Uncategorized, Volunteering

5 ways volunteering changes your life

5 ways volunteering changes your life: looking for a way to add meaning and direction to your existence? Consider volunteering. Find out why at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. 1. It gives you perspective.

In the United States, we are fortunate to be blessed beyond measure, yet it seems we also complain without measure! In my life I have found that what I need is not for my circumstances to adhere to my definition of perfection, but rather for my heart to succumb to contentment. 

When you serve someone else who has a keen or obvious need, it helps you place your own life in realistic perspective. It helps you understand and believe that you are, indeed, truly blessed. Sometimes we just need to step outside of ourselves for a second and see things differently. 

Working at Starfish, I have seen many kids growing in a single parent home, with their mom and dad working several jobs, coming home really late at night. I’ve also seen beloved students watch their friends and family members die because of gun and gang violence. My life isn’t so bad. 

Donate to Starfish Chicago and change the lives of at-risk inner city youth. Looking for a way to make an impact through philanthropy? Click here to send a donation via PayPal and partner with us in creating a bright future for today's youth. 2. It makes you a compassionate person.

No matter where you are or what you are doing, compassion is essential for success in your personal and professional relationships. Empathy, the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view, will help you handle sticky situations with finesse, and lead people commanding respect. 

Serving others regularly helps to foster compassion in your own heart. You will learn to be patient with imperfect people, and understand how difficult situations can push people to act a certain way. You will learn to respond with kindness rather than disdain. 

5 ways volunteering changes your life: looking for a way to add meaning and direction to your existence? Consider volunteering. Find out why at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. 3. It helps you refine your goals. 

If your long-term hopes and dreams do not include helping others, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. We were designed to experience great joy in serving others. There is very limited meaning in building an empire that only brings yourself money, power, or fame. If you want to experience fulfillment, refine your goals. 

Serving others will help you realize your true passion. It may not be in the exact field you are volunteering in, but it will help you define how you want to live your life. The happiness you experience while giving to others is something you will want to continue for the rest of your life. 

I remember the first time I worked with an at-risk child. It changed my life and made me realize that this is what I wanted to spend my life doing. This is how my life can make a difference and bring me great fulfillment, simultaneously. 

4. It creates friendships. 

We always hear these stories of volunteers who came to the program intending to change lives, but it was their own life that changed. The simple joy of a child, the obvious value they place in companionship and just BEING together at the center; these are things I will never forget. 

We come seeking to give, to serve; but it is us who receive, us who learn, and us who will remember these precious people for years to come. 

5 ways volunteering changes your life: looking for a way to add meaning and direction to your existence? Consider volunteering. Find out why at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. 5. It creates opportunities. 

Once you’ve had your eyes opened and discovered your passion, you will begin to excel in your field. Through the relationships you build with other volunteers and mentors, doors will open for you to begin to serve others in a similar capacity, but as your career. 

I met a precious young man who volunteered on our summer retreats. He loved working with and mentoring the Starfish kids so much, he realized at some point that this is what he wanted to do with his life. He understood the happiness he experienced with the kids was something he could have long term if he just prepared himself for it. Currently his course of study in college focuses on early childhood education. 

If volunteering seems like it might be a good fit for you, I encourage you to explore local agencies that serve the type of people you may be interested in serving. If you are local to the Chicago area and are interested in working with at-risk kids, email us at starfishchicago@yahoo.com, or visit our website at www.starfishchicago.org

Learn more about our after school program designed to help at-risk inner city youth in Chicago. Visit our website:starfishchicago.org.

Christianity

The best way to teach kids Bible meditation

The best way to teach your kids Bible meditation: see how we taught a group of kids to meditate on scripture and download a free printable to help. Check it out at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. One of the most important things we can do at the center is to teach the Word of God to our kids, and to guide them into experiencing Him themselves in a way that greatly impacts their life. At Starfish we regularly teach the Word using multimedia, arts and crafts, music, and personal testimony. We recently taught them Bible meditation using a method that we’re sharing today in this post. 

The best way to teach your kids Bible meditation: see how we taught a group of kids to meditate on scripture and download a free printable to help. Check it out at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. The reason we felt that Bible meditation is important to our kids is that it teaches them to be quiet before God, to listen to what He has to say, and to really think about Bible verses instead of just rushing through them. It’s very important to us that our kids experience a deep, legitimate connection with God, and that they aren’t just parroting things they’ve learned from us, but have really made a relationship with God their own. 

