It took every ounce of strength within me but I held back my tears. I was standing in front of the students of New Hope School in Nicaragua and I was incredibly moved by their sacrificial generosity in the midst of the darkest hour their country has known in their lifetime. We all gathered that morning for a super fun day of games and pizza and for me to just sit there as the students shaved my head and face and eyebrows. But there was something deeper going on than the fun facade of head-shaving. It was the finish line of about nine months of the students beating crazy odds to give.
It all started at the beginning of 2018 when we had a desire to give our students an opportunity to tangibly know the great joy of generosity. Our students get to receive a lot due to the generosity of our donors (a free education and a free lunch) but we wanted them to also have the chance to give. We set our sights on giving them a chance to support New Hope Children’s Home in Mongolia. Our local leadership felt that $50-75 would be a fair goal. We settled on $100 to really challenge them. To give you some context, the parents of our students make roughly $5/day making $100 a pretty daunting task.
To give them some more incentive, I told them they could shave my long locks if they met the goal. I would then donate it to an organization that makes wigs for kids, giving them another way to give. To top it off, I promised to find 30 friends to match their $100 which would turn their money into paying for an entire months budget for our orphanage in Mongolia! The fundraiser was set and everyone was ready to go. Then the bottom dropped out.
Just a couple weeks after I spoke with the students, chaos erupted in every corner of the country. Hundreds were killed, including parents from our school. Our classes were cancelled weeks at a time and many parents were unable to work or provide basic essentials for their families. All of sudden this didn’t seem like the best time for a student fundraiser. I shared my concerns with our principal who then relayed the question to our students.
The students balked at my suggestion and refused to stop because they were having too much fun raising the funds. They had come up with a variety of fundraisers and had already started the collection. Students giving 50 cents to not wear a school uniform was pretty popular! You can even read about how our teachers got arrested (for a good cause) here! Our students got a taste of giving and weren’t going to let the situation in their country stop them from finishing the task.
After about seven months, they did it!!! It was now time for me to fulfill my side of the agreement. I told them I would find friends to match their giving and raise an additional $3,000. But they went way over and above so I figured I should, too! We decided to double our goal to $6,000 and throw my eyebrows into the hat. With my friends bent on my embarrassment, we met our $6k goal on Giving Tuesday. A total of 35 givers gave $6,200 to match the $100 our students raised. How beautiful is that?! In a time when no one would blame them for focusing on themselves and their families, our students in Nicaragua rounded up a total of $6,300 for kids they will never meet in Mongolia! And just to make it even more incredible, one of our graduates jumped in and donated her hair, as well!
Now you can see why that lump found its way into my throat last Saturday before the kids promptly removed every follicle from my head and face. We are so incredibly proud of them. The whole desire for this little fundraiser was to teach our students how to give. But they showed us true generosity and sacrifice no matter the season. That is the joy of giving. Sometimes, clearly, the students get to be the teachers.