Heroes Among Us
Ordinary People, Extraordinary ChoicesBook - 2008
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With little tolerance for formal education, bureaucracy, and top-down programs to combat poverty, Sanjit "Bunker" Roy is something of an educational maverick. He is an Indian activist, in possession of the swanky degrees he disdains, who built his institution, Barefoot College, to liberate the rural poor in India from dependency on anyone but themselves. The college, which has instructed over fifteen thousand boys and girls in "barefoot" economics, technology, and engineering, is predicated on the belief that poverty is eliminated, people are made self-sufficient, gender equality is achieved, and the environment is protected when, and only when, "practical knowledge and skills, rather than paper qualifications" are implemented into the communities that need them the most.
Or how about Gary Slutkin, a doctor who fought AIDS in African and upon returning to Chicago got the idea that violence, too, might spread like a virus. So he started a group called CeaseFire that trains gangbangers to be "interrupters" who get in the way of fights, conflicts, and other gang problems....
Or how about another Austin hero named Julia Cuba, who in 1998 started Troop 1500 on a program called Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. GSBB organizes joint mother-daughter Girl Scout meetings in prisons where mothers are incarcerated. But Troop 1500 goes a few steps further, with Cuba paying close attention to the girls' home lives and school progress. Once a month the girls have group therapy. And the troop helps their mothers do well in prison. According to Cuba, 96 percent of the girls have stayed in school and 98 percent have avoided incarceration. That could be partly due to all the fun they have, with campouts, parties, and regular scout actvities like earning badges, wearing uniforms, and, of course, selling delicious cookies. That's heroism for sure.
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