Candy for Nets

Yes­ter­day morn­ing my five-year-old daugh­ter was ask­ing me about mosquitos, and we got on to talk­ing about malaria, nets, and how Ju­lia and I donate to the AMF to keep other kids from get­ting sick and po­ten­tially dy­ing. Lily took it very se­ri­ously, and pro­posed that when I re­tire she take my pro­gram­ming job and donate in my place.

I told her that she didn’t need to wait un­til af­ter I re­tired to start helping, and she de­cided she wanted to sell candy on the bike path as a fundraiser. I told her we could do this af­ter naps if the weather was still nice, and the first thing she said when I got her up from her nap was that she wanted to go make a sign.

She dic­tated to me, “Lily is sel­l­ing candy to raise money for malaria nets, $1” and I wrote the let­ters. She col­ored them in:

(It looks like she’s pos­ing with the sign here, but this is just how she hap­pened to po­si­tion her­self for col­or­ing. She has short arms.)

Once Anna was up from her (longer) nap I got out the wagon and brought them over to the bike path. Lily did all the sel­l­ing; I just hung out to the side, lean­ing against a tree.

She’s always been good at talk­ing to adults, and did a good job sel­l­ing the candy. She would ex­plain that the candy was $1/​each, that the money was go­ing to buy malaria nets, and that malaria was a very bad dis­ease that you got from mosquitoes. Peo­ple were gen­er­ous, and sev­eral peo­ple gave with­out tak­ing candy, or put in an ex­tra dol­lar. One per­son didn’t have cash but wanted to give enough that they went home and came back with a dol­lar. As some­one who grew up in a part of town with very lit­tle foot traf­fic, the idea that you can just walk a short dis­tance from your house to some­where where sev­eral peo­ple will pass per minute con­tinu­ally amazes me.

After about twenty min­utes all the candy was sold and Lily had col­lected $20.75. She played in the park for a while, and then when we came home she asked how we would use the money to buy nets. I showed her pic­tures of dis­tri­bu­tions on the AMF web­site but she wanted to see pic­tures of the nets in use so we spent a while on image search:

I ex­plained that we weren’t go­ing to dis­tribute the nets our­selves, but that we would provide the money so other peo­ple could.

Ini­tially she didn’t want to donate the whole amount, but wanted to set aside half to buy more candy so she could do this again. I told her that I would be happy to buy the candy. Pos­si­bly I should have let her man­age this her­self, but I was wor­ried that the money wouldn’t end up donated which wouldn’t have been fair to the peo­ple who’d bought the candy, and ex­plained this to her. She gave me the $20.75 and I used my credit card to pay for the nets. [1]

Here’s the mes­sage she dic­tated for the dona­tion:

I want peo­ple to be safe in the world from bit­ing mosquitoes. I don’t want them get­ting hurt, and es­pe­cially I don’t want the kids like me to die.

I don’t know how her re­la­tion­ship with al­tru­ism will change as she gets older, and I do think there are ways it will be hard for her to have par­ents who have strong un­usual views. As we go I’m go­ing to con­tinue to try very hard not to pres­sure or ma­nipu­late her, while still giv­ing ad­vice and helping her ex­plore her mo­ti­va­tions here. I am, how­ever, very proud of her to­day.


[1] I haven’t listed this on our dona­tions page and it doesn’t count it to­wards our 50% goal be­cause the dona­tion was Lily’s and not ours.