WOV Celebrates International Literacy Day in DC
Guest post from Jill Sherman, WOV Columbia-Willamette:
Elmo, Hugh Jackman, Laura Bush, and four Women of Vision. What do these have in common? We were all at the launch of a new joint USAID/World Vision Grand Challenge event in Washington DC around International Literacy Day. If the truth be told, Hugh and Laura were only on video, but I was excited anyway!
Beth Happick from Baltimore, Terri Hart from Charlotte, Cathryn Selman from Houston, and me, Jill Sherman from Columbia/Willamette were privileged to attend this event to learn about the projects and become advocates for our chapters and Women of Vision at large. So what was this all about?
Access to education has been a goal for many years for World Vision and others. And that goal is still at the front of our concern in some areas of the world. However, for those children attending school, are they learning? What was discovered is that in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of children in school for 5 years were still functionally illiterate. Having taught at a rural school in Zambia, where I had over 80 students in my 8th grade class, I could understand the problem. In other parts of the developing world, over 70% of children are not reading at grade level.
When confronted with this information, USAID sought partners and then issued a Grand Challenge to stakeholders, around the world, to come up with innovative ideas to address this huge need. Over 500 proposals were submitted and 32 were accepted to receive grants for the 2 year All Children Reading campaign. Projects range from Sesame Street in India to accessible public libraries in Zambia to media use in South Africa to interactive white boards in Haiti. Of the 32 grantees, World Vision will oversee 7 of them.
On September 7 & 8, we gathered in Washington DC to attend the official launch of this program. On Friday, hundreds of us met in the Reagan Building amphitheater to honor the grantees and hear speakers from various involved sectors. Saturday, we four were able to gather with a much smaller group to learn, in detail, about World Vision’s focus and to meet and interact with the grantees. What a blessing it was to meet with people from all over the globe who are so invested in the future of some of our most vulnerable children.
What does this mean for Women of Vision? As we launch Strong Women, Strong World, the implications of education, particularly for women and girls, are huge. Women, who are literate, will have fewer children. The children they bear have a 50% greater chance of surviving past age 5. She is equipped to better avail herself of economic opportunities and even her country, as a whole, benefits. Several of the countries in SWSW include education components so through them, we will advocate not only for access to education but for learning and literacy. We will support the All Children Reading projects in our chosen countries. Our gifts to our sponsored children can now be more intentional as we focus on their educational needs.
Here at home, Women of Vision chapters can become involved with their local schools. Many inner city or rural schools, particularly, would love our advocacy and hands on support. Speakers from USAID are available to share at our Women of Vision events. This is an exciting opportunity for us in Women of Vision.
Education is key to a child’s “having life in all its fullness.” May our wills and prayers move us to respond.