A Survivor’s Lesson

Last week at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles a survivor spoke to educators in training. On Holocaust Rememberance Day, just on the heels of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, these words of social good resonate:

Learn to give and not feel sorry for yourself. To help a person- then you tap into the real beauty in life.

The Day My 3-Year-Old Did Multiplication (By Giving to Others)


Although that may sound impressive, it’s not exactly what you would think. Perhaps she has learned something even better, though. She used giving to find out what multiplication looks and feels like in real life, and these tangible experiences for young children are a powerful way to learn and reinforce new concepts (like multiplication). When our family was introduced to CommuniGift as her third birthday approached, I already sensed that it was an opportunity to grow the impact of our family giving, but I didn’t anticipate the added bonus of our daughter learning multiplication, too.

CommuniGift was founded upon the belief that all children, no matter their circumstance, deserves to feel special on their birthday. For some families, the opportunity to throw a birthday party, or even purchase a gift for their child is out of reach. Meanwhile, as we selected a play place, ordered food, and chose the cake, the spirit behind CommuniGift reminded me that this was plenty. Simone had more than enough to make her feel special on her birthday.

We discovered that through CommuniGift’s interface, rather than having our guests bring presents to her party, we could invite them to donate gifts to her virtual “birthday buddy” instead. (more…)

Summer of Inclusion

la2015-logoIn just under a month The Special Olympics comes to Los Angeles. From July 25th through August 2nd during #LA2015, parents will have a unique opportunity to live messages of inclusivity and global citizenship with their families, reinforcing the kinds of qualities that we hope will become part of the fabric of our children’s lives. Philanthroparent is happy to coach you through a few exercises to help you embrace the spirit of the games.

The Warm-ups

There are several activities you can do from home to build momentum for the events:

*Make welcome cards or signs for the athletes (in their native tongue if you wish). Check out the delegations list. Or, explore your family’s heritage through the cultural connections the delegations can provide.

*Make a Circle of Inclusion– an official symbol for the games. Take pictures of your family, neighbors and friends within it. Share your snapshots on social media with #ReachUpLA.

*Consider your own family’s stories of determination and explore the #whatsonething series about athletes overcoming things they were told they could never do… but did anyways.

*Support An Athlete. Your support with help assure an athlete’s successful journey at the games.

The Main Event

*Simply attend the games, which are FREE and open to the public!

*Who else can you invite? What people or community organizations that you are already connected with would support the spirit of these games? What sports teams are your family members a part of that could drum up even more support?

*Teens 14 and over can become a “Fans in the Stands” – recruit your own delegation of cheering fans for one of the sporting events.

*Check out the Volunteer Opportunities for teens ages 16 − 18.

The Special Olympics bring an even stronger connection to the valuable lessons that sports can provide. If you have sports fans in your household, you can use #LA2015 to also introduce concepts of acceptance and inclusion into their socially conscious lives. It’s a win-win. See you at the games!

Trick-and-Treat Others the Way You’d Like to Be Treated

If you only had a dollar for every time you heard the word “candy” during Halloween season. You’d be able to make a pretty sizable donation to your favorite charity! Philanthroparent would like to put that word to #socialgood use. Using the acronym CANDY, here’s some smart ideas for helping this Halloween.

Costumes

Start a costume drive with your school, neighborhood or group of friends. Collect new and gently used costumes for a nonprofit that works with local families in need. Costumes could be collected ahead of time for this holiday, or if your residence is a Halloween hub, ask people to bring costumes when they come to trick-or-treat (for kids’ benefit next year). You could also focus on your own costumes. You’ll likely see plenty of superhero costumes being worn. What message of social good could you share with what you wear? Introduce your children to some real-life characters who have been champions for change and social good. I’ve seen Gandhi, Philippe Cousteau and John Wooden costumes get rave reviews. Maybe you can challenge your family or Halloween party guests to a design-your-own superhero theme (invent characters that addresses a real-world cause). You could also just go as a real-world problem. A 2014 pick: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Advocating

Halloween is a holiday favorite, but perhaps there is a gentle way to discuss with your children some of the potential challenges that come with this occasion. You might start by asking, “Halloween is so much fun for our family, but can you think of any challenges some people might face for this holiday?” The discussion might lead to the topic of sugar overloads, not being able to afford a costume, litter on the street the next morning, or not having proper warm clothes/shoes to stay comfortable while trick-or-treating in the cold. Maybe they will recognize that not everyone has a residence or neighborhood that allows for trick-or-treating. Whatever the need is that they discover, see if you can help them find an organization that supports this cause. Give them a voice to advocate for their socially conscious revelation! Ask the organization for pamphlets that could be handed out with candy or as you’re out and about trick-or-treating.

