The Magic of Malala

Did you see Malala Yousafzai on Colbert? Take the 3:06; I’ll wait!

In this brief clip, Malala and Colbert share laughs over card tricks. I remember watching this interview last September and thinking, “if I didn’t know she had changed the world in a breathtakingly courageous and daring way, I would almost think she’s pretty much any other young adult chatting it up with a comedian.”

The thing is: Malala is not just “any other young adult.” She is the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. As explained via her website:

On 9 October 2012, as Malala and her friends were travelling home from school, a masked gunman entered their school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet which went through her head, neck and shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured in the attack.

Malala survived the initial attack, but was in a critical condition. She was moved to Birmingham in the United Kingdom for treatment at a hospital that specialises in military injuries. She was not discharged until January, 2013 by which time she had been joined by her family in the UK.

The Taliban’s attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to protests across Pakistan. In the weeks after the attack, over 2 million people signed a right to education petition, and the National Assembly swiftly ratified Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.

This February 29, 2016, we all have an opportunity to learn more about Malala and celebrate her contributions when He Named Me Malala, Davis Guggenheim’s acclaimed film, has its commercial-free television premiere on the National Geographic channel at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

If you are on Twitter, you can help spread the word with the following tweets!

#HeNamedMeMalala premieres commercial free on @natgeochannel 2/29 @ 8/7c! Stand #withMalala + watch with your family on.natgeo.com/1VbVWaJ 

#HeNamedMeMalala premiers on @natgeochannel 2/29 at 8/7c. See it and stand #withMalala! on.natgeo.com/1VbVWaJ

Mark your calendar to stand #withMalala for girls’ ed. #HeNamedMeMalala premiering on @natgeochannel on.natgeo.com/1VbVWaJ

Having a daughter who is close in age to Malala, I marvel at the opportunities my daughter has had to learn, work, and grow free of oppression. It is unthinkable that any young woman in our world has to risk death in order to get the education all children deserve, and I commend Malala for her courage, her passion, and her articulate and motivational ways.

Educating Girls

Her card tricks aren’t bad either!

Educating Girls

For more information:

About the commercial-free showing of He Named Me Malala on the National Geographic Channel, click here.

Follow The Malala Fund on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow The Malala Fund on Twitter by clicking here.

Take action to stand #WithMalala by clicking here.

Donate to The Malala Fund by clicking here.

Educating Girls

#GlobalGoals: Using What We Have

It’s ridiculous. For our family of five, there are five functional mobile phones in the household (even for the 86 year old with short-term memory issues who has an extremely limited social calendar). In addition to the five functional phones, an inventory of our home would probably unearth another five abandoned phones, set aside in favor of newer technology, more memory, and the ability for Youtube videos of cute kittens to load EVEN FASTER.

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Philippa Kibugu-Decuir of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc. would be happy with one smartphone per village in Rwanda, East Africa, never mind five per household.

That one smartphone per village would make a difference in a place characterized by lack of knowledge and help-seeking behaviors, as well as fear and poverty. These factors result in many African women presenting their breast cancer at late stages when it is difficult or impossible to treat.

With a smartphone and an educational app, trained volunteer ambassadors can spread information about early detection among villagers. This makes it likely that women will catch signs of breast cancer much earlier than had previously been the case.

The app is currently in English, but Kinyarwanda and Swahili versions are being developed.

In the photos below, Valerie, in the village of Gisozi, Gasabo District, Rwanda, receives a smartphone which she will use to educate women.

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Photo Credit: BCIEA

Philippa says:

We believe we can use what we have to get where we want to be.

Our world needs people like Philippa to achieve Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal-3

One of the subgoals is: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. Philippa is directly impacting this goal, through improving early warning and risk reduction for women in Rwanda as it pertains to breast cancer.

In addition to this goal, the The UN has identified 16 other Sustainable Development Goals which will set the world’s agenda for the next 15 years. The 17 goals will be officially adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, September 25-27 in New York City.

Philippa inspires me to think harder about what I have, to be more creative in how I use it, and to have a more ambitious goal for the change I want to make in the health of the world around me.

