Food Insecurity

food insecurityThe USDA defines food insecurity as meaning “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Food insecurity occurs in every county in the United States. Hunger touches the lives of 15.8 million children.

40% of food is thrown out in the US every year, or about $165 billion worth. All of this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans. (National Resource Defense Council)

3 out of 4 teachers see hungry children in their classrooms. (No Kid Hungry)

We should not have these statistics in our country.

Find an organization in your area that addresses childhood hunger and get involved. No Kid Hungry and Feeding America are great national organizations in the United States.

food basket

This past Friday, Jodi Baron and I were able to visit a local organization that addresses food insecurity for kids. It is local to the West Michigan area, and we will be doing a service play group focused on them in December!

In Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland Kids’ Food Basket serves 7,000 kids at 38 schools. They send home sack suppers with kids that opt-in, providing nutritious meals for students after the school day is done.

In Ottawa County over 8,000 children live in poverty. At Holland Public Schools 400 families are homeless, and 70% quality for free and reduced lunch. In Holland, 600 kids at Holland Heights K-7 and Woodside Elementary are being given sack suppers through Kids’ Food Basket. Six schools remain on the waiting list to be served by Kids’ Food Basket.


How can you help? 

  • Sign up to volunteer here. Volunteers are needed for sandwich making, delivering sack suppers, and repacking snacks into mixes like cheerios, raisins, and goldfish. They allow families (kids five and up) to volunteer together. It would be a great way for youth groups to serve together. Groups can also decorate sack lunch bags!
  • To add schools and help them off the waiting list, three years of funds must be raised. Click here to host a fundraiser or a wish list drive.
  • Share this organization! You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Also, tell others about this way to serve, to ensure that children in our community do not go to bed hungry.






The Gift of Reading


silly billy

A guest post by Brenda Petersen (my Mom!): 

When I was five years old, in the year of 1962, I was given a precious gift of a hard covered book: a 59 cent Easy Reader.  My elderly great aunt, who was a Mennonite, was a practical kind of gal, and she did her shopping via mail order catalogs.

She did not drive, so to visit, we would need to come in from our farm to her small unassuming home, built with her own hands, in the small village in which she lived. Great Aunt Alice was a bit stern on the surface with a trace of a German accent, a small little lady in stature, who also happened to be the village tailor.  She ran the downtown tailor shop single-handedly during World War Two and later had a shop in the walkout basement of her home.  This gave her enough income to live a simple life.  She never married. Over the years her nieces and nephews as well as caring for her elderly father filled her life. Buying gifts for her great nieces and nephews was a joy for her, an equivalent of sorts to grandchildren, and that is how it felt in my heart.

The Christmas of 1962, I was thrilled to open The Adventures of Silly Billy, by Tamara Kitt.  The opening page of the now yellowed and fragile book, I still own and cherish, proclaimed that only 187 different words had been used in the 61 page Easy Reader, with plurals and root words counted once. 104 words – more than half the total vocabulary had been used at least three times.  65 words- one third of the total vocabulary had been used at least ten times.  Some words were used 43 times! None of this mattered to me upon opening this present.  In fact I am quite sure I never read that page until I was an adult. All I knew was that I was able to read it by myself with no parental help and I was thrilled!

I loved the cover picture, the story, and the illustrations by Jill Elgin! I was totally captivated by these adventures Silly Billy was having in this tale.  It seemed he was always thinking up very silly things such as feeding hens very hot, hot, hot water so they would lay hard boiled eggs. His parents said he was silly, and silly he would always be, Silly Billy!

That is until Silly Billy decides to show them he is not so silly, and he goes in search of someone sillier than himself.  He walks and walks and encounters a cast of characters along the way that are indeed sillier!  He helps them out with their silly problems and is repaid with treasures along the way, which in turn he gives to his mother and father upon his return.  However, he keeps the gold crown and proceeds to wear it at all times, including when he takes a bath.  He also instructs his parents never to call him Silly Billy; they should address him now as Wise William.  The book closes with Wise William pondering a way to make cows give chocolate milk.