Nutrition

It’s easy for parents to develop a love/hate relationship with this holiday. Kids are bubbling with excitement and imagination. Tons of priceless family photos are captured in costume. However, there’s late bedtimes, lost costume accessories and… the dreaded battle over how much candy is collected and consumed. Discuss with your family how to balance this day of candy gluttony with good nutrition.  What other healthy habits can be reinforced on this day? Maybe toothbrushes could be a quirky party favor or hostess gift. Plan the Halloween menu with your children so that they are coming up with creative, healthy food options too. A printed menu with your nutritious ideas could be passed out to families visiting your door or party guests. If you can’t seem to conjure up your own menu ideas, this Pinterest page has you covered!

Donate

Haunted houses and creepy costumes are scary, but they don’t compare to the real-world concerns of some families, like a parent struggling to provide clean water or nutritious food for their children. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fundraising campaign to help address the basic needs of children all over the world. You can set up your own fundraising page that can be shared with friends and family. UNICEF also has teaching tools that can help you explain these concepts to your children. These world issues might be a bit scary for kids to think about but (as the campaign says), it’s also a chance for them to realize it’s “scary how much good you can do.”

Yard Sale

Beware! This is the most daring of all the service ideas here. Think of all the people coming back and forth towards your door, especially if you live in a well-trafficked trick-or-treating neighborhood. You wouldn’t have to do any advertising for a yard sale- the customers are already coming to you anyway! This could be a joint operation amongst families or a social group you’re a part of. Money from items sold could be donated to a local charity. You could even make it Halloween themed by selling secondhand decorations or costumes. It doesn’t have to be a “yard sale” per se. A witches brew lemonade stand or haunted labyrinth in your front yard might spark your kids’ interests more.

Halloween is a holiday for the imagination. These ideas are a starting point, but more importantly, let your child’s cauldron of creativity bubble over. We’d love for you to share your own family’s ideas in the comments. Wishing you a happy, healthy (and helpful) Halloween!

Time-Saving Tips to Add Giving into Your Busy Back-to-School Schedule

Summer can be carefree, whimsical, unstructured, and it can come with some quality time with our kids. But, let’s face it. Sometimes the start of school is a welcome change for parents. School can add some consistency to the day that might not be present during those lazy days of summer. It sort of fits with the notion that the busier you are, the more you get done.

But as the school bells ring, the schedules start, and as the after-school activities and homework kick into gear, a Philanthroparent remembers these words:

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”-Mother Teresa

In the hustle and bustle of daily life as our kids go back to school, how can we still honor our commitment to giving back? Reflect on these principles:

1. Work it in vs. Add it on. Instead of analyzing your schedule to figure out how to make more time for philanthropy, see how philanthropy connects to something already going on in your family members’ daily lives. Instead of rushing out to get yet another last-minute party gift, help your child to research an organization you can make an online donation to- one that supports a cause the honoree can connect with. If you’re buying a new ______ (fill in the blank) , discuss with your child where the previous item might get the most use in your community if it’s donated.

2. Use your interests, skills and talents. Reframe the things your family likes to do already by putting a social purpose spin on it. If you already get enjoyment out of riding bikes together, plan ahead to get somewhere by bike instead of by car. If your kids are helping to make dinner or dessert tonight, double the recipe and go say thank you to your local ______ (let your kid decide). Don’t just donate stuff. Find a place to donate your child’s talent too- art, music, technology skills, etc. They might get in some valuable practice time without you nagging them about it for once!

