Friday, July 25, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT: Getting Involved

Now that we've learned something about the developing world and how microfinance projects are attempting to make a sustainable difference in the economic well-being of people in some of these countries, you might wonder what you can do with your newfound knowledge. That's what my final summer project post will attempt to answer.

The daughter of a friend of mine from college is currently serving as an intern in Argentina for the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). Her name is Christine Solitario, and she just finished her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A few weeks ago, via Facebook, she sent me the following overview of what she's doing there:

"Right now I am in Villa Elisa, a neighborhood of La Plata in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm interning through Foundation for Sustainable Development, an international NGO that coordinates short and long term volunteering in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Their Argentina program is based in La Plata. My internship is with a self-sustaining microfinanced sewing cooperative called Mi Perrito Cooperative. They started at the end of 2006 and began focusing on the production of dog clothing. Currently, they're trying to expand and have a contract to make babies' clothing through an organization called Otro Mercado that supports sustainable cooperative. Their workshop is based in a "comedor" called Arco Iris, a community center that provides nutritional meals and educational and social development activities to over 70 children in the area, including the children of the women that work in the cooperative. I'm involved in lots of different things with the group, it changes everyday. The "microfinance" aspect of the cooperative is that they have received micro-loans from a lender here in Argentina called La Base that focuses its efforts on cooperatives. They have also received several grants written by previous FSD interns (I'm currently writing one too). Like I said, it's not like the "traditional microfinance" of SE Asia or Grameen Bank where individual women receive loans and then organize in groups to ensure timely payment, provide support to other group members, etc. Still, the cooperative does work with small loans and grants."

It struck me when I read her words that she's not that much older than any of you! And what an adventure she's having! What an incredible learning experience. (Not to mention, what a great way to differentiate your college application from the thousands that admissions offices receive every year.)

Did I get your attention yet? Since this class is all about student-driven, hands-on learning, encouraging you all to consider an internship or short-term volunteer trip with a group like FSD seemed like the PERFECT last project in my summer series. It could even develop into your project for this class for this year. So here's what you need to do if you choose this project for the blog this summer:

1) Read the above note that Christine sent to me. (By the way, I'll bet Christine would answer your friend request on Facebook if you wanted to speak with her directly about her trip.)

2) Go to the website for the Foundation for Sustainable Development:

Read through the home page, the Why FSD - 10 Reasons page, the Internship page, Short-Term Volunteering page, and one of the blog posts from people who are already serving in various developing nations. Then answer the following questions:

If you became an intern or volunteer, where would you like to go? Why?

What would you do to prepare for your trip? What might you need to learn?

Why might you or someone else choose to become part of a program like this?

Once your internship or volunteer trip was over, what would you like to have accomplished a) for the people in the community you served and b) for yourself?

I would LOVE to see one or more of you actually become part of a program like this that would take you to a developing nation. If you did, it would be a life-changing experience.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT: A Closer Look at Lending to Entrepreneurs in Developing Nations through Kiva

So far in my Summer Project posts, we've gotten a quick overview of Kiva, a micro-lending website that allows individuals to connect with entrepreneurs in need of financing in the developing world, and we've learned a bit about how microfinancing works. Now I'd like us to find out more about 4 of these real entrepreneurs (My husband Glen and I have made Kiva loans to each of them, which is how I know about them.) from 4 different developing nations, find out how they are using their loans, and learn more about why their countries are considered developing nations. If you choose to respond to this post, you may choose one of the 4 entrepreneurs and read about him or her in the appropriate link below. Next, go to the CIA's World Fact Book website (links are below) for the country of the entrepreneur you chose and read about that country. Then respond to both of the following prompts in your post:

What characteristics of the nation you read about qualifies it as a developing nation? What obstacles does this nation face? What promising features does it have that could help to propel it into a more economically prosperous future?

Comment on one or more of the following for the entrepreneur's profile you chose: the loan amount, the delinquency rate of the field partner (the microfinance institution that distributes the money loaned and receives repayment from the entrepreneurs to which it distributes money), the people who have loaned money online through Kiva to the entrepreneur you chose, background of the entrepreneur, or anything else you see that interests you on the profile page.

