One of the greatest rewards of being the co-leader of my daughter’s 2nd grade Girl Scout Troop is having ample opportunity to teach the girls about philanthropy. It is important for them to understand that they are fortunate to have a place to sleep, food to eat and access to a good education. Only when a child understands that this is not the case for all people will she begin to develop empathy and a desire to help people in need. I am of the opinion that the earlier you have these discussions, the better.
Maureen, my co-leader, and I began by exploring the issue of poverty in our own community. The girls participated in a variety of activities including touring a local food pantry and making sandwiches, collecting holiday toys for children in need, and gathering food to help serve needy families on Thanksgiving. After exposing them to these hands on experiences, we progressed to teaching them about poverty on a global level.
My work with Social Promise was the perfect avenue in which to begin our investigation into global poverty. This can be a tricky concept to teach young children as hands on experiences are the most tangible and meaningful ways to engage a child. Needless to say, we were in no position to pack the children on a plane to Uganda. What we could do, however, was try and bring the experience to them.
Having access to photos and videos allowed us to share with the girls some aspects of life for young children in Gulu, Uganda. They seemed surprised to hear that all kids don’t “have” to go to school, and that this is not by choice. Some stay at home to work for the family, others help care for younger siblings. More often than not, the children who do attend school are unable to afford the necessary school supplies to be successful.
After discussing the needs of the St. Jude Primary School with the deputy director, we decided to fill backpacks with school supplies that I could bring on my next journey to Uganda. The girls had a blast assembling the backpacks and evenly distributing the school supplies. They even included a cheerful, handmade card for each child.
Today I finally had the chance to distribute the backpacks to the school. There were 72 backpacks in all- the ones the girls filled and some others donated by the New York Junior League. The students at St. Jude Primary School were delighted to receive the gifts and excitedly wrote their names in marker on their backpacks. We received many cries of “Apwoyo” which means thank you in their native language of acholi.
I am anxious to share the many photos and videos I took with the girls. I know they will appreciate the grateful smiles on the faces of the children and hope they feel a sense of accomplishment for doing something good for another person. I am also confident that we will continue our relationship with St. Jude Children’s Home in the coming years. At the end of the school year, the girls voted to give 1/3 of the money they raised selling Girl Scout Cookies to St. Jude. That $475 goes a long way in Uganda, and I couldn’t be more proud of them and their decision.