Monday, March 02, 2009

Kids Are Making Huge Contributions: The Best Thing About the 21st Century

Last year, my 9 year old decided that she did not want gifts at her birthday party. She had heard about other kids who had used their birthday party as a way to give back to a cause they cared about. She knew she wanted to do something, but she wasn't sure what. I happened upon the organization THE READING VILLAGE and shared the site and mission with my daughter. Since Guatemala and literacy are two things that we care deeply about, we knew that this was the right fit. For Ana's birthday, she asked her friends to bring books written in Spanish, instead of a gift for her, to the party. After the games and crafts, Ana opened the presents which came wrapped. Kids loved watching as each book was opened. The variety of books we received was amazing. Kids often chose books that they loved when they were younger to share with the children in Guatemala. These books were sent to Linda at THE READING VILLAGE and Ana plans to do things like this for all of her upcoming birthdays.

As a parent, this birthday party was perfect. Since presents were not the highlight as they often are, the kids enjoyed each other and being together. They also enjoyed the fact that they were celebrating a birthday by giving something to others. Such a different kind of a party.

Ana recently attended party and the little girl collected things for the Humane Society at her birthday party. I love to see kids who find causes they believe in. I often worry about what service learning will turn into in schools if whole schools or whole classrooms take on projects that do not mean much for each student. When the teacher or the school chooses a cause, we take away students' role in finding and contributing to causes they care about. I think it is so important for kids to find causes that matter to them, personally, and to find ways to make a difference.

If you have not had a chance to hear Dr. Tim Tyson or to visit his blog, it is inspiring for educators. His goal: Using Technology to Empower Meaningful, Global, Student Contribution. Spend some time on MabryOnline looking at the contributions these students are making and it is happening in school.

Kids have always been amazing in the way they work to make the world a better place.  But, I think the tools of the 21st Century have made it easier for them.  The tools make it possible for everyone to know about issues that concern them and to make global contributions--no matter how old they are. Our children have learned to use these tools in powerful ways. I am amazed that children so young are so selfless and have been finding so many ways that children are making such a difference in the world.  Not surprised, but always amazed by children.  And inspired. So, I thought I'd take a few minutes to share all of the amazing things I have found lately--where kids are making a difference. I know there are others and so many more that are never made public, but here are a few that I've found recently, that I thought might inspire others. Enjoy and be inspired!

This blog, A YEAR OF CHARITABLE DEEDS shares a year in the life of a family who is committed to 365 Days/365 Charitable Deeds.  This blog began on December 31, 2008 and began like this:

How difficult is it to do a little something helpful now and again? Is it really that tough to pick up an errant piece of trash and dispose of it properly? Does it really cramp our style to hold the door open for someone? To improve some one's day by offering a simple smile?

In this age of jam-packed schedules, never-ending technological distractions, and rush-rush-rush attitudes, are we really so busy that we can't lend a hand now and again?

I love following them and their mission. So many ways to do good in the world.

This Public Service Announcement was produced by Noah Gray, a 16 year old, WE NEED A NEW "R" WORD. It is a very powerful video and will definitely make a difference in people's perceptions. Created for the Special Olympics.

Following this first video, youth delegates created this video in the reaction to the use of the "R" word in Bill O'Reilly's show airing February 9. This clip is as powerful, if not more powerful than the first one.

A video created to answer the question, "What does Special Olympics mean to you?"

Zach is the creator of LITTLE RED WAGON. The number of projects that this 5th grader has already done is amazing. He has done many many things in the past few years to support different causes. His site is inspirational and the videos he has included add to the understanding of his mission. A boy who is making a huge difference in the world.

Laura's Blog 25 Days to Make a Difference was started for this reason:
In December of 2007, I decided that the best way to remember my grandpa during the holiday season would be by living my life like he did, by making a difference and being a leader. I decided to honor my grandfather’s memory by trying to make a difference every day for twenty five days. I wanted to be able to do little things, like kids my age typically do, instead of HUGE things that are sometimes hard for kids like me. I decided to write about my adventures here, and I also created a challenge.

How about Capucine who I learned about from Stella at Mi World-Mi Mundo. Capucine, a four year old, is helping to make sure that her friends in Mongolia have books. She would like to open a library for them.  Capucine already understands the power of her words, the Internet, and making a difference.The new book 10 THINGS I CAN DO TO HELP MY WORLD by Melanie Walsh is a great one to start conversations with kids on contribution. I also think they would be inspired by seeing some of the things other kids are doing. I know I am.


  1. Franki-
    Wow! Great Stuff! Thanks for pulling together all of these amazing individuals.

    Here's a quote I read recently:
    Volunteering for something is the ultimate experience in democracy. You vote in elections once a year. But when you volunteer, you’re voting every day about the community you want to live in. Anonymous

  2. This is great stuff, Franki! Thanks for sharing this. Another organization that empowers kids to help other kids from around the world is Free the Children. I wrote about them here.

  3. Franki, you compiled a lot of great information here! Thanks for putting it all together, for sharing and for supporting Capucine's library project!

  4. Thanks for this fabulous post! Can't wait to share it with my girls

  5. Thanks for the shout out to Laura and Noah, Franki. Can't wait to show them what you've been up to here. Great post!

  6. Wow! Thanks for the mention of our family project here on YOUR blog! :) Charitable Deeds has been a fun project and I'm glad to see others are enjoying it, too! :)


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