There are currently 1.8 billion people in the world between the ages of 10 and 24—the largest amount of young people to ever live at one time. Of this number, 121 million children and adolescents are not enrolled in secondary school and 66 million girls do not attend primary school (33 million fewer than boys worldwide).
Never before has education been so crucial for economic and social progress, especially in countries with cycles of extreme poverty and violence. To learn more about education as a sustainable form of international development, we recently sat down with Love Does, an organization focused on human rights and education around the globe.
Founded in 2002 by Bob Goff, Love Does was originally created to help fight sex trafficking in India. Now, 15 years later, the US-based organization works in five countries—Uganda, Somalia, Iraq, Nepal, and India—and focuses primarily on education projects in remote communities and conflict zones.
Why Education is Essential to International Development
Quality education as a form of sustainable development is important not only because it leaves a lasting impact, but also because it offers hope and opportunity that encourages people to lift themselves out of challenging situations. For many people in the west, it is hard to imagine that access to even basic education is not something available to everyone. For those of us living in privilege, school sometimes feels like an obligation and a right— however, this is not the case for many communities around the world, thus the need that motivates Love Does.
We believe only action becomes love. Through our projects, we have seen that education is powerful, it changes everything. By offering a safe and fun environment for learning, we encourage communities to invest in future leaders and break the cycle of poverty.
Through its projects, Love Does has seen firsthand how education alleviates poverty, provides health benefits, and empowers the younger generation—especially women. Education also equalizes gender and bridges the gap between different community groups, specifically in Uganda, a country historically plagued by ethnic and tribal conflict.
International Impact Starts at the Local Level
International development projects can be tricky though, specifically when outside organizations are at work. The involvement of locals, whether it be individuals, leaders, or government officials, is of the utmost importance for Love Does. Operating with a small team out of an office in San Diego, each international Love Does project is run solely by local community members. This includes teachers, construction workers, safe-house counselors, administrators, and more.
Our programs look different in different countries. We don't run the schools, they are staffed 100% by locals; we don’t hire expats to take jobs that locals can do. Because of this, we have seen communities and governments eager to invest in the projects. They see job opportunities and want their younger generations to succeed. The projects are not ours—they belong to the locals. That is what makes them work and why they will be sustainable—even past Love Does.
Respecting local customs and culture also takes priority. Imposing Western ideas is not part of the Love Does model, rather asking questions and meeting local needs is emphasized. This is not only respectful to the communities, but it ensures the success of students. For example, students in Uganda are required to take national exams. Love Does explains that, if students were taught according to a Western teaching model, the exams would be incredibly challenging for students to pass, and would hinder their chances of getting a higher education.
We go into post conflict zones, find people we trust, and then ask them what their communities need. We do not try to change them, we protect the ones that need it and give opportunity to ones who don’t have it. Most important, we are asking communities what they need and believe will create lasting impact instead of telling them what they want.
Two specific programs where the Love Does model can be seen in action are the Restore Leadership Academy (RLA) and Launch, both Uganda-based education programs. RLA, a primary and secondary boarding school, provides a family-like setting for students and currently has more than 600 attendees; a new primary school campus is currently underway across the street and will soon hold 500 more students. After RLA, students are eligible to attend Launch, a program sponsoring and encouraging students to obtain a higher educational degree. The program currently has 35 students attending universities all across Uganda—many wish to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, and leaders. These students have a deep desire to return to and invest in their local communities and the future of their country.
We assist these students financially as well as provide them with guidance, support, and a community to encourage them to achieve a higher educational degree.
Love Does is also invested in the education of young girls and women, something we too are passionate about at The Good Trade. Educated women are essential for social and economic progress around the world, specifically in poverty stricken countries with continued segregation and gender inequality.
WHY Women's Education is AN ESSENTIAL Investment
According to Girls Rising, educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation, making girls' education one of the smartest investment opportunities in the world today. Educated women are more likely to stay healthy, save money, build businesses, have fewer and healthier children, innovate community solutions, and educate sons and daughters equally and put them in school. Love Does also runs multiple safe homes for women. At each of these homes, the girls are provided a safe place to live, health care, therapy and counseling, and the encouragement and support to attend school.
We believe in advocating for these kinds of issues in countries where women are not seen as equal. When a boy and a girl are sitting in a classroom together, they learn that they are the same. Boys learn to respect girls and treat them as their equal, as their friend. In countries and cultures where this is not as common, it is amazing and inspiring to see children desiring change. Access to education is empowerment, everything else follows.
WORKING IN CONFLICT ZONES
As with any development work, specifically in conflict zones, there are certain challenges and obstacles. For example, Love Does will not pay bribes, often slowing down formal processes. It has sometimes taken years to obtain the necessary titles and paperwork to start a project. Additionally, safety can be of concern in certain areas, making it that much more important to invest in local relationships. Patience and integrity, Love Does explains, is paramount in this type of work.
The impact and results are undeniable for Love Does, as well as other organizations fighting for sustainable, international education. Another such organization is The Refuge Initiative. Working in Northern Iraq, the organization is building camps of refuge, restoring dignity and hope, and providing pathways back to independent living through sustainable and secure vocational training.
It is this kind of work that not only inspires us but creates hope for a world where every person has access to quality education. Thanks to the work and model of Love Does, sustainable education is not only possible, it is happening.