Children are our future. In order for kids to become compassionate, giving, and philanthropic as adults we need to teach them these skills as children. It is not always easy finding ways for children and families to volunteer and give, other than writing a check. However, there are several options available to almost everyone around the United States. These three ways, listed below, of giving back can teach your child not only to give back, but it can help them appreciate what they do have.
One of the best ways to find gratitude in our own lives is to see those who are much less fortunate. This gratitude for our own lives and opening our children’s eyes to see how others have it so much worse can help them become empathetic human beings. It isn’t enough to tell our children about the poor and destitute. We need to teach them to make a difference and put it into action. These tips are actions everyone can take with their children.
1. Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child is an amazing international project that has sent millions of shoeboxes filled with gifts and necessities to impoverished children in over 150 countries since 1993. Anyone can participate in this giving project. You and your children can go shop for a child, pack it in a shoebox, and then take it to a drop off location. There are more than 5,000 drop off locations in the United States. Go to this link to find a drop off location near you: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/. They ask for a suggested donation of $7 per box, to cover the cost of transporting it to the child.
You can chose the gender and age range of the child you want to provide a shoebox gift to. If you select the same age and gender as your own child it makes it easier for them to select gifts for this child. It also helps them relate to the child.
When choosing necessities and school supplies to pack in the box (as suggested per the Operation Christmas Child site), it becomes a teachable moment with your child as you can explain that many children can’t afford to go buy these essential items. You can also explain that many will not get Christmas gifts, as their family is just trying to survive on a daily basis and they need to spend their money on food. Your child will begin to understand that not all children are as fortunate as they are, but we can do something to help these children. Bigger giving in life begins with small giving now. Teach them the skill of giving to others, so that the skill can grow in them as they grow up.
There is a tutorial on the exact steps for shopping, packing, printing your label, and drop off instructions on the Operation Christmas Child site. They make it very easy for people to participate and show love to these children who live very impoverished lives abroad. You can also track your box to see where it goes. I have always included a letter in my boxes for the child. Two times I have received letters back!
Here is the link for instructions on how to participate: Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Instructions. Make sure you have your shoeboxes to the collection location on time, as the shoebox collection week is November 14-21.
2. Ronald McDonald House Charities
The Ronald McDonald House Charities is a non profit that provides free or very low cost temporary housing for parents who have children in the hospital. There are over 350 Ronald McDonald Houses across the globe, most are based in the United States. These houses provide a private room for parents and children, hot meals, a playroom for children, and compassionate staff and volunteers to be there for the families.
My husband and I personally stayed in two Ronald McDonald Houses while our son was hospitalized for weeks on end. Without these houses, we would not have been able to be with our son each day, all day long, as our home was over 2 hours away. They provided us with a private room and bathroom, hot meals each day, staff that was willing to lend a caring ear, and snacks to take to the hospital with us. They were there for us in our time of need. Our son ended up dying in the hospital.
The first people we saw after he died and we left the hospital was the Ronald McDonald House staff. They were very compassionate, caring, and loving. We are just one of thousands of families that have been touched and cared for by the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
What makes their organization even more special is that the meals are cooked by local volunteers. This is one way you and your family can give back. In the years since our son has passed, I have volunteered several times to cook meals at my local Ronald McDonald House. In the location where I made the meal, I brought the ingredients for the meal to the Ronald McDonald House and cooked it right there. They had a large kitchen space with several ovens, making the process even easier. When I arranged to come to make the meal, the staff told me how many I would need to cook for, and what time I would need to have the meal ready for the residents. They made it very easy for me to volunteer in this capacity. You too can volunteer to cook at a local Ronald McDonald House. Simply contact your local House by finding them on this site (simply enter your country and state).
There are other ways to help out at your local Ronald McDonald House and have your kids volunteer too. You can create snack bags for the parents to take, so they have food and snacks to take to the hospital. Contact your local Ronald McDonald House to find out if they have requirements (such as a certain number of bags to make for the residents or food restrictions for potential allergies).
Another way to give is to purchase toys for the children who are in the hospital. Families who stay at these homes are often a long way from their home and they can’t simply drive home to get their child’s personal books and toys. Providing toys and books that the residents can have for their children is a wonderful gift.
As you buy toys with your child for these ailing children, you can discuss with your child how these children ended up in the hospital. It is important for them to understand that not all children are born healthy and that some children get sick, or have serious accidents that threaten the lives of these children. Having your child buy toys for these children is a way of bringing some happiness into the lives of these sick or hurt children. Your child will develop compassion for ailing children in the process of understanding their situation and giving generously to them.
Another way to give to the Ronald McDonald House Charities that doesn’t cost anything at all, is to collect can pull tabs. These tabs which can be found on sodas and other beverage, as well as some food containers. These help to cover costs incurred at Ronald McDonald Houses. At a Ronald McDonald House where I volunteered, they said they used the funds from those tabs (which are recycled for money) to pay for the electricity and water bills for their charity house where hundreds of family, at this particular house, stayed each year.
For more information on pull-tab collection and other ways to help, please go to this link.
3. Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is one of the longest running charities in the Unites States. They provide free meals to housebound (often elderly) people in the community. There are local chapters of Meals on Wheels all over the country. Go to this link to find a chapter near you to contact.
This program provides a great opportunity for families to volunteer together. You can simply contact your local chapter and sign up to deliver meals. I contacted my local chapter and they said most volunteers sign up for just one day a month and it takes 1.5 hours to deliver all the meals. No cooking required! You just pick up the meals and deliver them. Children can help by carrying the meals with you to hand deliver at each home. Children will get to see the real recipients of these meals and get the thank you for the delivery as well. This volunteer opportunity doesn’t require any money, just some time and a vehicle. It is an easy and wonderful way to give back.
Let’s start a movement of getting kids to give back now. It starts in our own homes with our own children. Use the hashtag #KidsGiveBack on social media and share your stories and photos of giving back with your children. Let’s make a difference in our communities starting with us today! Your opportunities to give back know no limits. There are many good charities and opportunities, the above are just a few suggestions. Share your experiences and giving back on social media to encourage others to give back as well #KidsGiveBack.