Why Maddie is passionate about South Sudan…and is asking for your help.

Maddie HarrisonMy name is Maddie Harrison and I am a student leader in the Any1Can Club at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, NC.  Our mission is to spread awareness of global issues (like poverty, hunger and education) that affect peoples’ lives no matter where they live in the world and lead our student body in service projects that make a difference to these issues.  Our club feels one of the most important issues is education and we’ve chosen to address that issue in South Sudan, the world’s newest country, where less than 2% of boys and less than 1% of girls complete primary school. 

Since I can remember, I’ve been taught that if I really want it and work hard, I can do anything. I grew up hearing this message repeated over and over again – in books, in movies, by parents and by teachers. Maybe it is a bit childish and naïve but the members of the Any1Can Club believe anyone can stand up and make a difference. Throughout history, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil Rights Movement, the people who led these efforts to create change were dismissed as crazy, insane, and idealistic. But look what they accomplished. They are now cited as primary examples of social and global change. 

I’m writing this blog post to call you to action to help South Sudan by MPHS walkbecoming one of many people involved in the Memes for Peace Project.  In 2013-14 students at our school learned about South Sudan in 9th grade English classes.  They read articles and books, watched films and attended assemblies to better understand the issues facing this brand new country.  Our club planned a Walk for Wisdom that involved 700 students and raised $4,400 for adult literacy in South Sudan. 

We learned that education empowers people and ensures they are able to run a country and make progress. For South Sudan to flourish, the population needs to be educated. There’s no other alternative. But unfortunately, renewed conflict in South Sudan today means many good projects supporting education, clean water and health are challenged.  Groups like the Enough Project estimate that violence has returned to the levels it was at in 2003 before the end of the Sudanese Civil War. Over a million people have fled their homes. UNICEF estimates that as many as 50,000 children’s lives are at risk from the immediate threat of famine.

At the end of the year 9th memes for peace collagegrade students created memes that combined photos of South Sudan with phrases from Romeo & Juliet, The Odyssey, The Hunger Games and Monster. The memes share the universal and timeless importance of conflict resolution and we are using them as a tool to create awareness and action about the current situation in South Sudan through the Memes for Peace Project.  Five of the memes were turned into postcards.  Nearly 3,000 people in Charlotte signed these on International Peace Day (Sept 21).  They will be sent to Washington, DC to ask elected officials to support peace and development in South Sudan.  In September, our club met with representatives from Senator Hagan and Senator Burr’s offices to share our concerns. 

The Mint Museum Uptown is currently displaying 30 Photo 2_Memes for Peace exhibit at Mint Museum_Mothering Across Continentsmemes in an exhibit called Memes for Peace: Art, Advocacy and Academic Achievement.  We are proud of all that this project has accomplished but want to do even more.  And so we’re asking churches, schools and civic groups to get involved in Memes for Peace by hosting postcard signings and learning about the situation in South Sudan.

Can one program restore peace to an entire country at war? Well, we can shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do. Or we can take a stand.  We hope that you will take a stand with us by signing a virtual Memes for Peace Postcard online at: http://www.motheringacrosscontinents.org/MemesForPeace/postcard.php and learning about other ways to get involved at http://www.motheringacrosscontinents.org/MemesForPeace.

Maddie Harrison
Steering Team Member
Myers Park High School Any1Can Club

Piet from Zambia…From Doctor to Engineer

Piety Ngandu is a scholarship student, supported by a donor for the past 7 years with 5 to go. He is from a rural family of 13 children in Zambia who’s now on a path to becoming an engineer. Here’s a recent letter from him.

“Hi, how are you? Last October, I was admitted at the University of Zambia. It was a step to become a doctor. But I began to love all the sciences and even more – Physics. Every experiment was connected with everything in the universe and just seemed to be real.

