Category Archives: Children and Youth

Ripples of Hope across Humanity

How Volunteering at a 5K Has Meaningful Impact

Children in Conflict and hope across humanity….

It is a warm, humid, drizzly mid-June Saturday morning with a hauntingly beautiful view of the New York City skyline across the river, shrouded in fog and low-hanging clouds.

It’s as if we’ve been transported into a romantically nostalgic poem.

Volunteers are setting up tents and registration tables for a 5K Run/Walk. At one end of the lawn is a children’s station complete with temporary tattoos, a cotton candy machine, a coloring area, and a bounce house.

The DJ has started the music, the thump-thump-thump dancing up and out across the fog.

The event is a fundraiser for Children in Conflict (CIC), a non-profit focused on providing aid and support to children and families living in conflict, war, and crisis-centered areas of the world. They work in tandem with their sister non-profit, War Child UK (WCUK).

When conflict and crisis happen, CIC and WCUK are one of the first NGOs on site and the last to leave, prioritizing the type of aid and the programs they support based on the specific in-country circumstances. They work with local partners and hire field staff so they can deliver aid in a culturally cognizant manner while also providing employment opportunities for local, skilled individuals whose livelihoods were affected by conflict.

iStock 140394946 Credit: MirAgareb (purchased with credits)

In Syria, for example, they arrived soon after the devastating earthquake that struck in February 2023 and remain there today distributing critically needed supplies (food, clothing, blankets, mattresses, heaters), creating and providing safe shelters, helping to rebuild homes, and providing psychosocial first aid for children with signs of trauma.

In Afghanistan, where the humanitarian crisis grew exponentially after the economic collapse of the country (2022) in the wake of the Taliban takeover, over 90% of the population is food insecure and skips meals daily.(1)

Almost 400,000 people have had to flee their homes in search of safety and are living in makeshift shelters with little access to food, water, and hygiene.(2) CIC and WCUK works with local organizations to secure food, hygiene kits and psychological first aid. In one area of the country they also provide a shuttle bus to and from kindergarten for children being held in prison with their mothers so they can safely access school.

iStock: 1489543142 Credit: Lalocracio (purchased with credits)

In Ukraine, where war continues to claim lives and destroy homes/cities as well as vital infrastructure and services, CIC and WCUK work with partner organizations to provide essential provisions like food, clothes and psychological first aid to displaced families. They work to stop children from being abducted and/or trafficked when crossing borders. They also set up temporary learning centers so children can continue their education and regain a sense of normality.

Their “Can’t Wait to Learn” online learning platform enables 210,000 Ukrainian children to continue their studies. The Ukrainian Ministry of Education has chosen the program to be their primary online education intervention for children from grades 1 to 4 and all Ukrainian children can access the Ukrainian curriculum online from wherever they are in the world so they can learn in their own language.

CIC has also been supporting “Step by Step” – a Ukrainian program which rehabilitates shelters and uses them as kindergartens where children can receive non-formal education as well as socialize, play and feel safe. Parents can also relax and find some respite while their children play in a safe, secure space.

CIC and WCUK also work in Iraq, Yemen, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their model is “Respond, Recover, Rebuild.”

Respond projects deliver critical emergency aid where that is needed first, as primary priority. Recovery projects provide mental health support for children to effectively process their trauma in constructive ways. Rebuild programs are focused on rebuilding infrastructure – schools and learning places, and developing child protection initiatives.

They focus on each of these in different ways depending on the needs and environment in-country. You can read more about their important work in those countries here: 

As I set up the registration table for the 5K and read through the CIC’s latest Impact Report, I notice over 150 runners are registered to take part in the event and I feel an existential conflict.

There is a shocking incompatibility between the experience of a 5k in a beautiful location, filled with music, raffle prizes and a bounce house, and the lived experience of children and their families, half a world away, who are desperately in need of the essential aid provided by the non-profit.

I find myself asking, do the funds from this 5k have meaningful impact? Does my volunteering here support meaningful change?

The answer to both is YES – as part of a bigger whole. This local 5k is one small piece of a global aggregate of fundraising to support the organization’s mission and on the ground actions. Together, across a myriad of events at local and national levels, the funds have the momentum to achieve goals. Local events are a chance to be part of something larger.  

Most organizations will also tell you that local fundraising events are important for raising awareness which is just as important as raising funds because it opens people up to new information and new ideas and can possibly fuel a previously unknown passion to get involved in the cause. Expanding awareness can lead to greater numbers of supporters which builds momentum to effect change. And at the local level, participants and volunteers can have great impact in spreading awareness by helping the organization get the word out about their cause. That seed of awareness can blossom into other hearts and unfold into actions and contexts never even imagined.

I believe local non-profit fundraising events also nourish hope. They provide a conduit for individuals to live in generosity and share that experience with each other. To build community. To nourish the kindness of the human spirit, which often gets lost in the busy-ness of day to day and the in-the-moment focus of our lives.

