Cultivating a Heart for Charity in Your Children

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When we were decorating our daughter’s room, I knew I wanted one important quote on the wall: “Have courage and BE KIND.” No matter what she becomes in life, the one thing I want my little girl to consistently be is kind. To me, though, true kindness goes beyond just simple manners and courtesy – it’s the embodiment of compassion and charity. I want my daughter to really care about others . . . but how do we even begin to teach such an abstract concept at a young age?

You may think your kids are “too young” to be philanthropic, but I believe we limit children with that statement far too often. The truth is, they’re never too young to have a heart for others, and it’s never too soon to begin modeling how to give and serve! If charity and generosity are part of their lives at an early age, they’re much more likely to continue the practice as adults. So here are just a few ways you can cultivate a heart for charity in your children, and empower them to change the world!

Change Your Community

Start small and close to home. We’ve been chatting a lot with our five-year-old daughter lately about serving others and being a good neighbor. Small acts of kindness in your community might include picking up litter, opening doors for others, or helping a neighbor with a specific need. Model this for your children, and encourage them to help right by your side.

You may take flowers or food to an elderly neighbor or someone with a new baby. You might offer to care for a pet or do yardwork for a sick friend. Your child could draw pictures or cards, and take them by the local nursing home or children’s hospital as a gift for someone who is lonely. Just look for simple needs you can meet in your everyday life, talk about them with your little one, and soon your child will be the one finding ways to serve those around them!

Change Your State

There are so many wonderful non-profits here in Birmingham that serve families all over our state! Find one your child might be interested in or be able to identify with, and call them to see how your child (or your whole family) could get involved. A few of my personal favorites here are Agape (adoption and foster care for children in need), The Ronald McDonald House (keeping families with sick children together and near the resources they need), and Open Hands, Overflowing Hearts (funding pediatric cancer research) – but there are many more to choose from!

A lot of our local organizations have 5ks or other “runs” that your child could participate in with you. Many have “fun runs” just for children, or other fundraising events that are kid-friendly. They may also be able to give you a list of tangible items they need that your child could help you shop for and deliver directly to them!

Change the World 

As the Executive Director of an international orphan care nonprofit, there is nothing that excites me more than seeing children get involved in our work! The Sound of Hope was founded with the belief that anyone and anything could be “the sound of hope” for a child in need. We love empowering kids in America to make a real difference in the lives of kids in need around the world!

Our priorities are rescuing orphans and vulnerable children out of dangerous situations, protecting them in safe, loving homes, and then providing everything they need to receive truly holistic care. This includes meeting their basic needs with healthy food, clothing, and clean water – as well as providing quality medical care, raising education funds, teaching life skills, and giving them fun things (like Christmas presents) too. The majority of our donors are individuals and families . . . but we’ve had quite a few kids get involved in giving HOPE through the years! One young girl in Georgia sold her crafts and donated the proceeds to our medical fund. Our daughter set up a lemonade and donut stand here in Birmingham (pics above), and was thrilled when she raised $47 for a water tank in Thailand! A “Girls in Action” group in Mississippi did a bake sale to raise the funds needed for Christmas gifts for our kids in Africa. A 13 year old in Alabama donated $70 she’d saved to support our girls’ home in Thailand. And the sweetest group of sisters from Michigan saved their allowances for an entire year so that they could help pay the school fees for three other children halfway around the world! To send those children photos and stories explaining the impact of their fundraisers was truly incredible. Now they know that even at their young age, they can still change the world! The possibilities are endless for them.

Of course we’re not the only wonderful non-profit out there! There are SO many great organizations doing incredible things around the world. So find one you love, research it well, and then find a way to get your kids involved!

When we connect our kids’ hearts to something so much bigger than them and show them that they have something to offer, it empowers and inspires them. Whether you help them start a lemonade stand, sell crafts, or come up with another fun (kid-friendly) way for them to fundraise, the feeling they’ll get from knowing they’ve made a difference will stick with them for years to come!

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Just days after graduating from Auburn University, Ericka took a trip to Africa that changed her life forever. She discovered two unexpected things there: a passion for orphan care, and her husband Rusty! Together they founded The Sound of Hope, and have spent the past 10+ years working to provide holistic care to vulnerable children around the world. Though her heart (and time) is divided between other countries – she’s proud to call Birmingham, Alabama home! When Ericka & Rusty decided to grow their family through adoption, they never guessed it would take five heart-wrenching years to get their daughter home from Thailand. These days Ericka tries to soak up every moment of long-awaited motherhood to their beautiful little girl, Kate. Their Thai darling is growing up way too fast, and Ericka is mildly obsessed with over-documenting it all on Instagram and her blog! In addition to managing The Sound of Hope, Ericka and her husband run a video & photography business called RJackson Media. In her “free time" (do moms have free time?!) Ericka enjoys gardening, decorating, and DIY projects. She also loves singing, dancing, and acting – and was cast in her very first musical theatre role last year. She firmly believes that you’re never too old to try something new!

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