|Doing Good Together Newsletter|
With the issue of immigration making front-page news, it is important to talk with your children about other cultures and ways of life. But remember that learning tolerance and becoming aware and sensitive to diversity is a lifelong process. In this issue you’ll find some ideas for starting this process with your children. You can help build a more caring community, one child at a time.
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
Make a Difference... Looking for a more purposeful activity for your next family vacation? An increasing number of travelers are choosing volunteering as a rewarding way to see the world. Most service-oriented vacations don’t require any specific skills – just enthusiasm, open- mindedness, and a willingness to pay your own expenses. Volunteer options abound – maintaining trails, working with children, or building and renovating houses, schools, and community centers.
Photo: Courtesy Volunteer Vacation Organizations
Talk About It ... For many families, volunteering provides their first chance to spend time with people from other cultures, or people with different religions and lifestyles – whether it’s in the U.S. or abroad. Even without volunteering, there are ways to encourage your child to celebrate human differences and give messages that contradict stereotypes.
In the children’s book If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People, author David Smith imagines the 6 billion people of the world to be a village of only 100 people. His statistics are eye- opening. Twenty people have less than a dollar a day to spend, 22 speak a Chinese dialect, seven own computers, 61 are from Asia, 25 do not have access to a safe source of water, and 24 do not have electricity.
Twenty-year-old Sarah Ingebritsen has twice been blessed with life-changing family volunteer vacation experiences. In the summer of 2000, she and her parents, Joe Chrastil and Jean Ingebritsen, and her sister, Kim Ingebritsen, now 16, spent two and a half months in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua, a refugee settlement of 12,000 people who lost their homes to Hurricane Mitch. They helped build a new health clinic, a project arranged through Jubilee House Community.
It was an unforgettable summer, one the family was eager to share back home in Spokane, Washington. After making a presentation to their church’s youth group, the students of Westminster United Church of Christ determined almost immediately to make their own journey to Nueva Vida. After several years of planning and fundraising, the trip became a reality. In the summer of 2004, seven students (including Sarah), several parents and the youth group director set out for Nueva Vida. This time the job was to create and plant medicinal herb gardens.(Although the community now had a low-cost health clinic, the cost of prescription drugs was most often prohibitive for the residents.) The local children who pitched in earned free treatment and medicine for their family. “The most difficult part was that we got so close to the people – particularly the children – and then we had to leave,” says Sarah. “But the relationships and connections were also the best part.”
An expert on medicinal herbs from Cuba guided the process. The work was hard, but the group got breaks to visit other parts of Nicaragua, including the opportunity to see a traditional potter at work, hike around a volcano, visit a market in Managua, and make some wonderful friends. “You see a way of life that you’ve never been exposed to,” Sarah says, “and that changes you forever.”
Photo: Sarah Ingebritsen and sister Kim Ingebritsen with Westminster United Church of Christ youth group in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua.
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director of Doing Good Together, spent three days in March at the National Service Learning Conference in Philadelphia. Service learning is a method of teaching that connects community service experiences to specific academic goals. DGT is excited about finding ways to encourage parent involvement in service learning and creating strategies for introducing family volunteering to parents through their child’s school. If you are interested in school-family partnerships around service learning and family volunteering, please email or call. We’d love to hear from you!