Kiva Entrepreneur Mulkadar Abbasov:
Nation of Azerbaijan:

Kiva Entrepreneur Fatuma Furaha:
Nation of Tanzania:

Kiva Entrepreneur Luisa Ivania Espinoza:
Nation of Nicaragua:

Kiva Entrepreneur Abu Samura:
Nation of Sierra Leone:

If you need a quick refresher course on what Kiva does, click here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Political Honesty (oxymoron?)

My first SUMMER POST (concerning deception in politics) generated some thoughtful responses, and I'd like to pursue this further based on your comments.

Several of you concluded that telling the truth can hurt a candidate's chances for election, and that knowing the whole truth might in some cases be traumatic for the public. Why, in "the world's greatest democracy", should this be ? You will enjoy two short opinion-editorials on the subject:

The Perils of Honesty in Politics by Ezra Klein, who cites journalist Michael Kinsley's principle that "a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."

The Truth About Honesty by Joan Vennochi, who is hopeful that American voters are finally ready for the truth, and claims that "truth telling does seem more likely to occur in the Oval Office if it begins on the campaign trail."

Political satire often gets to the heart of the matter, and (if you haven't already) you should check out JibJab's latest video Time for Some Campaignin'.

Consider these questions:

How much truth can the American public handle? How much do they deserve?

What issues are the presidential candidates tiptoeing around? (Are you following the campaign? Whether or not you will be eligible to vote in November, you have a stake in the election.)

Each candidate has been accused of changing position on certain issues. What issues are they?
What makes a "good" politician?

Finally, is there a better way of choosing an American President? It takes well over 100 million dollars to run a viable Presidential campaign, in which it seems advantageous to avoid the truth (which is often distorted and reduced to sound bites and photo ops). I think that this course has to do with inventing the future, and here's your challenge to invent a new way of selecting our national leader.

Wow, give it a try. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This is my 4th and last summer project post. Again, my theme has been media and culture, and I am specifically interested in how what we see and hear affects what we know… SO… I found this blog that addresses this very thing: the idea of the purpose of education in the 21st century, and how that purpose should change as understanding and resources change. Interestingly (and synchronistically, serendipitously enough) this site really embodies much of what I think education should be—and maybe some of what we’re going for in this course.

The blog is Education for Well-Being. Go look at it, explore, and think about what you think.
Related to my theme is this, a video created by Ed4WB:

After viewing the video think about this (in relationship to the video's ideas, of course):

How do you know what you know? (Epistemology?)
What should you know? Who should “teach” it to you?
How does our culture affect your knowledge? What kind of knowledge is important?
How do you find, synthesize, and express information and ideas? For school? For yourself?
How do you know that what you know is true?
What do you think of this video?

As always, I am looking forward to your responses. I can’t wait to talk about this stuff in class.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Media Analysis and Source Credibility

This is my third summer project post for our class, and I have been thinking about propaganda, advertising, and the effects of popular culture on kids and schools. I am working on a professional presentation that has to do with teaching critical thinking, and I am using pop culture as my starting point.

Anyway, I came across the website for The Culture and Media Institute. The site has some really interesting articles that deal with the impact of language. This one*** details the way popular music lyrics affect teen behavior (***before you read: PROFANITY alert in this article). The website’s also got a sidebar column that tracks news articles evidencing our culture’s decline, (a Biblical one, evidently, as the sidebar’s entitled “Slouching Toward Gomorrah”). One of the recent articles discusses thievery of manhole covers, while another reports on a British student who was given credit for a profane answer on a test.

The Culture and Media Institute is a product of The Media Research Center, an openly conservative organization, and “the mission of the Culture and Media Institute is to preserve and help restore America’s culture, character, traditional values, and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite, and to promote fair portrayal of social conservatives and religious believers in the media. CMI, the cultural division of the Media Research Center, is dedicated to correcting misconceptions in the media about social conservatism and religious faith.”

So… After looking over the site, some articles, and other contents, think about this:

What did you discover that you find interesting, significant, revealing, or strange?

What does the information or ideas contained here tell you about bias? About information?

According to the website and its contents, what issues are most important in America today?

What changes should be made in America today? What is “truth”? How do you know?

And… Is this a credible source? Does it meet the standards of accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage that determine credibility?