Going to Mali…

31 01 2010

Hi Friends!

Just a brief note to let you know that I will be heading to Mali on Monday for two weeks with the organization I work for, World Vision International.  As the Communication & Research Coordinator for the Education & Life Skills Department, I am managing the creation of a resource for our global education staff that will help facilitate community conversation to improve learning outcomes in children.  I am going with a consultant to capture some of education programs in Mali in photographs for the resource.

I will definitely try to post updates here as much as possible, and would like to ask that you would support me in prayer for safety, health, favor and protection in travel, and that I would do my job well.

Thank you!



26 01 2010

As an update to my recent post about personal interactions with the poor…

I’m so glad God gives us second, third and fourth chances.  Jesus showed up again to me on Saturday, in the Target parking lot, through a homeless woman named Kenna.

She was gutsy – asked me for bus money before I even got out of my car.  I asked her if she was hungry, and invited her into Target with me to get her some food.  While we walked, we talked – she surprised me with her openness.  And she was smart – well connected, with work experience and a giving heart, despite a struggle with mental illness.  We talked about her past battle with drugs and development work in Haiti.  She was up on current events and well-versed in news stories.

Kenna left Target with a sandwich, water, and some bus fare.  I left having a second chance to meet with Jesus.

Education for All 2010 Global Monitoring Report Released: Reaching the Marginalized

26 01 2010

UNESCO’s Education for All coalition recently released their 2010 Global Monitoring Report, which focuses on educating the most marginalized populations.  Check it out here, and read a brief synopsis below posted by the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies:


Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, launched Reaching the Marginalized at UN headquarters in New York on 19 January 2010. This was followed on 20 January by a policy event in Washington, DC at the Brookings Institution. 




Setbacks in education have wider consequences: lost opportunities for education will act as a brake on economic growth, poverty reduction, and progress in health and other areas. Therefore, as articulated by Kevin Watkins, Director of the Global Monitoring Report, “education should be placed at the center of the Millennium Development Goal agenda.





Falling Short of the EFA Goals

On current trends, 56 million primary school age children will still be out of school in 2015.

Another 71 million adolescents are currently not at school.

Gender disparities remain deeply engrained, with 28 countries across the developing world having nine or fewer girls in primary school for every ten boys.

Girls still account for 54 per cent of the children out of school- and girls not in primary school are far less likely than boys ever to attend school.

10.3 million additional teachers will be needed worldwide to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015.

There has been little progress towards the goal of halving adult illiteracy – a condition that affects 759 million people, two-thirds of them women.

Far too many young people emerge from primary school unable to read or write. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, young adults with five years of primary schooling have a 40 per cent chance of being illiterate.

A Collective Aid Failure

According to the 2010 GMR, there has been a collective failure by the donor community to act on the pledge made in 2000 that ‘no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources. An estimated financing gapof US$16 billion annually for 46 low-income countries reflect governments’ ongoing neglect of the need to address extreme inequalities; the world will only get all its children into school by putting the marginalised at the centre of education policy. The authors of the report call on the UN Secretary General to convene a high-level pledging conference in 2010 to address the financing shortfall. With 72 million children still out of school, the report cautions that a combination of slower economic growth, rising poverty and budget pressures, could erode the gains of the past decade:

“While rich countries nurture their economic recovery, many poor countries face the imminent prospect of education reversals. We cannot afford to create a lost generation of children deprived of their chance for an education that might lift them out of poverty,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.


The report also concludes that the

Fast Track Initiative (FTI), the centrepiece of multilateral aid for education, needs fundamental reform. Payout rates are very low, developing countries have a weak voice, the private sector’s role is minimal and countries affected by conflict are poorly served.

Conflict, Natural Disaster and Marginalisation


Discrimination and inequalities based on poverty, gender, location, ethnicity, disability, HIV/AIDS, language and exposure to conflict play a key role in marginalisation – and often combine to reinforce disadvantage – holding back progress in education, wasting human potential and undermining prosperity.

Chapter 3 of the GMR, Getting left behind, explores how the effects of external shocks such as droughts, floods or economic downturns on schooling tend to be more pronounced in low-income countries. The poorest households often find it impossible to shield their children’s schooling from these shocks, adding to the threat of poverty persisting across generations: when children are born in a drought year or experience malnutrition early in their lives, the effects can be seen a decade later in their health and nutritional status, and their education attainment.

The GMR identifies conflict as a potent source of marginalisation in education: over one-third of primary school age children who do not attend school – 25 million total – live in conflict-affected poor countries. Worldwide, around 14 million children aged 5 to 17 have been forcibly displaced by conflict within countries or across borders, into education systems lacking the most rudimentary education facilities. Less easy to measure than the impact on school attendance are the effects of trauma associated with armed conflict on learning.

The report states that the international donor community has not responded effectively to the problems of low-income countries affected by conflict. These countries account for one-third of out-of-school children, but receive less than one-fifth of aid to education. Moreover, aid flows are dominated by a small group of conflict-affected states – notably Afghanistan and Pakistan – while a far larger group is neglected. Overall, education receives less than 2% of humanitarian aid, and many countries have received insufficient support for education reconstruction.

The report calls for governments to adopt targeted policies and practices that combat exclusion and successfully counteract persistent inequalities in education, including:

Improving accessibility and affordability

Implementing accelerated learning opportunities

Strengthening the learning environment

Expanding entitlements and opportunities

A Simple Dream

21 01 2010

Driving home tonight, after a wonderful dance class where I got to jump and giggle and stretch this body that God has given me, where I got to breathe and create, I turned on some worship music and sang along.  And wouldn’t you know, as soon as the chorus rang out with a harmony of “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” I pulled up to a stoplight with a homeless man begging for money.  He was young – it caused me to look twice, to look him in the eye – and for some reason, though I have sat at many stoplights next to homeless men before, this time I wanted to reach into my wallet and pull out everything I had.

My logic, and selfishness no doubt, kept me from doing it – I try to give actual material things or food rather than money, and this night I didn’t have any of those things.  But in the few seconds before the light changed, I couldn’t help but clearly sense the presence of Jesus standing next to me, in this young man’s body.  My mind immediately contemplated Matthew 25, as it has many times in the past: “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in…to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”  As I drove away I couldn’t sing “Hallelujah Jesus” anymore because I knew I had just driven away from him.

And every time these instances happen, when I miss the moment to minister to Jesus, I usually pray for God to help me get it right the next time, and to change my heart so that I can know how to respond in the moment, and be willing to do whatever that response requires.  This time I thought, should I have given him my $10 bill?  Should I have dug for my spare change?

And then the dream came back to me – the one I’ve had for years – the dream to someday have a home and a family where we can truly take in the stranger, clothe the naked and feed the hungry.  Because you see, if that really was Jesus standing on the side of the road, I don’t think I would have given him my dollar or even 10 or 20.  I think I would have invited him into my home and prepared for him a meal and given him my own bed, with the finest sheets.  I would have asked him to tell me stories and I would have wanted, more than anything, for his life to change my own…for the intersection of our journeys to matter to me.

Giving to the poor is not just about dropping off clothes at Goodwill or serving at a food bank, or freely giving away your spare change, though those are all good things.  But I think what Jesus was trying to say was that the interaction should be personal.  We would never give to Jesus in any other way.

I’m going to bed tonight reminded of the simple dream to live a life that’s personal with the poor…with Jesus.  Think of the mutual transformation that would take place if we allowed our schedules and our spaces to be interrupted by the hungry and the homeless?  If we took them all into our lives as if they were our King?

If there’s anything my life is to be about, I want it to be about that.