How Do You Stop Child Labor?

How do you get poor children out of the streets? How do you get them to attend school? The answer is difficult because even if you have a sound school system it doesn’t mean that all kids will come. The poorest families cannot afford to send their children, even if the school is free. Why? Because they need to eat and a child can work and bring an income to the parents. On the other hand only an educated child can break out of poverty. How do you break the vicious cycle?


Cristovam Buarque is a Brazilian politician and university professor who has been relentlessly fighting for education in his country. With a group of friends, in the late 80′s he came up with an idea to break this cycle. In 1995 he ran and was elected governor of the Federal District which includes the capital, Brasilia. That was the perfect opportunity to implement this program called Bolsa Escola (School Fund.)

The conditions to apply were simple. The family income had to be equal or inferior to half the minimum wage, all the children of the family had to attend a minimum of 90% of the classes and the father had to be enrolled in the national system for job seekers. In exchange, Bolsa Escola complemented their income depending on the size of the family. The money was given to the mother who culturally  shows more commitment and responsibility.

The results? During the four years of Cristovam Buarque’s mandate, the Federal District government managed to reach about  25.000 families, or 50.000 children, at a cost of less than 1% of the annual budget. Children became more confident about their future. Truancy fell from 10 to 0,4%. Employment and income through small businesses (food and clothing) rose by 30% in the communities involved in the program. NGOs noticed a reduction in domestic violence and an improvement of the parents’ level of schooling. The women’ s self-esteem rose and their power within the family too.

The program was so successful that other municipalities and Brazilian states adopted similar programs. Other countries like Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Tanzania, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and El Salvador followed the same idea. Even New York started in 2008 a pilot program modeled on Bolsa Escola.

In Brazil this simple idea, which requires little funds, was implemented nationwide by Cristovam Buarque when he became Education minister in 2003  under the name Bolsa Familia.  It is now credited as one of the main contributing factors for the reduction in poverty in Brazil.

Cristovam Buarque twitter page

Give and You Will Receive. Really?

You have heard about it. It’s in the Bible, “The Secret” talks about it as a key law of the Universe. Here is one more inspiring example to show you that selflessly giving comes back tenfold… or more.


Anna James is a senior high school student from Grey Highlands Secondary School in Flesherton, Ontario. She just graduated and her last two years have been busy. Distressed by world poverty, Anna decided to take action and founded her school’s Humanitarian Club. She couldn’t accept that people in countries far away were starving or couldn’t study. So she spearheaded Project Love. The goal was to help schools in Tanzania while involving her classmates in Grey Highlands. She devised an inter-class competition which gathered and sent 800 school supply kits to Tanzania.

How can you increase awareness about hunger among your peers? Anna’s idea was to organize an overnight “30 Hour Famine” group and help plan African lunches, to expose her community to global cuisine and gather funds for charitable causes. She also wanted first hand experience. In 2008, for six weeks, Anna volunteered in Peru helping abandoned and disabled children while also assisting impoverished seniors in the Peruvian desert.

She was also active in other areas, so much so, that she became, to her surprise, one of the recipient of a scholarship, which recognizes 20 students across Canada who are making a difference in their communities. This windfall will cover her post-secondary tuition and living expenses. Says Anna, “All along there have been personal rewards. I would have done these things regardless of the chances of a scholarship. The reward is the people you meet and it’s nice to have this material reward too.” Via Bayshore Broadcasting

Do you still not believe in giving and receiving? Or have you had a surprising experience?

Anyone Can Make a Difference


Ebony Shante Edwards is a third grader at Henry Heights in Lake Charles, LA. She is a good student and participate to a special program to get better grades. At the end of the year, prizes are awarded and when her name was called, Ebony Shante received a brand new bicycle. Since she already had a bicycle, she knew what to do. She went to the officials and asked them to draw another name to give the bicycle she had just won to another student.

The officials present at the ceremony were so surprised and inspired by Ebony Shante’s behavior that they decided to pass around a hat and everybody pitched in. They didn’t want her to be left empty handed and were able to give her a gift certificate. Ebony Shante already said she knew to whom she was going to buy something with her new prize. Via


Jeff Ziolkowski is a 18-year-old senior high school student from Flagler County, Florida. He just graduated and in September, he will be heading to the University of Notre Dame to study medicine. Is Jeff ready to start his college studies? Of course he is and maybe even more than is future classmates.