3. Listen. Keep your ears open to comments that reflect your child’s concern for things they see in the community, world issues they overhear on the news, or conflicts they are having with friends. Finding action to address these concerns might give them a sense of control and alleviate any anxiousness surrounding these thoughts, thereby also saving the time that worrying can take up.

4. Get support. Seek out systems already in place that help show your child the value of social responsibility. You don’t have to create these opportunities all on your own for them. Have you considered girl or boy scouts, a Kid’s Care Club, or a program that focuses on civic-mindedness and leadership like KidUnity? Your child’s school might be a perfect place to get support for your ideas: a community service coordinator, the PTA, or even your child’s classroom teacher might know of programs to support your family’s community service endeavors.

5. Take something out. Believe it or not, service to others (or the earth) doesn’t have to be something that takes extra time. Think of what great quality time could come from taking something out of the schedule. “Let’s skip going to the car wash this weekend to help us remember to save water during the drought we’re facing. You get to pick something fun that we could do with that hour instead!” Set up a challenge one month for each family member to think of something they could cut out of the daily routine that saves a resource and creates a cooky family activity instead. Candlelight homework, anyone? Just don’t be shocked if your child proposes to skip the dishes or a shower.

As the school year kicks into gear and you wonder how you’re going to make time for social purpose parenting, remember that social and environmental consciousness can benefit others and your family at the same time. Philanthroparents might not favor the saying, “kill two birds with one stone,” but “fill two needs with one deed,” captures it perfectly.

Rain Checks that Pay It Forward

iCalPicjpegTwice now our volunteer activities have been thrown off course. Our World Oceans Day project was trumped by a fever. The next mishap came as we headed to our summer service commitment visiting with seniors. President Obama was in town, and as we approached our destination… BAM! Road closure gridlock. Impatience from the backseat ensued. I decided it was in everyone’s best interest to head to the park down the street until the traffic dissipated. By that point, the toddler tiredness wouldn’t amount to a cordial visit with our elderly companions.

From an early age, I hope to model the importance of accountability with our daughter. Yet, toddlerhood inevitably leads to some volatility, and this sometimes wreaks havoc on our commitments. Being prompt was something I prided myself on. Now I’m consistently 10 minutes late (Hey, at least I’m consistent). Before kids, If I said I would be somewhere, I rarely would cancel. Now, a later than expected nap or mini-meltdown can thwart our best-laid plans.

Generally when I can’t honor a commitment due to unforeseen toddler tribulations, there is resounding understanding from the hosts and organizers, and this was no exception from the Big Sunday staff when we cancelled our visit with seniors. Yet, something still didn’t sit right about missing this event. What we were providing was valuable and necessary. I still felt accountable.

The good news is that accountability can still exist even if the unexpectedness of life with kids takes over an occasional commitment. Philanthroparents can use rain checks to their advantage in their quest to make a positive impact on the world through their parenting. Usually a rain check means rescheduling your plans, but what if we used rain checks as an opportunity to do even more? Rain checks with a purpose!

Yes, you can absolutely reschedule the missed play date, dinner party, or trip to the zoo. Bravo for showing your kids accountability. But, what if you shifted the focus instead? Rather than rescheduling plans in the exact same manner, you and your child could think of ways to do something similar that is also of value to others or the community.

  • A missed a sports practice becomes a donation to a child’s Make-A-Wish campaign helping them meet their athletic role-model.
  • A pesky virus thwarts your dinner with friends and turns into serving a meal at your local shelter.
  • Your toddler wakes up on the wrong side of the crib. The trip to the botanical gardens is out. Buy a kid’s guide on composting and start up a system at home, or volunteer at the closest community garden.

Just think of accountability as the “ability to make something count.” You can acknowledge and honor the missed commitment with a rain check that pays back … or pays it forward! Make your rain check count.

Share the concept with the world. How did you add value to your rain check?

#PayForwardRainCheck to @philanthroparnt

The 5 Realms of Service

IMG_2788Too many times I’ve heard my husband call out, “Honey, I can’t find the (insert object here)!” Even after telling him exactly where to look, I still end up having to go and show him myself. Usually it is right where I suggested it would be, just that it required lifting or moving something else slightly out of the way to see it.

