Two young volunteers, Maya and Marissa, exemplified the spirit of kid-driven philanthropy and volunteerism by leading a storytelling and gardening activity at Saratoga Early Childhood Education Center accompanied by a school fundraiser.

Maya and Marissa, both eight-years-old, developed the volunteer project and fundraiser with the mentorship and assistance of Touching Heart, a non-profit whose mission is to inspire young people to give back to their communities through hands-on service-learning projects.

Maya, who wants to be a dancer when she grows up, noted that she and Marissa initially planned to develop a performance for the younger kids, before deciding that such an activity might prove ill-suited for such a young audience.

“We were actually thinking that we could do a play,” explained Marissa. “But since they’re really young kids and in our play we would be talking a lot, they wouldn’t understand it all—so we decided that we would read them a book.”

Maya and Marissa took turns reading pages of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly as the little kids sat attentively, no doubt intrigued by their new visitors.

While the girls read with perfect poise and eloquence, they admitted to having felt a bit of stage fright beforehand, especially in the car on their way to Saratoga.

“We were nervous in the beginning, but then it was fun,” said Maya.

“Yeah, we were driving in the car and we were like really nervous,” Marissa added, noting that this quickly dissipated once they arrived and met their eager audience. “But when we got there, we decided that it was going to be really fun and then we had fun!”

Once the girls finished the storybook, the second half of their volunteer project began—a gardening-themed art project. The little kids were directed towards tables and given small individual flowering pots along with coloring markers.

Maya, Marissa, and staff at Saratoga then helped the children to decorate their pots before passing out and pouring in soil and seeds. The kids were especially excited to receive individual attention from the older kids, who took care to speak to the children with plenty of patience.

“You have to be really kind,” Marissa noted of working with younger children, having previously helped at some of little brother’s birthday parties. “And you have to make sure they understand you,” added Maya, who also has a younger sister.

Once they finished their flowering plots, the little kids took turns placing their completed projects in a bright red wagon, before saying thank you and goodbye to the young volunteers.

Maya and Marissa’s project at Saratoga wasn’t the only initiative they took to get involved with HFH—they also organized a basketball fundraiser to benefit both HFH Summer Camps and Saratoga Early Childhood Education Center.

The fundraiser was held at their school’s gym and many of their peers participated in a friendly basketball game. The girls played against each other, and while Maya’s team won, they both found the event to be a lot of fun.

“We decided to do basketball because we love basketball and we think it’s a fun sport that everyone can play,” said Marissa.

The girls also enjoyed the chance the fundraiser offered them to give back.

“We felt very nice and it was good to help other people,” Maya said.

Being a ‘helper’ at Saratoga Early Childhood Education Center was yet another opportunity for the girls to get involved in a hands-on way, with Maya noting that, “It was fun because they got to decorate their vases and we got to help them.”

Her friend agreed. “Well first off, they’re really cute,” Marissa observed of the little kids. “It was actually really fun to help them, and it was good to know that they were having fun and they had a fun activity to do.”

Both girls said they would like to continue volunteering in their communities. When asked what kind of other volunteer activities they’d like to be involved with, they were especially enthusiastic about continuing to work with younger children.

“Maybe we could do something like what we did now,” suggested Marissa. “Helping other children.”

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