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Gooyabadi Named Global Social Innovation Fellow


October 2009

Maryam Gooyabadi was recently named a Global Social Innovation Fellow by the Orbis Institute for her project LeadAWay. The project creates a leadership and economic development model for the establishment if self-sustaining orphanages in communities around the world.

UNICEF estimates that there are about 132.7 million orphans worldwide. A staggering number such as this is difficult to understand; statistics have no human face attached. As the clock ticks our days away, we fail to realize that every 3 seconds we loose a child. On this day alone, 26,500 children will die.

I envision a world where life is not a survival mission, where children can dream and have the power to create their own realities. To achieve this end, I plan to implement a model for the largest chain of self-sustaining orphanages in the world. While orphans are invisible, children can be seen as they grow to become troubled adults. A study in Russia has shown 70% of orphan males turn to crime while 60% of females turn to prostitution as means to sustain themselves. With negligence, a potential for positive change has transformed into violence and degradation.

We need to target the problems as a whole, our world problems are interrelated. "LeadAWay" will not only target the isolated problem of helpless orphans, but it will serve as a catalyst for community empowerment. Orphans will be empowered and fully capable of leading their communities. The leaders will have the education, training and experience needed to build their countries and pave the way to brighter future.

Through schooling, community service, and personal growth projects, the children will grow to realize they are powerful, valued, and needed. Self sustainability will not only help orphanages but will also be directed to serve the community, creating jobs, and increasing access to education and health. Orphanages will be known, not for their limitations, but for their unlimited potential.

In Africa, one fourth of all children are AIDS orphans. This disease has left 12 million children behind. Most of these children will have no other means for survival but to beg or steal. War and civil strife have caused families to separate, and for those who survive, there is little hope for improvement. The world is in need of leadership.

The need for leadership is urgent, the care for children dying on streets is urgent, access to education and health is also, urgent. As alarms of urgency ring loud for the world to hear, a tide of NGOs are flowing into communities. Yet, to overcome the devastation, we must heed the call of empowerment for local leadership and who better than orphans to focus our efforts.

The Orbis Institute is a nonprofit educational leadership organization working to introduce youth to their peers around the world. The Orbis mission: "Global Leadership Development for Youth". By bringing students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds together to learn and engage in dialogue, Orbis aims to create an environment in which all participants can develop their unique leadership capabilities.

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