Since he wants to be a MD, what could have been more normal for him than volunteering at a clinic in order to learn, to feel what is it to be on the other side. So far he has dedicated more than 300 hours of his time to welcome patients or help them fill out forms. In my opinion, the most important of his deeds was to sit with them and just listen. We live in a world where we think we have no time to listen to others. And if we do ‘listen’, we are nodding while thinking about our answer. True? Next time you have a conversation with someone, pay attention at how much you are listening. Shift your mind and really listen. I guarantee, the person you are talking to will feel it. Via Flagler County News

How to Be a Good Listener (

Jeff Ziolkowski on facebook

Mama Lucy Is Helping Tanzania Fight Poverty


The Girl Effect is happening everywhere and especially in developing countries. Everyday I find new stories about women stepping up to the plate with courage and persistence to offer a better future to the next generation.

In Arusha, Tanzania, Lucy Kamptoni, aka Mama Lucy, was selling chickens, her main income. Knowing that the key to eradicate poverty in her country was education, in 2003 she took her savings and started a primary school, Sheperds Junior Academy. She rented land next to her home and with iron determination, grew the classes from 6 children to include by 2007 more than 300 students at 8 grade levels.

But in July 2007, a hotel developer bought the land Mama Lucy was renting, planning to start construction in 2008. That meant the school would have to be shut down. Luckily for the students, around the same time, two Americans, Stacey Monk and Sanjay Patel in the midst of a trip, were volunteering at the school. When they learned about the situation, they were moved to help. They knew that their background in project management and corporate consulting could benefit the children.

Back in the US, they founded Epic Change (facebook page), a non-profit that loans money to organizations seeking to improve their communities. After raising tenth of thousands of dollars, they loaned the money to Mama Lucy and Sheperds Junior Academy was able to buy land and build new classrooms.

The added benefit of this loan is empowerment. Lead by Mama Lucy, the parents and the children are working hard to reimbourse the loan, giving them a sense of pride and ownership. Through the sales of gifts like postcards drawn by the students, everyday Shepherds is becoming more and more independent. Their motivation is backed by their academic scores. In November, the school participated in national exams for the first time.  Shepherds ranked #1 out of 117 participating schools in the Arusha district. Yeah! :)

Knowing Exactly What You Want


These days, football players seem to be doing more than football.

22-year old Myron Rolle, born in Houston, TX, is an oustanding athlete who was ranked number one high school prospect. He then helped Florida State University win many victories. Having just graduated he seems promised to a brilliant NFL carreer. Yes?

No, because the safety of FSU has other ambitions. He wants to become a neurosurgeon. Many would just be happy with a career as a football player or a doctor in their lifetime. Not Myron who has very specific goals far in the future. He has earned his bachelor degree in 2.5 years and will be heading soon to Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar, to earn a M.A. in medical anthropology.

What about his potential NFL carrer? Recruiters will have to wait as Myron put the emphasis on studies. Also, having just created a foundation bearing his name to support global health and education, he has already planned after retiring from the NFL to go back to the Bahamas, where his parents and three of his four brothers were born. There, he will open a free health services clinic on Exuma island.

His parents played an important role in creating an atmosphere of respect and drive. At home, the brothers learned to address everyone with “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” If a question was asked, no one would answer “what?” While driving, Myron’s father made sure to ask questions, so there was no idle time for their minds. Because his parents believed that an idle mind lead to trouble. Obviously they were right, as besides Myron, his brothers include a lawyer, a banker and a nursing student.

Myron Rolle’s website

How Passionate Are You?


Passion doesn’t always mean ambitious projects to save the world. 

Last year, Dorothy Aho retired from Hidden Oaks Middle School in Prior Lake, MN. During her 35-year career she was recognized as great teacher who inspired students. She loved children and was always looking for ways to lift them up.

Just before her retirement, five years ago, she wanted to change the after school activity and decided to create a charity-based program. Teens in Community Service, or TICS, was born. Combining her desire to help others and her experience in making blankets, Dorothy felt she could teach some valuable lessons. Kids joining the program learned to cut and sew small blankets which were then donated to children who needed them.

This act of helping, of giving selflessly is a skill that must be learned at a very young age, insists Dorothy, because it will become natural throughout your life. With the TICS program students feel they are making a real difference in the world. Kids in need receive warm and beautiful blankets. But Dorothy says she herself benefits from the project because she can meet and interact with children and give back to her community.

Ready to save the world one blanket at a time? Through a simple project you can also help your community. What skill do you have you could share for a few hours a week? Even though you feel like you have more important things to do, the simple fact of helping selflessly will come back to you in amazing ways! Try and let me know. ;)

By the way, you would think that Dorothy is now enjoying her retirement. You would be wrong. She couldn’t quit teaching ‘cold turkey’. She is now a substitute teacher. Via (Picture: Josh Chase)

A Mother Who Would Not Give Up on Kids


Let us say it again: education is everything.

Doris Mashego was born in Uta, South Africa, about 400 km east of Johannesburg. Thanks to her parents, she could receive a basic education. Growing up, she understood the value of this gift and having a big heart she decided to help the children of her community.

