"Birthday Angels" is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006. Its purpose is to enable a birthday celebration to children whose parents are lacking the economic ability to do so. The organization recruits volunteers all over Israel who dedicate three hours a week to organizing birthdays and other group activities.
The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the birthday celebration on the "Birthday Children" and volunteers – the Teen Angels" and to provide feedback on the program.
The study included a total of 81 respondents who filled questionnaires online. 70 respondents (86.4 %) were “Teen Angels”, and were at the center of focus of this study. 11 (13.6 %) of "Birthday Angels" were adults. 11 (13.6%) of the "Birthday Angels" were male, and 70 (86.4 %) were female.
The large majority (69 constituting 85.2%) of the "Birthday Angels" were mostly students between 14-20 years old, 7 (8.6 %) of the "Birthday Angels" were between 20-30, and 5 (6.2 %) were over the age of 30.
Most teenagers began volunteering in "Birthday Angels" through school referral (61 %), through municipal institution referral, such as: Municipal Youth Council (16 %), youth movements (13 %) municipal community center (6 %)' or through friends who volunteer in the association (3%).
The main reasons for choosing this voluntary work were the desire to help children, the love for them, the desire to feel good and do something meaningful, and the desire to develop facilitation skills. A few respondents hoped that the volunteering will win them the respect of their friends and families.
The training process of "Teen Angels" takes place during the course of two months, with additional support available for volunteers during their first year. In the course volunteers acquire professional guidance and instructing skills, as well as "life skills" and form a social group forms around various activities
“Teen Angels” Questionnaire Findings
√ About 83 % of “Teen Angels” (N = 69) believed that all of the content, or nearly all were relevant to actual birthday facilitation. At the same time, about a third of “Teen Angels” felt they needed more guidance when it comes to "managing" the party in a ways which ensure children's cooperation.
√ About half of the "Birthday Angels" encountered no difficulties during volunteering; while a quarter of them indicated that they devoted considerable time to dealing with discipline issues and others felt some sense of insecurity in leading the process.
√ About two-thirds of the respondents claimed that following the volunteering they felt to a great or very great extent that they possess good qualities, and more than half indicated that volunteering gave them a great or a very great feeling of success, high self-confidence and a sense that they can be leaders.
√ Nearly 40% of the respondents said that, following the volunteering, they felt to a great or very great extent that they had won the respect of people around them.
√ About a third of the respondents reported that after volunteering they felt more confident of themselves to a great or very great degree, their number of friends increased, and they felt to a great or very great extent equal to others.
√ About 12% of the respondents said that after volunteering they have started to invest more in their studies, to a great or very great extent.
√ Almost all of the “Teen Angels” also reported enhanced personal abilities and awareness of others, due to volunteering in "Birthday Angels".
√ Approximately half of the respondents reported enhanced creative ability and over one-third reported an increase in organizational skills and also an enhanced sense of caring for others and awareness of the difficulties and problems experienced by diverse population groups in Israel.
√ Adult volunteers (not defined as “Teen Angels”) reported an increase in self-confidence and sense of achievement due to volunteering.
√ Nearly 80 % of the “Teen Angels” indicated that they are satisfied to a great or very great extent from the volunteering experience, about 13% of them were satisfied to a moderate extent, and 10 % indicated that they were satisfied to a lesser extent or not at all satisfied. The average rating of satisfaction was 4.06 out of 5.
√ 47 (82.5%) of the “Teen Angels” wanted to continue to volunteer for "Birthday Angels".
Some examples of the open comments made about volunteering as a "Birthday Angel" include:
√ I learned to be more attentive. I knew how to get along with the kids, and opened up more.
√ I discovered my ability to facilitate birthdays, my creativity, and the facilitating skills I was not sure that I had before.
√ I was surprised at my ability to stand in front of the children, and to lead them.
√ I was surprised to learn that I was able to lead well.
√ It was another important project I took part in and by this I proved to myself that I could handle things and I can act on my desires.
√ I found I was a good leader.
√ The activity influenced my life for the better, I'm happy to be part of it and feel more caring and loving.
√ Volunteering made me act in a more understanding manner towards children.
√ Volunteering made me feel a part of something. I feel socially involved.
√ It really affected my life because it made me recognize the different parts of the country I had not seen yet.
√ This activity made me try to always give to those who don't have and to invest not only in myself, but in society' as well.
√ It gave me motivation and desire to do more volunteering.
√ The added value was doing it voluntarily and out of giving only, and that is a good feeling that pervades. The possibility to contribute and to give something of myself is an opportunity and a gift to me.
√ I found that my problems were very small in comparison to those of others, and that if I'm happy then I should help those who are not.
√ It made me open my mind and get out of my bubble.
√ It made me feel that anyone can if they want and that I have to be thankful for all that I have.
The study included a total of 80 respondents who filled out questionnaires.
52 (65%) of the Birthday kids questionnaires were filled at the "Komemiut" school in 4th to 6th grades, where many of its pupils celebrated their birthdays with the “Teen Angels” volunteers. 28 (35%) of the questionnaires were gathered via the internet. Additional data was obtained in an analysis of 150 nonstandard thank-you letters, sent by "Birthday kids"and their parents in 2012.
41 (51.3%) of the respondents were 5-10 years old and 39 (48.8%) were 13-16 years old.