As I was developing an interest in Physics at University of Zambia, I decided to become an engineer and later a Rocket Scientist. Copperbelt Province has an industrial nature, so I’ve transferred to Copperbelt University. Also, the government of Zambia is now offering me a 100% free tuition at the institution. I saw this as a relief to my donor sponsors as they would not have to worry about my tuition fees. But for boarding and study materials for Year 2, 3, 4 and 5, it will be a challenge for me for which I will still need help from my sponsors. This was also a very good opportunity not to waste because I could get accommodations at the university, making it easier to study more. And it is cheaper to be living at school than in a boarding house.

I am now doing six courses. These are Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Pure Mathematics, Computer Science and Communication Skills. These Communication Skills are new to me, but I have started to enjoy it because it teaches me how to interact with different types of people. Computer Science is also interesting because everything now involves computers. For the Sciences, I expect no problems in these courses. I am happy to inform you that so far everything is going well, and I am doing fine.  I will be a civil engineer by 2019.

I am wishing you all the best, and I thank you for the assistance you are giving me.”

Photo Piety NganduPiet age 13. Current age: 20

Top Ten List of Reasons our Eyes were Opened, Heads were Left Buzzing, and Spines are Still Tingling

Saturday, April 5, was a big day for us. In January, we officially took the plunge to plan and deliver the Any1Can You’re It! Global Youth Service Summit. It constituted a series of firsts . . . first time we hosted a youth service summit, first time we served as Youth Service America’s local lead agency, first time students from public and private high schools across the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District came together in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day (April 11). We knew it would be a day of surprises – as are all “events.” But we really underestimated how much we would learn in the presence of approximately 125 students who are service leaders at 16 different schools. Given that the event came on the heels of “Top Ten Reasons” originator David Letterman announcing he will retire, we’re offering ourTop Ten List of Reasons our Eyes were Opened, Heads were Left Buzzing, and Spines are Still Tingling.” In reverse order, of course:

10. STUDENTS WILL GO OUT OF THEIR WAY ON A SATURDAY.
When we first decided to move ahead with the event, with limited time to Group on Stairs hands up smallorganize sponsors, partners, and commitments to attend, we held our breath. Will students come to a summit on a Saturday? We learned that we underestimated how moved and motivated they would be by the opportunity to come together to learn about and share experiences with service projects.

9. MUSIC MATTERS.
One of our facilitating partners, Leading2Change, insisted that we couldn’t have a youth summit without the right music. They were right. It was one of those intangibles that said “This summit is for you.”

8. SPECIAL VISITORS TAKE PEOPLE’S BREATH AWAY.
Our keynote speaker was 18-year-old Charles Orgbon, founder of Atlanta-based Greening Forward. He started his non-profit environmental efforts in the 6th grade. He’s now a high school senior. In six years his organization has supported projects engaging 2,000 students and 10,000 adults in environmental service.

7. LOCALS INSPIRE TOO. Charlotte Latin students
Students and an adviser from Charlotte Latin attended. We learned that this year they’ve raised $35,000 to support a school project in Tanzania, and they’re still going! Two students were the catalysts who proposed the project. 

6. See #8 and note…
WE UNDERESTIMATE YOUTH, AND THEY UNDERESTIMATE EACH OTHER.

A  common refrain was, “I had no idea other schools are working on stuff like we are at our school. I thought we were the only ones who cared about global issues and service.”

5. BETTER FUEL UP.
If you want a successful event, surprise students with fresh, hot pizza and snacks they like. Thanks, Fuel Pizza. Thanks, LANCE for the chips. Thanks, EarthFare for the apples, bananas and yummy juice. A collective gasp arose and hands clapped when we shared that lunch included you.

4. MISSING SKILL – ADVOCACY.
Asked for examples of their activities in the realms of Awareness, Service, Philanthropy or Advocacy, there were plenty of examples of the first three – almost no examples of the last (Advocacy). Facilitators asked “Why?” Participants responded: “Who wants to hear from
us?” and “We don’t know how to advocate.”

3. IF YOU WANT HONESTY, EXPECT UNCOMFORTABLE MOMENTS.
Like…the student troupe that performed at lunch and named specific issues at specific schools. Like…the dialogue in the economy workshop led a participant to share that his father lives and works in New York, while the family lives in Charlotte, because that’s where his father found the best job to put food on the table. They SKYPE each night, but miss each other a lot.Peace poster group small

2. PEACE WINS.
Given seven different themes as options for creating a service campaign (education, poverty, hunger, water, peace, tolerance, and environment), peace and its parallel tolerance win out. But the truth is, we as facilitators don’t know why. We simply noticed a pattern.

