If there is one thing (other than Atheism) that I am passionate about, it is most definitely the health and well-being of children. I studied Political Science in college with the intention of making a positive impact on law and/or public policy relating to children’s rights and have aligned myself with organizations whose missions reflect this passion. I believe that children are integral to the success of our communities and ultimately of society. They should be invested in, advocated for and indiscriminately given every possible opportunity to succeed in life. Here are some examples of some amazing organizations I have had the pleasure of directly working with:
I have volunteered off and on with this organization for the past 7 years (the nomadic lifestyle of a military spouse has been responsible for the “off” parts of my volunteering) and have seen first-hand how BBBS can positively influence the life of a child. Bigs, as they are lovingly referred to in this organization, are volunteers mentoring children (Littles) between the ages of 6 and 18. Mentoring these children isn’t just about giving advice, it is mostly about being a consistent, dependable presence in their lives. Because of this, BBBS recommends you take part in only free or low-cost activities and spend a few hours with your Little 2-4 times a month.
I will never forget my first Little: She was 6 years old when we were paired up and she was just the most adorable little thing you’ve ever seen. Her father committed suicide leaving her mother and 3 older siblings (one of which was wheelchair bound) behind. She did not see him commit this act, nor did she see him after but she had frequent nightmares of his gruesome death (he jumped in front of a train and she knew it) and any sight of blood, no matter how small, was cause for crippling fear. About a year after we were matched, her mother found out that she had been harboring an STD for a while and the doctor recommended that all of the children be tested so that they could treat them as quickly as possible in case it had spread to them at birth. This, of course, meant that my Little was going to have to have her blood drawn and she was a wreck about it. We had lots of conversations about what that would look like and how she was going to be so brave, but I could tell that her anxiety over the whole thing was wearing on her. Her mother attempted to take her once but the doctor refused to draw the blood because of her extreme fear and defiance. Her appointment had to be rescheduled and I ended up going to the doctor with her that day, at her request. The entire visit, she wouldn’t even look at her mother and, instead, was attached at my hip crying and crying. It wasn’t enough that I was in the room with her (she did not even want her mother present) she had to be on my lap in the doctor’s chair. She screamed the most horrifying scream I have ever heard when the needle was pulled out and poked in, but she did it. She did it because I was there supporting her and talking her through it. Because she trusted me and my words and my presence made her brave. Her mother was so grateful to me and was shocked that they didn’t even have to sedate her or tie her down (their next steps if I didn’t work). I like to think that that one event in her life gave her the courage to help battle her irrational fear of blood and gave her the strength to believe in herself and the bravery she was so capable of. Our match lasted for about 3 years when I had to end it because I was moving away. I think about that little girl every day and I hope that I made a difference in her life like she made a difference in mine.
I have worked for this organization and I believe in its mission wholeheartedly. Head Start is a federally funded, free preschool program for families living at or below the federal poverty guidelines. We work with prenatal children (well, their mothers and fathers at that point) all the way up to children 5 years old (when they move on to kindergarten). Our goal is to provide these kiddos with a good education and a love for learning to build a solid foundation for the rest of their lives. Part of creating this foundation is getting parent buy-in, participation and support. Family engagement is one of the most important things we do because it allows both child and parent to see first hand how important education really is. Every family in our program is provided with a Family Advocate who helps the parents determine and fulfill goals for both themselves and their families, as well as provides support and gives referrals for other organizations that can also help support. Statistics have shown that children who participate in Head Start are far more likely to graduate high school and even college and are far less likely to live their lives in poverty and/or commit crimes. It costs just under $3000 to put one child through Head Start for a year but saves the state and the nation tens of thousand of dollars in potential welfare, healthcare and prison costs.
These organizations are all about breaking unhealthy and unsafe cycles that grow criminals and breed ignorance and hate. Click on the links I provided to learn more, volunteer and/or donate. Also, feel free to post about child advocacy campaigns or organizations you have been involved with and think others should be, too.