The good news that is the common thread running through children in war-torn Iraq or poverty-laden India, is that they all still have hope. And Dina Fesler, the founder of Children’s Culture Connection has discovered that when we give American children a taste of the world’s cultures, it helps them connect with kids who have very little, and empowers them by showing that they, in fact, can make a difference in the lives of others.
When news of economic recessions and crazed holiday shoppers makes you wonder if the notion of ‘peace on earth’ is really more than a greeting card cliche, take a minute to read the top ten accomplishments of the Children’s Culture Connection in 2008. Kids helping kids moves us down the path toward universal peace.
Ten Signs of Peace on Earth, written by the Children’s Culture Connection founder:
- A CCC presentation to a church youth group in Minnesota on Haitian culture inspired the kids to organize a book collection drive for the children of Haiti. By October, CCC helped them ship a container with over 3,000 books to Haitian students who currently must share one book among 10 children.
- When 10-year old Abby learned about Guatemalan culture at CCC’s first-ever Children’s Culture Carnival, she—with CCC’s support and encouragement—wove 100 friendship bracelets and sold them to her classmates. Not only did Abby donate her proceeds to CCC’s Guatemalan charity, Life of Hope, to pay for scholarships for three kids in the La Limonada slum for one year, but she and her classmates have started a CCC pen pal and art exchange with the Guatemalan children to teach one another about their lives.
- Through the sales of our own handmade greeting cards, the CCC team raised enough money to build a house for an impoverished family in Vietnam through the CCC’s Vietnamese charity, Children of Vietnam. Their tin-roofed plastic bag-sided house was torn down to make way for a solid cement structure in which the family’s children can safely live.
- War Kids Relief, CCC’s in-house Iraq program, has recruited 100 kids in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Minnesota to participate in a three-month peace-building cultural exchange with kids in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Suleimanya. This first of its kind pilot program will expand in 2009 to help over 4,500 children in both countries work together to build a foundation for a sustainable peace.
- 16-year old Sara organized a bracelet-making party with her classmates to make friendship bracelets for kids in CCC’s Peruvian charity, Angels of the Amazon. Their goal was to let the Peruvian children know that American kids are interested in their lives and want to be friends with them. They also had a good opportunity to practice their Spanish while writing messages of friendship on a tag on each bracelet that CCC sent down to the Peru charity to distribute.
- A 5th grade Minnesota class is beginning a peace-building cultural exchange with a group of impoverished Roma children who suffer from ethnic discrimination served through CCC’s Bulgarian charity, Orphan Sponsorship Intl. After learning how these Roma children have suffered from generations of ethnic discrimination throughout Europe, the American students will reach out to them in friendship through letters, artwork, and video lessons teaching one another about their respective cultures.
- The CCC team collected more than $1,200 worth of gently used Christmas ornaments to donate to Maria’s Children, CCC’s Russian charity, for the December opening of that group’s new thrift shop. Money generated through the resale of these items will be used for food programs serving the Russian orphans.
- In Washington, D.C., kids at an inner-city youth center are participating in a cultural exchange with AIDS orphans in CCC’s Kenyan charity, Nyumbani Children’s Home. This four-month exchange includes making scrapbooks for one another and will culminate with the D.C. kids organizing a fundraiser to support the educational needs of their new Kenyan friends.
- CCC board members took 26 teenage girls from ASHA, CCC’s Indian charity, on a five-day adventure outside the Pune slums they live in to inspire them to stay in or return to school by showing them the possibilities of their lives. Since that week, an education fund has been set up to provide financial assistance for the many girls who now have returned to school and break the cycle of poverty they live in.
- CCC launched its first yearlong school-to-school pen pal/cultural exchange project connecting students from an all-Caucasian school in rural Minnesota with an inner-city, highly diverse St. Paul public school class that includes African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students, as well as new immigrant students from Cambodia, Liberia, Burma, Somalia, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Laos. Each child has been matched with a pen pal from the other school, and teachers on both sides report being surprised at how quickly both classes have come to love and respect one another. Their yearlong exchange will culminate in a joint field trip to the Minnesota History Museum.
Children’s Culture Connection is a nonprofit organization that helps children (and adults!) discover the richness of the world’s many cultures with the goal of making connections with, and raising money for, at-risk children throughout the world.
(Thanks to Kelli Bickman for submitting the story! … Her mom works with the group.)
Angel of Lights – photo by John Stone, eyeclectic.net