 

1. FIRSTS ALWAYS LEAD TO THE QUESTION – WHAT NEXT?
Some students exchanged contact information on the spot and declared, “Look at me – I’m networking.” Twitter, Facebook and Instagram received their fair share of traffic. And the
general sentiment from students and facilitators indicated, this was a great first step.
And so . . . ?!

What are teachers doing to prepare students for the world of tomorrow?

Adults with children attending school in countries with developed economies are hearing a common theme these days . . . “We need to focus on developing global citizens with 21st century skills.” But interview teachers (which we often do as creators of The Global Class and Any1Can Project), and you hear the practical challenges at hand. There are high expectations of (and pressure on) today’s educators to effectively teach to established curricula and help students improve scores on standardized exams. So, how and where can they integrate global education in ways that align with what they’re already teaching and are presented in new, innovative and engaging ways that appeal to students – especially teenagers in high schools?

As one contribution to the answer, we offer up Exhibit A – the 9th grade English teachers and administrators of Myers Park High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. This year, with the support and encouragement of a new principal, Mark Bosco, interested in expanded global knowledge and problem-solving skills, these teachers launched a year-long program that culminates in April.

Step 1: They participated in professional development on how to incorporate seven global issues into the classroom.
Step 2: They introduced the history and context of South Sudan and the fLost Boys of Sudanormer Lost Boys of Sudan into their classrooms through articles, videos, an assembly, and dialogues.
Step 3: They connected classroom learning to efforts of a student club that took the lead on sharing with the rest of the school what was going on in 9th grade English.
Step 4: Working in an integrated way, the 9th grade English teachers and student club members planned a 3-mile “Walk for Wisdom” to raise funds for adult literacy in South Sudan. The walk takes place on Friday, April 4, with nearly 700 of the high school’s 3,000 students registered.
Step 5: After the walk, in April, the teachers are leading classroom reflection conversations aromeo and julietbout the relationship between what students learned about South Sudan and themes of education, conflict and intolerance in classic literature, specifically Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey.
Step 6: All of the 900 English students in 9th grade are learning to use online technology to create “memes” that juxtapose images from South Sudan with famous lines from “R&J” and “Odyssey.”

And there’s a culmination. By May, these memes will be curated for presentation at the school and in public.

Next time you hear someone say, “What are teachers doing to prepare students for the world of tomorrow?” feel free to think about this moment in time that links a photo of a few teachers sitting in a circle of student desks and what emerged from it. MPHS teachers

When magic happens…

By Patricia Shafer

One of the wonders and challenges of service work is that you can’t guarantee where super results will happen. But if you do your best to be strategic and the right people get connected, magic can happen.

If Mentoring Mwiko volunteer catalyst Jerri Hatch had never gone to Rwanda for gorilla-trekking, what would have happened? If, in her trip planning she hadn’t noted that there was an impoverished school near her lodge and visited, what would have been missed? If, after bringing a duffel bag of pencils, crayons and paper, and seeing how inadequate these were for a school of 750 children she hadn’t declared “I’ll be back,” what window would have closed? If she hadn’t reached out to Mothering Across Continents and said, “I want to make a difference, but it seems overwhelming,” what itch would have remained unscratched? What if, when we recruited Canadian Frances Klinck as a guest teacher and trainer, she had responded, “Too busy.”? And what if, when we met with JD Lewis and asked if he’d make a special detour visit on his Twelve in Twelve trip, he said, “Nope. Trip is set.” What potential connections would have been left unmade?

Instead he said, “Can you just assure me that my boys and I will have a place to sleep and someone can pick us up at the airport?” And off he went. It could have been enough to just have Mwiko and its community seen by JD and his sons . . . But JD’s surprising follow through went above and beyond. It also put a critical chink in a harmful habit that sometimes occurs in challenged communities. Strangers come and go – for travel or humanitarian reasons. In contrast, the chain at Mwiko has been getting longer.

