An old man was walking along a beach surrounded by hundreds of washed-up starfish. As he walked, he came upon a girl throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. The old man looked bewildered and asked, “What are you doing?” The young girl replied, “I’m saving stranded starfish.” The old man chuckled aloud, “There are hundreds of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” The girl picked up another starfish, gently tossed it into the water, turned to the man and said, “I made a difference to that one!”
As a small non-profit organization, we understand that making a difference in an underserved community can be challenging. Creating a large event or program seems like a a great way to make an impact, but getting people to sign up and show up can be difficult. Sometimes it’s necessary to create little impacts, and to start with a small group, or even just one individual. Working with one child over many years helps to create a long-lasting relationship. Over time, the bond that forms builds more of an impact than a one-off program or event. As time progresses, a relationship also starts to form with the community. The overall impact, therefore, expands from an individual to an entire community. In this very way, we started helping a small group of girls – sending initially three children per year to Space Camp for the past three years. This in turn cultivated a relationship, where tribal members have said we are now “family.” In the end, we presented at the Pascua Yaqui tribal council, not because we did anything different, but because we’ve consistently helped one child at a time, thus creating a higher degree of improvement and larger social impact.
(Social impact increases by helping more people, or by helping a smaller number of people to a greater degree of improvement. We can increase our social impact by helping a small amount of people to a greater extent and in ways that have long term benefits.*)
Three years ago we started sending Native American children, mostly Pascua Yaqui girls, to Space Camp. Our goal was to send three children for three years, and to keep adding three more children every year. Thus far, we’ve awarded 9 scholarships.
To say there has been a learning curve is an understatement. We were unable to procure funding to send as many kids as we had ambitiously hoped for, but we still accomplished our three-year goal. We persevered, continued with fundraising, and learned not only how to motivate children learning STEAM, but also the many challenges for children who have never left home, never been apart from their families, and never been on an airplane before.
It has been exciting and rewarding watching our scholarship winners board a plane for the first time and visit the airplane’s cockpit. They are now seasoned travelers who can navigate airports and find their connecting flights with confidence.
Tribal Council Recognition and Validation
At the council meeting, it was powerful to see the moving and emotional reception that these children received. The council members expressed how proud of them they were and how inspiring they were to both adults and kids. They praised their courage and were supportive of their journey and futures stating, “This gives me great hope to see the first Yaqui on the moon. So hopefully you’ll get there, or Mars, or anywhere else you want to go.”
Will these kids go on to become astronauts, aerospace engineers, or experimental physicists? We don’t know, but what we do know is they have already had a positive affect on those around them and their tribe. They have become role models. They have become our first Taking Up Space ambassadors.
We are ready to start new projects and can’t wait to bring science to even more Native children. Our hope is to spread the love of curiosity and critical thinking while inspiring children. We know we can accomplish our goal with your help and support.
Thank you Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council, Pascua Yaqui Parents, Pascua Yaqui chaperones – Melissa and Naomi, and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe! Thank you to all of our donors, especially Tucson Federal Credit Union and Space Hipsters.
To donate click here: https://www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/1530675
*”Can one person make a difference? What the evidence says.”
By Benjamin Todd