There are few things more rewarding than giving back. In our family volunteering and helping others is a high priority. In an effort to help you get involved in this year’s International Day of Charity, we are highlighting some of the charities we have had the honor of working with.  

Over the years I have had the opportunity to volunteer with my kids, support organizations from afar, and host charity events. Any day is a good day to give back, but one of the best days is International Charity Day. Here’s everything you need to know to participate and a list of some of my favorite organizations.

When is the International Day of Charity?

Back in 2012, the United Nations declared September 5 as the International Day of Charity.  They choose September 5  to commemorate the anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1979 “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace.”

What is the purpose of International Day of Charity?

The purpose of International Day of Charity is raising awareness and encouraging others to join in acts of service whether on a small or large scale. 

How can you participate in International Day of Charity?

It’s easy to participate! You can donate money or items to a local charity such as a food bank. You can volunteer to work for an organization either somewhere near you like a soup kitchen or even when you are on vacation.

Charities you can donate to:

Toto Care Box

Toto Care Box

Toto Care Box

Toto Care Box is one of my favorite charities. They exist to protect, preserve and promote the health and well-being of newborns in their first 28 days of life. A small $33 donation provides a pregnant mother in Kenya with education and a Toto Care Box. Inside the box they receive items they will need, including a Treated Mosquito Net, DTS-Z kit to aid in dealing with gastroenteritis & dehydration, Aqua guard to ensure access to clean water, & more. The box also converts into a bed, complete with mattress and blanket. It can be a bit difficult to donate to this organization so I partnered with my friend at the Tin Roof Society to simplify the process. You can donate here.

Wakami Global

Wakami Global is an ethical lifestyle brand that creates jobs for poverty areas. Most of their handmade accessories are created by women living in rural Guatemala. These products provide jobs to women who typically would not have the opportunity to support their families. All the bracelets Eden and I are wearing pictured below are handmade by the Wakami women in Guatemala. This is a super simple way to help women in Guatemala. Use Code: MOMMYTRAVELS at checkout to save 10% off your order.

Wakami Global

Eden and I wearing our Wakami Global bracelets. | Photo by Meagan Wristen

Open Arms International

Open Arms International exists to provide HOPE to Kenyan children who have been abandoned or orphaned by providing safe homes, education, and community development. You can send a Bee Well kit with vitamins, socks, and other necessities to a child in need or donate supplies to fill the kits. There are opportunities to volunteer year-round or for special events, or even visit the Open Arms Village as part of an outreach team. You can also simply make a one-time or recurring donation or even non-cash options to support these initiatives.

Open Arms

Open Arms Village

Organizations that need volunteers:

STEM Like a Girl

STEM Like a Girl aims to inspire girls to develop interest and confidence in STEM through hands-on activities, parent engagement, and positive female role models. The goal is to use a combination of girls, parents, and mentors to build confidence in young girls which could lead to a future in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) related fields. Exposure to activities and mentors at a young age can break the barriers that typically hold young girls back from developing an interest in science and engineering. Girls in grades 4-6 can attend a workshop with their parent (or adult caregiver) where they have hands-on activities, learn about the design process, and are also taught how failure can be a good thing. Scholarships are available and you can donate to support low-income families.

Zonta

Zonta International is a worldwide service organization with a mission to empower women by advancing women through service, grants, and scholastic awards. Local clubs perform hands-on service and raise funds, with many helping local domestic violence shelters, advocating for women’s issues and encouraging young women and girls to participate in leadership opportunities. An ongoing project of Zonta International is the “Zonta Says No” campaign to end violence against women. 

2D4D

2D4D Event

2D4D

2D4D is a local community based program in Portland, Oregon sponsored by Fractured Atlas. 2D4D aims to support and advocate for artists and arts-leaders working in the 2D (2-dimensional) and 4D (4-dimensional/time-based) fields. The organization provides low cost classes, workshops and events to the local region, encouraging diversity and creative expression. Participating in one of the community based events enables you to see the artists in action and participate in the activity hands-on. You can donate to 2D4D or join a community event and donate on-site.

Ways to Volunteer When Traveling with Kids

Have you ever seen one of those heartwarming stories on the news where someone is off helping others in a faraway land, only to wish you could do the same? Not only can you do the same, but it’s also fairly easy. As the kids and I have traveled the world, we have found some neat opportunities to volunteer in schools, orphanages, and communities. There are opportunities all around you to give back and do good while traveling. Plus, your kids might be able to earn volunteer hours for college applications or National Honor Society. Here are some ways I recommend incorporating voluntarism into trips with kids.Earning-volunteer-credit with the Sandals Foundation

Work in an Orphanage

Sadly, there are still lots of countries that have orphanages. Often times in third world countries the parents simply cannot provide for a child adequately, and they end up placing their child into an orphanage to ensure they are fed and cared for. One country where you see this a lot is Honduras. While we were in Honduras we found a local orphanage nearby and arranged to help out. Helping out can mean a lot of different things. Here are some ways you can help at an orphanage.
 
