Tag Archives: education

Letters of Thanks

Patricia Shafer, February 5, 2016

Piet age 13_ZambiaIt’s always heartwarming to open letters from a young man or woman expressing gratitude. We just received a Thank You from Piet Ng’andu in Zambia and Monykong Mijak Dau in South Sudan.

Piet, in his second year at Zambia’s Copperbelt University, wishes everyone a successful 2016. He received his first annual scholarship from a donor connected with Mothering Across Continents at age 13. His update includes: “I love all my courses. Calculus has been interesting as it has a lot of applications in engineering . . . I have enjoyed principles of Statics and Dynamics, as well as Surveying and Engineering Ngor in South SudanDesign. I thank you for your support without which I would not have managed to achieve what I have so far. Faithfully, Piet.“

Monykong – a nephew of our Raising South Sudan project catalyst and former Lost Boy of Sudan Ngor Kur Mayol – finished high school, Nov. 14, 2015, at a boarding school in Uganda. Over the years, he received scholarship support from his uncle Ngor and a friend, supplemented by a foundation in Salisbury, NC, and several Mothering Across Continents catalysts and supporters. In his letter, he writes of God bringing sponsors into Monykong Dau 2016his life and feeling loved. Reflecting, Monykong writes: “Here in Africa . . . I have discovered the significant role education plays in building character, unearthing and developing human potential, for the collective benefit of both a particular nation and the world at large.”

The thanks from Monykong and Piet remind us, in turn, to appreciate everyone who invests in another person’s development – especially a child’s. Education opens eyes and reveals a world otherwise unknown.

From Knowledge Comes Beauty

Patricia Shafer, July 20, 2015

Daphrose-Receives-Any1Can“From Knowledge Comes Beauty” reads a hand-painted T-shirt, a gift to a high school merit scholar in Rwanda, originally painted by a student in the US . . . Why? Did the US student who painted the T-shirt believe deep down inside that there is a connection between knowledge and beauty? Does the recipient, Daphrose, now feel a sense of connection with a young person thousands of miles away that she may never meet?

T-Shirts-MwikoScholarsWe will likely never know the true answers. However, when Mothering Across Continents special projects coordinator Elizabeth Peacock packed her luggage and more than 20 hand-painted T-shirts for a trip to Rwanda, she wondered what magic might be created. T-shirts, she reminded us, have become a global medium of expression, especially for youth. Likewise – hearts, peace signs, flowers and books are images that translate well across many cultures. The languages of love, compassion and quality education are bridge-builders.  

Yet, Elizabeth’s bearing of T-shirt gifts had an even bigger purpose. Three years ago, she led an enormous T-shirt painting exercise across middle and high schools in Charlotte, North Carolina. After workshops learning about seven global issues (poverty, education/illiteracy, hunger, water/infrastructure, environment, conflict/peace, and intolerance), students were invited to paint a white T-shirt in a way that expressed what he or she had learned about what can be done to address one issue. Schools and students raised money to participate. The funds were designated to help build a school in South Sudan. The school, Nyarweng Primary, is operating today.
Sensoria
Then what? What becomes of the T-shirts? First, they toured Charlotte, including an installation of 2,000 T-shirts at the annual Sensoria Arts Festival at Central Piedmont Community College. The exhibit was called “Any1Can” – a theme carried on each of the T-shirts and reminder that Any1Can Promote Education, Any1Can Teach Tolerance, Any1Can Stop Hunger, Any1Can . . .

Some have been set aside, almost museum-like, to be untouched, and only replicated through social enterprise products available in the Mothering Across Continents store. Special gifts have been made of others – the group that Elizabeth just took to students in Rwanda, for example. And another group have been looked at, not as T-shirts to wear per se, but as accidental canvases to be upcycled into purses, bags and backpacks – a potential social enterprise to help fund more education projects.

But I digress . . . I’ve started to share the material and potential marketing impact of these T-shirts, which is easy to do, because we’re often told that T-shirts are a powerful and affordable marketing opportunity. Practically speaking, that may be true. But speaking with purpose, what matters more is that students in the US were introduced to the idea of global issues and the idea that Any1Can make a difference; they were asked to react through art; and their thoughts are being conveyed as gifts half-way around the world. Coming full-circle: “From Knowledge Comes Beauty.”

Global Teacher Travel Opens Hearts and Minds

Patricia Shafer, July 10, 2015

Photo_Costa Rica_Teacher with Fruit 2_July 2015Our program The Global Class helps US schools connect with the world in unexpected ways. Great sentiments and photos are emerging from teachers who just returned from a “Food, Sustainability, Peace” trip to Costa Rica. Seven of these teachers are from East Mecklenburg, a public high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, that has embarked on a three-year Global Immersion Journey. One of the first big “Aha” moments of this facilitated journey was the leadership team’s realization that there had never been a group international trip for East Meck teachers. They agreed on Costa Rica as the first opportunity.
 
Of course, a trip like this means thousands of photos and memories. But global education facilitator Carina Cordero, who guided the trip, suggests that the traditional Costa Rican greeting of “Pura Vida!” (pure Photo_Costa Rica_Fruit Photo 1_July 2015life) captures the essence. And there is definitely a peaceful feeling that comes through in some of the photos of fresh food. As the 2015-16 school year nears, these teachers will spend a full day reflecting and planning how to incorporate trip insights into lesson plans. East Meck has a 2015-16 goal of 50% of students experiencing a deep dive education experience on the global theme of “Food, Sustainability, Peace.”Photo_Costa Rica_Teacher 3_Jonathan Janus with Vegegtables_July 2015
 
Meanwhile, it’s a summary from Jonathan Janus, who teaches 9th grade English and AP Human Geography, that inspires us at Mothering Across Continents and The Global Class: “It is easy to use global lingo and throw in global concepts at a shallow level. However, the ultimate goal of global education is to change the way students look at the world and live in the world. Three stories struck me as valuable lessons of the importance of facing challenges and overcoming them, lessons that I can apply. The first was the struggle of an organic coffee farmer to be a good steward of his land while trying to make money to support his family. Another was the scarred face of a Nicaraguan boy at a rural school whose poignant story captured our hearts, a reminder that Photo_Costa Rica_Artisanal Fishing Village_July 2015immigration is not just a 1st world problem. The third story was the local fishermen who spent years taking on big business and ended up preserving a beautiful and rapidly shrinking way of life. These stories would have remained untold without the opportunity for us to witness them firsthand. This trip and others like it are essential to forming global teachers and global classrooms.”

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

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!

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!