Amanda Starbuck Fresh Air FundI live in New York and I love the city. It’s got almost everything a person could want, beautiful architecture, terrific restaurants, access to some of the best theatre and art shows in the world and over eight million interesting people to run into. I say almost because there is one thing the city is missing, nature. There are trees here and we have the largest park in the world but nowhere can you truly escape the confining canopy of the cement jungle. For more fortunate families, this is something that can be worked around with vacations, summer camps, or trips to visit relatives in the country but for many families in New York City and other urban areas exposing their children to nature is not an affordable option. And a lack of exposure to nature can have detrimental effects on the development of those children that cannot be undone. That’s where the Fresh Air Fund comes in.

Exposure to nature has a positive effect of the development of children. This claim has been supported by psychologists, education specialists and other researchers more and more over the past decade. Some researchers point towards the modern child’s lack of interaction with nature as a major contributing factor to the increase in cognitive and mental health disorders (such as ADD and ADHD) among American children. Other researchers have shown that time in forests (as opposed to a playground or, even worse, sitting in front of a TV) improves cognitive functioning, motor skills, social skills as well as reducing stress levels and increasing the child’s willingness to interact with adults and other children. To read more about the incredible effects exposure to the natural world has on the development of children, check out this article.

The claims that children need nature to help them grow and develop come as no surprise to The Fresh Air Fund. Founded in 1877, this non-profit has been connecting low-income children living in NYC who might otherwise not have access to nature with a host family in a rural setting for over 100 years. The children spend time working with their host families on farms, exploring forests and meadows and enjoying time away from the smog filled, crowded streets of their city. The host families and children both enjoy the two week experience. In fact, the host families enjoy it so much, 65% of all children are invited back to stay with the same host family two (or more!) years in a row!

The Fresh Air Fund has helped 1.8 million young children to date and is on a mission to continue to improve and expand its programs. I think it is one of the most important organizations operating in America today and donate my time and resources to support them. I hope you agree and support them too!

What charity do you think the world needs to know more about?