Monday, June 25, 2012

Helping African Orphans the American Way

UNICEF estimates that nearly 1.2 million orphans in Uganda have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS related diseases. Many of these children do not have other relatives to help them thrive and thus are left alone in dust bins, out on the streets.

That is, until Jackson Kaguri, a Uganda native was inspired to help.

Kaguri is living the Cinderella dream: a young man who was freed from poverty, attended an Ivy league university in America and retains successful full-time employment in Michigan while he lives in Indiana.

His inspiration began when he learned that some grandmothers would take in children after losing their own children from HIV/AIDS. These women, however, were not only poor, but they were in need of their own healthcare.

These are women who had seen me grow up in the village," he said. "They carried me when I was hurt, they prayed for me when I was away studying. What was I supposed to do?"

Knowing that education was the gateway to Kaguri's success, he and his wife built a two-acre brick school, free for children. Not only would this school allow children to receive a free education, but it would also provide them with free health care as well as other necessities, too.

"We provide them uniforms. We provide them pencils. We give them shoes," said Kaguri, 41. "Everything we give ... is to try and eliminate as many obstacles as possible, so children can be successful and focus on education."

But, that's not all: Now the school provides two free meals a day, after seeing many students falling asleep in class because of hunger and malnutrition. And, after learning that one such student walked 30 miles each day to attend the school, Kaguri got to work on building a secondary school in a nearby village.

"Today, between the two schools, there are 587 students -- kindergarten through 12th grade -- receiving a free education and health care. Nearly all of them have lost either one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses." (CNN Cashing in the American dream to help AIDS orphans, those who raise them

More social work organizations need to work harder to ensure proper orphan care, as well as be inspired by stories like this one. Maybe then, we can rid poverty and create a better life not only throughout Africa, but the world.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Author John Ikerd Reveals the Essentials of Economic Sustainability

"The Essentials of Economic Sustainability reflects a lifetime of learning experiences, 70-plus years; but the specific motivation for writing it came fairly recently. In the spring of 2011, I was invited to present a series of lectures at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China. The topic was “Post-Modern Economic Development,” which is essentially equivalent to sustainable economic development.  I would have only ten hours of class time to present and discuss the essential principles and concepts. The class would be presented in English, but many of the students would have limited English language capabilities.

I have been writing about and teaching the basic principles of economic sustainability for decades, including another book from Kumarian press, Sustainable Capitalism. I knew I would have to modify my presentations to make my message understandable and acceptable to students in a non-capitalist country. I would need to limit my presentations to the bare essentials and present them without relying on the usual references or context of the U.S. economy and society. I would have to rely on my Chinese interpreter and teaching assistant to provide me with an appropriate context and relevant examples.

My Chinese sponsors assured me my students would be able to read basic English, although many would not be able to speak or fully understand spoken English. They suggested I prepare a PowerPoint presentation so the students would be able to follow my verbal presentations. In addition, I decided to write a very basic provisional text that students who could read English would be able to download from the Internet to reinforce my lectures. That text eventually evolved into The Essentials of Economic Sustainability.

My teaching experience in China proved to be very personally and professionally rewarding. My students were extremely receptive to my message of economic sustainability. I had been told “Chinese students do not ask questions,” but simply sit and listen. After the first nine hours of class, spread over two weeks, we closed with an hour-long spirited discussion, with questions as well as comments from the students. The sponsors said they could not have been more pleased.

I had contacted Jim Lance of Kumarian Press before I went to China asking if Kumarian might be interested in publishing the book. I told him the book would not contain any references or culturally specific examples, as I was writing it to be easily translated into other languages for use in other countries. I would provide suggestions for finding culturally appropriate references and examples and would provide a set of discussion questions at the end of each chapter. I suggested the book might also be useful as a provisional text in a wide variety of classes in the U.S., since instructors could add their own topic-specific references and examples. The individual reader could call upon his or her own experiences and could search the Internet for relevant references. With appropriate references, examples, and class discussion, the book could also serve as the main text in a full-credit academic course at about any level, from advanced high school through graduate school.

This would be a very different kind of book. I didn’t have much hope of finding a publisher. I was fully prepared to post the book on the Internet to be downloaded by anyone who might find it useful. To my surprise, Jim expressed immediate interest in the project and accepted my conditions for publication, with very few revisions. He did insist on an annotated bibliography, which I think will be very useful for English language users. After my successful teaching experience in China, I believe the book has real potential for individual readers, discussion groups, and formal classes in both English and non-English speaking countries in the so-called developing and developed areas of the world.

