A Season of Giving
Wondering how we homeschoolers can give back to our communities? Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked those on her timeline for ideas on what homeschoolers could do to give back. She got the usual answers—shelters, Salvation Army, nursing homes, etc. My response? Help a homeschooling teacher!
Three Ways You Can Help Fellow Home Educators:
- Be there: families are joining the ranks of homeschooling by leaps and bounds and many have no clue how to get started. Simply having access to someone to talk to can help so much!
- Konmari your classroom: people may be looking for curricula that you have sitting in a box or closet. Instead of collecting dust and spider webs it could be helping a homeschool family. It may not be the latest edition, but I guarantee you that it will help SOMEBODY!
- Create a “kick-off” box: people use the same supplies as you – that extra stuff can be turned into supply boxes for new homeschool families. The kids will love helping with this!
Let’s talk about that last one for a moment. Have you ever given thought to making a homeschool kick-off box for a new homeschooling family? Think about that new homeschool parent who is going through all of those things you went through when you first started homeschooling. Often a search for help can lead to information overload- and you could be there to enable them to get a good start instead!
Stuff You Already Have
Think about what you have on hand that might be an encouragement to that new homeschool family. A tote bag or cute box of basic school supplies, coffee or tea and a cute mug for Mom, age/grade appropriate activity packets, books, and things of that sort go a LOOOOOOOOOONG way! Pay attention to those “If you could have anything for your homeschool, what would it be” posts—you might have that stuff right in your house and it could be used to inspire, encourage, uplift, and equip another family to resist the urge to put their kids back on the bus that they JUST pulled them off of…SIGH!
Make a Target Run
If your closet search doesn’t yield enough items for your homeschool kick-off box, a quick trip to your local Target dollar section or the dollar store can round out your list with cute erasers and inexpensive office supplies.
Other Ways to Give Back
Our kids need a reality check at times, so take them to those soup kitchens, shelters, orphanages, and even hospitals. That reminds me of something…
Last year, our youngest daughter was admitted to the hospital days after her birthday. Because she was in medical isolation, she couldn’t leave the room to engage in any of the amenities the hospital had to offer. As I opened the door briefly to see what was going on around the floor, I saw a family with a cart of dinner plates for the parents of children in the hospital. It was obvious that their youngest child did NOT want to be there at ALL! When they got to our daughter’s room, he noticed that they were the same age and had the same birthday. His mood INSTANTLY changed. He was up, walking around, serving others, and ran across a little girl just like him.
A local homeschool co-op came around the hospital with Christmas stockings and a cart full of toys. It was so hard for me to choose because our daughter likes pretty much anything! When I mentioned that she’d just had her birthday, they told me to take whatever I wanted! The cool thing was that one of the things she wanted MOST for her birthday was on that cart – how this small act blessed us!
A church group brought a full taco bar out for parents and children who could eat it. They prayed for each parent that came down to make a plate for themselves or their children. Little things like that make a big difference.
Many times, our children think that nothing will ever befall them and they need to see that it can and that there are people out there who genuinely need that smile or helping hand! They may be the only person that day who shows that person any kindness at all…I’ve seen it happen too many times.
Another thing you can do is write to a soldier who may not have a family or simply needs a pick me up from someone they have sworn their lives to protect. The loneliness they feel may not be something your child experiences, but it will teach them to appreciate others!
Four Quick Ways to Pay it Forward
- Volunteer at those shelters, soup kitchens, and orphanages
- Visit hospital patients during the holidays
- Write to a soldier
- Smile and look for little ways to lend a hand every day
Whatever you choose to do…give back!
Hope for Beautiful Guatemala
In 2013 our family started taking mission trips with an organization called Leah’s Kids. In the past six years, we have traveled to Central America to serve in Guatemala ten times and have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its’ people. When we are home we work to raise awareness and funds to support the people we have come to love.
About the Ministries
First, here’s a little information about the ministries we serve with. Leah’s Kids is a group of people from all over the United States that travel regularly to Guatemala. Leah’s Kids raises funds to help support ministries on the ground 24/7 in Guatemala.
The Casa Angelina Orphanage is one of the ministries where we serve. It is a campus that consists of ten homes, each housing 10-15 children who have been rescued from abuse. Some lived on the streets or in garbage dumps. Casa Angelina has a private Christian school, a church, and a medical clinic. They care for over 150 children, 40 staff and their family members as well as those who live in the surrounding villages.
