They'd never seen a computer. Now they're training to be the tech experts of tomorrow.

Over 247 million children in Sub-Saharan African countries have no school supplies. Not even a backpack.

Photo courtesy of CodeToHope.

Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. And with all money going toward food, shelter, and tuition fees (many schools aren't free), parents are often unable to afford the supplies their children need to succeed. That's why it's not uncommon for kids to show up to school empty-handed.


But that's just one of the factors that puts Sub-Saharan Africa at the top of the list for education exclusion. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO), more than one-fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 aren't in school. That number increases to one-third among children between the ages of 12 and 14. And by the time they're 15, over 60 percent of children are no longer attending school.

Thankfully, there is an organization working to bridge the education gap. It's called CodeToHope.

Philemon Padonou distributing laptops to a teacher. Photo courtesy of CodeToHope.

CodeToHope is a non-profit dedicated to bringing technological skills training to youth who may have never experienced it otherwise due to lack of access. The organization was founded by Philemon Padonou, an engineer who grew up in the Benin Republic of West Africa and then moved to The United States to work and learn English.

When he enrolled in computer science classes in the US, though, Padonou made an important discovery: His lack of early computer literacy was holding him back.

"One of the biggest setbacks for him was that he couldn't type as fast as his peers," says Jacqueline Gaston, a Technology Services Analyst with the organization.

"His assignments were taking so much longer, even though he understood the material in the same way his peers did. These basic computer literacy skills, which he had to pick up on the spot, would have given him more opportunities."

So Padonou decided that he had to find a way to give those skills to the kids in his community. He was going to offer them an education in digital literacy so they could have opportunities that he didn't.

CodeToHope's goal is to fight poverty by giving future leaders the tools they need to empower their communities. That meant starting with the bare necessities.

Photo courtesy of CodeToHope.

Since its launch in 2016, CodeToHope has provided over 1000 children with backpacks full of supplies.

"The backpacks have notebooks, pens, pencils and a ruler," says Gaston. "Things that we would consider as being basic necessities. For some students, even buying this is unattainable." The kits also contain mosquito nets to help students prevent the spread of malaria. 90% of all malaria cases occur in Sub Saharan Africa, and two-thirds of those who succumb to the disease are children under the age of five. Even giving kids this seemingly meager protection can help keep them in school, and may even save their lives.

And these supplies are only one part of CodeToHope's campaign against poverty. The second part is all about technology.

Photo courtesy of CodetoHope.

The organization's main thrust is to provide children living in Sub Saharan Africa with access to computers and the education they need to become experts in the field of technology. Such access, the people at CodeToHope believe, will not only provide more opportunities, but allow communities to create better links to healthcare, knowledge and economic growth.

To date, CodeToHope has donated more than 400 computers to schools in Benin, which has, in turn, allowed the non-profit to serve nearly 3,000 students in the short time they've been an active organization. CodeToHope also arranges for expert mentors to teach children how to use the new devices — something that's incredibly important in a place where there's no oversight on digital education.

And this is just the beginning of CodeToHope's initiatives.

In 2019, CodeToHope plans to harness solar power to help the remote villages of Ganvie and So-Ava gain access to reliable electricity for the first time. The hope is that electricity allows for major improvements to occur, which may help bring the community together.

"Our model isn't to go in and provide help and leave. We're trying to create a sustainable model where we can help communities and make sure that we're having a positive impact."

The idea is that the education provided by this project will help prepare these children for the ever-changing world around them, which will, in turn, go miles to improve the overall health of their village, as there is a known correlation between education and health conditions of an area.

"We're not trying to fix their problems. We're trying to enable them to fix their own problems."

CodeToHope is only growing, and that's largely thanks to Johnson & Johnson's initiative, CaringCrowd®.

Photo courtesy of CodeToHope.

Philemon Panodou works at Johnson & Johnson. The company's credo  — to put the needs and well-being of those the company serves first — is actually what inspired him to create CodeToHope. It's also where he was first introduced to the logistics of creating a non-profit and where he secured initial funding. When Panodou began looking for gently used computers to bring to Benin, his J&J colleagues donated some along with funds.

Today, two of CodeToHope's major projects have been funded via CaringCrowd — a new type of fundraising platform that utilizes the power of social sharing to do good and improve wellbeing on a global scale.

CaringCrowd allows people like you to make the goals of non-profits around the globe a reality. Each project is independently reviewed by a team of outside experts so you know the money you pledge is going to a reputable place.

Best of all, Johnson & Johnson will match up to $250 per person per project as long as funds last. So the more we share the projects we're passionate about, the more monetary momentum they gain.

That means more backpacks, more computers, and more education for children in Benin and beyond.

The fight against poverty is long and arduous. But every notebook, pencil, mosquito net and computer brings CodeToHope one step closer to transforming the lives of the children who need it most — widening their futures to a dazzling array of opportunities they may have never had otherwise.

With organizations like this and people like Panodou constantly fighting for a better world, those brighter futures are entirely possible.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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