stories from your past in an effort to instill values or offer encouragement.

Of course, there are the usual means of helping kids by donating to children's relief agencies, volunteering for a children's service group to teach valuable skills, or simply writing an inspiring note to a child who appears to feel alone and depressed. When you look around, you can see that many children can use a helping hand. Decide which one you're going to offer.

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