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Volunteers Make a Difference

Students from Camden's Promise Charter School in New Jersey recently finished a canned-food drive and a clothing drive. Now they are helping a local literacy agency reach its goal of collecting 20,000 books.

Jesse Coltrane, a 15-year-old student at Camden's Promise, says that young people and children can help improve other people's lives by volunteering for school and community projects. Each year, Coltrane and millions of other volunteers help make the world a better place.

Champions of Hope

Champions of Hope is made up of more than 650,000 children, including Coltrane and other students at Camden's Promise. Champions of Hope participants across the United States volunteer to collect food for the hungry, clean parks, and raise money for firefighters.

Champions of Hope started a United Day of Service on September 11, 2002, one year after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. On that day, actor Sean Astin spoke to young people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He told Weekly Reader, “It is our responsibility to keep making the world a better place. We can do that by helping others.”

Making an Impact

Student Matthew Malon from Illinois attended the September 11, 2002, rally and has collected food for homeless shelters. Astin's speech on volunteering inspired him.

Some students from Camden's Promise also attended the rally. Damian Johnson, Keith Bennett, and Tashay Moody agree that it's important for kids to volunteer. As 16-year-old Damian Johnson puts it, “[Volunteering] makes me feel like I have made an impact on people who don't have as much as I have.”

Girl Power!

“How can I make a difference in the world if I'm just an ordinary kid?” Teenage author Sondra Clark answers that question in her fourth book, You Can Change Your World! She shows young people that small actions, such as donating videos to a children's hospital, can make a big difference.

Clark, who lives in Bellingham, Washington, was motivated to write her book after reading an article on volunteerism in Weekly Reader. The book, one of four she has written, describes how volunteering can help a person's family and community.

Changing the World

Clark is also on a mission to help African children orphaned by AIDS, a deadly disease. Clark is busy raising money for Childcare International, an organization that provides care for African children infected with AIDS and the virus that causes AIDS. She has raised more than $35,000, and has traveled to Africa to help children. She has also traveled across the United States with her parents to share her experiences.

What You Can Do

In the United States, almost eight million young people volunteer an average of 3.5 hours per week. They help senior citizens, serve meals at homeless shelters, clean up vacant lots, volunteer for political campaigns, and help monitor water quality. Volunteers collect and donate toys and clothes, paint murals, clean up trash, and teach English. You might volunteer, know a volunteer, or have an idea for something that needs to be done in your school or community. By getting involved and helping out you can make the world a better place.