Peshawar, the capital of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is a city of about 3 million people. This ancient city was one of the ten largest cities in the world in AD 100. It is also a strategic city in the global effort to eradicate polio because of its proximity to Afghanistan and the formerly Taliban-controlled parts of Pakistan. Monday, I checked it out.
Guided by Rotarian Nosherwan Khan and accompanied by a film crew working on a related project for Rotary International, I observed the Sub-National Immunization Day (SNID) activities in Peshawar and checked out the Permanent Transit Point at the Lady Reading Hospital.
Unlike my experiences with National Immunization Day activities in India and Ethiopia where children are invited to visit temporary or permanent immunization centers, the SNID here is run house-to-house. The army of people contacting every child in the country is a group known as the “Lady Health Workers” or LHWs. The program is run jointly by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
The LHWs are, in my experience, young women though reportedly the government has sought more mature women. The wages of about $125 are modest even by Pakistani terms, but the LHWs take real pride in the work they do. The workers consistently report being respected members of the community because of the work they do. Relatively few women in Pakistan work outside the home, allowing these women a sense of pride.–
Following our visit to the back streets of Peshawar, we visited the regions largest hospital, the Lady Reading Hospital, a campus of buildings providing health care to millions of people around the region.
Let me just interject a personal observation. While walking the streets of a poor neighborhood in Peshawar can be discouraging–the fetid water standing in open sewers and dung cakes drying on the walls of building for fuel are clear signs of a poverty that I have not experienced–wandering the halls of the hospital here was shocking. The standard of care was so far from what we expect in the developing world–vomit and other bodily fluids left to dry on floors, overcrowding, and patients lying nearly naked on the filthy floors–left me thankful for having won the lottery of birthplace. It was relatively easy to see happy, healthy kids playing in the street and feel a sense of patience and forward progress in the presence of the polio workers. In the hospital, however, I could feel only a sense of tragedy as the mass of humanity suffered around me. I felt completely impotent.
In the hospital, we found four separate teams doing vaccinations. These teams were a bit older than the LHWs going house-to-house and included an equal number of men. The oldest was only 30 years old and almost all were still in school. The $125 per month salary seemed to be a near perfect complement to a student’s life. In fact, as I visited with one, he answered my questions assuming that I just understood that he was a student, something that only became clear when I asked him directly.
One of the polio workers introduced herself only as Nosheen. She is married, 30 years old with three children and studying to become a dental surgeon. She speaks good English and carries herself with a confidence that suggests she not only runs things but that her career plans are inevitable.
In contrast, another polio worker in the hospital introduced herself as Wakalat, which is exactly what her official identification offered as her full name. Wakalat is 22 and has a six year old son, Mohammad, and “is separated” from her husband. The deadbeat dad is gone and the little family receives no support from him. The duties of being a mother and a polio worker overwhelm Wakalat. She was the only worker I interviewed at the hospital who was not also a student.
All of the polio workers expressed pride in the work they do and excitement to see polio eradicated once and for all. Using a variety of techniques to reduce missed children and refusals, it seems likely that they will see their goal realized with suspension of transmission of wild polio virus in the current calendar year.
While I would prefer not to use a war metaphor for the effort to eradicate poverty—there is enough war in the world—the imagery is apt. There is an enemy, the polio virus, and an army, the 20 million health care workers engaged in polio vaccinations around the world, and victims, mostly children who must be protected.
The battles front lines are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With many of Afghanistan’s polio cases in recent years tied to Pakistan, it is safe to say that Pakistan is where the action is. You see, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries on earth that have never eradicated polio and they are the only two countries in the world to have polio cases in 2016.
Afghanistan has reported five cases of polio so far this year, up from one at this point last year. Pakistan has had just 9, down from dozens last year.
To put that in perspective, India reported its last case of polio in January of 2011. There were 42 cases of polio in India in 2010. We are clearly seeing polio in its final stages, but can the world achieve global eradication in 2016?
That is the question I seek to answer in my visit to Pakistan this week.
The polio eradication effort was announced by Rotary International in 1985. Despite the announcement, large scale efforts weren’t undertaken until 1988, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control signed on as a partner in the “Polio Plus” effort. The “Plus” was a reference to routine immunizations. Soon, UNICEF and later the World Health Organization (WHO) would join the fight. Later still, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would join the partnership that came to be called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative or GPEI.
Today, the Gates Foundation is by far the largest funder of the fight to eradicate polio, but their aggregate funding isn’t much more than the $1.5 billion provided by Rotary over the 30 years it is had the effort. The Gates Foundation now matches Rotary donations 2 to 1 and makes additional donations to UNICEF and others to support polio eradication.
