One day of work

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(Host) Commentator Nils Daulaire says that in May, many young Vermonters will spend a day working – quite literally – to improve schools around the world.

(Daulaire) Here in Vermont, most of our children enjoy good things that most of the world’s kids can barely imagine. They have enough to eat. Warm, dry homes. Decent health care. Peace and safety. And although many may not appreciate it now, they are blessed with the freedom to go to school, to learn, and to gain a future. In much of the developing world – which is where most of our world’s children are born and grow up – hundreds of millions of kids can’t afford to go to school, or there is no school for them to go to. Their future is cut short before it can begin.

Some of our own kids, right here in Vermont, are doing something about it. They’re changing the world, one day at a time. That day is Operation Day’s Work, a program run by high school students who give a day of their labor to raise money for needy schools around the world. Lela Schlenker, an ODW student organizer at Thetford Academy, says, “You’re giving a day of your education to someone else.”

Thetford is among the most successful of America’s growing number of high schools and middle schools participating in Operation Day’s Work. ODW is now part of its curriculum, so the whole school community can join in. Thetford kids work hard enough in one day to earn close to $10,000. This year’s ODW is on May 7, and students in Thetford – and at schools across the state and around the country – will spend the day working in their communities to raise money. This year they are working for schools in Bangladesh.

Operation Day’s Work just started in America five years ago. But it’s already a way of life in some European countries, including Norway where more than a quarter-million students use their day to earn more than three million dollars each year. They donate the money to a project in a country they have studied intensively, as part of their own education about the economic, cultural and environmental realities of our world.

I know Norwegian ODW volunteers from 30 years ago who still care and still engage; they understand the world as a place where all boats rise, or sink, together. As a result, their political leaders also care, making Norway one of the world’s most generous countries.

Lela recently saw a video of a school being rebuilt in Ethiopia – the target of last year’s ODW. As she says, “It feels great to do the work. You don’t think of yourself as being able to contribute that much on one day, but it really makes a difference.” Operation Day’s Work is not about charity. It’s about young people learning, coming to appreciate how others live, and sharing their blessings. It’s about weaving a fabric of concern that goes beyond personal wants to the needs of all the world. It’s about creating real security for the future. Imagine that. Not a bad lesson for today’s society.

This is Nils Daulaire from Norwich, Vermont.

Dr. Nils Daulaire is president of the Global Health Council, headquartered in White River Junction, Vermont.

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