In nonprofit opus Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson recounts how, while visiting a small village in Pakistan, he felt so moved by seeing children conduct lessons in the dirt that he promised he would build them a school.
Mortenson went on to found the Central Asia Institute (CAI) and Pennies for Peace, and Three Cups of Tea became a New York Times bestseller. However, in April 2011, allegations surfaced suggesting that he fabricated his story and used millions of dollars meant for CAI on his personal expenses. 60 Minutes visited the schools CAI claimed to have built and found them half empty and not sufficiently funded by the organization.
As one can imagine, this scandal has angered many. In a recent Slate article, Annie Lowrey notes that other charity organizations and aid workers in the region are “grumbling about the crass imperialist narrative that helped popularize CAI, with a heroic First World dude swooping in to rescue Third World Kids.” Lowrey stresses the fact that “building schools is easy, however, learning is hard.”
In light of these events, it’s easy to become disillusioned. But is the real moral of this fiasco to stop building schools in underserved communities entirely? Here at unitechange.org, we think the answer is no. Rather than give up on the prospect of First World money benefiting Third World kids, we want to improve the process by which that happens.
We know that charitable giving is a very personal experience, and no one wants the shocking news that their donation didn’t go where intended. That’s why we give donors a window into each of our projects, and show exactly how (and why) a project is moving forward from start to finish.
Further, as Lowrey points at, many of CAI’s schools were built in regions where perhaps the children had more pressing needs, and the communities didn’t want schools in the first place. But at unitechange.org, we only fund projects that members of the local community have specifically requested. We don’t want to “swoop in” and impress our values on an unwilling population — we want to give underserved communities something they’ve asked for.
The allegations surrounding CAI are unfortunate, but we believe they can be avoided. At unitechange.org, we are committed, through our twin values of transparency and sustainability, to ensuring our donors that no such scandal could ever happen with us.
Born in Mogadishu in 1947, Dr. Hawa saw the effects of poverty first-hand. At an early age, she saught to help her people, especially the women of Somalia who have been marginalized for centuries by men. Dr. Hawa dreamed of becoming a doctor, and with the help of a scholarship and her father’s blessing, she traveled to Kiev to study medicine. Armed with a medicine degree, Dr. Hawa returned to Somalia and opened a one-room clinic on her family’s ancestral land to serve the women of her community. However, civil war soon broke out, and her colleagues and several patients needed a place to flee to. She took them in, feeding them and tending to their needs. As time drew on and the war became bloodier, she took in their friends, and soon the friends of their friends. At this point, Dr. Hawa is caring for 90,000 refugees on her family’s land.
Her children also went on to become doctors, and to follow in her footsteps as aids to those in need. Dr. Hawa’s ability to care for her fellow people comes from grasping the opportunity to receive an education. Here at UniteChange.org, we hope to provide that same opportunity to as many children as we can. With your help, that dream can become a reality.
Dr Hawa Abdi Foundation: http://www.dhaf.org/
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For the past three months, thousands of Somalian refugees have been fleeing their Islamist militant controlled, drought infested, foodless, waterless nation. They walk for weeks at a time to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. The camp in Dadaab, Kenya is brand new and well equiped to hold 90,000 people, although the amount of Somalians fleeing for the safe haven has exceeded that number.
More than 29,000 Somali children under the age of five have died in the country’s famine thus far. The drought has caused 1.8 million children to leave school and venture onto the most life threatening excursion of their lives. “Schools can provide a place for children to come to learn, as well as access to health care and other vital services. Providing learning opportunities in safe environments is critical to a child’s survival and development and for the longer term stability and growth of the country.”
Nation Leaders are weary about the probable increase in demand for schools in areas of displaced peoples such as the capital, Mogadishu-this could also lead to an unfortunate shortage of teachers. Unfortunately, results show that nearly 50% of teachers will not return when schools open back up in Somalia in September. Emergency Education plans will hopefully aid hundreds of thousands of children and teachers in temporary learning facilities, and food vouchers will be provided to benefit learners and families to help them stay in school.
