With an iPhone in one hand and a fidget spinner in the other, our kids are growing up in an age of instant gratification.
As parents, we are run off our feet, trying to keep our children safe and supervised, while giving them every opportunity we can to help them succeed.
When the school bell rings, our kids don’t spend their afternoons wandering around the neighbourhood or playing pick up games of soccer at the local field. Instead we taxi them from activity to activity, with perhaps a play date for extra fun interspersed once or twice a week.
It is an ironic problem we first world parents face. We work so hard to create a safe, peaceful, secure life for our children, trying to ensure our kids have all that they need (and at least some of what they want.) Yet the better we make our children’s lives, the more we protect them from struggle and the more “stuff” we give them, the weaker and more spoiled we risk them becoming.
My children go to safe, public schools, they play sports, take music lessons, and each have their own cell phones.
I taxi them around and help them with their homework. I make their lunches and coordinate their schedules.
My kids have got it good. But — do they???
While I race through my days, trying to work while meeting all of their emotional, physical, educational and financial needs, I realize that the more I do FOR them, the more I don’t leave for them to do for THEMSELVES.
I don’t want to raise self absorbed, spoiled children. I don’t want my kids to grow up measuring their happiness or their success by the amount of toys they have or the amount of money they make.
I want to raise human beings who are resilient and self sacrificing. I want them to know about the world and CARE about the world. I want my children to be a positive force on this planet.
So we first-world-parents worry — in this age of instant access and endless consumerism, how do we give our children perspective, how do we keep them from becoming weak and spoiled?
My Son Told Me He Wanted to Help…
My fifteen year old son seems to have two selves.
At times he acts like an entitled, narcissistic teenager, demanding this and being rude about that. When he is in this ugly mood, I throw up my hands and wonder what I have done to create this monster.
And then there are other times where his compassionate, altruistic side comes out, the part of him that wants to stop injustice, help starving children — and even be nice to his little sister!
Since Jackson was very young, he has been extremely disturbed by global suffering. If he happened to see a news clip of a natural disaster, war, or famine, he would come undone — totally inconsolable.
One day, when he was probably around 6 or 7, he was driving me crazy complaining about having to eat his vegetables, I showed him some photographs online of famine stricken children. He lost it, crying, “How could you show that to me?!?”
At age six, for his birthday he actually asked for his own Compassion International child. He picked out a boy who was six as well and used money from selling all of his baby stuff to help pay for his support.
So when Jackson was inspired by a story he read online and asked me how he could go oversees to serve in some capacity, my mother heart swelled up with pride, but a part of me wasn’t that surprised.
I know that compassionate side of him is in there, even if it has been smothered lately by teen angst and materialism.
Enter Rustic Pathways
We believe that volunteer and travel experiences have the power to positively shape the lives of our students while also benefiting the communities in which we work. – Rustic Pathways
I believe international service is a life changing experience. I was thrilled my son was interested and I began researching service opportunities for teens.
I was a youth worker in my twenties, (I worked for an organization called Youth for Christ until Jackson was two years old,) and I know first hand how powerful it is to get teens and young adults involved in international community service.
At Youth for Christ, we had our youth travel regularly to Mexico and Rwanda for different ongoing projects our organization was involved with.
I know that churches and organizations like Youth for Christ send young people on mission trips, but I didn’t know of many other groups who were not affiliated with religious organizations that took youth on oversees service trips.
In my research, I found Rustic Pathways. I was immediately impressed.
Rustic Pathways is an incredible combination of education, travel, and philanthropy. They use travel as a powerful environment to teach kids about the world — and themselves.
Through their travel programs for teens and young adults, Rustic Pathways facilitates life-changing educational experiences for students, while working to achieve sustainable development in the places they visit.
At Rustic Pathways, we empower students through innovative and responsible travel experiences to positively impact lives and communities around the world. We believe through responsible travel and well-designed service initiatives, our students can gain an understanding of pressing social and environmental challenges at a global level and help combat these changes at a local level.
Groups of students, led by qualified, experienced staff members and travel experts, travel all over the globe, from the steppes of Mongolia, to the beaches of Fiji, to the jungles of the Dominican Republic, and beyond.
Rustic Pathways has travel opportunities to 19 countries around the world — China, Australia, Thailand, Peru, Tanzania, Morocco, Myanmar, etc… Check out Rustic Pathways to read more about all the amazing trips taking place this summer.
The Impact of Travel and Service
“After being in Peru and seeing the struggles that some of these kids go through on a daily basis just to receive an education, I felt magnetized toward the cause. The fact that they have the motivation and grit to hike up to three hours a day just to get an education is incredible to me. I really want to start appreciating the education and opportunities that I receive, and I want other people to begin to appreciate them too!” Lisette Dubow, Rustic Pathways Alumni
As a child, I was blessed to have the opportunity to do some traveling with my parents.
We didn’t visit China or Africa or go on adventures anywhere nearly as exciting as Rustic Pathways, but I gained so much from the travel we did do. I am so grateful for the experiences I had, for the chance to step into a world that was different from mine.
The gift of travel is one of the most incredible advantages we can give to our children. And in saying that, I do realize that being able to send our children abroad is a luxury that most people in this world will never get to give their children.
If finances are keeping your child from serving abroad, Rustic Pathways has financial aid programs and provides tools to help students fundraise. Reach out to them about flexible financing programs.
When I think of all the money I spend on clothes, toys and sports, I think that some of that money could be used more wisely on giving my child the opportunity to see a world beyond his own, to break out of his environment and breathe someone else’s air.
When I found Rustic Pathways, I knew that this was something I desperately wanted for my son. One month later, when Rustic Pathways reached out to partner with me, I couldn’t believe it.
That was the quickest YES email I ever had to send.
With a Rustic Pathways trip, not only is my son going to experience a different culture, a different way of living, he will putting down his iPhone and rolling up his sleeves, physically contributing to the needs of a community.
And honestly — I don’t know which one of us is more excited.
If your teenager or college-aged children are interested in traveling abroad, visit Rustic Pathways website. The opportunities available are absolutely incredible!
Images Courtesy Of: Rustic Pathways
Copyright: © 2016 Rustic Pathways
Used with permission.
Disclosure: Rustic Pathways is sending Janice’s son on a service trip.
Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom
Talk with me: @5minutesformom and Facebook.com/5minutesformom
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