Project Giving Kids, a nonprofit organization located in Los Angeles and Massachusetts, connects busy children and their families to enjoyable and meaningful age-appropriate service activities. Boston Tutoring Services recently spoke with Molly Yuska, Founder of Project Giving Kids, about her work at the organization.
Boston Tutoring Services: How did your organization get started?
Molly Yuska: Our organization formed in direct response to my work in the nonprofit sector and my work as a mother. As a consultant within the nonprofit sector, I saw how kids and families were an underutilized resource in an industry whose very survival is based on building an increasing pipeline of vibrant donors and volunteers. As a mother, I was learning firsthand how important it is to our children’s development to expose them to service and to situations/people different than their own lives/themselves. In looking for places to begin that dialogue and the service journey, I realized there was no good, trusted, vetted source connecting kids and families to local service opportunities. And so, Project Giving Kids began. In addition to filling a void, our goal was also to create a destination where kids could self-identify with causes and projects that resonated with them, to give them that sense of empowerment that comes from taking the initiative, so we built the website in a very kid-focused way.
BTS: Which towns and communities does your organization reach?
MY: Our hope is that our organization reaches kids everywhere. We are piloting in a concentrated way in Boston and Los Angeles right now, but there are projects on our website that can be done by kids regardless of where they live. Ultimately, we want people to see Project Giving Kids as the go-to place to get ideas for getting involved and giving back with kids and as a family. We have plans for national expansion when we can get the technology and infrastructure in place to do so.
BTS: How old should children be in order to be able to participate and get involved?
MY: Many of the activities on our site are ageless – it doesn’t matter the age of the child. Naturally, some are geared toward younger kids (given their focus/content) and some toward older kids/teens. If a particular project has a minimum age requirement, as imposed by the partnering/sponsoring nonprofit organization, it is noted in the project description…so it varies.
BTS: What is the best thing that children can learn from working with your organization?
MY: That they have the power to make a difference and to change the world (if that doesn’t sound too over the top!) Every act of kindness ripples with unknown ends. We want children to learn early that even the smallest of acts of kindness add up. And when those seeds are planted early in a child’s development, they almost always grow in unexpected and amazing ways. We are here to plant seeds of kindness and empathy…and are excited to see where it goes from there!
BTS: What is your greatest struggle in running your organization?
MY: Resources. (I think most nonprofits would say the same.) For us, we are in a particularly precarious situation because we aren’t a direct service provider. We are a “middle man.” We broker an exchange. We have been almost 100% donation based up to this point and that is hard. We work with an almost entirely volunteer staff and we’ve done a lot, but we could do a whole lot more (and faster) with a more robust infrastructure…but we are the mercy of fundraising efforts and that is hard as a start-up nonprofit.
BTS: In establishing your organization, what were the goals/mission statement for giving back to the community?
MY: Our goal was to make giving back through service a more accessible and easier part of busy family life. With three young kids, I know just how hard it is to find ‘extra time’ for just about anything. But service, especially with little kids, doesn’t have to be profound. Like most child development efforts, it just needs to be consistent. We wanted to make it easy for families to begin this journey and to continue down a path of community engagement that is good for kids, good for families, good for nonprofits and good for communities. Those seeds, planted early, will reap benefits far into the future for all involved, and again, it just takes intention and a little bit of time in the early years.
BTS: What would you like parents to know about the benefits of having their child experience community involvement and volunteering?
MY: That it’s a game changer. I think those of us who are parents today are worried about raising kids in a world that seems so ego-centric and so full of instant gratification. The old, simple and true stuff of connecting our kids to what is important and to others is not that hard…it just takes intention. Early engagement in service has been shown to yield children with higher self-esteem, better grades, stronger relationships, less propensity for risky behaviors, etc. Service/volunteering is such a win-win for everyone, and it’s not as hard, time intensive or complicated as it may seem (and as most people think). And what we may perceive as being “low hanging fruit” or unimportant in terms of service efforts as an adult can be profound for a developing child. We just need to give them those experiences and opportunities…and the trajectory on that will be impressive (and will take care of itself).