Students’ Fun Run Builds Empathy

Blog13 photo1How do you help young students understand that there are children their age in poor countries who need desperate help? How do you teach young children to be compassionate and generous?

One Montessori school in Houston, Texas, had a cool idea.

Armand Bayou is a small private school that believes in giving back to the community. Every year, the teachers and students organize a “fun run” fundraiser to support a local family or an organization in need.

This year, the school decided on an international theme and named the fundraiser “Windows to the World.” The organizers asked parents Liz and Keith Schreiter to help out with the fun run and to recommend an international charity. Liz and Keith didn’t have to think hard. For the past two years, they’ve been sponsoring a young girl from Burundi through Food for the Hungry (FH). Right away, they knew the answer.

“We thought Food for the Hungry would be perfect because, well, it’s international, but also because we have a great experience with them,” says Liz.

Liz and Keith found out about FH through a business conference. Their daughter, Ella, was almost 6 years old at the time – and, Joselyne, the girl they picked to sponsor was the same age as Ella. What’s more, both girls almost have the same birthdays.

To the Schreiters, child sponsorship was a perfect fit, because of what they wanted to teach their daughter – good values such as compassion, gratitude and kindness.

“We explained to our daughter how we would help Joselyne. She was very excited about it, and she loved the first letter and the drawing that we received,” says Liz. “It’s nice to know we’re helping someone, but that we also have a connection. I think that what’s makes Food for the Hungry different.”

Because of regular correspondence, the Schreiters have gotten to know about Joselyne’s life and hardships. For example, they know many of the children in Joselyne’s community can’t go to school. Instead, they take care of their younger siblings or sick parents or spend almost an entire day fetching water.

It’s this sad reality that gave Ms. Pam, one of the teachers, an idea for the fun run to help the young students understand what other children in impoverished countries experience every day.

Her suggestion? “How about we have some of the older children run a lap around the school carrying a jug of water?”

Liz says the experience helped the students feel what it’s like to carry water and understand that it’s a big responsibility many children around the world do every day. “One girl’s jug even burst open spilling water everywhere,” Liz adds.

In the end, the fun run was not only fun and enjoyable, but educational and inspiring. Children ran laps around the school building, did jumping rope or hula hoop, carried an egg on a spoon, popped bubbles, and danced. They each got a stamp for every activity they completed, and parents and guests either gave a flat donation or donated a specific amount for every stamp each child received.

Thanks to the generosity of the donors, the school raised enough money to sponsor two children, each one for 20 months. A boy from Bolivia and a girl from Mozambique now have the support they need to go to school, live a healthy life, learn about God’s love, and someday give back to their own community.

“We’ve planted some seeds,” says Liz.  “This year it starts with two; who knows what they can do next year?”

Across the country, many children and families are finding creative ways to provide help and hope to people in need. Contact FH to know how you, too, can make a difference!

Rez Gopez-Sindac is an Austin, TX-based writer and editor covering faith, church management and global development.

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