Archive for the ‘52 Weeks of Giving’ Category

For Week 26 of the 52 Weeks of Giving challenge, the girls cleaned along the road and in the ditch right by our home.  They found a coffee cup, pop cans, small pieces of paper and garbage, firecracker debris, and a small piece of plastic tubing.

Sophia found perhaps the largest and most unexpected piece of garbage along the road: a piece of metal siding slightly buried under the tall grass and tiger lilies.

Sophia found and uncovered this piece of siding
along the side of the road.

With the exception of the huge piece of siding, the ditch and side of the road were not as littered as anticipated which was good. We were happy that the wildlife that lives here has a clean environment in which to make their home.


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We fell a bit behind with doing a project or activity each week that involved giving of oneself, volunteering, or making a donation.

When we started this challenge at the beginning of the year, we were able to do an activity each week. At the end of June, we fell a bit behind so we are doing some “catch up” with this challenge.

For the 25th week of the 52 Weeks of Giving, the girls each wrote a note to an adult who has positively impacted their lives in some way.

Sophia writing a note to Rosanne.
Sophia wrote a note to Rosanne, a woman who was her Hidden Hero during the past school year. Rosanne was matched with Sophia in November 2010. Rosanne mailed and emailed her letters and gifts each month. This program was through the Youth Service Bureau and targets youth who may be going through a challenging time in their life.
Every time that Rosanne would write, Sophia was so excited to hear from her. The encouragement she received from an adult who was not a family member was so uplifting and made such a positive difference to Sophia. 
Olivia chose to write to Mr. Neil (Neil is is first name). He has given Olivia and Sophia a lot of guidance and encouragement through the children’s choir. As the choir director, he has chosen a variety of songs that the children have been performed at church and nursing homes.
He also was the director for the first community play that Olivia did; and Neil gave Olivia an opportunity to memorize 50 lines – plus participate in a number of songs – when she was 6 years old.
She is looking forward to going back to choir in September, and wanted to let him know that.
Olivia writing a letter to Mr. Neil.

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For the 24th week of giving, Sophia and Olivia picked out and sent books to Books For Africa.  According to the Books For Africa website:

“…We believe that education is the great equalizer in the world, and books are at the foundation of a strong educational system. For many children in Africa, the gift of books truly is a gift of hope.

“Access to an education is one of the only opportunities young people have to end the cycle of poverty and attain a better quality of life than previous generations. Books For Africa works to help children who otherwise would not attend school by supplying educational materials to reduce or eliminate education costs.

“Wars, economic crises, poverty, malnutrition, and illiteracy plague many areas of Africa. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 40 percent of school-age children in Africa do not attend school. Forty-six million African children have never set foot in a classroom.

“Most African children who attend school have never owned a book of their own. In many classrooms, 10-20 students share one textbook. Many people in the United States take these educational necessities for granted, but children in Africa cherish books.

“Books For Africa supplies sea containers of books to rural school libraries, orphanages, adult literacy programs, and community resource centers. Books For Africa strives to help create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.”

After learning about Books For Africa, the girls picked out some books that they wanted to send the children. 

Sophia and Olivia packaging books
they want to donate to Books For Africa. 
They had picked more books to donate, but
they were copyrighted more than 15 years ago. 
It’s too bad…many of the older, classic books that the girls have enjoyed
have such wonderful stories and lessons.

They needed to follow these guidelines about books that Books For Africa accepts:

•15 years old or newer popular fiction and nonfiction reading books (soft and hard cover).
•1995 or newer publish date primary, secondary, and college textbooks (soft and hard cover).
•1995 or newer reference books such as encyclopedias and dictionaries.
•1995 or newer publish date medical, nursing, IT, and law books.
•Bibles are sent when requested by African recipients.
•School/office supplies—paper, pencils, pens, wall charts, maps, etc.

Acceptable books are gently used and relevant to an African reader.

Books For Africa does NOT accept:

•Magazines or journals or any kind.
•Home decorating, wedding, or cookbooks.
•Ethnocentric books, such as the biography of Abraham Lincoln or the history of Ohio.
•Foreign language books except for French books. French novels and dictionaries are welcome.
•American history or civics.
•Music books for K–12.

The girls put the books in a box and did not include any packing materials such as newspaper, plastic wrap, and peanuts (as requested by Books For Africa).

