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Raising Global Citizens: 5 Questions for Sponge Founder, Jackie Friedman Mighdoll

Published on: December 30, 2013

sponge-earthHow can you talk to your children about sometimes-troubling global events and give them a sense of how they can connect and contribute? A free panel discussion titled “Global Giving: The Power of Children,” will tackle this topic and far more on Thursday, April 26, at Seattle’s Children’s Theatre.

Hosted by Sponge founder Jackie Friedman Mighdoll, the panel will feature local experts who will offer ideas on volunteer experiences, travel, how to talk about the world with kids, and how spending time with people from other cultures here at home can also create important connections. Below, Mighdoll answers a few questions about global giving and kids.

1. What prompted you to organize this panel discussion?

I’d been thinking about how what we do when our kids are young plants seeds for when they are older. And, specifically, I was thinking about how I approach this topic with my own boys. How do I talk to them about the tsunami in Japan and what we could do? How do I help them understand life in India? And, maybe most importantly, how could I make this a part of our everyday lives? In the process of thinking about it and talking to the staff at Sponge and friends, so many great ideas came out. I’m excited to learn even more on Thursday from a great group of panelists.

2. What can parents expect to learn from it?

Our goal is to give parents ideas that they can put into action right away. We’ll be talking about ways to help children form connections. We’ll talk about how to find, evaluate and pick projects and organizations that kids find interesting. And, we’ll be giving parents strategies for how to make it easy (or easier!) to make this a part of our busy family lives! We especially want to provide parents of young children resources on how to get started early and make it a life-long passion.

3. You (and Sponge) are well known for language education. What is the connection between learning about a culture through, say, studying a language, and actively making a difference in international causes?

Getting involved internationally starts with compassion, and compassion comes easily for many children when they have a connection. At Sponge, we’re focused on language and culture—on creating connections and building understanding. That’s the big goal! As kids grow up with an appreciation for people who speak other languages and come from other cultures, their compassion grows.

4. What’s a story of a child making a difference globally that’s inspired you?

There are amazing stories of kids who’ve started foundations that have had a positive impact on thousands of people. We even have one of those kids on our panel! (Jessica Markowitz is the founder of Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE.)

But I think what’s inspired me most is on the parenting side—and isn’t nearly so press-worthy. It’s the mom who takes her kids regularly to the Chinese nursing home. It’s the weekly family donation to the charity box. It’s making giving a normal part of life, which adds up both for the kids and the world. Our goal at Sponge is to help raise young global citizens, and I’m inspired by many of the parents in our community.

How do you cultivate a spirit of global giving in your own children?

I’m working on it! I feel like it’s my job to help my boys form the connections and then to figure out how to give them a channel for their energy. We love traveling as a family, so that’s been a beautiful way to grow our understanding. They also develop connections with people in our own community who come from other places. They are interested in Ethiopia, because they adore a woman who runs an Ethiopian restaurant we frequent. My current challenge is figuring out how to give them the opportunities to take action as part of our everyday life.

5. How do kids benefit from being involved in global causes?

It benefits all of us in so many ways. Understanding others helps you look at yourself in a new way. It gives kids a new perspective and helps them decide what really is important. It also frankly makes you feel good, too. Recent studies show that people who volunteer are happier and healthier. Ultimately, I think kids who grow up thinking about the world will continue making a difference as adults. And that gives me lots of hope!

If You Go . . .

Where: Seattle Children's Theatre, West Rehearsal Hall: 201 Thomas St., Seattle

(Enter through the administrative entrance on the east side of the building.)

When: Thursday, April 26, 7 to 9 p.m.

RSVP: RSVPs recommended; 206-227-7138 or email

Who: Panelists include Peter Drury, development director of A Child's Right; Tammy Leland, co-founder and international program director of Crooked Trails; Garfield High School student Jessica Markowitz, who is also the founder of IMPUHWE; and Lisa Merrill, principal of Merrill Images and board member of Seattle Social Venture Partners. The discussion will be moderated by Jackie Friedman Mighdoll, founder of Sponge.

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