Helping Students of the Pacific

Hi, my name is Emily and I am a third grade teacher at Majuro Cooperative School in the Marshall Islands; a collection of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 

I met these two incredible children, Ruben and Charlotte, while working here and want to bring them back to the U.S with me this summer and I need your help.

Here is our story:

The day I left for the Marshall Islands, I remember being scared, but ready. I adapted relatively easily and loved my job right away. What I did not expect, though, was that my one bedroom apartment would be home to more than just me.

I met Ruben the moment I got off the airplane; he was part of the welcoming committee. His smile was contagious and his boundless energy was a little overwhelming, but he had my heart from the start. He told me right away that he was so happy I was his teacher and that soccer was his favorite sport, too. I was surprised when he told me that he would be in my third grade class, since he looked to be no older than seven years old. I later learned he was nine and was held back in Kindergarten. We all hopped in the school van and headed to our new home. Without hesitation, he jumped on my lap and leaned back to get comfortable, as if we'd done this a million times.

Needless to say, Ruben and I became very close, very quickly. He started spending time with me after school and we began to learn a lot about each other. I found out from other staff members about his home situation; his neglectful mother, nonexistent father, and all of his siblings,cousins, aunts, and uncles, all living in the same house. It all made sense after that. The kid CRAVED attention and affection…and it felt like all signs were pointing to me, but at the time, I wasn't quite sure if I could handle it.

It started with dinner a few nights a week and a sleepover here and there. Then, one night, he opened up to me about his abusive family members. He was scared to go home. I will never forget that night as we sat crying on my doorstep. It was then that I vowed to always make sure he felt safe and never went to bed or school on an empty stomach. We began with the "open door" policy, which quickly turned into him living with me full-time by the end of February. Ruben sleeps on a mattress on my floor, alongside Charlotte, my other young friend.

I don't even know where to begin in explaining my relationship with Charlotte. I met her on my second day in Majuro during a trip to an outer island with some teachers, students, and parents. She was very quiet and tagged along with Ruben and another friend from my school. She attended the local public middle school and lived right next to the staff apartments. We didn't connect right away; she was guarded and kept to herself. I so badly wanted to know her story.

As weeks went on, she started hanging around the apartments and began joining my friends and I for dinner, along with Ruben. We loved their company, but when we were ready for them to go, we sent them home and went on with our lives.

As I got to know Charlotte more, I began to realize how deeply troubled and depressed she really was. After losing her father to cancer years ago, she explained that life was never the same. She thinks about him all the time and how kind he was to her, unlike her abusive and drunk stepfather. Here in the Marshall Islands, there are laws against domestic/child abuse, but unfortunately these laws are not enforced. 

As someone who has suffered from depression, it was evident to me that she was depressed. Without any guidance, Charlotte had never learned appropriate coping skills, and at age 14, she had turned to huffing propane to get high, getting drunk, smoking weed/cigarettes, and chewing betel nut. She explained to me that she would do these things when she was upset; this being caused by the abuse at home. She wanted that quick fix and knew she could get that from drugs and alcohol. I knew that her telling me all of this was a cry for help and I was there to listen and more importantly, provide the guidance and love that she so desperately needed.

Charlotte soon moved in with me as well. Since the end of February, it has been Ruben, Charlotte, and I living together in close quarters, taking the world on, one day at a time. 

Things took an unexpected turn when I got back from Spring Break. I had gone to Pohnpei for ten days with some friends and Charlotte had had a very hard time with me being gone. She expressed to me that while I was gone, she had tried to commit suicide. By the grace of God, her mom was there just in time to stop her. I learned that this was not the first time she had tried to end her life.

Soon after this low point and attempted suicide, her older brother was murdered in Hawaii. This news has taken a significant toll on her overall happiness and well being. 

There are no suicide hotlines here. There are no psychiatrists or psychologists anywhere on this island. Emotional health is not taken seriously. For now, I need to act quickly before it is too late. She needs and wants help, which is why I am looking to bring her home with me so that she can receive help from professionals and get herself feeling happy and healthy again. 

I am also planning on getting Ruben in to see a Child Psychologist because of his abusive upbringing, both emotional and physical,  and concerning behaviors in the classroom and at home with me. 

I love these kids as my own and just want them to be safe, happy, and healthy. Your donations will help pay for their plane tickets, so that they can get the help they need and have an incredible experience in the U.S that they will never forget. 

The allocation of the money is as follows:

- $3460 for flights from Marshall Islands to Virginia &     travel documents
- $800 for summer camps
- $740 medical care (psychologist, check-ups, etc.)

Thank you for your support!

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Emily Elizabeth
Majuro, MH

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