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Hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to.
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The Shaping Our World podcast.
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My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young.
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People in your life.
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Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth. Today on this episode, we’re going to be chatting with Chloe Maxwell. Chloe first traveled to Africa with her family when she was eight years old and spent the following six summers helping lead Heart for Africa service trips with her family to Eswatini, Malawi and Kenya. At the age of 15, she moved with her family to Project Canaan in Eswatini, Africa to support the organization while attending high school. Her journey continued overseas as she finished her high schooling in Taiwan, where she had the opportunity to grow her passion for serving others by participating in disaster relief in the Philippines and poverty relief in India. Chloe returned to Canada for University and graduated with an honors degree in Business Communications from Brock University, which she now uses in her role as the marketing and communication specialist at Heart for Africa, Canada. Her hope is to share her love for Heart for Africa with fellow Canadians and invite as many people as possible to be a part of the incredible story of hope at Project Canaan.
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It’s great to have you with us, Chloe. Welcome.
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Thanks so much, Chris. So excited to be here.
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Yeah, it’s great to have you. So we heard a little bit from the bio about who you are, but we’d love to get to know you a little bit better. So what shaped your world when you were growing up, when you were a child or a teenager, what were some of the biggest influences in your life?
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That one’s tough, but I would say my friends definitely had a huge impact on my life growing up and were a big influence in my life. And a lot of those friends came from musical theater, so that was a huge influence in my life growing up. I was one of those theater kids and I loved it. So that’s sort of one of the big influences when I was a kid.
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I don’t know if it’s a wellknown fact or a hidden secret that’s not so hidden. There’s been other people who have talked about music theater, and I actually really like music theater. I’m a big sports fan, but I’ve seen Ley Ms in London and seen a ton of plays and stuff, so I can appreciate that. But I can see how growing up in that kind of world is a big influence in who you are today. So what’s shaping your world today? Are you still interested in musical theater? What do you do with your life? Let us get to know you a little bit.
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Yeah, well, so I moved away from the musical theater route for sure, but some of the biggest things in my life today are I love to travel. I love to learn about new cultures and new experiences. And, yeah, I think travel is probably the most exciting part of my life right now. And yeah, I’d say that.
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Okay, so quick, we’ve just emerging through a pandemic. Where have you traveled to recently? Give us a little snapshot of what your travel world looks like in the recent history.
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So recently, actually, in July, I had the chance to go to Esuatini. My family lives there, so I got to go and visit them in South Africa. And I also got the chance to go to Dubai. My boyfriend’s family lives there, so got to go and visit them unless some of the most recent travel, but I have some exciting stuff coming up as well.
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Awesome. And we’ll get into this in a little bit when we start talking, but I think probably your love for travel was encouraged by some of your upbringing and moving around a lot, but I won’t spoil any of that. So can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing right now in your life? Talk about your work and how does kind of children and youth and development, how does that kind of factor into what you’re doing right now, today?
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Yeah, so right now I work for my parents organization called Hartfraka Canada, and I’m a marketing and communication specialist, and I am so passionate about what I do. I love it. I feel like I get to make a difference in the world every day, and it’s so rewarding, you know, for children. We care for 342 children in Esphatini to date, and so getting the chance to impact their lives on a daily basis is really amazing. And that’s sort of what my focus is right now.
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That’s great. And So Harp for Africa, I know you mentioned about caring for kids and Eswatini and give us a little perspective of what the organization is all about, kind of beyond that.
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Yeah. So our goal is to bring hope to this tiny little country in Africa. It’s in South Africa. And our main mission is to focus on hunger, alleviating hunger in the communities around us. So we’re feeding over 4500 children in the community on a daily basis. The orphans aspect I mentioned earlier. So we’re caring for now 3442 children, and we’re committed to them until the age of 18 for poverty alleviation, which is the pea and Hope, we are employing lots of local Swazis on our project in Sotini. So right now, we have almost 450 people that we employ to alleviate poverty, and we provide education so that’s both to adults and to our children, because education, we believe, is the most powerful tool that you can use to change the world. So that’s sort of what we do.
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That’s encouraging. And, you know, one of the reasons why when we’re looking through guests I really wanted to have you on this conversation is because in so many of our previous episodes, we talk about this generation of young people who live in maybe around the world, but at least from a Western or North American perspective, young people are really attuned to compassionate projects and what’s happening in their communities and around the world and really have a heart to make a difference. That’s what we’re kind of seeing in the research. And so I think it’s a really relevant topic for adults who care about the kids in their life because these are some of the topics and things that they’re interested in. And so hearing from your work specifically is going to be, I think, really encouraging for us to think through. How can we come alongside kids who are passionate about the same things that you and your family are doing across the globe? And so I wanted to ask you, Mike, you were young when you moved, how old were you when you moved and lived across the world? And what was it like for you to be exposed to different cultures growing up?
