|September 11th: Take Action!
When tragic things happen, we often feel helpless to change them or make them better. Fortunately, there's a lot we can do about these feelings.
As a New Yorker, Lindzay, 11, experienced lots of scary and upsetting things in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks. She was affected most, however, by something she heard about in her very own class. Her friend Max and his family, who were moving back to their downtown apartment after being evacuated for several weeks, were told that he had to throw out all of his stuffed animals because of all the chemicals in the air. Lindzay told us the rest of the story:
"All the children's stuffed animals had to be thrown out, except for three that could be kept in storage as a memory. I thought that was incredibly sad. When September 11th happened, I wanted to be a kid again and hug all my stuffed animals. It made me feel a lot better. Can you imagine how kids in that area [of New York City] felt because they had to give up all their stuffed animals and now they didn't have anything to hug?"
When Lindzay found out that other students at her school, and nearly 40,000 families total, had to leave their homes after the attacks, she had an idea: "I figured out that if we could collect lots of stuffed animals, we would eventually be able to replenish the kids' stuffed animal supply."
Lindzay and her mom came up with a name, the "9-11 Stuffy Fund," and made up a letter asking people to donate used or new "Stuffies." They distributed the letter in her school and neighborhood, and e-mailed it to people they knew in other areas. Stuffed animals started arriving from all over the country! Lindzay first distributed "Stuffies" to the kids at her school who were affected, and eventually gave out nearly 6,500 huggable animals to children.
Lindzay sums up her experiences this way: "This was a perfect opportunity for me and other people to deal with those feelings of being helpless and angry and hopeless. I think what's cool about a project you come up with to help other people is that, if it's a good idea, everyone tries to help you succeed. Kids shouldn't be shy about trying out ideas for helping others because they'll be amazed how much help they'll get!"
The saying "Think Globally, Act Locally" is a good one to remember. Want to make a difference? Here are some ideas:
- Become a volunteer. There are some great opportunities for kids at these Web sites:
You can also try calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER.
- Help the American Red Cross by giving out snacks and drinks during a blood drive. You can also organize a drive at your school, church or synagogue. For more information, go to www.redcross.org. Also, ask if you can help distribute "Disaster Education" brochures in your community. Finally, the American Red Cross is always in need of emergency items, such as food, clothing, household items, blankets, health and cleaning supplies. Donate away!
- Organize a First Aid/CPR course for your school, community center, youth group, church or synagogue. If someone needs help, you'll be prepared!
- Write to someone who lost a loved one due to Sept. 11. Go to www.september11victims.com, which lists the victims individually and allows you to post messages to their families.
- Contact a school or youth group in the New York or Washington, D.C. areas and find out if there is any support you can offer, and what they might need.
- Make Disaster Supply Kits for your family. Go to www.fema.gov/kids/food.htm to find out how. Encourage others to do the same.
- Let your voice be heard. Write an editorial or opinion piece for your local newspaper on how you feel about a current crisis.
- Raise money by arranging a car wash or a bake sale. Donate the funds to crisis relief organizations, such as the Red Cross, National Organization For Victim Assistance, charities for firefighters and police unions, or the September 11th Fund.
- Organize a community discussion to promote cross-cultural understanding.
- Organize a regular lunchtime discussion at your school to reflect current events.
- Volunteer at a local food bank.
- Visit a nursing home to comfort and chat with senior citizens who may not have anyone else to talk to.
- Learn more the Islamic religion and help raise the awareness of people in the community about Arabs and Muslims. To learn more about the religion, go to www.howstuffworks.com/islam.htm. If you know anyone who is Muslim, ask him or her questions and invite them to join the discussion.
- Contact local government officials that deal with crisis response and learn about the citywide plan in the event of an emergency. Help make sure that people in the community are aware of this plan.
- Volunteer to support your local fire, police, and health departments. These organizations often can use extra help with specific support roles, and young people can be trained to assist with specific roles in times of emergency. Or, simply write a letter to one of these departments, thanking them for their service to the community.
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