Idle hands to the Devil’s work, or so the saying goes. This is far from trite, though: when teens and young adults suffer from perpetual, unalleviated boredom, it’s unreasonable to expect them to apply themselves regardless. Saying that they “should” aspire to better themselves is hardly helpful unless they’re provided with guidance and opportunities to do so.

One proven way of preventing younger people from sinking into apathy and eventually turning to drugs or crime is to organize a club or other kind of organization for them to join. This may take the form of a religious cirlce, a sports team, an art class or whatever else – the ultimate objective is in all cases to offer them an enjoyable atmosphere that can provide a countervailing effect to the many negative influences teenagers are exposed to daily.

Of course, regardless of how much someone may want to help, the time and especially the money to do this effectively is likely to be in short supply. For the first, it may be possible to enlist the help of other volunteers once the ball is rolling. The second problem is likely to be the more intractable one. Cash will always be tight, few people can afford to cover the costs themselves, and the only ways to ameliorate this is by aggressively fundraising or finding ways to save.

Think About Joining Forces

Some local and national organizations, including governments at all levels, make it their business to assist others who are willing to help empower the youth. The aid they offer is often restricted to advice which may or may not be helpful, but there is also the possibility of getting a subsidy to help fund your project. Naturally, there are usually quite a few hoops to jump through to get this kind of assistance. At a minimum, the organization will have to be legally registered as a charity and produce audited financial statements.

Get Creative When Looking for a Venue

Considering the typical socio-economic background of teens who can benefit from an outreach program, high membership fees will probably be a no-go. It’s also desirable for the group to be based near their homes and schools, which usually means either an urban or suburban environment.

Since renting a suitable space will probably be prohibitively expensive, it’s worth talking to as many people as possible about finding a free or cheap venue. Libraries, sports centers and churches are often eager to serve their communities in this way, as long as their guests don’t disturb others and clean up after themselves. Even real estate agents may be able to help, at least temporarily.

Cheap and Dirty Vs. Fancy and Fragile

Any altruistic organization typically has three kinds of expenses: those that have to be paid no matter what, those that actually lead to something useful, and bells and whistles meant only to impress. As you can imagine, it’s better to forget about the last category entirely if the goal is to make the world a better place.

To give an example, a quick look at Foosball Fanatic indicates that adding a popular foosball game to your club for under $200 is a good deal. If, however, you’re willing to spend some time browsing online classifieds and visiting second-hand stores, you can probably pick up a similar item for less than a quarter of that price. It will probably be a little battered and in need of repair, but still entirely fit for purpose.

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Thinking about the problem holistically, the cost of ignoring what is happening to young people today will be far larger than that of offering activities to better engage them with society. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of calculus that politicians like to talk about in public. Until that changes, it will be up to civil society to fill the gap, and finding new ways of pinching pennies will remain essential.