Through Help for Orphans, Sarah Ehrlich Follows Oprah in Educating African Kids
By Kris Nickerson
When Oprah Winfrey recently opened her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, she followed in the steps of other celebrities who are trying to raise public awareness about the problems facing Africa today. Whether it's George Clooney publicizing the violence in Darfur, Bono campaigning for debt relief, or Angelina Jolie visiting as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, stars are using their wattage to draw attention to the situation in Africa. "Despite their efforts, there remain millions of orphaned African children who need nutritious food, clean water, housing, and an education," says Sarah Ehrlich, founder and president of the non-profit Help for Orphans (www.helpfororphans.org). "Although every effort helps, the challenge is to create a sustainable system that nurtures and educates children for years to come."
The numbers are stark. According to the United Nations, the number of African orphans increased from 30.9 million to 41.9 million between 1990 and 2000, and projections suggest that the number will increase to 53.1 million by the year 2010.
But Ehrlich is up to the challenge. Inspired by an organization in India that has several hundred orphanage schools and that encourages children who graduate to give back, Ehrlich's Help for Orphans (www.myspace.com/helpfororphans) has already given thousands of books to orphanages in Uganda, Kenya, and India. Moreover, the organization is currently building two orphanage schools in Kenya; the Kisumu school will educate 60 children, while the Kisii school will educate another 50 children. While the Reading and Phonics Curriculum by Applied Scholastics (www.study-tech.org) will be central, Ehrlich wants to go beyond the basics to provide students with the tools they need to support themselves within their culture. "In order to truly make a difference, we also need to raise their self-confidence by teaching them about human rights, values, how to avoid HIV, and by tapping into their creative energy through an art program that includes painting and dance," she says. "In addition, by focusing on sustainable agriculture and environmental preservation, we can help them become responsible stewards of the land."
Leaving a small environmental footprint is central to the philosophy of Help for Orphans. To that end, the organization has engaged AB Architekten (www.abarchitekten.com), a New York architectural firm that specializes in designing "green" buildings. "We want to teach by example," explains Ehrlich, who is footing 100 percent of the administrative costs of the organization. "It's important to assure our donors that their $30-per-month sponsorships are going directly to the children for food and school supplies, and that other donations are being used for building projects, food, and educational materials."
Ehrlich and her team are preparing for a trip to Kenya, where they will partner with additional orphanages in order to sponsor their children and build more schools, as well as to donate books, food, and school supplies. But Ehrlich doesn't feel her mission will be accomplished until Help for Orphans has launched at least 500 schools all over the globe. "We are starting in Africa, but there are orphans in many countries who need our help," she says. "Right now, we're focusing on Africa, but we also have immediate plans to build sustainable schools for orphans in southern India and Central America. Eventually, we will launch efforts in Southeast Asia, North and South America, and Europe."
Ehrlich says the response to Help for Orphans has been overwhelming, and concludes, "When you do the right thing, everything seems to take off." Ehrlich's ability to create that synergy is certain to help African orphans take off and reach for the stars.
About the Author
Kris Nickerson is the Editor-in-Chief of Press Direct International (http://www.pressdirectinternational.org), a global information website that provides reliable information tailored to professionals in financial, media, and corporate markets. His thorough knowledge of industries ranging from health care and travel to real estate and financial investing enables him to quickly grasp the nuances of emerging markets and technologies.
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