Monday, June 4, 2007

International Innocent Children Victims of Aggression Day


In 1983, concerned about all of the Palestinian and Lebanese children who were being injured or killed by the Isrealeans, the United Nations created International Innocent Children Victims of Aggression Day. It was a way to point out to the world that there are many different forms of child abuse, and children everywhere are suffering due to aggression.
Who are the innocent children victims of aggression? They are the children who have to watch out for landmines as they are playing in their own neighborhoods. They are the children who are forced to carry weapons and fight as soldiers in wars that they don't understand. The boy who goes to school trying to hide the bruises inflicted on him by his parents. The girl who screams as she watches her father pull a knife on her mother. The boy who is mercilessly bullied at school. The fifteen-year-old girl who was just hit, for the first time, by her high school boyfriend. The boy who gets caught in the crossfire between the gunfire of two gangs. The toddler who is playing in his own front porch and gets shot in a drive by shooting. They are everywhere, these innocent victims of aggression.
And as we think about that, today is also Child Victims of Aggression Memorial Day... a day to remember all of the child victims who did not survive.
It is not a day to become depressed about the state of the world, or to feel hopeless about the fact that bad things happen to children. Instead, it is a day to ask yourself, "What am I going to do about it?" If every responsible adult committed to doing one thing to help children, the world would be a much safer place.
Here are ten ideas for simple things you can do.

1. Become a Cyberhero! Join Ben's Army! (I did!)

2. Raise your own children in a nonviolent home. It is good for children to see their parents argue and then work out a disagreement peacefully... but it is never good for a child to live in a home where there is violence. (Even if you try to hide it from them, they sense what is going on!)

3. Mentor a child! All it really takes is two or three hours, a few times a month. Be a positive, non-aggressive role model for a child who might not otherwise have one. To find different mentoring opportunities near you, go to Mentoring.org.

4. Check out this book, 101 Things You Can Do For Our Children's Future. The book describes... well, 101 things you can do for our children's future... simple things you can do right now, in the comfort of your own home!

5. Sponsor a needy child in another country. You can go to Charity Navigator to find out which sponsorship programs are the most worthy and use the largest percentage of donations to directly help the children.

6. Go to WarChild.org to find out what projects they have to help child soldiers and other children of war, and find out what you can do to help.

7. Teach your children that you will not tolerate bullying, in your house or anywhere else. If you feel that your child is being bullied, take a stand and help them solve the problem. Here is a site that can give you some tips on doing that. If you feel that your child is the one doing the bullying... whether you see her being too rough with younger siblings and neighborhood kids, or whether you get negative reports from her school... here is a site to help you explore the problem with your child.

8. Help your child... or another child close to you... find an international pen pal. The experience will help your child and the other child learn to appreciate and respect diversity. Kids Space Connection can help your child find an e-mail penpal without ever having to give out his actual email address. Bethel Orphanage, in Africa, has a very cool program where children can become penpals with one of the children living in the orphanage! These days, snail mail pals are harder to find, especially for kids, but there are some listed at Pen Pal Garden. Or, you could try to find a penpal for yourself who has similarly-aged children, and then start your children emailing each other also!

9. Host an exchange student. This will have the same benefits as international penpaling, but in an even more memorable way! Most exchange students are high school or college students, which can be a really enjoyable "big sibling" experience for your own kids if you have some... but you don't have to have children of your own to be a host! Try Pacific Intercultural Exchange, EF, or Center for Cultural Interchange.

10. Empower your children (or the other children in your life) by teaching them that they can make a difference... by volunteering together! When you volunteer as a family, you'll be spending positive, quality time with the children, as well as teaching them how it feels to be able to make a difference in the world! You can go to VolunteerMatch.org to find family-friendly volunteer opportunities.

So, what are you going to do to help children and prevent aggression? Remember, you can make a difference! Don't make me whip out the Starfish Story!
If you e-mail me and tell me what you've started doing to make a difference, I'll use your stories in a future post!

Good luck!

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