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This coming weekend I am opening a new chapter in my young daughter's life. Olivia, 5, and I will be reading 50 books together in hope of raising at least $100 for the victims of the south Asian tsunami. The read-a-thon will take us about three to four hours and I am hoping that it will plant a seed of social responsibility in Olivia that will flourish as she grows.
The idea of getting Olivia involved in raising money for the relief effort came to me as I was listening to coverage of the tragedy on the radio over the holidays. My husband and I had already made a donation to Oxfam but I was struck by a young boy (Unicef Canada's youth spokesperson) urging children to raise money. This child's conviction -- his belief that young people could make a positive difference in the world and bring about change -- touched me deeply and I began to think of ways I could help Olivia fundraise.
As I mulled over the concept I immediately realized I didn't want to canvas our neighbours. Olivia is somewhat shy, and I would end up doing all the talking. I wanted to come up with an idea that involved Olivia giving up something and learning from the experience. If it was nicer weather, we may have had a toy sale on our front lawn. But since the grass is buried in snow and neighbours don't venture far outdoors, that wasn't an option.
Then the idea of a read-a-thon came to me. Olivia would have to give up some play time to read with with me and we could ask people to pledge us for each book we read. I decided we would read 50 books and ask for donations of $2 per person, which seemed reasonable, as did finding 50 friends, relatives and co-workers to contribute.
I explained my idea to Olivia after dinner one night, showing her where the storm had struck on her new globe. We also talked about how her many classmates from India and Nepal hailed from areas near where the tsunami struck. Then I talked about how we could raise $100 by reading 50 books and the money would help buy clean water and medicine for those who were hurt and had lost their homes in the disaster.
To my disappointment, Olivia was not very keen about the read-a-thon idea. She told me that she would think about it and asked for a chocolate pudding for dessert. The exchange that followed was not my proudest parenting moment. "How can you ask for pudding when you aren't even sure if you want to read books to raise money for so many kids that don't even have safe water to drink?" I blurted out. Olivia hung her head and ran up to her bedroom.
That experience taught me a lot. When I went upstairs to comfort my daughter I realized she was overwhelmed at the thought of reading, yes reading, 50 books; especially when -- as she pointed out -- she wasn't even able to read one whole book on her own yet. Good point; I should have been clearer! When I explained to Olivia that I would read the books to her but she would have to give up three to four hours of playtime to read with me, she was on board.
So far, after talking to family and my co-workers, as well as posting a sign at Olivia's school, we have raised about $75 in pledges. I am confident we will meet our $100 goal. Half of the money will go to Unicef Canada (Olivia's Toronto public school is partnering with that group) and the other half will go to Free the Children, as Canadian Living is partnering with its founders on their latest social initiative, the Me to We philosophy.
I will keep you posted on our final tally! Best wishes in instilling a sense of social activism in your child.
Feeling inspired to make a difference of your own? Read our article How to give without being taken to help you avoid tsunami and other fundraising scams.