For children without resources, travel feels like an unattainable dream. Millions of kids in America have never set foot outside their home state, let alone in another country. How can anyone respect the vastness of the planet, the differences between cultures, the biodiversity of our oceans, the preciousness of a desert rain, if she hasn’t seen more than a concrete strip, a local deli, and her own backyard? In a world where our actions—our use of fossil fuels, water, and food; our waste; our elected officials; and our rabid patriotism—deeply and dramatically affects the global citizenry, we must educate our children to understand and respect their planetary kin. Learning AFAR, the flagship program of the AFAR Foundation, meets this desperate need.
Empathy is one of the most important qualities a person can have. Without empathy, we are each an island. It is difficult to feel a deep connection with someone else when you can’t imagine yourself in her place. We may understand our connection intellectually, but true empathy means feeling a desperate humanness, a sympathy that compels us to act. I think experiencing different lifestyles at a young age teaches empathy early. When a child sees another child, she feels a kinship. I think this natural affinity dissipates as we age, unless we are taught that it’s right to feel, to care, and to have the desire to help.