Data Makes the World Go Round

The Zambian team is growing and we are excited to introduce our 2 new additions to the team – Data Coordinators, Noah Mzyece and Samuel Shawa.

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Noah Mzyece joined us in June, coming from nearby Chipata. He was prompted to apply because of “The vision for Impact Network Zambia [and] the services that are being offered by the organization that aim at uplifting the lives of people in the various communities of rural Katete (East and West), Sinda and Petauke (North and South).”

Felicia says “Noah has been a wonderful addition to the Impact Network team! He brings a positive energy to the office and has taken on the enormous amount of data that we have on our students, teachers and schools with great stride. Working with data requires someone who is detailed-oriented and focused- Noah is just that!”

Noah focuses on compiling all data that is obtained in the field relating to academics, students and schools through a mobile data collection app, paper-based questionnaires and reports. Specifically, he works really hard to collect all of our student enrollment data, student attendance data, EGRA/EGMA assessment results and curriculum mapping.

Felicia’s view is that “With Noah on board, the education team has become much more efficient. The education team is now able to close the feedback loop in a timely manner, getting data back to staff in the field for them to make informed decisions about implementation. In the past month Noah has worked hard to refine our Master Student Database – this is a game changer for the education team!”

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Samuel Shawa joined us in July, relocating to Katete from Lusaka. When asked what interested him to apply for the position, he said “Having gone through the work which Impact Network does, that is to provide access to quality education for every child, I was attracted because my ambitions have always been to see equal access to education for all and I thought Impact Network will be my right place to be.”

Sharon Taylor, who directed Samuel’s onboarding describes his as “cheerful, quietly confident young man who has settled into the team as if he's always been here. He has taken to the role like a duck to water and is clearly enjoying the work. And we all enjoy having him here!”

As the operations data coordinator, Samuel’s focus in his first few weeks has been maintenance reports and vehicle logs as well as attendance and timesheets. Samuel sees his work as being especially important to the organization “as it will assist management make informed decisions on the general operations of the projects as well as future plans. There will be efficiency in the reporting of the operations happening in the field which will further lead to the smooth operations of the organization.”

We are incredibly pleased to have them with us as we grow to strengthen our capacity to make a lasting Impact!

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 We are incredibly pleased to have them with us as we grow to strengthen our capacity to make a lasting Impact!

-Karly

Zicomo, Zambia!

After an incredible two weeks visiting our team and projects here in Zambia, I’m headed home today.  A HUGE thanks to the whole Impact Network team who helped to host not only me, but also Josh, our videographer, and my niece, Jhanvi! They did a masterful job organizing who was going where with whom and where they were sleeping. It is always amazing for us to see the work that we do through the eyes of newcomers, so I appreciate their openness.

 It’s hard to sum up the trip in an email, but I wanted to share a few highlights.

  • This was my first time visiting the fully functioning expansion schools, and meeting most of the expansion team. I was so impressed with how much they felt like Impact Network classes.  From everything from the teachers’ lessons to the art on the wall – it felt like I was in our very first school in Joel village.
  •  After observing hundreds of lessons, I met – by far – the loudest students and teachers ever in Petauke South.  I have never seen our scholars so eager to answer a question, so eager to participate, and so eager to learn! 
  •  We had the management team all come together for a braai at the Impact office. With all of the team together, I could see the comradery the team has created between their peers and friends.  We have a young team, but I cannot stress enough how dedicated, responsible, and delightful they were.
  • On more than one occasion, I was caught off-guard by how well the reporting was done.  Before starting off in Petauke South, Hope, Richard and Emmanuel were all on their phones.  You might think they were addicted to Facebook or something, but you’d be wrong! They were all diligently filling out their vehicle log that is reported on a mobile application and then synced to a central server (called CommCare).  It was the best!

I always leave Zambia thinking that my trip was way too short.  But I return humbled and hungry to get back to the work we do to make these schools possible.  Zicomo!

-Reshma

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The Power of Connection and Perseverance

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Like many other New Yorkers, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the results of the Democratic Primary for Congress a few weeks ago. On June 26, 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic Primary for US Congress here in NYC. As a 28-year-old Latina woman from the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez could make history as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress if she wins the general election in November. Ocasio-Cortez ran against Joseph Crowley, the incumbent of 20 years. He is a popular Democrat from Queens with a large following. Crowley did not show up to their first debate, citing scheduling conflicts. Although he showed up to the second debate, he sent someone else in his place to their third. It was clear to Ocasio-Cortez that he didn’t take her seriously enough to even show up to two out of three of their face-offs.

