Culture Equality

Bus-Turned-Classroom Helping Migrant Children

Just a few miles from the US border in the Mexican city of Tijuana, an innovative education program is making sure migrant children don’t miss out on learning.

Over the past three weeks, the Yes We Can World Foundation has enrolled 30 children — ages 5 to 12 — in its new initiative that runs out of a bus-turned-classroom.

Most of the children are from families fleeing violence and poverty, who have been staying in shelters for weeks or months while waiting to apply for asylum in the US. In the meantime, Yes We Can’s free program offers specialized bilingual education for the children who tend to have low literacy and struggle with social skills. The bus seats 80 children and in a few weeks, the program will accept another 20 students.

Yes We Can accepts all children, regardless of their citizenship status, according to its director and founder, Estefania Rebellon. The program provides each student with a backpack, school supplies, t-shirts, and later this month, shoes, Rebellon told Global Citizen.

The school’s staff has experience working with displaced children in Latin America. For many children, the program is their first introduction to English, and Rebellon is looking to add more teachers who speak Indigenous languages.

Many of Yes We Can’s students come from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacan. Their families are seeking safety and security for various reasons, from escaping high levels of crime caused by drug cartels to domestic violence.

For one family, their child hadn’t been in school for more than five months while waiting for asylum status. A lot of children have to stop their education and start working to provide for their families, and Yes We Can is the first time they’ve attended school full-time, Rebellon explained.

Children seeking asylum face many challenges, she said.

“There’s definitely a turmoil in their emotional well-being of missing home and not really being aware or prepared for what they’re going through,” Rebellon added. “A lot of the children are in a state of confusion.”

During one recent exercise, Rebellon said some students started drawing their dogs and family members that they miss.

Without support, conflict-affected children lose out on the chance to reach their full potential and rebuild their communities. Children in conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be out of school compared to those in countries not affected by conflict, according to UNESCO.

But parents reported that they’re already seeing positive changes in their children since they started at Yes We Can. Before enrolling in the program, parents reported to Rebellon that their children had trouble sleeping and controlling their anger. Now they have something else to focus on: education.

One mother told Rebellon this is the first time she felt safe sending her children to a school where she didn’t have to worry about kidnappings or a shooting happening. Another said her child is motivated to go to class now, whereas back home, she had to force them to go.

“We’re trying to do our best to make this accessible for them and not have any obstacles that prevent them from going to school and having an education,” Rebellon said.

She has seen students’ emotional well-being improve, along with their attention, sense of trust, and writing skills. The program also aims to help children feel they are building a community through different activities, such as having them help paint the bus’ walls.

Also an actress, Rebellon started Yes We Can because she was a migrant child herself. She came to the US from Colombia when she was 10 years old to escape death threats made against her father, and school helped her overcome a lot of challenges. Ultimately the “tiny home movement” inspired her to convert the bus into a school, according to Reuters.

Rebellon hopes to provide this program on the US side of the border, too, and eventually launch an education program for teenagers that operates out of tents outside of shelters.

Original article by Erica Sanchez and Leah Rodriguez – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash 


Vending Machines Offer Free Books to Children

Six new vending machines are feeding the minds of children across New York City.

The machines, placed across the five boroughs, dispense free, age-appropriate books for children in underprivileged communities as part of the ninth-annual Soar With Reading Initiative launched by JetBlue in July.

“As New York City’s hometown airline, we’re excited to bring our Soar With Reading program home,” Icema Gibbs, director of corporate social responsibility for JetBlue, said in a press release for the program, which began in 2011.

“Over the past five years, we’ve made a tremendous impact with our book vending machine program. We can’t deny the need right in our own backyard,” Gibbs added.

The Soar With Reading program travels to a different city every summer to help exposure children to books and encourage them to read while they are out of school for the summer, allowing them to remain stimulated and prevent educational regression.

“For kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, summer often marks the beginning of the infamous summer slide,” Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt, said in the release. “Studies have shown that owning 25 books or more has a sizable effect on achievement, with each additional increment of books, such as 10 or more, improving achievement. This program allows children to own books and combat the knowledge loss that so often accompanies summer.”

The vending machines will be restocked with new books every two weeks through partnerships with publishing houses such as HarperCollins, Little Bee Books, Lil’ Libros, Scholastic, Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, and Barefoot Books. The machines will cater to New York’s diverse population, offering a selection of books that include English and Spanish titles and feature characters from varying backgrounds and walks of life.