BuildinGuate is a ministry that supports The Land of Hope- a community on the edge of the garbage dump near Escuintla, Guatemala. This ministry opened our eyes to the tragic reality of the lives of these orphaned children who are living in poverty and squalor in these dumps.
Guatemala is located in Central America just south of Mexico. It is the most populous country in Central America with the highest fertility rate in Latin America. This trend will likely continue due to the large reproductive-age population and high birthrates. Nearly half of the estimated 16,581,273 population is under the age of 19 years old therefore, Guatemala has the youngest population in Latin America. Unicef estimates there are more than 370,000 orphans in Guatemala (many other estimates are much higher).
The country was embroiled in a 36-year guerrilla war which ended in 1996. Because of this, people are very poor. Rural indigenous groups were greatly affected. More than half the country’s population lives in these rural areas in a country that is already un-developed. Frequent natural disasters occur due to earthquakes and active volcanos. There is virtually no middle class in Guatemala. In fact, more than half the population lives below the national poverty line and 23% survive in extreme poverty. As a result, Guatemala also has the sixth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. Unbelievably, half of the Guatemalan children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition!
Due to the extreme poverty of the country, there are hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children that live in or near one of the many garbage dumps in Guatemala. In the dump, people build their “homes” which really are sticks (or corn stalks) and perhaps a tarp they have scavenged from the smoldering trash. People scavenge during the day to find recyclables or anything that can be sold to a “broker” who gives them a pittance for their finds. The dump can be a place of extreme danger from collapsing mounds of trash, constant fires, and toxic chemicals that contaminate the land and air. There is no limit on what can be deposited, so everything makes its way to the dump. The extreme poverty of the population at the dump leads to issues such as high rates of alcoholism, drug use, prostitution, and abuse.
The Land of Hope
In 2016, our family was introduced to BuildinGuate, which founded The Land of Hope (LOH) on the edge of a garbage dump near Escuintla, Guatemala. We are grateful to now partner with them to help provide for the community at the LOH. The LOH is a safe community that is a stepping stone to help people get out of the dump. It is a place for the nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit for all who enter its gates. Currently, twelve families live there.
The church there is also a feeding center, a birthing center for mothers, and a clinic for visiting medical teams. There is a malnutrition clinic under construction. They founded a nearby school which supports students and staff. This is a young community, so there is still much need for funding and support. BuildinGuate hosts three fully funded soup kitchens each week, where people from the area can come to receive clean water and a nutritious meal at no cost. We are currently raising funds to increase this to FIVE soup kitchens a week in 2020. For $150 nearly 200 people can be fed.
If you are interested in helping, BuildinGuate has a generous donor who will match $10,000 in funds raised by January 1.
There is much going on at the LOH each week! There are Bible studies, church service on Saturdays, and classes to teach the women skills to support their families. Many of the women have come from a life of prostitution and have minimal education. Leah’s Kids is excited to be taking a team and seven new sewing machines in February 2020. Up to fourteen ladies can now learn how to sew!
BuildinGuate distributes infant formula twice a week. Women and children walk several hours one way in the smoldering heat to come to the Land of Hope ministry for Bible study and free formula. The distribution of formula has drastically reduced the problem of malnourishment. Two years ago the ministry found a family with five extremely malnourished children. One of the children was Oliver, who was seven years old and weighed only fourteen pounds. BuildinGuate was instrumental in getting him into a government-run malnutrition clinic along with two of his siblings but within days of their release from the short stay at the clinic, all three of the children died. This is one of the heartbreaking realities of life in this rural area of Central America.
It is stories like that of Oliver which has given us a passion to build a malnutrition clinic at the LOH. A clinic that would take in not only the child but the family – a clinic where they would stay for an extended period of time until healed. A time to feed and nourish the whole body, soul, and spirit. The clinic is now under construction but is partially funded and we are in the beginning stages of finding an organization to staff it. We are praying for a medical school from the states to take this on as a mission. However God leads, we know He will help us to finish this vision He has given us!
In conclusion, there are amazing things going on at Land of Hope but there is still so much to do! We feel called to be there, to speak life and truth to all who will listen. We are called to share hope and help provide for the desperate needs of the Lord’s people. In the words of the apostle, James, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27.
