This year Pennies for Peace (P4P) raised $40,000 to rebuild the Dasht School in Tajikistan through penny collections completed by school children and community groups across the U.S. and internationally. While we often give credit to the kids for collecting pennies and accomplishing their projects, on National Parents’ Day we want to say thank you to the parents behind the scenes encouraging and helping their children along the way.
P4P is our service-learning program for kids, students, and community groups. Kids collect pennies to help children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan earn an education. Along the way they learn about new cultures, philanthropy, and the power of small kind acts. The kids or their teachers might come up with some of the crazy ideas to collect pennies, but it’s parents who help guide them, encourage them, and make sure those crazy ideas come to fruition.
We spoke with two parents to find out what it’s like to run a penny drive with their kids and heard about their hopes for the project, the lessons learned, and the effort needed to help their kids understand philanthropy and learn about new cultures.
Jennifer Malchiodi participated in P4P with her two sons. She says, “I first learned about P4P about nine years ago from a friend who had read Three Cups of Tea. At that time, I had a two-year-old son, and was pregnant with my second child. I’ve been waiting for the right time to introduce my kids to the program – for them to be old enough to understand the issues without frightening them.”
Terry Levinson ‘s daughter Erin first proposed the idea and wanted to start a penny drive with her Girl Scout troupe. Terry encouraged her daughter and helped the troop create their own video to raise money for P4P.
Behind every successful penny drive is an army of parents who are involved and want their children to be thoughtful, courageous, and to understand that they can make a difference.
P4P parents show their children that something as small as a penny or a short video can really add up. Their children learn that, even though they may not be adults, they can make a difference in their own communities and in the communities of others halfway around the world.
Jennifer used the pennies they collected to show that something with little value in the U.S. could add up to something big for kids in other countries. “They liked watching the coins fill the jar,” says Jennifer. “It was tangible for them! They could look at the jar and think, ‘That’s one desk, that’s one more notebook.’”
Terry’s help and encouragement shows through her daughter Erin’s words, “I wanted to help someone or something else big in the world. You can imagine how I felt when I heard my Girl Scout troupe had helped raise $400 from my idea! I was finally doing something!”
P4P parents are often tasked with helping their kids carry out any number of ideas to collect pennies. These can range from writing books, to asking local businesses for change, to figuring out ways the children can contribute their own money.
Erin used her allowance to fill her share jar, and Terry helped the entire Girl Scout troupe create a video about P4P with each girl reading a section of the script. They posted the video to YouTube to help with their efforts to spread awareness.
Jennifer’s kids thought about creative ways to earn money, and how they could give a little bit of their own “My sons shoveled snow for our neighbors for 25¢ and explained that they were raising money to help build a school for kids in Tajikistan,” says Jennifer, adding that most neighbors donated more when they learned about the cause, “They also contributed half of their tooth fairy money!”
P4P parents teach their children what life is like for other kids living around the world. Using the P4P toolkit and curriculum, these parents encourage their children to learn about other cultures and some of the differences and similarities between their lives and the lives of people in other places.
“They learned what kids in Tajikistan look like, what their schools look like, how schools are built in that part of the world, and that the same amount of money can buy a lot more in Tajikistan than it can in Denver,” says Jennifer. “That was a hard concept to grasp because my kids have never traveled outside of the U.S., but with a little explanation they understood.”
Lastly, P4P parents are instilling the value of kindness and generosity to these future leaders. They are fostering a new generation that will have compassion and the desire to help others.
“We try to reinforce the importance of thinking of others beyond ourselves and our immediate surroundings, and Pennies for Peace definitely helped with this concept,” says Terry.
“They learn kindness, generosity, and that we have a responsibility to help others — from people in our city to people whom we will never meet. And that we do good because it’s the right thing to do, and not for the recognition or even to be told, thank you,” says Jennifer.
Thank you to all the parents out there who are working hard, staying up late, and encouraging their children to be kind, compassionate, and to understand the powerful impacts they can create with something as small as a penny.
While funding the Dasht school in Tajikistan was a major effort brought together by students, teachers, and kids from all over the world, we never could have accomplished this goal without parents in the background. Thank you all so much and National Parents’ Day.
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