When a natural disaster, war or other tragedy strikes, it can deeply touch your family, even from halfway around the world. Children may be frightened something like that will happen to them. Parents may be worried about those who were involved. When we see someone in need, it's natural to want to help. Whether it is a friend next door or a stranger in another country, we want to do something to ease the pain of others.
When those we want to help are not local or known by us, it can be difficult to know how to help. Here are some easy ways to get your family started in helping those less fortunate around the world.
1. Donate money to a humanitarian aid fund
The easiest way to do something now is to donate money to a reputable charity. Research any organization before you donate. Organizations like the Red Cross and Unicef are well established and you can be confident that your money will be used wisely. Let your kids donate some of their own money along with the family donation.
Donating money can have more of an impact if your family finds a way to raise money specifically for the cause. You can have a family bake sale, yard sale, car wash or host a spaghetti dinner to raise funds. Your kids might also do yard work or babysit for neighbors to raise the money. They'll be thinking about the cause as they do the work.
2. Collect items for donation
From clothing to eyeglasses to school supplies, there are many opportunities to collect then donate items abroad. After collecting, search online for places that will take your donations. The Lions Club takes eyeglass donations. Keep an eye out for drop boxes in your city for books and clothing. You can also donate books to third world countries through the Rotary Club.
3. Enrich a livelihood
Giving to organizations that provide microloans, animals or training to help people improve their earning potential brings a lot of satisfaction. It can also help your children understand some of the obstacles that lead to life-long poverty in third world countries.
This type of giving also provides kids with a visual, easy to understand way to help. Our kids loved settling on a set of chickens to purchase for a family through Heifer International last Christmas. Even our 5-year-old could understand what the need was and how the chicks would fill it.
4. Humanitarian travel
Make your family vacation more meaningful by joining a humanitarian service mission or doing a volunteer project during your stay. With companies like Cross Cultural Solutions you can book a volunteer trip to a number of third-world locations. Your family will have the opportunity to immerse itself in the culture of the area and meet face-to-face with those they are helping.
Also look into traveling for humanitarian aid with churches and civic organizations in your area. A skill set you have may be in need, so also consider going with professional organizations.
If an international trip is not in your budget, look for ways to incorporate service into your family vacation. Spend one evening serving at a soup kitchen during your stay in a large city. Contact local authorities to set up a trail maintenance or clean-up opportunity during a camping trip.
5. Participate in fundraisers
Charities often set up big fundraising events like carnivals, dinners, 5k races and benefit concerts to raise money for international causes. Attending these events provides a good time for your family and help for those in need.
Before an event, learn about the organization with your children and tell them why your support is important. During the event, remind your kids where the money is going. After the event, find out how much money was raised and tell your kids. They'll feel a sense of pride having contributed as they see that little efforts add up to big help.
Reaching out as a family to help those around the world can help ease children's fears and worries about the scary tragedies they see on the news. It also builds selflessness into their character. It can remind us all to be grateful for the blessings in our lives.