For hours 14-year-old Bronze Award participant, Ethan Pinder, from the Bahamas, stood diligently arranging grocery items in a seemingly unending line of brown paper bags. He wasn’t tipped a dollar as a bag boy would in a supermarket. Instead, he received a greater reward – thinking of the world outside of himself, something experts say lays the foundation for compassion and engagement.

“I decided to volunteer Saturday because I realised not everyone is as fortunate as me and can do the things I can do, like go the store and pick up what I want,” said young boy.

“Some people are more dependent on others to help them out. I figured if God blessed me to be able to go to the store, I should be able to go out and bless others.”

The Award in the Bahamas, known as The Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA), arranged for 30 of its participants from five schools and two youth organisations to lend a hand at the Bahamas Feeding Network and the Red Cross, over the weekend in commemoration of International Volunteers Day, observed in 80 countries on December 5, for the past six years.

Ethan Pinder, Bahmas

Good friend, Kimeko Greene, joined his good friend Ethan to help volunteer in their local community.

“It feels good helping out. It feels good to see faces my age instead of just laying down in my room doing school all day,” said the 16-year-old student.

“You can’t take for granted what you have since many people don’t have enough.”

Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, and when everything feels so much is out of their control, the act of giving back puts some power back in the hands of young people.

“This year hasn’t been what I hoped. It’s been really stressful in some ways but I’m making the best of it. Homeschooling is not the same as in-person instructions. When I’m in school, I learn more. I’m engaged more. At home I feel as if I’m slacking off a bit. Even when I try not to it still feels that way sometimes,” said fellow student, Gabrielle Fox.

“Being out here today at the Red Cross, even though I am still wearing a mask, it almost feels like I can finally take a breath of fresh air. Even though we have these restrictions it feels good to be around people, helping others.”

By taking part in the Award, participants gain a wealth of skills and attributes which promote the involvement in extracurricular activities focused on community service, physical recreation, skills and outdoor explorations. With the normal rhythm of their life very much disrupted, community service can help create opportunities to occupy and engage young people who might otherwise feel stuck.