We designed a worksheet that we’re sharing with you that guides kids into meditation. Rather than covering a lot of scripture, we think it’s best to choose one verse and break it into parts for the kids to chew on. Here is an example of a scripture our kids recently meditated on. Feel free to click on the image to download and print it for reference. 

The best way to teach your kids Bible meditation: see how we taught a group of kids to meditate on scripture and download a free printable to help. Check it out at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.
When we did this exercise, we had worship music playing softly in the background and we didn’t rush the kids into finishing but we let them take their time. If any of them had any questions, we had them silently raise their hands and a staff member would help them. 

Here is the blank version you can click on to save and print so your kids (or you!) can use it for meditation:

The best way to teach your kids Bible meditation: see how we taught a group of kids to meditate on scripture and download a free printable to help. Check it out at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.
We loved seeing what the kids wrote in the “ask God what it means” section. It’s also a great tool to open the kids up to discussion about God and the Bible. Let us know if you use our sheets and how it goes!

The best way to teach your kids Bible meditation: see how we taught a group of kids to meditate on scripture and download a free printable to help. Check it out at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.

The best way to teach your kids Bible meditation: see how we taught a group of kids to meditate on scripture and download a free printable to help. Check it out at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.
Health and nutrition

6 nutrition habits of inner city youth

6 nutrition habits of inner city youth: our youth are making poor diet choices, and it's influencing their health. Read about their diet choices at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. I’ve worked with inner city youth since 2009. During this time I’ve noticed certain diet trends persist amongst the youth, reinforced by the habits of those around them, and lack of substantial understanding of the long term effects of an unhealthy diet. At Starfish, we’ve made it a goal not only to provide healthy snacks for our kids, but to educate them as to why eating healthy food is important. 

In this post, I’ve included my observations as to some of the unhealthy eating habits of inner city youth.

6 nutrition habits of inner city youth: our youth are making poor diet choices, and it's influencing their health. Read about their diet choices at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.
The recommended daily sugar intake for kids is 25 grams a day. This juice has 68.
1. Extreme sugar intake

My husband and I love sweets. However, because we’ve been educated on the subject, we understand the consequences of going overboard. Sometimes we’ll watch with morbid fascination as a young kid will pop open a giant container of “juice”, whose name undoubtedly leads the parents to believe it’s healthy for the kids. Of course, we have to check the label. The American Heart Association recommends 25 grams of added sugar daily for kids. The sugar in one of these monstrous drinks alone can sometimes be up to 68 grams, mainly because it’s three servings or so, but the kids will drink the whole thing. 

2. School meals

School meals are a blessing for busy low-income parents, but they aren’t always healthy, and neither are they always appetizing. Depending on what’s on the menu, kids may choose to skip it altogether. Of course, that goes for when mom packs their lunch, also …

6 nutrition habits of inner city youth: our youth are making poor diet choices, and it's influencing their health. Read about their diet choices at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. 3. Unhealthy after school snacks

Many kids walk home or to their after school program after school. They’re understandably very hungry, and they often hit up the local convenience store to remedy that. Unfortunately, their nutritional choices are usually poor. They usually walk away with chips (not the healthy kind), sweets, and … juice. 

4. Long stretches between meals

Often both mom and dad have to work to pay the bills, or just one parent is providing for the whole family. A lot of times these guys are super-hungry for more than just a snack, but then they don’t get dinner often until 9 or 10 at night. That’s a long time for a growing kid to go without a good meal!

Starfish Learning Center: an after school program for at-risk youth in the inner city of Chicago. Learn more at starfishchicago.org. 5. Limited fruit and vegetables 

At Starfish, we serve two snacks during our program hours, and the first snack is always a fruit or a vegetable. We know that these kids might not be getting them at home or school. We also work on making them enticing by offering new recipes and ideas, because we know if kids aren’t used to it they won’t touch it. While we know that ample fruits and vegetables are vital to complete nutrition, kids who have either limited or questionable adult guidance on food choices, often skip the fruit and veggies, especially the raw, whole variety. Fruit juices or fruits in heavy syrup aren’t as healthy, and many people favor cooked vegetables over the raw ones, even though raw ones are essential. 

