IRUSA’s Nada Shawish reports on the importance of maintaining your inner child.

As adults, we sometimes forget, we were all children once. When we get in touch with that inner child, great things can happen. We get closer to our children, and others around us. We understand each other a little better. We let go of the differences that might cause hatred and animosity towards one another. We recognize the things we have in common. We help each other. Most importantly, we get closer to God.

It’s Universal Children’s Day. Islamic Relief USA recognizes children around the world today—those that need our help, those that are new to the world, those who have left it too soon, and those who have, at an early age, recognized the importance of helping others.

About Universal Children’s Day: In 1954, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. It recommended that the day was to be observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the Charter and the welfare of the children of the world.

We forget sometimes that children have a great gift that many adults lose somewhere between our personal struggles and those that plague the world. But children aren’t just helpless little creatures … they have the great ability to see what many adults have become blind to.

They’re able think about the world and its problems in really profound ways, ways that we might once have thought, and just forgotten about when “growing up” became the priority.

Islamic Relief USA recently held a scavenger hunt on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to encourage children and parents, friends, and siblings, old and young to get together, explore the museums, and do what children do best, play and learn (check out these photos from the event). And all for a good cause: the money raised will help Syrians in need.

Now, why would Islamic Relief host such an event? You might ask, how can a bunch of kids running around the National Mall museums, hunting for clues, help anyone in need? Isn’t there a better way to raise money for Syria? Perhaps. But Dalia Gokce is just 12 years old, and she eloquently describes the good that comes from engaging youth in our community, and mixing things up just a little bit:

“My name is Dalia Gokce and I’m 12 years old and I participated in the IRUSA scavenger hunt for Syria with my family and friends.

In the scavenger hunt, first, somebody said a duaa, then we were told to find the hunt app with the clues and begin. We had about 2 1/2 hours to go to 4 museums and answer all the clues.

I think the scavenger hunt was an amazing way to open children’s eyes to charity work. It showed that charity could be fun, and that kids can help others interesting ways. That means that younger kids who have short attention spans can be attracted by the fun nature of these kindnesses. The little dua at the beginning gave me something important to think about, and was more effective than a long lecture. It was about how some people have to search for their food and water, just like we were searching for information in the museums, and sometimes they can’t find anything to drink or eat, just like we couldn’t find some of the harder clues.

IRUSA didn’t make much profit, but maybe some of the people that took part in the scavenger hunt will be moved to donate in the future. That’s an important kind of profit, I think.

I learned about natural and space history, and I saw other kids learning about American history. It inspires me to help those in need when I see the thought that IRUSA puts into helping others, making it interesting so not only adults will come, but kids too. I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt and I hope there will be more in the years to come.”

Masha’Allah, we were fortunate to have Dalia on our team, amongst many other very thoughtful young people who I got to chit chat with about why they thought the scavenger hunt was important for children, for the community, and for Islamic Relief. Dalia teaches us that children can make a difference and inspire others when you give them a chance to get involved.

Children are much braver than we can imagine too. When Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines this November, entire villages were washed away by surges of water. Thousands are homeless, many have died. And the stories that emerged in days following the storm are heartbreaking. But one story from the Philippines moves me to tears with the bravery of a little girl who was lost to the storm. Wooden splinters from houses destroyed by the Super typhoon riddled her body. They pierced right through her; Her mother said that her daughter just seemed to give up. “Ma, just let go,” she said. “Save yourself.”

Her mother said: “I was holding her and I kept telling her to hang on, that I was going to bring her up [out of the water]. But she just gave up.” The little girl knew that she would not make it, and wanted her mother to be safe, to take care of herself.

And children are stronger than we imagine. There was a Syrian boy I met nearly two years ago who also twelve at the time. When I met him he was living as a refugee in a small, one-bedroom flat with at least three other families. It was the beginning of the Syrian crisis. His name is Yousef, and he had scars on his cheeks from shrapnel and stray metal from explosions that rained over him and his brother in Syria. But Yousef’s smile was light, he was full of life. His eyes lit up talking about soccer: running fast, jumping high and scoring goals. I sometimes have to ask young people difficult questions about what’s happening to them, and when I asked Yousef about how he felt about what he and his family was going through he paused for a moment, looked at me and said:

“Life keeps moving. We moved, and many people move everyday. And it’s a hard thing. A lot of people are lost. But we can be strong, and we can show the world we can keep moving. Maybe they will move with us.” Then he smiled again, “Anyway, football comes wherever we go. Everyone loves a football player.”

Obviously, we all have to grow up sometime, but maybe there are lessons to be learned from the world’s children if we only give them a chance. From the United States, to the Philippines, to a Syrian refugee camp, our job as adults is not just to make them grow up. Our job is to ensure the well being of our children. Support them, keep them safe, give them a platform to speak, and most importantly, listen to them. Allow them to help us recognize our inner child. Their ideas are filled with hope and love, even in the most difficult times: They remind us of why we’re here, how fortunate we are, and inspire us to find creative ways to think about the world and make it a better place. One day, they will be the ones we count on to do that work.