For many young children, waking up and going to school is simply a part of the daily life. Packing their backpack full of crayons, pens, and folders, they set off like always. But for some, a harsher reality awaits; one where school is a privilege that many don’t have. Though, as far as Natalie George is concerned, that should never be a possibility and with Friends of Cozumel, she was determined to take action.
Natalie initially heard of Friends of Cozumel from friends who are actively involved in the organization. Friends of Cozumel is an informal network of families, friends, colleagues, donors and volunteers who share a common interest in benefiting families in need as well as the broader community of Cozumel, Mexico. A main project of Friends is their School Supplies Drive, the project Natalie took part in. There are many families in Cozumel with very limited resources. If a family can’t provide the list of required (and expensive) school supplies, their children are not allowed to attend school. After reading an article on the organization’s website, Natalie reached out to a member of the organization’s leadership group asking for more information. From there she received a list highlighting essential school supplies that for many families are too expensive for local purchase.
“We basically have always been big on school shopping. I think we take for granted those things. It’s not much out of your pocket to send your kids to school,” said Natalie when asked about her donation.
Natalie hunted down sale price items and with the help of her family began collecting a bulk of supplies. In total, Natalie donated 251 different supplies with items ranging from 17 backpacks, 6 24-pk crayons, 8 rulers, and 1 3-hole punch. “I enlisted my mother’s help in searching for deals on the backpacks. We looked for things on sale. 65 cents here, 45 cents there. We got them cheap.”
The people at Friends of Cozumel were humbled by her donation to the project. “She donated almost a complete set of school supplies to send a couple dozen kids to school who wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise,” said Phyllis Larsen, a member of the leadership group and friend to Natalie. “It was a big surprise and gratifying to know someone noticed the subtle message to donate.”
While her donations won’t be distributed in Cozumel until summer of 2014, Natalie is pleased with her decision to participate, “After hearing the stories, any help is appreciated to continue what they’re [Friends of Cozumel] able to do.” I think it’s important and kids should have an opportunity. And the only way things are going to change are by educating people.”
If there is anything to take away from Natalie’s story it’s that with either the smallest donation or the biggest effort, one can make a difference in the life of another.
On behalf of Friends of Cozumel, a special thank you to Natalie and her family.
(Written by Amanda Schmidt, an advertising and public relations major at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln)