Letting kids be kids…

Andrew Gifford | January 17, 2017

Maggie and me! Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford.

Maggie and me! Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford.

I’m not a parent, but I’m definitely a “kid-person.” I think children are fun to be around, they’re hysterical little people to watch and they’re incredible to watch as they grow and develop both in stature and intelligence. Just over seven years ago, two of my closest friends asked me to be their newborn daughter’s godfather. It has been a joy and privilege getting to see Maggie (and her two younger siblings) grow and become the smart, creative and talented young lady she is today.

This, I’ve found, seems to be what anyone with children really wants: to provide for their children’s basic needs and allow them to grow into the people they’re truly meant to be. I taught preschool for a couple of years, so I’ve literally seen this first hand. Most any educator knows of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; if the most basic needs of a child aren’t met, then the child’s capacity to learn and grow is exponentially stunted.

A mom and her baby in the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar. Photo: Andrew Giffords / CWS

A mom and her baby in the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar. Photo: Andrew Giffords / CWS

This is the reason why I was so struck by one particular village I visited on a recent trip to Myanmar’s – Burma’s – Ayeyarwady Region, where CWS partnered with parents of young children for a series of information sessions on nutrition and hygiene. CWS also distributed vegetable seeds and chickens so families in this community can earn extra income and can diversify their nutrition.

We generally started our visits to these villages with a community meeting of participating community members. The meeting on this particular day had a wonderfully diverse collection of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the children themselves! My colleague Laura asked if the families felt that the information shared in the sessions had made a difference. One adult motioned to one of the babies present and pointed out that this chubby baby was healthy, at least in part because of practices put in place as a result of the training.

What I saw in that moment is that now there are parents that are confident in the health and well-being of their children. As we spent time in the village talking to parents, we simply saw children being children: playing games with friends and siblings, waving with smiles on their faces, and peek-a-booing and giggling behind their parents at these goofy visitors taking photos.

So what is the lesson I learned at this village? For communities around the world, CWS programs are giving kids the opportunity to be kids. Just like my goddaughter Maggie gets to show me how good she is at the monkey bars or how she’s been practicing piano, these kids in the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar get to experience a full and happy childhood.

Andrew Gifford is a Community Engagement Specialist with CWS, based in Ohio.