6 nutrition habits of inner city youth: our youth are making poor diet choices, and it's influencing their health. Read about their diet choices at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. 6. Reluctance to try (or like) new foods

As a grown parent with kids, I’ve exposed them to a wide variety of foods, including many different ethnic varieties. At Starfish, we are constantly teaching the kids to cook new foods, and on outings we’ll take them to a variety of restaurants. Our experience is that they eat what they’re comfortable with, and that’s what they stick with! Most kids don’t often get out far past their neighborhood, and the variety of food offered isn’t that great. We hope that continually introducing things will engender a willingness to try new food, and, in turn, a more balanced diet. 

At Starfish, we know we can’t change the choices kids make when it comes to their diet, but our hope is that through introducing and educating our youth on healthy food, we can influence their future diet. 

Uncategorized

10 small things you can do to change the world

10 small things you can do to change the world: find the list at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.

1. Be kind to those that are rude to you

Our knee-jerk reaction when we are treated unfairly by others is to respond in kind. We are instantly offended. Unfortunately, this response doesn’t benefit anyone. There is pain and suffering in the world, but we don’t have to let it touch us, and we don’t have to be perpetrators. 

When we are meek and gentle with those who are rude to us, we help to interrupt their pattern of abuse AND we set ourselves on the pattern of greatness. Taking offense for petty things will destroy you, not build you up. 

2. Be thankful for your blessings rather than complain about your trials

In the good ‘ol USA we are spoiled by wealth and comfort. Unfortunately, this has done nothing to increase our gratitude, but rather lends us an air of entitlement. Not only is that ugly, but it keeps us from happiness! If we focus on the positive and keep the negative in proper perspective, we can influence others for good. 

10 small things you can do to change the world: find the list at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.3. Share your triumphs to help others

Do you have a weight-loss story or were you miraculously set free from addiction to drugs and alcohol? Share your story! There are so many others struggling with the things you have triumphed over. Even if your journey isn’t finished, telling it to others, whether in person, through a book, or social media, can make a difference in someone’s life. 

4. Volunteer at a local charity

It may not seem like much, but if everyone would volunteer just a few hours a month even, the impact we could make on the needy in our community is staggering. If you are local to the Chicago area, consider volunteering at Starfish Learning Center, where we provide tutoring and other services to at-risk youth. If you are interested, contact us here or visit starfishchicago.org for more details. 

5. Consider the impact of small decisions 

Every day you are contributing to something. It could be garbage to a landfill, emissions to the atmosphere, or pounds to your waistline. If you take the bus instead of your car, you lessen your negative impact. If everyone made small decisions for the better of society, our world would look significantly different in the next twenty years or so. 

6. Give what you can to the needy

Even if it’s just a small amount, it’s the habit that counts, especially when people are watching you. Are you afraid to share what you have because you think you won’t have enough? God provides supernaturally for those who are generous. Whether it’s a buck to the homeless person on the street, or a small one-time donation to Starfish Learning Center to help at-risk youth, your sacrifice makes a difference in their lives and yours. 

7. Choose a career that directly helps others

When you’re deciding on a career, obviously you don’t just want to choose the biggest moneymaker. You also want to pick something that will bring you fulfillment, especially since it is likely you are going to spend a lot of time on this activity. Meeting the needs of other people is one of the most satisfying things you can do. Sure, people aren’t always easy to get along with, but particularly if you are making a big difference in someone’s life, your work can really be worth it. Deciding to work for Starfish was one of the best decisions of my life. Seeing the impact I make on inner city youth has been extremely rewarding. 

10 small things you can do to change the world: find the list at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.8. Reach out to your neighbors

It’s so easy to live closed-off in fear, not approaching the people we brush against every day. However, it’s a huge investment to reach out and build a relationship. It’s best to do this the first time you move in or start a job. Bring over some homemade cookies, or pay them a compliment. Let them know they can trust you. It works in your favor, in case you ever need them to be favorably-disposed towards you, but also, this world  needs more friends and fewer neighbors who ignore each other. 

9. Thank the people who help you

People help you every day, at the grocery store, online, on the phone, in your house. Don’t forget to thank them. It brings a little sunshine to their day, helps them treat you favorably, and it helps craft in you a heart of gratitude. It doesn’t take that long, and it’s definitely worth it. 


