Pick up almost any magazine and you’re sure to find pictures of men and women who are what our society considers “ideal.” Models with perfect skin, hair and bodies, airbrushed to further perfection until they make us aspire to a set of standards that can only be achieved by engineering a pseudo-human in a lab or artist’s studio.
Many of us look in the mirror and wish for better bodies, a different nose, less wrinkles, or for our hair just to do what we want it to. We get frustrated when we can’t achieve these standards we set for ourselves. The pressure to look “ideal” is a social pressure many of us are well aware of.
The pressure is also felt by children, including young girls at The Leaven who are still just learning to read. They long to be thinner, to wear makeup and “look pretty”; young boys, who are still learning to add and subtract, want to be seen as tough men who are strong and worthy of respect.
It’s these pressures that often lead young men and women into dangerous and destructive habits. They join gangs to earn respect, develop eating disorders to stay thin, or obsessively inspect their appearance to insure they look as good as possible.
Site Director Vanessa Williams at our Vacaville center sees these troubling trends every day when the children at her program come to her and tell her that they feel ugly. Vanessa uses these moments of self-doubt to teach our students valuable lessons about self esteem and confidence.
“You are wonderfully made. Never let anyone tell you who you are,” she tells her students. She reminds them that they are made in God’s image, and uses these tough moments of self-doubt to remind the students that they are special because they are children of God.
It is moments like this that make our Leaven programs so important. Our programs are more than just tutoring; they also help young children develop into healthy adults, both inside and out, through caring mentoring and guidance. The Leaven works because people like Vanessa help our students see that they are creations of God and thus are highly valued, and partners like you stand with us in our work. Together we are helping kids and communities rise.