Growing up, I babysat for a child with down syndrome, a child with cerebral palsy, and a kiddo with unspecified special needs.
They changed my life.
So, I’m one of those people that’s an awkward laugher in situations where I don’t know how to respond. And when I started babysitting for these kiddos, believe you me my little 14-year-old self had no idea how to respond. But then I got to know them. I got to make dinners with them, I got to watch Disney with them (So. Much. Little. Mermaid.), I got to dance with them. And slowly, over the years, I realized something that I’ve kept forever.
They were some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
These little boys thought of the world in totally different ways. They often loved the little things of the world that I passed by. They didn’t take life for granted (Charlie especially – his wild laughter as I would swing him around, dancing in the living room will never leave my heart).
I learned that cooking, that watching movies, that dancing were magical. That the simple act of dancing with a boy that can’t move his arms and legs because of cerebral palsy will bring incredible joy.
I learned that life is an incredible gift, however it is given.
I learned that because I, by a chance of fate, can dance whenever I want to, can cook and sing and laugh and run marathons whenever I want to, that I have a duty and responsibility to use these things I’ve been given to make this world better. Just as each and every one of those boys made this world better just by being who they were made to be.
They were special. In every way.
This project is to help special needs artisanal entrepreneurs. And I struggled with the term special needs because I know that it rubs people the wrong way. But I finally decided that that is the term I wanted to use because special needs people give something special to all that love them.
I am not saying it’s not hard – good grief there were many days of babysitting that were so hard, and I can’t imagine being a full-time parent (especially after learning some of the statistics below). But people with special needs give the world a gift of seeing it in a completely different way. And that, indeed, is one of the most precious, most significant, and one of the most special gifts the world can give you.
This project is to create kindness sticks and do a supplies drive for an AMAZING nonprofit that is helping special needs artisans become entrepreneurs and showing artists in their own right. Keep reading to get the details on the project and more information on Kindling Studios.
Note: Some of these links might include affiliate links.
- Craft Sticks
- Acrylic Paint
- Paint Pens and Paint Brushes
- Large Container or Box
- Printer Paper
Gather your supplies and paint your crafts sticks
Write acts of kindness on the craft sticks with your paint pens. You can get ideas for sayings and acts here! Some examples:
- Do a Chore for Someone without them Knowing
- Tape Change to a Parking Meter
- Read a Book to Someone
- Check in on an Elderly Neighbor
Find a spot in your house to store the kindness sticks and pick one (yourself and/or kiddos) every Saturday to do the following week.
Do a supplies drive for special needs artisans! Gather your posterboard and decorate it with drive information (read below for the information on the issue and organization).
Print off fliers giving information and the deadline for the drive. Distribute the fliers to friends and place your container in a central gathering place for people to distribute the items. Decorate the container and area with your posters!
Mail this off! Include a Giving Card (and ingredient list) so the people on the other end know there’s a real community out there pulling for them. Print off this page, cut out the label below, and send it off. You can even Schedule a Free Package Pickup Here. Send it off to:
2222 E. Ventura Blvd.
Camarillo, CA 93010
Your Mission: Special Needs
Let’s get some more facts on Special Needs – and how you can help.
Did you know that there are 1 BILLION people worldwide with a disability? Neither did we. We also discovered that the cost of raising a special needs child can be 4 times the cost of typical children – and with the cost of raising a child at about $60,000, that’s a LOT of money.
Every year the United States spends $11.5 BILLION dollars on special education – and, frankly, many people say that we need more help. So you’re help, you’re supplies for this amazing nonprofit? Worldchanging. Dollar-saving. DIY Amazingness (which is what we go for ;)).
Your Organization: Kindling Studios
Kindling Studios is an Aina-Approved (i.e. amazing) nonprofit that works with special needs teens and adults. Focusing on the areas of entrepreneurship and artistic expression, Kindling Studios helps train, offer space, and create exhibits for special needs artisans within the United States.
YOUR BONUS: Lesson Plans
BONUS: Are you a teacher/want to do this in a classroom setting? Get our complete project download and get a full lesson plan for this project, standards and writing prompts included!
GET CONNECTED TO AINA
We love more friends! Not only do we want you as a part of the Aina Ohana, but we’d love for you to share your creations with us on Instagram! Follow us @ainagiving – and tag us with pics of your world-changing project!
Carmen Westbrook is the CEO and co-founder of Aina Giving, a female-led company that transforms women into world changers. Join the movement of DIY World Change and get our accredited projects, leadership coaching, and nonprofit consulting – email us and tell us how you want to change the world. We’ll help you get there.