Guest Editorial: Small Efforts -can make a Big Impact

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

– By Dr. Eileen Anderson-Fye

The horrors of Faye Lin Cannon’s life and death are almost too awful to imagine.
In recent days the community has seen protests, calls for justice, and exhortations for more services for children. But looking at her picture in news reports, and knowing what she endured, it feels nearly impossible to hold on to hope.
Faye’s case is most prominent right now, yet Belizean authorities report receiving close to 1,500 cases of abuse and neglect in 2016. Even more tragic, they acknowledge that many more never come to official notice. How many children are in circumstances like Faye’s? Can any one person, or even group of people, really make a difference? Or is it all just too enormous, too complex – just too hard to address?
As a scholar who studies how different influences affect the well-being of young people around the globe, I can confirm that child abuse is a big, complicated and difficult issue. Its root causes include such seemingly intractable conditions as poverty, addiction, dysfunctional family histories, differentials in power, structural inequality and more.
Just thinking about all of those factors – much less their tangible impacts on children’s lives – is deeply daunting.
But as a researcher, educator and counselor who has worked in this community for more than two decades, I can assure readers of something else: Everyone can make a difference.
Again and again in San Pedro, people have.
The Lions Club began here in 1975. Within three years, its members’ labor and donations created the island’s first clinic. A dozen years later, Wilfredo Alamilla Jr. realized his dream of launching a high-quality preschool here. Today multiple generations of children have benefitted from ABC Preschool, an environment that nurtures their development and allows them to thrive.
Just this past February, renovations began on that one-time Lions’ clinic building, which the organization donated as the home for a new children’s shelter, Hope Haven. A joint effort among the Lions, the nonprofit Raise Me Up, and the S.H.I.N.E, program for at-risk youth, Hope Haven will provide shelter, counseling and educational services and a food bank. It is driven by volunteers and donations; please consider contributing to make this space a living reality.
Positive impact need not come only through formal organizations, though. Over my many years here I have seen firsthand just how much even so-called ‘little efforts’ can do.
You can be willing to listen. Bring a meal. Help with errands or child care. Believe in the worth of every child, and live that value in what you say and do.
Just having someone truly hear a tough story—with empathy and discretion and without judgment—can feel like having the heaviest of burdens lifted. It can give a person strength, and enable them to persevere.
Multiply that one conversation by many. Think of dozens of children heard and supported through the grace of a trusted adult. Pretty soon those small acts accumulate. They become big. They build hope. And, one-by-one, the people of San Pedro make all the difference.

Dr. Eileen P. Anderson-Fye is an associate professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She has conducted research fieldwork in San Pedro since 1996.

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