List in hand, I marched down every aisle at Target, my eyes darting between the colored pens and bright pencil pouches. I imagined unzipping my pencil pouch to underline something important in English class or to write my friend a note that I would slip in their desk. Looking over the list of books that I would consumer over the next few months was especially exciting.
Like many children, I loved school.
Each year, when I ripped open packages of #2 pencils and Lisa Frank folders after a day of back-to-school shopping, my parents made a point of explaining to me how the ability to go to school was something to be grateful for. “Some children your age do not have the ability to go to school, and must work or stay at home instead,” my dad would tell me. As a child, I couldn’t imagine school not bookending my summers.
The school season is upon us and many children are consumed with excitement and nervousness thinking about being in class with their friends again. As you go about buying school supplies for your child, we encourage you to have open dialogue with your child about how education is a privilege and something to be thankful for. In North America, it may be easy for children to take their education for granted. Many vulnerable and orphaned children who grow up in poverty are unable to pursue an education, although they know that going to school is a pathway to a better life and a brighter future.
CarePoints are valuable resources for the children we serve because they offer educational support and are a place for children to gain access to educational resources. Educational support is listed in “Thrive,” the second step that we encourage towards transformation in our “Survive, Thrive, Succeed” model. The educational model varies in the communities that we walk alongside, but as we address the root issues in a community that help the individuals in that community survive, we begin to work toward true transformation by empowering individuals to change the trajectory of their own lives. In many cases, this includes education or vocational skills training.
We are inspired by young girls like Hlelelwe. Hlelelwe is a 14-year-old girl living in the Mkhombokati community in Swaziland. She lives with her mother and five siblings. Hlelelwe’s father battled an unknown illness and passed away in 2011, which was devastating for her family. Her mom, Lindiwe, is a strong woman and a huge inspiration and mentor to Hlelelwe and works hard to provide for her family. The family survived tragedy after tragedy as shortly before their father passed away, Lindiwe lost her job, making it difficult to afford food, basic medical care, and an education for her children. Life became a struggle for survival for Hlelelwe’s family, and bitterness and poverty quickly overcame her family.
Losing her family’s hero, her father, and the loss of income for the entire family was hard for Hlelelwe to process, but she faced these tragedies with bravery, and decided to make pursuing education her top priority. Through Children’s HopeChest, and the Mkhombokati CarePoint, Hlelewe was able to get her basic survival needs met and was able to explore her intellectual potential through the opportunity to attend school. The difficulty in Hlelelwe’s family did not prevent her from getting an education because the Mkhombokati CarePoint was there to support her financially and to emotionally encourage her. School is now her main focus and her closest friend.
She also trusts and believes that God will bless her hard work and help her shine in school. She says, “God plus education will create a great, successful and fruitful outcome in my life.”
Seeing her mother struggling day and night just to put something on the table for them to eat was painful for Hlelelwe, and she decided that she wanted to change the poverty and bitterness of her family into happiness and hope. She has ambitions to complete school, go to tertiary and get a good job so she can improve the standard of living for her struggling family.
Now that she has the opportunity to pursue her education, she sees life as an opportunity to help her family and anyone living under the same circumstances.
This month as you return to the “back to school” rhythm, think about children like Hlelelwe–children who strongly desire to learn and be in school. There are hundreds of children in our programs who would love to receive an education and engage with their potential. Please prayerfully consider giving a meaningful gift that will make an impact in the lives of vulnerable children and the communities who need it most.