Human Rights Day Activities To Do With Your Kids

This post was originally written for World Moms Blog.

IMG_1800Every December 10, people around the world celebrate Human Rights Day.  The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.  As we have done on World Moms Blog before (see 10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day), we’re sharing some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.

1.  Make a World Wishes Dove with your family.  Cut feathers from white paper or colored construction paper.  Have everyone in the family decorate and write their wish for the world on a feather.    Cut out the body of a dove or other bird and glue all the feathers on it.  Once decorated, your bird will be a beautiful and hopeful expression of your family’s hopes for our world.

Template for a doveImage Source
Template for a dove
Image Source
2.  Play a game that helps kids understand human rights.  Blind Trust (from ABC – Teaching Human Rights):  In pairs, have one child blindfold the other and have the sighted member of the pair lead the “blind” one about for a few minutes. Make sure the leading child is not abusing the power to lead, since the idea is to nurture trust, not to destroy it. The “leader” of the pair should try to provide as wide a variety of experiences as possible, such as hav- ing the “blind” partner feel things with his or her feet or fingers, leading with vocal directions or even playing a game. After a few minutes have the children reverse the roles and repeat the process so that the “leader” is now the led, and the “blind” partner is now the sighted one.

Once the activity is over, allow the children to talk about what happened. Discuss how they felt – not just as “blind” partners but their feelings of responsibility as “leaders” too. This can lead not only to a greater awareness of what life is like for people with sight (or hearing) disabilities, but to a discussion of the importance of trust in the whole community. This can lead in turn to a discussion of world society, how it works and how it can fail to work too.  (teaches about Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 28; Convention on the Rights of the Child articles 3, 23)

3.  Learn about how children live in other countries.  For example, you can learn what kinds of food children in East Africa grow and eat from the Lessons from Africa resource created by the British non-governmental organization Send A Cow (also check out their website http://www.cowforce.com).  You can download the  powerpoint  about typical East African food.   You can also print out some of the recipes for things like chapatis and pepper soup to make and try for yourself.

4.  Find out what kids and teens can do to help stop child labor.  The ILO’s Youth in Action against Child Labour campaign has ideas, information,  videos and other resources to help young people take action to end child labor.

5.  Play Human Rights Twister to teach about cooperation, respect and inclusion.   Make a “Twister” game in which kids spell out key human rights words using their feet and hands.  Draw a grid with 6 columns and 5 rows with marker on a  large piece of cloth (like an old sheet) or plastic (like a plastic tablecloth). You can also use chalk to draw it on the ground. Write the following letters in the grid:

(blank) W X Y Z(blank)


Q R S T U V

K L M N O P

E F G H I J

(blank space)A B C D(blank)

Ask the children to name some rights and list them on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Underline a key word in each right from this list of rights in one word:

Dignity            Education            Equality             Food            Freedom            Home            Love (from parents)            Name

Nationality          Opinion          Participation (in decisions that affect us)          Play          Protection          Religion

When you have listed at least 3 or 4 rights, have the children spell out the key word in the human right from the list by placing their hands and feet on the  appropriate letters of the “Twister” game.  When 1 child’s hands and feet are in place and the word is not yet completed, ask another child to join in  to complete the word. If the hand or foot of another  child already covers a letter, the player just has to touch the child that is on that letter.  When a letter is too far to reach, invite another child to join in.  (This activity and dozens of others to teach about human rights values and peaceful conflict resolution are available for free download in the Canadian organization EquitasPlay It Fair Toolkit. )

6.  Make toys and play games that children play in other countries.  Many kids throughout the world live in poverty and don’t have money to buy toys and games.  They make their own toys out of recycled materials that they find.  Your kids can try making a football (soccer ball) out of recycled plastic bags or a toy car made from a plastic bottle.

You can also  make and play the Sudanese game “Dala” (the Cow Herder Game).  In many parts of the world, games mimic everyday life; this game mimics the Sudanese practice of bull herding.  Sudanese people play it on the ground, using sticks to make the lines and pebbles or seeds as “bulls”.

7.  Ask the question “What Does a Child Need?”  Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline on the paper.  Ask your child(ren) to name this paper child. Discuss and decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humour, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Talk about what human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care); write them down on the paper outside of the outline.  You can also read a simplified version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, etc.)  When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they can write the number of the articles next to that item. Circle any needs identified but not covered by the Convention.

