ANALYSIS | Davis, California and Lower Nyakach, Kenya are geographically distant, but through the efforts of a service project between a local elementary school and the Davis Sunset Rotary Club, the two cities have become much, much closer. Working together, these two groups raised $1,022, which provided enough money to purchase reading glasses for 511 African grandparents.
What started out as a fundraising assembly quickly caught on with local Willett Elementary School students. Partnering with Kenyan organization FOTO (Friends of the Old), which assists the elderly with special needs, the California based International Water and Health Alliances organization was able to mark 4,000 grandparents in need of reading glasses. By working with Davis Rotary and creating a very reachable fundraising goal of $2 per child, the task became very manageable for the young elementary school children. Working for one month, 270 children each raised the $2 required to provide new glasses to help the Kenyan grandparents read to their grandchildren.
As a parent and educator, this project tugged at my heart. Watching children wrap themselves around an idea is a glorious sight, and when global service is involved, it makes it all that much sweeter. I believe that children of all ages can learn how to be global citizens. Children don't have the same fears and apprehensions that adults do; when there is a cause they feel is unjust, they want to act. Children have an inherent dislike to unfairness, and will work to find a way to change it, whether it's a local rule in their classroom or in this case an inequitable global situation.
What makes this project so appealing is that these kids felt empowered and saw an achievable, doable goal that they could meet. It was a tangible goal - kids understand the need for grandparents to have strong vision. It wasn't an abstract concept they were working towards, it was simple: eyeglasses. This act of charity - of collecting funds for donation to people they do not know - is the first step towards becoming a global citizen and working for social justice in our world.
At a time when our education system is broken, and news revolves around all the money we don't have and the programs that need to be cut, perhaps we should take a lesson from these young children. If we think about looking beyond ourselves, try to work for what is right and create attainable goals that provide a measurable and satisfying outcome, maybe we can begin to make progress. Today's kids really are our future; let's work with them to make it a bright place to be.
Jennifer Wolfe is a middle school teacher in California. She has a degree in English, and has taught in secondary education for 21 years.