Engaging our kids in our social good projects is the only way we can guarantee a better tomorrow. I've been involved in international social projects since the age of 16 when (by pure chance) I spent three months in Calcutta with Mother Teresa and her sisters. Every summer after that I spent a few months building a new project in a new country. Twenty+ years later, I'm still very involved in social good projects. This time, however, I cannot go for two or three months because now I'm a mom. However, I do not see this as a limitation; instead, it's an opportunity to quadruple my reach.
Last year we started a new family tradition where we go to a country for a few weeks to build a sustainable project. We built a Cyber Room on the border of Haiti with LATISM. Ten-year-old Pepe gave computer lessons to many artisans who are now selling their work online. He taught things that we usually take for granted, like using the mouse, uploading a picture, dragging objects, changing font sizes, and so forth. The younger ones taught English. Six-year-old Pier was in charge of the price lesson. He taught them the numbers, and a list of words and phrases they would use every day with tourists. Five-year-old Emmanuel, instead, played the role of the tourist and asked them a list of questions to practice the lessons they learned with Pier. The empowerment those kids felt by doing these simple but life-changing activities was indescribable.
Apart from the fact that they really helped that community become sustainable, they also learned, in first person, the struggles of the poorest of the poor. Now when I ask them to save water or not to waste food because so many kids have none, they know exactly what I mean. They are building a strong social conscience. No matter what they end up doing in their lives, I know that philanthropy will be an intrinsic part of their decisions.
I don't want you to think that you need to pack and fly abroad to raise global citizens. It still is the ideal, but there are so many local opportunities you can find where your kids can engage in social good. The best ones are the charities you are already involved in. For example, on my trip to Africa as part of One Moms all of the kids worked on some fundraising projects. We paid them $1 to help with certain chores, and the oldest cleaned up his toys, then sold the ones he did not need. They gave me a total of $40 to help the kids in Ghana.
The minute I got to a local market and found little Forgive cooking for her 6 siblings, I knew that was the place where I wanted to invest the kids' contribution. We did something fun first, by buying about $2 worth of muffins and candy (25 kids got one) which I bought at one of the moms' stores. Then the rest of the money was used to buy 30 notebooks and school packs (which included a pencil, a ruler, and an eraser). I took pictures of the kids with the goodies and sent them to my boys who felt so proud and so involved. They're now brainstorming ideas on how to raise even more funds for the next project.
This might sound simple to you, and in fact it is super simple. I didn't ask them to give me their favorite toy or to do anything extraordinary. I just gave them the opportunity to share with other kids like them. I've kept them aware of each step I make on the trip by texting messages to Pepe, who is in charge of reporting to his brothers. I'm also sending them facts in a way that they can understand. For example, when we went to the Malnutrition Hospital, I sent them the following facts:
-- 1.4 billion people make less than $1.25 a day. This means that all they can buy for their family would be 3 glasses of milk to eat in one day. Imagine if you only drank one glass of milk a day and nothing else?
-- Millions of kids are so hungry that they will never be able to grow healthy.
-- The good news is that One (the folks I'm travelling with) have the solution. They can save these children if their parents can do more farming.
You should see the replies I get to my messages. My third message (which included this little boy with acute malnutrition) got this reply: "Mami, tell your friends that we're here to help."
Just like how we want to raise our kids with a healthy body, mind, and soul by nurturing the right foods, values and skill, we also need to make a conscious effort to invest the time and energy to raise global citizens. We are raising the future leaders of our country, and I know that if we work hard on building their awareness early, they will solve problems that our generation of leaders are struggling to solve.
This post originally appeared on Babble.com.