Rachel, an ordinary Wisconsin teen paying birthday gifts forward.

Rachel, an ordinary Wisconsin teen paying birthday gifts forward.

Cross-cultural birthday love

By Brooke Hartman

In this section, we usually tell the story of an adult reader who became “wild-eyed” after reading about one of our host ministries and jumped in the arena to do something for global justice. It’s one of our favorites.

But in our first Cambodia issue over the summer, we highlighted a kid-focused initiative in the magazine, and it caught the eye of a 14-year-old girl in Wisconsin named Rachel.

“I read about CGI Kids in the magazine,” Rachel said. “So my mom and I looked up their website. I loved the story about the kids who raised money for clean water in Cambodia, and when my Grandma and I were talking about it one day, she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you did something like that?’”

Rachel had a birthday coming up, and the water story gave her the idea to have friends donate to CGI Kids instead of bringing gifts. Her mom even offered to match the funds!

“I wanted to give donations because I felt like I didn’t need the extra gifts. They didn’t make a difference in my life, so I thought instead of getting gifts, I could give gifts to someone else who needs them more.”

But why would Rachel care about what’s happening on the other side of the world, I wondered, and what had her friends thought about the decision?

Rachel’s friends were giddy to see how much money they had raised

Rachel’s friends were giddy to see how much money they had raised

“Well, I get to live in America,” Rachel said, “and the kids in Cambodia are human beings just like us. They shouldn’t have to live through bad things just because they [live] there.”

Rachel’s mom Kelly also chimed in, “It’s kind of like the lottery story we read in that issue. Being born here comes with privileges and comes with responsibility to share privileges with other people.”

“I care about them,” Rachel said, “because they’re just like me, and they want a normal life just like I do. My friends thought it was pretty cool, actually. They had heard of World Next Door because Brooke and Jeff came to our school to tell us about it, and that made my friends feel like it was more personal.”

“The girls were giddy,” Kelly said. “They all brought cash or checks to the party, and they triple-counted the money to see how much they raised—they were having so much fun.”

“It felt good to raise a lot of money as a kid,” Rachel said. “I saw that any gift can mean something.”