"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
Top Reasons to Make Service a Part of Your Child's Summer
By Rachel Hanebutt, Communications & Outreach Coordinator, PGK-Boston
Social and emotional learning. Empathy. Kindness.
All of these are “hot” topics in the news and also in recent child development research, but what makes them even hotter for this summer is how easy Project Giving Kids makes it for you and your kids to make giving back to others and learning these important skills a part of your everyday life.
Recent work from Harvard and other institutions has focused not only on how to improve kids’ achievement scores, but also on how to increase their social and emotional skills, some of which include being kind to other people. While kindness might not become the next video game or toy anytime soon, it is inspiring to think about how just talking about being kind with your kids might help to normalize giving back and being kind to others; they won’t think twice about doing something nice if it’s something they have always done.
Another reason to make service a part of your child’s summer is because summertime provides the mental break that kids need to actually enjoy giving back to others. Just as sleeping in and going to the swimming pool are that much more fun in the summer, doing special service activities and trying out new ways of helping people in the time off from school creates a great opportunity for kids to have fun while doing things for others.
While these reasons are not exhaustive, the most important reason for making service a part of your child’s summer is that it’s the right thing to do. With all of the suffering in the world today, every act of kindness and every service rendered is a step in the right direction towards a more just world.
Project Giving Kids makes summer service easy, simple, and most importantly, fun! Check out the PGK Activity Finder, which is great for figuring out what you can fit into your schedule and which activities your kids will connect with most.
Today I Will Choose Kindness
By Molly Yuska, PGK Founder
Two years ago, my family moved from the Boston area to Orlando. One could argue that the two cities my kids have now called home couldn’t be more dissimilar. In some respects, that may be true. In other ways, they are the same, as we all ultimately are regardless of where we come from. One of the most unfortunate realities of having lived in both places in recent years is that my family has now had to live at arm’s length through two senseless terrorist acts – the Boston Marathon bombings and now the night club shooting of Orlando, the single largest terrorist attack on US soil other than 9/11, another tragedy I sadly remember all too well. As a parent trying fervently to teach my children how important it is to see the humanity in the other people they encounter every day and to respond to human need when they come across it, trying to reconcile for them how hatred can be so seemingly “commonplace” at the same time is exceedingly frustrating, ostensibly contradictory at times.
Yesterday, as news of this latest tragedy emerged, PGK’s fantastic communications & outreach coordinator, Rachel, posted an article about kindness. In it, a teacher by the name of Marlem Diaz-Brown states: “I have learned that when you teach kindness and compassion to students and they really understand the concept, everything else falls into place. This should be the first lesson of every teacher.” The article further goes on to quote Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, who states the physiological realities of kindness. Apparently being kind activates the vagus nerve, which communicates nerve impulses throughout the body which he said, “Tells us when I’m benefiting other people’s welfare, I get healthier and happier.” And then there’s also the release of oxytocin which calms the stress response. “If I practice kindness, I live longer, and now we understand neurologically why...what are the powerful pathways to happiness? The best we have is kindness.” (Article accessible at: http://bit.ly/25IIynS)
Whether the teacher be a parent, an after-school mentor, a grandparent or an actual teacher, I couldn’t help but think that our children today, perhaps more so than any generation that has come before it, need to be reminded of the power of kindness. They are bombarded with images and news stories and realities that remind them all too often of the other side of human nature. And yet, not only is kindness something that makes us thrive, individually and collectively, it is something that lies within all of us.
I want my children to live in a world where they don’t walk the streets in fear of what senseless tragedy may come next. I want them to walk the streets knowing that the power of kindness is stronger than the fear that drives these senseless acts. And the sooner we turn them on to their own power to create ripples of kindness, the better off we all will be. After all, kindness is a choice like any other. Today, and every day, I want them to choose to be kind.
PGK Spotlight - TACSC & GHS
Five large boxes of socks. Check. One box containing approximately 1,200 homemade cards of encouragement. Check. 1300 middle school students having a chance to realize their small acts of kindness can have big ripples. Check.
Last fall, Project Giving Kids made a special introduction between a student leadership organization known as TACSC (The Associataion of Catholic Student Councils) and one of our favorite nonprofits, Gotta Have Sole, founded by now 18-year-old Nicholas Lowinger. This spring, 1300 students participated in 10 Student Leadership Days run by TACSC, held largely in LA County, and had the chance to learn of Nicholas's work and message. They also had the opportunity to create cards for kids in homeless shelters to accompany the new shoes Nicholas's organization will provide to these children. In an act of awareness and solidarity, they were encouraged to come to their day with mismatched socks and to bring a sock donation to give to Gotta Have Sole too.
As Gene Detre, TACSC's Program Director in charge of the leadership days, noted: "This was the perfect organization to use as part of our service module. The students were able to easily identify with another student who started a nonprofit at their age, as Nicholas got his 501(c)(3) status for Gotta Have sole when he was in 7th grade."
For us at Project Giving Kids, it was all about making the connection: the connection between a great organization working to develop the potential of student leaders and a nonprofit touching lives every day with a simple, yet profound, gift of an often overlooked need; the connection between each act of kindness and the impact it can have both on the beneficiary and on the giver; the connection that ultimately lies between and among all of us.