Monday, October 18, 2010

Random and Disjointed

Before my Education in Emergencies class today, the only thing making my smile for the past few days was random quotes from Firefly.  Mostly courtesy of the wonderful and amazing Jen, but also a mad product of my own procrastination and low tolerance for reading long-winded theories and treatises that have no relevance to the real world whatsoever, thus causing me to waste substantial amounts of time on and related sites rather than doing anything remotely related to work.  Yes, I know that’s a long sentence, but that’s how it tumbled out of my brain, and I have no real desire to proofread it.  

Speaking of Jen, I’m abandoning my earlier promise to protect the guilty by using abbreviations for names.  It’s just too much work.  I keep typing the whole name out, remembering that I’m not supposed to do that, and going back to fix the error.  Too time consuming...or I’m just too lazy...either way.  Also, I really think that I just wanted a reason to nickname Mo “Mei Mei,” since that’s what I call her in my head sometimes.  So that one’s going to stick.  JP2 might stick as well, since I found that particularly amusing, and I do enjoy pushing buttons...  The rest of you though?  Forget it.  There are an inordinate number of you with names starting with either “J” or “L” and it’s just too much work - especially since I actually call Laurie “L” instead of using her whole name, and that would just get too confusing with Liz, Linnea, Lisa and LeAnne.  So if you’ve done anything particularly amusing as of late, prepare to be outed.  Just sayin’.  I’m too lazy and not creative enough to protect your identity.  It happens.  ;-)

At any rate, after class today, I’m feeling a little better, and I have a [mostly] renewed sense of hope and optimism.  Which is especially ironic in that class itself was incredibly depressing.  I’ll share some of the statistics presented below, but class served to reinvigorate me and remind me exactly what I want to be doing, and why I’m here in the first place.  So with that in mind, I’ll share with you the initial story that inspired me to write last week’s entry in the first place.

We had an opportunity two weeks ago to speak with Bente Aasen, the education in emergencies director in Pakistan for Save the Children and the official UNICEF/UNESCO coordinator of NGOs (yep, never thought I’d be in a field with more acronyms than TFA had in Atlanta, but here I am).  She spoke about how for many children, ongoing conflicts were just business as usual, and growing up in a war zone was all they have ever known.  She went on to share the inspiring story that I touched on last time about women implementing “tea party” home schooling centers so that their daughters could attend school without fear of being bombed by the Taliban.  Women would organize “tea parties” at different homes each day.  The girls would travel with their mothers to the new location, and teachers would meet them all there and conduct the lessons for the day, while the mothers had tea in an adjacent room, removing any hint of impropriety from outside observers.  This kind of ingenuity, compassion and cooperation with one another is what I found to be remarkable and inspiring.  Women opening up their homes to one another to ensure that their children could receive some formal training is remarkable.  More remarkable is the effects that even simple schooling such as this can have.

In Afghanistan, 16% of all women have attempted suicide at some point in their life.  Another 65% have had suicidal thoughts, and overall, 97% of women are clinically depressed.  Even worse, with the Afghan population hovering around 29 million, there are only 8 trained Afghan psychiatrists in the entire country.  Attending tea party schools serves a vital role for these girls, allowing them to interact with their peers, and stave off some of the effects that living in a war zone can bring on.  That, combined with the fact that for every year of primary education a girl receives, the number of children she will have in the future decreases, and her likelihood of contracting a fatal disease, as well as the mortality of her children, decreases by 5-10%, is reason enough to ensure she gets an education.  All because her mother was brave enough to personally bring her to school!  I find these stories to be inspiring, and I cannot imagine what gumption it must take to daily dodge bombs and sniper fire, simply to achieve basic literacy.  It’s just absurd.

Those points made by Bente were reinforced today in class by a guest lecture from Gerald Martone, the director of emergency responses for the International Rescue Committee.  He reiterated those stats, and gave us a few new ones to chew on that I feel the need to pass along:
  • There are currently 25-27 active armed conflicts taking place in the world right now.
  • Currently, 1 in every 170 people in the world are refugees.
  • For every 5 soldiers killed in modern conflicts, 95 civilians are killed.  During the US Civil War, this statistic was flip-flopped.  Then civilians even would take picnic baskets to hillsides near battlefields to watch the action.
  • In Afghanistan, it is cheaper to buy a boy for labor than to hire one.
  • The average time a person spends in a refugee camp is 17 years.
How utterly absurd that statistics like this can exist in today’s world!  This class has really reiterated my desire to continue working in International Education, and despite all of the depressing stats Martone shared, I found his commitment to his work and his optimism that effective change can be made to be inspiring.  I’m glad he came today, cause I was in definite need of a reminder as to why I do upwards of 1,000 pages of reading each week!

On an unrelated note, after re-watching Firefly (again), busting out all week long to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, and freaking out tonight when I missed Castle because of a CUPID training, I have determined that I’m a little bit in love with Nathan Fillion.  Just wanted to throw that out there.  Cuase I’ve totally got it bad for Captain Tightpants.  Also, no wisecracks about how I’m a member of a group called CUPID.  I’m aware of how ridiculous the name is.  Trust me, if I were in charge, instead of being the Columbia University Partnership for International Development, we’d be the Organization of Students for Intergroup Relations and International Studies, or something similarly witty.  I’ll let you work out for yourselves why that one is particularly ironic.

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