I am 18 years old. I am from a small town just south of Nashville, Tennessee. I have big plans and dreams ahead of me, that include furthering my education at a university. But my story isn’t about me. My story is about the precious souls of the children that I had the amazing opportunity to meet last summer.
During the summer of 2008, I was presented with an opportunity to venture overseas to Lilongwe, Malawi to teach in schools and build a home for a family that adopted an AIDS orphan. I had no clue where Malawi was, and what it was like. I spent many an hour on Google researching the place that would soon steal my heart.
Google told me about the beautiful Lake Malawi, the kind Malawian people, and the wonderful scenery in this country. What Google didn’t tell me about was the absolute poverty that has stricken the country of Malawi. Like so many sub-Saharan African countries, Malawi is plagued with disease and famine. But these life altering circumstances don’t stop the Malawian people. They are a people of hope and of joy. (Google didn’t inform me of this either.) Even in the face of death, starvation, and drought, the Malawians shook me out of my comfortable American kid bubble, and into reality.
My first day in Malawi, I taught the African equivalent to an American kindergarten class. I was lead to a small brick room and 28 smiling, breath-takingly beautiful faces. The teacher I was temporarily replacing instructed that I was to teach these little ones the Alphabet, body parts, colors, and numbers. I was a valuable asset because I’m from America, and therefore have an accent (albeit a very Southern one). As I looked around the small room with one window, I thought to myself, “Man, I have more in my book bag alone than these children will ever see. I have textbooks, notebooks, and pencils. These children have nothing.” I was accustomed to having materials to teach with, like a blackboard or flashcards. But none of these awaited my use here in this brick room. So, my imagination kicked in, and we embarked on a journey that included lots of laughter, some language barriers, and even some learning- on both my part as the teacher, and their part as my students. These Malawian children are some of the lucky few that are able to receive an education. Most children in third-world nations don’t ever get to hold a pencil, or see a textbook. There are children in our world that don’t know how to add two and two, or what a verb is. Every child, from sea to shining sea, deserves to know what it’s like going to class and holding a pencil, or raising their hand to answer a question. And this can be done, if those that hold prominent positions in our world step up, step out, and let their voices be heard.
With the education of children around the world, new ideas and styles of thinking will be brought to life. Creative minds, all around the glob, working together for a common cause can truly change our world. Even children in third-world countries have dreams, just like 8 year old Ishmael told me, “I would love to become a doctor when I grow up. To help my people not be sick anymore would be so….cool.” He then burst out with an uninhibited smile, which brought tears to my eyes. Because I know the future of this small boy, along with his hopes and dreams, rests on our shoulders as a country where providence flows.
I’m not a politician; I’m not a world leader. But I am a world changer, and with the help of all those around me, including those that are prominent in the American society, WE can change the world. WE can have a positive influence on those that can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. WE can be hope carriers to those who have lost all hope. WE can change the world, starting with educating those small minds that are part of our global community.