Tag Archives: children

Let’s Meet at Charlotte International Airport

Patricia Shafer, October 26, 2017CLT International_Karen Kendall, Alishia Sullivan, Patricia Shafer_Oct. 2017

“Let’s meet at Charlotte International Airport”. . . so said Australian Karen Kendall of Shamida Ethiopia, Alishia Sullivan from the Abu Dhabi office of Squire Patton Boggs, and Patricia Shafer of Mothering Across Continents (MAC) returning to the US from Argentina. Of the three, I’m the latter – Patricia Shafer.

It’s not entirely unusual for me to have meetings in airports. I’m on the road or in the air a lot. For instance, I spent much of the month of October in Virginia expanding our NewGen Peacebuilders program with high schools and universities across much of the state. In November, I’ll visit school projects in Rwanda and South Sudan. I once met a potential partner from Colorado in the Nairobi International airport.

Karen and little boy Shamida EthiopiaBut this meeting – with Karen and Alishia was beyond special and full of serendipity. How is it the stars align such that three women hailing from, living in, and or working on four different continents can find themselves having coffee this way? A simple answer is that we are all involved in programs and efforts to support vulnerable children. A better answer, I believe, is that a force greater than all of us wanted me and other people to hear about Karen Kendall, who established Shamida Ethiopia. Through her daily management of Shamida Ethiopia Karen cares for orphans and vulnerable children, reunites street children with families and guardians, and empowers single mothers to care for their babies. Karen does all of this as the mother of Ruby, the daughter she adopted in Ethiopia in 2012.

Two boys Shamida EthiopiaOver the two hours the three of us spent together, I learned that Karen and Shamida Ethiopia includes clean, comfortable housing but also a spirit of helping where the most need arises. I am moved by Karen’s collaboration with nonprofit Hamlin Fistula Hospital which provides comprehensive care for women who suffer from physical impairments related to pregnancy and delivery. As Hamlin Fistula USA notes, “In the United States, serious maternal injuries during childbirth are rare, but in Ethiopia . . . problems such as obstructed birth mean that labor can last for several days, with life-altering consequences. Stillbirths are common and grieving mothers are often left with debilitating physical injuries such as obstetric fistula, a condition that renders women unable to control leakage of urine and feces . . . isolating and depressing.”

I am thankful to Alishia for setting up this meeting. I had just come off a long international flight and there they were, waiting in a tiny coffee shop at a busy airport. They opened my eyes and made my heart bloom.

Soccer for Everyone . . . Please.

Patricia Shafer, July 24, 2015

Creative-Players_D-AraujoInspired by the Charlotte Soccer Initiative, we’re deep in analyses of which US youth (geography, gender, race, ethnicity, household income) have (or don’t have) access. What a gift to meet Daniel Araujo of Creative Player Sports Foundation. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, to parents that didn’t finish elementary school. As he says, “The chance to play soccer saved me and gave me every opportunity.”
Today, Daniel’s a former professional soccer player; coach/consultant and FIFA agent; and co-creator of a youth soccer learning system and training methodology. He’s also Creative-Players_garageturning an overgrown lot next to a stone restoration business and warehouse into a proverbial “Field of Dreams.” The project is unfolding in Charlotte, on Wilkinson Boulevard, a road that Charlotte Magazine contributor Chuck McShane described this way: “Beyond uptown’s gleaming glass towers . . . Amid the industrial warehouses and barbed-wire fence lots filled with tractor-trailers, faded neon glows Creative-Players_garage2on the rusted signs of converted service stations, roadside motels, and drive-in restaurants.”
I was introduced to Daniel, thanks to Chase Saunders, attorney and Chair of the Charlotte Rotary Club’s participation in what’s being called the Charlotte Soccer Initiative. He kept saying, “This is a story of the American Dream, an entrepreneur’s dream, a dream for serving the community.”
And so he was right . . . When you arrive at Creative Player Sports on Wilkinson Blvd., you then drive through a broad passageway with an imposing warehouse on the left, dump trucks on the right, and a bright, beautiful green patch behind – the area’s only soccer pitch. Enter a less imposing secondary warehouse behind the first, and it might as well be a visit to Emerald City – an enormous patch of artificial turf marks out the area for indoor soccer play. To the left: the display case with memorabilia and a framed letter from a young girl expressing thanks in bold colors and proclaiming: “Soccer Rocks.” From this location, Daniel and Creative Player Sports are managing soccer play, training, coaching, life skills classes, and side classes to engage moms and create a feeling of community.
According to data reported by Forbes, ESPN and Sports Illustrated, the writer of the letter (thanks to Daniel) is a statistical anomaly. Across the US, the sport that the world often calls “the Beautiful Game” is generally hard to access if you live in an urban setting, are Hispanic or African-American, and are a girl. Even if you know about and are interested in soccer, you will likely begin to play at a later age, have few opportunities to play competitively, and leave the game after middle school due to the under-development of the sport in public schools operating on restricted athletic and extra-curricular budgets. While soccer seems inexpensive (All you need is a ball, right?), the all-in costs of competitive soccer are out of reach for many youth – a heartbreaking reality for newcomers, refugees and immigrants – many of whom may come from countries where soccer is a passion. According to Daniel, the average cost for playing soccer in Charlotte at a “pay for play” club starts with a yearly fee that ranges from $350 to $1,750 not including tournament fees, equipment, shoes or clothes.
Photo_PeacePassers from Concacaf Match_July 2015Is this little gem of a facility created out of nothing the answer? Of course not, it’s just one foundational piece of the puzzle that is conceived of as the Charlotte Soccer Initiative. But it’s enough to spark our imagination at Mothering Across Continents . . . What if we connect Daniel with Candace Murray, founder of nonprofit PeacePassers, a network model designed to inspire schools and community groups to collect gently-used soccer equipment and donate it where there is a need? What if civic leaders see, objectively, based on data, the economic development and poverty alleviation value of more facilities like Daniel’s? What if the next time a report comes out on the “most soccer-friendly cities in the US,” one of them is in the Southeast?