Ultimately, however, the efforts of these large NGOs (non-governmental organizations) serves to catalyze and support the work of governments around the world whose participation has proven essential.
In India, for instance, when the Rotary effort began in the late 1980s, the work was viewed by the volunteers as impossible. Each year, 170 million children needed to be vaccinated several times in order to stem the spread of the disease. Rotarians took comfort in the knowledge that the children they immunized were less likely to get the disease (several doses are required to achieve 90 percent immunity).
In the early 2000s, however, the Indian Government recognized that with the help and support of the GPEI members, polio could be eradicated in India. All levels of government from local to national engaged and adopted polio eradication as a universal objective. In 2014, the WHO declared the country officially polio free. The success was a function of collaboration among all levels of government and all members of the GPEI.
So, will 2016 be the year of the last case of polio in Pakistan. We all hoped it would be, but hopes are dimming. Polio has a low season in the late winter and early spring and a high season in summer and fall. As Pakistan moves into the sweltering weather of summer, the virus appears to be in circulation, suggesting we may wait until early 2017 to see the last case.
My trip, premature though it may be, reflects my personal optimism that polio will be eradicated soon. Visiting Pakistan will give me an opportunity to explore the challenges that have prevented eradication in this region and learn what is being done to combat the virus and exterminate it once and for all.
You’ve heard it before. It may not be polite, but it makes a clear point–usually a critical one–to say “the inmates are running the asylum.” It may not be much of an exaggeration to think that the first person to think of putting high school students in charge of their own education might need to be committed. But that didn’t stop them.
This fall, their grand experiment will begin. Thirty students will participate in an independent micro-school directed by the students.
The program has grown up within a broader, student-led initiative called One Stone in Boise, Idaho.
Current chairwoman Simone Migliori explains that “the lack of student voice incorporated into community issues” motivated the creation of One Stone.
She says, “We are working to bring students into the discussion by giving them leadership positions and empowering them with ownership over their work when it comes to relevant community issues that they are passionate about solving.”
It hasn’t been easy, she says. “Daily, students face the challenge of not being taken seriously. Though they present the unique viewpoint of the next generation, their ideas are often overlooked.”
Simone recognizes the limitations of students to tackle big social problems. “Our students work very hard to come up with innovate solutions to community issues that they are truly passionate about. Unfortunately, there are some needs that high school students are not qualified meet. We often find alternative methods of approaching these problems that employ our strengths.”
Ultimately, she hopes that the organization will empower the students to become world-changing leaders. “One Stone’s programs make students better leaders and the world a better place. Our projects are often catalysts for broader social change. Bringing student voice into community issues empowers our next generation of leaders and draws on their innovation and creativity to ultimately disrupt for good.”
On Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 5:00 Eastern, Simone will join me here for a live discussion about the remarkable experiment to put students in charge of their own education. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
I met one of Simone’s student director colleagues last month on the Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic.
More about One Stone:
One Stone is a student led and directed nonprofit that makes students better leaders and the world a better place. One Stone engages teenagers through 3 community-based platforms: experiential service in Project Good, marketing and creative services through our social venture, Two Birds (a student led advertising agency), and social entrepreneurship through Solution Lab (our incubator for revolutionary ideas). In the fall of 2016, One Stone will launch the first student led innovative, design-thinking micro-school in the country.
Simone Migliori is a senior in high school and chair of the board of directors at One Stone, a student-led and directed nonprofit in Boise, Idaho. Simone is passionate about student voice and utilizing the creativity of the next generation to affect real, impactful social change in the community. For the past 6 months, Simone has been part of a team that has researched and developed a 21st century “un”-school–led by students, for students. The school will launch in the fall of 2016.
Jean Krisle is a miracle worker. She observed a problem we all seem to recognize–a lack of free drug treatment beds for those who most need the help. Unlike the rest of us, Jean did something about it.
Jean launched 10,000 Beds, Inc., a nonprofit dedicating to finding free treatment beds for addicts who have no resources and no where else to go. The beds come from treatment facilities around the country, which Jean asks them to donate.
Jean has learned some lessons from her efforts and shares three tips that will help any social entrepreneur make miracles happen:
On Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Jean will join me here for a live discussion about her work and her three tips for having more impact–making miracles happen–as a social entrepreneur. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about 10,000 Beds, Inc.:
10,000 Beds, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization launched in 2015 to provide scholarship opportunities for addiction treatment to qualifying individuals in need. We do this by partnering with quality treatment centers throughout the nation who scholarship one or more treatment beds (the equivalent of a minimum of 30 days of treatment) each year. Our clients typically have no where else to go, they have burned every bridge, have no financial resources, they need and want help – they have hit bottom. Our goal is to identify and award 10,000 scholarship treatment beds by 2020.