They mailed them to:

Books For Africa
715 Minnehaha Avenue East

St Paul, MN 55130
There also is an address in Georgia that accepts books.  People can drop off books in person if they don’t want to mail them. 

There are more details about shipping or dropping off books at their website.

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Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter —
to all these music gives voice,
but in such a way that we are
transported from the world of unrest
to a world of peace, and
see reality in a new way,
as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and
contemplating hills and woods and
clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water.
~ Albert Schweitzer

For the 23rd week of the 52 Weeks of Giving, the girls played music for their grandparents for their 47th wedding anniversary which is on June 13th.  The girls played music on the harp and piano before we took them out.  (After listening to music for a short time, we drove them to diferent areas of the city with which they were familiar and brought back lot of memories; went out to eat and enjoyed being outdoors for a meal; and visited Minnehaha Falls.)

Sophia playing music for her grandparents.
Olivia was holding music when Sophia
didn’t yet know it from memory.

As Albert Schweitzer noted above, music has many benefits.  After listening to Sophia play the harp, Nana (Sophia’s grandma) said that the music was “beautiful” and that it was “so relaxing to listen to.” She said she could listen to the music all day. 

In doing a quick search on the internet about the benefits of live harp music, some benefits were noted repeatedly on different sites.  Harp music can:

– lower blood pressure,
– decrease the heart rate, and
– increase the oxygenation levels.

Seniors, specifically, benefit greatly from harp music.  Listening to live harp music can:
– Bring about better awareness and concentration
– Enhance interest levels and social interaction
– Improve memory and recall
– Help create a better outlook on life and higher self-esteem
– Increase mobility and coordination
– Diminish pain and improve recovery time
– Reduce tension and promote relaxation

After Sophia was done playing, her grandma said her favorite part was when all the strings were played in a row (this is called a glissando).  So, Sophia brought over the harp to Nana and said, “Would you like to play it?” 

“I don’t know how to,” she said.

“Here…put your fingers here and then do this,” Sophia held her grandma’s fingers as she slid them down the strings.  After that, she continued playing the harp by pulling at some of the strings and moving her hands along the strings. 

“I could just listen to the harp all day long,” she said.

Then it was Papa’s turn (Sophia’s and Olivia’s grandfather).  “You want to try, Papa?”  Having Alzheimer’s Disease affected his ability to comprehend what she was asking and hoping for. 

“Dad, put your fingers on the strings here,” I said. He grabbed the longest string with his entire hand.  I loosened his grip and gently placed his fingers on the strings.  “Like this…” I showed him.

“Just gentle, Papa,” Sophia said as I pulled his fingers along the strings.  I let go of his fingers and he continued playing for a bit longer.

“I use to do this,” he said.  Knowing that he never played the harp, but he did play the piano and organ, I realized it had brought back memories of him playing an instrument when he was younger and before he had Alzheimer’s Disease.

For my parents (the girls’ grandparents…Papa and Nana), this short time with music touched several senses:  the sense of hearing, touch, and sight, with the first two having the greatest impact. 

This is something that the girls and I plan to continue doing – not each time we visit them, but frequently enough so that the benefits of listening to live music can be shared with them.

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Both the girls wear glasses, so they know how important it is to have a pair of glasses that can help them see things more clearly. 

So, for the 22nd week of the 52 Weeks of Giving challenge, the girls donated glasses that we no longer wear to New Eyes for the NeedyAccording to New Eyes for the Needy’s website, “The cost of eyeglasses in many developing nations is equivalent to a year’s salary.”

Thanks to organizations like New Eyes for the Needy, last year alone, 5,167 individuals in need who were living in the U.S. and 161,000 people in developing nations were given the gift of clear vision. As the New Eyes for the Needy website says, they work toward “Bringing Vision to the U.S. and the world.”

We found three pairs of glasses which will be recycled by New Eyes for the Needy; and used by those in need.

Olivia cleaning a pair of glasses
before shipping them New Eyes for the Needy.

If you also would like to help, mail or ship your contribution to New Eyes for the Needy in a padded envelope or box using the least expensive method of shipping (the cost of shipping is tax-deductible) to:

New Eyes for the Needy
549 Millburn Avenue
P.O. Box 332
Short Hills, NJ 07078

Make sure you put your name and return address (with zip code) inside the envelope so the organization can thank you.  More information on shipping can be found on the New Eyes for the Needy website.

