Let freedom ring

Let freedom ring | World Vision Blog

Monthly Girls' Club in Florida for girls ages 6 to 12, started by a local Women of Vision chapter to build self-esteem and foster spiritual growth. (Photo: 2013 Abby Stalsbroten/World Vision)

“If America is to be a great nation, let freedom ring.” –Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a dream" speech, given on this day in 1963.

Children must be free to grow up loved and not harmed. Let us dream a better world, and make it a reality!

Read how our staff and volunteers at a girls' camp are doing just that.


Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit a World Vision summer camp for girls. The camp was vibrant and full of energy. You can imagine a group of older elementary and middle school girls buzzing around doing arts and crafts along with fun outdoor activities surrounded by a host of caring camp leaders. It was an electric environment as new friendships were made and old ones were strengthened with new memories. The camp was also a place where dreams were formed and nurtured. In one of the sessions, I was profoundly reminded of the power of dreams.

I have made it an annual practice to read or listen to part, if not all, of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech for several years. It is a powerful and compelling vision of what our nation could become at a very turbulent and difficult time in our nation’s history. Even today, we still face the challenges of fully realizing his dream of a reconciled world where race is not a dividing line, enemies are united in peace, and freedom rings.

One of the most moving lines in the speech for me is, “If America is to be a great nation, let freedom ring.” He speaks with passion about the world he hopes to see his children experience. As I sat at this camp, I was reminded of the profound nature of children’s dreams. I dream of a world where all children are free to dream and realize their dreams. It is a world where we all embrace our responsibility to ensure and nurture this capacity in our children.

As part of the session, the girls were sharing about their childhood dreams. Joy* was a beautiful young woman who just poured out love in the form of hugs on all the women at the camp. You can imagine the myriad of answers that poured out as the children shared. The girls started to shout out. “I want to be a doctor!” A vet; a writer; a dancer; a princess.

And then it was Joy’s turn. She made a comment that I could barely make out. I actually had to lean over and ask if I’d heard her correctly. She wanted to be a powerful warrior who could shrink heads. You could hear in her tone and body language that there was more to her comment than might meet the eye.

I later found out that Joy had suffered such significant physical and sexual abuse as a child that she was almost constantly medicated to deal with the psychological impacts. The medication produced a number of side effects that impacted her mood, energy, and personality. She wanted this power as a young child to defend herself against the constant abuse she experienced at night.

I had an opportunity to talk to Joy one day at camp after receiving one of her life-changing hugs. She was smiling and sharing with me about her camp experience with our staff and the partners that help us put on the camp. She said, “It is hard to be myself at school. People don’t understand me.” She took a deep breath and said with a smile, “I can be myself here.” My heart overflowed and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes; I echoed the words of Dr. King.

If America is to be a great nation, freedom must ring. Children must be free to grow up in environments where they are loved and not harmed. They must be free to live into their potential! With child poverty at a record high and child well-being at an all-time low, the lives of our children must matter.

We must renew our ability to dream of a better world and then take the necessary actions to make it so.

Our staff and the volunteers at this camp were doing that very thing. They were setting little girls free to become great women! They were looking past societal perception, social inequality, past experiences, and communal expectations to see the content of these young girls’ character, of Joy’s character. They were imaging a world where differences make us stronger and where we are bound together by our shared humanity. They were showing the love of God!

*Name changed to protect her identity.

Romanita Hairston is the Vice President for U.S. Programs at World Vision USA.

Learn more about how our work across the United States helps foster hope for children and families here at home.

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