Monthly Archives: December 2009

Pierce Elementary Students Respond to the Need for Female Education

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Pierce School Students at the Literacy Walk

The presence of Pierce School’s 6th grade students and their families, wearing Barakat’s bold orange T- shirts and carrying banners as they walk full of spirit, was an exciting sight at Barakat’s Walk for Literacy this past October.  The students were happy to be part of the event as they knew it was for a purpose which was dear to them–helping those who are truly in need with the knowledge that their support can bring a change.

These committed students have played a vital role in the success of the Barakat’s Literacy Walk in 2008 and 2009.  Not only did a large number of students participate with their parents and teachers, but the group also raised more than $8000 dollars!

It’s easy to wonder why 6th grade students from Brookline, MA would choose to raise money for women and children on the other side of the globe.  What does the Walk for Literacy mean for these students?  How do they believe they are helping education around the world?  Read the students’ answers below to learn why they took up the cause with such passion.

What is Barakat’s Role?

Arthur, a 6th grade student, defines Barakat’s mission as “a non-profit organization which is helping to educate women and girls in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Every cent that is donated to Barakat, goes to help and to build schools for girls”.

Why Walk for Literacy?

Isabelle shared her opinion on what inspires her to work for the literacy walk: “One day a lady from the Barakat organization named Arti came to our school to speak about Barakat and girls and women in Afghanistan. We were all inspired by what she said and we were horrified by some of the facts she told us. We decided to split into three groups to help Barakat raise money. They include fundraising,  advertising, and understanding Afghanistan. Together we are trying to get people to go to our walk, the walk for literacy.”

How to Help Walk for Literacy?

Thea of class 6L shared her views: “I know I’m doing it for a good cause. I know there are many people who aren’t as privileged as me. It feels good to be helping others. I feel very lucky to have the education after learning about the girls in Afghanistan. So I decided to do the walk. My goal is $100, I’m walking 5 miles. I hope my money goes a long way. If I am able to raise $100 I will be able to send 2 girls to school for a year.

Abby, a fellow student, says, “I think it is really good idea to do the walk to help people in Afghanistan get education. My goal is to raise $50 over the registration fee of $25. I also want to get a couple of people to sponsor me, so I can raise as much as possible. I hope a lot of people go and help raise money for the girls in Afghanistan.”

Jason tells us “I’m excited as I’ve done these kind of walks before to raise money and help the cause. My goal is $100. I think others should also come do the walk.  It will be fun and a lot of Pierce students and teachers will be there.”

On the Walk Day – The View from 5 Miles: By Cierra

“The crowd was getting larger as more people were coming. After everybody settled down with their food and coffee the founder of Barakat started making speech. The first people he thanked were the parents, teachers and students of the Pierce School. While he was talking it seemed that everybody’s eyes wandered over to the Pierce School banner which our school had designed to represent who we are. After the speeches we headed on our walk. About 1/5 through the walk it started raining but the people were determined to finish. Soon in the distance I could see the Barakat sign hanging on arched entrance. I was happy that I competed the 5 mile walk, but my feet were KILLING ME! When we arrived, we were greeted and congratulated by the other walkers.”

Empowering women in poverty

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Something unique happens when women get together.  The conversation is different, the atmosphere changes, and barriers are removed.  Teachers working in Barakat’s schools see this happen in our women’s literacy courses, which are taught by women for women.  In a male-dominated society, these courses are an opportunity for women to express themselves freely, spend quality time with other women outside of their own home, and gain literacy and numeracy skills that can literally change and truly improve their lives.

Something similar is happening with an organization called Dining for Women.  This grassroots campaign, started by women to involve women in giving to other women, invites women to get together and “dine in”, donating the money they would have otherwise spent at a restaurant toward women living in poverty. 

Dining for Women funds programs focused on health, education, and economic self sufficiency.  Dining for Women also emphasizes collective giving as those who participate can make a larger joint donation than individuals working alone.  At Barakat, we realize that women play a significant role in family, education, society, and development, and our goal is to empower women—young and old—to impact the world around them.

Much like Barakat, Dining for Women recognizes that women living in extreme poverty may not have access to support systems and as a result, they and their families may suffer.  The goal of both Dining for Women and Barakat is to give women the tools they need to provide for themselves and their families.  Barakat’s education programs empower women at the grassroots level, as women who become literate are able to find jobs and make a living to support their families. Both Barakat and Dining for Women share the vision that empowering women is key in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Barakat and Maternal Health

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Maternal health is vital issue around the globe but unfortunately it does not receive the attention and action that it deserves.  Afghanistan has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, next to Sierra Leone.  According to a recent Christian Science Monitor article, two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population has no maternal nor child health services and only ten percent of Afghanistan’s hospitals are equipped for Cesarean surgeries.  Eighty percent of maternal deaths in Afghanistan are preventable.  According to a recent Washington Times article , causes of these statistics include:  lack of facilities, impassable roads that isolate communities, and a severe lack of medical professionals to treat and educate.  The odds are stacked against women as they are unable to afford a hospital, cannot access one even if they can afford it, and because of cultural values of their conservative societies, are prohibited from examination by male doctors.

There has been a growing trend as of late where women are taking the initiative themselves to promote maternal health.  Midwives are going from village to village in Afghanistan teaching how to efficiently wash hands and encouraging even very young girls to listen in and educate themselves on health care.  This is vital in a country where poverty and illiteracy are a part of everyday life and access to health information is extremely limited.  In addition to maternal care, the midwives teach women how to support a baby’s head and how to cut the umbilical cord when the child is born.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, this has been life-saving for many mothers and it provides an income for the midwives, increasing their economic standing in society.
Barakat’s programs focus on a more comprehensive health education system as our schools provide basic health services and education.  Health checkups and treatments are available for our students.  Patients who need specialized care, treatments, and medicine are taken to the hospital.  Barakat aims to have health check-ups on a monthly basis in the future.  The trend of NGO’s making positive impacts on Afghanistan’s social problems is a necessity because the Afghan government simply cannot provide the necessary services for it’s people at the moment.  Until these services can be provided for the Afghan people, NGOs will continue to be necessary to improve people’s livelihoods through health care, food, and education.

Maternal Mortality cuts the life of so many women short and is extremely detrimental to development of their children as well as society as a whole.  Together with other NGO’s, Barakat is working to reduce these staggering statistics.

Why Non-Profits Will Succeed in a Recession Economy

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The start of the recession in the United States was in part due to large corporation investments in unstable or unsure companies.  The result of this was a plethora of huge deficits and the losses of pensions and 401ks for thousands of Americans, not to mention the emotional toles and damaged peace of mind.  Since then, the economy has been mired in an unstable status and people and companies are taking less risks with their money.

Some make the argument that since companies have less resources, donations and corporate sponsorships for non-profits will decrease dramatically.  This assumption is misguided and over-exaggerated.  Though it is true companies and individuals have less capital to work with, they will use that capital in the most efficient and certain way.  They want to know what they are getting for their money and where their money is going.  They most importantly want a sure return on their investment.
Non-profits fit the mold of these conditions perfectly because investors know exactly what they are getting, and they know what their money will be used for.  The social return is certain and the risk is very low.  Non-profits are like treasury security bonds with a social return.

Barakat provides a transparent view of their financial information showing what percentage of donations go where. When people invest in Barakat, they know what percentage goes towards its education programs, and what percentage is used for running the organization.  Investing in Barakat is one of the most certain things one can do with their money.  By donating to Barakat, one is investing in women and children who with education, will lead this world in the future.  That’s an investment with a return that is priceless.