I’m grateful that when I was a little girl, my parents started a beautiful tradition that taught us kids to focus on caring and giving as part of our holiday festivities.
Every year, they’d help us learn about children around the world who were suffering and we’d choose a group of children we wanted to help. Then they helped us invite all our friends and neighbors to a “Children for Children” concert at our house. All of us kids would perform a little piano piece or do a dance or hold up a picture we’d painted or whatever. The audience (our parents and other friends and neighbors) would “pay” to come to the performance by putting a donation into a box. Then we kids would give all the money we’d “earned” to help the needy children we’d learned about.
I loved those Children for Children concert memories. I have great memories of helping to rearrange all the furniture and round up chairs from neighbors to accommodate a ridiculously large crowd in our not-so-big house (it started small – but wow, it sure grew over the years!). I loved having all my friends and their families there and seeing everyone share their talents. I loved the delicious refreshments. And I loved, loved, loved counting up that money in the donation box at the end and feeling so good that we could help those in need.
So I’ve carried this tradition on with my own family. When my kids were really young, our first Children for Children concert consisted of my kids inviting some friends over for a “fundraiser” involving looking at pictures of the needy children that my kids had decided to help (via the internet) and then enjoying pizza and a holiday movie together. Prior to the party, all the kids who came as well as my kids did some chores around the house to earn up money to bring and donate.
Then the next year, we did a pretty simple and casual “Children for Children” concert where we had a few families come enjoy a night of music and giving at our house. At the beginning of the evening, we watched a brief slide show about the orphans we’d be helping with our donations (I once worked in Eastern Europe in orphanages so I’ve got some good connections there) and gave the money we collected to an organization that helps the children we watched in the video.
Last night, we put on our 6th annual Children for Children concert. We’ve outgrown our house so, for the past couple of years, we’ve used an old church-turned-community-center down the street. And it’s been such a joy to see my children take on more and more ownership of the event each year and get more and more interested in the causes we’ve donated towards. This year, my 12-year-old son Ashton made the invitations, set up a Facebook event to invite people, organized who would be on the program, arranged for people to bring refreshments and was an excellent emcee at the event. 11-year-old Isaac greeted everyone at the door and was the back-stage manager for the little Nativity Scene we did at the end plus he passed out invitations. 9-year-old Eliza made the donation box, headed up the angels in the Nativity and got all her friends involved. And my 7-year-old twins assisted with everything. (For more details on last night’s event, visit my blog post about it here.)
We spent the evening watching cute kids do everything from holding up a picture they’d painted to singing a song to playing bells together with siblings to doing dances to reciting a poem. Some performances were polished. Some not-so-much.
One of my favorite moments was when one sweet neighbor girl got up there to sing and lost her nerve. After a few moments of silence with no one knowing quite how to handle the situation, three other neighborhood kids rushed up there to be her back-up singers and the four of them carried off a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” That little moment seemed to typify what the whole evening was about – children seeing needs and helping other children. Whether you’re helping orphans in another country get healthy food and medical care or helping a neighbor sing a song, giving and helping kid-to-kid is a beautiful thing to see.
Perhaps my favorite part of each “Children for Children” night is opening the donation box with my kids. I think they’re more excited to open this box than pretty much any other box they get at Christmas.
How wonderful to see my kids so excited about getting something that they get to give away! They get stars in their eyes as we count up the money and talk about all the great food and warm blankets and fun activities that THEIR money they worked hard to earn will help their little orphan friends to have. It’s a beautiful sight.
For anyone who’d like to get their kids involved in some sort of a “Children for Children” holiday giving effort, here’s a very simple 3-step process for you:
1. Learn about children in need.
There are so many great causes out there! It’s wonderful to look at options with your children and decide together on what you’d like to raise money towards. Here are some trusted organizations that help children that my family and/or friends have been heavily involved with:
- One Heart Bulgaria: Learn about the organization here or watch this video if you like (I took the pictures in the video myself when I was in Bulgaria a few years ago to do training for orphanage caregivers there and I still cry every time I look at these sweet children who desperately need the love and health that One Heart Bulgaria helps to provide. We’ve made it a tradition to donate every year to One Heart but we also support other causes.)
- Rising Star: A school in India that serves children from leper colonies who would otherwise have no future at all – my parents and most of my siblings have been there and most of us sponsor kids there
- Care for Life: My brother and sister-in-law worked with this organization in Mozambique for several months and saw the huge difference they make as they build families and empower people to make their lives better.
- RefugePoint: This organization finds the world’s most vulnerable refugees, including women at-risk, orphaned children and survivors of torture and helps them resettle in permanent, safe locations and rebuild their lives with dignity.
- One Acre Fund: This organization provides training, farm implements, seed capital and market opportunities to smallholder farmers in Africa so they can increase their yields and end hunger and poverty in their communities.
- Living Goods: Using a simple direct-sales model, Living Goods supports women entrepreneurs who bring life-saving medications and products to their communities, resulting in an astounding 25% reduction in child deaths.
- Camfed: 28 million girls are left out of school in sub-Saharan Africa. Camfed places girls at the center of a support network to help them overcome barriers to education. When a girl attends school, she will earn 25% more income and invest 90% of what she earns in her family. Her children will be 40% more likely to live past the age of 5.
- Prajwala: This organization rescues and rehabilitates women and children who are victims of the sex trade in the most hard-hit areas of India. Their innovative programs also prevent potential victims from entering the trade and bring perpetrators to legal justice.
I can recommend the charties above as either I or a good friend or family member of mine personally knows the people involved and/or has seen that they use money very wisely and make money go a long way. But there are many other wonderful charities and causes out there and a short Internet search will yield some great further ideas. You may want to choose a charity that offers videos, stories or photos to help your children connect with the children they’ll be helping.
2. Talk about what your kids could do to earn money to help meet the needs of these needy children.
They could simply do some extra chores around the house or offer to do chores for neighbors to raise money. They could invite friends over for a little movie party and ask them to bring a donation in the amount of their choice and show a little movie about needy children and talk about how they plan to help before showing a fun holiday movie. They could put on a little “Children for Children” concert where they perform for others and ask for donations (this can be done with just a few families – doesn’t have to be a big deal – could grow over time . . .).
If you like, you can set up your Children for Chidren event with the help my friend Josie’s website called Go Jane Give. You can quickly and easily create a fundraising page/invitation there that you can send out to those you wish to invite. Go Jane Give makes everything really easy.
3. Help your kids donate the money to the charity you’ve selected together.
When the event is done, count up the money with your children and share in their joy and excitement as you help them envision the specific and wonderful things that this money will do for the needy children they’ve chosen to support. Write out a check for the cash or use the “donate now” button that your cause may have on its website to make the donation in your children’s presence so it can feel as real as possible for the children. If you’re giving to a local charity, take older children with you to make the donation in person. If you’re sending in a check, children could make cards to go with the check to make it feel more personal.
QUESTION: What holiday giving traditions work for your family?
CHALLENGE: Follow the three steps above!