A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

On the heels of International Women’s Day I decided to post my review of this book even though I haven’t finished it. Because I read and reviewed this couple’s book, Half the Sky (http://www.menupause.info/archives/11187) two years ago for IWD, and because I saw one section of the documentary on A Path Appears, I am ready to introduce the book to you and will follow up with another report if needed when I have finished it. But I feel the need to post this now because of its importance.

The subtitle of this book is Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, a fitting description for what these two Pulitzer Prize winners have produced.  Like their first book, the authors focus on individual people or specific organizations making a difference in the lives of people, especially young girls and women, who are caught in poverty and need help to become contributing members of society. Part of the book’s dedication says:

“And to all of you around the world who have taught us that witnessing the world’s troubles isn’t depressing but inspiring—because crises bring out the innate helpfulness in people, and because side by side with the worst of humanity, you see the best.”

What Kristof and WuDunn have accomplished in their reporting is itself a miracle, traveling around the world to places where people are poor, hungry, and downtrodden and finding inside that unfortunate situation the one person or a few people who are making a positive difference in these people’s lives.

Much of Part One discusses problems right here in America, in places where poverty is as severe as some developing countries. And out of the despair someone rises to help the people of their village or town to make a better life. Since I am living in the Philadelphia area, I will give you an example taking place right here. called Springboard Collaborative, a summer program to help children with their reading so they don’t lag behind when the next school year starts.

Springboard is the brainchild of one man, a teacher, Alejandro Gac-Artigas. His story reads like something from a fairytale. Seeing how the children he taught in a low-income area of Philadelphia were behind in the fall because parents did not have the means to find books or provide interesting conversations with their children over the summer, he came up with a sponsorship plan. The children are sponsored through donations and the program includes the parents, which Alejandro feels is key to its success. The program is working!. Now children want to read and the bonuses from being in the program, like a new backpack in the fall, don’t hurt either. (www.springboardcollaborative.org)

The episode I saw on WHYY was even more inspiring because the young man and his wife created a school in Kenya for young girls at risk, starting with nothing but a dream. (You can Google A Path Appears: Gender Based Oppression to see the series on your computer.) The village was bathed in abject poverty, with garbage everywhere, no sidewalks, just mud, and focuses on young girls who are disadvantaged for a number of reasons, namely for being female. This episode is very compelling because not only does it expose the horrors young girls experience (rape, sexual slavery), but it also shows that where there is hope, as demonstrated by the young couple spearheading this program, there is a way out of poverty.

At the end of the book are two lists: one is called A Gift List that you can donate $25 and make a real difference. (Springboard is on that list.) The other list is several pages long and is called A List of Useful Organizations. For our network gathering this past week-end for International Women’s Day, I made a short list of useful organizations that involved women specifically. Here is that list for you to investigate and make a difference with a donation participation:

From A Long List of Useful Organization in A Path Appears

(I picked these as particularly important for at-risk women & entrepreneurship)

Bead for Life, www.beadforlife.org, supports Ugandan artisans by selling their jewelry and helping artists set up savings accounts and launch businesses.

CARE, www.care.org, an international humanitarian organization, sets up microsavings programs in developing countries.

Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, www.stopteenpregnanacy.com, uses a holistic approach to help low-income students learn about pregnancy prevention, health and sexuality, jobs and financial literacy.

Dining for Women, www.diningforwomen.org, runs chapters of women who meet for monthly potlucks and donate the saved “dining out” dollars to carefully selected organizations that empower women worldwide.

Echoing Green, www.echoinggreen.org, supports early stage entrepreneurs.

FAIR Girls, www.fairgirls.org, uses prevention education, care for survivors, and advocacy to combat and prevent the sexual exploitation of girls in Washington, D.C.

GEMS Girls, www.gems-girls.org, provides support for young female trafficking survivors in New York City.

Global Giving, www.globalgiving.org, connects donors with social entrepreneurs and nonprofits around the world that are raising money to improve their communities.

Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org, is an international organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.

International Justice Mission, www.ijm.org, responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises in more than 40 countries.

JITA, www.jitabangladesh, a Bangladesh-based social business, employs rural women to sell socially responsible products such as soaps, seeds, and solar lamps to underprivileged consumers.

Kiva, www.kiva.org, lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help entrepreneurs launch small businesses around the globe.

MicroMentor, www.micromentor.org, carefully connects mentors with specific business skills to individual entrepreneurs in need of their expertise.

Polaris Project, www.polarisproject.org, combats and prevents human trafficking through a national human trafficking hotline, services for survivors, and efforts to pass anti-trafficking legislation around the country.

Self- Employed Women’s Association, www.sewa.org, is a huge union for poor, self-employed women in India. It accepts volunteers.

Shining Hope for Communities, www.shininghhopeforcommunities.org., in the Kibera slum in Kenya, provides health services, a school for young girls, micro-savings initiatives, a gender violence program, and job training to residents. You can sponsor a female student for $1,2000 a year.

SOPUDEP, www.sopudep.org, a Haitian grassroots organization, provides free education to kids and adults and supports women’s rights and economic empowerment for underserved Haitians.

Thistle Farms, www.thistlefarms.org,a social enterprise, provides jobs to trafficking survivors who run a café, and make and sell candles, soaps, and fragrances.

Vital Voices, www.vitalvoices.org, identifies, invests in, and brings visibility to extraordinary women around the world.

The title, A Path Appears, is from a Chinese essayist, Lu Xun (1921): Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing—but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.

The book is published by Knopf and is 382 pages long, the last of which are pages of notes where you can gather more information. The hardcover costs $27.95, and is worthy every penny!

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