How Village of Impact members spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service learning about child development and teaching their children about giving back
On Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, Northern Virginia Family Service’s (NVFS) Village of Impact came together to engage in service in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and learn more about the importance of early childhood development and education. NVFS’ Senior Vice President of Programs, Malinda Langford, emphasized in her discussion that the first five years of a child’s life are the most critical for his or her development, health and future success, and how NVFS works to guarantee children receive the quality care they need during the most impactful years of their lives.
Langford shared NVFS’ comprehensive approach to ensuring children enrolled in Early Head Start (EHS) and Head Start (HS) programs are given a strong educational foundation, including attention to their physical and mental health. These students and their families receive education on proper nutrition, connecting with primary care physicians, receiving immunizations and more upon enrolling, with additional guidance on behavioral health, mental health and stable living conditions.
“Taking this comprehensive approach significantly increases a child’s chances of future success into adulthood,” explained Langford. “This includes involving the whole family and making sure parents’ needs, like job training, transportation, health and shelter, are being met to the best extent possible.”
Village of Impact members, ranging from adults to children as young as 2, shared their enthusiasm for the opportunity to engage in service together and learn the reasons why they’re serving.
“We joined Village of Impact because it’s something we can take our daughter to,” noted member Nick Vaka. “We want her to be able to give back to her community and see that not everyone was born with the advantages that she was born with. We want her to have an outlet where she can go and make a difference for somebody else.”
Member Emily Daniels said, “I love that Village of Impact is not just an opportunity for families to volunteer together, but that there’s also a conversation so kids can learn about why we’re doing [this] and what it means.”
In addition to learning the importance of child development and engaging in service, Village of Impact members took part in several activities together, such as decorating Head Start Center’s welcome board for Black History Month, making Valentine’s Day cards for the students, and cleaning and organizing toys and counters in the center’s classrooms.
“Families were looking for opportunities to come out and learn about their communities and do hands-on activities together,” shared President and CEO Stephanie Berkowitz.
“We thought about the 35,000 people that we serve, and the more people who are out there who understand what it means to be homeless, to be hungry, to have quality early childhood education, the more ambassadors we have out there in the community really helping our community come together and thrive.”
Planning service projects and seeking volunteer opportunities might not always be feasible for busy families, which is another benefit for Village of Impact members.
“It’s so hard to carve out the time in busy family lives to volunteer and make time for service activities, so we create these opportunities once every quarter. It’s an hour and a half, families love it, and it’s a great opportunity to come out, get your hands dirty and learn about the issues going on in our community,” Berkowitz concluded.
Village of Impact members agree.
“Village of Impact makes it easy for us to give back as a family,” member Donna Gladis shared. “NVFS provides everything we need – the ideas, the supplies, the opportunity. It’s also a great way to see all of the many NVFS program locations and connect a bit deeper to all that the organization is doing.”
“My favorite aspect is the hands-on approach in doing something that will actually help someone,” Vaka added. “Being able to roll up your sleeves and go actively help someone is what we like the most about Village of Impact.”
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