I’m still riding the enthusiasm and excitement from the back to school season over here. Peeper is already adjusted to her half-days of pre-K (no tears, just a quick squeeze before we say goodbye!). And Kiwi just started homeschool preschool—more on that later! But not every child has what she needs to excel in school.
School supplies lists can get expensive (the average family spent $100-200 on the required pens, pencils and binders, according to a national study), and that’s not even factoring in other expenses like clothes, electronics (required by many schools) and other items.
I wrote about how we can help ensure all the kids in our community start school ready to learn and thrive in my latest column for PDX Parent.
In it, I explore how even families with little kids—who don’t have many opportunities to volunteer in the traditional sense because they’re too young—can pitch in.
Six years ago, Syrian teen Nabil fled Syria with his family. They stayed for four years in a small apartment in Jordan, all the while doing everything they could to find a permanent, stable, safe home. Now Nabil and his family have settled in Seattle, where he plays forward on his soccer team, volunteers with a Muslim organization to reach out to local homeless people and welcomes other Syrian refugees as they arrive and begin to rebuild their lives.
This World Refugee Day, which is marked across the globe on June 20, nonprofits, governmental organizations and regular citizens like you and me can recognize the immense resilience of refugees like Nabil. I got to interview Nabil for my work with Microsoft Philanthropies, which is sharing stories of refugee youth to direct donations to its nonprofit partners such as the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, the UNHCR and more. And stories like Nabil’s, and the tens of thousands of others like him, inspire us to want to know how to help refugees.
Misery may love company, but activism adores it! And the thing is, the more I practice everyday acts of kindness and political action, the more optimistic I feel. In February, I (mostly) succeeded in my resolution to do good every day, and I came away with this as my main takeaway: We can do even more good, develop relationships that build community and get out of our Facebook bubble when taking action with others.
Volunteering has always been a part of my adult life. I have played with orphaned cats, peddled veggies at farmer’s markets, taught kids to read, helped build a house, assisted at a veterinary office for homeless people’s pets and planted a garden.
I haven’t pitched in as much lately, but the holiday season made me want to make volunteering a regular part of Peeper’s life, too.
When I looked up volunteering opportunities on The United Way, I found only one event that was appropriate for toddlers, but unfortunately it was right during Peeper’s nap time. And no one wants an overtired toddler at a volunteer party, no matter how lofty your intentions.
We ended up recreating the do-gooder moment at a recent play date. All the kiddos made holiday cards to deliver to homebound seniors through Meals on Wheels. (We used this tutorial to make reindeer handprint cards.) I was thrilled with the activity because it’s something you can do on your own timetable, kids can participate at whatever level they want, and—most importantly—it makes the world a better place, if only by a little bit.