“Among all the causes I support, is Monteverde Friends School truly the most in need?” Quakers ask the darndest questions, such as this one from my talk yesterday at Kalamazoo Friends Meeting in Michigan.

In the spirit of honest, Quaker “plain speak”, the answer is no, not in the way you may be imagining. The children and families we serve are not living in the abject poverty and desperation of, say, the families I used to serve in rural Kenya. We are not “saving” anyone. If our school did not exist, or could not give scholarships to all local children in need, our students would still grow up to find employment and be able to care for their own children. Costa Rica’s redeployment of military spending into education and health care has succeeded in creating a better life.

That’s not to say we don’t make a significant difference in the lives of each individual student and their families. One of our May graduates now working in San Jose is getting paid 33% more than her coworkers because of her English language skills. Our pass rate on the national exam is 100%, so they can get a higher education and better jobs. Families make great sacrifices to put their children in MFS because they know it lays the foundation for a better future.

As important as those results are, that’s not the real reason our school continues to be so important. At the heart of my answer to his “Why Donate to MFS” question is how we nurture our students with Quaker values. Each graduate emerges with a commitment to Peace, a lifelong love for learning, and care for all people as equals worthy of respect. From that base, they expect to be fully engaged in making and being the change they want to see in the world.

The appeal letters I sent out for my African NGO followed the classic “hero’s journey” format: paint the picture of the desperate situation a child was in, then how our school helped the child, then how it gave her and her family a new future. It was all very true and very compelling, and I still get tears in my eyes thinking about those children and the hope we gave them.

This year’s appeal letter from Monteverde Friends School is different. It also features one graduate – Hazel Guindon – but focuses squarely on the person she is now, and how her education has helped her grow into this amazing person who is actively making the world a better place. The “ask” will be to help make this education and growth opportunity available for local students like Hazel who could not otherwise afford to attend our school.

So, dear Friend in Kalamazoo, if you choose to donate to Monteverde Friends School this year, you will indeed be making a significant difference in the life of one student and her family. But more than that, you will be seeding a new generation of youth better equipped and inspired to bring forth a spirit of equality, peace and integrity into the world. And that, I truly believe, is the world’s great need.

Rick Juliusson, Co-Director of Monteverde Friends School, formerly worked for 11 years in Africa with Habitat for Humanity and the African Canadian Continuing Education Society.