I want to introduce you to Madeline Chevril. She sings. She dances. She squeaks when she gets excited and has a smile that will light up your day.
One thing she did not have when I met her was a school uniform. I met Madeline in January of 2008, on my second trip to Boucan Carre, Haiti. She was a preschool student at St. Michel’s Primary school, one of the schools supported by the Haiti Outreach Program. Our purpose on this trip was to update records on St. Michel’s students and photograph every single one of them for the sponsorship program.
As we were about to leave, little preschoolers dressed in pink caught my eye. If you ever have the chance to visit Boucan Carre, be warned. These kids are distracting and adorable and you will be yelled at to get back to work when all you want to do is play and jump and dance with them. One little girl in particular won my attention — Madeline. She blended in at first, but once I really looked at her I realized her dress was orange, not pink like the rest of the uniforms. When I asked her why, she said she didn’t have a uniform. Though this news broke my heart, it really didn’t seem to phase her. She was back to jumping and singing in seconds.
A few weeks after this trip the Haiti Outreach Program held it’s annual student sponsorship drive. When I saw her picture with her little orange dress, my heart broke all over again. I wanted to do whatever it would take to make sure this little girl would have a uniform next time she got her picture taken.
It turns out, all it took was a dinner with my family. Everyone saw what an impact my trips to Haiti had made on me, and they were all willing to chip in to make a difference for this little girl. Now I know She’s the First usually talks about rallying your friends behind sponsoring a girl, but sometimes rallying your family works just as well!
Here are my tips for how to start this discussion at the dinner table:
1. Check out the directory and see what school would suit your family best. St. Michel’s school in Boucan Carre made perfect sense for us because I have actually been there. Maybe you have a cousin that does mission work in West Timor and has made you feel connected with Roslin Orphanage. Perhaps you are a family with teenage siblings who might connect to a high school student through the Kenya Education Fund. You should also consider what type of sponsorship you are choosing. Would you prefer a blind donation, or one that allows you to actually interact with the student you are sponsoring?
2. Discuss the budget with your parents and decide how everyone will contribute. Does everyone in the family give up allowance for a few weeks to pay for the sponsorship? You can propose to skip the family-dinner-and-a-movie night to cook together at home and use what you would have spent on a night out. Another great option is to ask for your family to make donations in your honor to celebrate a birthday or other accomplishment, instead of getting traditional gifts.
3. Don’t stop at just your immediate family! You can ask aunts and uncles, cousins, and even neighbors to get in on the fun. A larger group might be better equipped to fund a sponsorship at some of the (more expensive) boarding schools. You could even sponsor multiple students as a family! Ask your next-door neighbor to sponsor a student with you, and soon it could become a neighborhood event!
You don’t always have to be a party planner to make a difference in the life of a girl. Sometimes, it just takes a conversation at the dinner table. It’s a great way to get your family together for a good cause and remind everyone to be thankful for what we’ve got. What better way to put a smile on my face in the morning than to see the smile on Madeline’s face hanging on our family fridge?