Sometimes it’s difficult to comprehend disadvantage. Living here, in the United States, I have so many luxuries. While I am not rich compared to my neighbors, I am a millionaire compared to so many people in the world. It’s easy to see yourself through the lens of your own culture—to forget that, on a global scale, the picture is so dramatically different. I thought about this a lot at the beginning of the Occupy movement. Here were millions of Americans, rallying together to fight the 1%, the people in America who enjoy the vast majority of the wealth. Who were we fighting for? We were fighting for the rest of our population—the 99% of Americans who pay taxes, fall behind on mortgages with outrageous interest rates, default on student loans, and can’t find gainful employment. There is no doubt—the way America works is deeply flawed and innocent, hard-working people suffer—but what I think we forget is that, on the global stage, Americans are the 1%. We are the privileged. This is what it means to have a global perspective.
There are millions of children in the world who will never see the walls of a school. They will never learn to read or to write their names. They will never sit next to another child in front of a teacher—a person who is there to help them expand their horizons. These kids won’t learn about other countries. They won’t understand the beautiful vastness of the planet. Even worse: many of these children don’t have families. They are orphans, left to struggle amidst the most extreme poverty, alone. Outreach360 is an organization with a single goal: to educate as many of these children as possible.
The organization was founded in 1995 as Orphanage Outreach, designed to work with a single orphanage in the Dominican Republic. The volunteer response was huge and as the organization grew, they branched out. Today they have projects in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. They work with colleges and high schools to bring teams of educated young people to their schools. Their ultimate vision: to continue to “adopt” disadvantaged communities and to build a neighborhood center in each one. These centers will provide a preschool through high school education for local children. They are a non-profit organization. They also have an excellent online presence: volunteers can register via their website and can volunteer for up to a year at a time. Volunteers are encouraged to get involved in fund raising for their trips. In this way they learn how a non-profit functions, involve their communities in the project, and don’t have to pay the entire fee out of pocket. It’s a win win.