The story of young engineer Rockiel is inspiring. That's cool. Keep up the good work. I volunteer sometimes with an amateur astronomy group that goes out to elementary schools to "star parties" -- the only celebrities are Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter. The kids and their parents who show up are so excited and interested. Usually the groups are very multicultural -- often the parents are immigrants and the kids may be 1st generation American. It's heartwarming to see the parents get so excited when they see Saturn or Jupiter through a telescope. The kids are excited too, of course, but I like see the parents get into it with them. Even when you go to places that don't need any encouragement, such when our group went to Earth Day at Qualcomm (where for Earth Day means tests drives in Teslas), even then the engineers are thrilled and fascinated to see telescopes, especially the DIY telescopes.
Susan, those Star parties sounds so cool. I would love to go on one of those star gazing excursions. I'm so glad to hear that kids, and their families, get the opportunity to learn about astronomy in this fun way. Thank you for your volunteer work!!
Erin, I am from Africa (Zimbabwe, a bit south of Tanzania). You don't say if you have been there before, but I think you will be impressed by the keenness of African kids to learn. This is a generalisation of course, but as there is little or no welfare in Africa, education is a ticket out of poverty. The cradle to grave welfare societies of the west don't give the same incentive, and in many ways they are poorer for it.
Hi David! No, I have not been to Africa before but Mama Hope parnters with community leaders in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana and I have learned so much about their collaborations from the amazing people who run Mama Hope. It's the community leaders in these countries who are making change and building the educational systems but they do need financial input in order to achieve their goals, and that's where we come in! I've read profiles on some of the students who have already graduated from St. Timohty's who are eager to continue their education. And they dream big ... they want to be doctors, lawyers and engineers! As well, I've been in direct contat with the community leader for St. Timohty's school, James Nathanial, who started the school in 2003 and I understand from him how much the children love to go to school. I cannot wait to meet all of them in person and do my part in helping them to transform their community. Thank you for your input!
Education is a necessity, sure, but what also is a necessity is clean water and healthy food. You cannot expect sick children to live happy if they get education. The ticket out of poverty may be education, but it's not the ticket out of hunger.
Anand, I agree. Thank you for your input. Education is important but on its own cannot solve everything. Poverty is a holisitc issue and has many elements that need to be addressed in order to help people help themselves out of poverty. Healtcare, food and clean water are crucial. At St. Timohty's School there is also a food sustaining garden where the children are also learning to garden, and a boarding home. You may read more about all of the projects that we participate in around Africa: http://www.mamahope.org/our-projects/
@Anand, for sure, it's a multi-faceted problem. When you see pictures of kids affected by the Palestine / Israel squabbles or ISIS - and lots more trouble spots in the world - you have to feel for them - what sort of life are they going to have? Many African kids have it good in comparison.
@David.Ashton & @Anand.Yaligar: valid points. I think in the survival scheme of things, addressing hunger and access to clean water comes first before education. But education is indeed the key to advance to the next step as well as improve the previous ones; it is the only way to make 'have' out of 'have-not's' IMHO.
Every living thing in this world does its best to stay alive, an innate desire to live. Humans go a step further urged by the same innate desire to learn.
@Anand: Re your various comments -- with all due respect, at least Erin is off her backside doing all sorts of things to help other people, both here in America and in other countries around the world.
She certainly puts me to shame -- how about you? You seem to have a lot of criticisms as to Erin's work -- can we assume that you devote a substantial amount of your time and money to helping people in other ways? Just askin'
@Max: I may not have meant any of it in the harsh way. Maybe the words came out wrong. I know people are doing all the good work, and they should keep it up too. It just bothered me to know that people were not improving the area they live in. I'm sure even the most powerful countries have problems, and engineers, doctors, teachers, police officers, fire fighters etc can only make the situation better. Education is an important thing in today's world.
@Anand: I may not have meant any of it in the harsh way. Maybe the words came out wrong.
No worries -- sometimes these online chats aren't the best medium to convey what one is really trying to say. I totally agree that there's a lot of work to do here in the USA -- and also in England where I'm from -- but I also think it would not be good for us to always be looking inward at our own problems -- it's good to look outwards and try to help others like Erin is doing.
Instead of pitying Africa, that probably deserves a little bit more respect than that, you should mind you own country. USA is the country of inequalities and poverty. Some people cannot even afford a doctor, not to mention a dentist. And they are not exactly you typical bum. At least 20 millions of them. Unless you are a champion in a rewarding field, you ll struggle to get access to a correct university.
