Shaping Youth Through Philanthropic Fun

Update: 2013 Along these lines, check out with clever little videos by “Empathy Explorer” Ed Stockham; a visual media depiction of our peer to peer “in her shoes” exercise in this 2007 post below.

My media ‘avatar’ is more Murphy Brown than Mother Teresa, so I need to redirect those of you who envision me as idyllically sealing organic preserves, leading the teen knitting craze,(yes, there actually IS one!) or crafting homemade gifts for Handmade Nation while simultaneously crusading for abused African girls to be saved from malaria & HIV. It just ain’t so. To pull a Mike Myers media reference, “I’m not worthy.”

First, I leave those heroics to amazing BlogHers featured in Beth Kanter’s round-up of worthy orgs, Britt Bravo’s 10 holiday gifts that give back, Kalyn Denny’s piece on the global foodbloggers contest Menus for Hope, and multiple ‘women who care’ articles packed with inspiring deeds that make ME feel like a comparative slacker.

Second, I’m simply using the power of media/marketing to come up with fun ways to flick that switch in the soul to reach kids at a deeper, more sustainable level.

Adults who role model ‘holiday philanthropy’ as a warm-n-fuzzy check mark on their ‘to do’ list of life aren’t doing any of us any favors in the long run…Especially if they’re spending the rest of the year in a consumer-fest of mindless spending and wasteful consumption.

Without getting all soap boxy about it, I’ll simply say when it comes to kids’ cause-marketing, it’s a challenge to keep actions heartfelt and donations relevant to kids’ concerns.

To do it right, we have to ditch the ‘preach and teach’ and favor fun marketing tactics so kids begin to relate from their point of view, in their world, at their own age.

Innovation for education…Give a little, get a lot…

Choose your moniker, it all leads to joy at its purest essence when kids SEE how their actions can make a difference somewhere down the road.

A few of Shaping Youth’s philanthropy faves for teens:


Put Yourself In Her Shoes:

When ‘mani/pedi’ pampering takes a philanthropic turn, it’s a win-win for all.

Shaping Youth advisor and media literacy queen Patty Page of creative hothouse New Grapefruit hosted a “toes and prose” event at this fabulous shoe boutique called In Her Shoes that donates 100% of their profits to Global Fund for Women! Whoa.

Now, you may not be lucky enough to live near something quite this cool, where they close down the shop and host private events for gal pals to pull women out of poverty in other regions of the world (video of the founder here) but you CAN adapt the concept for teens at home!

img_summerflipflops.jpgKids can set a reasonable entry fee (good econ/biz skills) send out word, (Patty’s evite is at left) choose a cause, and host teen performance art: readings, prose, music, paintings, sculpture, poetry slams, themed for a philanthropic cause.

By putting teens “in someone else’s shoes” they learn peer to peer about issues outside their insular worlds…lack of free speech, education, village living conditions, hunger or disease in global pockets, it’s eye-opening, creative, and even helps kids’ presentation skills.

Bonus? Suddenly, teens admit those pricey jeans at the mall seem superficial and kinda silly in the worldwide scheme of things…

Logistically, Patty suggested “two to five minute” presentations, enough to be informative without being intimidating, (a must for peer to peer tween and teen consideration) and I have to say, we all left the evening more enlightened, enriched, and aware.

Mind you, I realize polishing each other’s toes via ‘a home spa’ (or hiring someone to do the deed and setting up a ‘chair’ for teens to take turns ) may seem like a frivolous ‘disconnect’ at first, but you’d be surprised. (btw, those ‘popcorn packing peanuts’ recycle well as toe separators to send a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ message as well)

I’ve seen ‘Spa-la-la-la-la’ deck the halls events like this turn into meaningful ‘Sisterhood of the Travelin’ Pants’ bonding rituals, sustainable FAR beyond a one shot deal of holiday hype and hoopla.

Ongoing, quarterly events like this can easily rotate among different houses (and causes!) to ‘give-back’ to girls in profound, life-shifting manners, raising awareness on issues that might otherwise be ‘off the radar’ entirely. Such as?

tapestries-of-hope-runyararo.JPGMaking jewelry, making social change:

Perfect example. Our newest Shaping Youth Board member is award-winning documentary director Michealene Cristini Risley who’s asked our help in getting teen girls involved in social entrepreneurship to make a difference in the lives of girls in Africa. (that’s darling little 3-year old Runyararo at left)

Michealene’s Tapestries of Hope/Women of Africa film raises awareness of girls’ plight in Africa from malaria, AIDS, abuse and horrific cultural fates. Dicey topics in and of themselves, softened by handcrafted rituals that have served women for eons.

By providing tween and teen volunteers jewelry-making kits with easy instructions Michealene is stringing together the lives of girls on all continents to raise awareness of globally renowned human rights activist Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe.