“In Queens, we’re thrilled to welcome two free book machines that will be dispensing titles that are appropriate for all ages and reflect the incredible diversity of our borough,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said in a press release last month.

Books for adults will also be available through the vending machines in an effort to encourage parents to model positive behavior, which research has shown can contribute to a child’s educational success.

This year’s Soar With Reading ambadassor also leads by example. At just 14 years old, Marley Dias is an author and youth advocate for diverse representation in children’s literature, having founded #1000BlackGirlBooks, a campaign that collects and donates children’s books with black female protagonists to young black girls.

Dias’ book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You — which delves into themes like youth activism, inclusion, and social justice — will be one of the many titles featured in the vending machines.

“I am thrilled to have my book included in JetBlue’s Soar Reading program this year,” she said in a statement. “Being a part of this initiative offers a unique opportunity to address and promote diversity in literature. I believe all children deserve access to books and JetBlue’s reading program offers a viable solution for children in need.”

Children across the US have received $3.5 million worth of books in donations from JetBlue through the program, previously implemented in cities including Detroit, Michigan; Washington, DC; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As part of the initiative, JetBlue is also asking readers across the country to join the effort to inspire youth to pick up a book by using social media to describe a #BookDrop moment. The social media posts can include any impactful message related to reading, like sharing a book that changed a person’s perspective of the world.

For every post, JetBlue will donate another book to the Soar With Reading program.

Original article by Gabrielle Deonath – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Culture Wellbeing

How 2,000 NHS Medics Have Trained Over 93,000 Health Workers Around the World

Today, the world is short of about 7.2 million health care workers. By 2035, according to the World Health Organisation, this figure is likely to have risen to 13 million. If these statistics remain unchanged, a billion people will never see a qualified health worker in their lives.

It’s for this reason that, back in 2011, the UK-based Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) joined with the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) to launch a Health Partnership Scheme (HPS).

Essentially, the idea is to form partnerships between UK health institutions and their counterparts in low- and middle-income countries around the world — to share learnings, to train peers, and to bring mutual benefits to both the UK and the partner countries.

And it’s proved to be a “catalyst for unprecedented levels of engagement” both for UK medics and their counterparts in Africa and Asia, according to THET in a new progress report published on Friday.

In fact, over the past eight years, over 2,000 NHS staff have now volunteered with the scheme and helped train 93,112 health workers — including over 46,600 female health workers — across 30 countries.

Medics have spent more than 103,000 days volunteering; 210 projects have been delivered; and 499,568 patients are now using improved services as a result, according to THET’s report.

A few projects supported by the initiative include working towards reducing maternal deaths in Uganda; to improve the quality of hospital care for seriously sick and injured children and newborns in Myanmar; and to strengthen surgical and anaesthesia capacity in eastern and southern Africa

UK volunteers were also in Nepal before the earthquake struck and played “an exemplary role in assisting the country in its recovery,” according to THET.

Before its launch, funding for this kind of activity at this scale had reportedly never before been provided in the UK.

The focus for the scheme has been led by DfID’s health priorities — and include reproductive, maternal, and newborn health, as well as malaria prevention. Meanwhile, there is a strong focus on rural areas where health infrastructure is often at its weakest.

What’s more, DfID commissioned an independent evaluation of the initiative back in 2016, which reportedly found “overwhelming evidence” of the effectiveness of the partnership model in “strengthening the capacities of health workers and the institutions in which they work.”

It also noted that the scheme “represented good value for money compared to other approaches.”

According to Louise McGrath, head of programmes at THET, where health partnerships can really add value is through “enabling the sharing of learning and experience between health systems and teams, to identify where improvements in the quality of care can be made, and finding ways of working together to do this.”

Original article by Imogen Calderwood – Source Global Citizen

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash


Activist Is Empowering Girls and Women in Kenya Through Education

As a young girl in Marsabit County in northern Kenya, Qabale Duba quickly learned about the hardships of being female in a culture where gender equality has not yet been achieved.

At age 12, she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), and just two years later, she was engaged to be married — against her will. But her passion for education made her determined to finish school.

From an early age, Duba became aware that educating boys was deemed more important than educating girls in Kenyan society. Still, her mother pushed for her to attend school, against her father’s wishes. Duba said that her father held a traditional mindset, believing that a woman’s role was solely to become a wife and a mother, to tend to the house and raise children.

