the teach tour uncovering how & why we've failed to educate children worldwide@theteachtour

free money in, free service out; dubious impact all around

In the uncomfortable battle of survival between developed and developing nations, it has recently become a relatively accepted notion that “charity” or more accurately, free money, is no longer the appropriate dissemination tool for poverty alleviation. We’ve accepted that in order for money to make lasting impact, countries and communities cannot simply be showered with gifts but must work to earn their fair dose of human necessities. We’ve learnt the hard way that millions of dollars, while necessary in dire times of need following devastating earthquakes and horrific floods, terror and life ending epidemics, may simply become squandered away in the hands of greedy politicians, corrupt thugs, and those who have not been taught to fish. Can we extrapolate this realization, then, to the lovely, needy, innocent children whose futures are at risk and for whom “earning” their fair share may not be possible?

In meeting with patient, strong willed, articulate Leticia Isaacs of Make a Difference, I learnt about a methodology that I have come to notice as a common thread amongst the youth of our generation.

Gap: All children need an education.

Surplus: Young professionals are educated.

Plug: If we combine the two, in all likelihood, the problem will become alleviated.

The differentiating factors between organizations such as MAD, Dream a Dream, Aashayein Foundation, and MentorTogether, to name the ones I had the pleasure of meeting with, is the method with which they choose to train, incentivize, and deliver their free services to the children. Along with these formalized organizations come the vast number of us who land up in a new place, notice the tools we have in our belt far outweigh the entire toolbox of offerings to many children, and decide to grab our chisel and start chipping away in hopes of creating something like a masterpiece. What is fascinating to see is the impact that is made on the children in the moment, and eventually for their hopeful, bright, beautiful, shining futures.

To be sure, the impact made in this moment is incredible. Visions of smiling, laughing, jumping, and rowdy children, children who daily sit quietly and utter a mere rote retort when spoken to, children who cram the answers to tests and children who often miss school because they once again have the flu, come to mind. Children who learn English from a teacher who speaks only a few words herself get the chance to hear it thrown around at reckless abandon, read it along in a story they embrace, sing it in songs they repeat over and over.

But what will this mean for their future? Will the fly by weekend mentors, teachers, and new-found friends make a lasting impact on their potential?

As I walked away from the 15 courageous young girls rescued from the horrific brothels of Cambodia, the girls I had spent 6 months teaching English and Computer skills to, I questioned why it cut so deeply in me to leave while they seemed at ease with my departure. I realized I had convinced myself that I was going to make as big of an impact on their lives as they had had on mine. That not only was I attempting to “give back”, but that my ad-hoc teachings would outlive my physical presence in their lives.

What was unsettling me was the recognition that I had simply and truthfully just lived in their lives, and they had lived in mine, and that was enough to make us happy, there and then, but that may not have been what it would take to change their lives forever.

Perhaps a deep dive into the experiences of a deer-in-headlights Teach for India‘s full-time 2 year committed teacher is the imperative next step to understand the complexities of the battle we are fighting. Up next…


3 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Diane Hendrix

    Great post, Shabnam. Teach for India looks promising: compelling video. You may want to see for reports on what works in the aid world, with 5 min video reports (edited for 4 mos back home). Tori also learned that a longer commitment is better than drop-ins, which can be destructive, especially for children. thanks for your personal views and analysis! -Diane,

    Oct 30, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  2. Lydia Schultz

    BTW a hyper link to your blog site at Google search result advertising specialist Themelis Cuiper’s list of recommended storys, you are doing a great job as he is pointing towards you?

    Aug 19, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  3. Leila Hernandez

    @:-) A hyper link to your post was provided by Themelis Cuiper’s SocialGarden Business meet-ups about CRM & socialmedia marketing – so you are doing a good job as he provides a link to you!

    Aug 22, 2011 @ 12:53 am