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Although I chose to focus this post on the BCIEA project, I want to give a shout-out to some other organizations and individuals who are “using what they have to get where they want to be”:

  • An organization near and dear to me, Shot at Life, which helps ensure children around the world have access to life-saving immunizations. Learn more by clicking here.
  • The Kupona Foundation, which works closely to provide maternal healthcare, disability services, and sustainable health care in Tanzania. Learn more by clicking here.
  • I am also inspired by Jennifer Kate Lovallo. When her travel plans landed her in Budapest at precisely the same time that Syrian refugees were streaming through on their way to (primarily) Germany, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and disoriented, she arranged an impromptu effort to provide a relief station so the refugees could meet their basic survival needs. That particular situation may be over before the summit even convenes on September 25, but seeing her ability and willingness to initiate such an action on zero notice and to mobilize inspired me. Read more about her efforts here.

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To become more involved in the Global Goals, here are some resources:

Website:     Global Goals

Facebook:  The Global Goals

Twitter:       @UN and @TheGlobalGoals

Instagram:  The Global Goals

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UPDATE: Brenda of 1010 Park Place shared a great profile of Philippa here in October 2016.

Darn, My Dog is Dead

At the end of the 2014-15 school year, my son told me that his assigned summer reading was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This book was the summer reading selection for all grades. I ordered it on May 29, and it has been in our home since we received it. I wish my teenager were one of those go-getters who had his summer reading done before the July 4 fireworks, but he doesn’t roll that way.

When “Mandatory” Became “Optional”

On August 4, all families of students received this email from the principal:

School System Literature

My son was jubilant that the mandatory reading had been made optional. I, on the other hand, was not.

Trying to Understand

The day after the email explaining the new status of the summer reading assignment, I sent the principal an email inquiring about the decision. He called me the next morning, August 6 (and I very much appreciate the return call). To paraphrase, he said that upon further reflection, a decision had been made that the book, which contains multiple incidences of the “F-word,” “set the wrong tone, especially for incoming freshmen.” He said approximately 20 parents of incoming freshmen had called or emailed to register their displeasure, and that summer reading should be “fun.” He also said that apparently high schoolers often don’t start their summer reading until the last minute (I guess this was related to the fact that this decision was made once some students started discussing the book with their parents).

In response, I suggested the school could have done a disclaimer at the beginning of the summer and explained from the very beginning “this book has language which some students may find offensive. If they prefer an alternative they can request this through an instructor.”

The Public Discussion

Every Friday, I share what I am reading (paper and audio) on Facebook and Twitter for Friday Reads. This week, I abandoned the audiobook I had been reading (for now) in order to re-read “Incident” and announced that as my Friday Reads selection. It has been so long since I read the book, I felt like I needed to familiarize myself with it again, especially if I am going to be championing it publicly. In that post, I explained that it HAD been a mandatory assignment but had now been made optional.

School System Literature

Today, the Tallahassee Democrat published an article about this issue (read it here).

This Parent’s Opinion

My concerns center mostly around the process surrounding the decision to lift the mandatory requirement for the book. An email from the principal 13 days before school begins, stating “I am lifting the mandatory requirement for this novel” is not the ideal solution. Ideally, back when the decision was initially made about summer reading, the faculty or administration would have familiarized themselves with the book sufficiently to acknowledge that some parents and/or students may be uncomfortable with the language. They could have then developed an alternative book choice with accompanying assignments.

I read in the Tallahassee Democrat article that one parent was alarmed by the “foul language and the religious skepticism. She went on to say “I am not interested in having books banned … But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing and that’s why I was asking for an alternative assignment. I know it’s not realistic to pretend bad words don’t exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong.” While I respect this parent’s opinion, and the choices she makes on behalf of her student, these factors would not cause me to seek an alternate assignment.  

I think it is realistic for a school to consider the frequency of obscenity in a book when making that book its single choice for summer reading for all grades (although I think it is highly likely that the majority of students entering high school are aware that people use this language). From the very beginning, when I started re-reading the book and realized that the first f-words were uttered by a woman who has just discovered that her dog has been murdered and has a garden fork sticking out of its carcass, I thought to myself, “well, I wouldn’t likely say “darn, my dog is dead.” I would be more likely to be overcome with shock and grief and say something relatively out of character. But I will concede there are probably other books that are just as worthy from a literary standpoint which have milder language.

On the issue of religious skepticism, however, the role of literature is to expose us to varying viewpoints. I want my children, who have been raised in a Christian household, to read books about people from all walks of faith, including NO walks of faith.

