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International Literacy Day

08/09/2011

There are nearly four billion literate people in the world today. While this is a hopeful number, it pales when compared to the fact that there are nearly seven billion people in the world today. What is means is that  literacy for all – children, youth and adults – is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target.

Although  the adult literacy rate has increased by about eight percentage points globally over the past twenty years, today 793 million adults – most of them girls and women – are illiterate. A further 67 million children of primary school age are not in primary school and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out their right to an education.

More than half the adult population of the following 11 countries are illiterate: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. South and West Asia account for more than half (51,8%) the world’s adult illiterate population, ahead of sub-Saharan Africa (21,4%), East Asia and the Pacific (12,8%), the Arab States (7,6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4,6%), North America, Europe and Central Asia (2%).

Why is it so important that people are literate? According to UNESCO:

 “Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy…A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development .”

Today is International Literacy Day. It was first celebrated in 1966, and its goal is to highlight the importance of  literacy to individuals, communities and societies.This year’s International Literacy Day will focus on the link between literacy and peace. Take some time today to celebrate by reading something, writing something, and sharing something. Consider the link between literacy and peace, the link between literacy and democracy – the links are stronger than you may think.

 

 

Diversity in the United States

26/08/2011

The United States is the most diverse country in the world. The U.S. has, since its very inception, welcomed immigrants from around the world, and it is because of this welcoming spirit that the United States is the world leader that it is today.

The country that used to be called a “Melting Pot” of nations is now more of a “Mosaic”, where people who immigrate not only become citizens but keep their own cultural traditions. This has meant increased innovation and opportunities for not only the country but for the individuals who call the country home.

The Kirovograd Window on America Center presents its latest country study, Diversity in the United States. It can be found on the library’s web page.

Information Center for people with visual disabilities opens at Kirovograd Library!

26/07/2011

Access to information for everyone is an essential part of a democratic society.

Those were the opening words of Peace Corps Volunteer Karin Jones’ comments on the new Information Center for people with visual disabilities, which opened at the Kirovograd Oblast Library this afternoon.

The center, which features two computer workstations with adaptive technology programs specifically for people with visual disabilities, is intended to empower people who may otherwise find it difficult to use the modern-day technology that connects the world. The center also has sixty new audio books and a set of occupational therapy equipment for the development of psychomotor skills of people with visual impairments.

In addition to creating the center, the library also partnered with local non-governmental organizations to conduct training for librarians on protocol for working with visually impaired library patrons and how to use the adaptive technology on the computers in the center.

All of these activities are part of a project called “At the library you can touch the world”, which hopes to not only provide methods of accessing information for people with visual disabilities, but to increase the comfort level of both librarians and patrons and the number of visually impaired patrons who use the library’s services. Another project goal is to increase awareness of, and acceptance of, people with disabilities in Kirovograd.

The library partnered with the Ukrainian Society of the Blind (UTOS) of Kirovograd. UTOS provides employment, medical and social protection for disabled people who live in the Kirovograd region. The project also had the support of The Kirovograd Regional Assembly of Disabled Persons, The Kirovograd Regional Union of People With Disabilities, The Association of Organizations of Disabled of Ukraine, and The Kirovohrad Regional Public Organization of Mothers of disabled children – “Mother’s Heart”.

However, the opening of the center is not the end of the project – it is just the beginning! The librarians at the main/largest libraries in Kirovograd, as well as participating NGOs and their members,  are being trained on how to assist and communicate with adults and children with visual disabilities. The access center will provide ongoing access to the library and the library’s materials for all visually impaired patrons who visit. In addition, parents/guardians of visually impaired children will also receive training in how to further their child’s education and life-skill training at home through ongoing consultations with librarians and UTOS.

We are so glad to have this center and look forward to welcoming a more diverse group of patrons to the library because of it!

 

World Population Day

11/07/2011

Did you know that this year the population of the Earth will reach seven billion people?

Today is World Population Day. World Population Day was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989 as a way to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. It was an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.

The tremendous interest generated by the Day of 5 Billion on 11 July 1987 led to the establishment of World Population Day as an annual event. For more than 20 years, 11 July has been an occasion to mark the significance of population trends and related issues.

According to the United Nations web site: “The unprecedented decrease in mortality that began to accelerate in the more developed parts of the world in the nineteenth century and expanded to all the world in the twentieth century is one of the major achievements of humanity. By one estimate, life expectancy at birth increased from 30 to 67 years between 1800 and 2005, leading to a rapid growth of the population: from 1 billion in 1810 to nearly 7 billion in 2010.”

