| || |
This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for my home. Last week, my family and I made a trip to Santa Monica for a Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) exposition centered on the world’s refugee crisis entitled ‘Forced from Home’. We learned about a handful of the largest refugee crisis occurring today and we were challenged to think about what we would grab if we had only 10 seconds before having to run for our lives. We traveled through imaginary obstacles and over borders (or not depending on our legal status) giving away the few things we had chosen to bring. We then walked through a series of tents and witnessed the conditions millions of people live in every day.
For me, the modesty of the temporary homes and basic healthcare presented wasn’t what was so incredible to me. I’ve seen, countless times, some of the worst conditions that people could ever live in. I know that it doesn’t define the people who live there. However, the horrors that refugees experience is fundamentally different than what I’ve witnessed. Leaving your home, country, and life behind carries immeasurable amounts of uncertainty and fear. People sacrifice all these things for a chance to escape oppression, war, violence, poverty, and racial and religious tensions. People often walk thousands of miles and cross oceans for a chance at life for themselves and their families. The scary thing is that this could happen in an instant, to anyone regardless of your education or wealth. One person could invoke the rage of another county and suddenly you’re hurriedly collecting your belongings and fleeing your home. This is beyond the people’s control, yet they still suffer the consequences. They travel out into the unknown, to whichever country they believe will give them the best chance at life, and when they get there they are placed in refugee or displacement camps. I learned that often this country is Uganda. In fact, Uganda has nearly 1 million refugees – making it 5th in the world for the most resettled refugees and home to the most refugees in Africa. Many of these refugees are located in Northern Uganda near Oyam, fleeing the nearby conflict in South Sudan. I left Santa Monica thinking about how we can integrate these resilient youth into RUFC’s camp.
One of the most astonishing facts that I learned at the expo was that a person in the average displacement camp uses 5 gallons of water a day (one large jug that you may remember I can’t carry), compared to the 90 used by the average American. People fleeing from their middle-income lives like mine have to cut down their water usage to almost nothing overnight. So, as I relax in a warm mountain cottage with my entire family this Thanksgiving, I an especially thankful that I have clean water to bathe in, drink, and use while we cook a delicious turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a peaceful day full of food and love with your families. Let us all pause to be thankful for what we have and think of what we can do to help others.
So, I’m graduating from middle school next week (high school promotion or whatever you would like to refer to it as). For me it is a good opportunity to put my life and education in perspective. As I continue my journey into high school I give thanks for the free public schools provided to me. La Canada High School is an incredible place. The highest ranked open enrollment high school in California by US News and World Report, the school not only offers a wide range of challenging AP courses, but also offers excellent programs in music and the arts. For example, I’m a singer and the school has a vibrant choral program that tours all over the world, singing in famously renowned venues. Nearly every student at LCHS goes on to a 4-year college.
I know I am exceptionally lucky to live and go to school in La Canada. I know that if I was living in rural Uganda, for example, this graduation might mean that my formal education was over and instead of looking forward to all the incredible opportunities that await me in high school I would be facing a lifetime of work. If my parents couldn’t afford secondary school, I would now be forced to join the workforce like millions of other children around the world. As is the case for so many poor youth, my potential would be robbed by fate and my opportunities confiscated due to generations of poverty.
In the end education is all about opportunity. The opportunity to grow, to learn, and to achieve. The opportunity to one day to have control and choices over your future and to thrive. It is through education that we can break the chain of poverty. To be able to help provide educational opportunities to youth in need is one of the greatest blessings that I have gained through RUFC over the past 3 years. This week, thanks to nearly a dozen families who have agreed to support students, RUFC again paid tuition for nine children to continue their education in secondary school. These are terrific, bright kids from hard working families who without our support would no longer be attending school. Through this support, we are setting these youths on a path to success and paying jobs. People often think that they need to give so much to make a difference. In reality, all anyone needs to give is these kids a chance.
Ray Wipfli, RUFC founder, shares his thoughts.