"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others." - Audrey Hepburn
I adore that quote from Audrey Hepburn, who was known for her amazing humanitarian work, and I was thrilled that this past weekend my daughter got a chance to help others while visiting another country. My family traveled to the Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos so I could attend the Social Media on the Sand conference. While there, my daughter and several other teens participated in the "Volunteenism" program with Island Impact aimed specifically at teens who want to give back while on vacation.
One way we gave back was participating in Packing for a Purpose® through the Sandals Foundation, the non-profit arm of Sandals Resorts International. We packed a backpack with school supplies like rulers (nice and light) and books. We looked on our shelves to see if we had any gently used books that we wanted to pass on, including a copy of our favorite One and Only Ivan, and also purchased some new ones.
The Sandals Foundation passes the items along to schools in need. I love their tag line: "Small space. Little effort. Big impact."
A second way my 13-year-old daughter got involved was by rolling up her sleeves and getting to work at the Enid Capron Primary School in Providenciales. She and other teens brightened up a classroom with a new coat of paint. And as is so very often the case with volunteering, you get much more than you give, and that was certainly her experience.
It was really fascinating to meet up with her after her experience and watch her face as she processed her feelings, which ran the gamut. She felt empowered that she had done something positive and had an impact; she realized how lucky and privileged she is; she wanted to do more; she was excited to have made new friends.
Here are her thoughts on her morning of Volunteenism:
"The idea of volunteering on vacation is a really good idea. You get to help out and realize that there is more than just going to the beach. It feels good to know that kids are going to walk into a newly painted, brighter room. It's nice to know that they'll be surprised and happy.
If I hadn't left the resort, I would have unfairly assumed that everything on the island was just beaches, pools, and restaurants but after seeing the school, you realize that not everyone has the luxury of vacation or what we have living in the U.S. I was surprised by how different their school was from mine.
I'm not sure that going to school is ever going to be something that I'm superexcited about, but I'm much more thankful for my school now. The principal of the school was so nice.
It's one thing to read or hear a news story about conditions that are difficult. That makes you appreciate what you have a little, but actually going to the school and seeing it and being there is completely different.
It makes you appreciate the fact that you have so much, and it makes me want to give what I have to those kids. The hours that I was there were brief, but I feel like I made a small difference, and that feels awesome."
She just asked me to add that getting to meet the other kids volunteering and the staff members who accompanied them was "fantabulous." (She's definitely 13.)
As a parent, I was really excited for her to get to experience what life is really like in Turks and Caicos. I wanted her to learn more about the community, experience a different culture, and to broaden her horizons.
Students participating in Island Impact volunteenism can earn up to ten service hours and receive a certificate verifying the hours they have earned.
It was important to me that her work be a true act of service and one that filled an actual need, not something that would ultimately making more work for others.
I confess that it was a bit of a leap of faith to put her on a bus and send her off in a new country. I knew she was in great hands, though, as there were Beaches team members on hand, including one she had met through the teen activities at the resort.
Although there were adults accompanying them, and the principal of the school was on site, I'm glad that she had the chance to go and to experience a bit of independence.
She was able to make an Island Impact on vacation through the Sandals Foundation volunteenism program at Beaches.
It was a great way for her to realize that she's old enough to go out on her own (to a certain extent), get involved, and do good.
That alone makes our trip worthwhile.
You can learn more about the Sandals Foundation here:
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Filed under: Parenting