2011 Archive of Blog posts
Greetings Friends and Supporters!
If you are one of those that prefers to save your annual giving to the very end of the year, you are in luck! We have an important and timely request that needs your help. A few months back Army Brigade Nurse Captain Kim Duenow let us know that her unit was starting a birthing assistant program in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan and needed supplies to create birthing kits. She wrote to us saying:
"We are looking to create a reduction in the startlingly high maternal and infant mortality death rate that is present throughout much of rural Afghanistan 1 in 8 women die during childbirth and 50% of all children die before the age of 5, with 75% of those deaths occurring within their first week of life. Statistics have shown that implementing simple teaching programs and handing out these kits dramatically reduces the maternal and infant mortality rate in half within months. Not many Public Health initiatives can make that claim."
In another email, she wrote about her unit's area of operation:
"There are several NGOs that run birthing kit programs but unfortunately our area has been too kinetic to entice any of these groups here, so we need to act independently. So in an effort to make this more sustainable we are going to train a local to give the class and have continuous supplies ready for distribution to the local women."
Spirit of America responded immediately and purchased enough supplies to complete 300 birthing kits. An added benefit, the supplies were purchased locally which makes for a fast delivery.
This is one of the first training sessions in progress:
In closing Captain Duenow writes:
Thank you in advance for your consideration. This is something that we are extremely passionate about here...
We are passionate about this project too and want to make this year-end appeal to help Captain Duenow meet her goal of providing 1,000 birthing kits. Any donation, large or small, will help purchase these simple first aid kits specific for mothers to be and their newborns, literally helping to save lives. Please help in this final push to support Captain Duenow's request by giving here.
For those of you who responded to our recent mailing with so many heartfelt wonderful notes, it's you who deserve the thanks and credit. Whatever we have accomplished and will accomplish in the new year is a direct result of your generosity. Thank you.
Happy New Year from all of us at Spirit of America.
The Spirit of America Team
Jobs and Security
Greetings Friends and Supporters!
Jobs and Security. Long term you can't have one without the other. This is the main focus of the Army in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Both are of equal importance in the US military's efforts to stabilize the area and help foster job sustainability. Our Commander Support Program is the perfect compliment to the Army's efforts. It's in full swing with our representatives Toby Bonthrone and Mike Press on the ground and on the spot available to respond to requests that help our troops help the local communities. In record time.
Jobs - In the Arghandab district in Kandahar, a significant proportion of the area's security risks originate from unemployed males who lack the skills to find work. These men are easy targets for the Taliban, because the Taliban promise them work and money if they'll join them. This is a huge hurdle for our troops on the ground to overcome. The US Army and the District Support Team in the area have started a pilot program to train 30 hand picked men in various masonry skills and provide a mason's toolkit and certificate so they can actually begin working immediately.
This project has the elements of success by providing jobs to the local people, and also stimulating their local economy. Toby Bonthrone, our Rep on the ground adds "Simply put, no matter what the larger political outcomes in the coming years, the men and communities which benefited from this training will be able to use it to stand on their own feet, reducing their dependence on handouts - whether from ISAF or the Taliban - and eliminating the need to import costly labor for basic tasks such as housing construction from elsewhere."
Here's the Afghan trainees on their first day of instruction:
We didn't hesitate to give this project a boost from our unrestricted fund. We hope you agree and support the Army's efforts by donating here.
Security - The people in the Zhari district of Afghanistan are having continuous battles rejecting insurgent presence within their communities. The Taliban is a constant threat and the local Police unit can only be in so many places at once. Locals in the Zhari district are not being protected and their lives will continue to be at risk until there is stabilized protection. 1LT Derek Taylor of the US Army is working to provide a community based security team that will help serve and protect the Zhari district. This will be accomplished using small guard forces, around 50+ men per community, who will work within the community in partnership with the local police. For the first few months of this project, the US will work closely with the community teams and provide extra security. As the program matures, responsibility will fall more to the local shura and Afghan Police. With your support we can help keep out the Taliban, which will provide a safer living for the people of the Zhari district and a safer stay for the US Troops.
That's our Spirit of America Field Rep Mike Press (on the right) on base ceremonially presenting the first of the radios which were distributed for use in the field.
Additional funding is needed for more radios, flashlights and uniforms. To read more and give, click here.
And last but not least, check out this article featuring "Spirit of America: Connecting Americans with the Marines and the Mission" in the December issue of Leatherneck Magazine. It really is a good read and highlights the progress we've made in 2011, thanks to your generosity.