I find that sometimes seeing opportunities for service is a similar process- it might be right there in front of me, but I haven’t adjusted my focus or changed my filter to see it that way. I’m going to suggest five realms where service opportunities can be discovered. Overall, these might seem fairly self-explanatory, but perhaps there’s one category here you hadn’t considered or you hadn’t thought about how well it fit into your family’s daily life already.

Over the course of time, I’ll expand on these categories and use them to help organize the ideas, tips and resources shared on Philanthroparent.com .  Hopefully this list gives you a fresh perspective on what opportunities are already there in front of you. Maybe you’ll discover something you didn’t even know you were searching for. Take a look. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it quicker than my husband can find the things he’s been looking for in his closet. (more…)

Walking the Walk: Our Summer of Service

IMG_1953We’ve done our fair share of putting our feet up this summer. It’s time to walk the walk. I’ve been talking the talk on Philanthroparent about ways families can serve this summer, and now it’s time to put some things into action for ourselves. This will be our first attempt at creating PhilanthroTot summer service opportunities. I’m excited to share what we’ll be up to in the next few months!

When considering ways to get out and give this summer, my first criteria was something toddler friendly. My 20-month-old’s favorite summer pastime seems to be wandering. I can’t guarantee the quality of my effectiveness at any of these events. I’m going to try to be of the mind frame that simply being present is still a valid way to support a cause. (more…)

A Philanthroparent’s Game Plan for The World Cup

France Soccer Kids     You may know soccer (or perhaps you call it football) as “the world’s sport” and”the beautiful game.” Now combine these ideas: How could you make the world more beautiful through the game? There are many ways to use this sport to create a philanthropy opportunity with your family. In honor of the World Cup, here are some ideas to get the ball rolling (so to speak). May your World Cup runneth over with opportunities for good!

The Warm-ups

Philanthroparents see the value in developing character traits that go hand-in-hand with volunteerism. Lessons discovered through teamwork and sportsmanship could be worth discussing and reinforcing. These conversation starters might prompt the kind of meaningful dialogue that leads to a service idea.

  • FIFA’s slogan: “My game is fair play.”
  • 2014 World Cup motto: ” All in One Rhythm™ “
  • Pope Francis’ comments at the start of the 2014 tournament: Football as “a game and at the same time an opportunity for dialogue, understanding and reciprocal human enrichment.”

The Game Plan

The World Cup is an excellent opportunity for crowdsourcing. If you’re planning to gather together to watch a game, how could you reframe it to benefit others?

  • Your child could rally their own sports team around The World Cup. Collect sports equipment for an organization that supports underserved youth in your area.
  • Host a foosball tournament with entry fees that go towards a sports-based charity. Don’t have the means or space for a foosball table? How about a mini table top foosball tournament with these 20 inch tables?
  • For older kids or adults in your life who are willing to wager, have them predict the outcomes for the remainder of the teams/games in the tournament.  Each person in the pool can fill in their own brackets, but collect donations instead of bets.

The Lineup of Causes

Sports-minded charities address a multitude of issues: leadership and empowerment through sports, disabled athletes, equal opportunity and access to sports, to name a few. Here are a few key players related to The World Cup this year.

  • FIFA has partnered with streetfootballworld. They aim to unite and support organizations all over the world that are promoting social change through football. This organization is a great way to see the host of ways people are igniting change through the beautiful game.
  • Support a social issue within the region or host country where the tournament takes place. Or, choose a cause that is important to one of the participating athletes. Brazil player Neymar Jr. (partnering with Waves for Water and PayPal), has helped initiate a campaign that addresses the lack of access to clean water within underserved communities in Brazil.
  • Check out the #TeamUNICEF campaign reinforcing that “All children have the right to play regardless of their background/abilities/gender.” They provide two soccer balls in their recreation kit, noting that sports and play can be an effective therapy for trauma when children encounter disasters and violence.

The World Cup is underway until July 13th, but the values of teamwork and sportsmanship and how they intersect with philanthropy, along with sports-based charities, will continue on. If you have a sports fan in your family, how can you reframe these ideas to make a difference year-round?