At this time of year, I -- like others -- take time to reflect on the past year, make commitments for the future year and find ways to share my blessings with others. As I continue to prepare for the holidays, I often encourage myself and my family to remember what this season is all about -- giving, reflecting and helping those in need.
As children (and adults) compile their "wish lists," I think it's important to pause and remember the things we are thankful for. No matter your age or background, or how you celebrate this season, it is a humbling exercise to take note of the things in our lives that we may take for granted, and the opportunities we have available to us that we may not always recognize as just that, opportunities.
To take advantage of the season of giving and thanks, I'd like to outline a few things that I, myself, am thankful for in relation to a new Concern Worldwide US initiative called Your Dollar Our Future. We launched the Your Dollar Our Future campaign at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September at the start of back-to-school season to raise awareness of the fact that 9 out of every 10 schools in Haiti were destroyed by the earthquake, and half of Haiti's children are not enrolled in school. This is not acceptable, and we aim through this initiative to change these facts and raise money to rebuild schools, train teachers, and provide classrooms with desks and learning materials to ensure that Haiti's children receive an education, which is a fundamental human right. The fact is that without investing in education, Haiti has no chance for a full recovery and a future without crippling poverty. The country needs an educated workforce to attract industry and investment, and it needs a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and income-earners to emerge from decades of unrest and instability. Education is paramount to rebuilding Haiti for the long term, and to providing promising social and economic opportunities for 500,000 children who never got the chance to start school this year.
This year, as we approach the two-year anniversary of the crippling earthquake, my wish list is all about giving children affected by the disaster in Haiti the most valuable gift they will ever receive, the gift of education. Here is my short list:
- The opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of children in Haiti: As Haiti begins to get back on its feet after the unprecedented damage of the earthquake , we know that without investment in education, the country has little chance of truly recovering. Through Concern's Your Dollar Our Future initiative, we can help rebuild and strengthen Haiti's shattered education infrastructure. We aim to hire and train 150 new teachers, build 15 new schools, equip schools with desks, chairs, books, and blackboards, and provide primary education to thousands of out-of-school children.
- The support and commitment of our celebrity "All Stars": I've been greatly inspired- and humbled -- to see so many celebrities step up to raise awareness for the education crisis in Haiti. We are honored to welcome Gabriel Byrne, Stanley Tucci, Aidan Quinn, Usain Bolt, Damian McGinty, NFL cornerback Charles Tillman, Brendan Fraser, Jon Secada, Jeffrey Donovan, Giuliana Rancic, Renee Olstead, Cassie Scerbo, and Garcelle Beauvais, to our "team" and for working with us to rally their fans to donate to this campaign and get 500,000 Haitian children back into school.
- The fact that anyone who has a spare dollar can put it to good use: It costs less than1 a day per child to provide a complete education for Haiti's children. A gift of5 buys a whole month's supply of learning materials for an entire class; a gift of15 provides a teacher with a one-day training course; a gift of50 helps a mother buy uniforms and shoes for two children; and a gift of1,000 provides desks, chairs, pencils, chalk and a blackboard for 50 students.
- The generosity of those who have donated and the awareness that has been generated: I am so thankful for the people who have made a commitment to help bring hope and change to our neighbors in Haiti. The chatter about #YourDollarOurFuture on Twitter has been resounding. We appreciate every single dollar and every single Tweet for this important cause.
Above all, I am thankful for the opportunity to see the smiles on the faces of the children we're reaching in Haiti. Each time I meet a child who now has the chance to learn to read and write his or her name, I am overwhelmed by a sense of the potential they possess, and by thankfulness for the generosity of the donors who make this work possible.
Please read about how you can make a difference to the lives of children in Haiti on Concern Worldwide's campaign website: www.YourDollarOurFuture.org. Together, we can give Haiti's children hope this holiday season. Even just $1 can have tremendous impact. Please also friend us on Facebook and follow our progress on Twitter.