Desks Being Built via Twelve in Twelve and Bridge2Rwanda at our Mentoring Mwiko community center.

Desks Being Built via Twelve in Twelve and Bridge2Rwanda at our Mentoring Mwiko community center.

Yeah to Jerri for being an original voice. Virtual hugs to Frances, Daniel and friends like Tom Allen at Bridge2Rwanda. Thanks to our donors and partners like Oli Dreike and the Dreike Scholarship Fund as, together, we support 18 Mwiko secondary school scholars this year. Super kudos to JD Lewis and his sons for their unique passion, compassion and follow through from a year spent learning about the world.

We learn a little more each time…

Alas, we won’t be meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

dalai lama

Even when we don’t “win,” we love writing grant and contest applications. The experience forces you to define and re-define what you’re trying to do in the world, how you will go about it, and results for which you aim. If we hadn’t recently entered the Compassion & Technology Contest from Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, we may not have discovered this wonderful quote from center director Prof. James Doty: “[Compassion] . . . is that key that will address the issues that we all think are isolated issues, such as global warming, war, conflict, poverty . . . These are problems of the human heart.”

That one quote again affirmed that we’re on the right track with our program The Global Class & Any1Can Project, which helps teachers and students become familiar with seven complex global issues that touch every community on the planet: poverty, education/literacy, hunger/nutrition, water/infrastructure, environment/sustainability, social attitudes/prejudice (tolerance) and peace/conflict resolution.

In our application, we made the case that schools help infuse youth with a spirit of responsibility and skills to engage in service projects. However, studies by the Corp. for National & Community Service indicate that during the 2000s, the percentage of schools integrating service learning into classroom academics declined. Service is widespread, but not service learning – with calls for investigation, preparation/planning, action, reflection and learning demonstration/communication. Fewer principals and teachers engage in and sustain academic-based service learning (especially global service learning) when faced with budget cuts, lack of easily accessible materials, and a sense of overwhelm.

We proposed transforming The Global Class & Any1Can Project Resource Guide into an iBook linked with an online learning management system. In 2012-13, more than 10,000 teachers utilized our Resource Guide and professional development support. Participating in the Compassion & Technology Contest helped us clarify how the Apple iBooks format could expand and add interactive flexibility to the Resource Guide as a unique, multi-touch format with video, diagrams, 3D objects and movies and facilitate engagement in Apple-compatible Smart classrooms and through Smartphones and mobile devices.

Perhaps, though, our biggest learning was how generous experts are with their time in an effort to make a difference to young people. We wouldn’t have dared apply if it weren’t for Adam S. Brooks, a professional who understands technology application to education pedagogy and extensive experience as a senior developer, learning content manager, and systems administrator on eLearning initiatives. He volunteered his time and counsel without hesitation. And we are grateful.

Now, we just need to find another way to get support and funding to put the idea to work!

Partnership for Freedom

“Trafficking,” including commercial sexual exploitation of children, is receiving widespread attention. But where does it occur and to what degree? Though data can be scarce and inconsistent, we’ve learned from Esther Rodriguez-Brown and the Center for Peace team in Las Vegas that 17 U.S. cities are generally identified as trafficking destinations.
Involvement of youth 12 to 18 is a grim reality in every one. And four states and their urban centers (California, Texas, New York and Nevada) account for the highest trafficking volume. The problem, apparently, is neither lack of awareness nor concern. The core issue is that involvement in “the life” for youth coerced or forced into under-age prostitution becomes the norm due to un-addressed histories of upheaval, treatment of girls as criminals not victims, and voids in social services.

What to do? We’re intrigued by a balance of compassion and logic that Esther and the Center’s inter-disciplinary team of social services and juvenile justice providers seem to bring to this societal wound. They refer to thorough studies that show the potential to get youth back on track with interventions that begin at detention centers, continue with customized case management, and include mental health counseling. They’ve looked at “return on investment” analyses of dollars invested in reform and restoration programs. At the same time, they seem to never lose sight of the intangible and unpredictable impact on an individual’s life when you know someone really cares. Better yet, they model these behaviors themselves.