In many ways a world of 7 billion is an achievement: Globally, people are living longer and healthier lives, and couples are choosing to have fewer children. However, because so many couples are in, or will soon be entering, their reproductive years, the world population is projected  to increase for decades to come.  Meeting the needs of current and future generations presents daunting challenges.

Click here to see the World Population Clock.

The theme of this year’s World Population Day is “7 Billion People. 7 Billion Actions”.  The UN web site for the program describes how “Every one of us has a unique role and an inherent calling to help one another and to make the world a better place. Every organization has a responsibility to help solve the problems larger than any one person can tackle alone.” Through the website you can learn more about the movement, the 12 key issues, how to become a partner organization, and how to stay connected to the movement.

Thanks to technology, we are all able to be a part of this movement, which seems to make our world just a little smaller.

EBSCOhost training at the Verkhovna Rada

29/06/2011

PCV Karin N. Jones conducts training at the Verkhovna Rada

On 16, 17 and 20 June, 2011, Peace Corps Volunteer Karin N. Jones conducted training on EBSCOhost at the Verkhovna Rada  for deputies of Ukraine, their assistants, members of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the staff of the secretariats of parliamentary committees to improve their practical skills and effective use of EBSCOhost.

Access to EBSCOhost is provided to the Verkhovna Rada by USAID, and training was organized through the Parliamentary Development Program II. Introductory trainings had been conducted in early 2011, when the Verkhovna Rada had first gained access to the tool, but in this training participants learned in more detail how to work in EBSCOhost, including how to conduct basic and advanced searches, how to sort and limit results, choosing databases, setting up personal accounts, setting up alerts, and more.

Did you know that EBSCOhost is also available at all Window on America Centers in Ukraine? If you need more information on how to access EBSCOhost, contact your local Window on America Center. Ms. Jones is also available to conduct trainings on using the tool, and plans to conduct and record an online training, which will be made available to all interested parties.

Elements of Democracy – Rule of Law

08/06/2011

What is the rule of law?

Although many people do not realize it, they live by the rule of law every day in their countries.  The rule of law is the idea that no person is above the law, that no one can be punished by the state except for a breach of the law, and that no one can be convicted of breaking the law except in the manner set forth by the law itself.

This is what the phrase “a government of laws, not men,” made famous by John Adams, the second president of the United States, means. In other words, rule of law means that no leader is above the law – unlike Roman Law, Nazi Law, and certain other legal systems.

The phrase has been used since the 17th century, but the concept is older. For example, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Law should govern”.

To help you understand more about rule of law, the Kirovograd Oblast Research Library Named After Chizhevsky has posted a new study called “Elements of Democracy – Rule”. This is the second in our Democracy series (the first was “What is Democracy?” and can be found on the Country Studies Presentations Page on the library’s web site.

The rule of law is the supreme check on political power used against people’s rights. Without the regulation of state power by a system of laws, procedures, and courts, democracy could not survive.

Visiting Peace Corps Volunteer conducts workshop on fundraising basics

07/06/2011

Peace Corps Volunteer Erin Dowland conducting a session on fundraising

The Window on America Center in the Kirovograd Oblast Research Library Named After Chizhevsky is always looking for ways to reach out to the community. Today we were able to do so when Erin Dowland, a visiting Peace Corps Volunteer, conducted a workshop on “Fundraising Basics”.

The audience for the workshop consisted of representatives from libraries, a museum, and non-government organizations. So there was great opportunity for discussion on how to effectively work together.

Because Ms. Dowland has a number of years of experience in fundraising, she had a great deal of information to share with attendees. Topics covered in her workshop included:

  • Non-Governmental Organization Development
  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis for your organization’s fundraising
  • Unique Fundraising Opportunities
  • Creating a Fundraising Plan
Ms. Dowland was also able to answer questions about fundraising methods, best practices, and strategies for making sure your organization has the strongest project possible.
The Window on America Center is very grateful to Ms. Dowland for taking the time to visit us and provide us with this valuable knowledge!

World No Tobacco Day

30/05/2011

31 May is World No Tobacco Day. This day of recognition, on which people around the world are encouraged to give up tobacco for one day, was started by the World Health Organization in 1987.

Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year – that’s about the same number of people who live in the country of Denmark!  According to the WHO web site, no consumer product needlessly kills as many people as does tobacco. It killed 100 million people in the 20th century, and it could kill up to 1 billion people in the 21st century.

All of these deaths were, and will have been, entirely preventable.

In the past twenty years, World No Tobacco Day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance across the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry. Why is that? Because tobacco companies make a great deal of money by selling their product to people.

The tobacco industry targets people in low- and middle-income countries, where the use of the product is growing the fastest. By 2030, more than 80% of the world’s tobacco-related deaths will be in these countries.

To recognize and support World No Tobacco Day, the Window on America center has developed and posted a new virtual presentation on the subject, which can be found on the library’s web site. We hope you take the time to check out this informative resource, and if you are a tobacco user, to use tomorrow as the first day of your non-smoking life!

New English language books at WOA Center!

19/05/2011

Iryna and Oksana showing off our new books

The Window on America Center is happy to announce that due to the efforts of its Peace Corps Volunteer, Karin Jones, it has received a small shipment of English-language books to add to its ever-expanding collection.

The books range from modern novels to children’s books, reference books and more. The books arrived from an organization called International Book Project, a U.S.-based, international nonprofit whose mission is to promote education and literacy while broadening Americans’ understanding of their neighbors by sending quality used books overseas.

Each year IBP sends more than 150,000 books to schools, libraries, churches, nonprofits, and Peace Corps volunteers in over 40 developing countries, and has sent more than 5.8 million books abroad since 1966.

Volunteer Karin Jones with the new books

Thanks to a grant from a long-term donor, International Book Project is able to offer matching grants for schools and libraries in former Soviet States. Using these funds, and with the funds Ms. Jones raised from the Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteers  and from a personal contribution from John C. George, the library will also soon be receiving up to 800 additional books!

We will keep you posted as we receive our new shipments!

Space Shuttle Endeavor’s Final Flight

16/05/2011

More than 500,000 people were expected to gather to watch the final takeoff of the space shuttle Endeavor this morning at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Relatively speaking, Endeavor is a “new” shuttle (there are, after all, cars and airplanes that are in service for far longer periods of time), which entered service in 1992 after the tragedy of the Challenger in 1986. Most Americans who were alive at that time remember where we were when we witnessed that event on live television. However, as the travel into, and back from, space is extremely hard on a shuttle, it is time for Endeavor to retire, to avoid future accidents.

The end of the space shuttle, and consequently the U.S. space program, is a concern for many Americans. After all, we were not the first into space (that was the Soviet Union), and people worry that the advantage that the U.S. has built up over the past five decades will be lost. So what is next for Americans who want to go into space? Well, at this time, the only option is to rely on Russian shuttles, such as the Soyuz rocket. However, this is not a new option – what many people, especially Americans, do not realize is that we have been cooperating with Russia, and using the Soyuz, for many years. So we will simply continue our cooperation.

Will The United States remain a leader in space? As the U.S. is the main driver behind the International Space Station, many people believe so. According to Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator. “We still are leading in space; we’re doing it a different way.”

Here is a little more information about the end of the space shuttle program:

Why did the U.S. end its space program?

In short, because the government wanted to invest the large amount of money it takes to run the program elsewhere. One person has written that “The space agency wants to hand over the business of getting crews and cargo to the space station, to private companies.” Another wrote a similar response, “The shuttles are aging and expensive, their key task is nearly completed and NASA wants to use the money spent on them to do something new.”

Who decided to stop flying shuttles?

President George W. Bush made the decision in 2004. He wanted astronauts to go back to the moon, and eventually to Mars. For NASA to afford to build a new spaceship to reach those goals, it had to stop spending about $4 billion a year on the shuttle program.

However, President Barack Obama dropped the moon mission. He plans for NASA to build a giant rocket to send astronauts to an asteroid, and eventually Mars, while turning over to private companies the job of carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station.

What happens to the space shuttles?

Like most valuable American artifacts, they will go to museums. Endeavour goes to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and Atlantis will stay at Kennedy Space Center for its visitor complex. Discovery’s new home will be the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar near Washington Dulles International Airport. Enterprise, a shuttle prototype used for test flights, goes to New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

What about the International Space Station?

The station, which is now large enough to accommodate six people, will be operated at least until 2020. Research is conducted on the station on wide-ranging topics such as astronomy and zoology.

So for now, though America will no longer launch shuttles into space, her space program as a whole certainly is not dead. What remains to be seen is the direction it takes from here.