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World Children’s Day

A girl stands against a green, forested backdrop. She is in a red and white striped school uniform, smiling at the camera.

Every person’s potential fulfilled.’

Today, we celebrate World Children’s Day. This day has deep significance as it marks when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

The rights of children matter. It is an easy statement to agree with and yet it doesn’t necessarily play out in the way we might hope it will.

Recently, we even saw discussions here in the UK being led by a Premiership footballer campaigning to have free school meals provided for the most vulnerable children in our society. A campaign which seems shocking in its necessity, to me.

In my previous life, before I joined All We Can, I was a Primary School teacher. It was incredibly challenging but equally rewarding. I loved September especially (although it didn’t mean I was exempt from moaning about returning to early mornings) and the thrill of embarking on a new year with a new class. The air was always heavy with potential.

Thirty children with potential who I had the responsibility for somehow helping them reach. In reality, it was a privilege more than a responsibility. Planning and devising routes which would allow each child to reach their own potential, in their own way. We place limits on children fulfilling their potential when we decide for them what it will look like. In striving to ensure they could reach their potential, I also got closer to fulfilling my own.

One of the many reasons I was drawn to working for All We Can was its vision:

Every person’s potential fulfilled.

It speaks into my teacher’s heart and the commitment to seeing others, especially children, fulfil the God-given potential they intrinsically possess. As part of my role I get to write the resources which share some of the work our local partners are doing around the world. This year, in our Change Begins with a Bicycle campaign, we have shared stories from the community of Butagaya, Uganda. One story in particular captured the essence of this vision for me. Nawalat’s story.

Nawalat smiles with her bicycle

What did you dream of being when you were a child? I fluctuated between a fashion designer and actress. I was always drawn to the dramatic!

Nawalat (pictured) dreams of being a nurse.

In this time of COVID-19, that dream seems even more noble than normal as we know the toll on health care workers. Nawalat’s dream is such a great one and I so long to see it fulfilled. The truth is, she has challenges to face that will make it difficult. A long and potentially dangerous journey to school, demands on her time at home and repercussions of turning up late for school.

All We Can’s local partner, FABIO, have a cycle to school programme which enables girls like Nawalat to have a safe and quicker means of transport to school. Sometimes the first step to achieving a dream or fulfilling potential is to simply be able to walk through the door into the place where the next step will happen.

As a part of the All We Can movement, I am proud to be walking alongside Nawalat as she pursues her dreams. Doing all we can to ensure that children have their basic needs met; access to education and health care is not an extraordinary act of generosity. It is the very least we can do.

In Matthew 25: 40, Jesus gives us a challenge:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

As Christians, this is a call to action. To see Jesus himself in the faces and lives of those considered the least. When Marcus Rashford spoke up and out about the potential absence of free school meals for many children, he did so having known the experience of depending on free school meals. He did so knowing that he didn’t want other children to experience this.

However, empathy does not require us to have personally experienced hunger, or to have lived in poverty to know that it is difficult. It requires us to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes and listen and look.  World Children’s Day is a stark reminder that we all have a responsibility to meet the needs of every child. To seek justice. To ensure all children have the opportunity to fulfil their potential because when they do, we will all be better off for it.

About the Author Sheila Matthews

Sheila is All We Can’s Public Engagement Officer. She joined All We Can in 2019. She is a coffee fan, book lover, daydreamer, and passionate about people. Her role at All We Can lets her combine all these things as she creates resources for our supporters to engage with work All We Can do around the world.

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