Growing up, freedom to me looked like letting go of my Mum’s hand.

I remember my first trip to an amusement park, and I remember wriggling out of my mothers clasping hand so I could run and catch up with friends to go on my very first rollercoaster. My hands felt clammy, and I was so nervous to sit in that car and climb that steel mountain. When we reached the top, my all-too-free hands clutched the bar in front of me, but then as we dropped I forced myself to let go and feel the air through my fingers as I put my hands up into the sky. Freedom.

Each step of freedom and independence in the years that have followed have felt just as scary, but I have always fought just as hard to run into the adventures in front of me and throw my hands into the air, to feel every special thrill of life as it happens (much to my sweet mother’s dismay!)

However, there is more than one way to walk freely.

What if we didn’t need to run alone, leaving everyone else behind us, in order to be free? What if community – our families, our friends, our churches, our classmates – could bravely run beside us as we face each new challenge?

When you walk around our Good Shepherd school’s and meet the families we work with, you will notice something. People hold hands. The children hold hands. They carry each other, run with each other, help each other with chores. They all look out for the smallest. Boys hold boys hands… Dads and sons, brothers. Middle school, high school, college. Fathers walk hand in hand with their daughters. Mothers and daughters. Girls hold girls hands… Sisters and friends, grandmothers, neighbours.

They understand that they need each other to make it through and to build a stronger future. Everyone is invested in the lives of the people around them.

Really, the work we do at DFN is all about holding hands with each other.

When we enter into sponsorship and sacrificial giving, we are choosing to partner together: strangers across the world holding hands and believing in each other, making it possible for someone to walk into freedom and opportunity. Kids save up their allowances, churches hold events, people live to smaller budgets, some people run races and marathons. The money they raise sends children to school, provides health care to families, rescues girls from slavery, helps women find employment and start their own businesses. People use the freedom they already have, to enable others. We put our differences aside for the cause of what is good, and our combined effort creates something special.

This fourth of July, we want to pause and thank you for choosing to hold hands with us. Lives are being changed, communities are being transformed, wrongs are being made right, and we do it together – redefining freedom and independence for all.