Kay Vasilakis
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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October 28, 2009
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Locally run nonprofit helps Pakistani women and girls

The Marshall Direct Fund believes one of the best ways to eliminate global poverty is to invest in the human capital of women and girls. Increased enrollment and attendance in schools, increased literacy, increased critical thinking skills and increased income for Pakistani girls are goals of the fund.

Its mission and goals were conceived during graduate studies by a team of students attending Tufts Fletcher School of Diplomacy and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 2000. The team grew dissatisfied with the slow pace of progress towards achieving goals via government, and decided to do something directly.

Silbi Stainton is the executive director and Jodi Fischer is the program director of the Marshall Direct Fund, which is not affiliated with any national agency or program. Both live and have an office in Carbondale.

Stainton has a background in international security studies, and Fischer in international development. Both women recognize the strong need to invest in the human capital of the poor, especially women and children, in regions of the world where children are vulnerable to recruitment by violent organizations.

During her time at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Stainton studied international security, focusing on terrorism and threats in the Middle East and Southwestern Asia. She earned a master's degree in law and diplomacy, focusing on international security studies and international negotiation and conflict management. She cross-enrolled at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she studied non-state threats to international security and leadership. She also holds a B.A. from the University of Colorado, where she majored in international affairs and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude in 1998, also focusing on counter-terrorism.

Her work background includes recent volunteer work and fellowship with the Aspen Institute, a position in business development for Bechtel Corp., and several other involvements in local, charitable causes. Stainton is mother to two small children.

"I visit Pakistan a few times a year, and I am treated with more hospitality and generosity than one can imagine," she said. "The vast majority of poor people there are not hostile towards Americans, they are too busy trying to survive."

"Unfortunately, only those with the most power, those who use the most violence, and those with the most financing make the headlines, so it gives Americans an inaccurate impression about Pakistan," Stainton continued. "It is a rather moving experience to have people who are supposed to detest your very nationality hold your face in their hands and weep, saying they are so thankful we are not all too afraid to come. It is rather moving to have people in slums insist on giving you, their American guest, the last grains of rice in their home, if they are lucky enough to still have a home.

"Supporting MDF is not only contributing to the education of youth, but the education of a community. The educational facilities are maximized and used for vocational education so that youth and adults can access job relevant skills, financial literacy and entrepreneurial development. Our donors appreciate their donations invest in human capacity and provides high social returns."

Pakistani parents cannot afford the cost of tuition and have no public choice as an alternative. Girls are especially likely to be denied the advantage. If a family can only afford to send one child to school, the son is more often chosen because the son is seen as a potential income creator.

Contrary to public perception, the vast majority of Pakistani families want to send their daughters to school. Half the country is unable to secure adequate nutritional intake, let alone education.

When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. One extra year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families.Women are the primary decision-makers on matters of their children. If a woman is educated to the fifth-grade level, she will have more income to bring her children to doctors and will teach them basic health skills and disease prevention, and she is considerably more likely to insist her own children receive education, too.

Below are ways your generous donations can help.

$25 provides a sense of pride and an opportunity to race towards a brighter future with a new uniform complete with warm cardigan/sweater for cold winters and pair of shoes for a growing child.

$100 pays for a child's tuition for one year.

$200 ensures a student's little sister can come, too.

$300 provides a classroom with new desks and chairs so every child has a special and comfortable spot from which to learn.

$500 provides shoes and uniforms for an entire class of 20.

$600 sponsors a child from grade 1 through grade 5 (includes anticipated inflation).

$1,000 provides high-quality books for an entire school of 100 children.

$2,500 provides uniforms and shoes to an entire school of 100 children.

$4,500 feeds 100 hungry students with a nutritious lunch during the school year that will provide the nourishment needed to learn and grow.

The Marshall Direct Fund is also looking for a volunteer. Please contact Stainton if you have interest.

Invest in girls and you can change the world.

Kay Vasilakis' "Nonprofit Spotlight" column runs every other Wednesday in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. She is an active member of the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her for a possible mention of your nonprofit or your nonprofit's special events in the Nonprofit Spotlight, e-mail kayvasilakis@yahoo.com or call 618-6689.


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The Post Independent Updated Oct 28, 2009 12:46AM Published Oct 28, 2009 12:42AM Copyright 2009 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.