Reflections from guest blogger, Katie Greene, 20|20 Research
Many of us have heard it before. This time, I heard it outside The Joseph School, told by the one and only Jim Bryson with a couple of fellow market research comrades as we were getting ready to eat our breakfast. It’s the story of the girl who walks along a beach flinging starfish into the ocean, one by one so they do not dry out in the sun. When chastised by a passerby as to what difference it might make, she simply retorts, “It makes a difference to this one.” and proceeds down the coastline, unphased.
Taking this approach to serving a population in Haiti is no different. As a grad student in Public Health, while managing my duties as a Research Manager at 20|20, it is easy to walk through the world overwhelmed, seeing so many unmet needs. For instance, I could post a picture of the roadside in Port Au Prince and point out issues of sanitation and clean water, air pollution, personal hygiene, access to maternal and child health, food safety, infectious disease and more within a simple picture frame. So yes, some days, it’s downright discouraging. There are so many starfish to throw back into the ocean.
But, this time, in Haiti, Jim told the story with conviction. He greeted every child, one by one, as they hopped off the school bus for their day of learning at TJS. They all ran off toward the building, beaming. In their morning program, they too spoke and sang with confidence about being free to live and learn. You see, TJS may not be able to educate every child in Haiti, but to these 119, this school matters, more than anything in the world.
Their principal approaches every day as if the future President of Haiti is in her school. She not only wants them to be strong academically but to walk with humility and cultural awareness, and it shows. They are respectful of their teachers and peers, will tell you hello in three languages, and will shove their breakfast crackers in your face because they are just so happy to have something that is theirs to offer the world.
So, as I began to process the starfish story again, it carried weight and meaning this time around. I saw what the good faith and works of countless people could make happen and be a positive, sustainable change for generations to come. And for a person who dreams of saving the world one day, to be able to pick up trash with the founder of your company who just also happens to have planted the seed for TJS, is a pretty incredible reminder that I too can throw my proverbial starfish in the sea if only I am willing to walk humbly and persistently down the shoreline.
To those of you who have already supported TJS, I can assure you that you are helping to create sustainable, long-term change by facilitating an environment where Haitian citizens can begin to develop the tools and resources to take care of each other. For those of you who maybe haven’t yet– think on it. You too can help throw starfish back into the water.