Sunday, January 19, 2014
One of the coolest gifts we received this Christmas came from Island Mike, and it was a $50 gift card from kiva.org. Unlike most gift cards though, it didn't allow us to receive anything, but permitted us to give something.
Kiva is a charitable organization devoted to microfinancing in the developing world; a $1000 loan can be given to a woman in Uganda to help her start a tailoring business. This money is raised in $25 bites, loaned out to whoever the donator chooses, and eventually gets re-paid so it can be loaned out again. It isn't a one-shot stop against endemic poverty, but it has the potential to give some people in impoverished areas a fighting chance at independence. We gave $25 each to two female applicants in Guatemala, one on a farm and another selling traditional clothing, and I have to tell you, it felt pretty good. I hope we end up back with Kiva even before these first two tiny loans get repaid.
Speaking of giving, though, as I have mentioned previously, Audrey works as an Educational Assistant at an elementary school in a, let's call it 'economically disadvantaged' area. A couple of years back she was working almost exclusively with a young fellow from Africa named Yom, who is autistic. In addition to the challenges of dealing with an autistic teen, his single father also has had a difficult time finding decent work that can accommodate the child care situation for Yom and his two siblings.
Yom is in junior high now, and the vice-principal at his current school entered his family's name into the local Virgin Radio station's Christmas promotion, and they ended up winning. Having worked closely with Yom, Audrey was asked to be on hand when the prize was revealed, and it turned out to be quite the experience.
Clearly, Yom's dad is the very picture of a grateful man completely overwhelmed. On top of coming home to a Santa Claus, a fully decorated tree and a house full of Christmas gifts that this family could never have afforded, including not only toys and electronics but actual factual beds and furniture and the like, Mr. Yom becomes very emotional when told that his landlord with Boardwalk Rentals is moving him to a different residence where they will live rent-free for one year.
It's hard to imagine just what kind of situation that bit of relief may springboard this family into, but I don't think it is wrong to hope that it might be the tipping point to a better life for all of them.
Despite how good all of this is though, my absolute favourite part of the entire affair is Yom's brother, who, after coming into a house full of people and stuff, the very first words out of his mouth are not "Cool, a big television!" or "Which stuff is mine!", but "Yom, you got your own guitar!"
Hang on, there's a ninja somewhere in the basement cutting up onions...(sniff) There, that's better.
There was a quite a bit of eye-sweat going on at the reveal and back at the radio station as well.
We hear a lot of talk around Christmastime about how much better it is to give than to receive, and I think we all know the truth of it, even if we struggle to believe it sometimes. It's encouraging to see the benefits of such gifts, both overseas, and in our own backyards.