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Ocasio-Cortez teaches us a very important lesson -- she was on the front lines of her campaign. She went door-to-door the day before the election to reach voters. She attended rallies, community events, and was a friendly face to businesses and people in her Bronx neighborhood. She conversed with her constituents and listened to their concerns. At Impact Network, we strive to be involved with our students to ensure they succeed. We spend time analyzing attendance data and test scores, mentoring and coaching our teachers, and working with our school support officers to ensure we are providing the best education possible. We are on the front lines of our students’ education, building relationships with them.

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Ten months earlier, Ocasio-Cortez was serving tacos at a restaurant in Union Square. Now, she is running a campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. She truly embodies the message we strive to send to our students everyday: anything is possible. No one thought she would win. Ocasio-Cortez states in her campaign video, "women like me aren't supposed to run for office—I wasn't born to a wealthy or powerful family. But we have to ask ourselves... who has New York been changing for?" The New York Times did not even cover her campaign. And yet, against all odds, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won against a seasoned Democratic incumbent. We are proud to teach our Impact Network students that they too can succeed against all odds.

-Sofia

Two ears, one mouth...

Bwanji from Zambia!  This is a short one from me – excuse my brevity, I just landed earlier today!

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 While traveling, I came across an interview Dan Rather did with Mother Teresa.  The Mother Teresa most of us know was a Roman Catholic missionary who lived most of her life in India, running hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and other worth causes.  She won the Nobel Peace Prize, and admired by millions for her charitable works (though she did encounter some criticism). 

 In the interview, Dan Rather asked Mother Teresa what she says to God when she prays.  She responded – “I listen.”  Dan Rather then asked “Well, what does God say?”  And she responded “He listens.” 

 I’m not a particularly religious person, but I felt humbled by this.  In today’s world where we are constantly encouraged to speak up, to weigh in, and to let our opinions out, I found it nice to hear something encouraging listening.  To encourage not being the person who wanted their thoughts out there, but who wanted to hear from others.  As the saying goes – we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  We can all be better, more engaged citizens, if we simply listen more – to our families, to our students, to our peers.  Even to the person who disagrees with our opinions.

-Reshma

When the world comes together..

Three weeks ago, 12 young boys went missing. When their coach heard of the news, he went looking for the boys, going missing in the process as well. The world was shocked. Where could the team be? Nine days after their disappearance, they were discovered trapped inside a flooding cave.

For weeks, I’ve been anxiously following the story of the young boys and their coach. The whole world was watching. Divers from all over the world flew to Thailand to help save the team, and every day there was breaking news. First it was the news of their discovery, then the news that they could not be rescued right away, the news of the difficulties they would face, and the news of the death of Saman Gunan, an Navy SEAL who died helping them. The divers were unsure if they would be able to extract all of the boys in time -- they anticipated it would be months before they could safely rescue the boys. The caves were narrow, long, and were flooding fast. It was a dangerous task, but that did not deter these heroes.

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 The whole world came together to help the missing boys. They were in the thoughts and prayers of millions globally. Divers from across the world helped the Thai Navy SEALs, passing oxygen assembly-line style throughout the labyrinth of caves. Israeli entrepreneurs provided video and voice connections to the boys. The boys’ coach, Ekapol Chanthawong was also a Buddhist monk and taught the boys to meditate to help them through the whole ordeal. All of these pieces, interwoven, interconnected, each working on one piece to help these kids – all of these pieces worked together to save their lives. When the world comes together, we can accomplish great things. People thought it would be months before the boys would be rescued, yet it happened in less than two weeks. There is a lesson in here, and one that the world desperately needs in these times.

We cannot simply define ourselves by our borders.

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At Impact Network, we believe that we must give help where help is needed, regardless of country, race, or religion. And our scholars in Zambia need our support – without our schools, thousands of kids would not have the opportunity to receive a quality education. We do not just build schools and supply tablets. With your support – from right here in NYC to across the globe – whether you are a teacher, donor, board member, or adviser – we can serve and inspire these students to be their best selves. When the world comes together, great things can happen. 

 

-Eli

2018 Literacy Day

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As I walked up to David S. school in the chilly morning hours, I met Nelia, a somewhat quiet but passionate grade one teacher.  “How’s it going?” I asked.  She shrugged her shoulders and looked at the sky. It was a cold and blustery day. The wind whipped across the open field connecting the school to the rest of the village, and even the grazing cattle huddled together for protection.  “Only two parents so far, maybe the weather will keep everyone away.” She looked disheartened as she said the words.  I looked around at the empty school yard feeling her anxiousness for the day to begin.

It was my first Literacy Day and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Literacy Day is a day for the parents of grade one students to come to school with their children, meet the teachers, engage in lessons, and see their students participate in educational activities.  It is an annual event at our schools and a chance for parents to learn about the Impact Network model, how the tablets are utilized, and what lessons such as math and reading their children are involved in when they leave to go to school each morning.   

