When Stickers Build Libraries: Helping to School the World

Wendy, the oldest of six children growing up in Guatemala, became the first of her siblings to finish 6th grade and had plans to continue her education. But she was devastated when her parents told her they could no longer afford to send her to school.

At just 12 years old, Wendy got a job in a nearby city at a tortilla store, where she slept in a small bed in the kitchen. She worked from 5:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night, making tortillas. Her compensation? Less than three dollars a day.

It was a grueling schedule for a child, and Wendy longed to rejoin her family and go to school again.

Then Wendy found out that she would receive a scholarship from the global nonprofit School the World, ensuring that she could continue her education and sit at her desk with her fellow classmates again. “I was so very happy,” she exclaimed with a huge smile. “I left as soon as possible from the city because it was so hard being away from my parents.”

Education is such a heartbeat of mine, particularly for girls in developing countries who often don’t get the chance to stay in school. When families are desperately impoverished, it is usually the daughters who are taken out of school so that they can help mothers take care of the family and the home, or work to earn money.

Last year, I began to work with this incredible organization called School the World. School the World partners with communities in Honduras and Guatemala to build schools in rural communities, help train local teachers and provide libraries for these children – many of whom are usually the first in their families to learn to read and write!

What makes School the World unique is that it is not simply a “give-and-receive” relationship between nonprofit and poor community. Instead, its model is based on collaboration, empowerment and sustainability.

Communities and local governments agree to contribute land and help fund some of the costs toward building a school and paying a teacher. Families sign pledges to keep their children in school, provide support for them at home and attend parent education programs. (Many of the parents cannot even sign their own names on these pledges, so they use ink to “sign” their thumbprints.)

School the World offers several ways that we can join in to support global education – not only for us as adults, but also ways in which our kids can get involved … such as sponsoring library books in these schools!

School the World gave our family little stickers so that we could fill them out with our names and a message…

And then the stickers were sent to Guatemala and placed in the books that we sponsored for $5 each! 

How incredible is the gift of literacy, of education? Education brings opportunity instead of oppression, potential instead of poverty. It is a given for us in the United States…but a truly monumental opportunity for these children who are ambitious and excited to learn.

These smiles turn my heart to mush every time I look at these pictures. Their excitement radiates out of their bright eyes.

And in our house, Connor and Brenna were so excited to see how their stickers traveled to Guatemala and showed up in new books for the kids there!! What a beautiful reminder for our family that we are provided endless opportunities in our country, and through our love and actions, we can help to give others the opportunity for education… the kind of opportunity that can change the trajectory of their lives, their family’s lives and the entire communities.

Through a simple sticker, we can send a message to our recipients: “we believe in you, we care about you, and you will do big things with your life as you pursue your education.”

This would be such a great project for a classroom, church group, MOPS gathering, or any other group. Brenna is going to ask her friends at her birthday party to support this initiative and fill out a sticker!

Just imagine how we can be difference makers in these Central America communities and easily get our own kids involved.
Sticker templates can be downloaded here or you can just email School the World to get involved.

And Wendy? She no longer works 16-hour days for pennies an hour.

When she graduates, Wendy wants to be a teacher. She loves teaching what she has learned, helping her siblings with their homework and seeing the joy when children learn something new. Education and literacy mean that she will have the chance to build a career and earn an income to lift her family out of extreme poverty.

Even in just a year, she is filled with hope and excitement for her future: “My life is so very different now.”

Want to learn more? Check out School the World and its empowering initiatives to bring quality and accessible education to rural, impoverished communities.

Gifts for kids that spark imagination, offer exciting experiences, help others and last beyond Christmas Day

I always feel the beginnings of a little magic around this time of year, a building anticipation of the glorious celebration of the Light of the World and the spirit that surrounds this holiday season.

Yes, there is the increasing commercialism, but there is also the love, generosity, and beauty of Jesus’ birthday. I believe that excitement about Santa Claus and excitement about Jesus Christ can co-exist, with a solid foundation and intentional actions about the WHY and the WHO surrounding the celebration and not just the WHAT.
We can give attention to the magic of Christmas morning while still holding the holy celebration of the day in the highest regard.

My favorite kinds of gifts for my own two kids fall into one of three categories:
– Gifts that ignite imagination and can be enjoyed for a long time
– Gifts that kids can use for an experience
– Gifts that serve or help others

Gifts That Last – otherwise known as: the items we still play with or enjoy years after receiving them!

