Orange County, California area interfaith program First Drops teaches children about a variety of religions through fostering relationships and taking different religious sites and experience it for themselves. The curiosity of children and their eagerness to learn about religion fuels the organization. Parents and community members provide children resources as a means of learning about many religions. They also participate in monthly community service projects including feeding hungry families, as well as many more projects and activities. Recently the children’s filming of “An Interfaith Carol” submitted to the World Interfaith Harmony Week Film competition won in its category.
Farrah Khan, a new Ambassador of the Parliament and founder of First Drops shares the following reflection on how this kind of active interfaith community cultivates respect for everyone.
First Drops was founded in the Spring of 2011. The idea came from the need to answer various questions my son who was in 5thgrade had about religions. Even with my knowledge, I knew that it would be best for him to get his information from the source, so I took him to my friend’s church. He enjoyed the experience of attending mass, that’s when I knew I had to do more. I called up a few friends whose kids were the same age as mine and asked them if they would be interested in joining up for small discussions. The group of six kids and parents developed into an organization in less than two months.
Currently, First Drops educates children and their families about the many religions that surround them through site visits. Each site visit is a unique experience. The host facility usually gives an over view of their religion, provides a tour of the facility, and an opportunity to observe or engage in their religious service followed by a Q & A session. Then we usually are invited to a more casual setting where members of the congregation and our First Drops families have a chance to mingle and munch on snacks. This is a great learning experience because the child has an opportunity to experience the religion rather than reading about it in a book. The children have visited during Christmas Mass, Easter Mass, Purim, Celebration of Nirvana (Buddhism), Celebration of Ridvan (Baha’i) and much more. These experiences are what will become a lasting memory.
Our children also engage in community service. Every 2nd Sunday of the month, the children serve 100-150 homeless people in the Santa Ana downtown district. The families prepare the food and the children serve each guest. This has taught the children that respect for humanity comes first. After the first few feedings, the children began looking into ways to help our brothers and sisters living on the streets. So each month, the children come up with ways to help even more. During the rainy season, the children collected 200 rain ponchos and passed them out. These ponchos were either bought by the children’s own money or by asking friends, family and neighbors to purchase them. On Mother’s Day, the children passed out flower bouquets to every woman. The flowers were contributed by Trader Joe’s. We have held several clothing, toy and book drives throughout the year.
The children are welcome to use their own ideas to help foster a more compassionate world. They have produced an interfaith film called “An Interfaith Carol” which won the World Interfaith Harmony Film Festival first place for Youth Film. They are regular participants at the Irvine Global Village Festival and The Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council’s Celebration of Thanksgiving where they sing interfaith related songs.
We are teaching the children that in today’s world, it is important to work with others to improve. We partner with CROP Hunger Walk and collect money to help feed the needy around the world.
First Drops was recently asked to come under the Orange County Interfaith Network’s umbrella. This opportunity will give us access to over 12 interfaith councils and grow the organization.
My personal desire is to bridge the gap between those of us who are currently working in the interfaith arena and our next generation. One day, we will all be on the same page and the world will see peace.
Above Right: Children of Orange County, California participate in the First Drops program, the first of its kind in California created by Parliament Ambassador Farrah Khan after her son posed questions about other faiths.