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Getting parents out at 8am on a Saturday morning seemed liked quite the challenge even in the best of weather. “Well, give it a little more time,” I replied, “It is early yet.”  I made my way to one of the larger classrooms and entered to find teachers busying themselves with preparations.  While one teacher set up a tablet and a projector, another drew pictures on the board. Other teachers brought in extra desks and benches.   They worked quietly to gather pencils, marks books, and posters covered in math problems and words searches for the coming activities.  Each teacher stopped and politely greeted me.

Slowly at first the parents began to arrive until they were coming in waves.  They walked up through the blowing dust in colorful winter coats and hats.  The children led the way, meeting up with friends to laugh and wrestle in the school yard. Most parents came with younger siblings in tow and many of the women had sleeping babies strapped to their backs with colorful fabrics and warm blankets.  They arrived with uncertain faces and filed into the room to be seated in front of the projector.

After a tablet lesson and a question and answer session, the expressions of uncertainty had changed to ones of chuckles and excitement.  Particularly outspoken individuals stood up as they asked questions and made comments to the teachers.  Soon parents were cheering on their children as the students raced to find words in a word search or answer simple math questions.  As the teachers assigned individual work, parents sat with their child and helped them answer the questions.

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As the midday meal approached, the sun had peaked out from behind the clouds and the air was beginning to warm.  The parents and students came streaming from the classrooms, chatting with one another and holding exercise books with drawings, equations, and corrected spelling words. The teachers said their final words to the large group in the school yard.  I looked around and noticed how full it had become.  I peaked over at Nelia. She had a shining smile on her face as she chatted with one of the parents.  The day was well spent in the company of the students, teachers, and the proud parents.

-Naomi

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

As you might have guessed – I’ve been reading about Mister Rogers a lot this week J

If you were a child sometime between 1968 and 2001, and you had access to a TV, you likely watched Mister Rogers.  And you’ll probably remember some of the most emblematic components of his show – his zipper sweaters, the shoelaces on his sneakers, and the famous theme song.  But the recent film Won’t You Be My Neighbor has brought out some lesser known facts about him – or at least, facts that I didn’t know.

For one, he was a Presbyterian minister, but he had always wanted to work in television. He started his own show because he was displeased with the content of children’s programming at the time, and thought that he could use the medium for good. It was visually very simple, low-budget, without a lot of the bells and whistles that we have now come to expect from children’s programming. He didn’t believe in putting on a clown suit or taking on a new persona to be in front of kids, opting instead to trust that children appreciate honesty. While we learned our letters from Sesame Street and learned how to read from Reading Rainbow, it’s widely thought that we learned “emotional literacy” from Mister Rogers.

And looking back – it’s true. Mister Rogers guided parents and children through the assassination of RFK. His show highlighted people of color and women in senior roles (Mayor Maggie, Lady Elaine). After 9/11, he created public service announcements for parents on how to talk to their kids about what happened. Time and time again – crisis after crisis – tragedy after tragedy – Mister Rogers showed up, and remained a constant advisor for children and parents alike.

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.

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These words guide the work at Impact Network every single day. Given what is going on in the country right now, I find them to be even more powerful.

- Reshma

 

Meet Eli - our Summer Event Intern

Hi there!

My name is Eli and I’m the new Events Intern at Impact Network’s New York office! I’ll be helping to plan our annual Chefs for Impact Event as well as helping out with communications and social media this summer. I really believe in Impact Network’s mission and am super excited to join the team!

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I’m a junior at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where I am concentrating on Oppression and the Effects of Colonization and pursuing a minor in Anthropology. I have a passion for learning, and at Gallatin, I am able to take really cool, niche classes that help me understand the world in an interdisciplinary way. Some of my favorite classes include “Race and Criminal Law,” “Media, Democracy, and the New Political,” and “Work, Freedom, and Social Change.” I’m also really excited for my “Politics of Contemporary Africa” and “Democracy and Difference” classes that I will be taking next semester.

 

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Similar to how my studies are all tailored toward social justice, so are my internships. Last summer, I worked as the marketing intern for a women’s networking company with the goal of closing the gender achievement gap in business. I helped plan events, increase social media presence, and increase search engine optimization. I also learned a lot about sexism in the workplace, and I now know how to spot it and combat it. Before that, I was a Jewish Learning Fellow focusing on the intersection of Judaism and social justice. And before that, I was a research training intern at a company that emphasized intersectional feminism and social justice.

 

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I am also really passionate about art and comedy. I rarely travel without my sketchbook, and on the off chance that I do, you can find doodles on any and all of the papers near me. I also love watching stand up and reading satire. Some of my favorite comedians include Trevor Noah and John Mulaney. I think comedy and art are such a powerful tools to help people understand the world in different ways, and they’re also highly entertaining.