The girls worked together to seal the box that held
their donation of three pairs of glasses.

If you don’t have glasses to donate, New Eyes for the Needy also accepts cash donations ($60 purchases a pair of glasses for an individuals in need in the U.S.) as well as donations of a variety of items which they sell and use the proceeds to buy glasses for U.S. residents. 

Here’s the link more information about what they are looking. This is a great way to get rid of items you no longer want/need that someone else will buy and reuse. Not only are you helping others see, but you are helping the environment.

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Sophia and Olivia watched a DVD about a remote village in Sierra Leone, Africa, that was greatly affected by the civil war there.

(The Sierra Leone Civil War began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Momoh government, sparking a gruesome 11-year civil war that enveloped the country and left over 50,000 dead.)

The people who are still there live in extreme poverty with no running water or bathrooms.  Many of the key buildings – like the school and community center – remain damaged.  Homes provide shelter from the sun, but are sparse and challenging in terms of comfort and security.

We became aware of this village because one of the people who grew up there married a family friend.  Instead of asking for wedding gifts, they asked for gifts to the village where the husband grew up and where they regularly send containers of clothing and other necessities. 

The girls went through their clothes after watching the video, and they selected some items that they thought would be most appropriate for the hot climate there. 

Grouping clothes by type (e.g., shirts, dresses, shorts).

They sent t-shirts, shorts, dresses, and some very light sweaters (just in case it got a bit chilly ever or someone wasn’t feeling well and they needed to stay a little warmer).

Items Donated:
Skirts – 4
Shirts – 16
Socks – 1 pair
Shorts – 2
Dresses – 3
Sweaters – 2

Folding the clothes and putting them in a box to ship.

For the clothes that they wanted to donate, but were too warm for the African climate, we set aside and then donated them to Goodwill.

Goodwill has 165 independent, community-based organizations in the United States and Canada that offer customized job training, employment placement, and other services to people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.

After watching the video, Sophia wanted to know if it was possible to go over and help.  Traveling overseas to volunteer would be more appropriate when the girls are older, and that would be something that would be wonderful to do.

There have been several times during the past few months that she has asked if she could travel somewhere and help. She first expressed interest in helping the Blackfeet people of Montana after reading about them in one of her books through the Sonlight curriculum this year that focused quite a bit on Native Americans.  We found an organization, Global Volunteers, that hosts volunteer trips to Montana to help the Blackfeet people; and would like to go there at some point.

So, after 21 weeks of doing the 52 Weeks of Giving project, the girls are actively seeking out and thinking of ways that they can help.

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This week Sophia and Olivia continued with their 52 Weeks of Giving project by volunteering at a a local clothing giveaway.  Throughout the year, Lakes Free Church accepts clothing for its Sharing Shop.  Clothes are sorted and available by season either by appointment or at community events held at the church.

For volunteering, the girls brought clothes to tables that were set up for different sizes (e.g., girls 0-12 months, boys 3-5T, mens L, womens M, household items). 

Olivia folding clothes.

At the tables, they folded the clothes and arranged them into different groups (e.g., shirts, shorts, pants, jeans, pajamas, socks).

Sophia folding clothes.

The girls were asked by the Sharing Shop’s coordinator to arrange all the shoes, boots, and slippers on the shelves.  They divided them into four groups: girls, womens, boys, and men.  By the time they were done, all the shelves were filled with footwear.

Sophia and Olivia placing shoes, boots, and slippers
on the racks.  The shelves were full by the time they were done.
One of the benefits of volunteering is that after everything is set up, everyone can take a grocery bag and choose items they need.  If you need more or are picking items for others, extra bags are only $1. 
The clothing giveaways are open to the public and there are always lines of people waiting to get in – especially on the first morning.  In addition to gently used clothes, families with small children are asked if they need new socks and/or underwear.  These are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
This is such a valuable and needed program for the community.  As prices for food and gasoline continue to rise, money that is available for clothing and other household items are often greatly reduced.  Clothing giveaways, such as the one offered by Lakes Free Church, are invaluable to individuals and families trying to make ends meet.  

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