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Access Center a hit!

23/09/2011

Since the opening of the new Access Center (for people with visual disabilities) at the library, the library has experienced a great deal of positive feedback, as well as many inquiries from people who would like to build the same kind of center at their libraries!

According to Peace Corps Volunteer Karin Jones, a number of other Volunteers have approached her to ask her about which program the Center uses, as their organizations have indicated they would like to use our center as a model. In addition, patrons from libraries in

Librarian Maryna Stilnykova explains to children how to use the computers at the Access Center.

other oblasts have found information about our center and called the library to gather more information about it.

Best of all, we have already had our youngest users come to visit the center. This morning, a group of children from a local school visited the center and were able to use the computers, as well as the developmental games the center offers.

Jones said that she had tears in her eyes while she was watching the children use the computers. “It is so rewarding to see the fruits of our teamwork in this way,” she said, “and I am so glad that these children, as well as many others, have this resource.”

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Day of Democracy

16/09/2011

Yesterday, September 15, was the International Day of Democracy. Today’s post is taken from Peace Corps Volunteer Karin Jones’ blog on what democracy means to her:

What Democracy Means to Me

Today is the International Day of Democracy. We hear this term used a great deal, especially when foreign countries go through an upheaval in their leadership. We banter it about in the United States, oftentimes without really knowing what we are talking about.

Democracy is, of course, in many ways an individual concept. So…what does democracy mean to me? It means:

  • Power and civic responsibility are exercised by all citizens. How? Through citizen participation, including taking part in elections, running for office, organizing, demonstrating, etc.
  • Majority rule and minority rights. Government is not centralized, and the majority respects the rights of the minority, even if they do not agree politically. The majority does not go out of its way to bully the minority party. Minorities are able to trust that their rights will be protected.
  • Government is accessible and responsible to citizens, and operates in a transparent manner.
  • The government protects the basic human rights of ALL citizens (equal protection of speech, freedom of religion, the right to equal protection under the law, and the opportunity to organize and participate fully in society).
  • Citizens are able to exercise their voice, and their vote, in regular, free, and fair elections.
  • Society is committed to the ideals of tolerance, cooperation, and compromise. People are free to follow their consciences in matters of religious faith. Individual religious beliefs are respected and the right to them is protected.
  • Citizens follow the rule of law – no individual, whether President or private citizen, is above the law.
  • Due process is followed by those who administer the criminal justice system. In other words, people are not imprisoned, tortured, lost their property, or killed without justification or formal charges being brought. The rules and procedures by which states enforce laws are not secret, but are public and explicit, and they are the same for everyone.
  • The country has a constitution, which states government’s fundamental obligations and the limits on state power.
  • The legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the government are separated, with checks and balances to ensure that none of them abuse their power.
  • The judiciary is independent and impartial.
  • A free and independent media.
  • Political parties, NGOs, and interest groups. As annoying as people may find those that do not share their beliefs, such organizations cannot exist in a society that is non-democratic.
 What is important for a democracy to flourish? Education. Access to information. The realization that all people are responsible for making sure the democracy is successful – in other words, people realize that we each play a role in shaping our country. This goes beyond merely casting a vote for President every four years – it means educating yourself – not by watching television or reading a post on Facebook – but investigating issues of critical importance, so we are able to vote intelligently. Depending on someone else to tell you how to vote is not exercising your right – it is being lazy.
According to the U.S. State Department, democracy is both a promise and a challenge. It is a promise that free human beings, working together, can govern themselves in a manner that will serve their aspirations for personal freedom, economic opportunity, and social justice. It is a challenge because the success of the democratic enterprise rests upon the shoulders of its citizens and no one else.
Something to think about on this International Day of Democracy. We in the United States find it easy to complain about our society and our politicians, but the fact of the matter is we are lucky to live in a society where we CAN complain. We have a strong system of protection, however imperfect it may be. The mere fact that we are able to disagree with each other shows how strong this system of ours is. It is essential that we remember this and continue to be involved in maintaining our freedom, and showing people how it can be done effectively.
Today I am proud to be a U.S. citizen, even if I get frustrated with our government, or the people, in our society. I know that being a U.S. citizen means I live in a free land, where I can express myself, indeed I am obligated to do so, to work to make our society better and stronger.
What does democracy mean to you?

 

Remembering September 11, 2011

11/09/2011

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the events that changed America, and the lives of all Americans, forever. On this day, there is much to ponder regarding the the meaning of love, hate, terrorism, peace, and how these impact us on a daily basis.

The Dalai Lama, always eloquent in his speech, had this to say today:

Today, as we mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th 2001 attacks on New York and Washington DC, let us remember all the innocent lives lost and ponder the continuing impact of that tragic day. September 11th reminds us of the horror we human beings can unleash on ourselves when we allow our human intelligence and powerful technology to be overtaken by hatred.

 We need to learn from our painful memories of September 11th and become more aware of the destructive consequences that arise when we give in to feelings of hatred. This tragedy in particular has reinforced my belief that fostering a spirit of peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding among the world’s peoples and faith traditions is an urgent matter of importance to us all. We must therefore make every effort to ensure that our various faith traditions contribute to build a more caring, peaceful world.

Would that we all were able to follow the example of this man, who reaches out in love not only to those who follow him and his teachings, but to everyone.

 

 

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.