DSC_0599

 

8.  Read some books with strong female characters.   Non-discrimination and equality are key concepts in international human rights law.  Yet girls and women are generally not been portrayed as equals to boys and men in literature.  A Mighty Girl has compiled several great lists of girl-empowering books, including Top Read Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls,  Top 100 Mighty Girl Picture BooksTop Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls, and Top Mighty Girl Books & Films on Women’s History.

9.   Get creative and enter your work in a contest with a human rights theme.   Local, regional or international contests are powerful activities for getting youth involved and learning about human rights.  Take action by entering some of the contests listed here on the Youth For Human Rights website.  (You can also learn more on the website about their educational programs, projects, awareness campaigns and human rights outreach campaigns.)

10.  Make a Human Rights Day card.  You can give the card to a friend or member of your family.  Or you can make multiple cards to decorate your house.   My eight year old daughter (that’s her self-portrait in the background) made this card for all the children of the world.

IMG_1502

 

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day!  If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:

My past posts on Human Rights Day activities:

United Nations Cyber Schoolbus – human rights activities and information about the United Nations’ work

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

Human Rights Here and Now  – human rights lesson plans and resources

Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities – activities for preschool and young elementary children

UNRIC’s Human Rights Education website –  great source for multimedia on human rights!

Haikus With My Daughter III: Girls Rights

My heart yearns for you

To live – equal – to your full

human potential.

It’s a challenge to raise a daughter in a society that innundates us with countless hidden messages about how girls should look and act, who they should be.    My daughter and I have been talking about this a lot lately, with the holiday marketing of “girls toys” and “boys toys” so in our faces.   So I was pleasantly surprised this week when she found a women’s rights message hidden in Captain Underpants and The Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers.

IMG_1964

Captain Underpants.

The bully battle begins!

(Secret feminism.)

You go, girl! You just go and go and GO!

This post, Haikus With My Daughter , Haikus With My Daughter II  and Thanksgiving are a response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.

Haikus With My Daughter II

DSC_0405

“I wrote a poem about you today,” I said.  “Well, just a haiku.  But actually, I wrote two.”

This caught my 8 year-old daughter’s attention.  She put down her Monster High doll, the one she just bought with money hard-earned from chores like scooping the cat’s litterbox.

“What’s a haiku?” she asked.  Apparently, they hadn’t yet covered this in her third grade class.

“It’s a kind of short Japanese poem.  It has three lines, with a total of only seventeen syllables.  The first line is five syllables, the second is seven and the third is five.”

As she read my haikus, I said,  “I wrote about you, but  usually haikus are about nature.”

“Like about animals?”

“Sure.  ‘Animals’ is three syllables, so you need two more for the first line.  Then seven, then five.”

“Syllables, like beats in music?”

“Exactly.”

She didn’t even pause to think.  She launched right in.

“Animals live in …”

“You’re doing it!  You’re writing your very own haiku!  Now seven syllables. Where do animals live?”

“Jungle, forest and…”   She counted out the syllables on the five fingers of her right hand.   Then two more on the fingers of her left hand.  She had painted her fingernails in an alternating pattern with red and blue nail polish.  Red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, red blue.

“City? Ocean?”

“That’s great!  Which one?  Ocean or city?”

“Nature everywhere.”

“You did it!  You wrote your own haiku!”

She smiled – a small, proud smile – and then she picked up her doll again.

“That was really good.  Let me write it down.   Can you say it again?”

She shrugged, engrossed in brushing the doll’s hair.

“I forgot it already,” she said.

“But I’m your mom and I will always remember,”  I thought.

Haiku by Eliza

Animals live in

Jungle, forest and city.    (or ocean)

Nature around us!

This post, Haikus With My Daughter , Thanksgiving and Haikus With My Daughter III: Girls Rights are in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.

Haikus With My Daughter

IMG_0449I haven’t written a poem since I was in elementary school.

But today I wrote tw0- not one, but TWO! – haikus in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.

My eight year old daughter was the inspiration for the first.

It doesn't have to be perfect to be sussesful.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be sussesful.

Marginalia

Cleaning her backpack,

I found …my daughter’s wise words,

Scrawled  in the  margins.

