What One Modern-Day Slave Says about Literacy, and How You Can Help

Today, I’m doing something I never do as a blogger…I’m copying my friend, Lisa Wingate’s blogpost for you to read. It’s posted today at http://www.southernbelleview.blogspot.com I encourage you to visit her there to leave comments, and I hope her story inspires you to learn more about Make Way Partners. Lisa’s original post follows as part of our combined efforts through Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012:

Each year, Shellie  researches a worthy opportunity for giving. This year, she has selected an amazing rescue foundation called Make Way Partners, which (among many other anti-human-trafficking efforts that you can read about here) supports a secure compound providing home, hope, medical care, and education to nearly 600 children in one of the most troubled regions of the world, Sudan.

Currently, the New Life Ministry Primary School offers education to young children who have been rescued from slavery, who would have had no hope of education or a future.  As the children in the program have grown up, the need for a high school has developed, so that the New Life School can continue its mission.

You can read more about the high school by clicking here.

To bring all of this down to human level, let me share a memory that’s close to my heart, as a writer and a reader.

A Human Trafficking Story Years ago, as part of a journalism assignment, I interviewed a tiny woman who looked like she might have been nearing her hundredth birthday, but who, in reality, was probably only in her sixties. She was arthritic, stooped, and less than five feet tall, but large in spirit.  The biggest thing about here were long, gray, dreadlocks. She had come to America on a boat as a child, probably from Haiti, but there was no way of knowing, as the adult who was with her had died. She was sold by human traffickers into virtual slavery in the sugarcane fields of far South Florida, where she worked for many years.

Due to the poverty, illiteracy, and illegal immigration in this remote location, farm owners were easily able to convince workers that if they attempted to run away, they would be hunted down and thrown in prison.  Like many others, she had worked throughout her childhood and well into adulthood, enduring miserable, hopeless conditions in the cane fields.  Finally, she saved bits of food and found the courage to run away during the chaos of the seasonal burning of the fields.

After years of living among the homeless population on the streets of various towns and cities, always on the run from one place to the next, she ended up at a shelter, where among other things, she learned to read. The day I interviewed her, I had the chance to go next door to the library, and the listen while she told folktales to the children and read to them from children’s books.  Her joy in this simple task was magnificent to behold.

The thing that stuck with me the most about her was her description of the gift of literacy.  She said, “It is as if the whole world is filled with line-pictures [written words].  And everyone around you can look at the line-pictures and see a tree, or a horse, or directions like stop or go. But you look, and all you can see are lines. You are not able to do this one thing that even small children can do. It is as if you are not even human. It is as if you are only a dog, walking on four legs, lower than everyone else. And then one day someone teaches you to understand the line-pictures for yourself, and suddenly you can walk into the world on two feet.”

When I read about the school in Sudan, my first thought was of this tiny, inspiring woman I met so long ago, and her description of the power and dignity of education.  We take it for granted in this country.  We complain about it, even.  But education is a tremendous gift.  Every child deserves it, and so do these precious Sudanese children, who have endured so much in their short lives.

They deserve, like that sweet little woman in the mission shelter, to walk into the world on two feet.

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