Learning a second language and exploring different cultures are great tools for teaching children to think beyond themselves and think about the lives of others. Such awareness fosters a feeling of kinship and caring that often leads to the desire to make a difference. In fact, thousands of kids across the United States are doing just that within their homes, their local communities and on a global scale.
Real Kids Make a Real Difference
Brazienna Hook and Haley VanScoyoc live in Pinellas, Florida. The two friends collect blankets and socks for the homeless. When temperatures start falling, as they do sometimes even in Florida, they load a parent’s car up and hand deliver one blanket and one pair of socks to the homeless people in the community. The girls spend their own money to purchase supplies when donations aren’t enough. They do it because it, in their words, “warms” their hearts.
After a 2013 typhoon devastated the Philippines, Audrey Wood of Providence, Utah, came up with a tasty fundraising idea. Audrey and her mom baked cinnamon rolls over the long Thanksgiving weekend and sold them to neighbors and friends. A donor agreed to match the funds Audrey raised, which turned her initial collection of $320 into $640. Audrey plans to turn her fundraiser into an annual event.
Erin Manuel of North Carolina was seven years old when an earthquake hit Haiti. She donated her life savings of $3.08 to Partners in Health (PIH), a global nonprofit health organization that was on the ground in Haiti, and then held a bake sale to raise more money. Erin was moved by the extreme poverty in Haiti and wanted to do more. When she was 9 years old, she began selling greeting cards and bookmarks made from her own artwork. She also began playing her violin during farmers market season for tips, all for the cause. Four years later, Erin has raised over $8,000 for PIH. She says, “No child should have to grow up in poverty.”
Already involved in volunteer work at eight years of age, Martand Bhagavatula played his violin for patients in the local hospital’s pediatric ward. He noticed that the kids didn’t have any toys or “fun things” in their rooms. To remedy the situation, he founded an organization called Kids and Smiles. Initially founded to collect toys for pediatric patients, Kids and Smiles now has an expanded role of encouraging other kids to get involved. The organization holds several themed events throughout the year that the youth volunteers organize. They then hand deliver toys to local hospitals.
Parker Willman of Kenton, Kentucky, loves animals. He wanted to do volunteer work at the local animal shelter, but was too young to be accepted. Instead, he started Parker’s Pet Project when he was six years old. He collects pet supplies, food and toys and donates them to the shelter. To date, he has donated several car loads full of donations as well as hundreds of dollars.
Zach Affolter made headlines when he campaigned to have his San Diego’s high school functions removed from SeaWorld because of its unethical treatment of marine animals, particularly cetaceans. A vegetarian and animal activist, Zach is writing two books to spread the word about his cause.
Making a Difference at Home
Making a difference starts at home. One of the simplest ways to encourage social responsibility is by employing an energy and environment saving way of life. Children of all ages can actively participate and learn about how their actions impact the world around them.
Here are some simple and fun activities to get kids started :
Turn off the lights: The simple act of turning the lights off when you leave a room and unplugging small appliances saves energy throughout the day.
Save water: Don’t let water run when brushing teeth. Use the water only as needed. This simple act saves as much as 25 gallons of water a month.
Plant something: Plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide and naturally clean the air. A family garden also provides fresh vegetables and, as an added benefit, is a perfect family activity.
Recycle: Most communities offer recycling services of some kind. Recyclables include magazines, newspapers, glass and, most importantly, plastic.
Reduce heat: Layering clothes and lowering the thermostat drastically reduces a family’s energy use.
Compost: Composting returns nutrients to the ground and is ideal for fertilizing gardens.