Sakata Ball, The Safaricom Ball Challenge, will enter its sophomore year in Kenya this year. Sponsored by UNICEF, the nationwide tournament will be admit 36 of its best football players, (which includes girls by the way) into the National Youth Talent Academy for six months of professional training and coaching. “The Sakata Ball is aimed at creating a platform through which local soccer talent can be unearthed and showcased to the national and international audience”….”The ultimate goals of the tournament is help the youth realize their full potential.” (KNA) The Sakata Ball aims at creating a National and International platform for these kids to gain recognition, empower the athletic youth of Kenya, and possibly give them a brighter future. The CEO of Safaricom, Bob Collymore, said “Safaricom would continue engaging the youth in activities, projects and programmes that positively transform their lives and give them a strong economic and social footing into life.” This year, the ball will see a significant rise in teams, from 1,057 last year, to 2, 059 this year. The 2011 edition of this event will feature girls for the first time; 533 girls teams to be exact.
I have written before about the dire importance of extra curricular activities, and I cannot begin to stress it enough. With after school activities, that kids enjoy, not only will they be off the streets, but they will want to attend school and develop sharper learning skills. With winning the Sakata Ball, comes success and $3.5 million in prizes and cash. Helping these children turn their hobby into a successful career through education would certainly be a dream come true for the hundreds of struggling youth within this region!!
Throughout the African continent, war and disease have spread like wildfire. However, African women have been working diligently to turn around this fact through acts great and small. They care for their families, at many times being the breadwinners and caregivers.They also develop initiatives and organizations that strive to end the poverty and conflict that has stricken their homeland.
Because of their fervor, one initiative has been developed for them to be recognized for their accomplishments. The “Walking Africa” campaign strives to present “the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 to African women as a whole— a collective Nobel.” These women have become great leaders in the communities thanks in large part to the power of education. Women who have been isolated from the rest of the world come up with brilliant ideas by being exposed to inspiration through the pages of a book. We at UniteChange hope to bring education to the young girls of Kenya so that more little
girls will grow up to be strong leaders of their country.
See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clarissa-burt/walking-africa_b_912531.html
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“Gender equality must become a lived reality.” –Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women
Among the list of the countries with the most girls out of school, many African nations dominate the first half of the list. The majority of girls not attending school in the entire continent averages to nearly 50%. In some countries such as Malawi, the percentage is much greater than 50%, and after secondary school most females stop going to school altogether. The reason for the lack of young girls in school can be because of the many forced or arranged marriages that take place with girls as young as 12, insufficient funds from families to send their daughters to school, the need to keep daughters at home to help out with chores, threat of sexual violence, poor quality schools, etc. There has recently been an urge to battle the gender equality struggle that has existed within these countries forever.
The AED Center for Gender Equity is raising the bar in terms of what the typical scholarship program entails. It is easy to build new schools, but it is not easy to force people to attend, when most are living in conditions where a proper education is not in the cards for many young girls. Thus, the senior vice president of AED Center for Gender Equality is calling his new project, ‘scholarship plus.’ Not only does it provide girls with clothes, school supplies and books, but it also provides mentors and other services/support to make sure these girls understand the importance of a good education so that they will hopefully do well in school.
The program will be offered in 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to girls who decide to stay in school , and will obtain the scholarship for five years. Girls to receive the scholarship are selected within their community and only those whose families are facing economic constraints to send their girls back to school are eligible for the scholarship. Girls with only one parent, no parents, or parents with HIV/AIDS can also be selected by the community. Mentors selected to aid each child go into their homes and make sure they have study time, teach girls about sex ed and AIDS education and help them develop role models and people to look up to.
This project inspires me and reminds me of Unitechange because of the amount of community involvement. The girls in the community do not want a mentor who will be there for a week and who has no idea what conditions they endure on a daily basis as part of their ongoing struggle to retain an education. This project is about women helping women. “They work with the schools, teachers, and communities, to facilitate an enabling environment for the girls to succeed.” Unitechange practically bases its foundation on the community aspect of our organization and making sure that the community is involved with every step of our projects so that we can try to give the community exactly what they want.
Hello! My name is Danielle O’Neill and I will be writing about issues affecting children’s education in African nations for the rest of the Summer.
Ballet: one of the most beautiful forms of self-expression on the planet. A type of art that originated during the 15th century Italian Renaissance has now reached hopeful children in one of the worst areas in Kenya in 2011.