1. A play kitchen and/or play food. This is probably our most used toy as a family – we love our Step2 play kitchen! (We just got the newly released Grand Luxe Kitchen, and it’s amazing!) We play house, restaurant, camping and anything else the kids come up with.


2. Art supplies. Make up a kit with a a solid storage container that holds everything your kids need to get their craft on – paints and brushes, construction paper, pipe cleaners, sticky eyes, ribbon, Do A Dot Art! Markers, and more. Gifts like this cultivate a lot of creativity, but then can be used up and eventually tossed, not taking up floor space. Want something cleaner? Get bath paints and color bath dropz, so it’s all contained in the bath tub and easily cleaned!

3. Books. You really can’t go wrong with books! Some of our recent favorites include One Cool FriendDragons Love Tacos, Different is Awesome, and The Seven Silly Eaters. (And of course, anything on my Guide to Children’s Books about Differences and Disabilities would be a great choice too!)

4. Sporting equipment like a soccer net, sports balls, bags/cornhole set, baseball and glove

5. Home items such as: blankets or quilts, pillowcases with a favorite character, bath towels with a favorite character, or child-sized plates/cups/silverware set

6. A play tent. My kids received our play tent for Christmas three years ago, and not a week goes by that we don’t use it for pretend play, like camping out, hide-and-seek and anything else the kids come up with. It is not only enjoyable, but also helpful for fine motor practice the zippers and the velcro on the flaps.

7. Children’s Bible, children’s devotional, or ABC Scripture Cards. We have received these at baptisms and as baby gifts, and have used all of them for years. The Jesus Storybook Bible and Adventure Bible are two very popular ones.

8. Globe.  Last year, we got our kids a globe for Christmas, and we use it all the time! Whenever we are talking about an upcoming trip or a loved one who is traveling, or discussing world news, or reading children’s books about other countries or cultures, we get out our globe to find specific locations and show the kids where it is in relation to our home. It’s been such a simple and useful resource to broaden their knowledge about geography, cultures and the world in general.

The Gift of Experience

1. Subscription to a children’s magazine like National Geographic Kids or Highlights

2. A summer membership to a local swimming pool or pass to a water park, and a new swimsuit to go along with it! Our favorite brand of swimwear is SwimZip, particularly for the maximum coverage it provides for Brenna’s skin, and the zippered swim shirts make it so much easier to put on and take off.

3. Seasonal membership pass to the local zoo, children’s museum or other experience

4. A movie at the theater – make up a little bucket with popcorn and a candy bar and a gift certificate to go see the latest movie in the theater.

5. Model kits or experiments. We have done a volcano eruption, solar system, dinosaur excavation, airplane model (Connor got this Blue Angels model kit for his birthday and enjoyed it), and birdhouse building kit – and both of mine were so excited about every one!

6. A gift card to get a treat at a local ice cream place, McDonald’s, miniature golf, Build-A-Bear, local candy shop and more.

7.  A subscription to a monthly service like Little Passports, Kiwi Crate, or Tiny Superheroes (which just opened a membership where kids receive missions to explore powers like kindness and generosity!)

8. Outdoor gear, like a camping tent, sleeping bag, flashlight, etc. so that you can all go camping together (or hang out in the tent in your backyard before crashing in your bed for actual sleep 🙂 )

9. A class or lessons, like music lessons, tennis lessons, a class at the Little Gym or gymnastics studio, a martial arts class, a summer camp or any sort of experience like that!

Gifts that Help Others

1. Choose a child to sponsor from an organization like Compassion InternationalAmazima Ministries, Lifegate in Africa or another such devoted organization. My kids each sponsor a child the same age through Compassion International – one from Dominican Republic and one from Nicaragua – and we love to learn about their lives, to draw pictures for them, and to support and pray for them.

2. Designate a certain amount of money to be donated, and let your child choose a cause where the money should go based on their passions and interests. Even the youngest of kids can participate with guidance, and this kind of act fosters generosity and a sense of responsibility toward serving others.

3. Fair trade gifts. Instead of running to the nearest department store for a cheap electronic, you can support a family’s livelihood in developing countries by purchasing a gift from a fair trade company, like One World Fair Trade.

What gifts do you like to give that are purposeful and long-lasting for the children in your life?

Gifts for kids that provide exciting experiences, spark imagination, help others or last for years - What a FANTASTIC list of ideas!! The best presents for kids!

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