Most "Birthday kids" referred to a birthday which was celebrated on the same year or the previous year. 23 (39%) of the "birthday kids" said that this was the first time ever that they celebrated a birthday. and 36 (61%) said that this was not the first time they celebrated their birthday.. It should be noted that sometimes previous birthdays were celebrated with the volunteers of "Birthday Angels" as well.
"Birthday Kids" Questionnaire Findings
The birthday celebration has delighted the "Birthday kids". The celebration focused on the child himself in various ways. It created an opportunity for positive feedback from the children who participated in the celebration, expanding the circle of friends and raising the "Birthday kids'" self-esteem. The occasion was not seen as episodic but as having a long term positive effect.
√ 87% of the "Birthday kids" agreed to a large or very large extent that "it was a great birthday gift for them". 84 % said they enjoyed the celebration to a great or very great extent, and 76 % said they were excited during the celebration to a great or very great extent.
√ 70% of the "Birthday kids" felt that the children who participated in the celebration liked them, and 73% of them felt they were important to their friends to a great or very great extent. 68% said they felt during the birthday that their friends think good things about them to a great or very great extent.
√ 45% of the "Birthday kids" felt the party allowed a good opportunity to tell their friends about themselves to a great or very great extent.
√ 70% of the "Birthday kids" agreed to a great or very great extent that "after good things were said about me, I thought of myself better things", and 66% of them felt special to a great or very great extent as a result of what they heard from their friends during the party .
√ More than a quarter of the "Birthday kids" reported that they believe that the good feeling following the birthday party will last much longer.
√ 43% of the "Birthday kids" s said that following the celebration they have more friends.
√ 65% of the "Birthday kids" said that following the celebration they feel more confident.
√ 65% of the "Birthday kids" said that following the party they feel better in class. 57% of them even mentioned that following the celebration they would want to be a Birthday Angel of another child.
In open questions, 65% of the "Birthday kids" mentioned that they loved the activities, games, songs and dances, and a quarter indicated that they especially liked the cake. About 20% felt that the activities did not fit the age of the participants, and some said they would like to change some of them (this comment appeared mostly among children who experienced the same format of birthday celebrations for many students in their class). Below is a selection of quotes from the open question:
√ I liked the fact that there were new students who I did not know, and now some of them are my friends.
√ At the angels' birthday, the games focused on questions about me, so they got to know me. It's not done in regular birthdays .
√ I loved that in this celebration the entire class participates while in a celebration that I invite people to, not everyone can come to my party.
√ I liked the most the game in which we were divided into groups and sang songs to me and did a show for me. The girl who led my birthday was just perfect.
√ My favorite part was with the cake when they turned off the lights and lit flares.
√ I remember the people who celebrated with me, they were very sweet and involved the entire class and everyone enjoyed it.
√ I loved that everyone gave me emotional greetings.
√ All my friends congratulated me and the kids from class too.
√ I liked that all the friends I love were around me, that everyone made an effort and came for me and organized my birthday.
√ I loved the beautiful bouquet of flowers, and that I could make a wish.
√ I did not like that the party was for other children and I wanted it to be mine alone.
√ I didn't like getting stickers only if I answered a question correctly.
√ I felt that only I exist and I'm the most important and most special.
√ I was excited, I was the birthday king.
√ I felt I was right in the middle because everyone clapped and danced with me.
√ everyone congratulated me and made me feel it was my fun day, everyone came for me, I felt special because they brought me gifts , and sang songs to me , and I chose which children participated in the games. Everyone came and gave gifts and wanted to play with me.
√ I felt a little down because I was with other children and didn't really feel in the spotlight.
√ My friend told me I was his best friend.
"Thank-you letters" from the children and parents referred to personal experiences related to the celebration, appreciation of donors and volunteers, gifts and activities as well as to improving self-esteem following the party.
Below is a selection of quotes from the Thank-you letters:
√ It was the happiest day of my life.
√ The birthday was a dream came true.
√ A great experience, everyone remembers my birthday and that's fun.
√ Thank you, it was great, I felt like a king.
√ It was fun and we felt that the entire class knows we are important.
√ I had a very happy and fun birthday party, this is one of the birthdays I won't forget as long as I live.
√ Thank you for making me a birthday I will never forget as long as I live.
√ I had a wonderful birthday celebration I never had one like that.
√ Dear donor, I had a lovely birthday thanks to the kit I really enjoyed, the kids cooperated and laughed a lot. Hope it will make you happy too.
√ I am very excited that someone is thinking about me and treats me especially that I am Bat Mitzvah age. Keep making children happy so other children would feel happy in their heart like I did and would feel that someone is thinking of them and loves them.
√ Thank you for making my birthday a special day, your name really fits you, I wish I was an angel like you.
Finally, the volunteers' feedback referring the effect of the birthday celebration on young children in elementary school was very positive. More than half of the responders among the "Birthday Angels" (about 80 responders) said that they believe the party raised the self-esteem of the "Birthday kids" to a great or very great extent, and another 26% indicated that the celebration raised the self-esteem of the children to a moderate extent. More than half believe that the celebration had a profound effect on the "Birthday kids" that will stay with them for a long time. In the open questions, "Birthday Angels" mentioned that in their opinion the "Birthday kids'" sense of belonging was strengthened following the celebration, their social status was strengthened and their self-confidence increased.