Simple Service: Service with Friends

The following is the third post from one of our newest regular contributors, Jennifer Elia from Check out her original post about Mary’s Meals here. And her post on Crafting for a Cause here! Thank you, Jennifer!

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We want our children to grow up to be compassionate and caring adults, ready to help and aware of others’ needs. The best way to do this is to teach service to others early. Finding ways for children to serve can be tricky, though. Many charities, because of liability, will not allow young volunteers. Also, kids want to be with other kids. There is always a demand on their time to be a part of afterschool activities and sports.

What if service could be their activity? Kids love to belong and have friends with a common interest. Mary’s Meals Ambassadors Club capitalized on this idea to create a unique opportunity and fundraising model that seems unstoppable.

St Stephen St Edward school caught the Mary’s Meals bug several years ago, when they had a nickel drive fundraising challenge. When the challenge was over, the kids were just getting started with ideas and enthusiasm for feeding children through Mary’s Meals. To keep up with the counting and organizing, a group of students banded together to help. That is when teacher, Lydia VanDuynhoven saw a unique opportunity for these children and for the school.

What if instead of just being a fundraiser, Mary’s Meals could be a club where students came to have fun, make friends, AND do good? The Mary’s Meals Ambassadors is a unique model that really fills a need in the school community. Children learn about how charities work, they experience presentations on the countries and cultures they are aiding. They build connections with schools half a world away through letters and playing traditional games. The group gets to exercise their creative juices by finding new ways to raise money for Mary’s Meals and their community at large.


Mary’s Meals Ambassadors has become one of the largest and longest running fundraisers for Mary’s Meals International in the world! They were thrilled when founder, Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow, came from Scotland to St Stephen’s because he wanted to see this club in action. He hoped to learn how they were accomplishing so much with young children so that other groups could do the same.

Beyond the mountains of donations collected by students, that is often over $20K per year, and the devotion to raising awareness of child hunger, there is the element that makes childhood so special--fun! The club members go on field trips, play games, have holiday parties, and build friendships.  It truly is what every kid needs to learn how to serve from the heart.

How could you turn a charity mission into a kid friendly club?


Jennifer Elia is a homeschool consultant, curriculum creator, and author at She and her husband are raising their four children, three of whom are Mary's Meals Ambassadors, in their North Jersey childhood hometown. She has a passion for education, research, and helping those who are suffering, especially children. Thank you, Jennifer!