Human rights artist and friend Todd Drake…

Reading Todd’s submission for an Aftermath Project grant reminded us that on some level all humans are in a race with death. Some of us secretly wish to cheat or outrun it. Others encounter circumstances that make them face it head on. Todd wrote that this realization draws him to the harrowing stories of former Lost Boys of Sudan and the dreams many have to return and rebuild. As Todd says, “Few of us have had reality turned upside down so suddenly, going from a safe and familiar life to one of survival, without protection, in an unforgiving landscape. Yet, something in their unique journey rings universal. So, I and many who know their journey want to know: what do they remember about the place left behind, what is there now, and what are they to do with memories? Repair and renewal is yeoman’s work.”

Photo Todd Drake in PalestineWe are wishing Todd luck as he waits to hear by December if his proposal will be accepted. No doubt, in his capable and caring hands, his camera can do much to build bridges of understanding. 

 


Todd teaches Palestinian woman about photography

Bol Maywal’s Story

By Patricia Shafer

I’ve known Bol for about two years now, but this past Sunday was the first chance I’ve had to hear him speak about in a public setting about his experience as a southern Sudanese refugee. Education Program Bol Maywal LebanonManager Elizabeth Peacock and I made a detour on our drive from Charlotte, NC, to Washington, DC and Baltimore, to hear him speak. We sat in the front row with his mother Adout. I was reminded that even though he has been in the U.S. for 12 years now, and the story of young men affected by the past civil war in Sudan has been told many times, every story is unique and every telling is fresh depending on who is listening. In one PowerPoint slide, Bol shared the only photo his family has of time spent in a refugee camp in Egypt. He described a nearby church that in many ways and on many days felt like the only safe harbor in life’s storm. He acknowledged his mother for raising her children and guiding them well in the United States even though she arrived not knowing how to speak English or read and write her name – reality for most women who come into adulthood during war and the aftermath of fleeing it. He beamed with obvious pride at the slide that shows him being commissioned for his entry as an officer in the US Army, a role he officially takes up this January 2014. I’ve been told that southern Sudanese culture places a high value on someone’s story, and it’s important that when someone starts to tell their’s you give them the room to start and finish. I look forward to hearing more about Bol’s.

Scholarships Change Lives

Patricia Shafer writes…

I sometimes think “seeking sponsors” is the hardest phrase in the English language to write. Our volunteer catalysts and I have visited projects where children are in such extreme need of educational support – Rwanda, South Sudan, Liberia . . . – there’s no doubt that scholarships make a huge difference. But what if you haven’t been there? How do I convey to you that there’s something special, unique and useful about scholarship support in faraway places? Then, I get over myself, just share what I know, and hope for the best. For example:

In Rwanda, the 1994 genocide left behind a population that’s 70 percent female. When the bloodshed stopped, women picked up the pieces to rebuild. Today, there are still more women than men. A Rwandan saying is that a woman is the heart of the house. There are more women in Rwanda’s parliament than any other country in the world. The scholarships that we directly ask Mwiko kids at school FBpeople to support in Rwanda go only to girls. At Mwiko Primary School, where our efforts in Rwanda began, 6th grade girls in the Top Ten of their class would not be able to go to secondary schools without scholarships. Their families are too poor. We send every girl who is sponsored to the Institute for Women’s (IWE) Excellence, the only all-girls’ private school in Rwanda that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. We’re also beginning to collaborate with nonprofits Seeds of Hope and ALARM to help make sure that girls who graduate from IWE will be guaranteed access to a specially-designed year-long institute to prepare them for lives as influencers. Today, there are more women in Rwanda’s parliament than any other country in the world.

Okay, writing the above, my angst is gone. If you’ve ever thought for even a moment about becoming a scholarship supporter, let us know. Indeed, write me directly and I’ll personally identify candidates for you. pshafer@motheringacrosscontinents.org

 PatriciaShafer sig