Diane McGrath, a third grade teacher in Springfield Township, encourages her students to do just as Gandi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” One way that Diane teaches this lesson is through OHAAT’s Beds for Kids program, and even though her students are just 8 years old, they show a remarkable amount of compassion, generosity and resourcefulness.
Last year her class raised $330 for the Beds for Kids program, and not just by asking for money but by earning money and giving away their savings. “I merely asked my students to donate the $5 they would have spent on buying a Pollyanna,” Diane said, “and it snowballed into $330 in two weeks.” Some of the students shoveled driveways. Others asked for extra chores. One girl was saving to buy a turtle and chose to donate all that she had.
The class also participated in the 2014 Sleep Out for Bedlessness, a campaign that raises awareness about the overlooked problem of bedlessness in America. For one night, participants give up their comfortable beds. They sleep on the floor and then share their experience using social media. Diane’s class didn’t hesitate to join the campaign.
So how exactly do you explain the Beds for Kids program to a third grader? How do you convey its importance? “We talk about how fun it is to sleep on the floor or in a sleeping bag when we go to a friend’s house for a sleepover. But imagine having to do it every single night. Imagine having to get up off the floor, go to school and take a test that your teacher is asking you to do your very best on? Imagine what it would be like on a cold winter night? Or on a hot summer day? When you don’t feel good? The first thing I want to do when I’m sick is snuggle under my covers in my bed, but how do you snuggle on a hard floor? I ask them to imagine their older sisters and brothers in high school and all the important tests they take to get ready for college or a job when they graduate. What must it be like to hear your teachers talk about your future and how these tests can decide what you do with your future, and you’ve just spent the night on a hard floor?” The consequences of sleeping without a bed are many and serious. But as Diane proved, even third graders can be advocates for the Beds for Kids program and affect real change.