Today we want to recognize some of the unsung heroes that make education in the remote regions of Central Asia possible. It’s our amazing donors who ensure school supplies make it to children in far-off villages, schools are built to meet the increasing need for education, and scholarships are available to everyone who wants an education. Of those donors, the ones who give monthly provide stability to a job that is often tumultuous. Today we want to honor those who have made the choice to give monthly and become Dream Makers, the name we’ve given CAI’s monthly donors.
When you give monthly, you’re standing up tirelessly and using your voice to keep reminding the world that girls’ education matters. We wanted to get to know a few of these special donors, to hear more about their passion and what motivates them. We interviewed two women, one who has been a monthly donor for ten years and one who just signed on, to see why they chose girls’ education. Neither saw their decision as inspiring or newsworthy, but their words and actions are powerful.
“I have long believed that the best way to fight terrorism and poverty is to educate women. When women have knowledge they begin to realize they have power. They begin to transfer that to their children. They teach their daughters that women are valuable and can make a difference. They teach their sons compassion. They teach their children that there is more than one way to look at the world.”
In the early 2000s the world was still embroiled in a war on terrorism in the Middle East. Daily reports of fighting in Afghanistan were all over the news. Elaine remembers thinking if women in these areas had access to education, they would pass education on to their children, and generation to generation lasting change would happen.
Elaine credits her mother for the foundation of this idea. Her mother encouraged her to pursue an education because it would give her options and expand her horizons.
She explains, “My mother grew up in the 40s and 50s and got married in the 60s, and she was a teacher. She instilled in me that in her era, smart women were nurses and teachers. That’s all they had. She always instilled in me that education was very important.”
When she first heard CAI co-founder Greg Mortenson speaking on the Dave Roth radio show in 2006, she resonated with the idea that education is the way to lasting peace. “I was only half paying attention, so I started listening closer and decided I wanted to read the book [Three Cups of Tea],” she explains. She remembers bringing the book to her book club and signing up to be a monthly donor so she could help work towards a solution for peace she had always believed in.
“I’ve been involved in nonprofits for a really long time, so I know that monthly donors are a prized possession because you have to budget, just like your household budget,” she explains. “I try to be a monthly donor to all the charities I donate to so they can count on it.”
By committing to an organization like CAI, she felt like she was supporting an idea she really believed in, that education will create the foundation for peace. She says, “Educating them will help them realize there are more ways to live and be. Not that our way is better, but that there are more options and that women do have a voice in other parts of the world and it’s ok.”
“The strife is still there,” she continues. “The fight that organizations like [CAI] are continuing is making a difference, but it’s not going to happen overnight. You have to keep going, and generation after generation will bring change. It hasn’t even been a generation since I started supporting CAI.”
The advice she has for people considering giving monthly is to go for it if it’s something you believe in. “If they were already considering donating and they had a heart and a passion for education, I would encourage them that it will make a difference. It’s going to be a long haul but there’s no other way to do it. The way to change the world is by changing hearts and minds.”
Her hope for the future is that there will be a time when education is a normal part of everyday life; that it’s no longer a struggle just to go to school.
“Somewhere, someone’s got to make a stand to help the people. Education and compassion are key. This organization provides that. That’s why I became a monthly donor.”
Michalyn Gret is one of our newest monthly donors. She first learned about CAI through Pennies for Peace, CAI’s service-learning program for schools, homeschools, and groups, but it wasn’t until Giving Tuesday 2017 that she made her first donation. She says it was small, but it got her thinking about the organization.
Michalyn lives outside of Detroit and works as a Spanish teacher at an online high school for at-risk youth who are in danger of dropping out before they graduate. Some of these students have gotten into trouble and others are refugee students who have a first language other than English. She’s passionate when she talks about her work and the opportunity this alternative high school gives these children. “I’m from a totally different background than these kids, and I really love working with them,” she says.
Her own education has had a profound impact on her life, which is why she was drawn to CAI, “I went to an all-girls school when I was 13. When I look back I didn’t realize how important that experience was. The importance of education as well as the camaraderie and high academic standards and morality. It was an important time in my life.”
That experience has shaped the way she views education and the power it has to change people’s lives. More than anything else, Michalyn believes that education is the way forward for the world. Once she made that first donation, CAI stayed on her mind.
When she heard about the deadly siege on the International Hotel in Kabul on January 18 where 18 people lost their lives, Michalyn felt like she needed to do something. She felt helpless and didn’t want to sit by any longer, so she called Central Asia Institute to find out more about the organization and how she could get involved. After hearing about the educational programs CAI supports and our method of working with communities to empower and support them, she became a monthly donor.
“The week I signed up to be a donor was no accident. This is about doing something positive. All you hear on the news is negativity. I feel strongly that if more people knew about CAI, and if more people knew about the mission and what good it does maybe this could actually help these countries,” she says.
When Michalyn speaks about being a monthly donor and the power of education, the passion in her voice comes through. Hearing the sad and devastating news from around the world made her feel powerless. Becoming a monthly donor was her way of taking that power back and standing up for the things she believes in with compassion.
“We need to have more compassion,” she says. “I think it’s a way of giving back. Maybe someday whoever I help out will help someone else out.”
She has a few words of advice for people thinking about giving monthly to an organization, “I would encourage people to research the organization. I read different things on the website and I called and talked to someone over the phone. That was the turning point for me.”
For Michalyn, her monthly donation means she’s using her voice, she’s not sitting by while injustices continue to occur. It’s also a way of appreciating the educational opportunities she was afforded and making sure those opportunities are passed on to others.
“It’s like paying it forward. Not all Americans are rich, but we are very blessed. I feel like, if I can pass a little bit on to someone in some way, and that person passes it on to someone in her village, then I will have made a difference.”
Every donor is an unsung hero, making sure organizations can carry out plans and reach the most people. When you give monthly you create a foundation to make sure budgets for school supplies, scholarships, and construction projects are met consistently. They provide a foundation for planning new projects and projections.
Thank you so much to our monthly Dream Makers like Elaine and Michalyn, who use their support to stand for causes they believe in. If their inspiring words have motivated you to give monthly, please let us know. We’re happy to explain our programs and your impact. Whether it’s five dollars or $500, monthly donations really add up and create a lifetime of change.
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