Jean Baugh Krisle is the Founder and CEO of 10,000 Beds, Inc. Jean’s résumé spans her tenure as Director of Marketing & Communications for CHOICE Humanitarian (Utah), Vice President of Communications for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (Washington DC), Vice President of Development for several nonprofit organizations including Richard Paul Evans’ The Christmas Box International (Utah) and the Rio Grande Foundation (New Mexico), Director of Corporate and Community Outreach for Suncadia Resort (Washington state), and Executive Director at several Chambers of Commerce in Southern California. Prior to “officially” jumping on the nonprofit wagon in the mid-80s, Jean served as a Trustee for Rim of the World Unified School District in Lake Arrowhead, California, and as a lobbyist for K-12 education in Sacramento.
A leader and trainer in the nonprofit industry for more than three decades, Jean’s passion for addiction treatment and recovery is anchored in the love and heartache of a mother whose family has been affected by addiction. Combining her passion for recovery with her decades-long career in philanthropy led Jean to create 10,000 Beds in 2015. A professional speaker, coach, and consultant, Jean is committed to helping those who need addiction treatment but do not have the necessary resources to obtain it on their own.
In the past, I have observed that the best entrepreneurs are not the ones who see the glass as half full, but instead are the ones who see it as “almost full.”
Vanessa Bartram is that sort of entrepreneur. One who quiets her doubts and charges ahead. And she does it with an eye toward changing the world.
In 2008, Vanessa launched what has become a $2 million per year staffing firm, focusing on paying fair wages and alleviating poverty.
She says, “I was interested in social change from the time I was 12 years old. But having two entrepreneurs as parents made business my natural ‘toolkit’ for working on those issues. We absorb and embrace what we hear about around the dinner table. I tried several different avenues to social change – non-profits, development agencies, foreign service – but ultimately business is the road that most suits and energizes me.”
As I spoke with Vanessa about the challenges she’s faced in her career, she laughed, “I’m not very good at identifying obstacles. I see everything as an opportunity.”
She acknowledged that building WorkSquare has been a challenge because she is competing with firms that not only don’t share her values, but don’t always obey laws like paying overtime wages or screening for undocumented immigrants.
She does remember, however, those early days when everything was more tenuous. “The first two years were a blur of waking up every night at 3:00 AM wondering if this is actually going to work.” It did. And, transitioning from entrepreneur to investor, Vanessa has gone on to launch LAVAN, a group of like-minded impact investors focusing on investments in Israel and the global Jewish community.
She is just now launching an impact fund called ZORA. She acknowledges that with her first investor pitch coming up next Monday, she’s feeling “one of those moments” coming when she wonders if anyone will show up to hear her pitch.
The Princeton and Harvard-educated entrepreneur credits a love for solving problems as the core of her success. “An addiction to learning and challenge? Having a big, scary, ‘can we actually pull this off?’ challenge in front of me is what excites me and gets me out of bed each morning. And the challenges I find most compelling are to figure out what we can do to honor and develop the incredible potential within every human being on our planet. There is unfortunately no end to this work. But the stimulation from the constant learning it requires and the inspiration I receive from fellow impact entrepreneurs fuel me to keep plowing ahead.”
On Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM Eastern, Vanessa will join me hear for a live discussion about her success and the lessons she’s learn along the way. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about ZORA:
(2015 – Present) ZORA is a Tel Aviv-based impact investment fund that sees Israel’s unique potential to become the world’s leading source of exceptional social impact companies. Together with the individuals, family offices, and foundations that invest with us, ZORA is bringing this vision to life. We invest in, and work closely with, outstanding Israeli impact entrepreneurs who have scalable solutions to pressing global challenges in health, education, poverty alleviation, and the environment.
More about LAVAN:
(2015 – Present) LAVAN is a global community bringing together Jewish values and the power of business to repair our planet. Our mission is to develop the next generation of impact investors and entrepreneurs, in Israel and around the world, who view impact investing and social entrepreneurship as meaningful expressions of Jewish identity. We support early-stage Israeli impact entrepreneurs, engage and develop young talent, and curate impact investment and learning opportunities. Note: I will be in New York at time of interview for LAVAN’s first pitch event, bringing four fantastic Israeli impact entrepreneurs to pitch to investor communities in New York (May 16th) and San Francisco (May 18th)! Fun, fun, fun.
