Guest Post: Families hanging out for the homeless

This post written by Amanda Miller, Advisory Board Member, Kids in Philanthropy.

Together with a number of other like-minded families, our family has been involved in starting Kids in Philanthropy, an organisation that aims to build social conscience, empathy and a practice of giving and changemaking, in kids for kids. It does this by engaging children and their families in meaningful opportunities to learn, grow, develop and harness their giving and doing power. At the same time, KIP is focussed on addressing the significant disadvantage in many Australian communities that continues to result in increasingly negative outcomes for families and children in particular.

At a time where everything moves at such a fast pace, where we are all so busy and where our kids are growing up in an age of instant gratification, we thought it was important to sit back, contemplate the state of the world around us, and do what we could to provide our kids with the empathy, inspiration, passion, knowledge and skills to be changemakers, and to give back to their own communities. So how do we do this? We provide opportunities for families to share experiences in how to make the world a better place.

At a time where [...] our kids are growing up in an age of instant gratification, we thought it was important to [...] do what we could to provide our kids with the empathy, inspiration, passion, knowledge and skills to be changemakers

For example, KIP recently held a family workshop ‘How to Change the World - Where Do I Start?’. Together with one of the families that attended that workshop, we subsequently held cooking classes in the school holidays where all proceeds went to Very Special Kids - we were proud to raise $2,600 in this way. Our children helped plan and run the cooking classes. Another activity the kids enjoyed was packing books to send to children in Africa - it was very satisfying to sort, count and pack 1700 books which are now on their way to Kenya. By the end of the afternoon, the kids had grasped that through access to books and therefore literacy, the Kenyan students would be able to start their educational journey and be empowered to find their own way out of poverty.

In Sydney, we have developed and funded an after-school technology and nutrition program for disadvantaged middle school students in the inner-city suburb of Fairfield. In Melbourne, our first grant has been to 100 Story Building, a creative writing centre in Footscray, which provides the most marginalized children and young people in the inner west of Melbourne with the opportunity to foster their creative voice and to have their ideas shared and respected.

Image Credit: Homelessness Australia Where do the homeless stay? Image Credit: Homelessness Australia

One issue that our kids have repeatedly raised is homelessness. They were staggered when we explained that there are over 105,000 homeless Australians every night and that almost half of these are under 25 years of age. That’s 50,000 young people without permanent accommodation. We decided that this was an issue we wanted to raise awareness about. Whilst gold coin days at school and fun runs to raise money are important, we wanted to create an experience for families which would involve an educational and hands on element. We want our children to understand that, despite the comfortable lifestyle we lead, this is not the case for many people in Australia, where one in eight people is living in poverty. This equates to more than 2.2 million people living below the poverty line, close to 600,000 of which are children. We wanted our kids to understand and be aware that homelessness is a reality for many families in Australia and that poverty is a hardship suffered in many local communities. We wanted to demonstrate to our kids that we can all make a difference in helping others and keeping young people at home where they belong.

We wanted our kids to understand [...] that homelessness is a reality for many families [...] We wanted to demonstrate to our kids that we can all make a difference in helping others

In order to meet some of these aims, KIP decided to stage ‘Hangout for the Homeless’ - a family sleep out at Federation Square (inside BMW Edge) on Saturday 21 September 2013. Each family that participates is fundraising to support Kids Under Cover, which does incredible work in this area. Through this event, we are aiming to provide families with a taste of what it’s like to be disadvantaged. On the night, families will be involved in a number of activities that will raise their awareness about youth homelessness in Australia. Families will learn how to make a nutritious dinner for $2, build a shelter using mixed materials, participate in a creative writing workshop dealing with themes of homelessness and meet people who have experienced homelessness or worked with homeless young people.

Of course, as families involved with KIP have realised, the benefit of doing and giving isn’t simply one-way. As anyone who has been involved in philanthropic or volunteer activities knows, there is a great sense of happiness and personal fulfilment achieved by being involved. We truly believe that if we foster these feelings in our kids, they will grow up as more understanding, empowered, generous and empathetic adults, which will ultimately lead to a more peaceful, equitable and innovative society.

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Amanda Miller Amanda Miller

Click here for more information on Hangout for the Homeless, to register as a family to sleep out or to support this cause, or email Amanda at amanda.miller@me.com.

Amanda Miller is on the Melbourne Advisory Board of Kids in Philanthropy, oversees Operations at the Australian Women Donors Network and is actively involved in the wider philanthropic community.

Aug. 28, 2013

 Tags: what's new, topical issues, stories, guest post, general, education, collective giving

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