Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Educational Non-Profit for 2/3 World?

I was thinking about Sierra Leone this week. I spent two months there in the winter of 1997, just before all hell broke loose there in the civil war. My stay there was very meaningful to me, although vastly insignificant. What followed for them was another instance of the evil in the world, another glimpse of the face of holocausts and Evil written large. "There is none righteous, no not one" is a verse inspired by such moments in history.

In my own mind, the disparity between my uncomfortable two months as an American Westerner and the scourge that followed is sobering. I cannot quite fathom the depth of the contrast. When I picture the gaze of the current national leader, Usman Forna, I picture a man who understands the evil in the world and who surely cannot look at individuals like me without a temptation to disdain at the inequity of it all. I have the time to quibble over the interpretation of arcane passages in the Bible. He has tried to negotiate the peaceful reintegration of child murders into villages where they chopped off limbs and disemboweled pregnant women.

The consequences of the civil war there linger on and now threaten more long term issues. Think of the children who lost 10 years of education who are now in their twenties. Think of the structures of education that still do not function as they once did.

I'm sure there are organizations that are already doing education as a form of foreign aid. I am vastly ignorant of the development field. But my strong suspicion is that the vast majority of aid that is in action with regard to the two-thirds world targets the lowest levels of Maslow's hierarchy--food, clothing, and health. These are Quadrant I concerns--the immediate and the significant.

Are there non-profits whose primary targets are more Quadrant II--the very significant but not as urgent? I count on you all to tell me. Of course the usual pattern is to send individuals overseas to do this sort of thing, "missionaries" and such. I strongly believe that those who go to aid with food, clothing, and medicine usually do some double duty here.

But I am an educator. Education is my greater field of expertise. Are there organizations that focus especially on long term education of those who do not have access to learning? Education is potentially something that can fend off future terrorism and build toward a more harmonious world. Certainly its absence helps catalyse them.

I'm thinking about equipping those in these locations, not about sending Westerners there. I've had the usual strange thoughts--could there be a special kind of "bare minimum" desktop designed whose sole purpose is the educational needs of students in a particular region. What distant education is appropriate might then be facilitated by local individuals. These wouldn't be too fancy and would be focused enough to where there would be less temptation to steal them--or such that someone who took them and used them would be benefited.

Idle thoughts on a Tuesday morning...


Ken Schenck said...

Follow-up thought--what about strategically placed "libraries," built to the standard of the area, with solar power, a few desktops with internet, and a critical mass of books, with easily replicated training for local individuals?

::athada:: said...

Forgive me if I run off topic, but I have to brag. Word Made Flesh has a community in Freetown that largely focuses on Quadrant I, but pushes into Quadrant II by putting some kids in high school & job training (http://www.wordmadeflesh.org/...sierra-leone/about/). The situation in Freetown is one of the direst on earth, enough to frustrate many Western plans.

Until the gov't gets the grid together on a macro-scale, there is a new micro-loaning program (ala Kiva.org) that make loans in Ghana for solar lanterns and clean burning stoves (removing perhaps the largest public health treat in the world - indoor smoke pollution). Loans now as little as $5 repaid in 60 days. (http://energyincommon.org/)a