She was also the inspiration for the second haiku of the day:

IMG_1770

To My Daughter, Who Is 8

Eight years old, full of

Joy and bold discovery.

Stay this kind and strong!

 

Next up – my daughter writes her very first haiku!  Haikus With My Daughter II

CALL OF (Parental) DUTY: Part IV Gaming for A Good Cause

Humble bundle Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 8.01.19 PM

If you have following my CALL OF (Parental) DUTY series of posts, you will know that my 13-year-old son and I are in an ongoing dialogue about video gaming.  It began last October when he asked for CALL OF DUTY: Black Ops II for his birthday – and did not receive it.  (You can read more about that in the post Part I Introduction.)  Over the past year, his father and I have stood by our decision not to allow our son to play violent M-rated games in our home.  We feel that it is our own duty as parents to draw that line as to what is appropriate for our son to play.  While we have reached a truce on the subject of Black Ops II and other M-rated games, we continue to have discussions about the pros and cons of gaming.   Not surprisingly, Sevrin is more dedicated than I am to finding and sharing the pros of gaming.

Recently, Sevrin shared with me information about a charitable giving initiative in the gaming community through the Humble Bundle. I’ll let him describe it.

I originally learned about the Humble Bundle when I was on vacation, talking with my cousin Aidan. We were talking about one of the most common things known to teenage boys: video games. He mentioned an event going on in the gaming community where people donate as much as they want to charity and in return get 10 games. When I went home I decided to see what this whole thing was about. I was touched. Some parents do not approve of their kids playing video games for many reasons. Some think its a waste of time, others just straight up hate them. Then there are those who don’t see the point of buying them because they feel like it doesn’t benefit anybody. Well, for those people I introduce The Humble Bundle. The Humble Bundle is an organization that partners with game developers to help raise money for charity.

Basically, The Humble Bundle is a collection or (“bundle”) of digital games or media that are sold and distributed online at a price determined by the purchaser. This “pay what you  want” model has proven very popular, and there have been Humble Bundles for music and eBooks as well as video games.  With the Humble Origin Bundle, which launched on August 14, 2013, there was a twist:  all sales from the bundle went to charity.  Instead of “pay what you want”, it was “donate what you want”.

Here is Sevrin’s description

The best part of The Humble Bundle is that the choice is up to the buyer. You can donate as low as $1.01 to get the games. You can also choose what charity you are donating to. Best of all is, unlike most charities, YOU choose if you want to make a donation to the Humble Bundle organization or not. Personally, I found the whole idea ingenious. It’s beneficial to everybody involved in it. The organization itself gets the money to do these sales more often, the game developers involved get more publicity, the buyers get great deals on some of the best games of the time and the greatest part is that people get the satisfaction of knowing that all of the money they spend goes directly to charity.

And so, for the first time in my life, I bought a video game.  A bundle of video games, that is.   The only problem was that the Humble Origin Bundle contains some games that are M-rated and therefore not allowed in our house.  Since there was no way to separate out the inappropriate games, Sevrin agreed that he would only play the games he is allowed to play.  I agreed to trust him to keep his promise.

After talking it through with Sevrin, I decided that I would make a $10 donation for the bundle and let him choose which charities to support.  He did some research into the charities and choose the following:

Charitable giving Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 7.59.45 PM

This provided a good opportunity to talk about charitable giving.  (Since I work at a non-profit, I feel that this is an important thing to teach my kids about.) Sevrin chose to give the largest percentage of his donation to the Human Rights Campaign because equality and LGBT rights are issues that he cares about.   He also chose to support Watsi, an organization that provides a global crowdfunding platform for medical care.  What he liked about Watsi was that 100% of the donation directly supports medical treatment.  The American Red Cross was so giant (number one on Charity Navigator’s 10 Super-Sized Charities list) and therefore must have so much administrative overhead that he decided not to support it.  GameAid just didn’t grab him.  But he thought it was reasonable to give Humble Bundle 50 cents of the $10 so they can keep up the good work.

The Humble Origin Bundle raised more than $3.5 million within a day of going live in August.   As of August 28, 2013, the Humble Bundle has raised more than $22.5 million dollars for charity.   

The current bundle sale is the Humble Comedy Bundle.  With this bundle, however, you can support artists, charities or both.   If you like standup comedy, you may want to check it out.  But you have to hurry – as I write this, there are 5 days and 13 minutes remaining.

