An update about NGC in Philly!

I wanted to write and give an update from the Philadelphia Summer Program.

It has been an absolute blast, and just as NGC itself is blessed with some real mojo (unseen forces aligning just for us!), so too does this program seem to be grandfathered under the same magic.  Thus far the right people, places, and things have all come out of left field, and it’s been a trip to watch all the pieces come together 🙂

The final numbers for every program came in at about 20-30 students. Last week we started with the conference call to South Africa, where our teacher pal Doug was able to connect with the students and take them through a prezi on extreme poverty and economic sustainability.  What was super rad about Doug was that he’s spent his past few summers there, so all the photos in his presentation are truly his, and he knows the behind the scenes stories (including names and family stories) of everyone in them.

He spoke on microcredit, access to assets, and introduced the students to the concept of apartheid.  We did an extended version of the puppet activity by treating the students as three groups all day long- Haves, Have Nots, and Have Nothings.  3 students had cookies, OJ, wine glasses, and their own laptop to work on- and 3 students had one piece of paper and one pen.  In the middle, the majority of the students had plain paper and one marker each.  It was an eye-opening day, for all of us!  Doug has asked our students to come join his class for an afternoon when school is back in session, and our students have graciously agreed!

Day 2 we hosted three workshops with Kathryn Schilling, who brought in Snap Clicker technology wherein each student gets a device that looks like the automatic door openers for cars.  They could answer a series of polling power points in trivia Q’s and see their results tallied immediately.  Kat took us through HIV/AIDs etc, Maternal Health, and Gender Equality.  She really engaged the students and spoke very openly about these health issues with them- it was quite refreshing and I know they enjoyed being treated as full adults.  There’s one picture attached of Kat leading them through the snap clicker trivia!

On Day 3, a woman named Crickett came up from RESULTS and led us through a Jeopardy game on Universal Education.  We learned about the IMF, the World Bank, and wrote letters to Chaka Fattah (our local congressman) on behalf of the Education for All Act, which had coincidently been introduced in the house that day.  The letters are incredible, and I’ll likely send copies of some back to the office.  We’ll want to hang onto these for years!   We also learned about Natural Disaster Relief via Nicole Underwood of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Red Cross, who spoke on broad issues regarding relief, as well as some specific examples she has been a part of in Arizona (her on-the-ground response to the wildfires).

Day 4 we chatted with Arber Gorani about Armed Conflict- Arber is a resident of Kosovo and within that, identifies as Albanian, so he was on the persecuted end during the conflicts of 2008.  He shared about his experience being expelled from university because of his Albanian heritage, and how 1.5 million of the country’s 2 million residents (the Albanian portion) were displaced in various forms during the conflict.  We learned about negative peace and positive peace, and Arber shared his experience during the 78 days of Nato bombings.  What an interesting view it was to learn how he, with the other Albanians, was happy to see the bombings- for NATO was acting on behalf of his greater interest- but how it was still frightening to be outside, and he eventually fled to Macedonia.  Arber was SO, SO excited to be presenting to US students, and really made us feel like it was an honor to address us; when in fact, we were so very lucky to have HIM share his time with us.

In the afternoon that same day, Dianna Gillespie came up from DC to lead us through a SUPER interactive, and highly enjoyable, discussion around environmental sustainability.  We learned about the water cycle, about where our food comes from, and about sustainable energy sources.

We then took a field trip to Reading Terminal Market, and allowed the students to shop at an organic, local farm stand.  It was incredible to see the students- who had just learned about beef production cycles and how a hamburger from McDonalds could easily contain parts of a cow from Nebraska, Montana, and Texas- all in one bite– and to watch them pick up grass fed hamburger patties to take home and cook to taste test the difference!  It was a really heartwarming day, and we all left warm and fuzzy.

Today our dear friends at the law firm invited us down to their offices (twenty stories up, in a boardroom overlooking the city) where they helped the students delineate defenses of their issue areas.  In a few hours, these super quiet students went from BARELY whispering their Issue Area by name to standing up and presenting their opening remarks on each issue area:  “Hello, my name is Tianna, and I am going to tell you about why universal education is a truly pressing need.”

Certain students really stood out by engaging others in their presentations, asking questions of their audience, and throwing out facts and figures far beyond the info in their binders (Armed Conflict’s group was up there, throwin’ around Libya like it was nothing!)  My favorite lawyer, Tom, has already submitted a small writeup to the Legal Intelligencer here in Philly about the day.   Tom is also the one who kindly helped us out with securing a $1K donation from the firm by “donating” their services today.  Not a bad guy to have in our court 🙂

Tonight at dinner, my friend Brian (a former DA for the city) asked what school the students were from, and when I said Fels, he couldn’t believe those were the students we were working with.  In his five years with the DA’s office, he said a few schools stood out for producing the most “frequent” visitors to his court; and Fels was one of them.

He was not surprised to hear the students are generally quiet and keep to themselves- they likely have learned to shut up so as not to get into trouble.  It’s amazing to see these students slowly opening up- they are sharing more and more with me and the other staff members, and you can really see that they’re bright kids- but they NEED this program.  They NEED to learn public speaking, and they NEED to learn how to be of service.  But, as the NGC program always, always does– they’re teaching themselves.  All of us adults are just providing the tools and resources, and they’re picking it up quickly.

I’m really proud of all of them already.

One of the programs folded because they had only 3 students, and we were asked to roll those students into our program. In that program’s absence now, their planned field trip to the UN has been opened up to all of us, so next Monday, we are going to travel up to NYC and visit the UN for Nelson Mandela day!!!  Again, there’s that mojo- we couldn’t have asked for a more exciting opportunity.

I’ll cut it here, but wanted to send back all the fun pieces of news.  I’m having SUCH a blast, and can’t wait to see how the rest of the program unfolds.  Keep you all updated- lots of love from the city that’s blessed with a brotherly abundance of it!!


Di 🙂

Malawi Well Repair Project

Water.  Our most precious resource, essential to the existence of every living thing on the planet, yet all too often out of reach of over 1/3 of the world’s population.

1 out of every 4 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease, and in developing countries, about 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.

In rural villages in Malawi, a country with a population of over 15 million people, communities are entirely dependent on wells for clean water.  Each well services roughly 200 to 300 villagers, and can cost up to $30,000 to build.

However these wells often break, becoming inoperable and leaving whole villages without access to clean water. The average lifespan of the donut-shaped rubber piece that rubs against the pipe to create water flow is only about 3-5 years.

In addition, most of the time these wells are drilled by foreign companies and there is no reliable service for maintenance and repair when the pumps stop working.  Many wells need repair within a matter of months after installation, and locals are forced to return to the endless and often fruitless search for potable water.

A broken well increases a village’s dependency, as they are left at the mercy of raising exorbitant amounts of money and relying on outside groups to come and rebuild.

Enter the Malawi Well Repair Project, courtesy of co-founder Dr. Jan Snyder, ASU professor and president of Sustainable Resources Ltd.  Snyder discovered that the wells could be fixed with a few basic tools, some rope, and a $5 piece of rubber.

The MWRP encourages the participation of local community members.  Local residents learn how to maintain and repair their wells, and after receiving the proper training, can then launch small businesses and offer their services to nearby villages.

The impact of the MWRP results in self-sustainability; communities are empowered fiscally through small business entrepreneurship and are trained in a skill set that can be shared with other groups.  More importantly, the village itself possesses the ability to supply clean water for its people and for surrounding communities.

When communities can rely on existing wells that are repaired and maintained locally, dependence on external relief will be reduced and development efforts will indeed become sustainable.