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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Making a difference in someone’s life can be quite simple. However, often we are too busy to stop and think about what we can do to help. 

To help you reflect on how you can make the world a better place, in this blog we highlight 6 small but important ways you can make a difference in someone’s life for the better. 

1. Smile at a stranger 

It costs nothing and is something we can all do. Next time you’re out on the street, at the shops or in the park, smiling at the people you pass. You never know, it could actually make someone’s day. Everyone needs a little bit more joy and happiness in their lives, and this is a great way to provide it. 

Rather than looking at your phone, why not look up and appreciate what, or who, is around you? After all, we are human beings with the capacity to respond to a genuine show of warmth. A  kind smile from a passer-by makes our neighbourhoods feel more connected.

2. Call up an old friend 

As we get older and our lives become busy, we can often lose contact with those that used to be close to us. Even our nearest and dearest friends can turn into strangers as our careers, partners or kids start to take precedence. 

You can make a difference in someone’s life who you used to be close to by giving them a call to catch-up. They will appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to think of them. Don’t just make this a one-off, try to give them a call once a week, month or year. You may not be able to see them all the time, but keeping in contact and knowing you are still friends can make a huge difference. 

3. Help out an elderly neighbour 

Christine Johnson supporter photo

Whether you mow their lawn, take out their bins or help them with their groceries, giving your elderly neighbours a helping hand is a great way to make a difference in their lives. 

When we are young and mobile we don’t often think about how hard it is for older people to do everyday tasks. Offering to do these quick tasks for them will help them out immensely in their everyday life and they will really appreciate the kind gesture. 

4. Show someone you believe in them 

When people feel that they have a support system, and that someone truly believes they can achieve their goals, they can become unstoppable. Showing someone that you have confidence in them can transform a person’s feelings and views about themselves. 

Whether it’s a junior work colleague, your children or partner, a friend or a family member, showing someone that you believe in them and support their aspirations can make a world of difference. Knowing they have you to back them can motivate them to work harder, improve their confidence and achieve their dreams. 

5. Be there to talk to someone when they are struggling 

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. One of the most meaningful and important things you can do for a friend, loved one or work colleague is take the time to listen to them when you know they are struggling.

You might not be able to solve all their problems, but you can be a great listener and sounding board. Being there to talk to about serious issues make someone feel cared for and understood, and maybe a little less alone in the world.

6. Teach someone a new skill 

A mother reading a book to her young son

As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. When you support someone in learning a new skill, you can change their life for the better. 

You might teach a child how to ride a bike, your cousin how to drive a car, your colleague how to write a proposal, or your friend how to cook a lamb roast. Studies show that we also learn by teaching, so taking the time to share our talents and knowledge is invaluable for everyone involved. And you may just be giving an individual a skill they use throughout life. 

Start making a difference today! 

Whether you choose to smile at a stranger or tell someone you believe in them, your kind gesture will make a huge difference in someone’s life!  

Don’t underestimate the power you have as an individual to make this world a better place. Be that positive change you wish to see and start today. 

The rapid advance in digital technology is changing childhoods around the globe, with research showing that around one in three internet users is under the age of 18.

Last week the United Nations Children’s Committee recognised that the rights of young people apply online as well as offline. This is a welcome and important development in child rights.

Online connectivity can have many benefits for young people. It brings access to information and knowledge. It offers an environment in which to build peer connections and social networks, at home and around the world.

For children seeking support, the online world can provide guidance, and advice. And, as we have witnessed during the pandemic, online education resources can provide a valuable alternative learning platform when face-to-face classes are unavailable.

When accompanied by low levels of media literacy, however, access to the worldwide web can also present new threats to children’s safety. Without the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the digital world, young people’s exposure to potential abuse and exploitation increases.

The digital generation

In Vietnam, internet penetration is now at 70%, with almost 70 million people online. This includes 65 million social media users. It is estimated that in the country, more than one-third of Facebook accounts belong to young people, aged between 15 and 24.

In response to this increased connectivity, in 2017 ChildFund Vietnam launched Swipe Safe, an innovative online safety program which has now helped more than 12,000 children safely navigate the world wide web more safely.

This project will enter its second phase in Vietnam, and is currently being implemented in the Solomon Islands, Cambodia, and Myanmar with plans to expand this initiative in the Pacific.

Online fears and concerns

Recently, ChildFund Australia, Plan International Australia and the Young & Resilient Research Centre of Western Sydney University launched a new study – Online Safety in the Pacific – in order to fill the research gap and map the challenges and opportunities for children in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea.

Among the children surveyed, 77% said the risk of accessing inappropriate content, such as horror movies and pornography, was their greatest fear, followed by cyber-bullying (38%).

Parents and carers also identified a lack of control over what children were accessing as their greatest concern.

Safely navigating the worldwide web

Swipe Safe training workshops assists young people to understand the risks of using the internet, and how they can better protect themselves.

The program aims to empower young people to make the most of the digital world and provides valuable information about online safety to parents and teachers.

ChildFund also works with internet cafes to build safer environments and works closely with schools to develop and promote online safety policies and guidelines.

Fifteen-year-old Ngoc created her Facebook account when she was in Grade 6. She found that on Facebook she was able to make many new “friends” from around the world.

The number of people she connected with reached the thousands. “I did not know most of the people on my friend list in real life,” Ngoc says.

Ngoc shared a lot of information on her Facebook page, and the time spent on social media began affecting her schoolwork. She also started to have some concerns about her online interactions.

Ngoc explains: “If we did not accept an invitation to go out from friends on Facebook, we received threats and other bad words,” Ngoc says. “We felt frightened.”

Taking protective measures

A recent survey of Swipe Safe participants in Vietnam found that, after completing the program, 100% of young people said that they knew at least one method to protect themselves when online.

In addition, 85% can identify where to go for assistance if they are experiencing any difficulties when interacting online.

CEO of ChildFund Australia Margaret Sheehan says: “The opportunities that online connectivity provides is paramount for children and young people across the Asia-Pacific.

“However, we must be vigilant in taking adequate measures to keep them safe. A single response will not combat the far-reaching risks and impacts of the online world.

“A whole of community approach, which empowers children and their families to safely navigate the online world is crucial.”