World Change Starts With Educated Children

This week we’re all undoubtedly working on something we call “pre-reading”.  This post isn’t about our school work, it isn’t about our travels, and it isn’t about work-life balance, it’s about something small in that one phrase that we take for granted…reading.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a rural town in North Carolina.  More specifically I grew up on a farm 30 minutes outside of a town called Roxboro, about an hour from our beautiful Duke campus.  I guess you could say life growing up was simple.  My younger brother and I had lots of options to entertain ourselves, like fishing, weeding the garden, jumping our bike off of a bolder, and swimming in the lake.  But what I remember most about my entertainment on those long summer days was going through my mother’s library of books and sneaking one out to the barn so I could read at the top of the hay stack.  It was the best of all possible worlds for me.  There in the barn I could smell the sweet aroma of the alfalfa hay, catch the cool breeze coming across the fields and day dream about adventures in far- away places.

“Oh, to be the heroine in this novel or that.  Oh, to get to see  faraway places.”  Those were dreams and seemed so far away, but with each turn of the page I felt that world slowly became more real.  When the novels ran out it was history books, when the history books ran out it was the Merck manual, or old National Geographics.  Whatever I could find I would read.  It was through my love of reading that I saw doors open that would have otherwise been closed.

It’s years later and all those open doors and windy roads have brought me to Duke.  But they’ve also taken me to some countries where children who were born into the same situation as me, just a little farm girl, do not have the opportunity to learn to read.  I was 18 the first time I realized the blessing we have in our education.  It was in Andros Island in the Bahamas.  The largest island in the Bahamas, Andros is also the least populated, with only 300 residents.  The school house was located in the middle of the island, and children no matter how far away walked barefoot just to get a sixth grade level education.  Life after “graduation” meant success for 2-3 students a year when the entire community pitched in to send them to a community college in Nassau or if they were lucky Miami.  I was expecting a tropical paradise and everyone lived just like us, but with a beachfront property.  That was my first wake up call.

Since then I’ve been to Thailand where I’ve seen a child prostitute bartered off by his adult caretaker to a European man.  I’ve seen refugees run across the border from Myanmar with all their earthly possessions in a wheelbarrow.  I’ve seen mile upon mile of shanty town outside the airport in beautiful Cape Town.  All these things I’ve seen because I have received an education that has allowed me to travel to see them.  But how could I change these tragedies?  What caused them in the first place?

There are lots of answers to those two questions, but it was in India that I first became convinced of one of the best solutions for how to truly make a difference.  I was in India for work, and we were given Easter Sunday off.  After an adventure to an Easter Mass I will never forget, the driver drove me to see the sites in Mysore.  It was at a temple overlooking the city where I was greeted by a young boy who looked to be in his early teens.  He offered me a set of postcards for only a few rupees.  “Please, ma’am, it’s for my tuition.  For my school.”  I had been approached all day and was overwhelmed with the need I saw, but this boy gave me a reason, more than just begging.  I bought a pack of post cards and after I left the boy greeted me again at the exit.  “Ma’am I know the capital of every country.  Give me a country I will give you the capital.  I learned it in school.  I am a good student.”  I admittedly do not know very many capital cities so I threw out countries I thought impossible to know the capital of.  Whether he was right or wrong, I didn’t know, but I always acted impressed.  As we walked along the boy pointed down to a building that seemed crude in construction.  “That is my school.”  I said, “You learned all those capitals in that tiny school?”  “Yes, ma’am.”, he replied.  “Well you must keep going then.  You are very smart.”  I don’t remember how much more I gave him, but I left feeling like that small amount for someone’s tuition might make a difference beyond just one meal or one pair of shoes.

Education, and in particular reading, is the key to helping so many people.  That’s why I’ve become involved with an organization called Room to Read.  Their motto is “World Change Starts With Educated Children.”  Room to Read (RtR) focuses on two areas, literacy and gender equality in education.  They do that by building libraries, reading rooms, and schools.  They provide books written in local languages.  They pay salaries for teachers.  And they pay for scholarships for girls’ education.  Here are some facts that Room to Read has provided about India.

• 35% of the world’s illiterate population lives in India.
• 40% of students – mostly girls – drop out before secondary school (age 14)
• In 2005 it was estimated that 35 MILLION primary school children were not enrolled in school
• If this trend is not stopped it is estimated that more than 50% of the world’s illiterate population will live in India.

So I pose this challenge to those of us who are future leaders of consequence.  Let’s all do our part to help stop this trend.  Click on any of the links here or on the Facebook page where challenging our class of 150 students to raise $2,500.  That’s $16.70 each if we all donate.  And what will this do for someone in India?  For $250 Room to Read can provide a year of tuition money, a uniform, a bike, book bag, and books for a girl to go to school.  For a grand total of $2,500 the Duke CCMBA 2012 class can pay for 10 years of a girl’s education.  What a wonderful legacy to leave to someone.

Donate your extra per diem money, ask your friends, your family, your place of business.  Let’s see how many lives we can change in Term 4!

Get The Most Out of Your MBA

So here we are, half way through our Duke Cross Continent journey, and at this point we know what to expect when The Box comes or what Finals week looks like during a busy work week.  We know how much we enjoy Residencies and team meetings during Distance.  So we have been posed with a question from other MBA hopefuls to find out what are some ways to get the most out of your program.  Here are a few tips that our Duke CC-MBA 2012 class has compiled and my best attempt to give some advice on how to put them into practice.

Tip #1 – Always say YES when faced with a new opportunity. – from Debbie Barabe – Throughout the MBA process and in your career you’ll often be presented with the chance to do something different and out of your comfort zone.  When you signed up for an MBA you more than likely signed up to add a skill set to your résumé.  So when opportunities come along to do something that is out of the norm for you, take them.  If you’re a CPA volunteer to do a Marketing case.  If you’re a Marketer, volunteer to do an Accounting assignment.  It’s only by saying “Yes” to a new opportunity that the new skill sets you’re aiming for with an MBA will be obtained.

Tip #2 – Gain perspective. Be open to new and different ideas. – from Kevin Wakefield – The Duke CCMBA program takes us to new and exciting locations, but if you go into each place looking to embrace the similarities you still only walk away with one angle.  By being open to new and different ideas you get to look at the same place with a new slant.  That same philosophy can apply to an organization.  If you only look at an organization from your team’s point of view or are only interested in following your processes you will not be able to approach the issues in the bigger picture.  Instead, try to put yourself into a “foreign land” and look at each issue from the perspective of another team or even from your customers point of view.  By learning to think like this in your MBA program you can grow leaps and bounds in the work place.

Tip #3 – Make the most of the time spent with your classmates! – from Tyler Roehm – When we wrote our entrance essay we were asked to share what about our backgrounds would benefit other students.  One hundred fifty of us wrote an essay on that and Duke thought the answer was pretty good.  So when meeting your classmates and talking to them, make the most of that time and find out what some of those reasons are.  A conversation you have today about someone else’s work may be something that becomes a door to another possibility later on.  If nothing else you’ve gained another great friend in your MBA program.

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