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Lance Armstrong Trial
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged $25 million to an effort to repair and rebuild schools in Pakistan, mostly in provinces that have been affected by military involvement and severe flooding. USAID is working with the local Provincial Disaster Management Authority to rebuild school buildings that serve to educate children and often act as community gathering places.

USAID had previously given about $85 million to rebuild schools and irrigation systems in some provinces. The money also served to rebuild 122 schools. This means that for every $1 million, the equivalent of 1.4 schools is rebuilt. Even with the positive turnout of new schools being built quickly, a bigger donation could make an even greater difference. But given the economy these days, where could that money come from?

The international giving of the United States is a point of pride for many and it really does cause the rest of the world to see the country in a more positive light. What better way to fund a great tradition than to reclaim funds from the recent scandal?

The U.S. government is filing a suit against Lance Armstrong and the U.S. cycling team for $30 million. The federal government and the U.S. Postal Service were the primary sponsors of the now disgraced superstar and now, they want their money back. The Armstrong trial has been picking up a lot of buzz, from his confession on Oprah to an episode of South Park dedicated to his popular Livestrong bracelets. An additional $30 million would more than double USAID’s ability to rebuild schools; maybe this is an opportunity for the greatest team in US cycling history to try to recoup from their fall from grace.

Kevin Sullivan

Sources: TheHill.com, The Express Tribune
Photo: Hollywood.com

Skateistan-Kabul
Through the love of skateboarding, an unexpected collaboration between two organizations has brought together a melting pot of activities, cultures, and a life changing experience. It’s been said that the love of a sport can erase all boundaries; a fact that could not be truer for the organization ‘Skateistan’.

Started in 2007 by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, Skateistan has a plain and simple goal: to use skateboarding as a tool to empower girls and working children around the world. They now operate in Pakistan, Cambodia, Kabul, and plan to open workspace in a second city in Afghanistan. Making skateboards serves a higher purpose than just a fun activity; it also gives children a creative environment where they can learn about craftsmanship, geometry, teamwork, and leadership.

Skateistan provides both skateparks and classrooms. They ensure the safety of all the children and young adults who use and run their facilities, an invaluable gift to those living in tumultuous communities. Through workshops, students learn the basics of building a skateboard. They work together to transform their ideas into a tangible product, showing off their imagination and work ethic.

Recently, Skateistan started a cross-cultural relationship with Native American skateboarders from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Through the program “Connecting Dots”, both groups of skaters will design 10 skateboards based on the other group’s culture, symbols, and heritage. The skateboards will be on display throughout America, with Skateistan hoping to secure an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

This is an opportunity not just for the children in Afghanistan to learn about a completely new culture, but to develop important skills such as task delegation, accepting ethnic differences, and successfully finishing a project.

So much can be said about organizations such as Skateistan. All it takes is for one passionate person to be able to convince those around him of the impact that they can make in a community in dire need of a powerful force to engage its youth.

There are no formal handshakes or political debates. The matter and means are simple: gives children an outlet for creativity and leadership development. Changing their lives at a basic level can have such a strong impact on their individual abilities that in their own right, these children will change their circumstances and “break the cycles of poverty and exclusion” in their communities.

Deena Dulgerian

Source: Skateistan.org

malala-fund-created-to-support-girls-education
In October 2012, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl, for speaking up about women’s rights and education. She survived the brutal attempt on her life and in response, became determined to help every child in the world receive an education. To help make this dream a reality, she started the Malala Fund.

The Malala Fund was created with the help of an already established non-profit, Vital Voices, which encourages women’s empowerment and leadership. The Malala Fund’s aim is to support education for children across the globe.

Since the attempt on her life, much of the world has stood up in support of Malala. She even had a song titled Ricochet (Malala’s Song) written about her by a girl named Samantha Anne Martin; all of the profit created from the song on iTunes will go towards the Malala Fund. On February 4th, Malala released a video stating that she was still alive and doing well after various surgeries, and that now she will dedicate her life to serving girls across the world who need her and need help attaining an education.

Malala’s father has told ABC that he believes his daughter should serve as an inspiration to the children of the world. Perhaps he is right, because despite the fact she almost died for supporting the right woman to receive an education, she has become even more committed to the cause following her recovery.

Two important organizations, The United Nations Foundation and Girl Up, have given their support to the Malala Fund and her cause. Some militants still wish to harm Malala but nonetheless, Malala has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and remains optimistic.

To donate to the Malala Fund, see the Democracy in Action webpage.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: ABC News, Vital Voices, New York Times
Photo: The Daily Beast