Confucious once said "If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children."

 

We are capitalists and we are optimists, and therefore the overarching theme of the causes we devote our time to is the education of children and providing them with the toolset of knowledge they need to be able to capitalize on a world of opportunity.

 

 

Belize Literacy

 

Markus Muhs chairs the International Services Committee of the Rotary Club of Edmonton. The Club is currently engaged in a multi-year project to improve literacy among children in impoverished south Belize City. 

 

Literacy is the most powerful tool ever created by mankind, fostering not only communication over the millennia but also up-lifting billions of people in terms of both economic prosperity and liberty. Where literacy isn't, people are poorer and less free. As a capitalist and a libertarian, Markus believes that improving literacy can tackle both problems.

 

 

According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, as of 2015 Belize had a literacy rate of around 83%. This is below the world average 86%, and even ranks Belize below most of its Central American peers, and well below Mexico at 94%.

 

Belize is officially an English speaking country, with a population of less than 400,000 (less than 100,000 in and around Belize City). The country has a ton of potential, and already receives a bunch of social assistance from various other benefactors. Currently, too many children are still growing up illiterate only to end up in south Belize City's violent drug trade, but with a population so small, beating this problem is achievable.

 

Rotary, together with other partners, aim to improve primary education and childhood literacy through a number of strategies:

 

Playgrounds: To the end of 2017 a total of four used playgrounds from Alberta schools have been disassembled, shipped, and re-assembled at south Belize City primary schools. Markus has been involved in the planning and re-construction of four of these playgrounds, with another being planned for February 2019. You can watch a full start to finish video of the construction of the 2017 playground here.

 

 

All of this comes about through coordination with the Rotary District 5370 Playground Committee, on which Markus also sits, who coordinate funding through various central/northern Alberta Rotary clubs, matching grants from the Government of Alberta's Community Initiatives Program, and shipping of playgrounds and other goods (books, wheelchairs, medical equipment) through the Rotary district's international shipping arm, The Emmanuel Foundation.

 

 

Literacy Initiatives: These include early childhood development programs like Rhymes that Bind, a program created by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton, classroom library renovations, purchase of graded readers, and purchase of computer software to help aid and assess the learning process.

 

In total, this project commits over a quarter million dollars in combined funding, and countless volunteer hours by members of Literacy Without Borders and Rotary Clubs in Edmonton and Belize City.

 

Junior Achievement - Financial Literacy

 

Every one of us born in Canada has won the lottery at birth. Your chances of growing up literate, of never being hungry, of graduating high school and having near limitless opportunity, are fairly good. The one area we're often lacking in when we enter adulthood though is financial literacy.

 

Since spring 2017 Markus Muhs has joined up with Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta to teach basic personal finance to grade 8 students in Edmonton through a half-day long program called "Dollars With Sense". Wealth managers need wealth to manage, and if the next generation grows up financially uneducated there won't be any wealth to manage.

 

End Polio Now

 

Through the Rotary Club of Edmonton Markus has been organizing an annual Walk to End Polio, raising money to pay for immunizations in those countries where polio is still endemic. These donations are matched 2 to 1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and then again 2 to 1 by the Government of Canada.

 

 

Just as illiteracy puts people who are trying to make a better life for themselves at a disadvantage, polio takes a major toll not only on the children who are its main targets but also on families, villages, societies. People in the poorest countries of the world are economically disadvantaged to begin with; the hill to climb only becomes more daunting when they grow up with a debilitating illness or have to take care of children and relatives afflicted. The polio vaccine was developed more than 60 years ago - the suffering is completely unnecessary.

 

In 1988 there were an estimated 350,000 polio cases in 125 countries. Today, you can count the number of countries affected with the fingers on one hand, and the total number of people affected can barely fill a school bus. There is still work to do, until the virus is fully eradicated. To find out more go to www.endpolio.org

 

 

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