I sincerely doubt that my dear aunt could have ever guessed when she sent out that mail order with her 59 cents, that this gift of a book containing a mere 187 words, would make such a lasting impression on her small, shy niece, and that fifty years later I would write of the gift.  Many times over the years this book has popped into my head, as I wonder if I am being a Silly Billy, or a Wise William!


One of the great joys of my job as a family advocate was being able to give books to children whose families who could not afford them.  I am quite certain this gift given to me as a little girl made me realize the importance of reading and imagination…and gave me the sincere desire to pass that gift along to others.

March is Reading Month…how can you make a difference in the life of a child with a gift of a book? 

Check out a new film Girls with Books: A New Global Power

Read an online book and one is donated to an organization all for free at We Give Books! 

Donate to your local school, women’s shelter, or through Better World Books. 

BrendaBrenda Petersen worked as a Family Advocate with Shelby Public Schools for 22 years. She now resides in Holland, MI with her husband Philip. Four kids call her Grandma B. 

we wish this wasn’t


October is Anti-Bullying Month.

We collectively wish this was not such a problem. Bullying occurs with young kids in schools, teenagers, and we know it can happen even in adulthood. Here are some resources I never knew about. We can do our part as advocates against bullying. Especially in conveying that message to younger generations whether you are a parent, educator, youth leader, or family member.

PicMonkey Collage

  1. 13 Books for Parents about Bullying from The Mighty Girl website. Books for teens and kids about bullying from Mighty Girl. 
  2. Student’s Speak! Students can submit poems, artwork, stories, and video about how bullying has effected them through the National Bullying Prevention Center. I only scrolled through one page and it was powerful. 
  3. Access to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center toolkits. There are classroom, community, and student-created toolkits.
  4. Check out Pacer’s Teens Against Bullying, a website designed specifically for teens. 
  5. Green Giant Partners with Pacer to Raise a Giant. Go to this website to read letters parents have written to there kids about how proud they were when they stood up those who were bullying, you can also write your own letter. 
  6. Join the Choose Orange campaign that supports Pacer’s Prevention Center.
  7. Visit the Stop Bullying Tumbler page for inspiration and Pin-able images.
  8. Youth Leader’s toolkit for starting the conversation about bullying with youth. 
  9. Kid’s videos and interactive games.
  10. New York Times Learning Center Cyberspies in CyberspaceA lesson to help parents and teens draft an internet usage contract that addresses the dangers of cyber bullying. 

What has been your experience with bullying?  How do you plan to prepare you kids to address this real issue? 

15 Kids Books about Equal Access to Education


15 Books for you to read with your family about equal education opportunities. The film Girl Rising shines a spotlight on the present-day challenges to equal education opportunities. These challenges have been and continue to be an obstacle for young people around the world.

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Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afgahnistan. [Jeanette Winter]. Nasreen attends a secret school for girls in Afghanistan. (6-9)

download (3)With the Might of Angels. [Andrea Davis Pickney]. From the Dear America series, a diary about the Civil Rights Movement. (8 and up)

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Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909. [Michelle Markel]. Clara worked in a sewing factory as a child and still fought for her right to an education. [Preschool and up].

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Miss Dorothy and her BookMobile. [Gloria Housten].  Dorothy brings books to children in rural North Carolina. [4 and up]

download (6)The Hard-Times Jar. [Ethel Footman Smothers].  Emma and her family are migratory workers, she works to purchase her own store bought volume of a book.  [Kindergarten and up].

download (7)Waiting for the Biblioburro. [Monica Brown]. A traveling library through rural Columbia. [Kindergarten and up].

download (8)Walking to School. [Eve Bunting]. A story from Northern Ireland. [Kindergarten and up].

download (9)I Have a Right to be a Child. [Alain Serres]. What it means to be a child with rights. [Preschool and up].

download (12)Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys. [Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard]. Equal access for education between girls and boys. [Kindergarten and up].

download (13)Red Bird Sings. [Q.L. Pearce]. Zitkala-Sa’s struggle in white boarding school and her love of music. [Ages 8 and up].