The Spirit of America Team
"I believe in this"
As I mentioned in this blog post, it was thanks to the hard work of the 2/87 Infantry, who are part of 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, that we were able to have such a successful school-to-school videoconference between Bag-e-pol School in Zhari district and Watertown High School on Wednesday night. I'll be posting the full videoconference shortly, but in the meantime click on this link to watch and meet two of the Lieutenants from 2/87. Hear about some of the work they have been doing, and their thoughts on the program and why it is so important to their mission in Afghanistan.
Teaching Global Citizenship
This past semester Rachael and I have been teaching a weekly class at Windward School in Los Angeles. Windward was the first US high school to participate in School Partners/Afghanistan (video highlights here) and they invited us to teach an elective class on Afghanistan and Global Citizenship. It's been a great experience with a group of young scholars hungry to learn about a part of the world where Americans troops have been engaged for most of these students' lives.
Windward School in Los Angeles
We've given classes on Afghan history, the world of NGOs and development aid, how non-profits operate, fund-raising, and how to measure outcomes in humanitarian assistance. We've screened documentaries about Afghan women, watched clips from Spirit of America projects in Tajikistan and even shown the brilliant Sundance short film Skateistan. Windward students have worked with us to develop the School Partners curriculum, helped us figure out remote teaching via text message, and generally inspired us with their enthusiasm to be true Global Citizens.
Director, School Partners
1st school-to-school videoconference with Afghan girls
Hello again from New York!
I've just come from Watertown High School's first school-to-school videoconference with their Afghan Partner school. Watertown has been partnered with Bag-e-pol School, which is in the Zhari District of Kandahar province. Tonight's videoconference was really exciting because for the first time in School Partners' history, there were both boys and girls together on the Afghan side.
Normally education in Afghanistan is seperated by gender so seeing boys and girls together was a real and pleasant surprise.
Both boys and girls talked about their day-to-day lives, including that many of them play soccer, and what they wanted to do after school.
An Afghan girl talks about her family, including introducing Watetown High students to her younger brother (far left)
It was a really great opportunity for students from both schools to talk about their hopes for the future, and their hopes for this program. We are hoping to do their second videoconference in 2 to 3 months.
I would also like to especially thank the 2/87 INF, which is part of 3rd Brigade 10th Mountain Division, for running the videoconference on the Afghan end. Through all of their hard work and time, we were able to give students on both sides of the world a fantastic experience. The 2/87 INF is partnered explicitly with Watertown High School and will be helping Spirit of America do all of their school-to-school videoconferences in the future. They've done an amazing job making these videoconferences happen and I'm very much looking forward to working with them in the future.
Finally, make sure to check back soon as I will be posting video and photos of the videoconference shortly.
Watertown High School upcoming videoconference with Afghanistan
I am headed back to New York tomorrow to do another school-to-school videoconference as part of the School Partners/Afghanistan program.
Last week's videoconference with Sackets Harbor and Howz-e-Madad School was great, and I'm excited to get to do a videoconference with a different high school in the area.
On Wednesday night (December 21st) Watertown High School will be doing their first school-to-school videoconference with their Afghan Partner school.
I'll be blogging immediately after the event and will post photos and videos as soon as possible. Check back in on Wednesday night for more updates!
School-to-School Conference in Kandahar
December 13th, I was lucky enough to help moderate a video teleconference for our School Partners/ Afghanistan program between students from the school at Howz-e-Madad along with soldiers from 1-32IN and students from Sacketts Harbor High School.
Sacketts Harbor is part of the Ft Drum community where the unit is from and is attended by many students whose parents are in 3/10MTN. With the help of Rachael from our headquarters in LA who was at Sacketts Harbor coordinating the teleconference in NY, we gave the Afghan and American kids a unique experience. We originally slotted the event to last about an hour, but in the end it lasted over one and a half hours.
It was a great experience and hopefully we can have more between other American and Afghan schools.
Afghanistan Field Rep.
Full videoconference up on Youtube
Head over to Spirit of America's Youtube channel to see the full video from last week's school-to-school videoconference! The video is broken into 4 clips, so make sure to watch them all. Students from Kandahar, Afghanistan and Sackets Harbor, New York spoke together over Skype for over an hour, with the help our our field rep Mike Press and the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
Sackets Harbor students wave hello to students at Howz-e-Madad school
Students covered all kinds of topics, and even danced and sang for each other. The Macarena dance even makes an appearance.
By the end students on both sides were talking about what they wanted to do for the next videoconference, scheduled for sometime in March.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates, and future videoconferences that are part of the School Partners/Afghanistan program