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Giving Kids a Global Perspective Through Volunteering

November 19, 2015

In honor of Family Volunteer Day, Nov. 21, Points of Light and Disney are recognizing families with the Daily Point of Light Award. Today’s winning family is the Yamaato family of Atlanta, GA, and this post originally appeared on the Points of Light Blog. Joyce Yamaato is an AmeriCorps alumna and a recipient of the AmeriCorps Alums National Leadership Award

Yamaato family for DPOL award

The Yamaato family, parents Brent and Joyce, and siblings Ansley and Jack

Many families who volunteer together spend time interacting with the people they serve. They may visit a nursing home and talk to residents, perhaps, or read to children at a local library.

But for the Yamaato family of Atlanta, focusing on global issues makes that aspect of volunteer service more challenging.

“It’s different than if we were sorting cans at a food bank,” says mom, Joyce. “So we all have to work a little harder to come up with relevant experiences.”

At school, for instance, her daughter Ansley, 12, and son Jack, 9, spent time carrying water upstairs and around the basketball court to get a sense of the travails many people around the world must undertake to find and transport clean drinking water.

The exercise hit home with Jack, who aspires to become an engineer. “I want to find innovative solutions to help people use transportation to get to water,” he says.

After he learned about potable water issues in poor regions of the world, Jack and two classmates sold home-baked cookies to raise money for a nonprofit that helps children in Africa gain access to clean water.

unicef  yamaato pic

Siblings Ansley and Jack participate at a UNICEF event in Atlanta

Now, Jack says, “I want to build a filter system for my own home so we can reuse dirty water.”

“The experiential part is really important,” says Joyce. “Taking a concept and giving it some practical aspects really drives their desire to help.” And, she adds, it can show kids they have the power to make changes.

Joyce, 43, has understood that power herself since her time in AmeriCorps, a federal program that engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.

“Teaching reading to immigrants and refugees really made me aware of global issues,” she says. Her year of service led to a career in corporate philanthropy.

At home, she and her husband, Brent, 44, encourage the kids to consider the same questions that a corporation might examine when making funding decisions: What is happening? Why do we need to care? What can we do?

“I think because we’re a multicultural family – my husband’s family is from Japan and mine is Filipino – and the kids attend an international school, global issues are a natural priority,” says Joyce.

For United Nations Day at the school, when the children dress up in the native costumes, their parents make sure that “we go beyond talking about the respective cultures and emphasize the rights that all children have,” Joyce says. “We discuss the right to live without war, the right to have access to clean water.”

Looking to the future, Joyce has another global goal in mind: “We’d love for us all to go as a family to volunteer in another country.”

See how your family can get involved on Family Volunteer Day at www.generationon.org/fvd

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