The children in the Houston Area Women's Center (HAWC) programs have experienced sexual abuse, exploitation, domestic violence, or have been witness to such crimes, and it is the mission of the "Back to School Project" to equip them not only with new, much needed school supplies, but also with excitement, confidence, joy, and perhaps even a return to innocence.
This year's Project (which distributed supplies to roughly 1,200 children) was all about the little things: The new organization strategy made the shopping well paced and efficient; the donations were so generous that not only everyone received their new school supplies, but a surplus remained to be used next year! And, this year the children chose not only their backpacks, but they also got to choose from a plethora of folders, notebooks, pencil cases, rulers, and compasses; in the past all these items were already included in their supply package, without the opportunity of color or style selection.
The backpack has for years been the centerpiece of the Project, not only because it is the most expensive single item HAWC has to acquire, but because it is the most special thing each child gets to choose; and here lies the key to the event: The concept of choice, of being able to pick whatever one wants, no hand-me-downs, no pressure, no imposition; and to the excitement of the new backpack was added the excitement of so many colorful choices!
It humbles me to be part of this wonderful project and to share the joy of these children, the joy of the little boy from the Shelter that chose a backpack with an attached lunch box, and went around showing it to everybody, and telling them how cool it was that he could attach and detach the lunch box, carry it around and not loose it!
Choice, so simple, so powerful a gift, which we often take for granted...
Domestic and sexual violence teaches very difficult life lessons; in its dedication to helping survivors cope and heal from such traumatic events, the Women’s Center addresses each child’s concerns to be “normal” again and to fit in with their peers. To learn how you can donate time and resources to next year's "Back to School Project"contact Pam Hobbs at 713-528-6798 or visit hawc.org for more information.
Many thanks to HAWC for letting me write about the Project, and for letting me be part of their healing community.