download (14)Waiting fr the Owl’s Call. [Gloria Whelan]. The story of Zulviya and child labor in Afghanistan. [Ages 6 and up].

download (15)That Book Woman. [Heather Henson]. Pack horse librarians in the Appalachian Mountains. [Kindergarten and up].

download (16)A Bus of Our Own. [Freddi Williams Evans]. Mable Jean wants to know why the black students don’t have a bus of their own. [Ages 6-10].

download (17)Alia’s Mission. [Mark Alan Stamaty]. Saving the book of Iraq, in graphic novel form. [Kindergarten and up].

download (18)The Year of Miss Agnes. [Kirkpatrick Hill]. A teacher is committed in rural Alaska. [Ages 8 and up].

Have you read any of these books? Which ones spark your interest for family reading? 

100 Ways to Give Back over Summer Break.

100 Summer

1. Summer Reading to Make a Difference: 5 Ideas.

2. Read The Lorax and Plant a Tree.

3. Gather up your loose change all summer and pick something from a gift catalog to give.

4. Be inspired at Her son Daniel is raising money to buy a clean water well.

5. Finish up an afternoon of sprinkler with some WaterAid Kids Activities!

6. Prepare ahead of time to complete an Operation Christmas Child Box.

7. Free Printable Activities from Heifer International for kids.

8.  Ideas to care for families with disabilities.

9. Explore Citizen Kid Global: a website that help young minds learn about the greater global world.

10. Fill a sports shoe box through Sports Gift.


11. Watch The Good Bird’s Club a special Sesame Street Video about bully prevention.

12. Help the kids in your life become comfortable writing their stories! Check out my Student Speak Pinterest Board.

13. Deliver a surprise to someone in need of a pick-me up. Need ideas? Gifts to Give on Pinterest.

14. For the crafty check out all of Leslie’s at Pink Stripey Socks DIY’s!

15. Head over to Operation World and choose a country to pray for together.

16. Keep clipping those Box Tops for when you return to school in the fall!

17. Become a Free a Family sponsor through World Renew.

18. For all those who can wield needles download a free pattern for Knit for Kids from World Vision.

19. Read digital editions of Quest for Compassion and Explorer for kids from Compassion International.

20. Read Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand (digital video)  about fighting childhood cancer.


21. Read this beautiful photo journey of Children’s Human Rights through UNICEF. (Great for the whole family)

22. Got Teens? Check out Participate in the Peanut Butter and Jam Slam this summer!

23. Walk, Run or Bike with your whole family with the free Charity Miles app!  Exercise for a cause of your choice!

24. Support a family’s micro loan through Kiva!

25. Give through Feeding America’s On-line Gift Catalog.

26. Sign up for Milkshake, a daily email with ideas to give back.

27. Take the GROW METHOD challenge with your family this summer from OxFam.

28. Try a new recipe with the kids from the GROW METHOD cookbook.

29. Take the Can You Imagine Quiz through Ryan’s Well about what it might be like without clean water.

30. Try out a Half the Sky Movement mobile game app.


31. Do you use You can refer a friend and support Shot@Life, providing vaccines to children.

32. Consider bringing TerraCyle to your school. Recycle and earn education money for your school.

33. Host a School Tools Event hands-on service through World Vision for education.

34. Host a Journey to Jamaa Movie Party through World Vision. Connecting Children who Care with People in Need.

35. Send a Wounded Warrior a thank you note through facebook.

36. Use free Girl Rising Curriculum to educate your girl about courageous needs of global friends.

37. Recycle those old running shoes with Reuse-a-Shoe by Nike.

38. Donate your old eyeglasses and sunglasses through Lions Club International.

39. Doing some home improvement donate your home supplies or purchase at Habitat for Humanity Restore.

40. Old Cell Phones? Try these options.


41. Play some Recycle City at the Environmental Protection Agency.

42. Watch these fun digital shorts at the Story of Stuff, great to teach kids about waste and recycling!

43. Download a free curriculum for faith-based teens about a Spirit-filled Response to a Consumed Crazed World.

44. Explore how your family can incorporate fair trade purchases into your household.

45. Submit your story to CausePub and support Blood Water Mission.

46. Download a toolkit from UNICEF with 20 Ways to Fight Human Trafficking.

