Surrogates for Malala

Malala Yousafzai

In the midst of this week’s news, a mixture of political soothsaying, courtroom conclusions and election polling data ad nauseum, one story should have caught and held the attention of every student on the planet. Actually, every person. That story is of the young girl who was shot for defending her right to learn. Her name is Malala Yousufzai.

Malala is 14 and dreamed of becoming a doctor. In her native Pakistan, however, some believe girls aren’t supposed to aspire. But Malala wanted to learn. She wrote eloquently and publicly of her desires and her struggles in seeking education. For her words, Malala wasn’t applauded, as she might be in other parts of the world. She was gunned down. Now, she is fighting for her life.

In an essay for the Washington Post, former First Lady Laura Bush wrote:

Malala is the same age as another writer, a diarist, who inspired many around the world. From her hiding place in Amsterdam, Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Today, for Malala and the many girls like her, we need not and cannot wait. We must improve their world.

In 2003, speaking at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

Malala understands that. In fact, the “tuition” she has paid is astonishingly high. Those of us blessed with unencumbered educational opportunities must consider her cost. And perhaps, we should take on an even greater responsibility to wield that “weapon” to promote positive change. We at JMU certainly take that responsibility seriously.

So today, Oct. 11, the day designated by the United Nations’ as the Day of the Girl Child, I have a suggestion to honor Malala — a small and effective way to help change the world.

JMU’s Office of International Programs is signing up volunteers now for the Leaders in International Friendship Exchange Program.  LIFE pairs JMU community members with some of JMU’s 477 International students who come from 85 nations.

According to Hunter Swanson, exchange visitor coordinator for OIP, the LIFE program requires only a small time commitment and pairs students and local individuals and families based on interests and compatibility. After an orientation meeting and an introduction to your student (or students), you might take them to a sporting event, a concert, or invite them for a home-cooked meal every month or so. It is, quite simply, befriending a student who is far away from home. What could be easier or more interesting?

Just think of our International student friends as surrogates for Malala.

To learn more about LIFE or for questions, click on the embedded link above.

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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