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FedEx and United Way prepare children for their future

August 9, 2013

I’ve lived in the lovely city of Paris for more than seven years, but I recently discovered a new side of this city during a tour with United Way, which aimed to rally local community support around underprivileged youth issues. Imagine that you are walking down a street in an affluent area of Paris, with nice markets and beautiful buildings all around you. What if I told you that just two minutes away, down a small set of stairs in a narrow street, there is a totally different underworld lurking down there where children are in need of your help?

On June 21, 2013, United Way held their annual Day of Action all around the world. The objective was to gather volunteers, corporate partners and non-profit organizations to engage in, give to and advocate for education.  As a FedEx representative, I had the pleasure of being involved in the event in France. FedEx is actually the main contributor to the “Success at School” program, an initiative put in place by the French branch of United Way, which helps six local associations and more than 2,700 volunteers to support almost 4,000 children in their school work.

During my tour, I was deeply  shocked to discover these two different worlds of affluent Paris and underprivileged children existing so close to each other. As part of our tour, we also met with a specialist in Urbanism and Social Integration in the 12th district of Paris. He explained that a few decades ago some politicians and urban specialists had created the “slab urbanism” concept, which within just a few years had a damaging impact on the social integration of the city. . Picture this: imagine social housing right in the middle of the traditional old city center, but yet separated from it through different obstacles like stairs, pathways or walls. The end result is two different communities living two blocks away from each other, where the inhabitants have never met, whose children don’t go to the same schools and who are almost predicated from the very beginning to have two different destinies..

Later in the day I visited a middle school which was hidden away behind high buildings. There, the principal outlined his plan to assist unprivileged children with their education. I was really impressed by tough yet rewarding approach this principal took: instead of giving children easier things to do he has put in place a very challenging education program which includes running theatrical workshops of some of the world’s most complex pieces of literature. I really felt that he and FedEx shared the same values: encouraging hard work and rewarding success.

But let’s not forget the children. During the Day of Action we met with some youngsters who have benefited from the FedEx support of United Way’s Success at School program.  It was very moving to hear their personal stories. We could see first-hand that our volunteers had helped the children boost their academic results and self-esteem.  This is just one reason for us to carry on supporting such great initiatives!


    KL Meteer says:

    The fourth paragraph hints at a troubling paradigm: children who are considered “underpriviledged”, receive an education superior to children who receive a “typical” public education; because public education is failing students, these “normal” students are, in reality, now “underprivileged” because they have not been provided with challenging and rewarding educational opportunities exemplified in the article. Youth are much more intelligent and capable than the rote public education acknowledges, and until educators change what, and the way they teach, our children won’t have the tools and skills needed to successfully meet and lead the challenges of the future global economy.

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