Report Highlights High Infant Mortality in Pakistan

Photocredit: UNICEF Pakistan Annual Report 2013, p. 17. © UNICEF Pakistan/2013/Asad Zaidi

Photocredit: Asad Zaidi, UNICEF Pakistan Annual Report 2013, 17.

Earlier this month, The Express Tribune with the International New York Times published an article titled “State of Children: Pakistani child mortality rates nearly twice as high as India’s” which highlighted a recent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report showing that one in every 14 Pakistani children die before their first birthday, and one in every 11 do not survive to their fifth birthday. These startling findings provide even greater proof of the necessity of programs that expand opportunity, and access to basic services, to children in Pakistan.

The article also focused on important connections that should be made when discussing ways to combat high child mortality rates, based upon conclusions provided by the UNICEF report. According to field experts, child mortality rates provide a good indication of the level of social development within a country because of their connection with nutrition, parents’ education, and access to healthcare. One important aspect of this dilemma is the connection that may be made between low levels of education, and an increase in the likelihood that families will take on labor-intensive, low paying jobs to make ends meet. These jobs put intense strain on family members, without resulting in adequate resources to support their needs. This often results in children being pushed into hazardous labor themselves, inhibiting their access to education, health and safety.

Without greater access to education and health services, the cycle of poverty will continue, with children bearing the brunt of the costs. This reality further supports the conclusion, drawn by the Marshall Direct Fund and other international development practitioners, that providing access to education and safe, healthy means of revenue-generation are important ways to support a better future for Pakistani children. Refer to the original article here.

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Join us in India

north indiaGateway to India Travel has partnered with the Marshall Direct Fund (MDF) to provide an experience that speaks both to the rich cultural history of Northern India and the work being done by locals to improve their communities. This philanthropic tour is more than a sight-seeing trip; participants will meet and dine with erstwhile royalty in Lucknow and Bhopal, visit the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), and speak with scholars and activists who have worked tirelessly for the empowerment of women and youth. The 11-day, 10-night tour will be hosted by Jodi Fischer, the Executive Director of MDF.

The tour is designed to give insight into Muslim communities in India and Pakistan. Mrs. Sonia Rashid, an artist married to an Indian Muslim prince, will host the group at the Jehan Numa Palace and Retreat in Bhopal, and will speak to her own experience as a Pakastani Muslim. During a visit to Lucknow, participants will drive out to smaller towns and villages like Mehmoodabad and Kotdwara. The group will dine with community leaders and learn about the Muslim populations living in these rural areas.

The group will have meetings with organizations like Muskaan—which works with vulnerable slum communities on issues of education, identity, violence, health, and nutrition, and Magic Bus—which provides learning opportunities to underserved youth. These opportunities to connect with NGOs will be punctuated with exploration of the rich and iconic cultural sites of Northern India.

Among the many UNESCO World Heritage sites of New Delhi that we will visit are Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar. During a visit to Old Delhi, the capital city of the Mughals and symbolic heart of modern Delhi, the group will enjoy kebabs, tandoori, and naan at Karim’s Restaurant, the city’s most famous culinary destination. Before leaving New Delhi, the group will visit Agra and take in the glories of the iconic Taj Mahal.

Other highlights involve taking a train to Lucknow, a multicultural city and artistic hub, a visit to the British Residency, and the Bara and Chhota Imambaras. In Bhopal, one of the greenest cities in India, the group will stay at the Jehan Numa Retreat. This spa and resort sits at the edge of Van Vihar National Park. The group can explore wildlife sanctuaries, mosques, and places of pilgrimage. To learn more click here.

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Wish List

Executive Director, Jodi Fischer was recently showcased in her alma mater’s publication, the University of Denver Magazine. In this piece, you can learn more about the work of Marshall Direct Fund in Pakistan and some of the ways you can get involved. Jodi will be heading back to Pakistan in late Spring 2015 and is happy to bring any of the following wish list items. Please email to learn more. Financial contributions are always welcome and can be made here.

