by Nicholas Bull, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Image Credit: Nicholas Bull
In today's society, children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood -- you only get one. Children shouldn’t be expected to function as adults at young such ages. While working with the children of Liberia through SHED (Support Humanity and Educational Development), I was able to help create opportunities for kids to be kids. SHED provided toys, games, books and resources for other activities that encourage greater recreational time for children. I fondly remember a day a child took a break from playing to run over and tell me that, “[she] wished this day would never end and this is the best day of my life. I am able to play today without doing any work.” Some parents were not supportive of SHED's initiatives and really wanted the children to be at home doing chores. However, I saw the relief and joy in the faces of the children as they engaged in different activities. I couldn’t understand why parents were allowing their children to take on the responsibilities of adults, instead of allowing them to enjoy their youth.
In most cases, people become a products of their environment. As I continued my work with these children, it became very clear that most of these children will benefit from having organizations like SHED help to shift the narrative around childhood. They were being exploited by their parents and by society. Liberian parents believed that, in order for their children to mature, they needed to take on the responsibilities of being the “man” or the “woman” of the house. I had a difficult time explaining to parents it was unfair to approach development in such a manner. I was appalled by how commonplace this view was among parents. As a society, we should be asking ourselves: are we doing enough to stop the exploitation of children?
Communities like the ones in which I worked while in Liberia can benefit from community psychology practice, particularly through those that support empowerment. SHED is changing the lives of these young children by offering resources and mentoring to support the development developmentally appropriate education and programming in their communities. Every child should be allowed to experience a healthy and wonderful childhood.
Nicholas Bull is a graduate student in the Family Studies certificate program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.