“I was still voiceless, and my only weapon was working hard in school so that my dad would not have an excuse to take me away from school to be married,” she told Global Citizen.

Duba also experienced firsthand how the stigma around menstruation and lack of access to sanitary supplies can hinder girls’ education.

When Duba got her period for the first time, she was unprepared and in a classroom full of her peers. She said she was overcome with shame and was unable to return to school for a week. And without pads or other types of period products and a basic knowledge of menstrual hygiene, Duba said that many girls in Kenya miss a week of school every month or put their bodies in danger.

“The adolescent girls miss classes when on their menses to tend to their biological demands at home to avoid the shame of soiling themselves in schools. Some use unhygienic materials to substitute for the proper sanitary towels that they could not afford due to poverty,” she said.

Despite these obstacles, Duba was the first girl in her village to become a university graduate and committed herself to becoming a “voice for the voiceless.” In order to gain a wider platform for her message of gender equality, she entered a beauty contest in Kenya in 2013 and was awarded a county and two national titles. She then established the Qabale Duba Foundation (QDF), which aims to empower girls and women in rural areas through education like Duba’s mother did for her.

As a prominent leader in addressing the issues facing girls and women in countries like Kenya, Duba is now adding another accolade to her long list of accomplishments: 2019 Waislitz Global Citizens’ Choice Award winner.

Presented by the Waislitz Foundation and Global Citizen, the Waislitz Global Citizen Awards program aims to support changemakers helping to eradicate global poverty and amplify their work. As a semi-finalist, Duba will receive a $50,000 cash prize to further her organization’s goals of providing education to girls and women.

“At QDF, we believe education is the key to success and it’s the best gift that parents should give their children,” Duba said.

Duba returned to her village to found the Torbi Pioneer Academy, whose motto is: Daring to Dream.

“No matter where they come from, we want our children to dream big and work towards achieving their life goals,” she explained. “On the other hand, educating the women empowers them economically. After knowing how to read and write, many of them have started their own business and getting personal incomes.”

QDF works to address lack of menstrual health awareness and access to sanitary products by providing menstrual health education, locally producing reusable period underwear, and donating sanitary pads and underwear to rural school girls. The organization continues to bring attention to women’s issues by advocating for maternal health and work to reduce the number of high-risk births, as well as fighting against harmful cultural practices such as FGM.

Duba also aims to motivate schoolgirls to achieve their dreams by offering mentorship and career guidance in schools and running a community literacy program through QDF. Going forward, Duba plans to help to end poverty in her community by employing more people, which the growing school will demand.

Original article by Gabrielle Deonath – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash


Giving access to books, one tuk-tuk ride at a time

Reading is the foundation of learning. It also gives readers, especially children, a connection with their world that few experiences provide. Despite the benefits, however, not every child has access to books.

That’s why Sinothando Menzi, Julia Makganye, Ziyanda Xaso, and Masiza Hlekwayo are working to change this story with mobile libraries that deliver books right to readers’ doorsteps. The women each have a tuk-tuk filled with books for everyone from children to adults that they transport around the township.

Each tuk-tuk can carry up to 650 books, and the librarians work from Mondays to Thursdays in Khayelitsha in Western Cape, Mdantsane in Eastern Cape, and Soweto in Gauteng. The mobile libraries are part of the work of an organisation called Nal’ibali, which promotes children reading for pleasure.

The Cape Town-based organisation has several programmes that turn reading into a family and community activity.

“Children need to be taught that reading is enjoyable,” Ben Rycroft, the head of communications at Nal’ibali, tells Global Citizen over email. “Reading to children builds a child’s vocabulary, it develops the bond between a parent and child.”

“Reading stimulates a child’s imagination, and shows them how adults read and how books work,” he adds. “This acquired knowledge makes it easier for them to learn to read themselves later on.”

South Africa has just over 11,000 public libraries, and not every community has a library or a well-resourced one. In a country that’s struggling to establish a reading culture, these tuk-tuks are a creative way of encouraging reading.

This, says Xaso from Mdantsane, makes the mobile libraries a valuable resource for the community they serve.

“People welcome us because they recognise that their kids are struggling when it comes to reading with understanding,” she told Times Live. “They’re always asking when we’re coming to their village.”

