A Small Act Can Change the World
If a butterfly fluttering its wings halfway across the world can cause a rain shower in Manhattan, what effect can a holocaust survivor in Sweden, donating $15 to a child in Kenya, have on the world? Filmmaker Jennifer Arnold answers this question with her documentary A Small Act, the story of a schoolteacher who pledged $15 a month to help a poor child and the results of that act.
Do they still show advertisements on television late at night in which celebrities pleading on behalf of an international fund ask viewers to make a monthly commitment to sponsor a child in an underdeveloped nation? Back in the day, those ads were fodder for comedians and cynics. Cynics wondered if the sponsored children actually existed and how much of the money was used to help that child. Comedians joked about the chances that the wealthy celebrities ever visited these underdeveloped (or developing) countries.
In 1940, Hilde Back lived in Germany with her family. They were Jewish. Hilde was sent to live in Sweden, a country that was accepting Jewish children, but not adults. Both of her parents died in Germany—her mother in Auschwitz. When she first moved to Sweden she did not speak the language, but within a relatively short time she became a pre-school teacher. She, like many of her fellow teachers, volunteered to donate $15 a month to Kenya.
In Kenya, primary school is free, secondary school is not. Because Ms. Back made and kept her pledge, a young boy named Chris Mburu was able to go to secondary school. University in Nairobi is free, and after Chris graduated at the head of his class, he went to Harvard Law School on a full scholarship. He is now a human rights lawyer at the United Nations in Geneva.Continued on the next page