Our idea is that Coca-Cola could use their distribution channels (which are amazing in developing countries) to distribute rehydration salts to the people that need them desperately. Maybe by dedicating one compartment in every 10 crates as ‘the life saving’ compartment?
Even today, there are only a handful of other shelters in the United States that cater specifically to former prostitutes, despite the growing number of children in the trade (estimates say there are 250,000 at any given time in the States). GEMS, opened in New York in 2001, and another, Angela’s House, opened in Atlanta in 2003. Children of the Night was the prototype for both, but both are newer, smaller, and don’t have the capacity to house their charges indefinitely or to provide services to former residents. Another difference: COTN isn’t funded with government grants. It is supported entirely by private donations, which means that Lee can spend the money pretty much as she chooses.
What she chooses is to provide the kids at her shelter with the closest thing to a comfortable middle-class childhood that they have ever had. All of their needs are met, and many of their desires as well. They are flown into Los Angeles from all over the country, and delivered to the shelter in a cab. Upon their arrival, kids are assigned a semi-private bedroom, and issued either a CD player or a DVD player.
First, Children of the Night takes care of the basics: each girl is assigned a caseworker. She is sent to a doctor for a full physical, to an off-site therapist, to a dentist. She is also enrolled in school, which is right on-site, and fully accredited. Residents at COTN get haircuts and manicures at high-end salons that volunteer their services. They attend workshops, where professionals drop in to teach them photography, yoga, meditation, acting, screenwriting, and dance.
For our readers who are unfamiliar with Room to Read, can you explain what it is?
We do three things: We build schools. We establish multilingual libraries and fill them with thousands of books. And we provide long term scholarships for girls because girls are often left out of the education system. Basically, we’re a group that is committed to reaching 10 million kids across the world with the life-long gift of education. In education lies the key to self sufficiency—and the best long term ticket out of poverty.
What does a $20 Donation do for Room to Read?
This is a perfect price point. Twenty dollars is sufficient to sponsor a girl’s scholarship for one month. We can also print 20 local-language children books in languages that have never really had children’s books before. It’s one of the reasons there’s such an illiteracy problem in the developing world—there’s just no children’s book industry.