The largest annual celebration of young volunteers happens this year on Saturday, April 30.
Global Youth Service Day is a coordinated annual event to gather youth of all walks of life to participate in community service. Advocates say by youth working together, local communities can thrive.
This year the day is expected to engage millions of young volunteers ages 5 to 25 in more than 100 countries.
JustServe — a platform connecting community service needs with volunteers — has been promoting Global Youth Service Day through its social media channels, website and app leading up to the day.
Service can be done on one’s own or in a group service activity, explained the JustServe social media posts, listing the following:
1. Find a friend to serve with
2. Plan a project on JustServe.org or the JustServe app
3. Share the experience using #GYSD or tag JustServe.org on Facebook and @Just_Serve on Instagram
Youth and service
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often remind the youth of the Church that they have been reserved for this day, said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from the grounds of the Washington D.C. Temple last week.
“So why would we be surprised? When will we stop being surprised at the valiant efforts of the young people to do what they know they should do because they know who they are?”
Recently, young adults spoke to the Church News podcast about how and why they participate in service.
McKaylee Burton, a stake Relief Society president in the Layton Utah YSA Stake, said, “Whenever I serve, that’s a feeling that I get that the adversary cannot mimic, right? The peace that I get from serving.”
She said she grew up in a service-oriented family, with parents who taught her the importance of helping others. “It’s all in our actions towards others that really help us become the type of person that we want to be, and for me, it just always brings me joy.”
Austin Bradley, a high school senior in Woods Cross, Utah, said: “Service allows you to find your interests, and what you want to do with your life and how you want to serve, how you want to help out other people in your community.”
“Why I love to serve is because I feel closer to God,” he said.
The benefits of service
Robin Gephart is a JustServe coordinator in San Diego, California. She said research showed when teenagers serve strangers, their self-esteem increases, their hope and gratitude increases, and their aggression and delinquency behaviors decrease.
“When we can participate in these projects, whether big ones or small ones, it reminds us there’s still goodness out there. There are still good people out there,” said Gephart.
Incredible things happen when young people volunteer. The United Way shared five benefits for teenage volunteers:
1. Increase in self-esteem
2. Become more empathetic
3. Strengthen college applications
4. Earn better grades
5. Learn long-term generosity
JustServe global manager Heath Bradley told the Church News podcast in December that service brings together the whole human race “in love, peace and unity. It breaks down any barriers. Our differences really aren’t differences as we serve hand in hand.”
Bradley said young people in the Church are finding and creating projects on JustServe for youth activities, or as a launchpad to find their own interests, or in ways to prepare for college admissions essays, or because they have been raised by righteous parents who teach service by example.
He said every nonprofit or charitable organization could use volunteers giving of their time or money or service in order to help others, even if it is just a small amount.
Bradley hopes as people use the JustServe website or app, they build habits of service throughout the year that feed back into that vision of the first and second great commandment — loving God and loving one’s neighbor.