Provide a meal
 
We had the opportunity to help provide a meal for the children. The orphanage we were at had no running water and no electricity. We made the meal where we were staying and then took it over. Keep the meal simple, but make sure it also has high protein. Bring everything you need to serve it and pass it out. 


Passing out clothes at an orphanage

Provide clothes
 
You can buy clothes to hand out or bring used clothes. It’s not a huge deal if the clothing is used or not. Any effort is appreciated. Going in, I didn’t know what to expect, so I brought a suitcase filled with my kids hand me down clothes. I can almost guarantee you that your hand-me-downs are better than what they already have, so just bring what you can. (During your visit you will probably want to give them everything you have on you including your shoes. This is a normal feeling.)
 
Keep in mind that some of the kids will be the size of adults and are often left out. Try to bring clothes for the older kids too. When we visited an orphanage in Sri Lanka we were the only ones that thought to bring bigger clothes. If possible find out ahead of time the ages or sizes of some of the kids. 
 
Play with them
 
They are kids, after all, and kids like to have fun. You can bring soccer balls or other toys and plan on leaving them there with the kids when you are finished playing the game. If the place you are visiting is hot like Honduras, fill up a bunch of water balloons and have a water balloon fight.
 
One thing to keep in mind when giving out stuff at orphanages, based on our experience, is that the owners will sell whatever they can. Expect this and don’t get upset when you come back in a few days and everything you gave them is gone.
 
Also, sometimes they will not let you interact with the kids. If this is the case you will be happy you at least had some stuff to drop off. We visited an orphanage in Sri Lanka that for whatever reason didn’t want us to stay. So we dropped off the stuff we brought and left. We have no clue as to why we didn’t get to hang out with the kids. 
 
There are several ways to find an orphanage to volunteer at. You can ask a church, do a quick Google search, or contact a nonprofit doing work in that country.

Work in a SchoolVisiting a school with the Sandals Foundation

This one can be a little difficult to pull off but it is possible. There are hotel chains like Beaches/Sandals that provide opportunities to do volunteer work in schools. We were lucky enough to participate in several of the Sandals programs. One of them was a “Reading Road Trip” with the Sandals Foundation in Jamaica. During this experience, we read to and worked on reading with Jamaican school children. The other opportunity was “Pack for a Purpose” in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos where we brought school supplies with us that were donated to area schools.

Provide school supplies

You probably bought too many school supplies during the back-to-school season and need to get rid of them anyway. If you are visiting an area where students could benefit from some of these extra school supplies, bring them with you!

Volunteer your time

Find out if any of the local schools will allow you to do volunteer work. You can work in a classroom and give a child or two some one-on-one attention. If you are traveling to an English-speaking country, or a country that teaches English, you could offer some of your time to help with reading.

Recognize Small Opportunities

Sometimes, opportunities will present themselves to you.

Pack items to hand out

After our time in Honduras, I started packing a little differently. Depending on where we are headed, I will pack a few extra pairs of shoes to give out to children we come across that don’t appear to have any. Although passing out shoes may sound expensive, you will often find that a pair of flip flops is better than nothing, and kid’s flip flops can be surprisingly cheap! I will also pack clothes that the kids have almost outgrown, so at the end of the trip we can give the clothes away instead of bringing them home with us. If you do not come across someone to give these items to during your trip, leave them with your hotel’s staff. I guarantee they know someone who could use the items.

Carry small amounts of change

If you are in a 3rd world country, it is likely that you will be approached by children. Plan ahead of time by having a buck or two that you can give them. There will be more than one child, and although you may not be able to help them all, you can easily help out a handful. If you are approached while having a meal, offer to buy the child a meal instead. Almost every time we’ve offered this, they have said yes.

Do Construction

Once your kids are older, you can all work together by providing manual labor. This may sound crazy, but oftentimes lending muscles can get a lot done. I have torn down dangerous buildings, remodeled others, and helped out with the odds and ends that took little to no skills. These are all things that teenagers can do as well. Again, if you can connect with a church doing work in a certain area they will probably have something for you to do. Manpower goes a long way in certain circumstances. 

Conclusion

There are so many wonderful organizations all around the world supporting a variety of different causes. This list could easily go on. Make a difference this year on the International Day of Charity and donate your hand- on services or monetary donations. If not the International Day of Charity, any day is a good day to give back to the world and to the people around you. A little goes a long way.