When life offers up an unexpected intersection of events, I try to take notice. It happened recently in our household. Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving, and as a parent I often wonder if our kids realize how fortunate we are, and not just for turkey and mashed potatoes (though much appreciated, especially with gravy). A scan of our scenery, the blessings of family and friends, and yes, the opportunity daily to get out there and learn something new. My attempts to impress upon the youngsters how lucky they are for their school - and not just the three day weekend - often is met with a murmur of "sure, mom" and the obligatory eye roll. Wary of sounding like a broken record (recognizing they likely don't even know what that means), I recently was grateful indeed for the lesson our youngest and a friend brought home from their classroom.
She and a classmate were tasked in their humanities class to study education. So far, so good. The twist being their research focused on the education system in the small country of Haiti. The kids quickly learned about devastation wrought by the 2010 earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. But it was the human toll that really caught their attention. Their research opened their eyes to the fact that schools in Haiti were closed for months, some even years after the earthquake. Unthinkable. Together with her schoolmate they asked if there was any way they could tell this story again in the newspaper so people won't forget there still are kids who are waiting and wanting to get back to school in Haiti. I was game if they would do their part - by thinking carefully about what it might mean if the education we often take for granted was stripped away, and to write about it for this column.
So they wrote to me about a young girl named Christine that they learned about on the internet. Christine was 14, nearly their age, in 2010 when the earthquake hit. Afterward she lived in a camp near the airport in Haiti's capital Port-Au-Prince with her mother, brother Jean Renee and sister Afenyoose. Because of the earthquake Christine's school closed for three months. At the time, she was the only child in her family able to go to school. In a UNICEF interview the girls located online, Christine explained, "The only thing I know is that I know nothing." Still, she had high hopes wanting to go to college and be a doctor. "I want to see with my own eyes what's in the body and understand how the heart beats." We wonder now, just two years later, how the young girl with dreams might be doing.
The girls' research also helped them think about the kids closer to home as well, deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy. It hit home that people wanted the kids to return to school within days of the hurricane. They realized, perhaps for the first time on their own, that, "We are so lucky for what we get here in America we all need to be thankful for it. Kids in Haiti could live their whole lives without going to a school, and two lost days of school here is unacceptable." Often, we don't realize how fortunate we are until we consider losing those things dear to us. A good lesson at any age, especially when we pause to give thanks.
The girls left me with plea. "Kids in haiti need our help during this holiday season." They've learned that in order to thrive and to be successful, all countries must have an educated population. In Haiti kids like Christine can't live their dreams without textbooks, pencils, paper, coloring utensils, and highly trained teachers. It all takes money, and with public education nearly nonexistent, the cost of private education is exorbitant by Haitian standards - approaching $200.00 annually. Makes me wonder what we spend on Christmas stockings alone.
The girls have asked that you please consider donating to one of the following organizations: HERO, USAID, Red Cross, Ford Haitian Orphanage, or UNICEF, and check out their websites at hero nonprofit.org, haiti.usaid.gov, fordhaitian
orphage.org, or careinternational
.org. Charities the girls suggest are worthy or support because they help build schools, because it is essential to have a safe and strong school, compared to the temporary tents used in Haiti. It's one way we plan to give as a family this year.
After two long years of suffering they're hoping we can make a difference for children, like Christine, whose vision of having an education was tragically taken away after the earthquake. Wherever you are Christine, thank you for the Thanksgiving lesson.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.