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Motivate young minds to contribute towards society.

MANY children in this world have little reason to understand the comfortable lives they lead.

There is, however, a way to help them learn about the world beyond their wants and desires.

When I was at school, we had to do about four hours of volunteer work a month. I say had to because although it was technically volunteering, it was actually compulsory and part of our school curriculum.

The key to its success, however, was that we were offered a degree of flexibility and were allowed to choose the issue to which we dedicated our efforts.

Because we were given that choice, we felt we were doing our bit towards something that mattered to us and thus a more powerful bond was created.

We could visit the elderly, care for the mentally challenged or work with autistic children, among other things.

My favourite was calling on the aged and I got to spend time listening to stories of years gone past and sharing some of mine.

I have to say volunteering helped me find new interests and developed "skills" like responsibility, independence and getting along with others. It gave me the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds.

When I read about the 12 youngsters from St Christopher's Senior School preparing to embark on a trip to Kerala, India, to help improve the lives of other schoolchildren, I was reminded that young people have no shortage of passion. What they care about varies widely, from the environment to poverty, drugs to homelessness.

Having raised BD1,400 already, the students - who include Bahrainis, Egyptians, Finnish, Dutch and Britons - are trying to raise more funds to help them cover the cost of the trip, through various bake sales and other projects.

Volunteering is generally considered an unselfish activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life.

In return it produces a feeling of self-worth and respect, rather than money.

To volunteer simply means to be motivated and give your time or energy to work towards an undertaking or cause you are interested in.

Volunteering gives individuals the chance to explore avenues that would not usually be open to them. This experience enables an exchange of cultural and social contact between volunteers and those who benefit.

When children volunteer, they often find themselves in a position where responsibility is required. They gain self-confidence when they know they've made a real contribution to a project.

Research shows those who volunteer just one hour a week are 50 per cent less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, smoke cigarettes or engage in destructive behaviour.

In my humble opinion, voluntary work needs to be integrated into the school curriculum.

We need to motivate young people and make sure we create a culture of social activism where we insist that people help their community to empower others, as well as themselves.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jun 21, 2012
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