Lakeland’s Kids Give Back

photography by Jason Stephens

Children are so special. In my work with children over the years, I have been continuously blown away by their creativity and how they care for each other. As adults, we often try to teach kids that helping others is an imperative; it’s the right thing to do. But, in the end, it’s really the kids who teach us.
Kids see the world and its problems with pure hearts. They aren’t weighed down by the details, logistics, and problems that adults get lost in. They see a need, and they work to meet it. To kids, the world is that simple. Kids — you teach us and inspire us to be more like you.
Here, we meet three Lakleanders, all under the age of 10, who have been inspired to help the world. Their creative and selfless approaches to humanity and hearts for the world are to be admired by people of all ages.
The Lakelander: Hi, girls! It’s nice to meet you. Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Eleanor: Hi, my name is Eleanor and I like playing. It’s so much fun playing with my mom. I like to play dinosaurs. I also like to play dress-up, do crafts, and feed the ducks at Lake Morton. When I grow up I want to be a dinosaur and a doughnut baker. I’m six years old and I just finished
Aurora: Hello, I’m Aurora. I’m eight years old and I just finished second grade. My most favorite things to do are ballet and art. My other most favorite thing is to travel. The best place I’ve ever been to is Haiti. I’ve been twice. The next place I want to travel is Africa and then New York City.
My favorite part of Lakeland is Mitchell’s. I’m sitting here right now! (laughs)
TL: I hear you have some stories about giving back. I’d love to hear more about that.
Eleanor: For my birthday parties, I collect food for hungry kids in our area. I don’t need more presents, but kids do need more food. My mommy taught me that some kids don’t have things to eat and they might only have a little, and it makes me feel sad. She also said that when we feel sad
we can change something. When I learned that kids don’t all have food, I decided that I wanted to help more than just at my birthday. Since I want to be a baker when I’m a grown-up, I decided to start now. I have my own doughnut cart called Do Good Doughnut Cart. My dad built my cart, and my godmother, Mrs. Kim, painted it for me. I make doughnuts and sell them to raise money for hungry kids. Every time I sell a doughnut I give that money to local organizations that are helping feed hungry kids, like Kids Pack and Carver Village of Hope in Bartow. I hope lots of people buy my doughnuts so I have lots of money to feed hungry kids. Kids shouldn’t be hungry. When I go help at Carver I feel good, and it makes me want to help more and more and more and more! When I got to see the Kids Pack office it was the most specialist birthday gift ever because I knew my birthday was helping kids eat.
Aurora: My favorite way I’ve given to others is through my small business Shop Aurorable. I got the name Aurorable from camp one year. It’s like adorable but it’s Aurorable. (laughs) My dad and mom built me a stand out of pallets and I learned how to finger-crochet jewelry. I also made
bookmarks and other small things. I sold my items online and at the Farmer’s Market, and with the money I raised I bought Bibles for people at a school in Haiti that did have not their own Bibles yet. I also bought and collected socks and shoes because most of the kids in Haiti don’t have
socks and shoes like me, and they have to walk really far to collect water and go to school. Instead of collecting gifts at my birthdays, we do parties with a purpose, and us kids get to pick who we are giving our gifts to. I picked shoes and socks for Haiti. My dad went to Haiti with CPI Haiti when I was four, and ever since then I wanted to go with him. So then after I collected everything I got to go to Haiti with my dad and pass out all of the things I brought. It felt really good to help other kids. I was not afraid to go to Haiti because people and places are the same. We just look a little different and talk a little different. I got to walk to the water source. I couldn’t believe kids my age have to walk like two hours for water and school. The walk to the water source made me feel sad for my friends in Haiti. I’m glad I got to bring them shoes and socks. They were so excited and joyful. When I went back to Haiti one year later, I saw a lot of the same shoes and socks. I want to keep helping bring people joy. I wish they did not have to walk so far.
TL: What (or who) inspires you to give back?
Eleanor: My mom taught me how to give back to others. I love her so much, and she is my favorite mom. When you start giving to others it makes you feel good and you want to keep doing it, and you keep feeling good and helping other people to feel good.
Aurora: My mom inspires me to give back because she is kind. She has shown me how to be kind and that other people are important. She tells me that I can change the world, and I believe her. Reading about missionaries like Amy Carmichael also inspires me. And Katie Davis in Uganda. She’s one of my heroes.
TL: Why is giving back important to you?
Eleanor: Giving back is important to me because it’s good to help other people. Jesus gives to other people, so I should, too.
Aurora: Giving back is important to me because when I help others it makes me feel happy, and it makes others feel happy and it tells people that I love them with using more than my words. It’s like loving people and showing them you really mean it, and I think we should love people.
TL: Does your family volunteer together? If so, how does volunteering with your family make you feel?
Aurora and Eleanor: Yes we love to volunteer together. We have the most fun when we are loving on other people.
Aurora: When we volunteer it’s like we are changing the world together.

