As parents we are sometimes amazed at the depths of compassion or level of understanding our children possess.
Recently, I was reminiscing with a friend about our trip to Honduras last Christmas and one particular situation kept haunting me (in a good way).
It was New Year’s Eve and we were in Copan. As in many developing countries, fireworks were flying. We commented about how loud and dangerous the situation was and tried to steer clear of the main square where the bulk of activity was. Minutes later, as we walked down a side street the lights went out and pandemonium broke. Fire erupted from a storefront just ahead of us.
People were scurrying in every direction either trying to get away from the fire or trying to get water to it.
They were running with buckets, fire extinguishers, and whatever vessels they could to get water to the site quickly. Others were emptying out nearby shops and guests and staff from the neighboring hotel were throwing clothing and other goods off the balconies to waiting staff and guests below — all in an attempt to preserve material goods and the buildings themselves.
We watched in horror as we awaited the wail of fire engines. None came!
It took about 1.5 hours before a fire engine from Guatemala (about 50 miles away) arrived. By that time the residents had managed to contain the fire. The engine soaked the establishment and the fire was finally out. Thankfully, nobody died that day.
Our youngest, 11 at the time, was terrified and upset by the situation. He begged us to do something. He could not believe that there were no fire or emergency services in the town.
We spent the next few days of our vacation, at his request, tracking down people who understood the situation better. We met up with an expat from Kentucky who has lived in Copan for eight years. She had been working with the town’s mayor and other business owners trying to secure such services. She felt that now that there was a nationally broadcast incident in a tourist town on a holiday they might finally make progress in getting somewhere. We made a contribution towards securing a fire truck.
Back to the “good” in this story.
Our son had been so moved by the plight of these Hondurans that he felt compelled to act. Social entrepreneurship is a real and forceful trend among the young, and one that we as parents and educators should encourage.
“Whether it is wells in Africa or standing against genocide, today’s students are more than willing to tackle big problems. Their social media prowess and passion can make them an unstoppable force — when they want to be.” (Can you say Ice Bucket Challenge?)
“How can we unleash more social entrepreneurs? How can we empower more students to make a difference?” – from Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers, Edutopia
- Expose our children to the world.
- Encourage their passions not in what makes them happy, but in what makes them angry.
- Expose them to a wider audience so they can develop and practice their ‘elevator pitch.’
- Empower their digital citizenship. Teach them about safety on the Internet but also how to create powerful, passionate, hyper-linked calls to action.
- Foster their generosity.
- Connect them to role models.
- Encourage their schools to integrate social entrepreneurship into the curriculum.
A social entrepreneur is a leader or visionary who drives social innovation and lasting transformation. They build strong, sustainable not-for-profit organizations and companies. Isn’t this what we want for and expect from our youth?