Fifteen years ago, on her own, she started a makeshift nursery school and, as a volunteer, relentlessly helped the children of her village to study. A local NGO later stepped in and built for her a structure to teach in. Even tough there was no government funding she found ways to keep going. Now, the nursery school is one of the most successful in the region, teaching kids the alphabet, counting, basic English and Xitsonga, one of the official languages of South Africa.

The best proof that can be given on the importance of education is to look at Doris own children. One of the rare single mothers of her community, she found the time to raise three kids. She made education a priority along with strict rules. Because she was educated, Doris could help them with their homework. The three siblings got grades high enough to qualify for scholarships and attended university. They are now working professionals holding steady jobs. This is a rare achievement in Uta where unemployment is estimated at 70% and where literacy rates fall far below national standards.  Doris Mashego was right and because of her selflessness, a lot of children in Uta get a chance to have a better life. Via smrc

Bullied but not Beaten


Bullies can destroy a child’s personality. Or not.

Singaporian Li Chao Feng had been bullied so much that he started to skip school to avoid being beaten. Finally, not being able to cope anymore with this situation, he decided to quit. His parents tried to dissuade him to no avail. Li Chao Feng didn’t care anymore about anything. He just didn’t want to face again his bigger-sized schoolmates.

So at 15, he dropped from High School. His self-esteem was in tatters and he had no goals in life. He started drifting, taking up a small job and hanging out with the wrong crowd late at night. It lasted eight months. But then several things happened. Li Chao Feng realized that he might get stuck forever with his small job with no possibilities of getting a better life. Also, at home he had two younger brothers who were looking up to him as a role model.

Li Chao Feng decided to take action. In order to put his life back on track he needed an education. He enrolled in a private school and took night classes. Because didn’t want to burden his parents with the tuition he took a second job as a pizza deliveryman. Late at night he hit the books. Li Chao Feng had found his goal.

Now, 11 years after dropping out of High School, he is set to enter college with a promising future as an engineer. “It has been a difficult journey working and studying at the same time. But along the way, I have been helped by people [...] I am thankful for them,” says Li Chao Feng who has set his eyes on higher goals and has become a true role model for his brothers.

By our actions, our decisions, we influence others especially younger people. I am often wondering what kind of role model I am. It is true that the sky is the limit but even in small ways, I can positively influence younger lifes. You too? Via

When School is a Wish


Khurram is only 11 years old but is already roaming the streets of Lahore in eastern Pakistan. He must find a job, any job, everyday.

A little over two years ago, Khurram was going to school and his family was living inside the beautiful Swat valley in the north. Since then, the school has been blown up by Taliban fighters coming from neighboring Afghanistan and the valley is now just a battlefield where government troops are fighting back the rebels.

Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, including Khurram’s family. His father cannot find a job in Lahore and the family savings just paid enough to move away from their ancestral home. They were supposed to live with family relatives but because the place was already full of refugees, Khurram’s family had to rent a home, adding to the financial pressure.

What will be Khurram’s future? Will he be able to go back to school? For now, with resilience, he looks everyday for a new job, to help the family’s finances.

Has he heard that in some countries, attending school is as easy as waking up in the morning? If he has, I bet he would love to experience that. Via

I Will Help Hungry Kids


If you follow the NFL you know Amobi Okoye. He is a defensive tackle for the Houston Texans. He is not yet 22 and became the youngest player ever to be drafted in 2007 at age 19.  Not bad for someone of such a young age. Even more interesting is that Amobi, immigrated for Nigeria with his parents when he was 12 having never played football before. He also achieved academic success by majoring in psychology and graduating one semester earlier.

Is he the ultra-gifted-talented-boy, the Michael-Jordan-style that appears once in a while? Amobi would tell you no and would credit his parents and tight-knit family for his achievements. He says that his two biggest influences have been his father and his mother who encouraged and believed in him.

That could be the end of the story: a young NFL star player enjoying the good life. But Amobi feels he has been lucky. He feels like many kids don’t have this chance to have supportive parents and he feels like if your belly is empty it is difficult to be a good student.

So he created his own non-profit, the Amobi Okoye Foundation. He rallied other young superstars players and took them to Nigeria to raise awareness, distribute scholarships and improve education and living condition. His foundation has done much more than that in and outside the US and he just came back from another trip to Africa. And he is not yet 22.

What Amobi Okoye is doing we can also do. Look around you. I am sure there is a kid, someone who is looking for some support, some encouragement, he or she is not getting at home. Don’t blame the parents, just give some of your time to that kid. You never know, a 5-minute talk or playing time could have a tremendous impact down the road and change his or her future.

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