More about WorkSquare:
(2008 – Present) WorkSquare is a Miami-based staffing and recruiting firm designed to improve financial and professional outcomes for low-income workers. WorkSquare is a certified “B Corp” and has been recognized nationally by the Hitachi Foundation and others for its unique for-profit approach to workforce development and poverty alleviation. She continues to serve as WorkSquare’s Founder and Chair.
Vanessa is an impact entrepreneur turned impact investor. She is Managing Partner of Zora Ventures, a micro-VC focused on Israeli entrepreneurs with solutions to global challenges in health, poverty, education and the environment. In addition, she co-founded LAVAN, a network of US impact investors supporting social entrepreneurs in Israel and the Jewish world. Vanessa also serves as Israel’s local champion for “B Corp,” a global movement and certifying agency for impact businesses. In 2008, Vanessa founded WorkSquare, a Miami-based staffing and recruiting firm designed to improve financial and professional outcomes for low-income workers. WorkSquare is a certified “B Corp” and has been recognized nationally by the Hitachi Foundation, Forbes and others for its unique for-profit approach to workforce development and poverty alleviation. She continues to serve as WorkSquare’s Founder and Chair. Prior to launching WorkSquare, Vanessa spent four years working in mergers and acquisitions, primarily with KPMG Corporate Finance in Mexico City. She provided sell-side advisory services to mid-market clients, preparing valuation analyses, drafting offering memoranda, and identifying strategic and financial acquirers. While in Mexico, Vanessa also provided pro bono consultation to Ashoka and the InterAmerican Development Bank. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Princeton University. She is a Heritage Fellow with the Wexner Foundation and a Miami Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year.
This is a guest post from Nicholas Midler.
Stories about struggling school districts in America frequently crop up in news cycles, but the U.S. Virgin Islands paints a picture of what these schools are actually in danger of sliding into. Located two and a half hours by plane from Miami, the Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory. The Islands’ warm climate and tropical beaches make them a popular tourist destination, but venture inland from the tourist attractions and you’ll find a far less rosy picture in the Islands’ schools. To help reverse the educational trends on the island, I started The Family Connection Kindercamp, a six-week nonprofit summer camp for students entering or repeating kindergarten on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
When I first started The Family Connection Kindercamp one statistic stuck squarely in my mind as a motivator. When Virgin Island students were assessed upon entering Kindergarten, 53% tested as below proficient in language skills. It is easy to hold such statistics in abstract, but their devastating effects are reflected in the Islands’ crumbling economic outlook. The unemployment rate clocks in at 11.7%, and 68% of children below the age of four receive Federal food aid. Even more troubling, the results from a recent series of standardized tests correlated to the new Common Core standards revealed that 83% of VI schoolchildren from the third to eleventh grade failed to meet expectations for English and 93% failed math.
It was the goal of the six-week camp to turn these statistics around and set its students on a path of higher academic achievement. I wanted the roughly 80 kids enrolled annually in the camp to avoid being a part of the dismal education statistics on the island, such as 47% of VI youths aged 18 to 19 who don’t have a high-school diploma. The camp intervenes before kids enter kindergarten to give them a strong foundation for future academic success.
The issue of how best to prepare incoming students for kindergarten is a topic that has proved itself worthy of lengthy debates. The topic is especially pressing for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. According to a study from the University of Kansas, kids from lower income areas have heard 30 million fewer words by the age of four. Intervening early in a student’s academic life offers a way to head off this vicious cycle of declining performance, but turning around test results is a delicate game. State and Federal budgets are strained enough without having to pay for pre-K, and my experience at The Family Connection Kindercamp has taught me that it often takes a group effort from the community to ensure success.
Parents are a particularly vital part of this community. From birth to age five, the human brain undergoes 90% of its development. In these crucial first years parents define the bulk of their child’s experiences. Even after school enrollment, parents continue to exert great influence over their child’s development. It is not without reason that researchers call parents a child’s first and most important teacher. The Family Connection Kindercamp drew on this influence by continually keeping its door open for parents who wanted to volunteer at the camp. Not only is the volunteer parent a boon to the camp, which benefits from the extra supervision, but the camp is a veritable idea factory for the helpful parent. The activities, games, and teacher-student interaction all demonstrate ways for the involved parent to engage with their child at home. There is no better way to learn than by doing, and volunteering at the camp provides parents with a first-hand look at the teaching techniques and expectations of school.
