Erin, Founder & CEO @ RE-ENVISIONED, CA

Who is a child you care about and what do you want for them for their life when they grow up?

Me and my girls in KwaNdengezi, South Africa <3

Me and my girls in KwaNdengezi, South Africa <3

I'm at that stage in life where many of my good friends are having children and I get to squish lots of little babies and toddlers.  There are so many little kids that I care about.  When I reflect on this question though, I invariably reflect back on my time working with children in South Africa and, in particular, a group of girls I started working with when they were in 7th grade and got to know through their high school years.  They were in an after-school program I ran, and ended up being my student team to get the library I founded up and running.  They helped me with everything from cleaning out the building we took over to putting book covers on hundreds of books to minding younger students when they came to visit.

One little girl, Ayanda, was so incredibly quiet.  She was the sweetest child with a hauntingly beautiful smile, but would hardly say a word unless directly asked.  She came every week though.  Many of the girls asked me for things - money for school supplies or a new hair-do or help with homework - but not Ayanda.  Until one time, in her weekly writing journal, she left me a little note explaining that they hadn't had any food in their home for two weeks and could I please help her get some food for her family?  It nearly broke my heart.  She lost both her parents that her to HIV/AIDS, and spent the rest of the years I knew her living with her cousin and extended family.

The video we made for the education centre when we were trying to raise additional funds!  Despite being a Ph.D. student at Stanford, founding the centre is still the accomplishment I'm most proud of.  Perhaps until RE-ENVISIONED :)

I think of my kids in South Africa because I want for them what I want for all of my friends' children, but I feel the need to make some things more explicit.  For instance, I would really like for them to survive.  The most basic of wishes.  I want them to live to be old grannies, and not have to live with HIV or tuberculosis.  And then, on top of that, I want for them what I want for all children.  I want them to have a family and friends who love them.  To have cherished relationships that they give to and that support them through joyful and sad times.  I want them to have the freedom and the ability to pursue things they are curious or passionate about.  I would like them to have a job that pays the bills, and doesn't dampen their spirit.  I want them to have the opportunity and the ability to learn about themselves and the world - to develop a sense of character and identity that they are proud of, and a sense of the world that fills them with wonder and allows them to move through life with confidence.