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How did that impact you? How does that impact you today?
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Yeah, well, we first traveled to Africa when I was eight years old and we were working all over Africa every summer. So I really had the chance to be exposed to so many different cultures across Africa at a young age. But we officially moved my DAREarts and I to Espatini when I was just about to turn 16 years old. So right before that sweet 16. And then I had the chance to move one year later to Asia, to a little country called Taiwan. So being exposed to all of these different cultures at such a young age was definitely a culture shock and a perspective change because coming from little Aurora in Canada was a very different life than the lives that I was seeing people live in these different countries for the cultures. It was such an arrange a different amount of cultures that I was exposed to and different types of people. And the experience has really shaped my perspective.
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Can you give us a few specific things that you can kind of remember when you’re that age of the major differences and how that affected your outlook on life and your perspectives and maybe give us a couple of specific things?
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Yeah, for sure. So some of them, Mike, when I was really young, so eight to, I want to say eleven years old, some of the biggest things that really stood out to me was meeting these children that were my age that were living in an extreme poverty. They had nothing. They would have to walk for hours to get water, they would go for days without food sometimes. And they still had so much joy that we were just there. And being a kid, talking to other kids and making friends with these kids in South Africa, it was really shocking for me to go back to Canada and see all that we have on a daily basis, to go into the grocery stores and see how many options that we have. That was one of the things that really got me and immediately made me want to do something to help and see what I could do there. Some of the bigger ones were going into the slums in Kenya. That was really challenging just because you’re seeing people who are living in literal stick and mud huts and that’s their lives. That’s all they’ve ever known.
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So that was something that got my attention immediately. And it was so different than any of that anything I ever experienced before.
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Yeah. And I think it’s probably safe to say that some of those experiences ignited in you kind of a purpose and passion to serve and to help out. And I want to get to that in a minute, but before we do, I just want to stay with kind of like moving when you’re young, 16, picking up and moving all across the globe. And so I grew up, Chloe. I lived in multiple countries. Australia, the United States, Canada. I went to a different school every two years, were on planes, packing bags, and it shaped me a lot. But I know parents, whether it’s across the globe or even Mike locally for jobs, we always think about what moving and displacing young people does. I would love for you just to talk for a minute if there’s any people listening who are either you have moved or are thinking of moving, or youth workers or dealing with kids that have just come from different places. What advice would you give to parents who are looking at traveling or moving to different places, countries or locally? And how do you balance getting kids settled in structure of life with the emotions that come with moving to another country?
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Yeah. Well, I definitely encourage it. I’m sure that you understand moving around is definitely a challenge, and change is hard, but it also gives you a chance to grow in ways that you didn’t know that you could. So I definitely encourage moving around if that’s an option in your life, because you get exposed to so many different ways of life experiences, but you also get the chance to grow in yourself. But a piece of advice I would give is for parents trying to move around, definitely try to maintain as many family traditions as you can. So if you have pizza on Friday nights, every Friday, keep doing that, you know? And it’s important for your kids to know that you’re still a team. They’re still really important in your decision making of moving around. So it’s easier to help kids settle in and adjust to the new place that they’re in if you keep those traditions and make it an exciting adventure. Yeah, something that they’re excited about doing, becoming a global citizen.
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Sarah Wells I found in my experience that one of the huge benefits beyond seeing how other people live is having a diverse set of friendships all across the world. And while in some ways it was really hard to leave friendships, I still have some of my closer friends that I grew up with, that I’ve kept in touch with, that I don’t live in the same country. I traveled back to Australia a few times to spend time with some of my closest friends growing up, and we’re still close to this day. So it’s a very rich experience to have friendships, a diverse set of friendships all across the world. There’s huge advantages to that. And one of the encouragements I would give to parents too, just because you and I are kind of in the same world here. I’m interviewing you, but I get to share some of my own experience in that is that I would encourage parents to continue to have open conversations about all the emotions that are felt in moving around. It is a huge benefit for life and there’s some real excitement in it, but there’s some tough stuff and there’s some emotions.
