Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Laos trip & Room to Read

I will be going to Vientiane, Laos in March 2007 hopefully. It is kind of my ritual to go back to that landlocked country and this time around I won't be going alone. My colleagues, Farouq,Mamagie and Vem will be joining me for a week trip to Laos. It is not a holiday kind of trip but more to volunteering. We will be conducting workshops on theatrical clowning, Indian Classical dance and youth work with the Donekhoi Children Centre - a place I have been associated with since my volunteering days in Laos back in 2002.

After reading the book by the founder of inspiring organisation of Room to Read , John Wood's Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, I have decided to throw a challenge to my fellow travel mates to adopt a project for Room to Read program in Laos. I hope we can hand in the contributions to the Room to Read Laos when we go there in March.

Below are the relevant information of the Room to Read Program we are going to support. (Mind you that in Laos, primary school completion rate for girls is 64% and % of literacy (15 and older) for female is 61%)

Room to Read Girls’ Scholarship Program

The goal of Room to Read’s Girls’ Scholarship Program, known as "Room to Grow", is to provide opportunities for girls in less-developed countries to attend school, thus allowing them to gain the lifelong gift of education and to take control of their lives. We fund scholarships for students starting in primary school, based on our belief that the best way to help improve the world is by starting education at a young age. To each girl, we make a commitment through the completion of secondary school (a period averaging ten years). This acts as a strong incentive to achieve and to stay in school, and also provides security and support to girls who often grow up in a very uncertain environment.

Opportunity: A quest for education for all children

Education within many developing countries is not free. Families are often charged school fees to pay for the operation of schools and teachers’ salaries. Many families cannot afford these school fees, or they are unable to forego the income of a working child. Due to economics and cultural bias, young girls are often left behind when it comes to educational opportunities. If families are able to send only one child to school, the eldest son is usually chosen.

However, the benefits of educating girls are numerous and include:

—Improvement of family health and nutrition and decrease in infant mortality
—Increased likelihood of educating the next generation
—Decreased population growth in resource-scarce countries, since educated women tend to have fewer children
—Increased wages of girls for every year they remain in school

Results: What can I expect?

By providing scholarships to young girls, one can have an immediate and direct impact on their lives. An education will allow them to take control of their future and empower them to make choices about a career. The key ingredient to an improved status for women in these societies is a solid education starting at an early age. Furthermore, by educating a girl, one educates her future family and thus generations to come. Educating girls yields a higher rateof return than any other investment available in the developing world.
Depending on the country and specific region the girls are in, the scholarship covers all the needs of a young girl, including:
  • Monthly school fees
  • School uniforms
  • Books, stationary, and backpacks
  • Female Room to Read staff member to oversee the program and mentor the girls
  • Additional tutoring as needed
  • Transportation (such as a bicycle or bus fare) for girls living far from school
  • Lunch money if the girls live too far from school to eat at home
  • Medical check-ups and expenses
  • Field trips and workshops

Monitoring & Evaluation
We check on the attendance and performance of our scholarship girls through regular visits and correspondence with headmasters and teachers. Our scholars get extra tutoring, as needed, to ensure their success in school, and we have female social workers on the Room to Read staff to oversee this program.

In order to allow our supporters to learn more about our girls on scholarship, we publish an annual Girls’ Scholarship Yearbook. This collection includes photos, stories about some of the recipients and general information on program results in order to help you understand how education is changing the girls’ lives.

Action needed
Tax deductible contribution needed to fund a scholarship:US $250/year for 10 years or a US $2500 up-front payment


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