Secular Education 360°: We Need Your Input
Educating a child involves more than just covering tuition and paying for books. It's ensuring the mother is healthy, the family has stable income, and so much more. It require a 360° approach.
By Gail Miller, Board President: Many years ago I was travelling in Nicaragua when our group came across an abandoned school building in the countryside. It turns out that the now defunct school was funded by a high school from Canada. Good intentions and money were obviously not enough to keep this school operating. I suspect developing countries are littered with good intentions that result in many abandoned buildings and projects. At the International Association of Atheists (IAA), we want to avoid this scenario.
We receive lots of proposals from people and groups that want funding to help humanity. The range is broad - from providing sanitary napkins so that education is uninterrupted to spice farms to hiring locals to help non-believers stuck en route from their homes to western countries to expanding secular education.
How to assess these projects is a real challenge. Like many other organizations, IAA uses basic criteria such as ensuring they’re tangible, realistic goals; experienced people to lead it; costs are accurate; etc. Even if we could physically be on the ground to evaluate the project, we still may not get all the information we need. So how do we ensure that donor dollars are spent effectively on these projects?
We could just focus on "education". Education has lots of benefits that improve peoples’ lives. Not only do the educated have better job prospects, but so is their health and the welfare of their children. Women with a grade 7 education tend to have less children and ensure those they do have go to school. But it takes a lot for a child to be educated. It’s more than paying tuition or constructing a building.
IAA’s Secular Education 360° program realizes that and takes a holistic approach. Our current fundraiser for Responsible Charity is a good example of it. It’s founder, Hemley, quickly learned educating a child involved ensuring the mother was healthy, the family had stable income, there was adequate learning preparation before any girl or boy from the slum actually went to school, and many other factors. Hemley spends much of his time networking with clinics, private schools, businesses and other agencies in Kolkata to ensure the children he sponsors complete their education.
At the end of this year, the Board at IAA will review proposals and select ones to support in 2021. But before we do, we need to hear from you. What do you think? Should we just focus on Secular Education 360° or branch out to support local initiatives that provide employment? What about those on the run or in hiding in places where non-belief is a crime? How do we assess proposals to ensure your dollars are being spent effectively?
I’m hoping you will share your ideas and thoughts so IAA can truly be a symbol of the good atheists can do for the world.