Daniel Araujo FOX News playSee Daniel’s interview on FOX 46 Charlotte!

Click image to watch.

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.

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.

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


Change girl’s lives, improve communities

The UN recognizes October 11th as International Day of the Girl. This day is set aside to recognize the unique challenges girls face around the world.
While it’s true that in many parts of the world BOTH boys and girls don’t have access to education and literacy, girls are disproportionately disadvantaged in many communities. For instance, in the villages where we build schools in South Sudan, only 2 percent of boys traditionally graduate from primary school. Hard to imagine it could be worse for girls, but it is. Historically, only 1 percent of girls with finish the sixth grade.

Absent change, the long-term negative impact on communities can be devastating. Dreams and a sense of empowerment and self-reliance never develop.
That’s why several of our projects focus on providing a stable learning environment for girls and young women. We think it’s a moral imperative and a natural part of a “hand up” vs. “hand out” development strategy. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary school level, reduces numbers of early pregnancies, HIV/AIDS infection rates, and infant mortality. Data from the World Bank and IMF suggest that literacy and access to vocational education for girls can improve the overall GDP of a community. As a tool for transformation, educated girls help fuel democratization and income equality – societal qualities that help achieve stability and sustainability.
 Girl Rising Photo
High Hopes Haiti is a flagship example of efforts by Mothering Across Continents project catalysts like Courtney Jackson to empower high school girls and young women. In a community of rural northern Haiti, four workshops have been delivered to help participants dream about the future, imagine careers, and identify skills they need, specifically English, computer literacy and small business management. In August 2013, a record 30 participants completed a three-week institute as a foundation for a year-long program of English, computer and small business training. Find out how you can be a part of our GlobalGiving campaign and positively impact the life of a girl at: http://goto.gg/14935.
Join us in celebrating International Day of the Girl!

Melinda Making a Difference – Addressing Hunger

September is designated Hunger Action Month by Feeding America.  According to The World Food Program  approximately 870 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy.  

At Mothering Across Continents, hunger is one of five issues that we focus on as part of our overall mission of “Adopting Dreams. Raising Tomorrow’s Leaders.” Since our overall focus is education for orphans, vulnerable and at-risk children, we know from experience that hungry children don’t learn well wherever they are in the world.

With Hunger Action Month underway, we think of some of the amazing Mothering Across Continents project catalysts and collaborators that have developed innovative approaches to hunger and nutrition in very challenging circumstances.

Caring Schools South SudanOur first project launched in 2007 was “Caring Schools,” a partnership with Save the Children South Africa, to develop an innovative pilot providing daily nutritious meals and sustainable gardens at three impoverished high schools serving nearly 700 children in the community of Qwa Qwa, in Free State, South Africa. At the time, daily meals were available in South African primary schools, but not high schools, and a consulting report indicated wide variation in the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of meals programs across schools. Against these measures, the pilot was successful, but when we asked Caring Schools project leader Melinda Van Zyl to reflect on the experience, she suggested a different standard for success. She said the truly lasting benefits are knowledge gained by students and parents about nutrition and communication skills they developed to advocate for expansion of the program.