I love love love charity work! I volunteer when I can, I donate to causes I feel strongly about, and I always try to stand up for what I feel is right. I did what I could growing up, raising money for various causes, helping pass out water at a 5K here and there, sometimes spreading the word about animals at the shelter needing homes. Most things required parent approval and I couldn’t drive myself, so my experience was limited, but my passion was there.
My college experience was jam packed with charity work: I took on a committee role in a charity that raised money for my state’s children’s hospital, and I took on a sub-committee-chair role for my last two years, coordinating event themes and decor and spending my final year building out the charity’s website. It took over my life – in a good way. I was able to help with fundraising for a wonderful cause, and I felt fulfilled in what I was doing.
Since taking on my big-girl job (as I like to call it), which moves me every 6 months, it has become significantly harder to help one cause and channel a lot of energy into it. I mean, I could help one big charity repetitively, like March of Dimes, or Relay for Life, but I will admit to being picky about where I focus my energy. I love to work with charities where I can directly see the impact of my work or can meet the people I help. Financial transparency is also nice if it’s the type of organization where donations are the only way I can assist. I just really like to know that I helped someone in need, and not just an organization’s financial tally. (Note: I’m not saying not to donate/help with large organizations. They need support too! It’s just not my thing.)
My charity work changes cause by cause and project by project as something pops up, but one of the consistent causes I focus on is education: Women/Girls in STEM, Junior Achievement, and Robotics classes are some of my favorite education initiatives, and I do whatever I can to help out when I’m able.
As I mentioned earlier, work moves me quite a bit, but I’m still on a lot of the email lists from the different locations where I’ve worked. An email from the communications team at my last location rolled in about a month ago looking for employees to volunteer to be “Book Bunnies”. The requests were simple, fill a bag with school supplies and include two books for a low-income student in the area. The volunteer could also add something fun to the package, like a stuffed animal. They assigned you a child’s profile where you learned their age and gender in case you wanted to tailor the books to fit their interests and reading level.
I knew immediately that I had to volunteer, even if from afar, because this type of charity is right up my alley: helping low-income kiddos and improving their educational experience in some way. I forwarded the email to a friend who works in the office I left, and asked if I could have the items shipped to her house and have her bring them into work for me. She happily agreed, knowing how important this type of thing is to me.
With that, I hopped right to “Book Bunny” shopping. I was assigned the profile of a 4th Grade girl. I was immediately excited about this a) because I can relate to having been a 4th grade girl, b) the 4th grade reading level gives me a lot more material to choose from than the K-2 category, and c) I can send some encouraging Girl-Power books her way. I’m hoping she can learn from the strong female characters how capable she is, especially in a time when female empowerment is so important at a young age to keep girls interested in subjects that lead to predominantly male-dominated fields (I see you, CompSci).
For the school supplies, I found a relatively cheap lot of supplies for students 3rd-5th grade on Amazon that had pencils, erasers, scissors, and a ruler. That was the easiest part.
For the books, I had a feeling it would require a bit more thought. My initial reaction was to do a Google search for “girl power books 4th grade”, and I found an awesome variety in the search results (A Mighty Girl gives a pretty rockin’ list of books). After a deep dive into the rabbit-hole that is children’s literature, where I read every book synopsis I encountered, I ended up choosing to order Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, because everyone knows and loves Pippi’s carefree and outgoing nature, and The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, about a creative spirit who brings joy to others through growing a rooftop garden. I figured the two books were fun enough to keep a 4th graders attention, but encouraging enough for them to look back on the books as they grow older – I was sure to get the hardback version of the books for this purpose.
The initial volunteer request didn’t state what kind of bag they wanted the books and school supplies to go in, so I splurged a little to make the experience more enjoyable for the girl receiving it and ordered a cheap, but cute backpack (also Amazon – I like my Prime free 2-day shipping a lot, if you haven’t noticed).
The final part of the request was the “fun item”. I broke the rules a little and ordered two. I decided to go with a stuffed horse, so they could have a friend like Pippi does, and I found a really cute sticker book filled with baby animals (who doesn’t like stickers and baby animals?) so once again, like Pippi, they can share their animal pals with friends.
All that was left was to click buy and ship it to my friend to package, label, and drop off. I hated not being able to do it myself, even more, not being able to meet the student who would get the package, but knowing it went to a child in a local school, it felt like a transparent-enough initiative for me to stand behind. It’s a small effort on the part of volunteers (I think I paid maybe $50 for everything) that makes a huge impact on a child. I also am thrilled that this cause adds to their excitement about reading and learning. I hope that excitement can hang on throughout their grade-school and hopefully high school years.
If you want to spread the word about a charity experience, whether it’s volunteering, donation, event coordination, or an advocacy program, feel free to write about it in the comments!