47. Download Live58: free ebook about how to live generously in 2013.

48. Watch these videos about clean water from WaterAid family appropriate.

49. The Adventures of Super Toilet from WaterAid. What kid wouldn’t read that on-line comic book?

50. Download this flyer for expectant Mom’s to make sure they get a PulseOx Screening for new babies.


51. Make sidewalk chalk messages that encourage!

52. Deliver an ice cream treat to a shut-in or someone that has been feeling under the weather.

53. Surprise someone with a full car wash. Kids love to help with this, any excuse to get wet!

54. Remember your local food pantry. Many kids get the majority of their meals from school and when school’s out they experience food insecurity.

55. Use Goodsearch a penny is donated to your cause or school with each search.

56. Goodsurvery’s donates a dollar to your cause for each survey you take.

57. Are you a computer or facebook gamer? Try Goodgaming for every three times you play a penny is donated to your cause.

58. Try one of these 134 acts of kindness from Anna at And Then We Saved.

59. Save your pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

60. Check out this great list of items to donate such as toys and games to your closest Ronald McDonald House.


61. Three places to send a get well soon card to a child that is receiving long-term hospital care.

62. A summer hair cut? Try Locks of Love.

63. 100 tips to conserve water this summer!

64. Try some of the challenges in the book Clean House about youth entitlement.

65. Walk or use your bikes in the nice weather whenever possible. Bench that car! Shut off car pool!

66. Directions on how to make an infant care kit through the Mennonite Central Committee to be used in refugee camps.

67. Adopt a Classroom: Fund a project for a specific classroom.

68. Patterns to make blankets for children and babies through Project Linus.

69. Host or attend a block party for your neighborhood.


70. Do you know a young person serving at a summer camp? Send a care package.

71. Send pictures and letters to friends and family that live far away.

72. Do you know someone going through a difficult time? Step them up through Take Them a Meal.

73. Watch the video the Power of Ten. Plant trees and employ others through the Eden Foundation.

74. Giving through your coupon skills by

75. Speak up for what you believe in. Our combined voices are powerful.

76. Shut off social media for extended times during the day to be present with your kids.

78. Awesome ideas from the ever gracious Amy Sullivan.

79. Shop with purpose visit pinterest boards from about proximity and Amy Sullivan.

78. Kaboom Playground active body activities.

79. Kaboom Playground active together projects.


80. Kaboom Playground active mind projects.

81. Follow the non-profits you support on twitter, facebook and pinterest.

82. Donated your gently used coats through One Warm Coat.

83. Ideas for earning service learning credits through The Humane Society.

84. Support survivor care of victims of human trafficking through Love 146.

85. Become a church ambassador for Exodus Road.

86. Use social media for good. Learn more at Social Good Moms.

87. Teach your kids about hospitality by having friends over.

88. Support your local library by participating in their summer reading program.

89. Free lessons for kids about gardening and the environment.


90. Do you have a history lover? The National Park Service has an enormous list of ideas for service learning projects.

91. 55 Service Learning ideas from Youth Service America with links.

92. Check out Learning to Give a curriculum division of Generation On compatible with Common Core Standards.

93. Family Service Ideas from Generation On!

94. 65 ways to get started through Generation On!

95. Resource Database of Service Learning and Community Involvement from the New York Times.

96. Check out Faces Magazine from your library ages 9-14.

97. Teaching Tolerance Magazine is free to educators and youth directors.

98. Book list for Anti-Bullying and Conflict Resolution.

99. Spend time together.

100. Take time to do nothing at all 🙂


I’ d love to hear what you tried off this list. Guest post? I love your voice. 

Summer Reading = Make a Difference

summer reading

Summer is coming!!!

That means its time to break out the slip-and-slides and do a happy dance. (I know the beauty of summer wears off when the sibling fighting begins.) But, for a moment let’s join together and embrace the beauty of the approaching moment.