Here’s her heart-wrenching letter to President Mugabe on the Huffington Post blog…

Obviously, children have different thresholds of truth and grit, but jewelry-making bridges the gap by creating important work with hands-on activism, while reminding girls to appreciate their own cultural environs, and think outside the box (meaning media/TV) to other world affairs.

clasp_aids_malaria.jpgShaping Youth will definitely be hosting a jewelry-making party with African music, food, and fellowship as well as our local tribe of delegates from GWLN to spread the world among other Women Leaders for the World. We’ll update as plans progress…

Want to host a beading event? Leave a comment directly on their blog if your youth group, club, church, or classroom would like to participate.

Sounds like an awe-inspiring mother-daughter gathering, gal pal slumber party activity, after-school club educational program (blends geography, health sciences, sociology, anthropology!) and fun, easy way to literally make social change happen with your own two hands!

sterlingsilver-pendant.jpgTeens stay updated on the Tapestries of Hope blog, or can join the Silent Bravery/Tapestries of Hope group on Facebook to spread the word through schools and social media. Here’s a radio interview to listen to while you’re beading, too!

We’ll be doing a full profile on Michealene as one of our People Shaping Youth honorees soon, meanwhile, gift givers might want to splurge on the elegant silver sterling “Future” pendant (shown at left). Bay area teens can see samples of sterling silver offerings and the beaded jewelry at Kepler’s bookstore in Menlo Park.

I’m already thinking Girls For A Change needs to hear about this pronto, along with our Girls Economic Power Day pals, Shaping Youth advisor Audrey Brashich’s Get Real tour with Courtney Macavinta of Respect Rx, and of course our partner orgs like Girls Are Champions and Starlings Volleyball USA…

Um…teen boys can get in on the action too…(guys can string beads/do crafts, and, yes, get pedicures…) My 6’4 bro dunked his big ol’ paw in my pristine paraffin dip because he wanted to try the warm wax too, so don’t discount the gentleman, ladies!

You can ‘market’ philanthropy with more traditional ‘guy’ themes and gameplans if you prefer. Just open your mind to the endless word plays and you’ll get the drill fast….

Tackle the problem: with a football funfest

Chip in: with an ice-hockey benefit

Amp up your presence: with a guitar garage band benefit

Rap and roll: a hip-hop burrito fest for homeless teens

The hits just keep on comin’…

I realize I should split this post into a sequel, as your eyes are getting blurry and I haven’t even started with my ‘green teen themes,’ eco-friendly parties, or holiday “winter break” ideas beyond the ones I mentioned in the first post on marketing mindfulness…

Sooooooo stay tuned for part three, tomorrow…And PLEASE chime in with your own thoughts and experiences! What works and what doesn’t when it comes to kids and philanthropy?

How do YOU inspire lifelong giving?

What are your favorite ways to get kids to understand the magnitude of the ‘circle of life’ and think outside themselves?

Ping me and we’ll post ’em!

Visual Credit: Practice empathy graphic via



  1. Thanks for the mention, but I want to make it clear that Menu for Hope was started by Chez Pim, not me, and it’s a funraiser for food bloggers worldwide. It’s such a great program and we hope to raise even more money this year.

  2. Thanks, Kalyn, yes, for folks who don’t know about Kalyn’s Kitchen blog, and the Menu for Hope foodblogger benefit for the U.N. World Food Programme, as described on, here’s more from Kalyn’s blog directly:

    “Once again, food bloggers from all over the world are joining in A Menu for Hope to raise money for the UN World Food Program, with donations earmarked for a school food program in Lesotho. You can see the need for help in that part of the world by looking at these photos from Lesotho on Chez Pim. Along with Pim, and the other regional hosts, I’m certain we can beat last year’s total of $62,925.12, and you can help!”–

    AND…here’s her direct URL to keep up with the contest:

    AND…here’s the direct URL for Chez Pim, where it all began!

    I think we should do a piece on cooking with kids, counter-marketing junk food through culinary endeavors like this and cause-marketing all rolled into one. What d’ya say???

    Expatriate Chef, are you in? Frugal Gourmet? All of you foodie folks that have left blog comments prior, how about a guest editorial or ideas for ways to engage kids to “market healthy eating” through Ratatouille style media magic and side-by-side sous chef holiday helpers????

    Ping me if you’re game! 🙂 –a.

  3. the truth is that every one will think different

  4. James…tell me more! What do you mean by this very enigmatic comment?

  5. Excuse me if I’m off-topic, but more people need to really focus on what just happened in Norway. Just remember it could happen in our country too.

  6. Amy I am simply amazed at how much knowledge you have to share, and your generosity in imparting your passion to your children and others. I’m so glad you are here on the web 🙂

  7. Thx, Laura, I like what “Because I am a girl” UN initiative and new non-toxic notions for social enterprise ideas as well…good luck in your venture!

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