It is so easy to say “I’ll get around to donating later” or “Money is just too tight”. When I’m trying to get a glimmer of attention and some care to swell up from within someone while elaborating on my class’ charity mission for the desperately impoverished children of Afghanistan, I try to not make them think of spending money since, especially for college students, the idea of spending extra money is nauseating. All of us are penny pinchers these days in these economic times and it is hard to convince someone why on earth they should help a child in a remote village on the other side of the planet.
Educating a generation of children in Afghanistan will set the foundation for a country that can begin to stand on its own feet and wash out the ignorance that created the extremists our soldiers are fighting today plus build an economy to provide for its people. The Taliban attracts uneducated boys because they offer more money for hire than the boys would make in any other job they could get. In reading Greg Mortenson’s book, Stones into Schools, Mortenson heavily emphasizes the positive impact educating girls can have on the remote villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Every social and economic index shows that countries with a higher percentage of women with a high school education also have better overall health, a more fundamental democracy and increased economic performance. Educated women are also a strong bulwark against the extremism that as we all know, plagues many areas within Afghanistan (you can read more here).
So what’s the price to help educate a small child willing to brave freezing temperatures, the wrath of the Taliban and scorching sun while walking miles to a school with no air conditioning? Not that much! Just stop and think about the vending machines you stop by, the Starbucks, McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Gas Station candy. A full meal at Taco Bell is easily 5$; assuming you’re ordering off the value menu at Wendy’s, you’ll pay a little under $4. It’s impossible to attend class without seeing at least four people with Starbucks products in hand. The amount we are willing to spend for a caffeine fix is crazy. A tall latte runs about $3.15 and tall frappuccino around $3.65. This is without the extra syrup flavorings and delicious bakery items we treat ourselves to. The little food and drink luxuries are just that: luxuries. We’ve become so accustomed to the easily accessible cheap food we take for granted and don’t realize how much money is unnecessarily spent for our taste buds’ pleasure. If for just one or two days we didn’t buy that frappuccino, soda before class, or fast food meal on the way home, the money that would have otherwise gone to a luxuriously unhealthy meal could go instead to supplies for children.
I did some snooping around online and found on staples.com that you could buy a twelve pack of memo spiral notebooks with 160 pages for $11.99. At officedepot.com I found that you could purchase a pack of 6 spiral notebooks with 140 pages for $6.49. That’s all those notebooks for about one dollar each. A large pack of pencils at Walmart runs for about $3 and $2 for colored pencils. It’s amazing what the cash from a few 5-layer burritos and a French Vanilla latte could buy. If just a few people used a couple days worth of fast food and coffee money and applied it instead to thrifty school supply shopping they could supply a notebook and couple of pencils to an entire classroom. So instead of making excuses for ourselves, let’s use that center console change, McDonald’s money, and vending machine fund for a greater purpose.