Posted by John Borst on Sep 29, 2019
Each month Rotary defines a theme for Rotarians to focus upon. September’s theme is Basic Education and Literacy. It is for that reason that our International Services Director James Kroeker and DHS law and justice teacher Cynthia Palermo spoke to the club on the topic of the Amarok Society.
The Club was introduced to the work of the Amarok Society in 2010 when then Literacy Chair, Suzanne Borst met G.E.M. and Tanyss Munro on a visit to Winnipeg. At that time the club raised $2,500.00 to support their literacy efforts in the slums of Bangladesh.
   
During their talk Cynthia described how she became interested when G.E.M. Munro gave a talk to her students. She told how G.E.M. Munro passed a woman who was begging on the streets of Dhaka each day and after passing her a number of times, she spoke to him and asked him to look at her very sick child. She had to protect him from being attacked but after seeing the child he left with it and took the child to a doctor who prescribed an antibiotic and the child survived.
 
G.E.M. and Tanyss were in Bangladesh to advise the government on education issues, but G.E.M.s adventure into the slums, where normally, no foreigner goes and the fact that the woman had to fight off men and dogs to get G.E.M. to her hut, he decided that mothers were the backbone of the society even though they are generally treated almost the same as chattels.
 
In Bangladesh, university is free but you have to pay for primary and secondary school and most people cannot afford that cost so the children never get to university.
 
G.E.M. working with his wife, and children decided that they would go into the slums and teach women who in return would then each teach five children. Today, ten years later thhildren often teach their younger siblings.
 
Part of the Munro’s education model was to NOT build schools. They simply rented two slum dwellings, made them into one room and without any furniture called it a school. They trained the teachers and supplied pencils and workbooks and taught the mothers for 2 to 3 hours per day after many of the women has finished their job if they had one.
 
All of the teaching is done both in their own language, Bangla as well as English. Although the mothers are taught in the “Mothers’ School” the children are taught at home or wherever some quiet can be found.
 
Kroeker, spoke on the financial needs of running an Amarok school. He described how it takes about $10,000 per year to educate twenty-five mothers a who in turn taught a total of 125 children which works out to about $60 per year per student.  
 
He described how in 2018-19 he and his committee worked together to put together $10,000 to run a new Amarok school in the city of Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. But the committee’s goal was to not just fund the “school” for one year but for three years so that it was well established. The committee is also working with Amarok to get the school named the Dryden Rotary Mothers’ School.
 
 
This year the International Services Committee has put together the following funding:
Rotary of Dryden $2,000.00 for each of 2019-20, 20-21, and 21-22
Rotary Club of Kenora $1,000.00 also for each of 2019-20, 20-21, and 21-22
Rotary Club of Winnipeg-Assiniboine $3,000.00 for 2019-20
District 5550 (NWO, Manitoba & Saskatchewan) Grant of $2,500
Rotary Club of Cox’s Bazaar Shaikat $500.00
Private sector -$800.00
In addition, the Amarok Society put forth another $5,700 to pay for start-up costs.
 
Before ending his talk, James showed how $3,000 was needed from the private sector in the 20-21 year and then called upon committee member John Borst to lead a process to raise the first $1,000 of that amount. Borst was heartened when the next day he learned that Rotarian’s had personally donated just $30,00 short of $2,000.00.
 
On Friday, by chance Tanyss Munro of the Amarok Society was passing through town and Cindy had made arrangements for Munro to speak to speak to her Law and Justice classes. After her presentation the Club presented a cheque for $3000.00 from the Kenora and Dryden Rotary Clubs.
 
(L-R) Tanyss Munro, Cindy Palermo, James Kroeker
Tanyss Munro speaking to the Law and Justice classes at DHS
 
On the previous evening Kroeker, Palermo and Borst travelled to Winnipeg to make a presentation on the Amarok Society’s work to the University of Manitoba Rotaract Club with the hope of having them become a partner in 2020-21.
 
 
Cindy presenting to the Univ. of Manitoba Rotaract Cub
Borst, with James in the background, answers a question.
 

The Amarok schools have now been in existence for ten years. Some of the children are now finishing high school in the public system and a few are even in university. Being literate has allowed the mothers and children to escape the violence and subservience that the women normally faced as they became older.
 
To learn more about Amarok, go to http://amaroksociety.org/wordpress/
 
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