By Dina Buchbinder
This article first appeared on the Twenty Thirty blog here.
Children are the changemakers of tomorrow – if we encourage them to be their most innovative and creative self. Dina Buchbinder wants to give children an education that not only prepares them for their own future but also makes them agents of change for their communities and beyond. This is how everyone can get involved.
Anyone can be an agent of change, and it is up to everyone to promote community development and active participation. With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals the United Nations provides a comprehensive framework for equality and development. Sustainable Development Goal #4 specifically seeks to promote equal access to quality education. We can all contribute to ensuring not only a quality education but also one that is meaningful for girls and boys around the world.
At my organization, Education for Sharing, we view students, regardless of age, as able to, ready to and passionate about identifying and tackling problems in their own communities. We refer to our Education for Sharing students as changemakers, because we work with the students and entire school ecosystems to equip all students with the skills to improve their own communities through action.
Here are three ways how you can unleash the power of play to form young agents of change in your community:
1. Understand your community.
What problems are the children from your local community facing? To build a connection with children, it is imperative to understand the unique context framing their perspective. Talk to them and to other community members, visit community centers, and learn more about the daily problems they are facing and the solutions they come up with. Even if you have been a part of a community for most of your life, there is always something to learn, especially from children. Learning with your community will allow you to develop a sense of shared vision about what needs to change. Get started!
2. Walk your talk.
Promoting civic values – such as teamwork, empathy, respect, tolerance, responsibility, fairplay, inclusion – is most effective through demonstration. Many community organizations welcome the assistance and support of community volunteers to work with children. Be it your local Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, or Big Brothers Big Sisters, every community has a need, and you can be the example children need to look up to (you will be surprised how much you will learn from them in return).
3. Get moving.
Ninety-one percent of American children have poor diets and less than half get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity (Better Policies for a Healthier America). Globally, 81% of adolescents aged 11-17 years were insufficiently physically active in 2010. Adolescent girls were less active than adolescent boys, with 84% vs. 78% not meeting WHO recommendations (World Health Organization). It seems as if technology has completely taken over, and children are spending increasingly less time outside.
Physical activity and play allow us to know ourselves and our communities better. Being outside and engaging in physical activity invite us all to communicate better to encourage cooperation, and to engage more. It's also a tool for expression and action. As Nelson Mandela said, sport has the power to inspire and unite, to create hope. Encouraging girls and boys to discover the outdoors will enable them to see a world beyond the internet and unleash their potential to improve their own communities. Play outside with them!
These are a handful of ideas to get involved in your community in an effort to promote the formation of young, active citizens. There are many different ways to make global change at a local level, and ultimately each one of us is in a position to affect that change. Change starts with you! How will you contribute today? On your mark, get set, go!
1. Start Early!
Teaching children philanthropy can start at a very early age. Lessons related to cooperation, compassion, kindness, sharing, and contributing to a family, school, or neighborhood all teach the foundation of philanthropy.
2. Time, Treasure, Talent
It’s important to teach children of all ages that we all have time, treasure, or talent to share with the world. If you start with the framework of time, treasure, talent, you can easily incorporate that into helping children understand their unique attributes and capacity to give something to others who would otherwise go without. Kids are naturally altruistic -- it is up to adults to teach them how to act on their altruism by showing them ways they can volunteer time, give away toys or food, and share their talents for the benefit of others.
3. Needs vs. Wants
If you start by teaching your kids about needs versus wants, they will understand that not everyone has extras and many do not even have enough to cover needs. A big part of teaching philanthropy to children is also teaching them to be grateful for what they have. You can talk to them about what it might be like to have less or to have more and ask them to think about how other people live.
4. Be a Role Model
Children learn best by experiencing and modeling what they see their loved ones do. A great way to teach children philanthropy is by devoting yourself to giving back. You can invite your children along to charity events, to donation drives, and sometimes even volunteer service opportunities.
5. Reinforce Kindness
When you see your child expressing concern or kindness for others, encourage them and show them that you are proud of how they reacted. This will reinforce their behavior so they have a positive association with kindness and empathy.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.