10 small things you can do to change the world: find the list at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.10. Raise children to be kind

The greatest impact most of us will have is through our children. You are crafting the kind of people they will be and how they will treat others. If you model to them that it’s okay to be impatient and rude, you are sowing into the world a crop of inconsiderate people. If you teach your kids to serve others selflessly with joy, they will each impact many for good. It’s not just how they interact in your household, it’s how they will interact when they leave your home and interface with others. Train them to be kind. 

It’s easy to think that one person can’t make a big difference in the world, but your choices impact you and the people around you. Choose wisely and selflessly, and you can change the world, even if it’s in a small way. 

Uncategorized, Volunteering

A day in the life of an at-risk youth

A day in the life of an at-risk youth: the story of today's inner city kids. Learn how you can help change their future. Read it at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.

“Chris” gets up early for school like any other kid. If he’s lucky he’ll grab a sugary breakfast on his way out the door. He’s excited to see his friends, but a little apprehensive about facing his teacher. He didn’t understand his math assignment, but as his mom works late, she couldn’t help him. She doesn’t understand the stuff anyways. 

On his way to school, Chris crosses the street even though it’s out of his way, because the kids sitting on the corner are part of a local gang, and he doesn’t want any trouble. He gets to class on time and sits in his chair. His mind wanders as his teacher talks, thinking about his dad, who’s in prison for beating his mom. He misses him. 

A day in the life of an at-risk youth: the story of today's inner city kids. Learn how you can help change their future. Read it at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. During lunch there’s a hushed buzz around school as his friends discuss a former classmate, Johnny. Johnny was walking to the store yesterday when he a bullet caught him in the back. He didn’t make it. Johnny was in two of his classes. He also wasn’t Chris’ first friend to die prematurely. 

Chris is starting to understand math a little more. He stays after school to get extra help, but it’s only an hour, and there are so many students and so few tutors. He’s really smart and just needs a little help, but finding motivation is difficult. His classmates are in the same boat as him. Their parents work late, many never graduated from high school, had children young, and either live off welfare or a minimum-wage job. 

A day in the life of an at-risk youth: the story of today's inner city kids. Learn how you can help change their future. Read it at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com. As Chris heads home, he ducks his head low. It’s not quite spring yet, so it gets dark early. The worst times to be alone on the street are after dark and summer. He’s hungry, but his mom doesn’t cook until she gets off work at ten. Maybe there’ll be some chips in the cupboard. 

The doorman nods at Chris as he lets him in the building. Chris keeps his eyes down as he doesn’t want to interrupt any drug deals going on in his building. He lets himself in his room and gets right to his homework, as he is a good kid. He hears gunshots outside, and exhales softly, glad he didn’t hang out at the store today. Payday isn’t until tomorrow, so his mom didn’t have extra cash anyway. 

Chris is hungry so he takes a snack break. There are some Flaming Hot Cheetos in the cupboard, so he munches as he wrestles with math, enjoying the quiet even though it’s a little lonely. When he’s done he texts his friends and plays video games. 

His mom comes home a little after ten, and starts yelling at him immediately, despite his assurances that he did his homework. “Why are your grades so bad, then? Are you just dumb?” She hopes her verbal tirade will motivate him to do better, so he can have a better life than hers. 

Why we need after school programs InfoGraphic. Nonprofit. But Chris needs more than motivation. Chris needs homework help. Chris needs a mentor. Chris needs a safe place to hang out after school. He needs nutritious snacks. Chris needs an after school program! Unfortunately, so do all the other kids in the neighborhood! There are a few programs, but just so many kids. 

Donate to Starfish Learning Center today to support our youth program and at-risk inner city kids. Starfish Learning Center is one of these programs. Starfish has been supporting at-risk youth in the inner city of Chicago for twenty years! But Starfish needs people with a passion for helping kids, people like you who can really change the future of these youth. Starfish needs to grow our program so we can include more youth, but we need volunteers, and we need financial support! If you’re able to partner with us financially, even a small donation can make a difference! Donate here. If you’re local to the Chicago area and you want to volunteer, visit our website at starfishchicago.org, or contact us here. Together we can change the future of today’s youth!

A day in the life of an at-risk youth: the story of today's inner city kids. Learn how you can help change their future. Read it at starfishchicagoblog.wordpress.com.