Books tend to be expensive in South Africa, because of various factors, according to a publishing director at Jonathan Ball Publishers, Jeremy Boraine. He told Women24 that this is because a lot of the books sold in South Africa are imported from the United Kingdom and the United States, which have stronger currencies against the rand.

Another challenge is the low number of books sales. A book that sells 2,000 copies is a best-seller, “which means publishers have to print fewer copies to avoid getting stuck with unsold stock, which in turn drives up the unit cost of each book.”

The outcome is that books are priced out of reach for many people in a country where around half of the 58 million citizens live on less that R992 per month.

Hlekwayo says this is why the mobile libraries are a welcome addition to community life in places they go to.

“People are very excited, especially the adults. They’re normally the ones complaining about the high prices of books,” she told Times Live. “Having new ones to read really can feel like Christmas.”

Original by Lerato Mogoatlhe – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Laëtitia Buscaylet on Unsplash


Braille Lego Blocks to Help Blind Children Learn

The development of this Lego set is a victory for disability rights advocates who have long been calling for efforts to close the literacy gap for children with blindness and low vision. The blocks will be distributed free of charge to partner organisations that can then give sets to learning centers, schools, and daycares.

Although mastery of braille correlates to higher levels of educational attainment and greater career success later in life for children, the reading system has been falling out of favor in recent years as digital learning tools become more popular. In the US for instance, 10% of blind children are learning braille today, compared to 50% in the 1950s.

The new Lego blocks, along with other recent efforts to adopt braille efficiency, could help reverse this trend.

“With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read braille,” said Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union, which partnered with Lego on the announcement, in a press release. “This is particularly critical when we know that braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education, and better employment opportunities.

“We strongly believe LEGO Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning braille, so we’re thrilled that the LEGO Foundation is making it possible to further this concept and bring it to children around the world.”

In addition to the full braille alphabet, the blocks will include the numbers zero through nine and various math symbols to encourage different challenges and learning opportunities. The blocks are fully compatible with other Lego blocks and can therefore be used to supplement a child’s existing Lego set.

The blocks are being tested in Portuguese, Danish, English, and Norwegian, while additional languages will be added in the future.


Original article by Joe McCarthy – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

Culture Wellbeing

14 years old creates a green bank for children

He is a Peruvian banker who encourages school-children to save, and offers his 2,000 customers cash for recycling plastic waste. But the really remarkable thing about José Adolfo Quisocala is that he is still a child himself.

When many of his peers dreamed of becoming professional footballers, firefighters or cumbía music stars, José Adolfo had his sights set on the world of finance from an early age.

By the age of seven, attending a state school in the Peruvian city of Arequipa, he decided he wanted to create a bank for children. He was motivated by seeing his peers skipping lunch because they had spent the little money they had on sweets or football cards. What drove him even more was the poverty he saw among children who were not attending his primary school.

“Seeing children living in poverty, seeing many children working in the streets, at the traffic lights selling sweets, begging … made me think, why can’t these children go to a normal school,” he told the Guardian.

“One of the reasons why those kids were working was because there was no money at home. Why can’t I teach them to save?”

The Bartselana student bank he founded then now has more than 2,000 clients between the ages of 10 and 18 and offers loans, micro-insurance and other financial services. The children can withdraw money from the cashpoints of several banks and building societies using personal bank cards, which no one else can use, and monitor their balances online. He also set savings goals his clients had to reach in order to withdraw money.

The student bank really took off when he came up with an innovative way for the children to earn money by collecting recyclable plastic or paper waste.

“The children would sometimes bring savings of a few cents and I had promised that they could buy a bicycle, a computer or a laptop but with that amount of money it would take a long time,” he says. “I thought there must be a way they can earn money and I thought about rubbish; we all generate rubbish and I decided that was the solution.”

The children bring plastic bottles, used school exercise books and old newspapers to a kiosk at their school where it is weighed and their bank accounts are credited with the corresponding amount of money.

José Adolfo struck deals with local recycling companies to pay his bank’s clients a slightly higher price than normal; for example 0.80 Peruvian Soles (0.19 GBP) a kilogram of plastic or white paper.

“We don’t want them to be in the street collecting rubbish but at home stopping the rubbish from reaching the street. So in their homes, they put out boxes for cardboard, paper, bottles – they start collecting and it becomes valuable,” José Adolfo explains.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed by Peru’s environment ministry, which has made home recycling one of its principal campaigns. The country has introduced a law to tackle its estimated 18,000 tonnes of solid waste a day, half of which is not disposed of in landfills and ends up on streets, beaches and in rivers.