 

A few weeks ago, I returned from my semester abroad in Sydney where I got the opportunity to explore new and exciting places like Uluru, Melbourne, Cairns, Bali, and New Zealand. My travels really opened up my eyes to the problems facing the world, and I realized that I wanted to effectuate change globally, not just at home. And that’s how I ended up at Impact Network!

I’m really excited to be working with Impact Network this summer because I believe that education is the key to a better world. Everyone deserves access to quality education, and I am really eager to do my part and help bring education to kids who, without Impact Network, would not be in school.

-Eli

#AgainstAllOdds

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Last month I saw a video on Shaquem Griffin, who is the first one-handed player picked in the modern draft of the NFL.  Griffin was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 5th round as part of the 2018 draft and will play along his twin brother Shaquill Griffin. His is a story of inspiration, determination, setbacks and brotherly love.

Shaquem Griffin had his left hand amputated when he was four because of a prenatal condition called amniotic band syndrome, which caused his hand to be underdeveloped. When he was seven, he was told for the first time by a little league coach that being one-handed precluded him from playing the sport he loved – football. He was determined to prove the naysayers wrong. Griffin was able to continue playing sports without his left hand, competing in track, baseball, and football alongside his brother.

Both brothers played college football at Central Florida, Shaquill rejecting offers from other teams including the Miami Hurricanes, his dream team, so he could play with Shaquem.  After some initial setbacks, Shaquem flourished under a new head coach where he was named the 2016 American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year and also served as a captain for last season's 13-0 team.

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Despite his successful college career at UCF, Shaquem had to campaign for an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.  He stole the show in the NFL’s week-long talent showcase with impressive results including 20 bench reps at 225 lbs using a prosthetic arm and a lightning fast 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds – fastest linebacker since 2003. His performance there led Griffin to become internationally known and there was talk of him being drafted in the second or third round. Shaquem tweeted a video of him being drafted by the Seahawks, and titled it #AgainstAllOdds

“That was the phone call I've been waiting for my entire life. I couldn't breathe, At the end of the day, you have to show what you can do. You can't set limits on what you can do, whether you have two hands or 30 hands.  Show me what you can do, and we'll go from there. Don't set limits for me, because when I wake up in the morning and I brush my teeth and I look at myself in the mirror, it's only me that I see in the mirror. I'm not going to see anybody else in the mirror. That's how I live, day by day. When I look in the mirror, it's up to me to accomplish everything I want out of life."

This story has lessons for all of us – the power of brotherhood, the importance of persistence, and the ability to overcome the obstacles in our path. On any given day for our team, there are challenges – for our teachers, it might be a student with a learning disability who needs more attention; for our teacher supervisors, it might be a teacher who is struggling with his lesson plans; for our operations managers, it might be trying to get school supplies from point A to point B in really challenging conditions. But with the right supports, every person can be a success story.  At Impact, we work to provide access to a quality education to all children, no matter what their circumstance is. We work incredibly hard to make sure our students succeed #AgainstAllOdds.  Because even when there are setbacks, with hard work, determination and a little love – anything is possible.  

 

-Katie

Never Give Up!

I know that everyone is engrossed in watching the World Cup – I myself have Sweden in our Impact Network competition (tough game yesterday!). 

Lionel Messi is making waves again this year – after first announcing his retirement two years ago, he changed his mind and led his country (Argentina) to qualify for the World Cup this year! Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina to humble beginnings – his father was a factory steel worker, and his mother was a part-time cleaner.  He played football from a very young age – at around five he started playing at a local club coached by his father, and became part of a practically undefeated local team.

Then, at 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency – a medical condition caused by problems in the pituitary gland, which often leads to growth failure.  He was the size of most 8-9 year olds at the time. The director of Futbol Club Barcelona had heard about Messi’s talent, auditioned him, and offered to pay his medical bills on the condition that he moved to Spain.  A decade later, he had received Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.  He’s commonly ranked as the best player in the world, and rated by some as the greatest of all time. 

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It strikes me just how easy it would have been for Messi and his family to give up on his dream.  When he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, he and his family could have just resolved that he would play football recreationally.  When his family could not afford the treatment, they could have stopped there.  When he started playing for Futbol Club Barcelona, there were times where he was nearly released from the club because of financial constraints.  At every bend, Messi came across obstacles, and he and his family found ways to overcome them.  In short – they never gave up.  And we have to live by that credo – when we are faced with students that are struggling in certain subjects, when we have teachers that we need to improve, when we are faced with complications in our classrooms – it’s up to us to persevere.  It’s up to us to never give up on our students and communities. 

If you’re interested – I was entertained by these ads while looking into Messi’s story a bit more!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QarsixZigs8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn9MbpY2iHI

- Reshma