Eight-year old Grace is, according to her mother, “very tenderhearted and always has been.”
With an older brother with autism and other mental challenges, Grace has grown up aware that there are those in need of help. And when, at age 4, her father was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, it made that concept crystal clear. Her Dad had surgery, there were many months of chemo, there were times when Grace didn’t know if he would live.
As a military family separated from the support system of relatives, there was no real safety net to help when Grace’s Dad was diagnosed. On top of that, her family had just moved and a fourth child had just been born.
Grace’s mother, Brandy found a crisis Nursery near their home that could watch the three younger children for free during her husband’s treatments. Brandy, said thankfully, “they fussed over the kids, they did Grace’s hair…they made her feel safe and happy with all that was going on. (But) most of the kids there were not as lucky as ours. Most of the kids were there as the result of abuse and neglect… and that stuck with Grace.”
Since then, Grace has always wanted to help other children.
Last Spring Grace was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and wondered what kids less fortunate than she would do to treat it. She approached her mom and asked if she could do chores to earn money. When Brandy asked why, Grace piped up, “to do something nice for someone”.
As they talked more about Grace’s idea, Brandy remembered a story on CNN with Apolo Ohno speaking about his involvement with SeeYourImpact.org – the charities we work through, and how small gifts can make a big difference.
During the Olympics, Grace had been allowed to stay up late to watch Ohno race, and she became a huge fan. According to Grace, if Apolo says something is “ok,” then she knows it’s ok.
When Grace came to our website, she knew just what gift to choose. This past summer, the family had a mosquito problem, so Brandy had someone come and spray the house. Grace couldn’t understand why “we just made a call, but those kids get sick and die when they have the same problem.” She decided on a $10 insecticide-treated bednet to help protect someone from Malaria.
So Grace made a little bank out of a cardboard box for her birthday money. In November, on her birthday she got the $10 – and with the help of Brandy, she donated it on the website. On November 26th, just 10 days later, Grace received the photo of Fatmata.
Fatmata, a young girl in Sierra Leone, has a story of her own. She lives in a house with her mom and dad and two sisters, where they have no electricity. No running water for cooking or keeping clean. People in her community often see her barefoot and wearing old clothing.
Like Grace, Fatmata hopes for great things. Somedays, she can’t go to school, because her family can’t afford the fees. But she loves what she learns when she can go, especially math and social studies. And when she grows up, Fatmata wants to share what she’s learned with others, by being a teacher.
Thanks to Grace, Fatmata has a better chance of reaching that goal.
And although Grace still doesn’t completely understand why her family can call someone to take care of a mosquito problem, and others can’t, she “was excited that she got to potentially save another child’s life.”
So much so, that Grace spent her holiday vacation dog-sitting to earn money for another net.
We at SeeYourImpact.org were humbled when we heard Grace and Fatmata’s story. Every day, we have the special honor of helping people like Grace connect with people like Fatmata. Each person has their own challenges and battles, ones we don’t often hear about.
In the same way that Grace’s gift supports Fatmata’s future, Fatmata’s gift to Grace is showing her how to take her own challenges and use them to make an impact on her world.
Have you been inspired by watching a child give? Tell us your story. We’d love to share it with others.
It seems almost presumptuous to call Beed Pinarpura in North India a village. With a collection of 17 homes, most of them little more than rude huts, it could at best be called a hamlet, and the entire population of the village could fit into one frame.
Beed Pinarpura is a place forgotten by progress. A place where there is no electricity, and therefore none of the appliances that most of us take for granted. A place where you have to walk a couple of miles to get clean drinking water, and where the nearest primary school is four miles away. It is a place where the people are no better off than they must have been a century ago. Where livestock and farming are the the only livelihood options- each barely sufficient to keep people out of poverty.
But when you enter the village, it is not the poverty or the living conditions of the people that strikes you. What you first notice when you enter Beed Pinarpura is the absense of men. When the population of Beed Pinarpura gathers in the village square women outnumber men almost two to one. In a nation known for its heavily distorted sex ratio, it is strange- does the village really produce so many more girls than boys?
Not really. When you look at the very old, or the very young, you find a reasonably equitable gender balance. But while teenage girls and young women make up almost half the population, their male counterparts are conspicuous by their absence. All the able-bodied youth and men have migrated to the nearby towns and cities in search of work, leaving behind a village populated almost entirely by women!
And what an articulate bunch of women they were!
There was the 17-year-old girl who had been forced to drop out of school in Grade 8 to take care of the family, because her mother fell ill. She had a better grasp of the problems facing her village than you would expect from someone her age. She listed out the things that would get bring prosperity to the village – a one-room school so the younger children could all attain basic literacy, water pumps so the women did not have to trudge long distances for water and could use the time to do something more productive, better roads to improve connectivity thereby enabling the village to trade better and access to primary healthcare. Few planners can nail down solutions as well as she could.
“What is your deepest desire?” she was asked.
The answer came without a any hesitation- “I want to continue my studies, and do something that improves the quality of life in the village.”
“How will completing your education help you do something for your village?”
“Who will listen to me now?”, she asked. “Today I am just an uneducated village girl. But if I am better educated, even the government officials will have to listen to me.”
She clearly knew what she was talking about. And she was not the only one.
There was the grandmother of indeterminate age who rallied her friends together to form an Emergency Fund. The women had collectively agreed to contribute Rs. 100 ($2.50) a month to the Fund, which they would dig into in case of a medical emergency, to fund small community-led projects, or to meet any other contingency expenses. The lady didn’t need much prodding to stand up and explain why the women had decided to create the Fund. “There is no way we can predict when we will need money”, she said from behind her veil. “We try to help each other out when we can, but quite often when one of my sisters needs money, none of us have any to spare. This way, we each put away a little bit when we can, and we all benefit.” Her face may have been covered, but her hands conveyed all the passion that she felt.
Had she heard stories about the Microfinance Revolution? Would she consider using the money to start a small business, and augment her family income. She was not interested in any of it. She had mooted the idea of the Fund to solve a specific need, and was not going to be distracted by ideas that did not fit into her scheme of things. Maybe at a later date, she may consider registering her group of women as a Self Help Group and seeking a microfinance loan, but not right now.
She is illiterate. What is her stand on education? Would she encourage her daughters to go to school? Her daughters were all married with children of their own. But she would want her grand-daughters to study, because while boys fritter away their earnings, girls give back to the community.
Across the developing world, it is girls and women who are at the forefront of change. Recognizing this, SeeYourImpact.org has partnered with several charities which work exclusively with girls and women. You can promote safe birthing and healthy families in India. Or send a girl to school in India, Sierra Leone or Gautamala. Your donation can not just change a life, it can start a revolution.
What are you waiting for? Empower a Girl, Enable Lasting Change.