VANCOUVER, BC. — Josephine Friesen is shy, when compared to the average talkative pre-teen girl. An enthusiastic piano player with a big smile, she holds back when talking to new people. Not surprisingly, Josephine usually has low-key birthday parties with a small group.
But this year, on her 11th birthday that changed. She held a big party with 17 friends.
And instead of collecting 17 birthday gifts, Josephine asked guests to leave the boxes and gift wrap at home and bring donations to MCC’s Global Family program in Cazucá, Colombia instead.
Cazucá is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Bogotá, home to many people displaced from rural communities by violence. Two-thirds of children there cannot access education and many are malnourished.
Josephine thought the money could help provide clean drinking water or nutritious food for the children at the Education Brings Hope Children’s Centre, a Mennonite Brethren school for preschool and primary students. Her family visited the project five years ago, and though she was only six at the time she still remembers one thing about the food she saw kids eating: “there was a lot of candy,” she says.
Her mom, Cynthia Friesen, says both Josephine and her brother Sam were surprised that though food was often scarce the kids had sweets. “So that lead to a larger dialogue about nutrition and dental health because definitely that kind of thing was falling through the cracks,” Friesen says.
To combat malnutrition, the school provides healthy meals and snacks while the students are at the centre. When the Friesens visited the school they were told by the founders that it cost only $300 to hire a cook for the year.
Though her mom says lots of kids Josephine’s age have started to ask for donations to charities rather than birthday gifts, many only donate half the money and use the rest to buy something they’ve been saving for. But Josephine chose to donate everything. “She wanted to give all the funds to this cause, and so I was quite proud of her on that front,” says Friesen.
All together Josephine and her friends raised $325 for the Education Brings Hope project, a little more than the amount needed to hire a cook for the school.
Unsure how to explain her decision, Josephine says donating the money just felt good. Because of her generosity, and others like her, Global Family is able to continue supporting the education of 150 children in Cazucá.