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Have Computer, Will Combat Poverty
Posted on October 15th, 2008

Today is Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty, a day when over 9000 bloggers are devoting their sites to issues of poverty around the world. The goal is to raise awareness, initiate action and shake the web. I thought I’d do my part and focus on some tangible things our kids can do online to help address this important issue.

Poverty is a difficult topic to broach with children. As parents, we want to protect their innocent young minds from these unpleasant realities. But we can’t bury our heads in the sand on this one. The sobering fact is one in six people on this planet live on less than a dollar a day. About 24,000 people die of hunger each day, three quarters of them being children. That’s 18,000 kids – kids just like yours and mine - full of hope and promise that die a painful, senseless death every day because they don’t get enough to eat. Think about that the next time your little one whines for more Goldfish crackers.

Awareness is the first step to solving this problem. With a website called Have Kids Will Travel, it’s not surprising that I’m a big advocate for exploring the globe with children. It opens their eyes and hearts to the diversity in this world and exposes them to ways of life that may not be as comfortable as it is back home. I may pen pieces on family cruises, jaunts to Disneyland and vacations at Caribbean resorts, but I’ve spent more time in the developing world than on luxury leisure holidays. My daughters are exposed to poverty every day living here in Barbados, an island paradise for holiday-makers but a struggling nation for much of local population. We have tangible opportunities to contribute and make a difference in our community on a regular basis.

However, I am aware that taking a family trip to a far-off corner of the earth may not be the most sensitive recommendation on a blog about poverty. Many of us are feeling a little impoverished ourselves these past few weeks as the global economy implodes, and so international travel might not be the most practical priority at this time.

So I’m going to make it easy on you. Here are five fun and easy things you can do with your kids online to help combat poverty without leaving the comfort of your home - without leaving the comfort of your chair, in fact. This is family “activism” that doesn’t entail a lot of “action” (the flick of an index finger at most).

Have the kids practice their mouse skills on The Hunger Site. Simply click on the “Click here to give – it’s FREE” button again and again, and site sponsors will make a donation to organizations that provide cups of staple food to needy people around the world. Even most three year olds can do that! Make it a daily habit.

Get the family involved in a Kiva project. This micro-lending website lets you loan as little as $25 to an entrepreneur in the developing word to help fund their business and give it a chance to succeed. Loans are usually repaid within 6 to 12 months, and through email updates and repayment tracking your can see how the money is making a direct difference in someone’s life. What a cool way to learn about business, geography and math while helping people around the world.

Let your smarty pants play FreeRice, an online quiz game where for every question answered correctly a donation of 20 grains of rice is made to the United Nations World Food Program. This may sound inconsequential but they’ve donated over 46 billion grains of rice since October 2007! Kids and adults can test their knowledge on subjects like vocabulary, geography, art, math and science, exercising their brains and their conscience at the same time.

Set your family computer’s homepage to GoodSearch and use it as your Yahoo-based search tool. As your kid pokes around the web for homework or personal interest, money is earned for whatever charity, school or non-profit organization you designate.

Have your child help dream up your next family holiday by poking around some volunteer vacation sites (okay, I can’t leave that travel thing alone). These kinds of hands-on do-good experiences have such a lasting impact on the lives of participants, it’s hard to know who’s giving to whom.


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