In his book Doing Good Is Simple, Chris Marlow issues a profound four words of motivation:
“Get in the boat.”
Marlow is a North Carolina pastor who started a worldwide ministry after coming home from a “mission trip” and seeing starving orphans on the streets of Zimbabwe that he had absolutely no way to help. Ten years later, his ministry, Help One Now, provides homes, meals, school, and sex trafficking rescue to children in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and four countries in Africa.
The point and purpose of Marlow’s 2016 book about his own journey from cushy church job to nonprofit orphan care is that every single one of us can make a difference for vulnerable children right where we are.
We don’t need to become missionaries, or even go on a weeklong service trip to a third world county. We don’t need to start a nonprofit, move to an inner city, or volunteer every week at our local soup kitchen.
We simply need to be intentional: to pick a cause or charity and support it regularly and wholeheartedly. It isn’t about the size of what we do; it’s about the commitment to what we do.
The key is to not pick something that overwhelms you. You can give to or volunteer with a child-relief organization just once a year if that’s all you feel capable of doing. Just do it every single year. The repeated investment of your time or money binds your heart to the cause. And that, in turn, helps you share the importance of it with others who may join you and do the same.
Consider some statistics about vulnerable children:
- Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually. (National Children’s Alliance)
- About 15 million children in the United States—21% of all children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. (National Center for Children in Poverty)
- An estimated 150 million children worldwide have no parents. (Unicef)
- An estimated 5.5 million children around the world are currently being trafficked, the majority for sex and pornography, but also for sweatshop work and armed forces. (Unicef)
There are thousands of nonprofit organizations and millions of needs among vulnerable children globally. It’s heartbreaking, and the scope can paralyze us. I remember the first time I received a list of children in my small county who needed a Guardian ad Litem after being removed from their homes for abuse and neglect; the stories were so horrendous that I couldn’t move for an hour.
So, yes, if you are new to giving regularly, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. After all, what difference can one backpack or one $100 donation do to change any of these massive horrors that little children suffer through every single day?
The truth is that if you help just one child, you have made a difference. So it doesn’t matter where you start…as long as you start.
To help you, below are a few charities I have supported regularly and know to be honest and trustworthy:
- Several nonprofits allow you to give monthly to make sure a single child has safe shelter, meals, and often an education as well. Put the commitment on your credit card—you will never miss a contribution, and it usually isn’t more than the cost of a few gourmet coffees. Among my favorites are World Vision, Mission of Hope Haiti, and Save the Children.
- These same organizations help children when there is a very specific need, such as during an ongoing famine or in a war zone like Syria. When you find one you like, get on their email list so you can donate quickly online when a serious need arises. It literally takes five minutes. Another one that does this expertly in countries throughout the world, and every state of America, is Samaritan’s Purse.
- Find a local backpack drive—or call your neighborhood elementary school for the grade and gender of a needy child—and buy and fill a backpack with supplies before the school year starts. I helped deliver 60 stuffed backpacks to a school in my neighborhood this year, and the teachers were overwhelmed with gratitude on behalf of little tykes who would have shown up on day one (and subsequent days) with nothing but a pencil or two.
- Call your local food bank and ask what nonperishables for children they run out of the most. Stock them up right before the school year ends—these children get free or reduced-fee lunches at school but often go hungry during the summer. You don’t have to buy everything on the list—pick one or two items and buy them in cases at a big box store like Costco or when they go on sale at Target.
- Most of us have garage sales. Then we spend the few bucks we make on the same type of stuff we just sold for pennies. Instead, have an annual charity garage sale (invite your friends and neighbors to join you) and give the money to a targeted local charity or global cause that helps children.
- An organization called Lifeline Children’s Services has a really cool program. They provide everything your kids need to set up a Stand for Kids lemonade stand and raise money to support foster care and adoption. It’s a Christian organization, but anyone can help and they offer a fun way for kids with loving parents to help those who don’t have any. I know a little boy who was allowed by a local business to set up his stand by their front door on a Saturday morning! Other friends have helped their kids run their stand at a busy intersection in their neighborhoods.
- Buy Chris Marlow’s book, Doing Good is Simple, on Amazon. Proceeds from the sale of the book to date have funded more than 70,000 meals for kids in need.
- If you have the time, volunteer weekly or monthly to mentor kids at a Boys and Girls Club or tutor them at a local school, or support foster children as a Guardian ad Litem court advocate.
Each of us can help. Each of us can make a difference. It might not always be easy, but it’s simple.
You’ll also like Honduran Soles: Giving the Gift of Hope in the Form of Shoes, Why It’s So Important to Have a Mentor and to Be One Too, Three Cords Haiti: Life Transformation For At-Risk Women, Want to Help Foster Kids? How to Become an Advocate, and 7 Brands That Are Helping Women Around the World.