While we are not changing our policy on video gaming because of the Humble Bundle, it is good to see that the industry is taking steps to make a difference in the real world.   I’m surprised that this kind of creativity in charitable giving has not been reported more widely in the mainstream media.  So I will say it again:

Humble Bundle has raised more than $22.5 million dollars for charity!  

Good on you Humble Bundle. That is truly gaming for a good cause!  

Other posts in the CALL OF (Parental) DUTY series:

Part I  Introduction

Part II “Freedom to Game is Important”   – my son shares his point of view

Part III This Is Your Brain On Video Games – research on the impact of violent video games on brain function

The Human Rights Lesson

20130525-083050.jpg

I spent some time in my daughter’s classroom last week talking to the second graders about human rights.  I’ve been a guest speaker in all of my kids’ classrooms and have done this presentation (a kind of human rightsy mash-up of show-and-tell and career day) pretty much every year since my oldest was in second grade.  But this time was different.  I discovered the night before I was scheduled to speak in her class that my daughter, who just turned 8, was planning to do the presentation on human rights WITH me.

I have a more-or-less standard routine and she knew it well.  (I wrote a post called Same and Different about doing this human rights lesson in my sons’ classrooms.)  First, I do an activity that I call Same and Different.  I have several photos from West Africa that I had blown up and mounted on foamcore.  I show the kids a photo and have them point out what they see in the picture that is the same in their lives and what is different.  It always generates great discussion and often the kids see things in the photos and make connections that I never did.  Hopefully, by showing that all humans have similarities in spite of our differences, it also plants some seeds of respect and tolerance.

When I got to her classroom, my daughter brought her small plastic chair to the front of the class and set it down firmly right next to mine.  After introducing me (with the class microphone), she sat down beside me.  She had assigned herself the assistant’s job of holding the photos for all to see while I led the discussion.  A couple of times I had to remind her to hold the photo out so that all the kids could see, but overall she did a great job.

The next activity I do is to pass around a selection of items that I have picked up on my travels for work.  As we pass them around so that everyone gets a chance to touch them, we again discuss what is the same and different in our lives.  This time, I didn’t gather a thing for the activity; my daughter collected everything the night before our presentation.  A yak wool blanket from Nepal, a wooden statue of  a traditional palava hut from Liberia, coins and bills from Cameroon – all went into a bag I had brought her from Ghana.  She even added her pink beaded pointy-toed slippers from Morocco.  When I reminded her that she would have to share and let everyone touch them and try them on,  she hesitated for a moment.  In the end, though, her slippers went into the bag.

To close out the presentation, I usually read a children’s book or two about human rights.  I have a couple of favorites.  For Every Child, A Better World by Kermit the Frog is one that we own two copies of, but of course we couldn’t find either when we needed it.  I went to library to check out a copy and discovered shelved right beside it I Have the Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres.  This beautifully illustrated book presents the concept of human rights, especially those of children as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

When I brought the books home from the library, I asked my daughter,

“Which do you want me to read to your class?”

“I want to read them both,” she said.

She did a beautiful job of reading both books to the class.  I was so proud that I teared up, right there in front of all the second graders and their teacher.

In some ways, it is easier to talk to kids about human rights than adults.  Because children generally see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, it is easy for them to understand that we all have rights – the right to voice our opinions, to go to school, to be free from violence.  The right to have food and shelter and clean air and water.  The thing about kids is that they have a very strong natural sense of justice (as it applies to them, at least) they understand the inequities of a world where not everyone is able to access those rights.

One girl  came up and hugged me after the human rights lesson.

“It makes me sad,” she said, “to think that not all kids have enough to eat.”

“What you are feeling is empathy,” said the teacher.  “And that’s good.”

Knowing about the problem – caring about it and wanting to do something about it – is the first step towards change.

The last thing I heard as I left the classroom was another little girl saying,

“I think I am going to write a letter to President Obama and ask him why we are not part of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

There are a lot of things about working in human rights that are not easy, but this was a very  good day!

More ideas for human rights activities to do with children:

10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day

Same and Different

Regrets

A couple of days ago, my  daughter asked me, “Do you ever have regrets?”

