Garden Spot Middle School
Teacher – 7th Grade Social Studies
ESSAY TOPIC: What would you like to see happen during this century to make the world a better place?
We Change the World
There are two things that I would like to see work together in tandem to make the world a better place during this century. Those two things are schools world-wide working towards teaching the children of the world the importance of helping others, and by doing that lesson actually accomplishing the reachable goal ending world-wide poverty within the next 100 years. Someone once said that, “The secret to eliminating poverty is to help someone to produce more than they need to simply survive.” I am not really sure why this is kept as a “secret”? The reality of this is that it really is not as difficult of a task as it first appears.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about from my own classroom. I have the pleasure of teaching kids in a small school in a rural area. One out of every three of the kids that I teach struggle with poverty. However, they quickly learn in my classroom that even though they may struggle to meet their basic needs, there is a large portion of the world that is struggling to survive every day earning less than $1.25 a day. What I want them to understand is that no matter what your economic condition, it is important to help others. More importantly, I want them to see how a small group of people can work together to change the world. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I want my students to see that we are that small group of people and that we are changing the world.
Six years ago in my classroom I began to give students the opportunity to make a real impact on the world and in people’s lives with a poverty lesson I teach them. We use the website www.kiva.org to lend out $25 to entrepreneurs all over the world. The kids do what they can to raise money in a variety of ways, and then choose whom they want to lend to on the website after which we make the loans live in class. It makes it even more real to the kids, and takes the lesson from the kids hearing about it, to seeing it, and finally to doing it. Most importantly, by making it “real” to them, they see that even they at 13 years old can really make the world a better place. I tell students that not only can we change the world, but we are changing the world.
I had the opportunity last year to have my classroom featured in a video trying to get word out to the rest of the world that kids from anywhere in the world can work together to eliminate world poverty. http://vimeo.com/80138473 . I have now been doing this with my students over six years and in that time our "One Million Dollar Team" http://www.kiva.org/team/onemilliondollarteam on the Kiva website has loaned nearly $118,000 helping over 4,720 families in 75 different countries around the world. I have been able to show them that they can change the lives of others who live just hours away from their small town in the United States or all the way across the world in a matter of seconds. They learn that people are working hard to better their lives and are humble enough to accept help from others and trustworthy enough to pay back their loans so that the same money can be used to help others.
My ultimate goal is to have the kids take on the role of entrepreneurs themselves to go above and beyond to do things to help raise the money to help others. Some have chosen to do bake sales, others have made duct tape wallets, while others have made jewelry to sell and have donated their profits. This lesson encourages them to set goals, and to see a real change in the world. The awesome thing is to see a real change that occurs in the students and their thinking. It is great to see them to begin to think globally as opposed to simply thinking about their own little home town as being the world. They can learn about geography, history, mathematics, economics - the possibilities are endless; all the while actually making a real difference in the world. To me, it is a true blessing to have the opportunity to interact with the youth of the world who are our future leaders and teach them the importance of doing the right things morally while always learning as much from them as I hope that they do from me. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.
Whenever I think about what my small group of students have been able to accomplish over the past 6 years, I see how easily a major problem like world poverty can easily be tackled. Since Muhammad Yunus first began the Grameen Bank (Village Bank) after discovering the power of micro-financing in 1976, 56% of the people in Bangladesh who were living in severe poverty have been able to work their way out of poverty. So when I see that our school has been able to help nearly 5,000 families, I would love to see all school around the world take on this initiative. Looking at the numbers in a very simplified way, the world has 1 billion people in poverty. If my school has helped 5,000, then doing the math if just 200,000 of the millions of schools around the world did this poverty would be gone within 5 years let alone 100. This is all accomplished just by giving people hope. Hope is the key for those struggling with poverty. Hope is the seed to plant the forest of success.