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Learning about Opportunity at Vacation Bible School

By Allison Kooser

“When I grow up I want to be a dog!” 

“Oh yeah, well I want to be pizza!”

Everyone, kids are hilarious.

This summer, I served as the missions teacher at Vacation Bible School at First Presbyterian Church of River Forest. For three days, I had the joy of talking to elementary school kids about global poverty – sharing with them the stories of some of the amazing students I have met in my travels, and discussing how their daily lives look different from our own. 

We looked at pictures of the Kireka Development Nursery and Primary School in Uganda – a school with little more than a dirt floor and a tin roof, yet full of students ready to learn. In response to the images, one of my students – a first grader – said, “I’m just so proud of that one kid with the big smile. Because he knows that he’s lucky to get to go to school, even when his school is bad. Because lots of kids don’t get to go to school at all.”

This little first grader blew me away.

The next day, we talked about privilege. The kids split into two groups – one at the head of each aisle in the sanctuary. On one side, construction paper squares lined the whole path, almost touching one another. On the other, the papers were spread out with many feet between each spot. The challenge, I told them, was to get from one end of the aisle to the other only stepping on paper. Like playing hot lava. Group one ran down the path, hopping easily from paper to paper. Group two complained – “This isn’t fair!” “Their side is easier!” and “We can’t do it!” One kid looked me in the eye and said, “This is impossi…ohhh, I see what you are doing here!”

We talked about how all kids around the world want roughly the same things – to play, learn and become the things they dream of being (even if those things are as unlikely as a dog and pizza). But some kids don’t have the same opportunities we do. They don’t have good schools. They don’t get to eat healthy food. They have to walk miles to get water. They can’t go to the doctor when they are sick.

So I asked the kids, “What can we do?”

Eventually, we reached a solution. The team with lots of extra papers gave some to the other team. They filled in the holes. They provided opportunities to make the dreams of those living with less a bit easier to accomplish. 

And guess what? When both teams had enough papers, they could both make it down the aisles. Because both groups could run. Both groups were ready. And now both groups had the resources they needed to succeed.

It was such a joy to learn alongside kids. To see their eyes light up as they asked and answered questions – and as they learned a little bit more about the world around them.

Together, we collected $500 for Opportunity International – enough for 2 kids to go to school for a whole year. And together, we learned that we can do our part to make the world a better place. 

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