Ballet has become incredibly popular among children because it has been proven to improve endurance, overall health, reduce stress, improve children’s mental and emotional health, develop social skills, and Family Talk Magazine mentions that “children who participate in dance and other activities related to the arts tend to perform at a higher level in school compared to their peers who do not.” (Lake)
For the 40+ children in Mathare, Kenya, the ballet class taught by Mike Wamaya is a way for children living in one of the toughest areas in the world to grow up in, a chance to escape. “Ballet is known as an advanced activity. It’s an advanced level of concentration.” (Sesay) According to the principal of the local school, extra-curriculars like this one, which was concocted by a UK charity organization called Anno’s Africa, helps kids stay in school and stay focused. Outside the doors of a church basement, where ballet class is held, are streets infested with crime ranging from thieves to prostitutes to drug trafficking. Ballet offers these kids a chance to dream of living a life without streets diseased with crime by instilling a vast amount of knowledge and strength.
Personally, I believe that arts education is extremely influential and can have an important impact on any child’s life. It allows kids to become more worldly, knowledgeable and more inquisitive. I started taking ballet lessons when I was young and I believe that I would be a different person if i had not. It inspired me to become determined and enriched my life with knowledge and grace. It has influenced my interest in studying other international forms of art as well. Offering kids, especially in regions of the world as poverty stricken as Mathare, an opportunity to experience something as great as this can truly be the best thing that will ever happen to them.
A young ballet dancer in the class tells CNN, “When I grow up i’d like to be an international ballet dancer.”
Many poor countries have recently been coping with broken promises, coming from western nations, regarding their education system and schools. “Many of the same companies that are making ‘promises’ about aid and donations/grants for education are simultaneously holding these same countries in toxic or close to toxic debt and interest payment cycles.”
One such country is Mozambique. The country’s new project, “Educate Mozambique,” is a pro active social media campaign run entirely by the nation of Mozambique. They are working toward creating a “a social media, mobile and online framework that will partially rely on crowd-sourcing to build coalitions.” The project is also attempting to create real world and online coalitions through media channels to assist western countries in finishing projects that have been deserted. These children and their elders yearn to educate the children of their country so they can live like average children and strive to accomplish much more in the future. The President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano believes that “with proper education anything is possible.”
Here at unitechange.org, we love this. It is entirely consistent with the principles upon which we based our organization: (i) our donors should be able to interact with the community from the start to finish of a project, and (ii) we should listen to the communities and what they tell us they want, rather than what we think they need.
With the US government drawing closer to its August 2 deadline, the world waits impatiently for a decision, fearing the outcome of a national default. But how might that affect us?
It’s a complicated question, but we see a few immediate problems. A default would greatly diminish the value of American currency, stock, and government securities. It would require much larger donations for American charities to function, and many small ones would be forced to shut down. Those still operable must then face dismal economic conditions to raise significantly larger funds in order to stay afloat.
International markets would feel the ripple effect of a US default. Economic conditions in poverty stricken areas would be greatly damaged while at the same time, areas that were steadily improving could risk plunging back to financial despair. In addition, the US would likely cut billions of dollars it gives in foreign aid, the results of which can be truly unpredictable.
The truth is, supporters of any cause cannot donate what they cannot afford. A US debt default would be catastrophic to charities of all sizes for this very reason. On behalf of charities across the world, let’s hope that US lawmakers reach a compromise soon!
Hey everyone! My name is Christina and I am an intern here at UniteChange. I will be making posts on this blog about social issues that the people of Kenya (and other developing countries) face. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to get out and help those who need it most.
First, we’ll begin with the issue of women’s rights, a hot topic in countries all over Africa. Throughout Kenya, in both small villages and large cities, female genital mutilation, or FGM, is widely practiced. This custom is done to girls between the ages of 6 and 14, with some reports of young women receiving it as old as the age of 20. According to a recent study, 32 percent of adult women have received FGM, with much more going unreported. The effects of FGM are gruesome, with most women having complications with menstruation, sexual intercourse, and childbirth. In many instances, these women end up dying!
Seeing these horrific events, many people have developed organizations dedicated to eradicating this custom completely in countries all over Africa. In Kenya for example, a British midwife has developed a program as a girls’ camp to steer young girls from the practice towards other ways of portraying their rites of passage into womanhood. Also, many young women in Kenya are standing up to their families against this horrific practice. Such is the story of Nancy, a young girl from Kenya who fights back against the practice, and also her parents’ favoritism of her brother.
(See “I will never be cut” here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/video/2011/apr/15/kenya-genital-mutilation-video)
When more schools and libraries are built, these young girls have a place to go to begin their voyage to success, one they may have to go alone without their family. Be the one to support them as they overcome the greatest odds.
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