By, Jessica Charles, Kupenda’s Development Director
I was at a party recently where the host complained that the neighborhood parents were buying their children “game boys from Cupid for Valentines Day.” My face must have shown an appropriate level of surprise because then she added “I know! My children only get Legos from Cupid!”
Somehow I missed the boat on the Cupid becoming a character on par with Santa and the Easter Bunny in their giving-stuff roles. I began to worry. Are heart shaped candies and cards being replaced by expensive toys? Are signs of love from parents, friends and teachers being replaced by signs of bounty from the mythical cherub?
Fortunately, before I plummeted into despair, a package arrived from Noelle at the Randolph School in North Carolina. Since last fall, Noelle has been leading a Pen Pal program between her special education students and the students at our Gede Special School in Kenya. In addition to sending our students letters, homemade ornaments, and a pizza recipe, they also started a fundraising project that’s helping Noelle’s students learn how they can support their Kenyan friends through compassionate giving. (See 6 Ways Kids Can Get Involved with Kupenda).
On top of all this, Noelle’s students decided to send their friends a special Valentines package. When I opened it, all my despair over the Disney-ifying of Valentines Day melted away. First, the students had written a letter describing American Valentines Day traditions. Then they’d made 30 painted “friendship rocks” that looked like animals and hearts. And finally, the Valentines: a stack of heart-shaped red paper hearts with notes like:
- “Have a great Valentines Day, Idris!”
- “Be happy on Valentines Day, Reziki!”
- “Hope you enjoy pizza on Valentines Day, Nuru!”
The kids at Gede were elated. Their teacher, Madam Karo, shared the Valentines letter in sign language, distributed the gifts, and then helped her students draw valentines back to their American friends. My hope in friendship and love was restored!
Every day, Noelle and Madam Karo pour their hearts into their students. They are patient with those who take longer to learn and loving to those who struggle with writing, speaking and even moving.
And so this blog is a Valentine too.
Happy Valentines Day to Noelle, Madam Karo, and
all the other teachers, parents, caregivers, and students
who are showing the world that
love transcends culture and disability.
And thank you to you – Kupenda’s donors, supporters, Board members, staff and friends who sustain our work to ensure children with disabilities have the care and love they deserve.
You are our Cupids. Our Valentines. Our Hope.