“By joining that with recycling and the handling of waste, a serious problem in our country, he’s scoring a double goal because he’s not just designing a financial opportunity for children and teenagers but also helping to reduce the amount of waste in the country.”

The bank recycles about four tonnes of material a month and has kiosks in seven schools in Arequipa; more are on a waiting list.


Original article by Dan Collyns – Source The Guardian

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Culture Equality Wellbeing

Artful inclusion

“Elsewhere these people might be known as residents or service users. But here they are artists.”

Katie Abbot knows how such a distinction lies at the heart of ARTHOUSE Unlimited. The charity gives people living with epilepsy and learning disabilities the opportunity to create artworks, which are then developed into designer products for sale.

“It’s important to all of us to feel valued and respected,” says Katie, the sales and marketing director. “Instead of the artists’ work just being thrown away at the end of the day, we’re showing them how their creative talents have real value.”

Founded 14 years ago by artist Becky Sheraidah, ARTHOUSE Unlimited now has over 200 items for sale, with all the designs created in their premises on Godalming High Street in Surrey. The location is another important factor in the charity’s ethos.

“The studio and the shop are all open plan, so people can see the work being created and chat to the artists,” Katie says. “It encourages a sense of integration, making the artists very much a part of the local community. We really want to challenge society’s perception of people that live with disabilities.”

But it’s not just locals who get to peruse and purchase the goods on offer. An impressive range of products, including clothes, homeware and toiletries, is also sold online and via national and international stockists. On certain items, the charity has collaborated with some high-profile names, including Oxfam and Lush.

So the studio is a busy one, with sessions run every weekday by professional art instructors, with care workers on hand to provide physical or emotional support. In keeping with their emphasis on community engagement, there is also a team of local volunteers helping out.

“This might be people who are looking to find a way back into work, or just feeling lonely,” Katie explains. “We try to be as inclusive as possible.”

Relying on profits from sales, the charity is self-sustaining, with any funding a welcome bonus. The ambition is to see their business model replicated throughout the UK.

“It would be great to have something like ARTHOUSE Unlimited on every high street,” says Katie. “That’s the dream, and we’re getting there, one sale at a time.”

To find out more, go to or send an email to [email protected]

By Theo Hooper

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Culture Wellbeing

Doctor who invented 18 medical devices

Since 2010, Bangalore-based Dr Chaturvedi, has co-invented 18 medical devices to help address inefficiencies he’s spotted in the Indian healthcare system.

And he’s part of a growing band of professionals who are using their frustrations at work to come up with money-making ideas to solve their problems.

He came up with his first idea before he even qualified in 2008 when he was still training to be a doctor.

Now a fully qualified ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist he remembers the rudimentary conditions in rural India where he learned his craft.

“We were using long mirrors and headlamps to check patients, whereas my hospital had a flat-screen TV and more advanced technology,” he recalled in his book, Inventing Medical Devices – A Perspective from India.

So he came up with the idea of a portable ENT endoscope with a digital camera attached.

But he found that being an entrepreneur was very different from being a doctor.

“Being a doctor and not having training on how to make a product, I really struggled, so I licensed it out to a design firm,” he says.

He got full backing from senior professors in the ENT department which was vital as he was missing training days to get out and meet investors. His colleagues had to pick up his work load which, unsurprisingly, caused resentment.

Original article by Suzanne Bearne – source BBC

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Culture Planet Wellbeing

The ‘holy grail’ of plastic?

The “holy grail” of plastic – a material that can be repeatedly recycled without any loss of quality – has been created by scientists.

Placed in an acid bath, it can be fully broken down into its component parts.

Like lego, these monomers can then be reassembled into different shapes, colours and textures, according to the scientists at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who created it.

Currently, less than a third of recyclable plastic is re-purposed to create new materials, leaving the majority of it to end up in landfill or the ocean.

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” said Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.

The acid breaks the bonds between monomers and separates them from additives that give the plastic its distinctive look and feel.

These monomers can be recovered for reuse for as long as possible, or “upcycled” to make another product

Original article by Phoebe Weston – Source The Independent

Image by Rupert Kittinger-Sereinig from Pixabay