The Transformative Power Of a Desk

I really liked school. I liked the smell of opening new books and classroom chalk. My fingers loved the smooth wood of the pencil and the rough paper on the crayons (my beloved 64-color box with the sharpener, of course). I enjoyed writing and coloring assignments, as the sample my mom saved from Michigan History Week will attest.

My essay circa, um, multiple decades ago, about the Michigan State Bird.

My essay circa, um, multiple decades ago, about the Michigan State Bird.

I had my own desk, usually near the front since my last name began with A.

It never would have occurred to me that somewhere in the world, other children had to share a desk. I’d read enough Laura Ingalls Wilder to know they probably shared desks back then, in the days when my great-grandmother was a little girl.

It wasn’t until I started working with Food for the Hungry that I saw communities trying to educate their children with virtually no infrastructure, including desks.

Rocks and Boards, No Desks Or Chairs

In one community in Bolivia, I met a leader who led us to the hut they were using for a school. He explained they were pestering the government to send a teacher to this small, remote outpost of humanity, high in the Andes. In the meantime, the leader himself was teaching kids at first- and second-grade levels how to read and write as best he could.

There were no desks. No books. Just some flat rocks on the ground that the children, tiny for their age from chronic malnutrition, would balance on to sit. They used rough boards on their laps to write.

The children hunched obediently over their work when I came in, little backs straining, faces close to their paper in the semi-darkness of the unlit room.

It’s not OK that kids have to learn like this. It’s not OK that teachers have to teach like this.

Desks Are Magic

Desks are one of the top items that communities will request when FH starts working in their area. It’s amazing what transformation simple wooden furniture brings.

The communities do the best they can with rocks and crude benches, crowding six pupils onto benches meant for four. Whether school is held indoors or outdoors under a tree, having a solid chair and an area for writing is so important:

  • Students can write more easily and learn more quickly. Desks help guard against the discouragement that so often leads to students dropping out.
  • Children at desks are more comfortable, more focused and less squirmy.
  • Schools where the classrooms are well-equipped, and kids are more motivated and better behaved, have a better chance of attracting and retaining professional teachers.

Children who benefit from FH’s child sponsorship often return to their home communities to work as doctors, nurses, social workers and, of course, teachers. Truly, providing something as simple as a desk can turn one motivated student into a teacher who impacts thousands.

Consider giving a desk to an FH community via our on-line gift catalog.  Or gather your friends and family together to give an entire classroom’s worth of desks!