The clamor of students on an early Saturday morning is pretty hard to miss. I walked into the Lux Hall on that very Saturday, still pretty hung up on the last few minutes (or hours) of sleep I could have gotten if I didn’t have to attend CAS. Needless to say, after gorging on a Mcdonald’s breakfast and lazily walking to the hall in an attempt to wake myself up, I was anything but excited or energized.
I was tired.
And it seemed that everyone else around me was, too. Lazy students bringing out their phones and sitting haphazardly on monoblock chairs, teachers milling about to see who was or wasn’t there-even the heads seemed tired too. But the guests of that day, the very reason why we were there, suddenly walked through the doors with their little heads and bright eyes shining like flashlights all over the walls. In an instant, there was our daily dose of caffeine, all packed into little balls of energy that were the PoUCh kids.
The task for the day was simple, gather in groups with the children and create a poster of what they want to be in the future-then submit it and you were done for the day. But with PoUCh activities, as I have learned over the years, you should never underestimate a simple task. We were given the younger set of kids, so automatically as I gathered the materials needed, I had outlined the list of problems we would encounter. Getting the kids to sit down would be trouble, having them talk and write would be another. But that was an easy fix, my friend and I could easily pretend the writings were theirs and then get the job done. So we gathered our set of children, sat them down and offered them crayons and let them draw. We traced their hands and told them to draw what they wanted to be on the sides (they all wanted to be teachers), and it took us not more than half the time given to finish. And in the midst of it all, we did encounter the problems I had anticipated. It took us around fifteen minutes to get their names, then make them write it and it also took us time to find out what they wanted to be in the future- but like I said, there was an easy way to fix that: be patient and coax them into talking, and if that didn’t work, we could simply just do the work ourselves.
There isn’t, however, an easy way to fix the things I realized on that day. One girl I had encountered, had been trying to tell me her name for all of five minutes. I couldn’t understand her garbled speech, so I asked her to spell it instead, and with that I had much progress. But a little while later, after speaking to her teacher, it turned out that her name wasn’t what she had spelled after all, but that of a classmate’s. Another one of the girls I worked with loved to sneak the boxes of crayons underneath her dress. When I asked her why, she said it was because she didn’t own any. A boy too, who looked no more than five years old, didn’t eat his food that day. He tugged on my shirt and asked if he could bring home his food, because he had a sibling who’d want to eat it too.
But what of children who can’t spell, don’t have crayons, or don’t want to eat? What’s the problem? The problem, is the nature of the environment they’re being brought up in. The nature of the lives of the PoUCh beneficiaries is that they’re brought up in poverty, with very little resources that could aid in their daily lives. Yes, as PoUCh beneficiaries, they are able to gain access to things such as canned goods, clothes, medicine and even school supplies. It is also true that with our help, some of these fortunate children are able to continue on to higher education-but even then, not all of them have access to what we’re accustomed to. Even if they are given the basic needs, these will still be split among countless siblings who need them, too.
The only luxury these children have is education. But how can this luxury be maximized if education is not prioritized? Do we choose to raise these children with a mediocre level of education, then send them off to building sites to be foremen? Are we breeding a future generation of children who have to deal with getting the short end of the stick without even the slightest chance of taking a better path in life?
Someone once told me that education is the greatest equalizer in life, and in the case of the PoUCh children, this rings true. There is no easy way to fix the nature of their environment. We cannot sit down and in a span of fifteen minutes create a future. Now that I’ve seen up close what has been done and what can be done to give them a better life, I’ve been posed to think: will we let these bright eyes dim as they face a future that has already been written, or will we push them forward and help them change their predestined fate?
Written by: Chloe Jundez, Grade 11 student