As a fundraiser, one of the most eye-opening experiences you can have is to travel to the field. Last week, Natasha, Tina and I, had the opportunity to visit the children and communities we fundraise on behalf of every day for Save the Children.
It was in Chinle, Arizona, on a breathtaking Navajo reservation that we were able to come face to face with the children and community in need. Surreal is the best way to describe it.
One part that stood out to me was attending a home visit session with a loving young family of four. As we entered the small home on the rural desert road, we were greeted by the mother and father, as well as two small girls. Kara was a beautiful 11 month old girl, who happily crawled around the floor, digging through children’s books and other materials the Save the Children caseworker brought to the home. April, three years old, was more shy and sat glued to her mother’s lap or father’s leg.
We watched as the caseworker explained how the parents can informally educate their girls and develop their motor skills. Simple things, like learning shapes and colors, sounding out words, and speaking regularly to the baby, can all make a positively huge impact on the brain development of their little girls. At April’s age, she should be starting a pre-school program, but lack of funds in the family won’t allow for it. She was also denied entry into a head start program, because funds are tight and April is not diagnosed with a significant learning disability.
In the United States, children who do not receive early education are about 18 months behind their peers when they finally enter school.
The mother said, on more than one occasion, they want April to be in school. April wants it, too. She wants to be like her big brother and carry a backpack to class. Without the Save the Children Early Steps to School Success program, these girls would be receiving no education at all. Save the Children helps to equip these young parents with the tools and knowledge to educate their girls outside the classroom. And these parents were dedicated—soaking up every word the caseworker was saying, empowered to provide their girls with the same opportunities other children have.
The experience inside Chinle Elementary school was just as powerful. We were able to take part in several Save the Children literacy programs, and they were FUN! We sang, danced, and played spelling games with the children. The little boys and girls were eager to learn, and even more enthused to tell us when they “won” a spelling game. We even met three boys and girls, around eight years old, who are being sponsored! As they sat and posed for photographs and answered questions about being sponsored, our eyes and attention focused on the children who hadn’t found sponsors yet, standing in the back of the classroom.