Laptops Battery time allows staff to communicate and gain access to teaching tools even during the frequent power outages.
Digital or video cameras Would love to better capture student and staff experiences to share with supporters, but to also assist with vocational training module replication.
Cell phones Staff are in need of effectively and regularly communicating with school administrators, parents, and taking photo/videos. Smart phones also welcomed since admin staff would benefit from accessing internet and sharing tools for instruction aids.
Printers (2) Printable worksheets for kids are great tools for teachers.They help to make subjects like reading, writing, math, and science fun and engaging.
Computers (2) Laptops are preferable to deal with the power outages, but these are still welcomed for both staff operations and student learning and for computer literacy programs
UPS Generator (1) Power shortage and load shedding has worsened in the last few years. Often facilities are without electricity for hours, sometimes all day during the hottest months. Uninterrupted Power Supply is detrimental for keeping the lights, fans, and equipment on. 
White Boards (10) Many of our classrooms do not currently have chalk or white boards and this would assist tremendously with instruction.
Students Desks (60 3-seaters) Much of our previously donated were used and are over five years old and in disrepair, we also wish to accommodate new admissions.
Projectors (2)  Provide teachers and trainers multimedia tools to assist with instruction.**Please note, smaller easily transported items can be donated in the US which can be brought over by our home office staff in spring 2015. If you are located in Pakistan, all donations are welcomed. If you wish to donate financially to ensure the purchase of any of the items, we would also be happy to accept.
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Peshawar School Attack

We are saddened and concerned about the school attacks in Pakistan winter 2014. Attacking children and their right to education is a disregard of the most fundamental principles of humanity. This occurrence concerns Pakistan as well as the entire world– education and our children’s right to freedom are rights that all people deserve. Our deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. All schools in Pakistan were shut down for a few weeks and we have since had visits by government officials checking to make sure we have school guards and emergency policies and infrastructure in place. We ask the global community to join hands with the Pakistani nation, especially with the victims’ families to help them have the courage to bear the loss. If you would like to strengthen the effort to bring education to children in Pakistan, please consider doing awareness generating in among your network or community. We have an Allies in Action package that provides suggestions. Or consider financially supporting MDF education efforts in Pakistan today: here:

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Shop and Support

Want to make a difference with your online shopping? The Amazon Smile Foundation will donate a percentage of your purchase to us when you choose Marshall Direct Fund as your favorite charity, allowing us to continue changing the lives of youth and young women who need education and vocational skills. Shopping never felt so good! Learn more at: Shot 2014-12-08 at 8.34.37 PM

We are happy to share that Threads Worldwide has offered to provide proceeds to support Marshall Direct Fund. There is an array of great products made by women all over the globe. Purchases support the entrepreneurs AND MDF beneficiaries. Shop here: and enter ‘MDF’ in the fundraiser box at check out.


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Sometimes it takes a hero to notice or be reminded what is important. In a country like Pakistan where girls are systematically disenfranchised, a 14-year-old girl is an unlikely candidate. Malala spoke out on behalf of girls in Pakistan and their right to education. After being hunted down and shot in the head by the Taliban while boarding her school bus on October 9, 2012, she now has the world’s attention.

Malala’s father ran a girls’ school in Swat Valley, a mountainous region with over 1,000,000 residents close to the country’s capital, Islamabad.  In 2009, the world watched in horror as the Taliban took over Swat and instituted its gruesome system of law and order.  When the Taliban ordered girls’ schools be closed, Malala and her father defied their orders, kept their school open, and courageously defended the right of education for girls.  During the terrifying reign of the Taliban, Malala fearlessly blogged her experience for the BBC and was featured in documentaries by The New York Times. I Am Malala is a wonderful book that we highly recommend reading.

As Malala fought for her life in a hospital bed, the world wa reminded of the perilous state of affairs in Pakistan.  Predicted to be the world’s fourth most populous country by 2050, Pakistan has over 17 million school-aged children out of school – that means one in ten of the world’s out of school children resides in Pakistan!  Public education is inaccessible to most children and when it is accessible much of the curriculum enforces rote learning and a narrow-minded worldviews that fuels negative stereotypes.  Private schools are cost-prohibitive to most families of the country as they survive on less than $2 a day.  The other alternative, madrassas (religious schools), offer limited knowledge with their focus on religious education.  What future lays ahead for the children, particularly the girls of Pakistan?

