When Jayne Bentzen began to see stories and images of Syrian refugees appear on the front page of the morning paper and leading the evening news, she was saddened.
She wanted to step to the plate and do something to help the families in need – especially the children, who were left vulnerable and without homes.
“The people in the photos could be my neighbors and my family,” she said. “It's unimaginable this is happening. Our basic human needs are for peace, a safe place to live, enough healthy food, clean water, productive work, an education for our children… It's incredible to realize that millions of people have been robbed of the simple things most of us take for granted – things they also took for granted not long ago.”
It’s Jayne’s nature to help, so she partnered with Plan to support Syrian refugees in Egypt. Plan is ensuring access to formal education and providing remedial classes to help children overcome language and cultural barriers. It is also providing parenting education sessions.
Her generous spirit has grown and been fostered by loved ones and people she’s met along the way.
She’s come to find there’s a lot of good in the world.
“I'm inspired by good people,” she said. “There are always people who give more than I. Living in New York, taking the subway, I have noticed that the people who appear to be the poorest travelers in the car are often the ones who give most readily to panhandlers. It blows me away. I figure they understand firsthand the need they are seeing.”
She recalled a story about a poor blind man named Charlie she met one night in New York who, when approached by two young men, reached into his pocket and pulled out five dollars.
“I asked Charlie why he did that and he told me he could see they ‘needed something,’” she said. “The blind man could see--the poor man could give fearlessly. That was a lesson.”
Jayne wanted to give in a way that would have a substantial and positive impact, but also an individual and personal touch.
Plan International USA was the perfect fit.
“I was attracted to the idea of contributing to the well-being of an individual child,” she said. “Plan's brilliant idea was to share information about a particular child with a particular donor and to allow the child and donor to write to one another.
“Over the years I've wondered if our aid was actually being distributed to ‘our’ children and their communities. Several years ago I went on a trip organized by Plan to Honduras where several of my fellow travelers met ‘their’ children. I realized that the children value their relationship with their sponsors.” In addition to Plan’s smart and tested approach to child sponsorship, Bentzen was drawn to Plan’s practical approach to the refugee crisis.
Like child sponsorship, she knew her gift would bring lasting change in a real way.
“It made sense to me as help is being given also to Egyptian families so there will be benefit to the host communities,” she said. “This practical approach is an acknowledgment of the real problem of established communities struggling to adjust to an influx of strangers.”
Jayne knows that she can’t personally help every child, and she can’t help every refugee in their time of crisis. But she does know that by partnering with Plan, she will make a difference.
Even if she can only help a handful, her gift will be worthwhile.
She recalled a story about a girl throwing beached starfish back into the ocean. When someone asked the girl why she was throwing a few back into the water despite the fact that she couldn’t possibly save all of them, the little girl threw a starfish into the water and said “I helped that one!”
“If I can help one person and do no harm that's enough,” she said. “I'm sure the work Plan is doing for Syrian refugees in Egypt will help many. It's a privilege to be part of the Plan team.”