THE BLOG
11/26/2014 01:59 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2015

Why Parents Should Introduce Philanthropy to Their Children

If we want to build the next generation of philanthropists, we must give children access to philanthropic opportunities. According to a study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 90 percent of children aged 8-19 give to charity, and talking to children about charitable giving significantly increases their giving. This to me sounds like we have a generation of children ready and willing to work on improving the world. We just need to do our part to support them.

When I was a young teen, my parents took me to visit poverty-stricken communities in my hometown of Detroit, MI. It was their way of giving me a crash course in philanthropy, and I learned a lot from those visits.

We visited the city's orphanages and played games with the children. We helped set up food pantries to ensure access to good nourishment for lower income residents. These experiences were unforgettable, and played a significant role in shaping me into the person I am today.

I found myself revisiting these memories during a recent trip to our SOS Children's Villages (SOS) in Nicaragua -- the largest country in Central America with a difficult history. I was joined by our Board of Directors, several of whom included their young daughters in the trip to introduce them to SOS's work. It was an exciting and meaningful experience for their girls, and an inspiring one for me.

Caroline, Ava and Sofie were given a tour of our SOS Villages and learned about our various programs. They listened to stories about SOS Mothers who dedicate their lives to being full-time moms for vulnerable children. And they met with children and youth who had gone through traumatizing experiences, such as losing their parents to poverty, drugs or violence. They were naturally empathic and quickly formed bonds with our SOS children. I remember seeing Sofie run onto a field to join a team of boys for a game of soccer. She didn't know how to speak Spanish, but she sure knew how to play the sport. I thought back to my time joining in games with children at the Detroit orphanages -- I formed bonds and without realizing it, formed my worldview.

Seeing these three girls play and draw with our SOS kids gave me the opportunity to experience our villages through their eyes. Their compassion, understanding and ability to communicate across language and other barriers gave me hope for future generations. It also further convinced me of the vital role parents and caregivers play in raising socially-conscious, philanthropic children. Our board members set a positive example for their children and provided them with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the world's most pressing social issues.

We do not need, though, to travel far to provide children with experiences like these. Volunteering, raising money for charities, or talking about the importance of contributing to our communities are all activities that can inspire a child to be philanthropic -- to form a world view in which they are naturally connected to others. Parent or not, we must each do our part to show children how meaningful it can be to connect with and care for others the world over.

We can remember, too, that these very children will grow up and shape the future of their nations and of the world. Let's prepare them for greatness.

Click here to learn how you can join #TeamSOS and support SOS Children's Villages in providing a loving home for every child.