The fact that Malala was targeted by the Taliban is evidence that they know that education of girls will be their undoing. Since educated girls bring about economic growth faster to a country than any other measure, the unstable, illiterate, impoverished, black market gun-running and drug-smuggling friendly environment extremists thrive in will no longer be available to them when all girls go to school.

At MDF we congratulate Malala on her recent Nobel Peace Prize Award. We are convinced that education, awareness of cultural diversity, and economic empowerment build the groundwork for peace in a region of the world critical to international security.  Currently we are the only organization in the Roaring Fork Valley providing education to girls in Pakistan. We are keeping daily tabs on the health of Malala and have great hope for her survival, for her vision to become a reality.

Girls in Pakistan need access to quality education where they are taught multiple subjects, critical thinking, and learn skills to support entry into the workforce so they can overcome conditions of poverty. The Girl Effect is well known in the International Development world but what is needed here is The Malala Effect.  Girls in conflict countries are given the least amount of support than any human being on the face of the earth.  Investing in girls in conflict countries will do more than just eradicate poverty and illiteracy, it provides an additional return on investment, it helps create peace and stability.  For people interested in supporting the dreams of Malala, please consider supporting MDF, we have a scholarship fund specifically for girls. Please visit our website at Thank you to all of our current donors. You can also donate to the Malala Family Fund that has been set up. You can also join the campaign to save Malala and girls’ education.


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Save the Date: 2015 Aspen Summer Event

The 2015 Marshall Direct Fund Summer Fundraiser will take place July 1, 2015 at the home of Terri & Tony Caine in Aspen, Colorado from 5pm to 7:30pm. Dalia Mogahed, author of Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, will be our featured guest speaker. This fun evening will include food by European Caterers, cocktails from Woody Creek Distillery, a silent auction, and will receive coverage by Aspen Peak Magazine. To become a sponsor please click here. To RSVP please email today.

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50% match

New matching opportunity! We still have a lot of funds available for a 50% match through Vocational Training Program on GlobalGiving, courtesy of the Safer World Fund! Each donor can donate up to $1,000 to qualify for the match. Donations will be matched until the funds run out, so be sure to donate soon and encourage others who feel passionate about education to see their donor dollars go far!


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The Kids Aren’t All Right

A very informative organization called has put together a great interactive infographic entitled “The Kids Aren’t All Right.” If you go to and click on the “Girls Enrolled in School” tab on the right, you’ll see something that looks like this:

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But don’t just read about it here; go to and see for yourself how disheartening the statistics of Pakistani girls in schools can be. Thankfully, with your help, Marshall Direct Fund has been able to help many young girls attend school. We currently offer schooling for grades 1-5, but we are aiming to add a new class every year so that children can extend their education beyond 5th grade.

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Moms supporting moms

MfMAspenLogo_Rectangle_Small300x100Marshall Direct Fund continues partnership with Aspen Moms for Moms to help share our mission and event information with mothers in the Aspen area!

Aspen Moms for Moms run by local mom, Rachel Goodman, is a hyper-local social network for mothers to connect, share information, find and offer support and be inspired to get involved.  Moms can find local events, discounts and deals, items for sale, resources for moms who own their own businesses, and much more.  Mothers from pregnancy through grand-motherhood are encouraged to join their free local Moms for Moms site throughout the valley AspenBasalt, CarbondaleGlenwood or Rifle.  Don’t live in these areas? Don’t fret, many cities have similar forums. We encourage you to do an online search to find yours. Moms for Moms Communities are building stronger communities by engaging mothers, and we look forward to collaborating with them to foster our mission to improve relations between the West and the Muslim world by working together to alleviate poverty and illiteracy via sustainable educational and economic development in Southwest Asia.  It takes a village!

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