The following post was written by Co-Founder, Kristine Sullivan
Americans like giving to a cause. It makes us feel good… like we’ve done our due diligence. But not enough people know what they’re giving to and why it truly matters. On our site you have the ability to read our mission statement, watch a video, and read some stories about the kids… but what else are you doing? Don’t stop there.
This past week, PBS showed the documentary Half the Sky. I told some of my friends and family that they should tune in and what I learned quickly when discussing the film with them was that most people in our society are clueless to the majority of the world’s obstacles. As Westerners, we like to associate low literacy rates and high instances of poverty, disease, and premature death with the idea that “that’s just what happens in (fill in name of developing nation here).” It’s easy to do that because it requires no action or struggle for justice on our end. I was this way. I’m so glad I am not anymore.
While I still have lots of learning to do, it has become a passion of mine to see the world with new eyes and I go to bed at night wondering how justice can be achieved for the world’s forgotten and marginalized. I strive to teach my students at our little school in Gardena, CA to engage with the world in this way, but most of them just get fired up for a few weeks and then go on with their lives. I hope one day they will find it within themselves to realize that they have a voice and that they should use that voice, just like Malala did this past week.
I first read her story on Wednesday morning in The New Yorker. I’m always inspired by what people, young and old, male and female, do around the world to advance the cause of education; however, Malala’s story is different. What makes it different is not only her unrelenting spirit to fight for justice, a spirit this world could use more of, most certainly, but also the attention that the Taliban militants gave her and her cause. This attention led to an organized attack on Malala as they targeted her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head and neck.
In 2009, Abdul Hai Kakkar, a reporter for BBC approached Ziauddin Yousafzai, a Pakistani school director, to ask for a report from a female teacher about life under the Swat Taliban. Under Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban militants, TV, music, and girls’ education was banned. While no teacher would do the report, Malala Yousafzai, the school director’s seventh grade daughter, readily agreed. Year’s later she said in an interview with a Pakistani television network that “Even if they (Taliban) come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” Constant threats to Malala did not stop as she continued to fight for justice and education. She still fights today as she continues to fight for her life.
Malala’s story simply points to the idea that education matters. As a teacher, I can certainly say without a doubt, that most people in our Western world seem to misunderstand this idea. Many Westerners view education as an expectation or a right of passage rather than as ahuman right. In many cities and states our schools are failing, our teacher’s lose their jobs as other’s are expected to do the work of three people, and very little support, respect, and attention is given to the role of the educator. Several Western students want good grades handed to them without hard work and would rather skip school or homework to focus on their social status or athletic ranking. Entitlement is a scary thing. But despite how different the issues of education are within our own country and for Malala, one student in Peshawar said it best: “This is not just Malala’s war. It is a war between two ideologies, between the light of education and darkness.”
For our student’s in Uganda, the fight for education is different. It’s financial. The war in the North has left the responsibility of the country to the children. In fact, Uganda has the lowest median age in the world with 50% of the population under 15 years old. In order to create opportunities for this beautiful country I fell in love with, the children need to be educated and it’s not free. The issue of poverty is cyclical and as parents struggle to make enough money for food and simple shelter, they are unable to pay for school fees and the students must leave school, thus continuing the cycle of poverty. For the children who have been orphaned or abandoned, the story is similar. This is not rocket science.
Certainly there are children all over the world in need of an education and I am only one person; however, with enough love and passion, we can make a change. It all begins with looking outside of ourselves and seeing the world’s people for who they truly are: our brothers and sisters. Solidarity and compassion can do a lot for us, I promise.
In preparation for my trip this past summer, I read Bob Goff’s book Love Does. One of my favorite passages points to the fact that we cannot make any difference in the world by being observers alone. We must get involved by learning, loving, and doing:
“I want to pick a fight because I want someone else’s suffering to matter more to me. I want to slug it out where I can make a meaningful difference. God says He wants us to battle injustice, to look out for orphans and widows, to give sacrificially. And anyone who gets distracted with the minutiae of this point or that opinion is tagging out of the real skirmish. God wants us to get some skin in the game and to help make a tangible difference. I can’t make a real need matter to me by listening to the story, visiting the website, collecting information, or wearing a bracelet about it. I need to pick the fight myself, to call it out… Then, most important of all, I need to run barefoot toward it. But I want to go barefoot because it’s holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that’s where we can make a difference. That’s what love does.”
So don’t just read Malala’s story. Don’t just visit our site. Get out there and educate yourself and those around you about the world… every part of it. I always tell my 10th graders that the number one cause of immense poverty in this world is the false belief that it’s always going to exist and the assumption that an individual cannot do anything about it. I’m here to tell you if that’s something you believe, I know you to be wrong. Educate a child, allow people to find hope and beauty in themselves, and eventually you’ll see that you were wrong too.