This post is under construction while I “enjoy” my flight intervals at Philip Goldsen International airport in Belize and Miami International on my way home to Virginia following my five day mission trip to one of my favorite places on God’s earth. Since 2012 I have enjoyed five different trips to a little village in the Cayo District of Belize called Maya Mopan. Within that village is a place called Heart House. At this special place kids find fun, a safe place to come, play and learn how much God loves them.
So why do we use a backpack to show God’s love? Is there some spiritual tie in? If I was more spiritually equipped I probably could pull something together. But truly the reason is more fundamental. Due to the deluge of items a teacher requests from our kids some type of container is required and a backpack works best.
Kids Backpacks Give Them Something to Be Proud of
I have two kids and although only my daughter, a college senior uses a backpack I can still remember their excitement over a new one. Kids may not be in a position to purchase many items to call their own, but a new backpack can be a source of pride.
I saw this in my experience as the foundation I work with assembled 100 backpacks for children sponsored in their program. I had the extreme honor of being tasked with taking the photos of the kids with their new backpacks that will be sent to their sponsors in September. Without exception every child had a “Christmas Morning Smile” as they exited the room where backpacks were distributed. Speaking as a sponsor of one of these children I can tell you how much it means to know you made a difference for that child and his family.
Even though the answer was self-evident I kept asking each child if they liked their backpack. No one was unhappy about what they got, as many had popular children’s entertainment characters. The pride of having a brand new backpack trumped any thought of jealousy or want.
How does this help?
Interestingly I picked up a USA Today newspaper in Miami International on my way down Tuesday and I saw this graphic.
Now of course this is based on figures from the United States, but try to think about the backpack component. Through the shopping I do to support the foundation I know that a new backpack can cost from $20-$50. Then you add crayons, pencils, markers, colored pencils, erasers, sharpeners, folders, and other sundry items and you may be looking at just south of $100. Now multiply that by two kids or three.
Compare that to Belize where this foundation is based. Most all of this is imported, which automatically makes the price higher. Plus the wage that the parents earn is much less than in the U.S.A. So you can begin to see the great benefit of the program and effort.
How much time does it take?
Truthfully quantifying that number of hours is nearly impossible. Why? Because there is a dedicated crew that has to do so much set up work beginning the summer before. They count the number of students attending the two schools served by the foundation. They determine how many are in each grade from Infant 1 through Standard 6 and on through high school. Then they gather textbooks required at higher grades and write the name and school year of the students in the book so they can know it is theirs. Remember I described all of this as set up.
The real works comes as the backpacks are assembled. Overall our four person crew spent about 13-14 hours “stuffing” the 100 we completed. But on top of what I already mentioned there was water cups, geometry sets, graph paper, notebook paper, permanent markers, white board markers and more! With my long term Quality Control experience I know very well that even what you think is 100% inspection is not enough. You assume everything goes in every backpack. That is why just before the backpack hits those eager young hands there is one more check. Plus there is a meeting to explain the expectations of the parents and students and the glorious pictures.
Who Helps to Gather the Supplies?
The largest portion of funding comes from the yearly fees sponsors pay for their children. But there is also some people who “work the system” of capitalism and get the necessary items when the sellers change seasons and need to clear space for Halloween or Christmas gear. If you can get five backpacks for what one originally costs you have made a shrewd buy.
The big question is how do you get your items to the foundation in time to be useful? Thankfully there is an organization in Texas to make that a reality too. They send a container to Belize periodically to aid non-profits like the foundation.
Would I Do It Again?
I will share a few photos with you and let them give you a hint.
This is old Mr. “I am not going to smile” losing his battle.
The answer to that question is a hardy YES! Even though I was the rookie of our four person crew I was able to pick up the routine rapidly and helped turn out the bags pretty quickly. Sure there was one LONG day, but there was so much laughter and kidding going back and forth it did not seem so much time passed.
Plus, when the backpacks found their new recipients there was something I called a “miracle salve” for any fatigue or weariness you still carried. Beyond that was the thankful attitudes of the parents that accompanied their children. remember me saying there was meetings to discuss requirements for sponsorship? That meant at least one adult had to accompany their child. Even the parents had big smiles. I also shook many hands and heard many words of appreciation.
If you want to know more about the Heart House story please read these blog posts:
If you want to sponsor one of the children served by the Children of Hope Foundation I can give you the information you need to make this happen, if there is a child still needing. Just comment as such below.
What’s With the State Names
Due to privacy concerns and the safety of everyone involved real names are not used. The internet can be a bad place just like any locale if your intent is evil.