Reading can be a big part of summer break.

Summer reading = Make a Difference

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1. Read Creating Room to Read:

Add Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy to your reading list.

John Wood left a lucrative career at Microsoft to found the non-profit Room-to-Read, one of the partners of Girl Rising. The heart of this book is the stories of the students who are changed when given the chance of literacy.

Consider saving your giving bank change and participate in the students helping students program. 

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2. Visit We Give Books

Read digital books on-line with your family. Through your families reading efforts books are donated to We Give Books charity partners around the world! Share the gift of literacy!


3. Check out my Make a Difference Kids Books board on Pinterest. 

Head to your local library and add some of these books to your summer reading list. Kids relate to other kids! We are giving them a great gift when we open their eyes to the greater world and how they can be involved. I can’t wait to keep adding to this list!

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4. Learn more about Reach and Out and Read 

Reach and Out and Read is a non-profit that incorporates books into well-child exams and partners with medical providers. At your child’s next well-child exam share this non-profit with your health care provider. Sometimes families just need a little extra encouragement to make literacy an important part of their home.

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5.  Spend some time exploring Citizen Kid Central

Kids Can Press has some of amazing books for kids about global issues. I’m working on some fun story times with this series, generously donated by Kids Can Press to About Proximity! On the website you can watch videos that correspond to the stories.

What is your favorite book series from when you were young or for your own kids? 

Give Back over the Spring Season!

spring giving

Spring is coming. (Not as fast as I hoped it would.) Dirty gray snow please melt away…

10 Easy Ways to Give Back over the Spring Season! 


1. My Family’s Favorite Spring Treat: Bird’s Nests, make them together and double the batch to share. Here is the recipe:

  • One 7 oz. jar of marshmallow creme  
  • 1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1 can of chow mein noodles (3 cups)
  • 1 cup of chopped M&M’s Plain
  • Peanut M&M’s or other candy to fill the nest.

Combine the marshmallow creme, peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Add noodles and plain M&M’s. Fill the nests!


2. Spring Craft: Purchase some small, plain terra cotta flower pots. Get out paints and help your kids hand decorate the pots. Deliver them with a packet of seeds as gifts to others.


3. Try Composting: Read this guest article by my sister-in-law Jen for ideas of how to get started.

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4. Family Recycling Activity:  Explore Recycle City with the whole family. Make a list of ideas you can implement into your home.


Image courtesy of [Just2Happy], 

5. Plant: Take time to plant something new this spring a tree, bush, strawberry plant, seeds, a small flower.


6. Garden Donations: If you garden and have excess consider donating some of your crops. Sometimes churches allow members to offer their excess to other members. When you visit the farmer’s market this summer, consider dropping a gift off to someone who might need a little extra.

IMG_22727. Family Time is Important: Get outdoors together as a family: take a bike ride, a hike, a nature scavenger hunt, play in the beach sand, visit a new playground. Whatever you choose, do it together!


8. Did you know you could recycle this stuff? Spring clean with purpose. 

  • Paint. Habitat for Humanity Restores take latex paint to remix and resell. Find a location near you. 
  • Crayons. They can be recycled into new crayons. Learn more here.
  • Batteries. Visit Call2Recycle for a location near you.
  • Visit and type in any search for an object and see if there is a place to recycle near you.


9. Family Raking: Head out on a Saturday morning and clean up your yard as a family. While you have your work clothes on, help a neighbor or someone who needs assistance do spring clean up.


10. Deliver: Drop off a bouquet of spring flowers to a shut-in or someone who is ill. Set aside time to visit too.

How do you give back during the season of spring? 

Kids Books About the Topic of Immigration

Reading with your kids is an easy way to place your whole family in the proximity of renewal.

As parents, it’s important to teach our kids the perspective of those who have immigrated to a new home. Immigration reform is a huge topic right now. My husband is teaching an Office of Social Justice curriculum entitled The Church Between Borders all over the United States right now. Children’s books are an excellent way for us to teach our children.

the name jar

The Name Jar by: Yangsook Choi (In a new school, Unhei struggles to use her Korean name.)

harvesting hope

Harvesting Hope By: Cesar Chavez (The story of Cesar Chavez who sought to improve the lives of migrant farm workers.)

kite dragon

Henry and the Kite Dragon by: Bruce Edward Hale (A story based on true events, two rival groups of children from Chinatown and Little Italy learn what they share.)


Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan By: Coretta Scott King (Based on true events, orphaned boys from the war in Sudan, walk to a refugee camp in another country.)

whispering cloth

The Whispering Cloth by: Pegi Dietz Shea (life in a refugee camp in Thailand, a little girl tells her story through traditional pa’nadau)

hate english

I Hate English! by: Ellen Levine (the struggles of learning a new language in a new country.)

one green apple

One Green Apple by: Eve Bunting (the story of a young Muslim immigrant)

lotus seed

The Lotus Seed by: Tatsuro Kiuchi (a young girl immigrates from Vietnam.)

days to america

How Many Days to America By: Eve Bunting (a family is forced to flee their Caribbean home and board a boat to America.)

the color of home

The Color of Home By: Mary Hoffman (Hassan feels homesick after fleeing Somalia, to a refugee camp, to a new home in England.)

hannah is my name

Hannah is my Name By: Belle Yang (a young girl immigrates from Taiwan to San Francisco.)

waiting for papa

Waiting for Papa By: Rene Colato Lainez (Beto and his Mama have left El Salvador and with the help of an immigration lawyer they wait for Papa.)

leaving vietnam

Leaving Vietnam By: Sarah S. Kilborne (Tuan and his father flee Vietnam and immigrate to America.)

myname is jorge

My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River (poems in English and Spanish) By: Jane Medina (Jorge tries to assimilate to his new home in American and hold his Mexican heritage close.)


Super Cilantro Girl By: Juan Felipe Herrera (Esmeralda Sinfronteras is a super-hero who goes great lengths to rescue her Mom. The story highlights concerns children may have about national borders and immigrant status.)

Kids Books and Resources about Hunger

Make a difference.

These books are great to read as a family and cover the topic of hunger and food security. 

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Beatrice’s Goat By: Page McBrier (Beatrice receives a goat named Mugisa that can lift her family out of poverty.)

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One Hen By: Katie Smith Milway (Kojo from Ghana helps his family out of poverty with the gift of a hen.)

Follow up these books by sharing global gift catalogs with your kids.

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Faith the Cow By: Susan Bame Hoover  (Susan grew up across the street from a barn that raised baby cows for Heifer International.)

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Bone Button Borscht By: Aubrey Davis (A version of the classic stones soup, a beggar shows a village how to work together.)

images (10)What the World Eats By: Peter Menzel (A books that shares photographs about what people around the world eat)

images (16)The Good Garden By: Katie Smith Milway (A struggling family in Honduras revives their family with a gardening project.)


Visit The Good Garden Website.

Meet the now grown Maria Luz of the story. Watch a video of her journey from hunger to having enough.

Meet Real People whose lives were changed from good gardening.

Educators can find curriculum to the Good Garden here.

Water Aid Kids Activities

water aid

2,000 children die every day from easily prevented diarrheal diseases. We can educate our kids to make a difference for kids around the world that do not have access to clean water and safe sanitation.


What kids doesn’t want to fight poop justice?


Enter WaterAid kids resources..

The Learn Zone at WaterAid has a sense of humor just right for kids.


Download a Water Splash Coloring Book for 3-5 year olds.

Play Games

  • Pani the Handlepump (quiz game) 
  • Turdliwinks (flick your turdliwinks into ‘toilet targets’)
  • Soozhal (Be an investigative journalist in India)

Watch 13 different videos all appropriate for kids. The issue comes to life when you see children moving through the challenge of finding clean water.

Download Information Sheets for Kids

Watch an On-line Comic Book featuring:

  • Vinny the Poo
  • Super Toilet
  • Driplette
  • Soapy Hero



WaterAid is a partner organization of Mom Bloggers for Social Good and the Global Team of 200.

Try one of these out with your family and tell us all about their reaction!