I won this cute summer orange slice clutch at the raffle

Maria Popova, in one of her articles on her blog The Marginalian, writes “nothing broadens the soul more than the touch of kindness, given or received…(3) Local charity events provide the opportunity for the growth of shared kindness. A pathway for living with a perspective of love and kindness.

Local charity events also let you connect with causes that interest you and touch your heart. If you have a passion about something globally, there are always ways to get involved locally. And to get involved at whatever level you are motivated to be involved. Volunteering is an opportunity to remember that all humanity is tied together, and we can support each other across the globe. Ripples of kindness seeding the world – imagine if we prioritized that perspective first as humans? What would the world look and feel like then? 

I am reminded of Carl Sagan’s book, Pale Blue Dot, where he reflected on the last photo taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft as it left the solar system in February 1990. Just as it left our solar system it turned its cameras back to snap one last photo of Earth, which looked like the tiniest imaginable speck of dust caught in beam of light in a vast, incomprehensible emptiness. In his book Carl Sagan wrote:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam [….] The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet [….] To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.(4)

Imagine the world if everyone, across the globe, decided to deal more kindly with one another. Prioritized kindness. What would we create?

If you have a passion for a specific cause, do a search for a local chapter or supporting organization. You can also check out your local charities or look for volunteer opportunities through such on-line portals as Volunteer Match: or EventBrite: I find many of my volunteer activities on those two sites.

To learn more about Children in Conflict or to make a donation, visit

Thank you for joining my journey this week,



Helping Under-Resourced Schools in NYC with Project Cicero’s Passion for Reading

The first time I purchased a book of my own I was 8 years old. My grandfather had given my brother and I $3 each as a holiday gift and my mom took us to the local Toys R Us Superstore and told us we could buy whatever we wanted with our money.

8 year old me with my brother…. and my two favorite books

Money of our own for the first time – we felt like millionaires! I spent .95 cents on “A Cricket in Times Square” and $1.75 on “A Wrinkle in Time.” 

The books were a little ahead of my reading ability, but I loved them anyway. I was so proud of them!

I carried them with me everywhere and read them over and over again as soon as I could. I still have them displayed proudly on my shelf today.

Books opened a world of imagination, curiosity, learning, and adventure I am still passionate about.

Project Cicero fuels that kind of love and passion in children across the 5 Boroughs of NYC through an annual, free for teachers, massive book distribution event.

Leading up to the event, Project Cicero collects new and gently used book donations and co-host book drives run by over 100+ New York City independent, public, and parochial schools.

They also accept larger book volume donations by local organizations and have an Amazon WishList for anyone looking to donate specific books.

The books are transported to a distribution site where hundreds of student, parent, and teacher volunteers unpack and sort the books, then get them ready for display. Tens of thousands of books are collected for the event.

NYC public school teachers register to attend. At the event, the books are laid out by category and/or reader age (board books, geography, foreign language, reference, STEM, young adult fiction, etc.).

Ready for the teachers!

Teachers can spend as much time as they’d like perusing the tables and racks, and they can take as many books as they can carry back to their classrooms and schools. All the books are free.

Over 2,000 teachers registered for this year’s event, most of whom come with rolling, large-sized luggage and other wheeled containers they can completely fill with books for their students.

Teachers come with lists in hand of subjects, book titles, and genres of books they’d like to have for their classrooms/school libraries. Some of the board members of Project Cicero, and many of the volunteers, are either current or prior educators and are available to help teachers make good choices for their students.

Project Cicero is a non-profit aimed at solving inequality of resources in New York City public schools. Their event is aimed primarily at providing books to teachers at Title 1 Schools. These are schools where at least 40% of their students come from low-income families.

There are over 1800 public schools across the 5 boroughs of NYC and over 1200 of them receive Title 1 funding (1)

We learned that teachers do not only bring books back for their classroom and school libraries. They also will select books to use as rewards and incentives since many children’s families cannot afford to buy books. And they often choose books to supplement curriculum or to provide new experiences for their students.

I volunteered one of the days leading up to the event and spent my shift sorting, unpacking and repacking books.

There were boxes of donations piled high and tables were already pre-filled with books for the upcoming event.

Project Cicero encourages groups of volunteers from companies and even groups of students to come volunteer together and make a difference.

In addition, students can help organize and work at their own schools’ book drives.

Since its inception in 2001, Project Cicero has distributed over 4,000,000 new and gently-used books to tens of thousands of New York City classrooms, reaching over 1,000,000 students!

Donated books not good for use in the event (because they are too worn/damaged, or are textbooks that are too outdated, etc.) are recycled.

After the event, any books remaining that were not chosen and are of good quality are donated to local organizations for their use and distribution. They try to bring in all new stock every year.

Project Cicero was one of 33 organizations included in the NYC Materials Exchange Development Program’s inaugural study and continues to be recognized as a major re-user/recycler in New York City.

In 2020 alone, Project Cicero reused 68,308 pounds of material — saving it from landfills.

The organization is named in honor of the Roman writer, statesman, orator, and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, who created extensive libraries in the first century BC.

