I remember my first international charity that was dear to my heart. It was the Invisible Children organization helping to stop the abduction of African children where they are forced to fight in an army. This organization has been rebuilding schools, educating future leaders and providing jobs for almost 10 years in hopes to promote peace in war-ridden Northern Uganda.
There is now another charity similar to the Invisible Children that I will hold dear to my heart. It is called “School Supplies for Afghan Children.” This charity acts like a bridge for many Americans and Afghan children. It encourages the donations of school supplies and raises money to help ship these donated items to American troops who then distribute them to the children in Afghanistan who are too poor to even buy a pen, let alone get an education.
I am currently reading the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. In the beginning of the book, Mortenson, who was in the process of trying to build a school in Pakistan writes: “What tools does it take to raise money?” How could he convince Americans to care about a circle of children sitting in the cold, on the other side of the world, scratching at their lessons in the dirt with sticks?” That is the million dollar question that my classmates and I will try to find the answer to this semester in hopes of making a difference in the lives of these children.
In Sir Edmund Hillary’s book Schoolhouse in the Clouds he said, “Slowly and painfully, we are seeing worldwide acceptance of the fact that the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the undeveloped ones. Not only through a sense of charity, but also because only in this way can we ever hope to see any permanent peace and security for ourselves.” I think this is the fundamental answer to Mortenson’s question “how can [we] convince Americans to care”. Our challenge is to show and demonstrate to others that by caring and giving to this organization, we are helping those unfortunate children and helping secure peace.
I recognize that right now in the United States we are in an economic recession. There are a lot of people unemployed and barely making a living. So how can I ask others to give when they are struggling themselves at the moment, one might ask? I can ask because giving is simple. It just takes a $1 pack of pencils or those pens you’ve forgotten about in the kitchen drawer to make a difference. Here’s a perfect example on how easy it is for anyone to help make a difference and secure peace. Mortenson’s mother Jerene Mortenson, who was a principal of an elementary school, invited him to speak to her students. After hearing Greg speak, the students launched a “Pennies for Pakistan” drive where they filled two 40-gallon trash cans and collected 62,345 pennies (the program was later renamed Pennies for Peace). That’s $623.45 from elementary aged children who recognize how easily they can help. “Children had taken the first step toward building the school. And they did it with something that’s basically worthless in our society – pennies. But overseas, pennies can move mountains,” reflected Mortenson.
This semester I challenge myself and everyone I can reach out to make a difference. Whether it’s donating two 40-gallon trash cans of pennies or going to the Dollar Store and buying $5 worth of school supplies, just know that you and our American soldiers are truly securing peace and making a difference in the lives of these children.