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I remember wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I really processed a sense of feeling kind of alone growing up as a kid like I was. You know, I had to go to a new school all the time by myself. And I was older than my sister, so I’d have to navigate junior high school by myself. And a real sense of loneliness and feeling alone growing up. And to be able to process that with your kids in real time and not have to wait yuill, you’re 40. And counseling to process that, I think would be an encouragement, but I want to move on from that. So you grew up in different parts of the world. You moved to the heart of Africa, South Africa, when you were 16 years old and then lived in Taiwan. What happened in you in that experience that gave you that kept you in the same kind of work today? What was it like to experience that and develop Mike, a sense of purpose and passion at such a young age? What did that look and feel like for you when you were 16 years old?
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Well, so moving there, I was actually really excited to move since I had that pre exposure to the place I was going. It really helped me settle in a lot more easily. So having that exposure to helping people and serving and making a difference in the world at such a young age really impacted me for the work I do today. But then moving to Taiwan, I guess I had always been under my parents wing through all of those experiences in Africa, which was amazing. But when I moved to Taiwan by myself, I had the chance to work in the Philippines and work in India and go on different service trips to help with tsunami aid relief in the Philippines, for example. And that really, I guess, getting that experience of serving in a different capacity that was away from my parents also had a huge impact on my perspective because it showed me that people need help all around the world, and there’s so many different ways to make a difference in the world. So that really ignited, I guess, my adulthood, wanting to make a difference in the world and knowing that when I grew up, I wanted to do something that really, really mattered.
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I knew that I could do something now, and there are small things that you can do that make a big difference. But I knew when I grew up at that point that that was definitely something I wanted to pursue and I was passionate about.
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Yeah, that’s awesome. And you got to see how other people live first hand yourself. When at a young age and it’s safe to say you’re still working in that area today, what would you say to kids or young adults or parents who are coming alongside kids who might feel this sense of calling or compassion to help out, but they’ve got to drive, but they’re not sure where to kind of channel their energies. How can we come alongside young people that maybe haven’t had that direct exposure to something that they can get involved in but have this desire to make their life count in the service of others? How can they even get started at a young age? What does that look like?
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That’s a great question. I would say that paying attention to what you care about is a really great place to start because everyone cares about different things. So let’s say you are really passionate about animals. Then I would suggest looking at the community around you. See if there’s an animal shelter that you can go get involved with. There might be volunteer opportunities. There might be fundraisers that you can help with. You might be able to just pet some really cute puppies. But find what you’re passionate about and a really good way to figure that out if you’re like. Wells, I don’t even know where to start for that is, do some research into organizations around you or internationally that are doing humanitarian work around the world. Then you might be pulled more towards helping children or helping homelessness women and abuse poverty alleviation. There’s so many great causes around the world that are working to make the world a better place, and the most important thing is to just get started. A lot of people are not sure how, but once you find an organization that you agree with their mission and you sort of click with what they’re doing, you can reach out to them directly and ask them, what can I do?
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And they might tell you, like, you can sponsor a child, or you can come to this event that we’re doing and help us by volunteering. But the most important thing is to just get started and find that initial thing that you feel you really care about.
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Yeah, that’s great advice. I think that there’s a lot of things happening in our communities, around us and across the world, that education is a great place to start and thank goodness for the Internet. Now we have access to stuff that we can see and hear about and maybe start to find some alignment with that in previous generations. You’d have to actually go and physically see it, which is always the better way to really get captivated by what’s going on in the world and to experience that empathy and sympathy for people and be driven to do something about what’s happening in the world. But I think there is a huge advantage in that. I want to talk a little bit about that empathy and seeing as you mentioned when you were younger, just really being exposed to how other kids lived and what it was like and very different than some of the communities I live not far from where you grew up in Aurora, and it is very different. But there are people that are hurting in our communities too. So I want to ask you, Mike, when you given the work that you do, you know, fighting poverty, alleviating hunger, caring for orphans and vulnerable children, tell us a little bit about, you know, that empathy that you have and how do you manage wanting to make a difference everywhere but having limited resources and abilities to do that?
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Talk about how you kind of navigate just that emotional response to what’s going on in the world, wanting to make a difference, but also kind of having a realistic understanding of what you and your organization can do to Mike a difference?
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Yeah, definitely. Well, it’s definitely it’s a challenge because, like you said, you feel like you’re one person, what can you do to make a difference in the world? But that’s the best part, is that once you find something that you’re passionate about and somewhere you want to plug into, it becomes a lot easier to find other people who are also really passionate about that sector of the world. So for me, it was challenging because the things that you’re seeing locally, in your community or globally, they can have a huge impact on you. And emotionally it can be really heavy. And some of the jobs I definitely could not do. Mike being a social worker, I feel like would be so challenging. But then people think my job is hard, so I understand that. But for me, coping with it all is really not getting bogged down with the idea that there’s so much hurt in the world and more focusing on what can I do as one person. And I think I was pretty fortunate because as a child, my parents were really intentional while we were doing all this traveling and I was being exposed to all of these experiences.
