What has been the impact of your solution to date?
Three schools in Colorado and two schools in Pakistan have previously participated. The project has been enormously successful to date. In 2010, the program expanded from two to three schools in each country. Additionally, this year MDF is partnering with Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a group working to help individuals realize that sustained exchange and dialog is possible. The partnership with Citizens Archive will enable MDF to expand the programs beyond elementary schools and involve six classrooms in the U.S. and six in Pakistan.
Most students that have participated previously have asked their teachers and administrators if they can continue to correspond with their counterpart in the other respective country. These students are deeply moved by their experience getting to know one another and are often surprised by how much they have in common. Students have chosen future school projects that are related to Pakistan and vice versa eager to learn more about the other culture.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We intend to grow by adding another 3-6 classrooms each year and to expand outside of the existing regions of CO and the Punjab of Pakistan.
In addition, students are sharing their experience with their families and the families with their friends . Starting this year we plan to work with Citizens Archive of Pakistan to generate a post-project presentation that compiles video/photos in a visually compelling end-product that can be displayed and shared with the families and communities of participating schools. This will allow the communities to gain appreciation and understanding of the other respective country and culture through the students' experience.
Lastly, we intend to initiate a teacher swap in partnership with Aspen Writers Foundation in 2013 to take place annually.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
One barrier is the cultural norm in Pakistan that discourages girls from pursuing an education. We have had success in overcoming this by having Pakistani staff speak with parents, in addition to requiring parents enroll their daughters before their sons can attend. As previously mentioned, last year we had a young girl pulled out of school by her father who feared that she would run away if she received too much schooling. The program manager shared a letter from her pen pal expressing how important she was to her friends in America. This letter touched the father so deeply he agreed to allow his daughters to return.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Ensure experience of the exchange reach families and their communities
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Expand our reach and incorporate new school districts into the program
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
Our founder, Silbi Stainton, was in Pakistan on one of her regular visits to MDF schools when a parent urged her to stay and bring her family, saying that it was much too dangerous in America. Silbi turned to this well-intentioned woman and informed her that Americans think that Pakistan is dangerous. The woman replied that in Pakistan, they know who their enemy is and can try to avoid the violence associated with those extremist activities whereas in the U.S. there is systemic and random acts of violence...like students bringing guns into their schools. Silbi realized that both countries have their own forms of violence, and that in actuality we are more similar than most would suspect. She loved the Pakistani people she had the honor of meeting during her visits. Having children of her own, Silbi wanted to share her experiences with more than just her friends and family, she wanted to help children in the U.S. and Pakistan have their own experiences. Thus GKC program was born!