A CitizenKid

“Could a greater miracle take place
than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”
- Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes, CitizenKids come in pairs – as in the case of sisters Holly (13) and Kate (9) Cushing.

The girls share more in common than a last name, a big brother and a home in Oakville, Ontario – they both made the choice recently to celebrate their birthdays without presents.

Together with a small group of other children at their local church, Holly and Kate help sponsor a little Ecuadorian boy, named Anderson, through World Vision. For two years, the girls have been corresponding with Anderson, learning about his life, and contributing money to help pay for the sponsorship. Connecting in such a personal way has taught them a great deal about the differences between their own lives – and the lives of children in the developing world.

So when it came time for Holly to plan her birthday party last year, she made an uncommon choice. “I just felt like I didn’t really need anything, so I asked my friends to bring some money for Anderson, instead of presents for me,” she says.

Her friends responded enthusiastically; Holly raised $300 for Anderson and his community. The sum was enough to buy the little boy a new bed, a blanket, some clothes and school supplies, and to stock the local preschool with toys, books and supplies.

When it was Kate’s turn to plan her party, she decided to follow her big sister’s lead. “I noticed how much stuff I have and that Anderson doesn’t have as much as me,” she explains.

But what was it like for the little curly-haired blonde to have a birthday party – with crafts and games, balloons and cake – but no presents? “I was really happy,” she says, “because I knew that I would be making other people happy, and not just me.”

The girls’ parents couldn’t be more proud. “You want your kids to be aware of how much they have and how little kids in other parts of the world have,” says mom Heather. “But sometimes you don’t know how much that message really sinks in. So it feels good when you see them saying, ‘Listen, I have enough stuff’ – and also realizing that $10 doesn’t seem like a lot to us but it can be huge in another country.

“To see that kind of global awareness and compassion in your kids is rewarding and kind of humbling. It’s caused me to ask myself – ‘How much am I willing to go without?’”

Sometimes, it seems, being a CitizenKid can be catching.

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