I recently caught a sound byte from somewhere, “It’s risky to hope for things you cannot have.”
It got me thinking about the teens in our program and the risks they take every day.
Imagine this. You are the only girl in your family. Your parents had five sons and then they had you. You lost the birth lottery and because of the culture that you were born into you, young girl, never stood a chance. You are your father’s property. Your brothers treat you like a slave and wear you down verbally to believe that you are nothing. Your uncles – in a grotesque abuse of power and under the influence of alcohol and machismo – have violated you more than once. You are property to be used, abused, and discarded and the question is this: Despite inferiority and tradition, would you take the risk to stand up for yourself and your right to a better future?
Imagine this. You live in a rural town where 75% of your peers dropped out of school before the sixth grade. Out of the ten best friends that you grew up with, only two of them were standing beside you on your first day of class. Your parents went into debt to send you to school for another year, they believe in education and they scraped together their small savings and borrowed money to buy your books and uniform. On the first day of seventh grade you were one of the lucky ones. But then you failed. You failed maybe because you weren’t ready or maybe because the lessons were not engaging, maybe the teaching was ineffective, maybe you just didn’t have the time, support, or resources to succeed. Regardless of the reason, here’s the question: Would you risk further burdening your family in order to repeat the seventh grade? Or would you drop out and start working to support them?
Imagine this. You’re a young boy when your mother gets sick. You’re just twelve years old when she dies. The chores build up. The house falls apart. Your father, guilty or innocent no one knows, is thrown in jail for life for alleged ties to drug-traffickers. A child-headed household is no way to raise a family, and you and your 9 brothers and sisters are scattered among relatives like seeds for crops. Your eldest brother is working in a maquiladora factory in the capital city, and most of you end up working in the fields. Stressed families become more stressed. Pennies (or centavos) are pinched even tighter. The question, then, is this: Would you risk claiming your desire to stay in your village, to remain part of the only social fabric you have ever known and to continue your education?
I blog a lot about the great impact Reading Village (that means you) is having in the communities we work alongside and the beautiful life changes in the teens we work with. But underneath all those good stories are painful ones like these. I appreciate now more than ever the courage and human spirit that props up and propels our teens forward despite the risks.
– Linda Smith, Founder & Executive Director of Reading Village