Education can do amazing things for a family—my own parents are the perfect example of that. They both had very little growing up, but their schooling was the reason they were able to give my sisters and me a nice middle-class upbringing in West Virginia. I was lucky. But for others, poverty is generations old and almost impossible to escape.
About nine years ago, I decided to work with Save the Children to help educate kids growing up in low-income families in rural America. I had planned to volunteer only in schools, but I quickly discovered the importance of birth-to-age-5 programs that involve going into communities and connecting with new moms.
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The young women I meet during these home visits aren’t in moms’ groups or pushing strollers and chatting; they’re often alone in a trailer without anyone to talk to about motherhood. As a mom, I share the experience of loving my babies, which means I’m able to have real conversations with these women without any barriers. Our program shows them how to communicate with, play with, and read to their kids so they’re developmentally ready for kindergarten.
My own kids are still small, and I want them to see how much their dad and I care about this type of work. It should be a priority for everyone to make sure that early education is taken seriously—it can make a huge difference in the trajectory of a child’s life. Helping these families is the most rewarding thing in the world.