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Four Activities to Teach Your Children About Poverty This Summer

Get ready for a special summer with these four activities that will help you teach your children that will grow you closer as a family and cultivate hearts of empathy within your children.

See: Read a beautifully-illustrated picture book that is a window to others’ lives. 

Reading books won’t give you superpowers, but they do open a child’s mind to the perspectives of people who are often ignored or silenced. Not only does reading with your child over the summer prevent them from losing what they learned in the school year, but studies also suggest that reading can reduce adult stress more effectively than listening to music or taking a walk.

Here are some suggestions of books to read with your children this summer!

  • Try Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya and L.C. Wheatley. The book adapts Malala Yousafzai’s own words to tell the story of how a young girl in Pakistan stood up for the right of girls to attend school.
  • Or read One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon. You might think of plastic bags as cheap. But in some parts of the world, they pile up. They hold water that is a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Buried bags ruin soil for nutritious gardens. The plastic chokes livestock that could be a family’s sole source of income. Isatou Ceesay is a woman who transformed her community as she innovated and found ways to recycle bags and make a difference.
  • If you want to learn more about people and ideas that have informed Food for the Hungry’s work with those in poverty, choose Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank. Your children will learn about a man who wanted to make a difference in the world from an early age…and how he eventually helped spread the concept of microlending: small loans to the very poor that help them start businesses and change their own lives.

Read with your child this summer and participate in a shared story of creation, brokenness, and redemption that is occurring now and forever throughout everywhere in the world.

Taste: Cook a simple meal and give what you would have spent on food to the church or an organization.

Rice and beans are inexpensive yet nutritious. And the world consumed around 477.77 million tons of rice from 2016 to 2017. Billions of people, many of them in the poorest parts of the world, eat rice every day. NPR has pointed out that rice and beans have a relationship that goes way back and can be traced to the corners of the earth–from Brazil to West Africa. Now, rice and beans are a staple in many parts of the world.

Even in the United States, 41 million people struggled with hunger in 2016. And yet Americans waste a disgusting amount of food. Around $160 billion of produce, or 50% of all produce in the United States, is thrown away every year

This summer, try using food to nourish your child’s appetite and heart for others. Eat a meal as simple as rice and beans. Spend an evening talking with your children about poverty and hunger, and how important it is that children just like them around the world have the nutritious food they need to grow up to be strong!

Need help to get started? Pinterest has awesome rice and bean recipes to get you going!

Then thank the Lord for providing food (Psalm 136:25) and give the money you might have spent on a different kind of meal to your church or a non-profit organization that helps the poor in your community.

Touch: Garden and practice gratitude.

Around two billion people in the world live on family farms or make their living as agriculture workers, fishers, herders, or in another agriculture-related occupation. And as the poet-philosopher Wendell Berry wrote, even “eating is an agricultural act.” While many Americans now live in air-conditioned buildings and walk on concrete sidewalks, there are a multitude of mental and physical health benefits to spending this summer gardening with your children.

Go outside! Practice gratitude for God’s mercy in giving harvest. Dig your hands into soil and reconnect with ancient earth from which we were made and to which humanity will return (Genesis 3:19, Ecclesiastes 3:20). Garden with your children this summer.

Resist the impulse that arises from 21st century American life to live like a machine. Instead, determine to live as part of God’s creation and engage with the natural world. P.S. This is an awesome opportunity to teach your children about stewardship! 

Hear: Work and listen to cultivate community. 

For children and adults, summer can be one of two things. It can be a frantic flurry of activity bouncing from summer camp to swimming lessons to family vacations. It can also turn into days of boredom, mischief-making, and Netflix binge-watching. This summer, resist both. Nancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth, writes, “The ideal human existence is not eternal leisure or an endless vacation…but creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others.”

Take summer as an opportunity to engage your children in productive, creative, and relational activities that benefit them and others. In doing so, teach them service. And offer them the opportunity to learn from others of different ages and life experiences. These kinds of habits take effort, but the community you create is rewarding. 

Not sure where to start? 

  • Find your local United Way and connect with organizations near you!
  • Youth Service America can connect your children to opportunities for all ages.
  • Think about leading your church in a partnership with Food for the Hungry (FH).
  • Ask your church leaders about opportunities for families to serve together in your community.
  • Sponsor a child as a family and give your child the chance to connect with a child and family in another country.
  • Involve your children in cooking and hosting a meal with someone from your church, work, or neighborhood. Find someone you don’t know very well and demonstrate to your children the value of welcoming strangers. Enjoy practicing hospitality together.