By Gloria Jiang

History of National Make a Difference for Children Month

National Make a Difference to Children Month, celebrated every July, is an opportunity to focus on the well-being of children and the importance of their development. The community-based initiative was first launched in 2006 by Kim Ratz. As a fervent advocate for children, Ratz hoped to highlight the transformative impact adults can have on enhancing children’s lives and improved societal outcomes. From children in orphanages, shelters, to homeless children or those living in abusive families, Ratz believed that each child deserves to have their own rights and well-being. By providing appropriate acts of kindness, mentorship, and support, children’s lives could be profoundly changed in a positive way.

The primary message of the movement was to encourage people to take the first step toward helping childrens in need. Whether they are your own children or those from orphanages, the key aspect is to recognize and understand the challenges they are confronting and extend assistance accordingly. The aid could be as simple as dedicating time to engage with them, or it could require more critical intervention, like medical or psychological support. While some may feel overwhelmed by the perceived enormity of helping a child, it is important to remember that even initiating assistance is a significant stride. The goal is to contribute towards bettering the lives of children, advocating for their rights, and making a meaningful difference in their lives.

Why Does It Matter?

As we ponder the significance of National Make a Difference for Children Month, it is vital to acknowledge the fundamental belief that drives this observance: every child, regardless of their background, deserves love, care, and support to help them grow into healthy, self-assured adults. This month spotlights our shared responsibility towards the future generation and serves as a reminder that the actions we take today, from our personal interactions with children in our lives to our advocacy for child-focused policies and activities, can profoundly impact their lives and mold the future. Furthermore, National Make a Difference for Children Month emphasizes that anyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small. Whether you are a parent, teacher, friend, or community member, your actions can create enduring positive effects.

Children’s early years are critical for their development and future well-being. Unfortunately, conditions like living in an orphanage, a shelter, experiencing homelessness, or residing in an abusive family can create significant harm to a child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive growth. 

Specifically, the lack of consistent access to nutrition, healthcare, and safe living conditions can lead to various health problems, from chronic illnesses to developmental delays. Children in an abusive home may experience physical harm and are in dire need of stability, care, and emotional support. These encounters put children in a challenging condition where they are likely to experience high levels of stress, trauma, and instability, which can impact their emotional health. Consequently, as children’s cognitive development is closely linked with their environment, they may struggle to focus on learning in a stressful and unstable environment, leading to cognitive developmental delays and lower academic performance. 

Photo by Taylor Heery on Unsplash

Additionally, the lack of access to essential education resources or health care services further devastating children’s growth, particularly for children in shelters or those experiencing homelessness. Without a role model in educating them about social norms and values, children may struggle to develop healthy social relationships. This lack of social-emotional learning can also result in difficulties with communication, empathy, and interpersonal skills, impacting their ability to form and maintain relationships later in life. 

Therefore, it falls upon all of us collectively to intervene and equip these children with the necessities they require to grow. This involves addressing their immediate needs such as nutrition, clothing, and a safe place to live, while also catering to their long-term growth and wellness. The National Make a Difference for Children Month aims to mitigate the effects of their previous hardships and set them on a path toward a brighter future. As a whole, it is not only an investment in the individual child’s future, but also in the betterment of our society.

What Can We Do? 

Mentoring can be a powerful tool in guiding and shaping children’s cognition. It transcends merely tutoring or advising children on correct values or behaviors, but also forming a connection that is mutually respected and supported. The power of mentoring lies in its capacity to make children feel seen and valued. Within such secure environments, they are more likely to express their thoughts, ask questions, learn, and grow. This also promotes improved communication between mentors and children, facilitating an understanding of the children’s needs.

Critically, affirmation from a trusted mentor can instill self-belief in a child, boosting their confidence and fostering resilience. This self-assurance is not only significant for their present circumstances but constitutes a solid foundation for their future pursuits. Particularly for children in vulnerable situations, mentorship can be a beacon of hope. It offers them a consistent, supportive relationship that can greatly alleviate their hardships and provide them with a sense of stability. For these children, mentors can serve as role models, demonstrating positive behaviors, attitudes, and paths to success.

Further ways to support these children extend beyond immediate interaction and can include contributing to organizations dedicated to children’s welfare. Below are some programs you could participate in, all of which directly or indirectly aid children in need of support:

Food assistance programs: These initiatives focus on providing nutritious meals to children who may not have consistent access to proper nutrition. Donations to these programs can help fund meals for these children, ensuring they receive the vital nourishment they need to grow healthily.

Child care training: These programs aim to educate potential caregivers or parents on effective child-rearing strategies and the unique needs of children in vulnerable situations. Your contribution can help sponsor such training sessions, thereby increasing the pool of capable caregivers for these children.

Orphan Sponsorship: This involves pledging a certain amount of money on a regular basis to cater to an orphan’s needs, including their education, health care, and daily living expenses. Your commitment can make a significant difference in an orphan’s life.

Medical Missions: These are often conducted by healthcare organizations to provide medical care to children in impoverished areas or those who lack access to healthcare. Donations can help fund medical equipment, medicines, and healthcare professionals’ visits.

Education Support: This could involve donating to scholarship programs, book drives, or school supply drives that aim to ensure every child, regardless of their circumstance, has access to quality education.

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

In this National Make a Difference for Children Month, I encourage each one of you to consider the role you can play as a global citizen in helping young children. It is crucial to remember that our commitment does not end with July. The need for love, support, and care for children, especially those in vulnerable situations, exists all year round. From mentoring and volunteering to donating to child welfare organizations, each one of us has the power to make a positive difference in a child's life.


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