Juan* passes the one-story houses lining his street, careful not to trip in the crater-like potholes. It’s about a 17-minute walk to his middle school, but with the sun beating down on his head, the walk seems a lot longer. It’s the first day back to school; in some ways, Juan wishes this walk would last forever. He likes school and is good at it, especially at math. Shame roils his stomach, making him not want to get there.
When Juan enters the classroom, he tells his teacher he forgot his backpack, that he’ll have it tomorrow. Shame spreads through his arms and legs, like a thousand needles pricking him from the inside out. He knows, and everyone sitting at desks knows that he won’t have his backpack, his notebook, or his calculator tomorrow. He won’t have them the next day either. Or the one after.
Juan lives in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Juarez, near the US Mexico border, a neighborhood with a legacy of violence and poverty. Between the traffickers, drug cartels, and gun fights, kids like Juan see dead bodies dropped on the streets regularly. Eventually, most of these neighborhood kids will have to drop out of middle or high school because they’ll need to work. If they can’t find a job, they’ll join a gang, become a trafficker, or worse.
Juan catches the eye of the student next to him and bums a pen. A kind girl in the seat behind him taps his shoulder, handing him some sheets of lined paper torn from her spiral notebook. Juan focuses on their confetti edges as his cheeks burn red. In his mind’s eye, he sees the teaspoons of shadows under his mom’s eyes, how the corners of his dad’s mouth sag under his smile. They both work so hard, but there’s never enough money. And when his parents have to choose between feeding Juan or buying him school supplies, they always choose food. Sometimes, Juan wishes they’d let him go hungry just so he could bring his own pencil and notebook, just so he could fit in.
Not having to buy school supplies means there is more money to spend on food. Not going to school means they have more time to work. Paradoxically, having kids stay in school helps households rise out of poverty because education increases a person’s earnings by 10% for each additional year of schooling.
This back-to-school season, let’s set kids up for success. In Juarez, we’re supporting kids like Juan so they can have one less worry on their first day back in the classroom. Just $15 buys kids like Juan a backpack, and another $15 fills it with the school supplies they need to help them thrive this school year. That means $30 could make a world of difference to kids in Juarez. Our backpacks hold pens and pencils, rulers, markers, highlighters, a calculator, colored pencils, erasers, sharpeners, notebooks, scissors, pencil pouches, and Move 4 Peace hats to help kids stay cool and inspire the next generation of peacebuilders.
But backpacks are just the beginning.
Kids in Juarez face extraordinary challenges to education. Some drop out because they need to work to support their families. This back-to-school season, let’s tackle the problems we can. Your donation lets kids know they are seen, they are supported, and they can soar. Sharing this post tells students they matter. Together, we can get children on track for a successful school year.
*Not his real name.
Fill a Pack. Give Back. Get’s Kids on Track.