But you would have enough of one day to help africa? No seriously, african people deserve better than coca cola, hamburgers and ... evangelization.
Agreed, though I don't think Africa is this point of this story. Yes, the U.S. needs to step up its game in getting all our citizens a good education and positioned for good careers, in STEM fields or otherwise. We need to improve our infrastructure, etc. etc. The point here is I know there are engineers out there working in their spare time on projects that improve their communities and the lives of fellow citizens. I'd like to hear those stories. Africa isn't the focus here, although the author happens to be doing a project in Africa. (Apparently, the organization she's going through stresses community involvement -- the community makes the choice for what the goals are. I'm not sure about evangelism in the religious sense.)
U.S. has a ways to go. Many countries are in the same boat or worse off in some ways. The goal here is NOT to compare countries or continents but share problem solving stories and to give a shout out to engineers pitching in.
I really appreciate the conversation and I 100% agree that we should NOT pity people in Africa. In fact the organization I'm working with highlights the fact that the people in these communites are completely capable but they are lacking the same opportunity to resources that we have in other countries. We see our work as a COLLABORATION with the community leaders in these places. We do not walk into a community and presume we know the answer to their needs. Rather, we have a conversation and we listen to what they want to bring to their community. Together we create a plan on how to do so and how to make the projects sustainable for the longterm. We fundraise in the West because the funds are here. Our work is very grassroots and small. We are helping people to help themselves, one community at a time We highlight this message in the "Stop the Pity" campaing. Take a look: http://www.mamahope.org/unlock-potential/
Proactively addressing global issues is not pity. I simply choose to do some work in one of the places on the globe most in need because an educated and healthy world is critical to our long term success. Yes, we have problems here at home, but by comparison, Africa has less access to resources and the struggles are big. For example, Tanzania has 1 doctor for every 50,000 people. The worst state in the US (Mississippi) has 1:564. Tanzania has one teacher per 50 students. The US has 14.
Thanks again for offering your concerns. They are mine as well.
Erin, a very good rebuttal of thesse points. I don't suggest that charity should not begin at home, but you're entitled to put your efforts where you want, and where you think they will get the most "bang for your buck". My original point was that African kids are keen to learn in a way that I have not seen in a lot of first-world countries. Yes, there are problems everywhere - look at the current protests in Ferguson. Throwing money at them is not going to solve anything right now.
Since being in Australia I have been kinda shocked at the level of self-interest in politicians which I did not expect, and that goes for most developed countries I think. The US govenment has the resources to solve a lot of problems if it wants to. The Tanzanian government does not have such luxury.
You're one person, doing your best to solve some problems that have obviously hit a nerve with you. If there are problems in your home country, your government should be trying to sort them out with the taxes you pay, and if they don't, vote them out. One person can always make a difference, and where and how you choose to do it is your affair.
Thanks David. I appreciate the conversation and your words of support. I'll mention here that I have put in my volunteer efforts here at home via tutoring at a local elementary school and teaching yoga to hospital patients but now, at least for a while, turn my efforts toward Tanzania.
This is a good discussion. I agree: nobody needs to hear Americans arrogant preaching to the rest of the world when we need to get our own house in order. On the same level, the U.S. has contributed a lot of inventions, often discovered by inventors (or teams of inventors) who were immigrants to the this country; inventions that have helped other countries. But really the roots of all inventions are multicultural--multinational: if you're a fan of the old TV series Connections, where modern day technology is traced to its roots.
Engineers just by making themselves available to kids and communities can make a difference as you say. Kids need exposure to engineers and scientists (and other people who create: artists, writers) to see that there are options out there.
Our world is a living organism – breathing from the interactions among the environment to the ecology to the people living within it. To suggest that 'doing good' outside of our own backyard is misdirected and narrow minded, even for an engineer. 'Our own backyard' thinking is Paleolithic– good for diets, bad for a world view. You can keep treating the fungus in your own backyard lawn all you want but if you don't want it coming back, you better help neighbors with their backyards too.
A positive contribution in any part of the world makes the entire organism healthier and thereby benefits everyone – including the good ole USA. Not to mention, just a good thing to do. It is important for people from the MOST privileged society in the history of the world to help out the LEAST privileged societies in the world. Anything else would be socially and morally unacceptable. Go Erin!!! Thanks for stepping up.