The learning that does take place in a classroom is rapidly shifting in manner. Play is being reevaluated from an odious necessity used to placate puerile attention spans to the teacher’s best friend. Fun activities and games that engage a young student’s attention are now thought to be an effective teaching method. Instead of tracing the letter “A” fifty times in a textbook, the alphabet is now being taught with glue, construction paper, and glitter. Coupled with Socratic style questions that encourage the child to consider or think deeply about the activity, this play through learning technique outpaces more traditional teaching methods by far.
The Family Connection Kindercamp adapted this new technique by breaking the classroom down into several activity stations. Students can rotate between different activities, each of which exercises different skill sets. The different stations not only increases engagement by making learning fun, but the jostling and communication between groups encourages good behavior and serves as an informal introduction to the classroom setting.
To keep the independence thrust upon the kids by the child-led curriculum from descending into chaos, behavioral routines had to be established. Expectations were set, and kids soon learned how to work constructively in the classroom. An independent review authored by Elizabeth Jaegar, an early childcare Ph.D., catalogued the curriculum’s role in the success of the program. The report notes that “during the last week of the program, the classrooms appeared to be ‘well-oiled machines’ where children moved smoothly from a large group activity to choice time at various learning stations throughout the room.” The report even describes “one child [who] even cried and pleaded with his mother to stay longer,” demonstrating that the children find the open-ended syllabus to be fun and engaging.
All of these techniques would have been useless if adequate funding for the camp couldn’t be raised. Hosting a pre-kindergarten summer program is no small effort, and the federally mandated teacher to student ratio of around 10-1 ensures that these programs lack neither cost nor quality. The federal Headstart program, which provides high quality pre-K to economically disadvantaged children, is a case in point. In 2014, Headstart spent just under 8.6 billion dollars for just under one million kids.
The Family Connection Kindercamp, though nowhere near the same size, is able to provide a week of high quality early-childhood education for $95 per child through a public-private partnership model. The program benefits from funds and in-kind gifts furnished by both the government and private donors. Classes take place in rent-free public school classrooms that were already stocked with useful resources. Accredited public school teachers who have years of experience and a college degree under their belt, teach the program.
The public-private partnership is in many ways a metaphor for the cooperation needed for early-childhood education to succeed. The benefits of initiating high quality pre-K are fairly straightforward. It remedies learning gaps before they blossom into dismal test scores and drop out statistics, and it has the potential to establish a level playing field for all American children. Winning this meritocracy is no simple matter but it can start with you. If just a fraction of the money spent by tourists on the U.S. Virgin Islands went towards supporting the public-private model, the dismal statistics that inspired me to make a change in early childhood education could be reversed.
This is a guest post from The Pontes Group.
Born and raised in New York, Kyle Michaud appreciated adventure and entrepreneurism at a young age. Having been influenced by the city that never sleeps, Kyle’s approach to business has made him successful across multiple industries.
While studying Economics at SUNY University of Albany, Kyle was determined to jump start his first business by launching an event production business, which was later sold in November of 2013. Shortly after, he embarked on his latest adventures and launched the Green Planet Festival and The Yoga Expo in 2015. Backed by a powerful skill set and passion for the cause, these quickly become two of the fastest growing green and eco-friendly festivals in the nation.
The Green Planet Festival, which recently took place on February 27th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is on a mission to inspire change by connecting eco-conscious consumers with environmentally sustainable companies. Kyle’s vision was to create an over-the-top spin on the farmers market which educates South Floridians on sustainable choices and organic foods. The festival, open to the public, saw over 6,000 attendees, 23 journalists, and over 150 exhibitors that all health conscious community members could enjoy. The festival was also sponsored by a variety of well known companies such as Publix, The Fresh Market, Zico, Daiya, Vitamix, and Orange Theory Fitness.
The Yoga Expo invites all individuals to experience mindful living in a judgement-free atmosphere in eight different cities including Fort Lauderdale, Santa Clara, Washington D.C., Denver, Houston, Vancouver B.C., Los Angeles, and Portland. The expo features over 150 classes and workshops welcoming all styles, practices, ages and experience levels. The Yoga Expo offers yogis an experience to explore unlimited yoga, taste local foods, listen to live music, and shop the unique yoga marketplace. It is currently sponsored by national brands including Gardein, Daiya, Spirituality & Health, Athleta, GoMacro, and Jade Yoga.
Between both the Green Planet Festival and the Yoga Expo, Kyle has successfully promoted sustainability to over 17,000 people, and that number is only just beginning to grow. His venture into the green community has served as an inspiration for people to make green choices everyday, improving the overall quality of life on our planet.