Role Models: Beth and Aimee from Think Humanity
La Petite Écolière is proud to partner with and support charities and non-profits that empower and educate girls and women. We are delighted to add Think Humanity as a charity partner, and support their mission to help save lives and provide hope for refugees and underdeveloped communities in Africa. We want to warmly welcome and introduce you to Beth Heckel and her daughter Aimee Heckel, who are nothing short of role models working to empower and uplift those in communities who need it most, through education, economic empowerment, clean water and healthcare.
INTRODUCE YOURSELVES! TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR FORMAL AND INFORMAL EDUCATION.
Beth: My name is Beth Heckel and I am the Founder and Director for Think Humanity. I am an advocate for helping the marginalized and overlooked, specifically refugees and underdeveloped communities in Africa with an emphasis on helping women and girls through education, healthcare, clean water, socio-economic development. While my educational background is a para-legal, previously I had worked in various non-profit organizations before creating Think Humanity. My vision and passion is to change people’s lives one by one, regardless of where they were born.
Aimee: You can read all about me at my website!
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED INSIDE THE CLASSROOM?
Beth: Unfortunately I had teachers who only taught from the book and didn’t realize that negative comments would affect a child’s self-esteem. Hopefully things have changed since I was in school.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM?
Beth: I did not learn in school that most people in the world are NOT like us in the USA. For example, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water and 35 percent of the world’s population lack access to improved sanitation. I was shy in school and feared to speak in front of others, but as I became passionate about something, I learned to speak up for those who were not able to speak up for themselves.
AIMEE, WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR MOTHER?
Aimee: That the greatest form of strength is compassion and love.
AND BETH, WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU’VE LEARNED FROM BEING A MOTHER?
Beth: Always help build your child’s confidence, compliment what they do and give them encouragement. When your child is still young, talk things through face-to-face contact so that your child understands consequences without having to punish by spanking. Also, if you say something to your child, make sure to always follow through and be consistent.
WHO WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TEACHER?
Beth: My most memorable teacher was not an individual, but would be my experiences in life.
Aimee: It's kind of strange but I had one teacher announce in front of the whole class "Some people are just not ever going to learn a foreign language, like Aimee." So I went on to go to college in Germany, get a German degree and become fluent in the language. I taught it to business people for years and did German-English translation. Sometimes the most influential people are not the ones who teach you but are the ones who doubt you.
Sometimes the most influential people are not the ones who teach you but are the ones who doubt you.
TELL US ABOUT THINK HUMANITY. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START IT AND WHAT IS THE IMPACT YOU HAVE SEEN SO FAR?
Beth: My daughter, Aimee Heckel traveled to Uganda to visit a refugee camp as a journalist on assignment. She was so excited to share what she saw and learned. I wanted to go there with her to learn more about how to help make a positive difference.
We have educated more than 180 children and had our first university graduate this year. Secondary school graduates have found employment as teachers, interpreters, a journalist, a chef, office administrators and shop workers.
We have constructed approximately 70 wells.
We have distributed more than 95,000 mosquito nets.
Think Humanity has a clinic just outside a refugee camp where we treat women and children. We freely give birthing kits and ultrasounds and have Women Health Days. In 2018 we treated 9,200 patients.
This year we purchased a plot of land to build our own girls’ hostel where we will eventually have the Think Humanity Secondary School.
Those are a few of the accomplishments, but sometimes it is the smaller things that I remember the most.
Those are a few of the accomplishments, but sometimes it is the smaller things that I remember the most. For example, we helped a young Congolese refugee child who was dying from HIV. She was skin and bones and nobody wanted to get near her. We brought her in to our Think Humanity “family” and she has been on ARVs and doing well.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED WITH THINK HUMANITY?
People can join us on social media and follow what we do and if they like what they see, they can be a part of it, whether by donating, sponsoring a student or by sharing what they learn with others.
DO YOU HAVE ANY STORIES THAT STAND OUT OF GIRLS YOU HAVE WORKED WITH THAT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CHANGE THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES WITH THE HELP OF THINK HUMANITY?
Many of our students are orphans and/or refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda. They have horrific stories and memories that are traumatic. For example, just this week we raised money for the education of an 11 year old girl who found her abusive, alcoholic father hanging by a rope from their thatched roof home. Two weeks ago we helped six Congolese refugee children who live in Kyaka 2 Refugee Camp get into school. They are ages 4 to 12. We have 30 female students and 4 male students who graduated secondary school in January. One is now in the university studying to be a pharmacist and the other is in nursing school. The list goes on and on. All these stories bring me joy.
We have 30 female students and 4 male students who graduated secondary school in January. One is now in the university studying to be a pharmacist and the other is in nursing school. The list goes on and on. All these stories bring me joy.
AIMEE, YOU HAVE QUITE AN IMPRESSIVE WRITING BACKGROUND. HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THIS VOCATION AND DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG WRITERS?
Aimee: I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 5 years old and was stubborn enough or stupid enough to make no other plans. My advice is if you want to be a writer, write. Anyone can be a writer. There is no magic shoe to put on that suddenly transforms you into a writer. You just write.
My advice is if you want to be a writer, write. Anyone can be a writer. There is no magic shoe to put on that suddenly transforms you into a writer. You just write.
But if you want to make a career out of writing, you must have grit. You have to be able to find peace in discomfort, criticism, extreme hustle, doubt, vulnerability, change, and the unexpected pain of turning a passion into a profession. Being a successful professional writer is an endurance race. Not like a marathon. It's one of those ugly, 100-mile, through-the-night ultra-marathons where you're running through your tears and dirty sweat on two broken feet. It will demand more of you than you have. It is not easy, shiny, or glamorous in any way. And it is the best job in the world. It will make you so strong. It will teach you who you are, and it can change the world, as any kind of honest art can. But you must be brave, and you must be passionate enough to light your own fire when it is dark, and you must be wildly insane enough to never give up on your dreams. You must be mad! And then you must forget everything I have said and figure this all out on your own. That is all you need to make it as a writer. It's really that simple.
WHAT IS ONE LESSON YOU YOU’VE LEARNED THAT YOU’D LIKE YOUNG GIRLS GROWING UP TODAY TO KNOW?
Beth: Stand up for injustice; for example, one way is to stand up for those being bullied.
If you are passionate enough about something you believe in, you can do it!
No matter what negative people say to you, don’t give up. Rise above.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?
Beth: Even when you have a lot to get done, just take each item one at a time and everything will get accomplished.