I mentioned the idea of volunteering to the kids a couple of months ago. They seemed interested and have asked me about it a couple of times. After some digging, I discovered that there aren’t many options for young kids to volunteer. The youngest that most organizations will allow is 12 years old. I found one group, started by a kid and run by kids, that allows volunteers from 3 to 19 years old. I Heart Hungry Kids works to fight childhood hunger by providing weekend meals to kids who normally get free breakfast/lunch during the week at school. A lot of times, these children go hungry all weekend. I Heart Hungry Kids packs 2,000 bags every month and then the Lowcountry Food Bank distributes them to area schools. I signed the kids up for their next event, which was this past Sunday.
Everything is run by kids. Kids check you in. Jackson, the founder (age 11), gives a speech and directions. Kids stock the baskets, kids pack the bags, kids check the bags . . . it’s so neat to see it all in action. I included a short video below to just give you an idea of what the event is like.
I’m not quite sure what my expectations were for the event. As a parent, I find that keeping an open mind allows me to enjoy experiences with my children more than if I have a too many (usually lofty) expectations. Here are some of my “take aways” from the event.
- I was so proud of my kids, especially Fleet. They packed tons of bags, probably around 30 each. Fleet didn’t complain one bit and said that he enjoyed the process and wants to do it again. They encourage parents to stand back and let their kids do all the work. I stood there watching them and thinking about what a good thing they were participating in and hoping that some of what they were doing would sink in: see #3 and 4.
- My kids are still kids. Aha moment, right?
- Example 1: As soon as we got in the building, Luke was SOOOO thirsty, he was going to die of thirst right on the spot. Every time Luke packed a bag, he turned around and looked at me with his hands up to his mouth to gesture how thirsty he was. Eventually we had to step out and scoop water out of the bathroom sink with our hands. It turns out that they did have water for after the event but I didn’t know that plus I really thought they could make one hour or I would brought my water bottle in.
- Example 2: After the event, they were both starving. Their words, not mine. We ate a big lunch right before going and I packed some snacks because I wasn’t sure if they would have any. Thank goodness there were snacks or they might have passed out from starvation on the way to the car, ha! They both declared that they really needed a snack after all that hard work and I had to agree, they did work hard. But starving? . . . not even close.
- My hope in participating in this event was that it would begin to harness a giving and compassionate spirit by bringing awareness to the social issues of the world. I hoped that my kids might be able to look outside of their worlds and begin to see life through another’s eyes. These are lofty expectations of a 6 and 5 year old . . . but I did say “begin” and I think that was accomplished.
- I think that the truly crazy, insane part of me thought that my kids might realize how lucky they are to get three meals a day and snacks when they are hungry. Maybe they would say, “thank you” and ask thoughtful questions and we would have a deep and meaningful conversation. And you know, my kids are wonderful people. They amaze me daily with their generosity, compassion and thoughtfulness. But they are young and fortunately, they haven’t known true hunger. I hope that one day, they will have compassion for those less fortunate and that they will love their fellow man . . . which feels like something we could all use a little more of these days.
I Heart Hungry Kids will host their next event in February. They haven’t announced the exact date yet. Click the logo below to link to their website and join their mailing list. They hope for around 180 kid volunteers to pack 2,000 bags. Each bag packed contained 2 boxes of cereal, carrots, canned fruit, chef-boyardee, 2 cartons of milk, pudding and a granola bar. It costs about $5 per bag so they are always looking for donations.