Growing up, my parents always worked hard to instill in me a desire to change the world. From watching my dad take care of people in his job at the hospital, to watching my mom make meals for families with new babies and serve those in our neighborhood, to watching both of them serve in our church, they were always caring for the people around us. My mom was always sending me over to a neighbor’s house with a plate of cookies, and when I turned 12, my parents signed up to be foster parents. My parents working to change the world, one child at a time shaped everything about my life. It made me the adult that I am. It taught me empathy, leadership skills and how to make the world a better place.
For the longest time, foster care was something I was convinced I would participate in as an adult. I wanted my own children to have the same experiences that I have.
Over time, for a variety of reasons, I’ve realized that it isn’t something that will work for our family. As I’ve focused my time and energy on taking care of my aging mother, I have looked for ways to teach my kids the things that having foster siblings taught me including:
I really feel like empathy is one of the most important things we can teach our children. Being able to understand and feel the feelings of another makes us kinder people, more able to understand the perspectives of another and work toward a common good.
The confidence to take charge and inspire others to be better, as well as the honesty and integrity needed in all environments.
How to Make the World a Better Place (Changemaking)
I think so many kids can be scared to change the world around them. I’ve always wanted my kids to learn that not only should they change the world around them, but it is also necessary for a better, brighter world.
Last year, when I first heard about the T-Mobile Changemakers challenge (read more about the challenge below), I was absolutely inspired.
My daughter wasn’t quite old enough to partake in the challenge, but she could come up with an idea to change our community and I could help her implement it.
Changing the World, One Book At A Time
Although we haven’t been able to participate in foster care directly with our kids, it has still been a big part of their lives. My kids have seen us gather supplies, clothes, and Christmas presents for foster children in our area, so when I asked my daughter what she wanted to do to change our community, her first thought was to help the foster care kids.
We are still in contact with many of the children that stayed in our home when I was growing up and my daughter has heard them talk about being taken from their families with nothing. Most of them come into the system with just the clothes on their back and nothing else. It is traumatic and difficult.
One thing the psychologists have implemented for the foster kids in our area is called the Book Nook. Every child that comes into the system is allowed to pick three brand new books to keep. It gives them something that is theirs, as well as something to connect with when their world is in turmoil. It is an amazing program, but one that has a hard time keeping books in stock.
When my daughter heard of this program, she decided this is where she wanted to help her community. She is an avid reader, who can’t imagine her life without access to books and she wanted to make sure other kids had access to them as well.
We made up flyers and stuck them on the doors in our neighborhood. My daughter talked about this program to everyone she met, letting them know just how much these kids needed these books. We gathered donations from businesses and friends and then took them all up to the Christmas Box House that was able to immediately put them on the shelves for kids to pick from.
Seeing the books that she gathered on the shelves at the shelter gave her a sense of love for these kids that she never met. It lit a fire inside her to continue serving the people around us. I can’t wait to see what service project she comes up with this year.
What is the T-Mobile Changemakers Challenge?
The T-Mobile Changemakers Challenge is an amazing nationwide contest that works to give youth the power to make things happen when they have ideas on how to improve the world and their community. This contest is the perfect way to talk to your kids about being a changemaker.
T-Mobile and nonprofit partner Ashoka, first launched this challenge last spring and received more than 330 creative ideas on how to make the world a better place. The top 30 teams visited T-Mobile’s headquarters in Seattle to brainstorm and learn with the ultimate goal of turning their ideas into a reality. This year, T-Mobile is looking for 30 more creative ideas from youth ages 13-23 across America and Puerto Rico that focus on technology, environment, and education to help create more connected, sustainable, and inclusive communities.
Youth can submit their ideas now through September 26. Six winning teams will receive an additional seed funding plus the chance to present their projects to T-Mobile’s senior leadership team and compete for the grand prize.
Two grand-prize-winning teams will be announced during the lab and will win additional funding, and will also receive a second trip back to T-Mobile HQ to help get more ideas for their projects.
As a parent, I work hard to teach my kids to leave the world a better place than they found it and I love supporting companies that do the same. It is so important for our kids to see their bold ideas becoming a reality.
This post is sponsored by T-Mobile.