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We’re in Good Hands…and I’m Not Talking About Allstate

March 15, 2010

Author: Terri Lee Freeman

Recently, I volunteered to participate in career day at my daughter’s school. When I agreed to volunteer, I thought it was most likely that I would be talking with the older grades, fifth through eight. But to my surprise they asked me to present also to grades 1-3.  Since I had prepared an activity for the older grades, I was a little skeptical about speaking to the younger children. My nerves were in high gear because my fifth grader made me promise not to be boring.

So I began my journey with the first graders. It just so happened that their virtue for the month was “caring.” This was the perfect entre for my discussion. We talked about what caring meant and the things they cared about. I told them that my job in philanthropy allowed me to help lots of people show how much they care about different things by contributing money and time to those issues. We talked about the recent earthquakes and how they felt about them. We talked about how each of the students is a philanthropist because they had given money to support Haiti relief through their school. We talked about the American Red Cross and how it helps people all over the world. (By the way, the American Red Cross would be proud to know that their brand is very strong — the children recognized the organization simply by the logo!) I ended my presentation knowing that this group of first- graders understood what philanthropy was, that they themselves were philanthropists, and that it felt good to care about others.

I moved on to the second and third graders and decided to add on to my presentation by giving the classes an activity. The children were placed in groups and given an imaginary $20 to distribute to two things they cared about. Most gave to Haiti and Chile, but some gave to the local hospital and the animal shelter. One of the second- grade groups even made a value judgment by giving $11 Haiti and $9 to Chile, demonstrating their care for both countries as well as the recognition of the significant poverty in Haiti. I was very impressed.

Next, the big dogs, fifth through eighth grade. I was following some police officers which just made me more nervous since they are a tough act to follow and my promise to be “not boring”  loomed large. But I was prepared. I asked the group if they knew the term used for contributing money to nonprofit organizations. When a young lady answered “philanthropy,” I immediately knew this group had it going on. We talked about how important philanthropy was in society and reviewed examples of some notable philanthropists and their efforts, and then they broke into class groups to work through their assignment. I challenged them to make a minimum of two grants and a maximum of four of the five examples they were given, with an imaginary $1000 and 10 volunteers at their disposal.  They could distribute the volunteers as they pleased. Their five projects were a summer camp for disabled children, a mobile library, a local food bank, a children’s museum and an environmental project to save baby turtles. They had to unanimously agree on their grant and volunteer distribution and present to the large group.

Who knew such a simple exercise would provide me with such admiration and faith in this group of young people. What did I learn?  These young people get it. They understand how connected we are to each other, to the environment and see themselves, in many ways, as being their brother’s keeper. They understand how basic and essential recreation, food and clean water and air are for everyone. They also recognize the importance of all young people being able to expand their horizons through access to books and arts and culture.

I left the school at about 2:00 p.m. feeling incredibly fulfilled.  Our young people are very aware and caring individuals coming into their own. These children very well understand  how blessed and fortunate they are. I left feeling that out future is in good hands. The future is sitting attentively in classrooms in Howard County and around the country.
P.S.: Join our Facebook “Neighbors in Need” page at http://facebook.com/neighborsinneed.

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