by Jennifer de la Haye, Program Coordinator
Many gifted children are profoundly empathetic and often feel helpless when they ponder the lives of homeless people, refugees, families who lack food and water, and other vulnerable populations. I know a child who cries every time he sees a person on the streets – he wants to help all of them, and he feels pain when he can’t. I have read countless Yunasa applications in which campers discuss how they would help certain people groups across the world if they could. Some of these children experience actual depression when they feel the weight of their own helplessness amid so much pain.
In the wake of the election, I wonder how these deeply sensitive children are faring. As we teach our children about kindness, acceptance, and compassion, it must feel confusing when some of America’s leaders exhibit contradictory values. As an adult, I have been searching for ways to channel my own frustration.
When our leaders make decisions with which our children disagree, I encourage them to call their representatives. This is a small act that provides them with a voice. You can work with them to devise a succinct and heartfelt script and sit with them while they make the calls. To find the appropriate representatives, follow this link.
How can we empower our children further by helping them enact actual change? How can we show them that a little bit of love and effort actually makes a difference for the vulnerable populations who need help? We start at the base of Maslow’s Pyramid and meet a basic physiological need for a few families.
Clean water is the most fundamental human need, yet a staggering 660 million people do not have access to it. Additionally, only 67% of the world lives with proper sanitation. Children are exposed to disease; women and children are forced to walk hours every day to procure a small amount of dirty water for their families.
Clean water affects more than physical health:
- Providing clean water advances education: children with access to clean water are healthier and they have more time to attend class. Girls are more likely to stay in school when the buildings offer safe and sanitary bathrooms.
- Providing clean water helps women: women who do not spend their days lugging water can pursue careers, time with family, education, and other fulfilling endeavors that would have otherwise been unavailable to them.
- Providing clean water helps psychological health: when our minds are focused solely on survival, we are unable to tend to relationships or personal growth.
- Providing clean water helps to break the poverty cycle: clean water affects food production and the ability for many people to work.
The individuals of The Liturgists podcast have set up a way for us all to raise money to help families across the world receive the clean water they need. All of us, adults and children alike, can pledge our birthdays by asking friends and family to donate to an incredible nonprofit called charity: water rather than buying presents. Over 85,000 have joined this campaign, and together, they have raised $9 million to bring clean water to people in need in Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Every dollar we donate is used to fund water projects, and charity: water tracks donations with photos and GPS coordinates. Sustainability is crucial, and charity: water tends to the wells they build to ensure their water projects remain effective over time.
Follow this link to help your children pledge their birthdays to raise money for clean water. Birthday campaigns average $770 in donations, allowing charity: water to help 38 people.
I offer this encouragement for myself and for all of you: There will always be suffering, and sometimes empathy feels like a weight or a swirling sensation in the gut. We must never stop doing good. When our leaders disappoint us, we must never stop speaking up.
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