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.

To the Moms Who Cared For My Family When My Daughter Was Critically Ill

She was puzzled when her colleague called her to tell her that one of her patients had just delivered a new baby girl…But there was something wrong. A skin disorder. What did that mean exactly? Had she missed something during all of her patient’s seemingly typical prenatal appointments?

And then she received a texted photo of the new baby. With elevated concern, she dropped her phone and yelled anxiously to her nurse to cancel her appointments the rest of the day.

Well aware of what this severe unexpected condition could mean for the baby’s life, the ob/gyn physician rushed to the hospital to be by her patient’s side. My side.

My beloved doctor sat with me and patted my arm. She did all she could to help in the critical situation. And then, when Brenna was transferred to the NICU, she continued to call to check on me and our family. She made appointments for me during her hectic days, just to talk. And more than one morning, she stopped by the NICU before her long shift to see Brenna. She left her own children in the early hours to make sure mine was OK.

More than five years from those days after Brenna’s birth, I never imagined how my heart could be stretched, not only because of the love I have experienced every day for my own two beautiful children, but because of the love shown to me by other moms along this life-changing journey of motherhood.

When my own weaknesses and limitations were pushed too far, other moms stepped alongside me and our family, time and again.

Today, in honor of this year’s approaching Mother’s Day, I offer a Thank You of deep gratitude…a thank you to those of you who have mothered my children. A thank you to those who kept my daughter alive, who cared for my son when I couldn’t be there, who served my family in the most selfless ways.

You, the neonatologist who sat by my hospital bed and patted my leg and looked at me with hurting blue eyes, with your own tummy bulging under your hospital scrubs with new life, offering me careful words to explain my child had a skin disorder called ichthyosis and the prognosis was not clear but that she was in good hands….thank you.

You, my friends, acquaintances and strangers who shifted around your budgets for weeks and weeks so you could generously help with Brenna’s medical expenses… thank you.

You, fellow mothers who took time away from your own family to spend extra time preparing a meal for mine… thank you.

You, NICU nurses who kissed your own babies goodbye to spend 12 hours on your feet taking care of mine, loving her to better health and increased strength, but also never forgetting to ask if Evan and I were all right, if we needed anything, if we had any questions… thank you.

You, moms who added to your shopping list at the store to purchase Aquaphor and medical supplies or thoughtfully choose a gift cards to Starbucks or the grocery store or Subway and spend time addressing it to our home… thank you.

You, nursing moms – a small but exceedingly special group – who gave hours of your life and dedication of your body to pump milk for Brenna for nearly two years… thank you.

You, the pediatrician who immediately gave me your cell phone number knowing, mother-t0-mother, than I needed that connection – and then answered my calls on evenings and weekends while letting me know you were happy to help… thank you.

You, the therapists who offered to come to our home to make it easier on our family, who researched and asked about the best ways to help Brenna, who are so involved in her school success… thank you.

You, medical teams of mothers who always ask me what I think, trusting that as her mother, I know my daughter best… thank you.

You, our own mothers. Our aunts, our cousins. Who have taught us how to love big, love whole, love unending. Who forced us out of the house, who rocked our baby through long afternoons, who played with our toddler during intense skincare routines, baths and hospitalizations. Who have been steady support, every day… thank you.

Tears slide down my face as I recount the dozens of instances that mothers I know stood up when my daughter was critically ill, reached out, and held my family in support. And my gratitude wells up with each memory, because I know it was not easy. It was one more thing to do, one more thing to think about, in the midst of already very full lives. But willingly, you stretched, and you carried, and you sacrificed, and you gave.

We all may parent differently, but the love of a mother never looks all that different – selfless, devoted, unconditional, caring. What I’ve found is that mothers not only lovingly care for their own children, but they truly love each other and they care for each other’s children. None of us could parent our best without the love of all of the moms around us, especially to lift us up and carry us through when we need it most.