Global Kid Connect

Global Kid Connect

Aspen, United StatesIslamabad, Lahore and surrounding areas, Pakistan
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

MDF is a nonprofit that works to improve relations between the West and Muslim world through sustainable education and economic development.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Relations between the United States and Pakistan are strained. Despite good intentions, tensions between the two countries persist. MDF believes that this tension is largely rooted in an ever-widening geographical and cultural rift, in addition to media on both sides that highlight the negative activities taking place in the other respective country. This environment is hostile to the growth of understanding and empathy on a broad scale. MDF seeks to address this by bringing Pakistani and American students together through cultural exchange, to build relationships and increase understanding. By building relationships and compassion with youth among the 2 countries there is the possibility to mitigate future misunderstanding, conflict, and violence between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

To create opportunities for meaningful connection between students in Pakistan and the U.S. through a modern pen-pal program, using the internet and technology to exchange written material, photos, drawings, and videos. The program is implemented in four stages that take place over the course of 6-10 weeks that coincide with U.S./Pakistani school schedules. Discussion topics include the meaning of culture, diversity, differences in daily routines, religion, food, family, and school. The exchange culminates with discussions on leadership and peace. Students are asked to think about what makes a good leader, who in their communities they admire, what ways they would like to be engaged in civic activities. Material is uploaded/viewed via blog by administrators. The students who have participated to-date have been profoundly impacted by the cross-cultural exchange, asking to continue to communicate with the students they've been paired with in the other respective country.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Roaring Forks Valley of Colorado, where the participating U.S. schools are located, is 95% white and the schools participating in the Punjab are from impoverished families that tend to be uneducated/illiterate. The last discussion topic for the exchange program, leadership and peace, affords students the opportunity to process what they have learned from their peers in the U.S. and Pakistan and take it past cultural sensitivity and awareness. Empathy can start with personal connection, however to grow it requires active participation, listening, conflict resolution and action. Students are asked to think about what leaders they admire. Are these leaders also bridge-builders? Do they express compassion for their fellow human beings? They are asked how they will make a difference, how they plan to be engaged as citizens in their communities. The program thus far has been incredibly successful. We had a female student in Pakistan, though her grades were high, her father removed her and her sister from school. However, after her father was shown a letter from his daughter's pen-pal appealing to her family, he reinstated her, moved by the fact that someone far away cared so much about his daughter's activities. Ultimately, what Global Kid Connect accomplishes is more than a path to build understanding and empathy; it is an avenue that supports families, shows them that in their struggles and concerns, they are not alone. Global Kid Connect creates conversations and builds support networks that have the capacity to move communities and beyond - a pathway to peace.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Citizens Archive of Pakistan is the only other program we found that conducts a student exchange for students in Pakistan. Prior to our partnership with them, they facilitated connections with students in India. Now that we have tested and experienced success in our first two years, we have developed a formal partnership with this organization since they have the ability to connect our U.S. schools of higher grade levels than the MDF schools in Pakistan. They have an extensive network and we are grateful to be able to expand and work together. We don't see any other exchange programs posing a challenge to our success or growth, in fact any other programs connecting youth with youth in other countries are advancing global relationship and understanding.
About You
Organization:
Marshall Direct Fund
About You
First Name

Jodi

Last Name

Fischer

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Marshall Direct Fund

Organization Country

, CO, Aspen, Pitkin County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, P, Islamabad, Lahore and surrounding areas

Your role in Education

Administrator, Parent, Resource Officer.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Public (tuition-free)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Innovation
How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Global Kid Connect is a program that builds pathways of empathy and peace by connecting students in the US and the Muslim World

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

GKC pairs American and Pakistani youth using technology in a modern day pen pal program to foster relationships, empathy, & leadership.

Social Impact
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

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Generating a visually appealing end-product that aggregates the materials and learnings of the students interaction

Task 2

Share product using technology with the communities of participating schools through events at accessible locations

Task 3

Engage the community by measuring what they learned and how they are inspired to act based on new knowledge

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Expand our reach and incorporate new school districts into the program

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Find part-time staff person to manage the program and acquire additional technology, flip cameras, etc

Task 2

Vet and select additional schools that express interest in participating

Task 3

Market the success of the program regionally and nationally in both host countries using video, photos, and internet

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!

Sustainability
Tell us about your partnerships

One of our partnerships is with schools and teachers in the U.S. and Pakistan who wish to implement the Global Kid Connect Program. To date, every school that has participated has asked to do so again the following year. This year, we have also partnered with Citizens Archive of Pakistan. You may know of their founder, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. She just won an oscar for her film, Saving Face and previously an international emmy for her documentary, Children of the Taliban. Working with them allows us to pair students in the U.S. that are in 6th grade and above with higher level schools in PK.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

We were fortunate to have a whole team of volunteers to launch the program and a new volunteer for its first year of expansion. Currently we have the Executive and Program Director able to devote a portion of their time to GKC program activities, however we are hoping to have a designated MDF representative to manage the schools and logistics going forward if we are to grow. We also include Citizen Archive of Pakistan staff in the "team" enabling GKC to advance.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list