A huge “thank you” to True North Homeschool Academy family member, Rene Ingle, for sharing about ministering in Guatemala. It is important to know about the many needs in Central America.
If you want to learn more about the ministries mentioned in the article, click the links to visit their websites. For inspiration and ideas for volunteer work and homeschooling take a look at this review of Practical Proverbs or read Teaching Stewardship.
“The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
A Heart of Service
I love the holidays because I love giving. I love considering what will bless people, and I love being able to give good things. Our family culture has always been one that recognizes that we have a responsibility to steward our time, treasures and talents. How do we encourage a heart of service in the lives of our kids?
Share Your Core Values
What drives your financial giving and volunteer hours? Talk to your kids about why you do what you. Have conversations about the values and passions in your life so that they connect your behavior with beliefs. They might not know that you tithe regularly to church. They might not know that you support a child in Africa financially. Include them in your giving.
Expose Your Kids to a Wider World
If you live in America, you are part of the blessed 5% in the world that has freedom, choice, and prosperity at your fingertips. The American Dream is just that; a dream, for a large percentage of the world’s population. Make sure that your kids don’t live in a bubble. Travel around the country and out of it- if you can. Talk to people wherever you go. Read extensively and study history. Donate to the food bank and serve at the shelter. The world is an amazing and beautiful place and while we should protect young minds and hearts from darkness, there is much good in going outside of our own neighborhood.
“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.” Kathy Calvin
Practicing Good Stewardship
Give your kids three jars to manage their money with: spend, save, and give. We have known millionaires who have lost everything overnight and seen the impoverished go on to make fortunes. Teach your kids that money may come and go but the values of stewardship can become part of their heart- regardless of circumstances.
Volunteer as a Family
Service organizations in your very city are seeking generous souls to serve, donate, gather, and teach. Our local hospital is always looking for kind souls to rock babies. In the far north, coat drives are an important way to ensure health. There are many places, from half-way houses to literacy programs, looking for teachers to teach basic life skills, phonics, and English as a second language.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank
Create Family Rituals of Giving
What can your family realistically manage year after year? Is it putting together a few shoeboxes or hygiene packs for the homeless each Thanksgiving, or serving at a food giveaway every quarter? Find something that you can all do together and then put it on the calendar. Plan on it. Teach your kids that serving others with your time, talents and treasure is an important part of life.
Serve as a Family
There are many service organizations around the world. Find one that speaks to your heart and serve as a family. We have friends who go to South America yearly for medical missions. Our family serves with an organization that raises support for the Persecuted Church; we’ve written letters, hosted speakers, raised money and gotten the word out about this important ministry. Find an organization that you believe in and invest as a family. Your kids will see you in a new context and realize that you are living what you value. This creates opportunities to talk about what’s important and what has spoken to your heart. This also gives them a new context in which to shine, allowing them to grow.
Join an Organization With a Strong Service Component
My daughter recently joined American Heritage Girls and she has already had several opportunities to serve others in her troop and beyond. Last month her unit served dinner at a half-way house for recovering addicts. While they served, they were blessed; by the many personal thanks they received, the laughter they shared and a wonderful conversation with the staff and residents about God and the importance of faith.
”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
Donate Money to a Cause Where You Can Donate Your Time and Talents
Adam Pruzan, who teaches for our True North Homeschool Academy, recently spoke to our Orienteering course about money and investing. He strongly encouraged the kids to give generously of their money, but at the same time, to donate to a cause that would appreciate their time and talents. Investing oneself in an organization or project can often be just as important as giving money.
Generosity starts with thinking about how others feel. As our talented Spanish teacher, who is momma, to a beautiful, disabled daughter, told her class before Thanksgiving: “swallowing, eating on your own and the simplest movements are not a given for some people”. We should all be grateful for the freedom we have through health. This gave all the kids something to think about.
Praise Generous Deeds
Children naturally do kind and generous things for others. Praise and encourage this when you see it, promoting your values of living a life of generosity and service.
“Selfless giving is the art of living.” Frederick Lenz
How do you promote a generous heart in your kids? Is serving others part of your life curriculum? We would love to hear about it!
Join our True North Homeschool Tribe on FB and take part in the conversation! As I mentioned, we love to give- so go to the link here to download our FREE Winter Bucket List and while you are there, opt-in to get our weekly e-news. The Compass is full of homeschool inspiration and free resources that help your education go in the right direction!