Enlisting and Empowering My Kid

How we got our son to feel like a full member of our sponsorship group

Blog post by Marie Dixon-McCoy, Bridge to Guelph group member

Making the decision to try to find something to do to help refugees abroad was easy. I had been thinking about it for over a year. After the drowning of Aylan Kurdi, the awareness of what people were fleeing and the urgency to help led to a ground swell of empathy and action. So when I put out on Facebook in September I couldn’t stand by any longer, my friend Laura messaged me and asked if I wanted to join a group she was joining. I said yes even before talking to my spouse. I knew she would be on board. But we held a family meeting anyway mostly to introduce the idea to our then eight year old son and get him invested. He said yes, of course we should help in any way we could.

After bringing our son to a couple of meetings which he sat through very patiently and very quietly I soon realized, he didn’t have a role. We were all talking about going away and doing things. We all began to gather jobs, roles and more meetings. But Rowan had no role. We talked a lot about his involvement and his understanding. We talked about the upcoming election and our fears if the Conservatives got re-elected how much more difficult and lengthy it would be to get a refugee family here. I hoped that maybe he would just act as a youth ambassador with his friends. Keeping them up to date on the news of refugees. Sharing his thoughts on the how bad it would be if the Conservatives got elected. What was I thinking?? Eight year olds don’t normally just start talking about world politics and the election! More creativity was needed.

After being put on the spot by his teacher one day, I had my Eureka moment! She randomly wanted to hear Rowan play guitar with a badly tuned, too big guitar with no pick. It went horribly for him. He felt embarrassed and defeated. Well I knew how to bandage this hurt. A fundraising concert at his school with his band! He wanted to redeem himself with his peers and prove he really could play Heart of Gold and Satisfaction. His teacher wanted to make it up to him and surprisingly but also heart-warmingly LOVED the idea of being able to highlight the struggles of refugees with her students in a constructive way. She said she wanted the whole school to commit to doing some educational sections on the issues of refugees and invite the whole school to come to the concert. Fantastic! Since this was two days before the school took their winter break I had time to speak Rowan’s music teacher and the parents of the kids in his band.

I’m still working on getting the concert together but everyone so far has been enthusiastic and positive. I just have to get the school to give us a date. In the meanwhile, the band has perfected One Way or Another and are working on adding Free Falling. This concert is going to be awesome!

What has been exciting to see is that planning for this concert has given Rowan a platform to talk about refugees in general and the family we’re sponsoring specifically. He is able to say how the money he will help raise will help them. He then can talk about how challenging the transition will be for the family and especially the kids. He wonders what the kids will be like and if they will be friends. He wonders what music they will like.

I want Rowan to be aware of what is happening in the world. I want him to see his privilege. I want him to see that no matter what his age he has a part to play in making things better. We all have a part to play.

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