The GivingWorks Empathy Project

Help Those with Less be Givers, Too

While most giving projects are aimed at children and adults with “more” giving to those with less, it occurred to us recently that many children living in poverty rarely get the chance to give to others, having so little themselves. So we developed the GivingWorks Empathy Project, a program designed to give children with “less” the opportunity to be givers too.

How it works:

Family-to-Family identifies a group of economically disadvantaged teens or middle school aged children at a school, after-school program or other community group – the “giving kids” –  and provides them with:

  • Books for younger children
  • String backpacks
  • Book labels

We also identify a group of younger children (between 4 and 6 years old), also living at or below the poverty line, at a local elementary school or local Head Start program to be the recipient children. (If a participating school/organization also serves a pre-K or kindergarten population, they can be the recipients of the books from the school/organization’s older children.)

The older, “giving” kids each choose 4 of the books, decorate and attach a (“This Book Belongs To _____”) book label to each one and put the 4 books into a backpack. They also each address one of the postcards back to themselves (with their name, c/o their school/organization’s address), and it to the backpack.

As a group, they bring the filled backpacks to the younger kids at the local Head Start or elementary school classroom.  Each giving child is assigned a younger child to sit and read with, sharing the books they have packed in the backpack. (The older kids also pencil the name of the younger child on the postcard, and the teacher collects the postcards so the younger kids can later write back – or draw a picture if they’re very young – to their book buddies about their books.)

After reading together, the givers surprise the younger ones by writing their names on each of the book labels and share with them that these books are now theirs to take home!

Those of us who give of ourselves know how good it feels to “share our bounty”. Through this compassionate giving activity, we hope to provide these “giver” children with that VERY SAME experience.

Watch a GivingWorks! event

Click here to watch another news piece (NBC Nightly News) about GivingWorks.

How You Can Help

  • Host a book drive to collect books for children ages 4-12 from your neighbors, friends and classmates
  • Make your child’s next birthday a “Giving Party” and ask each invited child to bring one book for a child between 4 and 12 years old.
  • Purchase drawstring backpacks and send them to us at Family-to-Family.

If you are shipping books, note that the U.S. Postal Service  has a special media rate, which is significantly cheaper than sending a 1st-class package.

Send books or backpacks to:

GivingWorks Empathy Project
PO Box 255
Hastings on Hudson, N.Y. 10706

Corporate Donors interested in sponsoring The GivingWorks Empathy Project, please contact Pam Koner at

If you’re a teacher, run an after-school program or work with disadvantaged kids and would like your children to participate in The GivingWorks Empathy Project, contact us at

Feedback about GivingWorks…

“What an outstanding day!!!!!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this most memorable event possible.  The gift of giving is a wonderful thing!  This brought my students to a place in their hearts, that they haven’t experienced in a while……possibly never at all!   All of our faces hurt from smiling sooo much!”

Gina Sobel - Sharpstown High School - Houston Tx.

“It was great!! My students really connected to the kindergartners and I could sense that they really took pride in helping younger kids get through a book. The students at the elementary school were actually mostly Spanish speakers, so some of my students went above and beyond reading both in English and translating the story into Spanish for the little ones. It was adorable! They definitely took pride in reading aloud, especially my more nervous and struggling students. It was a real leadership experience for them. The little ones were also very well-behaved and excited to have a big “brother” or “sister” for the day and to receive the books and bags. We all had a great time!”

Raqshinda Khan - Bea Fuller Rodgers School - N.Y. N.Y.

Beverly, KY
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Roxbury, MA
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 “The way a child feels when provided with a concrete opportunity to give to others — the physical act of packing a box, writing a card, wrapping a present for another child — immediately, intimately and powerfully increases their ability to feel empathy for others.

Rather than empathy being an idea, it becomes a behavior — an action.  And for kids, actions speak louder than words.”
— K. Sommerich, CSW, Bronx, N.Y.