There are almost 7.5 billion people in the world – I can’t even wrap my head around that.
36 million of which live in Canada. 11.75 million in Guinea where our 4th container has just been shipped. It is estimated that there are approximately 140 million orphans in the world. And 61 million children are not currently in school – that’s almost double Canada’s entire population.
Why do you think that is? Is it the government, is it corruption, is it that there isn’t enough money?
I’ll tell you what I think and believe is the main cause of why the world is still like this and the reason is our.. “society’s” perception of other people. There needs to be a global shift in the way we think about other people. When we hear those statistics it’s shocking but does it really impact you or make you feel anything? Perhaps you think well that’s just the way it is, that it’s not my responsibility. But why do you think that way? If you saw a child walking down the street where you live with no clothes on, would you drive by and say well that’s not my problem I don’t know them? No of course not, you would pull over and stay with them until they were safe.
So why don’t we react the same way when we hear about millions of children who are being extremely neglected world wide. Why in our minds do some lives matter more than others? Why do we see some as more important and others as invisible? There are people who justify this by saying things like, well they don’t know any better or they are used to going without.
At Ruben’s Shoes we obviously believe that education is what will really help break the cycle of poverty. But how do we do this? The shoes we collect and deliver are a great start and are important because in many countries around the world kids aren’t allowed to attend school without shoes. To date we have successfully shipped 4 containers full of close to 50,000 pairs of shoes. Beyond this, we’ve built a 2 story school with a full kitchen in the Dominican Republic and hope to build more. Noni’s kitchen was built as a legacy to the Buble family after the passing of their Noni. This kitchen feeds over 160 children every day. The entire Buble family has been extremely supportive to Ruben’s Shoes since the beginning. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the family in light of a painful time they are experiencing with Michael and Lu’s son Noah’s cancer diagnosis. My heart is aching for all of them but I know little Noah aka Spider Man is going to beat this! So please keep them in your hearts and in your prayers.
Investing in education and building schools works as long as you stay involved through for the long term, making sure the kids are attending and financially supporting the operations of the school as a whole. This is why we created our education sponsorship program. We currently have 97 students enrolled in this program at our school in the Dominican Republic. This sponsorship program has only been running for two years but I have already seen the impact it has made from the drastic changes and progress in our students as well as within their families. I’ve personally visited the homes of almost all of our students and I meet with each of our students twice a year. I’d like to share two stories of students in our program. The first is a young girl named Jennifer who is 10 years old. Jennifer came to our school during the summer of 2015 as we were building the expansion of our second level. She asked the director of the school, Aris, if she could attend classes in exchange for working as a maid and cleaning the school. When Aris told me about this courageous young girl it didn’t take us long to enroll her into our program and find her a sponsor. Jennifer had never been to school but she taught herself how to read and write which is extremely impressive considering she has basically raised herself as well. During my last visit Jennifer gave me an incredible letter that expressed how grateful she was to be able to come to school and get an education as she knew that this will give her a better future. It was extremely touching.
Because she had never been to school, her first year was a bit of a struggle as she had to go into a grade with younger students to try to catch up. We worked with her one on one but she needed more help. Part of her sponsorship funding will be paying for more specialized teaching for the next year so she can catch up to the grade that she should be in.
My second story is about a young boy named Frandy who is 12 years old. When Frandy first came to our school he caused a lot of problems with acting out, hitting other students and teachers, and he was so angry all the time. He came to our school for one last chance as no teachers before wanted to have him in their classroom. As soon as he became sponsored, we had the money to have a psychologist work with him. In the past he had been told by professionals that he had too many learning disabilities and would most likely never really learn how to read past the level of an 8 year old. But after been given the proper diagnosis our teachers came up with a plan to help him. He started taking medication that instantly helped calm him and he became a much nicer boy. This allowed for our teachers to spend a lot of one on one time with him after class where he worked extremely hard to learn how to read. When I was there in June we had an end of the year awards ceremony outside of the school and Frandy was presented with an award. I noticed Frandy show up in his Sunday best all by himself. He quietly took his seat and you could tell he was very nervous – before he would have found sitting quietly very difficult. His name was called and he walked up to the front to receive his award…I tell ya at this point I couldn’t keep it together. As he stood there so humble and proud I couldn’t help but wonder what could have happened if he didn’t come to our school. Many kids get pulled out of school around the age of 10 and are put to work…not Frandy, this boy will graduate.
These are just 2 stories about the impact an education is making in the lives of young children in the Dominican Republic and there are many many more. Just imagine the difference Frandy and Jennifer will make in the world.
This is why we are so passionate about investing in education. But we don’t only invest in education overseas. We invest a lot of our time at local elementary schools teaching our kids here about other cultures and the differences in life around the world. We open their eyes to see how life can be different for other kids just like them and we teach them that even given these differences, we are all the same and we all deserve the same treatment and the same opportunities. We have created a Give Back Club which is a social entrepreneurship program that teaches our local students about the importance of kindness, compassion, helping others and giving back. We believe that in order to change the world, we can start with the next generations as it is much easier to shift the thoughts of our children than to change the perception of adults. Our goal is that the kids will start changing the thoughts of their parents by sharing the stories they learn at school.
It’s my goal to shine a light on these global issues, showing that all lives matter, that we are all the same and we all deserve the same opportunities no matter where we were born. Of course I want to help kids get an education because I truly believe that once you empower a child to believe in themselves, that they can be anything and do anything they want and that they will go on to do great things. If there are 140 million orphans on our planet who is believing in them, who is encouraging them, who is making sure they are fed and attending school? We need to shift our brains to think of all these kids as we do the same as the ones we love and know. It’s unacceptable that we live in a world where more than ONE billion people live off ONE dollar a day. Don’t you agree? I’ve heard people say to me well it’s because they are lazy and they don’t work hard enough! In which I say Have you meet all these people, do you know that for a fact? I know some pretty lazy people who make a pretty good living just because they are born into a more developed country. I also know some extremely hard working people who refuse to take hand outs who make $150/month. If there are over 114 million children around the world who don’t even have a basic education, than of course the poverty level will be so high. It’s no wonder that worldwide, there are 168 million child laborers, accounting for almost 11 percent of children. You can work your butt off but without a basic education it will be very hard for you to really excel.
I whole heartedly believe, that there is enough money to go around to help bring everyone up to a fair playing ground. To help other countries with education and health care, to make sure everyone’s basic necessities of living are being met.
But until people value others as the same as themselves then we can’t fix the problem.
I hope you leave here tonight thinking a little bit differently. And maybe you will pass that feeling along. Just the same as how I felt after I first met Ruben, spending the day with him changed my entire perception. I saw no difference in him a 10 year old boy living in the Dominican Republic than a 10 year old boy living here in Canada. And once I did that I started to feel more…really feel more, really feel affected in how others were being treated, not just in Canada but all around the world. And it drove me to want to do more, I felt overwhelmed, and I still do but I won’t give up. Thank you for believing in me and our cause. Your support goes a long way with us, every dollar goes towards our projects and we couldn’t do it without you.
I will leave you with this – We are not better because we were born here, we are lucky!