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The young shall grow

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Alisa Swidler

Introduction
It is, perhaps, part of human nature to help others. However, this belief that humans are routinely altruistic is constantly challenged by today’s negatively-charged news. Therefore, if we are willing to take a step back and assess all that is going on in our world, we will find there is a significant amount of good. If there is any doubt that humans are born with a drive to help others, simply study the way children behave. Harvard University psychologist, Felix Warneken, has come to the conclusion that “young children are about as helpful and giving as human beings ever get”. Holding this to be true, if parents engage in promoting the welfare of others – the very definition of philanthropy – then their children are likely to emulate this behaviour. So how early can children engage in philanthropy, and how much of their benevolent actions can be attributed to their parents? Anita Kouassigan decided to explore this question, about how young children start showing their philanthropic traits – if any.

She was inspired by her friend Salome Leventis, who, following last May’s charity fundraiser, assumed Anita could connect her to mothers who engage their children in charity work early. Salome certainly wants her 11-year-old twins to get involved, it’s clearly in her genes – LEVENTIS. Anita, however, being a mother of Alexa (4) and Saskia (3) children who are still too young for such activities couldn’t think on the spot, had to rack her brains a little but then was pleasantly surprised to learn about the endeavours of her network. We’ve asked them to share their experiences with us today, what drives them, and why they do what they do.

Alisa Swidler
Our opening story begins with strategic philanthropist and mother of five, Alisa Swidler. Hailed as one of the most connected women in London, Alisa uses her vast network to benefit underserved communities, in particular, with public health initiatives across the developing world. For over 20 years, Alisa has served a diverse set of philanthropies, non-profits, and charitable foundations, typically holding the role of Trustee on the Board of Directors or Advisory Board.

Such notable organisations include the Millennium Promise UK, Sabin Vaccine Institute, Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite – among many others.

Alisa’s philanthropic work began with tiny steps when she was in her early 20’s, where she would deliver bread to food banks across New York City. As a young adult, Alisa saw a need in her local community and sought to address it. Similarly, Alisa’s own children started to engage in philanthropy at a young age. All five of Alisa’s children – Nate, Ash, Rosie, Ava and Lily – have played a proactive role in philanthropy.

Nate, Ash, and Rosie began their services at the age of 10, having worked with indigenous tribes in India, food banks in America, and health clinics in Ghana, respectively. Alisa’s daughters have focused their services in Israel as Rosie and Ava have raised funds to support Israeli soldiers and foster children, and the youngest, Lily, has recently travelled to Israel to fundraise for the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Jerusalem.

Most recently, Alisa has travelled to the San Cristóbal province of The Dominican Republic with her daughters Rosie and Ava, where they built and renovated homes in the mountains. Alisa firmly admits that she is “on a mission to save the world, and raise my children to help me fulfill that mission.” It is, without a doubt, evident that Alisa’s life-long work in philanthropy has influenced her children. And it’s not all talk and no action because shortly before going to press, Alisa contacted us to share that Rosie, 14, set this up the following without her knowing! Do take a look. Be inspired.

Princess Tessy of Luxembourg

Next up is Investing In Women’s special guest of honour, Princess Tessy – once again setting a great example. As a mother of two boys Gabriel (13) and Noah (11), Tessy fosters an environment of curiosity towards social responsibility and charitable work, as she believes this will stimulate the development of her children’s personalities, knowledge, and drive for social justice. As for when her sons’ journeys began to try making a difference, Noah was just 6 when he advocated for older children to clean up after themselves so that their waste does not negatively impact the less fortunate. Both of Princess Tessy’s sons also display generous spirits as they donated all of the gifts they received from their Holy Communion ceremonies to charities of their choosing. Gabriel donated to children who are raised by guardians rather than parents, and Noah donated to a refugee shelter in Luxembourg to refurbish a playroom for the children.

To read more on Princess Tessy, please visit Investing In Women’s website and refer to the Guardian Angel of The Day section of this edition.

Conclusion

There are many more examples of mothers and parents in general who encourage their children to give back. Whether it’s Dr Anita Dasilva-Ibru (one of Investing In Women’s judges and an IIW Wonder Woman) and the WARIFWalkers, a group of women and teenagers, including her own children who successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in August 2018 in support of the WARIF Educational School Program (quite an epic expedition for children); or Jubie Wigan who organised a sponsored dog walk in aid of Sugarplum Children (£7500 raised, 200 dogs, 450 people), prompted by her daughter Aliena’s own idea; or Emma Nwawudu who’s now UK-based but decided to support causes in Nigeria with her daughters via the Zi_To_Be initiative (the name is an amalgamation of her 3 daughters’ names and they produce hand-made gift items and proceeds of sales go towards educating girls), there’s something for everyone. The key in all of this, I believe is, to follow your heart, your passions, do what excites you, and you never know how far – or how high – your kindness will take you. You can find out more information about the work of these amazing mothers and their children, and if you’d like to support them, please visit the following websites at Picdeer.com, Warif.ng and Sugarplumchildren.com.


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Alisa Swidler
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