I have since used the book in a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from a 15-minute TED-type presentation to a full-credit block course in Economic Sustainability at Maharishi University of Management in my new hometown of Fairfield, IA. I could not be more pleased with the results. I have never written nor read another book that has been as versatile or useful in communicating the basic concepts of economic sustainability. I still recommend my Sustainable Capitalism book for those who want to teach courses in economic sustainability within the context of the American economic and political system. It also is an excellent supplemental text for a variety of courses. However, I believe The Essentials of Economic Sustainability has far more versatility for those who are willing participate in a “collaborative learning” process by choosing their own references and coming up with their own examples.

To assist readers in the collaborative learning process, I am providing Kumarian Press with copies of PowerPoint presentations I have used in classes, both text and visuals for my TED-type presentation, and a link to the wiki website for the class I co-taught at Maharishi University. The site includes the course syllabus, links to supplementary materials, and actual answers of students to the questions at the end of each chapter.

I would appreciate feedback from anyone who reads the book or uses it in a discussion group or classroom setting. I will ask Kumarian to post any additional teaching/learning aids that readers may provide, giving appropriate credit to individual contributors. I hope you enjoy my new book as much as I have enjoyed creating it." -John Ikerd

Monday, June 11, 2012

Human Rights in Question: Today's News

Orange County, California police arrested founders of an Asia sex traffic ring this morning. The suspected members moved women from China to the U.S. promosing them a better life in America, but instead, brought them to residential brothels to work as sex slaves.

One woman, identified only as Soo, told CNN report Thelma Gutierrez that life as a sex slave is a nightmare. Soo was brought to America for better working opportunities, but found herself thrown into sex slavery in a massage parlor.

Soo, who is now free, said: “We are humans. We are not animals.”

More information on this story can be found on CNN.

Sex tourism is still prominant even in the 21st Century for many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia where women have virtually zero rights.

In Reluctant Bedfellows, for example, authors Meredith Ralston and Edna Keeble speak with numerous women in the Phillipines who were forced to work as prostitutes. Ralston and Keeble follow the history of prostitution in former military outpost Angeles City, the women and foreign men who live by the trade and the varied organizations attempting to deal with prostitution.

In the news today is also a story told by a 33-year-old Saudi woman named Manal al-Sharif who was taught at a young age in school that listening to music was sinful, along with driving, showing your face in public and not being escorted by a male guardian.

She has made global attention due to a Youtube video of her challenging the human rights community and the Saudi government by driving a car without permission and showing her face.

"All I did was ask for rights. I didn't attack anyone. I didn't harass anyone. I didn't oppose the system or the country or the authority. All I said is, 'Why can't I drive?' "

Police detained her for nine days without any charges. She wanted this to be the first step among human rights for women in the Middle East and encourages women to defy the banned laws against them.

"But the campaign isn't really about driving, she said. Driving, in one sense, is a stand-in for other issues. Women in Saudi Arabia won't be allowed to vote or hold public office until 2015. They can't get married, leave the country, go to school or open bank accounts without permission from a male guardian, who usually is the father or husband. Much of public life is segregated by gender." (CNN)

The divorced woman of a six-year-old has started a driving campaign called Women2Drive, offering more than just guidance for women and encouragement to drive. The group is encouraging Saudi women to go out and drive on June 17th, but the cause is more about human rights than the drive. Because of the uproar in the country, however, al-Sharif will not be participating in the drive.

"That would endanger my family, not only me."

She knows that change will not occur in Saudi Arabia overnight, but is hopeful that women will stand up for themselves, as she did when she lost her job last month in order to speak at the Human Rights Conference in Norway. She encourages women to take the right steps to a better future for themselves.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Social Work Title By Kumarian Press to Be Released This Month

Kumarian Press is set to release another new title this month entitled Orphan Care: A Comparitive View by Jo Bailey.

In Orphan Care, Jo Bailey and her contributors argue that efforts to help orphans have been marred by over-reliance on models and practices originating in the developed countries of the Global North. Bailey’s collection is unique in that the contributors to the book are from Botswana, Brazil, China, Russia, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. The collection provides an “insider” on the ground perspective on orphan care in these respective countries. Each chapter covers the country’s history and background of policy and services to orphans, the dominant reasons children are brought into care; and the prevailing forms of current orphan services.

The book retails for $27.50, and is readily  available for purchasing through Kumarian Press.

Author Jo Bailey is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Houston-Downtown.     

The book is a valuable guide and reference for social workers, NGO leaders, and policy-makers. The book is also recommended for courses on comparative sociology, the sociology of developing countries, and the cultural influences on social work practice.