While she was a graduate student at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Jodi Fischer traveled to Bolivia, where she combined her previous experience in education and her interest in global health by working for three months on a child-labor reduction process.
Today, Fischer’s passion for kids and education is helping kids in Pakistan through the Marshall Direct Fund, an eight-year-old Colorado-based nonprofit for which Fischer (MA ’04) serves as executive director. The organization fulfills its mission of improving relations between the Western and Muslim worlds in three ways: providing primary education for kids in poverty-stricken areas; vocational training for Pakistani women in need of business-development skills; and linking nations through a modern-day pen-pal program called Global Kid Connect, in which students in Colorado and Pakistan get to know one other by exchanging letters, photos and videos online.
“To hear testimonials of the things students learn always excites me,” Fischer says of the Colorado students involved in Global Kid Connect. “We had one fifth-grade girl in Colorado who said, ‘Wow, I learned that these Pakistani kids are so similar to me—they like pizza and they like Justin Bieber. So I started talking to more of the kids here who were different from me, and I realize they might not speak English as well as me, but we have a lot in common too.’ It’s helping to break down stereotypes and barriers between different cultures.”
For the children in Pakistan, the Marshall Direct Fund can be life-changing, equipping kids who might otherwise not have the opportunity to go to school for future success in business, secondary education and maybe even politics.
“I love getting to visit the students; they are like family,” says Fischer, who works in Aspen, Colo., but makes annual surprise visits to Pakistan to check up on operations. “It’s very emotional to get to see them growing and learning and becoming more confident.
“Some of them are refugees from Afghanistan; some of them have come from horrible life circumstances, and they’re shy and they don’t speak any English, let alone Urdu, so to see them blossom from these shy, introverted kids to raising their hands and being excited to ask questions—to see them engage with the material and their teachers and their classmates in this way is really powerful.”