It is just inevitable that completing acts of service with my boys will shape me as much as it does them. This particular act of service has helped compel me to further refine how I want to teach my boys to become men of valor, honesty, and love. I have wanted to help an organization called Free the Girls for several years. This particular “Penny of Time” Adventure was set out as a way to include my boys in one of my own acts of service.
In the end:
- The experience has pushed me to learn even more about human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
- The act of being deliberate in teaching my boys about modern day slavery has taught me that we can take hard topics and start to build an awareness of the problem and teach our children to be empowered to take steps to help however awesomely overwhelming the situation may seem.
I want to thank Free the Girls, my church congregation, the author and illustrator of Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington, written by Jabari Asim and illustrated by Bryan Collier, in providing the space, opportunity, and tools to help me further develop as a parent.
I recently held a bra donation drive for Free the Girls with ladies from my church congregation. Free the Girls helps women freed from slavery set up “shops” to sell the underclothing to pay for education costs. We collected over 50 bras that will be utilized to help women freed from human trafficking situations have a job, an income, with which to rebuild their lives. The ladies from my church congregation were so lovely to be open-minded and loving to welcome a project where they reach into their drawers and pull out bras (or buy bras) to donate!
When it came time make the donation at a VERY convenient drop off location for Free the Girls, I wanted to include my boys to have a beginning experience in learning about a problem that most are uncomfortable discussing. Modern-day slavery, human trafficking. I also wanted to involve them in something that I did as a grown-up to help someone else.
I know I might hear some readers gasp. “Isn’t that too serious for them? Are they mature enough for that?” As I teach my boys to serve, I have come to understand that I shouldn’t underestimate their capacity for understanding need, for having empathy. In fact, I waited months to make the actual donation because I wanted to do this right with my boys.
To do this: I wanted to use a children’s book that discussed modern-day slavery and human trafficking. And, no surprise, I couldn’t find a single one. So, I went a different direction and wanted to find a story of someone, a slave, who went through great sacrifice to get an education since Free the Girls supports former slaves in gaining resources to obtain the lost opportunity of an education.
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington was a GREAT book to do this. (written by Jabari Asim and illustrated by Bryan Collier)
We started this “Penny of Time” Adventure with a discussion about what it costs to get an education. My oldest attends a public school that is paid for through public taxes. He LOVES his school. So, it was very easy to grab his attention and talk about how there are people, children, in the world that are taken from their families and not allowed to learn. This was shocking for him.
“They don’t have a Ms. A like I do?” he asked.
“No, they don’t. They grow up without learning the things that you learn.”
“Oh,” he was very quiet.
There was further sobering discussion that those same children don’t have the toys, the family, and the swimming lessons that we have. My four year old took the attitude of “that is not fair” and I could see my six year old processing it as he started to get a glimmer of what that would be like.
When we arrived at the donation location, I pulled out the book, and we read the story of Booker T. Washington. We talked about why Booker T. Washington didn’t go to school as a child. We talked about slavery, which my oldest is beginning to have some sense of what that word means. I was able to discuss that: even though it seems like that story is long ago, there are children today that are slaves. We talked about the deep desire that Washington had to get an education and then the sacrifices made by him and others to support him on his journey to learn.
The illustrations in the book are ABSOLUTELY beautiful. After we finished our discussion, it was time to make our donation, but the boys took a few more minutes to look at those beautiful pictures in the book. 🙂
At the drop off location, the lady was so sweet, spending a few minutes talking with my boys about the importance of helping others!
I am glad that I involved my children in my own efforts to help someone, although it might be viewed as being done in an unconventional way. The experience was just the beginning of teaching them about this topic. I really do wish there was a children’s book out there to help me, as a parent, talk about modern-day slavery. If you know of one, please let me know!
If you would like to learn more about Free the Girls, please visit the 3 part video series that was aired on CNN. It tells the beautiful story of how they began to help freed slaves earn an income. CNN Freedom Project: Mozambique or Bust