Friday, November 12, 2010

WEEKEND WARRIOR CHALLENGE: Walk a mile in their shoes

This post title may be a little misleading. No need to get all wound up - I'm not asking you to fish out your dusty ol' tennis shoes to do any physical walking. What I am asking you to do is wrap your mind around this...Imagine yourself with no where to go. No home to keep you comfy and warm. No socks or shoes to keep your feet warm. No hot meal on the table. No consistency. Imagine living in fear. Scared. Cold. Helpless. Unloved. Kinda hard to put yourself in those shoes when you're biggest worry is what private school your kid should attend or where you're going to wine and dine for dinner tonight right?

Sadly, these are the things children - 2.8 million actually - across America, the richest country in the world, face EVERYDAY. These are innocent children thrown into a scary world expected to survive. They didn't paint this picture. They are victims. And have to somehow figure out how to make the best out of the situation with little to no resources. Could you imagine your 6 year old child, cold and hungry, living on the streets being exposed to all the sex trafficking, gangs, and extreme weather conditions? It's beyond anything I can comprehend. More so now than ever, I have a soft spot for these young children that are born into lives of poverty.

Here are some alarming statistics that may too make your heart ache for these young children:

1 out of every 5 children is poor. A "status" they did not choose.

According to, 12 million children are at risk of going hungry.

According to a study done by Feeding America, more than 33% of households have to choose between feeding their families or other basic necessities, such as rent, utilities and medical care.

The average age of a homeless person in America is nine.

1/2 of the 2.8 million homeless children are under the age of 6.

In the last 2 years the number of homeless children has DOUBLED. The main factor - the home foreclosure crisis & recession.

Children make up 27% — the fastest growing segment — of the U.S. homeless population.

A study by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth shows that nearly 1,000,000 homeless children are enrolled in U.S. schools. This represents an alarming 41% rise from just a few years ago.

Nearly 1.16 million of homeless children today will not graduate from high school due to this major recession.

Pretty depressing huh? Imagine how those kids feel around the holidays? What should be the happiest time of the year is just another fight for survival. This is a time of giving. A time to turn a frown up-side-down. What can you do this weekend to get involved? I encourage you to do some soul searching. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those less fortunate. If you don't have a heart for children, that's ok. There are several ways to give back - whether you do it one time or donate monthly. You'd be surprised what little it takes to change someone's life. In my hometown of Tacoma, WA, it takes only $2.22 to feed a homeless child for Thanksgiving. All you'd have to do is cut back on your Starbuck's for 5 days and you'd fill 10 children's bellies. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. It can be as simple as going through your closet and giving your clothes to the Salvation Army. Or you could donate an hour of your time at a local food bank and serve them a meal. Or maybe you could ask everyone attending your holiday party to bring a can/bag of nonperishable food items to give to the Rescue Mission.

I personally decided to get creative this year - Every year growing up at my grade school, St. Charles in Tacoma, WA, we would give a pair of shoes to needy children. Instead of just giving the shoes, we would fill the boxes with age appropriate gifts (toothpaste, socks, toys, crayons, jewelry, match box cars, etc). This project will cost me about $16.00/box. This year on Thanksgiving day my family and I will be assembling 20-30 boxes and shipping them to the underprivileged children in Tacoma, WA. This will be an inspiring reminder for my family to give thanks for the little things in our life - like the dry pair of shoes on our feet everyday. I encourage you to find ways to make this time of giving memorable for both you AND your family.
If you decide that you want to start making a consistent impact in someone's life and have no idea where to begin, here are some charities I particularly like:

Save the Children has been working hand-in-hand with families and communities in rural America and in more than 120 countries around the world for over 75 years to help the lives of children in need. One of my favorite ways to give is by going on their catalog and choosing a gift that touches your heart within your budget. When you choose a gift from this catalog you'll give joy and lasting change to a child in need and put a smile on someone you care about when you purchase the gift in their honor. You can search gifts by price or category. Two of my favorites are: For $65.00 you can educate a girl for an entire year or for $100.00 you can stock a library and keep kids reading for years!

Feed the Children , a Christian organization founded in 1979, has become one of the nation's largest charities - dedicated to feeding the bodies and minds of hungry girls and boys to prepare them for healthy, successful lives. They are committed to delivering food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster. Just a $5.00 donation can feed a child for an entire week!!!

Samaritan's Purse is a Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. They have several community development programs that are helping people all over the world. One of my favorite programs is the Operations Christmas Child. Over 8 million children last year received a shoe box filled with gifts. Something so simple to us, yet so memorable to them!

African Renewal Ministries is located in Ggaba, Uganda, East Africa. Their desire is to reach the lost and to renew the people of Africa through salvation and education. Their hope is to get them off the streets of hopelessness as soon as possible. Once in our care, they’re fed, given medical attention, clothed, and put in school. One of my personal favorite ways is to adopt a child. For $35.00/month you can drastically change a child's life. You'll provide them with school tuition, lunch, a school uniform and a pair of shoes for the year. You can also choose to sponsor a teacher, adopt a village, or give to the orphanage.

Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger relief charity, its network provides food assistance to more than 38 million low income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than 14 million children and nearly 4 million seniors. One in eight Americans rely on Feeding America for food and groceries.

Enjoy your weekend and take some time to think about how you can make a difference in someone's life this holiday season!

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