Since beginning to re-read the book, I have been reminded of its ASSETS in addition to the components which appear to have caused concerns: a reinforcement of prime numbers, explanations of the literary mechanisms of simile and metaphor, and a detailed insight into one person’s experience of the world from the viewpoint of someone with an Aspergers-like condition. These are all things I want my rising junior to learn.

To quote my friend Yolanda, “Literature is meant to make you think.” Thinking is most comprehensively fertilized when seeded with a VARIETY of thoughts, ideas, and viewpoints, not just those with which we concur.

School System Literature

Ultimately, I want my child to be able to analyze literature, learn from it, and discuss it respectfully with those who agree AND those who disagree. As parents, this situation gives us an ideal opportunity to role model HOW to interact with people of diverse opinions. Let’s not blow it.

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

When I choose to support a cause, I try to understand it as much as possible. That is why, when I read about the Summer Food Challenge which benefits America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend on Facebook, I immediately knew I had to do the “go without food for an entire day” option in addition to the “donate” option.

With a target date of June 18, I thought through which day would be best for my day without food. My thoughts included “make it a day when your workout schedule is light,” “make it a day when you can stay calm and limit your activity,” “make it a beneficial One Day Water Fast day,” and “make it a day free of food temptations.”

But …

Who am I kidding? My life doesn’t work that way!

I was kidding myself to think I could find a low-key, “calm” day! In addition, my day without food was time-limited. I knew I could pick right back up on my nutrition the next day (or, technically, at midnight). It was a novelty. For one out of every five Leon County residents (56,000 of our neighbors, 11,000 of whom are children), who are food insecure, hunger is no novelty. Nor is an abstract term like “food insecure” while accurate, a novelty. It is an imperfect term describing what they really are: hungry. Summer months are especially difficult, since children do not have access to breakfast or lunch programs at school.

I experienced a tiny fraction of how these people must feel:

When I ran four miles with nothing to eat before and no plan to have anything to eat afterwards.

Imagine you are a kid, showing up for school, and it’s time for p.e. or free play. 

Imagine not having the energy to run, climb, be active.

When I took my son through a drive through and smelled the tantalizing aromas of his food, knowing I could not partake.

Imagine you are a kid, seeing your peers filling their tummies, sometimes with “treats” like fries but other times with fresh produce, protein-filled foods, and plenty of hydration.

When I had to deal with the (usually) minor stresses of getting my elderly father-in-law up, fed, dressed, and driven to his physician’s office for an appointment, communicating clearly and calmly while complying with other people’s deadlines.

Imagine you are a kid, navigating through a society with all kinds of people, some nice, some mean, some who want something from you, some who want to be left alone.

Imagine needing a clear head to read cues and a stable blood sugar level to cope with the world around you.

Speaking of needing a “clear head,” when I decided to prepare and deliver a Toastmasters speech on the topic of the Summer Food Challenge that night … when I had to compose and deliver a ten-minute speech to a table full of people munching on chips, salsa, and Mexican food, convincing them to spend money (or time) on food for others instead of tacos for themselves.

Imagine you are a kid, expected to organize yourself and your schoolwork, to submit projects on time, to participate in class energetically, to stave off distraction in order to concentrate on your education.

After My Day Without Food:

I came away from my day without food empathizing more fully with the children (and adults) in our community who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. I came away from my day without food imagining a community where children can play, learn, and live free of food insecurity, free of HUNGER.

Here’s How You Can Help:

If you are on Facebook, go to this link and click “going.”

If you want to feel what the food insecure members of our community experience, join me, Tallahassee Democrat Publisher Skip Foster, Tallahassee Police Department Chief Michael DeLeo, and State Representative Alan Williams in accepting the challenge of going a day without food (without endangering your own health, of course).  Pop in on the Summer Food Challenge Facebook page and let us know how it went.

Download a flier and post it at your work, church, or civic organization.

CONTRIBUTE FOOD OR FUNDS! This choice would have the most impact! Details:

  • Drop off food, cash, or checks made out to ASHBB (note “Fill a Truck”) to the Tallahassee Democrat at 277 N Magnolia Dr between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday – Thursday of this week (6/15/15-6/18/15).
  • Donate online via this link.
  • Drop food off to Target Copy at 635 W. Tennessee Street, and they will match your donation!
  • Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015If you drop off to the Democrat on Thursday, 6/18, between noon and 7 p.m., you can participate in the community weigh-in at the on-site scale. (Let’s hope to exceed last year’s three ton mark!).
  • These are the most useful items: peanut butter, jelly, canned beans, canned tuna/chicken, rice, canned vegetables, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, soups, fruit juice, cookies, crackers, baby food/formula, condiments, and salad dressing.

