Want to draw your family together in a “team effort?” Want your children to grow in compassion for others? To dream big and set measurable goals? To experience the wonderful feeling of accomplishment after a lot of hard work? You’ll gain all this and more if your family makes the commitment to take on an international family project.
We live in a global society. Daily news enters our homes via television and other media. Our children learn at an early age that there is war, violence and strife in many parts of the world. Most children are horrified when they learn that children around the world suffer from lack of housing, nutritious meals and a safe living environment. The reality cuts right to their heart and they want to take action.
The good news is there are tangible ways to involve children in making a difference. Can they change the world and fix all its problems? No, but they can learn the important lesson that each person has the power to make a difference, one act of kindness at a time.
There are thousands of organizations doing good work around the world. Many of them focus on the needs and welfare of children. The three I’ve outlined below are just the tip of the iceberg, but each of them offers practical ways to aid children in other parts of the world. Go to Charity Navigator to find out more about selecting reputable organizations to link arms with.
If you decide on child sponsorships be certain that the organization you select has procedures in place to assure the child actually gets the benefit of the gift. Choose organizations with a high rating in terms of dollars donated and dollars actually given in aid. It’s fair to expect these organizations to have some overhead costs. Some sponsorship programs allow pictures and letters to go back and forth, enabling your family to get to know your adopted friend.
As you work with your family members to select a project, be sure to allow the children to “buy in” to the choice. Most organizations have excellent websites where you can research their projects and see photos of their work. In this case pictures actually are worth a thousand words.
Once you’ve selected a project with a specific goal, you’ll need to find a way to meet that goal. Will you choose to do a crowd funding campaign? Will the entire family pitch in to do extra work of some kind to earn money? Will you make flyers, have a bake sale, do a garage sale?
It’s not so much the amount of money you send to meet the needs of others, it’s the journey you’ll take together to work hard to help other human beings. That’s a valuable, educational journey to make together.
Be sure your children:
- Help select the project and make a timeline (beginning and endpoint.)
- Help plan the ways to raise the funds.
- Help with advertising and promoting the project.
- Work like crazy on the fundraising days or at the events.
- Help to track progress along the way and readjust plans as necessary.
- Help evaluate the success of the project. Graphs, charts, or reports.
- Share the progress reports with those who have an interest in the project.
- Share in the satisfaction of sending the funds to the specific organization along with any appropriate communication.
- You might want to do a family evaluation of the project. Would you want to make it an annual event?
This wonderful organization, founded in 2008 by Karen Osborn is based in Malawi, Africa. It is dedicated to improving the life of poor children through active and creative play. Kusewera means “to play” in Malawi. The daily lives of poor children, especially those in orphanages, are often devoid of fun and healthy activity. Kusewera has developed a community center which provides sports clinics and guided activities in dance, music and art. As of 2014 they are branching out into the Philippines. In the process of teaching healthy play activities they also teach life skills such as leadership, discipline, goal-setting, perseverance and team participation. Visit the website to see the scope of this work.
Ways to help:
- Plan a volunteer trip in which you would help conduct activities with local children.
- Raise funds or donate gently-used sports equipment or gather music and arts and crafts items.
- Gather new and gently-used shoes for local children.
- Donate to the school book program.
- Check out the new pen-pal program or participate in the middle school or high school club program.
This organization was founded by the board of the Pearl S. Buck foundation. Their goal is to foster exploration and appreciation of other cultures around the world and to foster better lives for children. The center is based at the original family home of Pearl Buck in Perkasie, Pennsylvania. Programs include ways to enrich the education, health and well-being of the children. This organization works in Korea, China, The Philippines, Taiwan, Viet Nam and the U.S.
Ways to help:
- Raise funds for a special project such as the restoration and renovation of an elementary school in Thailand or the Filipino Nutrition project.
- Sponsor a child. Children living in single family homes, orphans, or those in ethnic minority groups are selected for sponsorship programs. You will be the child’s only sponsor and can exchange pictures and letters over the years.
- Take part in a language immersion trip planned and overseen by Pearl S. Buck International.
- Visit a summer culture camp.
- Join a high school leadership program.
The Palestine Relief Fund (PCRF) is a non-political, non-profit, organization dedicated to healing the wounds of war, occupation and poverty. It works with adults and children in the Middle East and treats them regardless of race, nationality, religion or gender. They have both medical and humanitarian aid projects ongoing.
How to help: Since most of this organization’s work is done by volunteer medical professionals, the best way to help is to raise funds for a specific project.
Raise funds for:
- hearing aids
- children’s summer camps
- sponsor a child
The organization is currently working on special projects in Gaza and Syria.
Be assured that when you take on a project such as supporting one of the above agencies or another like it, your entire family will be forever changed.
Jan Pierce, M. Ed., is a retired teacher and the author of Homegrown Readers: Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.