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They were very intentional to make it easy for me to do something as an individual. So for example, I wanted to help one of the children’s homes that we were working with and I connected with one of the little girls there. So she suggested that I use some of my allowance money to help sponsor her. I think it was like $5 a month. Nothing crazy that was going to make a life changing impact but it was a way for me to plug in and feel like I could do something for one person. Also helping with fundraisers for bunk beds, I set up a little cardboard booth and tried to raise money for bunk beds. And it really empowered me at a young age to know that even if I’m helping one person, I can make a difference. And it really helps you navigate those emotions of feeling like sometimes it feels like it’s too much, there’s too much going on, there’s too much hurt in the world. But do for one what you could do for everyone and eventually that will grow.
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What keeps you going today in the work that you’re doing? Because you do some marketing and promotion and I’m sure you’re heavily involved. What are some stories, what are some ways that your organization and you specifically are really making a difference in individual people’s lives that continue to motivate you and create that drive to stay with it?
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For me there are many challenges, but I guess what motivates me the most is being able to see results of the work that we’re doing. So for example, you and I having this conversation is such a great opportunity for us to chat about making a difference in the world and inspire youth to care and to go out and do something. And for me that’s super rewarding and motivating and makes me want to encourage other people to do it in esoterich itself. Getting to see our kids who all of our kids came under two years old. We only accept kids under two years old and our oldest are now eleven years old. And getting to see them grow and just their geniuses. Of course I’m biased, but they’re so special and they’re asking a bazillion questions now. And they each are so individual. And I just love to see them grow and see them become the people that they may not have had the chance to be if they didn’t have a loving home and have a place that was safe for them to explore and become who they want to be. So for me that’s the most motivating is being able to see that me doing my job and that I have the opportunity to work in this space that I get to see the results of that work.
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I get to see lives change, not only our kids, but the adults, I get to see them. Electricity is super scarce where we are. So once people are employed with us, we get to see all these lights on the side of the hill because now they have electricity because they have a job or they’re able to feed their families. And just hearing those stories is so impactful in your life, just knowing one person can really help make a difference.
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What are some dreams that your organization and you have that keep you going into the future? Like what does the next ten years look like for Heart for Africa and the work you’re doing? What gets you really excited to keep going?
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I am super, super excited about the next eight years. Well, ten for sure, but we have one of the cool things about we’re doing is since we only take young children and our oldest are eleven each year we get to sort of develop the next stage for our kids and we’re committed to them until they’re 18. So that means in the next eight years wells be having our first graduating class seven, eight years from high school. And I think just building towards that goal, building our children’s homes, we’ll have over almost 600 children by then that we’re able to care for at a time. And I guess building the infrastructure so that eventually our kids can be the future leaders of this impoverished nation. Seeing them grow and the project almost being complete by that point, all the infrastructure built is that’s what I’m most excited about because then all the work that we’ve been working towards, we get to see the fruit of our labors and see hopefully this country turn around and these children become the next leaders.
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Yeah, that’s great. And I wanted to ask that because I think it’s easy to look at like the experiences or the passion that kind of brews up in us when we’re younger, when we get exposed to things that kind of get us into helping out in the world. And I think the relative successes are kind of what motivates us on the day to day basis but it’s the big dreams that we’re moving forward and that really propel us and give us the energy and so I love to hear what that vision is. So what advice would you give to parents whose kids may be feeling kind of saddened or angered by what they see on the news or issues in the community or across the world, or inequity inequality that they are exposed to through social media or even in their own community? How can we come alongside kids that are something stirring up in them and what they’re seeing around the world?
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I think it’s really important to acknowledge their feelings and kind of how you mentioned earlier with traveling and moving around that you want to make sure that you’re understanding your child’s feelings and helping them process that. I think that’s one really important piece here. It’s helping your kids understand what is happening in the world and giving them some tools in their toolbox, if you will, so that they can move forward and be able to take that experience with them and understand it and process it. So one really easy way to do that is helping your kids help where they can. So if you can help your kids get involved and do something, if they see something negative that happens in the world, then if you can help them with signing a petition or maybe educating their class about something that they learned about, maybe volunteering somewhere, everyone can do something. So if you can help your kids learn that they can do something about the things that they learn about that.
