I recently met a young woman who has, by the strength of her conviction and passion, challenged the way I see the world and my place in it.
At 22 years old, Morgan Wienberg is co-founder of Little Footprints Big Steps. She has created a safe place for street children in Haiti; a transitional home to help them reintegrate into their families when possible. She has worked with international donors to help these children find hope, safety, health and education. The families of these children are poor. Many were tricked into turning their children over to orphanages in order for them to have an education, a better life. It seems the more starving children an orphanage can show to the world, the higher the income of the orphanage owner. In Haiti many orphanages are run by profiteers who abuse the children, pocket the aid and sell whatever goods are donated by international aid groups. Morgan saw this when she did an internship in an orphanage and it changed the course of her life. She has now spoken at the United Nations, is legal guardian to several Haitian children and has had a profound impact on the lives she has touched…mine included.
When I listened to Morgan’s presentation a few weeks ago, I heard her words. I thought about her story. I was impressed by her poise and her certainty, her dedication to the children and families she serves. Later I tried to tell the story to my daughter. Morgan’s words came back like a kick to my stomach when I tried to share them. I couldn’t talk about the children whose stories she shared without tears. I still can’t. I’ve found my mind wandering to the place she talked about, the people she described, the troubles she faces every day. I find myself researching how to get to Haiti; researching visas, immunizations, airfares… She told me the annual operating budget for her entire program; housing up to 50 kids, school fees, food, salaries for staff, even buying small plots of land for families to build homes is a mere $160,000 per year. That is less than the base salary for any CEO of any US or Canadian based charity. I can’t get over how much she can accomplish with that meager budget, and yet she does, with grace.
At 47, there is a lot of stuff in my head, a lot of stuff in my heart. I am as busy as anybody else, with as little spare room in my schedule as ever but I can’t stop thinking about this. I can’t stop thinking that somehow some time I need to do something bigger than I’ve done. I’m very happy that Little Footprints Big Steps will now be receiving funding from the organization I work with, glad to see new relationships sparked from the presentation I helped organize, but I still feel compelled to do more, personally. I think a visit to Haiti is in my future. I genuinely have no idea what my presence could possibly do, how I could be of any use, but I’m guessing an extra pair of unskilled hands will come in handy at some point.
We hear so much about the bad, the lost, the directionless youth. There are so many young people doing so much good in our towns, our communities, across the globe. At the presentation Morgan did recently at my workplace, the audience was packed with youth. Three local high schools brought students – Canada World Youth brought us eager young people from across Canada and Mozambique, eager to learn more and participate fully in their world. This is so exciting to me… it fills me with so much hope.
We can (and should) worry for the young people who are not participating, but we really have to celebrate people like Morgan Wienberg, young citizens like the students in the audience that day, intently listening, taking action in their very own homes after listening to her speak. We have so much to be proud of and thankful for in these young people… they are amazing, and they will change the world.
Please visit Morgan’s site, and look at the work she is doing. She and the staff of Haitians she has been able to employ are currently caring for many former street children, providing them a safe house, an education, love and medical care. If you are moved to give, please do so. If you are moved to act for another cause, please do so. I am grateful to Morgan, grateful to anyone who gives so much of themselves. Through them, I believe I can be better. I can do something big.