November 19th 2014
"Ugly...ugly...ugly,” chanted the group of 2nd grade girls with a frenzied intensity, “Don’t touch us, we don’t want to catch what you have.”
At the center of the jeering mob was a sweet and frightened little girl named Aisiah (pronounced Ai-asia).
She stood with her sweater covering her head, trying to disappear, wishing her mom was there or at least a caring teacher who could stop the girls. But no one did.
I wish I could say that was a rare occasion for Aisiah. Sadly, being ridiculed and bullied was a daily ritual at her public school, just a few blocks from UrbanPromise. Why?
Well, Aisiah looks different than the other children. She has a rare skin disorder called vitiligo—a condition that causes depigmentation—and in her case, severe reaction to sunlight. Aisiah’s disease was caused by trauma to her skin after she had an untreated accident at her school, and was exacerbated by misdiagnosis.
Despite her mom doing training in the clasroom and enlisting help from the “anti-bullying group,” being jeered at was part of Aisiah’s daily routine. To make matters worse, when the other children were released to play outside, she had to sit next to a security guard in a darkened hallway to avoid the light.
Her mom sought refuge at a Camden health center. A caring and loving nurse called UrbanPromise and tearfully pleaded for help. “She can’t go back to that school, it’s breaking her down. Mom is doing everything she can. She quit her job to care for Aisiah and take her to therapy (daily). They can’t pay tuition.”
The nurse was familiar with UrbanPromise, and she promised Aisiah’s mom it was a different kind of place—a place that encouraged respect, kindness, love, and acceptance. Thanks to your donations, a presidential partnership was made available and Aisiah enrolled a month ago at the UrbanPromise’s CamdenForward School!
Her first day at her new school was memorable. Our students gave her a royal welcome. The upper class students lined up to hug her, her 2nd grade classmates competed to sit beside her, and when asked if anyone wanted to skip recess to keep Aisiah company, every child in the class raised their hand to stay inside! Needless to say, Aisiah was surprised and delighted, and none of the adults in the room had a dry eye, especially Aisiah’s mom.
“I’m so grateful for these students and the culture that has been established at this school,” confided her mother, “Aisiah is joyous all the time; she calls the other students her brothers and sisters...Even other parents stop me to offer help if I need it. What can I do to give back?”
Aisiah’s mom is now a volunteer at the UrbanPromise's new Community Food Co-Op and a constant and helpful presence in the school and cafeteria.
Gratitude….it’s a wonderful response to the way God moves in our lives.
But Aisiah’s story will get even better. In just a few days, she and her family will celebrate Thanksgiving with the other UrbanPromise families. For the first time little Aisiah will experience an UrbanPromise Thanksgiving dinner and begin to understand the foundation of this community of sharing, serving, and praying.
Thanksgiving at UrbanPromise is not just about eating; it’s about building community for children like Aisiah and her family.
UrbanPromise will serve over 1,000 Thanksgiving meals to our families throughout the city of Camden.
Each meal costs about $5.00 to prepare and serve; we need to raise the $5,000 to make this possible.
I hope I can count on you to help again this year.
PS. Typically I make a point of changing a child’s name and identifying facts to protect the privacy of the child and family. However, Aisiah’s mother wants everyone to know about the effects of bullying and how brave her young daughter is and how grateful they are to be part of the UrbanPromise family now.
PPS. Aisiah’s story of bullying is becoming more and more prevalent. We have a waiting list of students who want to come to our school. To help a student, please call our Executive Director, Jodina Hicks, at 856-382-1851 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.