Lent, for many, means a few weeks of "giving up" something -- coffee, chocolate, soda, watching episodes of "American Idol!" What we often miss is that the reason for "giving up" something as a Lenten practice is not to show the strength of our will. Rather it is to make space for something thing else. If we give up TV, then we should use that extra time to do something positive with our family, friends, church, or community. If we give up coffee, we should take all that money we would've spent at Starbucks and give it to a worthwhile cause. To that end, you might want to consider inviting your youth to be part of the Mutanga Challenge which works to provide microloans to those living in poverty in Africa. In a nutshell:
One billion people live on a dollar a day or less! The Mutunga Partnership is trying to turn this tragic statistic into a tool for raising awareness, for building a sense of community with the poor, and for raising funds for micro-credit development. The idea is that a household lives on a food budget of $2.00 a day, per person for a week. The money saved is then donated to The Mutunga Partnership. This idea doesn’t require finding extra cash – just a temporary change in lifestyle. It’s a challenge!If one thousand families, households or groups did the ‘challenge’ once a year, $100,000 could be raised. This is enough to fund loans for 1,000 micro-entrepreneurs, lifting their families permanently out of poverty, and providing employment for many more. If the challenge was taken up more than once a year, with an ever-widening circle of participating units, many more thousands of our sisters and brothers among the poor could be given a helping hand.
UPDATE: Check out this great feature at Time.com displaying a series of images from the book Hungry Planet showing 16 different families around the globe and exactly how much they eat in one week. The disparity is sobering.