Everyday Activism Inspires Philanthropy

Everyday philanthropy. A current topic in the news and on the internet. From youth to adults, the opportunity to engage in giving has been extended beyond those with deep pockets.

Causes Giving Challenge on Facebook, initiated by AOL founder Steve Case, attempts to extend the culture of philanthropy from the coffers of the very wealthy into the hands of everyday people. Facebook members are encouraged to create causes and solicit friends to make small donations to their favorite non-profit organizations. The non-profit organizations that get the most donors become eligible to win from $1000 to $50,000. The challenge encourages everyday philanthropy because the focus is not on the amount of money raised but rather on the number of donors. Therefore even the smallest donation is deemed worthy. (see the Amman Imman Causes Giving Challenge on Facebook.)

A recent article in the Washington Post on philanthropy among modern kids highlights a trend of grassroots giving among children. Because of the internet, kids today are exposed to world issues and calls for help everywhere they turn. Through social networking sites like Facebook, myriad websites and YouTube videos, young people are more and more aware of projects through which they can give and help. Children naturally want to reach out when they have the opportunity.

I became keenly aware of the natural inclination of children to help and give when we started engaging students in the Amman Imman project. As soon as children saw the colorful pictures of the people of the Azawak, they connected their beautiful smiles to their own hearts. As they heard stories of their suffering, they understood that the people in the Azawak were more than statisitics of people dying, but rather human beings with families and lives just like their own. With the support of their schools, students began to engage in fund raising activities.

But is it enough for kids to raise money?
When we think about preparing students as global citizens, do we want the highest value to be placed on an ability to generate coins and bills?

For children, the value of philanthropy needs to be completed with providing help through concrete action. One comment on the Washington post article said, While it is a great thing to see our youth engaged in, and aware of, programs that help others locally and internationally, they also need to know the importance of rolling up their sleeves and helping to accomplish the goals of those programs.

Since November 2006, when children began to learn about the daily struggle of the people of the Azawak to find water, they wanted to be a part of the opportunity extended by Amman Imman for students to work together to build a borehole. The project presented a concrete and tangible opportunity to be part of initiating much needed change in a region that not that many people knew about. Children began to tell the stories of the people of the Azawak.

As schools set up Amman Imman projects and activities, children got involved. They explained the problem in the Azawak to their friends and neighbors. They took on leadership roles by making presentations to their community and nearby schools. They initiated fundraising events and projects. As a result of wanting to help and the concrete opportunity to do so within the construct of the partnership with Amman Imman, students around the world raised approximately $40K for this cause in just a few months during the 2006 – 2007 school year. Children were excited and gratified when they learned that a borehole was now providing clean water to the children and families at Tangarwashane.

Social consciousness is more than just signing up for a cause on the internet. This trend raises awareness for students, but it is in the act of engagement, and hands-on participation that a consciousness of global citizenship emerges.

Philanthropy and activism must go hand in hand. How else will our children understand that it takes time, attention and real work to make the world a better place? Through Amman Imman, children not only have an opportunity to raise funds and become philanthropists, but they also have an opportunity to become roll up their sleeves and take action.


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