Ever hear of the Rokia studies? Professor Paul Slovic from University of Oregon did a series of studies a few years ago in which participants were shown a photo of a starving 7 yr old girl from Mali, Africa named Rokia. They were told that Rokia is desperately poor and faces the threat of starvation, and that her life would be changed for the better if they made a financial gift to an agency working to relieve the food crisis in Africa. People gave generously. Then participants were told about the tens of millions of children like Rokia throughout Africa who are in need of immediate food assistance and would likely die from hunger if they did not receive immediate help. Not surprisingly, there was a significant drop-off in the number of people willing to make a contribution.
What’s going on here? Slovic argues that people are more likely to feel both distress and compassion when they hear of the struggles of one person than when they hear that the same suffering is experienced by many.
So tonight, on our last night of Chanukkah, I want to tell you the story of one person: a 12 year old boy named Loda Phillips. Loda lives with his family in Katira, in Uganda, in agrass thatched and mud house. One room for Loda, his folks and his 7 siblings. He walks several miles to school each day, bare foot. His family can’t afford both to send him to school and feed him, so he eats only one meal a day – usually at night. Loda’s short life has been hard, but he lives without anger or despair. Last year, IKAR raised the funds to bring Israeli solar technology to Loda’s primary school in Katira through Innovation: Africa. Loda recently wrote to us to say that now, for the first time, he and his classmates have the opportunity to continue studying once the sun goes down – and he’s working hard to take full advantage of the blessing of light. “I am utilizing the light in the class for extra lessons,” Loda says, “to make sure I pass very well to go to a good school then become a doctor.”
One person took a stand. One family started a rebellion. One cruse of oil was found and provided light for eight days.
Chanukkah is the great reminder of the promise of each individual and the reverberative power of every act. Tonight, as those 8 candles burn, think of the power you have to radiate light – throughout your home, your community, our world. You can’t solve every problem, you can’t save every hungry child, you can’t rebuild every broken home or heart, but you can do something. Tonight, if you won’t do it for the 291 million children worldwide who don’t have electricity in their homes and schools and medical clinics, do it for one. Do it for Loda. Make a contribution to an organization that is working to bring more light and more possibility into the world and let your spirit radiate the miracles you have witnessed this week.
And while you’re in the giving spirit, we hope you’ll contribute to help IKAR and Lab/Shul continue to grow and share the light. If you’d like, you can earmark IKAR contributions for our Katira project, where we’ll continue to work to bring light and opportunity to Loda and his classmates for years to come.