Kids see a need, and they work to meet it.
To kids, the world is that simple.

TL: What do you look forward to in your future?
Eleanor: I look forward to selling lots of doughnuts and learning new recipes and going to Dinosaur World.
Aurora: I look forward to starting the Kind Kids Club where kids come together to learn about
being kind and then go out and do it. I also look forward to traveling the world to help other kids.
TL: What cause is important to you?
Eleanor: Hunger is important to me. I want to grow up and make sure every kid has food. Aurora: Helping kids know about the love of Jesus and showing it to them with my actions. I want to help kids who are in poverty and be their friend.
TL: If you could give one gift to every kid in the whole world, what would you choose to give?
Eleanor: Food, because no one should be hungry. Everyone should just have food.
Aurora: A good family and good friends, because then everyone would have a helper, and my family and friends make me feel good when I’m down.
TL: If you could make one rule for everyone in the world to follow, what would it be?
Eleanor: To be nice, because when people are bullies it makes people feel really, really bad.
Aurora: My one rule would be that everyone should help someone because then we would all be taken care of.
TL: If you were a teacher in a classroom and your students wouldn’t pay attention, how would you get them to?
Eleanor: If I was a teacher, I would tell all of my kids in the classroom to pay attention so we can have cake after class. If they still didn’t pay attention I would have a lot of cake.
Aurora: If kids in my class weren’t paying attention, I would say we need to do more art, because when I do art at school it helps me pay attention.
TL: What’s the best thing about being a kid?
Eleanor: The best thing about being a kid is playing on the playground and getting messy!
Aurora: The best thing about being a kid would probably be learning new things and then when you get older you know the things you learned.
TL: What’s the best thing about being a grown-up?
Eleanor: The best thing about being a grown-up is picking whatever place you want to go to, and going on dates like my mom and dad.
Aurora: The best thing about being a grown-up is once you’re all grown up you know a lot of things and you can teach other people. Like, for example, I could teach more art after I learn more art. Also
drinking coffee all day. All of the grown-ups I know drink coffee all day. (laughs)
TL: Thank you for spending time with us. You are certainly special kids! Is there anything else you want to share?
Eleanor: Even if you’re six like me you can still change the world. Kids are not too small to do things for other people!
Aurora: I would say to other kids who want to make a difference that it starts with being kind, and then we can change the world together!
TL: Hi, Elea! It’s nice to meet you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Elea: My name is Elea. I am [seven years old] in first grade, and I love when my mom teaches science, especially the seed bomb. I can’t wait until it germinates. (Oh, I forgot to throw it outside because it rained the other day.) I like dolphins and sunsets and baby swans; they are the most beautiful things. And I like when my mom cooks rice and adobo.
TL: I hear you have a story to tell us about giving back. I’d love to hear more about it.
Elea: For my birthday, February 14th, my mom asked me what I wanted to do. I wanted to do three things: spend time with my mom, see some animals, and use all of my birthday money to buy stuff to give to Lighthouse [Ministries]. The day before my birthday, my mom gave me $50 and some coupons and we went to Publix. I looked for the BOGO items and wrote down everything I picked so I could make sure not to spend more than
my budget. I spent $45.96. Then, we drove to Lighthouse and gave the groceries away. A couple ladies, Ms. Billie and Ms. Sara, invited us upstairs to see where the children get to play after school. There was a beautiful painting up there. Then, they took a picture of me with my sister.
TL: Who or what inspires you to give back?
Elea: My mom. And, God, too. When I see people who need help, they also inspire me to give back. I want to help make them happy, too.
TL: Why is giving back important to you?
Elea: Because I love God and I want to do what is right.
TL: Does your family volunteer together?
Elea: Yes. We snap peas together for VISTE to make meals for older people. I remember going to deliver meals, too. Oh, and we help out at the Christmas Store [for Parker Street Ministries].
TL: What do you look forward to in the future?
Elea: Um, happy people! Looking at happy people. And I want to see lots of trees.
TL: If you could give one gift to every kid in the whole world, what would it be?
Elea: I would like to give them life. I want to help them. I want people to be happy, to have food to eat and clothes to wear.
TL: If you could make one rule for everyone in the world to follow, what would it be?
Elea: We need to help every living thing.
TL: If you were a teacher in a classroom and your students wouldn’t pay attention, how would you get them to?
Elea: I would say, “How would you like to sit out of this lesson?” And, then come back when everybody is having play time. If they are not really paying attention to something, then they wouldn’t really learn. Unless they would like to play outside, and that is a privilege — having to play. So, they need to make a choice. If they want to play outside, they need to pay attention to the lesson.
TL: What’s the best thing about being a kid?
Elea: When my mom lets me have candy! (laughs) Oh, no, cuddling with my mom is the best thing about being a kid.
TL: What’s the best thing about being a grown-up?
Elea: I’m not a grown-up. I don’t know anything about being a grown-up. But, if I have to guess, it would be cuddling with your child. That’s my favorite thing.