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Volunteerism: Growing Up With the President of the Rotary Club

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How do you incorporate volunteerism and service into your role as a parent? What are you doing to raise the next generation of charitable citizens?

I've written posts about raising giving children and ways to be a good neighbor and we ran a series for more than a year called the Season of Service. Many of the tips we've shared have come from things we've tried with our own kids, but our focus on bettering your community and many of the tips we've provided have stemmed from the strong example my parents set as they served in our community growing up.

Rotary Club-Family Picture

While my parents both wore many hats over the years (and still do) serving in their community, one hat my dad wore with pride during my childhood and teenage years was that of Rotarian from his involvement with Rotary. The benefit for me and my siblings is that we had many foreign exchange students live with us, we got to participate in lots of service projects and other family events, and I even spent a year in Argentina as a Rotary foreign exchange student. It all seemed very fun, but I didn't realize how much time my dad dedicated to the Rotary Club on a weekly basis until I interviewed him recently about his experience.

Why Community Service Is Important

When I asked him why service was important to him, he replied:

Service adds a dimension to your life that makes you feel a part of something much larger than yourself or your own narrow viewpoint. It has brought great joy to me and my family as we have reached out to others and to our communities to help make them a better place to live and work. Groups and individuals are best equipped at giving meaningful service. As you serve, you develop a pride in your organization, in yourself and in your community. By donating your time, talents and resources, you feel invested in the community in which you live and you gain a love of the people you are able to help.

How Rotary Club Has Helped Eradicate Polio Worldwide

Knowing that Rotary has been instrumental in helping move the needle closer toward eradicating polio worldwide, I asked my dad about his feelings on making an impact in that arena. I was surprised to learn that he didn't realize the global impact of polio until he was an adult and became a member of the Rotary Club. During his childhood, polio had not been eradicated in the US. He shared his feelings about being scared of getting the disease and excited when he learned a vaccine had been developed. This empathy made Rotary's focus on polio and the fundraisers they participated in much more meaningful to him.

In part due to Rotary's emphasis on eradicating polio worldwide, we are *this close* to eradicating only the second human disease.

  • Since the 1980s when Rotary took on polio as one of their main initiatives, the number of polio cases dropped from 350,000 in 1988 to less than 250 in 2012.
  • Today, there are only three countries where polio has never been stopped.

Polio is literally 99 percent eradicated worldwide. That seems similar to someone finding a vaccine to prevent cancer or another disease common here and abroad. I can only imagine how excited we'd all be and how much we'd want to help raise awareness and funds if we knew there were a cure (or a vaccine to prevent it).

The thing to note is that while we are close to eradication, polio, and the fight to end polio now is still relevant, because as long as it exists anywhere, unimmunized children everywhere are still at risk. There is no cure for polio, but vaccinating every child is necessary so that no child has to suffer from a crippling and preventable disease. It is only a plane ride away, as proven recently by outbreaks in previously polio-free nations, like Somalia and Kenya. Eradicating polio frees up tremendous tremendous economic resources and creates a roadmap for solving humanity’s next great challenge, like AIDs or clean water.

Ways You Can Teach Your Kids to Make a Difference Globally

Unlike my dad's growing up years, kids today are much more tuned into global issues. At the same, they are on information overload and often feel overwhelmed with all the needs they have learned about not only in their own backyard, but also around the world. So, as parents, how can we help our children focus on issues important to them, encourage them to take action to make a difference, while not letting the overwhelm of the myriad needs around the globe lead to inaction?

  1. As a family, choose one cause that you will focus on for an entire year. Allow everyone to have input in choosing the cause.
  2. Encourage each child to choose four additional causes they would individually like to focus on. Have them focus on each cause for 3 months.
  3. At the end of the year, repeat the process, always giving your children the option to stick to one cause for a longer period of time if they find something they are really passionate about.

If polio is something your family would like to focus on to make a difference globally, visit EndPolioNow.org to find out more about what you can do to end polio. Every little bit helps, and protecting a child for life costs only $0.60.

Leading the service effort in your family and modeling the behavior for them is key. But involving them and helping them find what they are most passionate about is what will help them become lifelong volunteers.

What do you do to raise giving children?

Disclosure: I wrote this post in partnership with Rotary and received financial compensation for my work. 

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Victoria is obSEUSSed with bringing children’s stories and characters to life through kid crafts and fun activities. Inspired by Dr. Seuss, she hopes to get children excited about reading by encouraging moms to be librarians at home. All three of her children love books, including her 6-month-old.

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