Who says a rat (and a 9 year old) can’t be a Hero?

Dianna Schwartz
Program Associate

In recent weeks, New Global Citizens has taken an exciting turn- as we can now count an even younger generation amongst our membership!  A team of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at the Center for Educational Excellence in Tempe have formed a team and decided to support APOPO for their project.

If you’re keeping track, that means 8 & 9 year olds are now helping support HeroRats in Tanzania.  Which is just the raddest premise ever!

Translating APOPO to language appropriate to 9 year olds was a task Jennifer and I set out to do a few weeks ago.  How would we explain landmines to them?  Did we need to show them exactly where Tanzania was?  What about the fact that rats get a naturally bad rap in our society- playing second fiddle/devil’s advocate to the mouse?  Mice ALWAYS win.  They’re cute.  They seem harmless.  Think about it- Mighty Mouse, Pinky and the Brain, Mickey and Minnie!  Mice have always won the role of protagonist in America.  The rats get handed the antagonist role more often than not- almost like it’s their DUTY.

But, we brainstormed some ideas, pulled some clips of Remy from Ratatouille, added some pictures of Splinter, and translated our NGC mission into the simplest language we could design- and off we set to meet the team.

Who proceeded to BLOW US AWAY.

Not only did they “get” the material, they asked brilliant questions and followed along with the entire thought process.  As Jennifer explained how much of the world lives on less than $2 a day, she asked them what they would choose to spend their money on if given such a meager budget.  It was fascinating to see which students nodded that they’d spend their cut on food- or which ones said medicine- and, best of all- the fact that practically none of them wanted to spend it on school 😉

When we started talking about landmines, there were questions about everything.  What would set it off  (A dog?  A bigger dog?  A baby?)  which the teacher fielded gracefully (“No, YOUR dog would be small enough to not set it off, Joey”).  Students asked how the rats would be able to “fix” the mines (the answer is, they don’t.  Their role is simply locating the mine and marking it on a target, so that trained de-miners can come in later to deactivate it).  And, lastly, they of course wanted to know….Why?  Why would there BE such terrible atrocities as landmines in the world?  Their teacher and advisor, Jessica, answered in the most simple and beautiful manner.  “Because there are some people in the world who do not-very-nice things.  But we can talk more about that later.”

So today our ranks of New Global Citizens welcomes into its folds the team of 3rd-5th graders at CEE with open arms.  We are THRILLED to have them as part of the movement, and certain they’ll do great things this semester.  Their enthusiasm was palpable, and absolutely adorable.

When Jennifer asked them, “Who is going to fix these problems plaguing our world today?”  they wasted little time with the fluffy answers (the president, congress, etc.)

One of the students in the front row shot his hand up and said, “I AM.”

Ahh.  You got it- and stole Jennifer’s thunder to announce it!  You ARE the generation that will solve the world’s greatest challenges.  And THAT is what it means to be a New Global Citizen 🙂

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