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Could change their lives, I think a great thing to add to that is for us as parents or adults that have kids in our lives that are interested and maybe starting to get involved is to get involved alongside them and to not just drive them to the food bank to volunteer, but look at volunteering ourselves. Because not only is it continuing the idea of as adults are modeling some of this, but it’s probably good for our own souls to be able to find things in the world that we can make a difference in and even be the ones that lead the way for kids. And so it’s one thing to say young people have a passion for making a difference in the world, but I think as adults, we need to kind of reevaluate where that spark is in our own life and where we’re investing our time to make a difference in the places that we’re called and the things that kind of touch us as well. And if we can’t find any, maybe our kids can through their own natural processes that we’ve talked about today. And then if we can join them, I think that would be a really encouraging thing for our kids, for us to walk with them in it.
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I 100% agree with that, Chris. And it gives the kids a chance to see that you care as well and to know that if your parents care and they want to help you volunteer somewhere and they go with you, it shows that what they’re doing is important. And for me, seeing my DAREarts, being able to volunteer with them and work with them, it felt like we were a team and we were able to make a difference together.
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So, Chloe, as we’re kind of wrapping up, if we’ve been listening to this and are going, oh, man, how could we as listeners get involved in Heart for Africa? Tell us a little bit about that. And then also, what other resources or opportunities would you suggest to parents that are wanting to help their kids engage more in the world around them? I know earlier we talk broadly, but do you have any places. To go or first steps to take and even maybe start with your own organization.
[00:31:14.460] – Speaker 3
Yeah. So with us, with Heartbreak of Canada, there’s so many ways to get involved. Some simple ways is to follow us on Facebook or social media, to just learn about what we’re doing and follow along with your kids and get those updates on what’s happening over there. It could be as great as taking a trip over. So we do service trips that are eleven days total and we have a lot of kids come on those trips. They’re very family friendly and it’s an opportunity to one go see a whole new part of the world, but to really get exposed to that level of service just in a whole nother place in the world and make a difference. It could also be sponsoring a child with Sarah Africa or another organization. So helping us take care of these children that we’re committed to for external, for other opportunities. Because a lot of people don’t think about their local area. I’d really recommend looking into see if there’s a YMCA near you, or if there’s something a shelter near you in your community, or just what organizations are in your area. Because once you’ve plugged into one of those, it’s a lot easier to go in person and make a difference.
[00:32:36.490] – Speaker 3
Right. One small idea as well is if you give an allowance or if you have certain funds that you like to donate to different organizations. For me, when I was a kid, I was given an allowance and 10% of my allowance was always put aside, which and I agreed with it to put towards whatever organization or mission or whatever that I wanted to support. So it really helped me at a young age to be able to make a conscious decision to help in a way that I could. Like I said earlier, I think it was about $5 or something, maybe $2 a month that was taken off small amount, but it was something that I could see the tangible difference that I was making. So that’s some of the options that I would suggest. But yeah, just do some research for sure on what’s going on around you and around the world to see where you can plug in.
[00:33:38.460] – Speaker 1
That’s great advice. So as you just kind of wrap up. Chloe, any final thoughts or word of encouragement for parents who are kind of navigating the complexities of parenting kids today and maybe kids that are getting really passionate about the world around them and are wanting to make a difference? What kind of encouragement would you have today for our listeners, I’d encourage you.
[00:34:01.390] – Speaker 3
To stick with it. Kids are resilient and they’re sponges for information. There’s challenging situations all over the world. But if you can just keep guiding your kids and be patient with them, you’re the biggest influence in their lives, and you’ll help shape their world and their perspective and how they view things. They could grow up to change the world, and you have the chance right now to guide them, and you’re the one believing in them. So stick with them and keep encouraging them to be curious and to learn about what’s going on around them and be by their side when they have questions and really help them process what’s going on around them. That’s my biggest piece of advice.
[00:34:45.170] – Speaker 1
That’s great. Really encouraging. And I love what you said about helping kids be curious and asking questions and helping expose them to what’s going around in the world, just like your experience when you moved at 16 and saw what’s going on in the world. There’s a lot of things, a lot of brokenness and hurting in our world, around us. And I think one of the ways we can navigate our own journey is to find the places where we can serve and give back. And I’m really encouraged to hear about what you and your family and others are doing in your part of the world. And thanks for being with us and sharing a little bit about your story. And hopefully it’s motivating and encouraging to other parents and other kids to get involved and make a difference in the world. Thanks for being with us, Chloe. Really appreciate it today.
[00:35:33.800] – Speaker 3
Thanks, Chris. Great chatting with you.