Sharing Stories in Bits & Bites

The Spark that lights the fire…

This post is part of the and World Vision Spark sponsored program.  I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

How do you measure the profound effect you have on another human being? That day you run into a friend and your simple heartfelt compliment “lady, you look fabulous in red!” changes her outlook on an otherwise bleak day. When you bake a cake to celebrate a rare perfect score on a spelling test with your children, and it goes down in family history. The chilly evening you stop to help an elderly stranger struggling with her groceries in the snow, and on the short drive home, you realize you were the highlight of her desperately lonely week. How can you know what those fleeting moments of compassion have done to alter the life of another person? More importantly, how have those moments changed you?

In this often selfish world, what can we do to promote an everyday spirit of giving? In a thoughtful quote from Nelsen Mandela, he describes the African philosophy of human kindness. “You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality, Ubuntu, you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas when you are connected, what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole humanity.”

If you’re reading this, you are one of those people who wants to do more, you feel the need to share of yourself somehow. It isn’t always an easy thing to do, is it? The media tells us people don’t always want to be helped, why give? It’s just a scam. Look out for number one.

I simply refuse to accept that. I want my children to grow up with a giving spirit. My wish for them is to experience that when they serve another, they grow within themselves and improve the very quality of human nature. It’s that simple.

Children, in their very nature are selfish little creatures aren’t they? I don’t mean that in a bad way, they have to be! They are greedily absorbing everything in their world, figuring out where they fit in. For children to truly learn from giving, it has to be meaningful…to them. Nope, they are not going to be moved to tears when you tell them to “finish their broccoli because children are starving in Africa!”

Not. Gonna. Happen.

Cayra helping with an art project

Honestly, for them to appreciate giving they need to experience how good it can feel. That’s not selfish, that’s the truth! When you give of freely of yourself with an open heart, you get sooo much back in return. Watching my kids experience that euphoria is life altering. It can start somewhere small, but it has to start from them. After helping an amazing family friend passionately raise money for an orphanage she had built in Ghana, one of our daughters was inspired to ask friends for donations instead of gifts at her birthday party. She wasn’t sure where to focus her efforts though.The answer came from something very close to her heart, her twin cousins. Born only a month after our own twins, they were very premature and had to spent the first fragile months of their lives at BC Children’s Hospital. When she sent off her money to Children’s with a sweet hand written letter, it was from her heart and it had meaning to her.

When filling Christmas hampers each year, we have our children help with the shopping. We ask them what treats they’d love and involve them in the choosing of gifts. While delivering hampers with our older kids, they were incredulous that local people were living in such challenging conditions. Witnessing carefully chosen gifts fill a child with delight was a tangible experience that gave them a deeper understanding of what giving was all about.

We consider ourselves fortunate to explore different parts the world with our children. A trip to Cambodia inspired our oldest son to save money for art supplies to bring along. Our kids were in awe that so many of the children squeezed into the classroom for an art lesson about snow! Many were incredibly talented artists who had never even used paints before! The watercolours we’d brought over were an absolute luxury item to them. So simple, yet deeply worthwhile.

Izzy writing out math questions

Last February, after squeezing ten of us, including a driver and translator, into a teeny van, we traveled over dusty, crowded streets to the outskirts of Granada, Nicaragua. We’d  volunteered at an after-school program, not really knowing what we’d signed up for. Truthfully, my teens weren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of taking time out of our vacation for this. They’re great kids, but apparently I was pushing the limits a little. Within an hour of being welcomed by the most enthusiastic children you’ve ever seen, everything changed!  We couldn’t wait to go back every day! Sometimes we helped with homework, I taught another short art lesson and our older daughters taught hip-hop. We’d  packed books, art and school supplies, tooth brushes and paste My husband, a dentist gave a basic lesson on oral hygiene. Our own kids were open-mouthed shocked by how thrilled the Nica children were to get their OWN toothbrush, and that they lined up for the chance to have the Dr. look at their teeth. Talk about a major shift in perception!

The final day we chaperoned a field trip to a playground far out of their district. It was crazy. For these kids, playing…on an actual playground was a very special treat. They didn’t waste any time on arguments or whiny complaints, they played! Hugging good-bye was much harder than we’d anticipated. As we sadly left our new friends, we all agreed that what we’d learned from them, was so much more than what we’d shared. Even my three doubtful teens shared that it was the best part of their trip. Now they understand how very little we have to complain about.

Saying our good-byes!

I know not everyone can travel around with kids in tow doing volunteer work, I wish we could do more! Those real connections are what made giving a worthwhile experience, pushing us out of our comfort zones. There are so many things that can be done right within your own community, don’t be afraid to reach out, be an example! If you are inspired to share the big wide world with your children and grandchildren, you still can. Recently I learned of the World Vision Spark program through the Yummy Mummy Club.

If you haven’t found YMC, you might want to check it out. Basically it’s moms reaching out to other moms going through what we all do…parenting, working, laughing and sometimes crying. They have committed not only to bringing this incredible new program to light through their social media network, but also matching YMC members donations to the Spark program, it’s truly incredible! After finding out that I’d been chosen to write this post, I spent hours pouring over the World Vision Canada website.  As a person who is carefully selective when choosing charities, I appreciate that they have a wonderful disclosure record and an excellent percentage of funds going directly to people in need. Their goal is simply to make the world a better place for every child, and they do it with passion and integrity.

A sweet smile after getting her new toothbrush!

What impresses me most about the Spark program, is that I see families, who know what they need to offer their children a better future. They have chosen to ask for a hand-up from another family, like yours. Makes me reflect on how small gifts on our travels  were so appreciated! We see twenty dollars, they see an offer of life-changing hope!  As I was looking through all of the photographs at www.sparkchange, the  story of  the Filipino family Ramil and Generosa, caught my eye. Like our family, they have six beautiful children. Like our family, two of them are twins. However, unlike our family, they struggle daily with keeping their children healthy and educated. You can go through the pictures too, maybe you’ll find someone who speaks to you, who’ll touch your heart with their story. The choice to donate is yours, the amount you send is completely up to you. Share the Spark with friends and family members and everyone can contribute a small amount towards a single project! Once your gifts have been received, you will be sent a photograph so you can see exactly what your generosity has created. Share in the spirit of Ubuntu, please check out this inspiring program today, with your loved ones.

It only takes a small Spark to ignite the fires of change!

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone,

but the things you do for others remain as your legacy” ~Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

To help make even more of a difference in the lives of families who are less fortunate, from Tuesday September 24th to Sunday October 27th, YMC will match every dollar donated by YMC members through World Vision’s Spark website, up to $1,000.00 CDN.

World Vision Spark offers Canadian families the opportunity to help a specific family or community in the developing world. Through you can meet these families, understand what they need, and spark a difference in their lives.

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