One action you can take that helps people with food insecurity year-round is to run, walk, or cycle using the Charity Miles app and select Feeding America as your designated charity. For every mile you run or walk, Charity Miles will “sponsor” you, meaning they will donate a quarter for every mile run or walked, and a dime for every mile cycled. It’s that easy! For my four miles on Monday, I earned $1 for Feeding America, for something I would have been doing anyway (and, yeah, I posed after my run with a can of tuna on my head for added effect!).

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

Please thank AMWAT Moving Warehousing Storage and the other sponsors who are working together to make a difference:

Tallahassee Police Department

Tallahassee Democrat

WTXL Channel 27

The POD Advertising

Red Hills Broadcasting

Lamar Advertising Company

Target Copy Tallahassee

America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend

Impact Visual Media

Gandy Printers

FINALLY ……LET’S FILL THAT TRUCK!!!!

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

We Can’t All Be Santa

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.  

Cropped Santa Mail

I don’t remember exactly what Wayne put on his Santa list in 2005, when he was in first grade. I am sure the general theme was “transportation” as in toy trains, remote-controlled cars, and anything else that had wheels, made noise, or (ideally) moved while making noise. All items on the list were meant to be enjoyed “RIGHT NOW.”

First Graders Aren’t Worried About College

First graders aren’t worried about the distant realities of college tuition, how they will pay for their residence hall when they are 18, or the advantage of “current plan pricing.”

First graders don’t know:

  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $23,700 a year more than those without, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • A recent Georgetown University study estimates that a student with a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.6 million more in their lifetime than a student with only a high school diploma
  • It’s projected by a study from Georgetown University that by 2018, 59 percent of jobs in Florida will require post-secondary education
  • In 2013, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 4 percent. For those with only a high school diploma, it was 7.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

I don’t know Santa’s academic credentials, and good for him that he’s got his gig pretty locked down (and oh the cookie benefits!). But he’s certainly the exception to this general truth:

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The Gift of a College Education

Purchasing a Florida Prepaid College Plan for your child now is a gift that will long outlast the stuff that kids beg to see from Santa. As I wrote in my last post about Florida Prepaid, my parents bought Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children with lump sum payments of around $7,000 when they were infants. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education for each of them.

I know it’s a hectic time of year for all of us. I know that part of the fun of sharing the holidays with our children is indulging in some of their favorite “gotta have it now” treats. I’ll tell you what ….. there’s a way to secure your children’s educational future and free up some cash for a treat.

Enrollment Fee Waived!

Sign up for your Florida prepaid plan before December 31 and the $50 enrollment fee will be waived*. It’s almost like found money! (Your prepaid payments won’t begin until April 2015.)

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

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*The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015, but the enrollment fee waiver ends December 31, 2014.

The Gift of Security

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.  

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Photo Credit: Sarah Stephens Photography

At 18 months, my daughter Tenley had the security of a favorite stuffed animal. At 17 years, she was poised to enroll as a freshman at Valdosta State University, with her tuition already taken care of through the Florida Prepaid College Plan.

My parents bought the Florida Prepaid College Plan for Tenley with a lump sum payment of around $7,000 when she was an infant. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education. The ultimate security.  

A Grandparent’s Gift

When I asked him about his choice to purchase Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children when they were infants, my dad said, “I am not a financial genius; however, I was fortunate enough to have the money to invest in our grandchildren’s future.”

Maybe it isn’t genius level to make such a stellar and long-lasting investment, but it is certainly smart if you ask me!

More About Florida Prepaid

The Florida Prepaid College Plan kicked off Open Enrollment on October 15. The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015. There are two incredible new changes this year:

  • Prices are at their lowest point since 2007 (as much as 50% lower)!
  • There is a NEW 1-Year Florida University Plan with a monthly payment of $43.30 for newborns.

In addition, the $50 application fee for newly opened plans will be waived through December 31, 2014!

Although my parents chose the lump sum option and started when Tenley and Wayne were infants, there are a variety of payment plans for children of all ages. (And payments don’t begin until April 2015.)

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

I am a Blogger Believer because a Florida Prepaid College Plan has been one of the primary factors in securing my children’s future.

What are your dreams for your child’s future?

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