He shared his love of literature and learning, just like Project Cicero seeks to do. Cicero is credited with the quote, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

Photo 242928770 / Cicero © Izanbar |

Project Cicero is helping improve reading skills and reading levels, introduce students to new subject matter, increase enjoyment of reading, and inspire the love of a good book…. their goal to ensure every student has access to books is inspirational!

What was your favorite book as a child? Let me know in the comments below!

Would you like to learn more about Project Cicero?

Check out their website at:

Want to participate in donating books to Title 1 schools in NYC? 

To purchase books from the wish list, visit

Interested in helping your child’s teacher or school set up an Amazon WishList of their own to share with the school families and community?  

I put together some simple directions you can download below.

THANK YOU for joining my journey! XO XO


(1) (2018, September 15). More Schools Eligible, Less Aid Available. New York City Independent Budget Office. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from

Virtual Volunteering Part TWO: 8 Amazing Ideas for Children and Families

dogs on beach

The dog days of summer are the perfect time to help your child give back by volunteering and participating in charitable activities. There are TONS of opportunities… but who has time to look for the right ones, right?


Here is my list of 8 super-fun and super-meaningful opportunities to get children of all ages involved in volunteering.  Each of these ideas are super-easy, can be completed from anywhere at pretty much anytime, and can be done by an individual child, a group of children, or with the whole family – whatever works for you!

Looking for a way to keep kids busy for an afternoon? What about on a rainy day? Looking for something for the kids to do when they visit grandparents? These ideas have your back. They are even great for birthday party activities, boy/girl scout activities and family picnics.


Which will be your family favorites?



Read more

Fighting Hunger with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore

Official logo

Volunteering while traveling allows you to peek behind the curtain of a community to get to know its inner heart. It provides a uniquely un-touristy look at the local culture through the eyes of residents who are passionate about supporting, protecting and enhancing their corner of the world and the humanness that exists within it. For a brief moment in time you participate in their story and become part of the strength, compassion and resilience which makes their community thrive. Read more

Week 51: Mane Stream – Helping Children with Disabilities through Equine Therapy

logoThose who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” reads a quote in the volunteer kit. I was reading up ahead of my scheduled day at Mane Stream, an adaptive horsemanship and equine therapy center in Oldwick, NJ. I would quickly learn that Mane Stream was much more than a therapeutic program. It is a community of joy and healing. The special staff, therapists and volunteers who work at Mane Stream light up the lives of their patients and their families.


Read more

Week 50: Fundraising for Make-A-Wish



In the movie The Never Ending Story, Bastian learns the power of imagination….


Empress Moonchild:  One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire.

Bastian: Fantasia has totally disappeared?

Empress Moonchild: Yes.

Bastian: Then everything has been in vain.

Empress Moonchild: No, it hasn’t. Fantasia can arise in you. In your dreams and wishes Bastian.

Bastian: How?

Empress Moonchild: Open your hand.

She puts the grain of sand  into his hand and he looks at it…





Empress Moonchild: What are you going to wish for?

Bastian: I don’t know.

Empress Moonchild: Then there will be no Fantasia any more.

Bastian:  How many wishes do I get?

Empress Moonchild: As many as you want. And the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.

Bastian:  Really?

Empress Moonchild: Try it.

Bastian: Then my first wish is…

Moonchild follows his gaze and smiles…

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Week 47: Helping our Children Build a Better Tomorrow

kids earth heart


One day in the not too distant future the world will belong to our children. They will make decisions on the environment, policies on poverty and social services, and be responsible for making decisions about resources, war, and peace.  They will be the problem-solvers (and problem-creators) responsible for the well-being of future generations.


How can we support our children and young adults so they become their best selves in a global society? How can we fuel within them a sense of service and civic engagement? How can we expand their minds to include causes bigger than themselves?


Most importantly, how can we help them develop the resolve and confidence they will need so they believe without a shadow of doubt they can make a difference, effect change, and improve the world?

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Week 46: NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking: Fighting for the Victims


The speaker stood up at the front of the auditorium….

Several times a year our group goes into local cities and towns and asks,Who are your missing children?We get their names and photos, then make posters of these children.”


(She holds up one of the posters with the faces of at least 15 children on it)


We then stop at motels and hotels” she continued, “and ask the staff, ‘Have you seen any of these faces?’”


EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve had at least one rescue. Sometimes several. The children are usually going by different names, but we always find someone who recognizes at least one and it allows us to start to work towards finding them and rescuing them.”


These children… they are typically between the ages of 12 and 16. These cities and towns? …. They are in New Jersey….

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Week 43: Joan’s Joy: Turning Tragedy into Action: Keeping the Children of Tomorrow Safe

Joan brownie outfit


April 19, 1973…. It’s Maundy Thursday. Seven-year old Joan Angela D’Alessandro is playing in her front yard after school when she sees her neighbor, Joseph McGowan, drive by on his way up to his home three houses away.


Eager to deliver her last boxes of Girl Scout cookies, Joan runs into the house and tells her mom she’s going to walk over to Mr. McGowan’s house to give him the 2 boxes of Thin Mint cookies he ordered.


Joan never came home.

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