Children Help Children through Humanitarian Aid Donations

  By Philip M. Volmar, Church News and Events

  • 6 January 2012

Students at White Center Heights Elementary in Seattle, Washington, USA, display a part of the school's donation to Latter-day Saint Charities following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“All of us have been touched with feelings of sympathy for others we don’t even know.” —President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency

When a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami in March 2011 that caused an estimated $309 billion USD in damage in Japan, an unlikely consequence was that it affected children on both sides of the Pacific Ocean—but in different ways.

In Seattle, Washington, USA, students in Camille Churchill’s kindergarten-through-sixth-grade class at White Center Heights Elementary School were “shocked” and moved to compassion when they saw before-and-after pictures of the tsunami’s aftermath, Ms. Churchill said.

“Before, it looked like a green palace,” said Angel C., 11, a student in Ms. Churchill’s class. “After, it looked like burnt coal.”

Ms. Churchill’s students wanted to help by donating money. However, many of the students and their families face economic challenges. Some 93 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

But remembering their school’s motto for each student to “be a scholar, be thoughtful, be a community, and make a difference,” the children on the student council voted to donate despite their financial challenges.

The students asked their parents, overturned couch cushions, and even broke their piggy banks to gather as much money as they could. After several students forfeited recess time to count the collected change, the result wasn’t what anybody expected. The students had raised $1,150.50 USD.

“As a staff, we were all quite floored by that,” recounted Ms. Churchill.
“But we had taught that the children are part of a worldwide community and that their efforts would make a difference in Japan. And they believed it.”

The student council voted to donate all of the funds to Latter-day Saint Charities, a Church welfare initiative, because 100 percent of cash donations to the charities go directly to humanitarian causes.

Students in Ms. Churchill’s class even declined a pizza party they earned for being the top fundraising class because money from their donation would have been used to pay for the pizza.

“I thought twice before wasting my money on other stuff I don’t need,” Angel said, “and I preferred to give my money to Japan because I felt sorry for them.”

Instances where children are helping children aren’t just happening in Seattle, nor are kids just helping those in Japan. At another school, educators are teaching children the merits of humanitarian aid and are often fostering greater citizenship and compassion while they’re at it.

In Rexburg, Idaho, USA, Juli Lauritsen, a fifth-grade teacher at Madison Middle School, said that last year her 1,100-student school raised $2,300 USD in three days. Their donation went to help the 2010 Haiti earthquake victims—including children.

“I truly believe children want to help if you give them a way,” Ms. Lauritsen said. “People come through when you give them a venue, because they want to help.”

This year, Madison Middle School hosted a “Walk-for-Japan” event where students, sponsored by family, friends, and community members, walked laps around a local park, with each lap counting as a one-dollar pledge. Holding up signs that read “We love Japan” and walking three miles each, the students raised more than $13,000 to donate to Latter-day Saint Charities for use in Japan.

After the school’s donation, Ms. Lauritsen said, “My hope is [that the children] will have a solid base in what’s right and what’s humane for people when they leave my room.”

The attitude demonstrated by the Madison Middle and White Center Heights students and teachers, as well as many others around the world, corresponds with that of the Nephites, when, in the Book of Mormon, “they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had.”

Mormon wrote that the Nephites gave “to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted” and “were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.”

In modern times, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency also taught about opportunities to do good for others. In his April 2011 conference address he said, “All of us have been touched with feelings of sympathy for others we don’t even know.”

He continued, “As you heard reports of the waves rushing across the Pacific after the earthquake in Japan, you felt concern for those who might be hurt.”

Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, helps those in need by donating relief supplies, providing employment and job training, offering vision and neonatal services, and responding to urgent needs caused by natural disasters.

When a catastrophe occurs, Latter-day Saint Charities uses its funds to send food, clothing, medical supplies, and other emergency relief assistance to help suffering victims of all faiths and nationalities.

“Children naturally think about one another and are more inclined to reach out and help . . . someone in need when given an opportunity,” said Ron Taylor, communications manager for LDS Philanthropies.

Since 1985, Latter-day Saint Charities has given aid to 178 nations, or approximately 91 percent of the world’s countries.

Cash donations to Latter-day Saint Charities can be made online at ldsphilanthropies.org/humanitarian-services. In addition, hygiene, school, or newborn kits, among other needed items, may be assembled locally for distribution either locally or abroad.