We have all been riveted to the television. I'll admit there are moments when I thought I should turn it off but I could not.
How do you talk to your children about Haiti?. You are the parent and you know your children. Most parents have a good idea about how much their children can and should see of the news. PBS Parents has a great post here with more tips.
Be proactive. In our house, we decided to see what we could do to help 900 children in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens that are now in orphanages in Haiti. This is close to our hearts because we have dear friends living in Haiti and working with Heartline Ministries and World Wide Village who have already adopted two children and are in the process of helping family members adopt two more children.
We contacted all of our elected representatives and then started a Facebook page explaining to others how they can contact their members of Congress about getting humanitarian paroles for these 900 children so they can come to the United States to live with families that already know them and love them. It took only 10 minutes and we believe it will change the lives of 900 children. It won't help everyone in Haiti but it's a start. It is something you could do with your children today that will provide a tangible result. We watched seven Haitian children get off a plane last night in Kansas City. Was it a result of our letters? We will probably never know. My kids think it was because of them and that's all that matters to me.
Find a worthy cause and give. There are the big names for donation such as the Red Cross and the Bush Clinton Haiti Fund, but there are some lesser known charities that are doing great work helping the Haitian people. We like World Vision because you get a chance to have a "say" in where your money goes. You can ask that your money go provide PUR water packets, a family survival pack or even have your money go to shipping the much needed supplies. Your children have an opportunity to visually see how your money is helping.
Find out what you can do in your area to help Haiti. Right now there are lots of areas having relief drives, collecting infant formula, tents, tarps, clothing and lots more. Check out your local news station and newspaper to find them in your area. Having your child pick out the items helps them feel included in serving those who need the most help.
Show your child where Haiti is on a map. There are great resources for teaching your kids about the country of Haiti, about how earthquakes happen and what you can do to prepare for a natural disaster yourself.
Please let us know how you are helping. We would love to hear.
UPDATED: On January 18, 2010, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano authorized humanitarian paroles for Haitian children being adopted. Unfortunately many of these children are still in orphanages that have received little or no humanitarian help yet. They have no food, water or safe place to wait to be evacuated from Haiti. Our focus has shifted now to contacting our members of Congress to get help to these children, to find a safe place for them to wait and to speed up their document processing.
Photo by the great Troy Livesay. Godspeed, my friend.
Last week I watched as the good people from Epic Change installed a tech lab in an elementary school in Arusha, Tanzania. My kids, Madeleine (11) and Carter (8) got a first hand look at how social media can be more than a distraction for your homework or a way to kill time with your friends. These children discovered the pure power of the web: the ability to connect human beings all over the globe for the purpose of conversation, collaboration and yes, friendship--for the very first time. The simplicity of Twitter--something both my digital media savvy kids understand without explanation--was the tool of choice and within days kids who previously had no concept of the internet or email were tweeting with social entrepreneurs, moms, teachers and good-hearted souls from all over the world.
While it's not the easiest thing in the world to set up a tech lab halfway around the world (or take your kids to Africa, for that matter), I'm incredibly thankful for my children to get a new take on the web and social media. For all the worrying we do about our kids wasting away online, now I can offer them this constructive alternative--building old fashioned pen pal type relationships with their peers in the global south. And this is just the beginning. What happens when we decide as a global community that access and connectivity is a right and privilege worthy of all the children of the world?
Having this pipeline open changes things not just for kids but for the teachers and educators who guide them. "How can we get them interested in reading?" Mama Lucy, the founder of Shepherds Junior asked. There are a hundred answers, of course, but now she has one of the most powerful solutions at her fingertips. Light them on fire with the fluency that comes with chat. Show them how to explore the myriad of child-appropriate sites dedicated to learning how to build proficiency in language and literacy in a way that wasn't available to them before. Let them navigate a brand new world built on the craving for connection and power of the word.
Mama Lucy with good friend and founder of Epic Change, Stacey Monk
You (and your kids) can tweet with the children of Shepherd's Junior School by following along on Twitter. They're waiting for you.
Jen posted about this amazing family who took a trip around the world. It made me think of my on-line friend Chris and her family who are just beginning their own adventure across North America. I am in total awe of these folks. I think they are giving their kids a tremendous gift.
I had a hard time just coming up with a picture to represent adventure for this post. While we are definitely having our own adventures, they aren't exactly requiring passports, yet. I don't know if we will ever quit our jobs, save and travel with 4 kids around the world exactly but I would like to do something adventurous together.
Can you imagine your family doing these kinds of things? Do you have a longing to see a particular beautiful place together? Where would you go? What holds you back from leading a life like this?
I'm writing from Kigali, Rwanda where there is no shortage of ten year old girls who are happy to tell me their stories and show me their strength--in their academics, their home life and their dreams for the future. One of the things that strikes me about children in Africa is how independent and self-sufficient they are. Your average ten year old can navigate the bus system, go to the market to buy food, care for a younger sibling, wash clothes by hand and walk a good mile or two to carry water home for the entire family.
It begs the question: are we spoiling our children by making sure they are cared for, entertained or watched over every second? or are we truly giving them the protection that they need from legitimate dangers that exist in our society? What do you think? Can you imagine raising a ten year old to be capable of handling much more responsibility?
I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below.