She asked me this in the bathroom, as I was drying my hair.  No matter what I am doing, my two youngest kids seem to hover around me, fluttering like moths to a flame.  The lack of privacy – not to mention personal space – doesn’t really bother me anymore.  And often, as on this particular morning, it provides the opportunity to talk about whatever is bubbling to the surface of  their young minds.

I weighed my possible responses. My daughter just turned eight. What could a second-grader possibly know about regret?  In the end, I answered that, in general, my regrets were not about things that I had done but rather about things that I had NOT done.

“Do YOU have any regrets?” I asked.

After a pause, she admitted, “Sometimes I’m not so nice to some kids at school.”

“But recognizing that you aren’t always nice means that you can do something about it,” I pointed out.  “Right?”

She shrugged and wandered off with her American Girl doll.  Maybe the message would sink in.

But for me,  a question remained, left hanging in the humid, post-shower bathroom air.

What do you do when you have regrets but you know that there is not a thing in the world that you can do about them?

The truth is that my daughter’s question brought me back to a conversation that I had in a very different context.  Several years ago, I spent some time in the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana. I was with a team taking statements from Liberian refugees for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia.  It was almost exactly six years ago – May 2007 – and it was grueling, emotional work.  I interviewed more than 40 people that week and every single one of them  had suffered multiple layers of trauma and unimaginably tragic loss.  One after another, in family groups and as individuals, they sat before me in a small, cramped office.  Sometimes there was power for the ceiling  fan to move the hot, heavy air; sometimes there was not.  Each one of them was a survivor of horror, a testifier to the nightmare of war.  (I’ve written about some of them before in Talking To My Kids About Death.)

Even though they had left their homeland of Liberia, what they had experienced was still very much with them.  Even if they could push it down deep during the day, the terrors they witnessed would return to haunt their dreams.   Many people I interviewed told me of how the nightmares startled them awake at night, sweating and crying.  Many more told me of hearing others screaming in the night, neighbors who were trapped in their own PTSD- induced nightmares. There is no privacy in a refugee camp.

There was one woman who has always stayed with me.  She was middle-aged, calm and collected.  She told me her story in detail, almost scientifically exact.  Clearly, she had relived the events many times over.  She told me of her life before the war, the fighting and chaos that separated her from her husband and some of her children, the desperate weeks when she, her youngest children, and their neighbors hid in the bush, the treacherous journey to the border. The years – more than a decade- of limbo in this refugee camp.

At the end of any interview, I always ask, “Is there anything else you would like to tell me?”

This woman told me of that the only true regret that she had, the only regret of her life, was about something that she had not been able to do. What she told me went something like this:

We were hiding in the bush and the rebels passed close by.  They attacked a village there.  They didn’t see us, but we saw them.   They killed a lot of people.  We were too afraid to move, so afraid they would hear us.  There was a baby crying; they must have killed the mother.  The baby kept crying and crying and crying.  I wanted to go get that baby, but what could I do?  I knew the baby’s crying would give us all away to the rebels. The baby kept crying and crying and crying, all night long.  And then it stopped.  I knew that the baby had died.  In the morning, we saw that the rebels had moved on and we left our hiding place.  Now I hear that poor baby crying every night in my dreams.

Most people will never be put in a position like this, this untenable Hobson’s Choice.  Most of us will never be faced with having to make the choice between our own life -and that of our children and neighbors – and that of an innocent baby.  Many of us would like to assume that we would find a way to not make the choice; that we would find a way to save that baby.

I knew I could not save that baby.  I wanted to, so much, but I knew I could not.  Even so, I have always felt bad about it. I have never told anyone – not one single person – about this before. Just telling you now – it makes me feel better.

I don’t have any answers here, just as I had nothing to say to this woman other than “I am so sorry.”  I can’t change the world.   I can’t promise my daughter that she won’t experience pain or sorrow or guilt or regret.  I don’t even have an image to go along with this post.

But if there is one thing that I took away from that hot, cramped interview room in that refugee camp in Ghana, it is that there is a value in bearing witness.  I had worked with refugees and torture survivors for years, but it took this one woman to bring that point home to me.  There is a value in simply listening,  and in confirming for someone who suffered injustice that, “It is not right and I’m sorry that this happened to you.”

It may seem insignificant, but it is not.  And it is a reminder that when you come in contact with someone who is suffering, in either a big or a small way, there is always something that you can do. You can listen.

So do it.