Dreaming of an Education


Dreaming of an Education

If the pictures we’re seeing all over Facebook are any indication, most American kids are back in school, ready to learn, make new friends, play sports and/or music, and discover more about themselves and their worlds. It’s just something we do here.

We don’t often think of school as a privilege, but for many children around the globe that’s exactly what it is. Even more than a privilege, it’s a dream. One that could change their lives … if it wasn’t beyond their reach.

For orphans, this time of year means seeing other children get ready for school. Homeless kids are barely able to survive let alone afford an education. So all they can do is sit back and watch.

Though there are a few government schools, in most third-world countries education is a private enterprise that’s run as a for-profit business. These institutions are also small, holding only 50 to 100 children. In addition, students and their families have to not only cover tuition but buy uniforms and books and pay for testing. This puts it past the realm of possibility for most orphans.

Children in an orphanage are about the only exception to this—as long as their home gets the donations necessary, they’ll send their residents to school. But often in this case, they end up in classrooms suited for up to 50 students that are, in fact, jam-packed with 200-300 kids.

They would tell you it’s worth it, though. They know how valuable it is to their future ability to feed and care for their family. We’ve seen kids gladly walk three to four miles to school on an empty stomach. They aren’t forced. They recognize and appreciate it for the privilege it is.

We already know the average American takes many of these privileges for granted, especially daily expectations like breakfast and a ride to school. In our surplus, we have the power to affect an amazing amount of change. Partnering with Food for Orphans is just a small step in that direction.


A Parade of Blessing


A Parade of Blessing

Children of all ages lined the streets, their happy faces sticky with sugar, their eyes hopeful, their fingers grasping old grocery bags. Each one waited for that moment when someone wearing a clown suit or riding on the back of a classic car or sitting on a float would send a handful of Tootsie Rolls, caramels and SweeTARTs flying their way.

Most of us love a parade, especially on the Fourth of July. It gives us a chance to come together as a community in support of our country. And we don’t think much of it when our kids walk away from the parade route with a bag full of candy.

Yet for many, that kind of generosity is a luxury. It’s hard to comprehend a world where fifty million orphans go to bed hungry every night when we’re trying to make sure our kids don’t eat too much. A world where for some, one ear of corn is a feast while we hide candy on the top shelf hoping the little ones will forget it’s there.

Don’t get me wrong—my goal is not to send those of us who have been given much on a guilt trip but, rather, to let this be a reminder that we are blessed. And with that blessing comes a certain responsibility.

A friend of mine spoke of the winning float at their small town’s Independence Day parade—one that had Spider-Man swinging in to stop a robbery, leading to cheers from those watching. Spider-Man’s trademark motto has long been “With great power comes great responsibility.” I would simply change “power” to “blessing.”

It’s okay to enjoy the blessings of summer—the parades and cotton candy, the days at the beach and the nights under the stars, the flip-flops and swimsuits and ice cream. But in our abundance, if we can each send off a check to help feed at least one hungry child, won’t that make our days that much sweeter?



Syrian Refugees and You!

The Syrian Refugee Crisis is something that truly seems a world away for us here in North America. It seems to be nothing more than a news story that we have watched, a strange narrative we don’t fully grasp.

Most Americans form opinions based on what we see, what we read and what we hear. Earlier this year I traveled as a photo and video journalist to Lebanon to see the frontlines of this crisis for myself. While I have been in the Middle East before, this was a new experience being in the refugee camps.

My fellow journalist who was traveling with me had never been in the Middle East. Within just 24 hours he made a comment that I believe most of you would have made. He said, “I thought everyone here would be wearing Hijabs and Burkas; and have dark skin.” Why? Because most often this is the view of the Middle East that is shown in western media. Stereotypes are formulated on a limited worldview and rarely to we labor to learn more.

Bottom line, without exposure to something different, our minds formulate a view of what we believe to be reality. And, most often, it creates a disconnection from the human experience. It dehumanizes people because they must be so different from us that we could never relate. 

The Syrian people, specifically the refugees we often see in the news, are victims of this concept. In reality, they are people just like you and I. They are people who fight for the basics in life, They are hoping for a better life, better income, better education and a hope of a better future.

Even if some dress differently, or speak a different language, we share much in common. There are mothers and fathers who’s only hope is to give their children a better future. They are people who have experienced great loss and carry great pain. They fight every day to make more money, feed their families and find a moment of rest. Yet, they live on the frontlines of a war that has torn apart their homeland. Something you and I will never truly understand!

The struggle against ISIS seems surreal in our American point of view. After all, we haven’t had a war on our own soil in over 150 years. Our point of view will remain limited until we experience war first hand.

During my time with the Syrian people I interviewed those who lost children and spouses, specifically to ISIS. I listened as the stories of fleeing war were recounted numerous times. I watched as men, women and children relived the horrors of fear, loss and terror as they shared their stories. Without exception, each of them had left behind everything they owned in hopes of mere survival.

When you look into the eyes of a mother, a young boy or a desperate father who simply wants peace, hope and the possibility of a future; the stories become personal. After all, what if that was your story? What if that was your family? What if that was your reality?

I met and interviewed former business owners, college professors and housewives who now live in abject poverty. I saw first hand the cost of survival. I listened to pain created by war, terror and religious extremism. I listened as a woman recounted the murder of her husband because he refused to join ISIS in their mission.

This is a reality that impacts millions. This is much more than a news story. This is a crisis that demands our attention. While there are great organizations who are serving, giving and loving people through this crisis, there must be more. We need to lend our voices to this awful tragedy. We need to stand up, speak out and offer support.

ISIS and the evil of extremism is taking a dark, strong hold on the Middle East. Sharing Facebook Posts, watching televisions and hoping for change is not enough. We need to give, serve and go offer aid.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Sir Edmund Burke

In Lebanon alone there are about 2 million Syrian refugees. They are in need of food, shelter, education and much more. This is just one area out of many. The reality is that we cannot do it all, but we can do more!

I offer my images to you, maybe you will see a bit of yourself in the faces of these people. In the midst of great pain and suffering, they cling to the hope of a better tomorrow. Take time, educate yourself and discover unique ways you can serve, donate and participate in the relief efforts. 

You can help feed the orphan refugees from Syria through our partnership with a great group serving refugees in The Middle East.