Endangered Species, Empowered Communities

More than just a set of books….

Based on stories written by 225 young women and children from 8 countries and produced by dozens of volunteers, the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities set of children’s book embodies the spirit of global collaboration and collective creativity.  The goals of the project are to empower girls, protect endangered species, and promote global education and awareness.

But  exactly how and why did more than 300 individuals from 11 countries and 5 continents come together to create a set of children’s books? Please read on to learn more about this unique project and what you can do to become a part of it.

Inspired by Survivors…

Inspired in 2007 by an article about violence against women in Easter DR Congo, Dot-to-Dot co-Founder Kevin McCaffrey made a trip to the country where, among other things, he witnessed a performance of skits by a group of women survivors. Kevin had been told that these women – who had each survived unimaginable traumas  – had no skills or talents and thus need to be taught basic skills such as soap making. In witnessing a wonderful set of imaginative skits, Kevin realized that he had been misinformed. These women were not talent-less. They had in fact mastered a very meaningful talent: storytelling.

Kevin’s experience in DR Congo sparked the idea for a set of children’s books that would represent the collective creativity of hundreds of women and children and dozens of volunteers from around the world. Ingenuity, diligence and a shared passion for the project quickly brought together a dynamic group of volunteers and non-profit organizations to make this vision a reality in the form of the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project. If not for the inspirational imaginations of a group of women in Eastern DR Congo, this project never would have happened. Dot-to-Dot dedicates this project to the wonderful creativity and courageous spirits of the women Kevin met that day in Eastern DR Congo.

Made Possible through an Amazing Set of Partnerships…

Dot-to-Dot Children’s Books is a nonprofit organization that benefits from the selfless contributions of dozens of volunteers, many with deep experience in the field of children’s literature. However, Dot-to-Dot’s Vision for the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project is that it will make a difference in the lives of women and girls in places where help is needed most; that it will help protect animal species that are at risk of being lost forever; and that it will promote global awareness and education among thousands of children around the world. Dot-to-Dot recognized that it could not achieve this Vision on its own and it therefore enlisted the support of an amazing set of nonprofit partners. Through these partnerships, Dot-to-Dot is able to empower women and girls where there is a real need. For example, a partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society, sales of the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities books will help protect tigers and snow leopards, mountain gorillas and sea turtles, tapirs and river dolphins.


Starring the Creativity of Women and Children from around the World…

Meet Ms. Nargis. Ms. Nargis is a student at the Help the Afghan Children (HTAC’s) Rohkshana Girls School in Kabul, Afghanistan. Previously,  HTAC’s Founder, Suraya Sadeed, posted lookouts to watch for Taliban informants as she ran her secret schools for girls during the height of Taliban rule. Today, girls like Ms. Nargis receive a top-notch education in a proper school thanks to the work of HTAC.

However, that does not mean that it is now easy for Nargis to receive an education. Girls’ schools have been poisoned and shot in recent years, and HTAC’s staff pursue their Mission at great personal risk.

Through the ESEC project, Nargis and eleven of their classmates are excited to share their creativity with the world through the children’s book they helped write, The Snow Leopard Dream. All of the core elements of the story came from stories these courageous young women wrote. Here is a sample from Nargis’ story (written by Ms. Nargis in English!):

“I was at the top of Pamir Mountain…I knew it wasn’t just me and my father in the mountains, but a world of living animals. Standing across from my father, a crisp breeze was playing with my chignon, propelling it to the blue sky over my head.”

Like The Snow Leopard Dream, each of the 8 Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project titles is based on creative stories written by women and children from the featured country. In total, 225 young women and children from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, DR Congo, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and Tanzania contributed stories. Each of the participants’ names and photos are included in the books, highlighting them as co-authors. For many of the co-authors, the first real book they will ever personally own will be one that features their name and photo. Dot-to-Dot is proud to highlight the creativity of these amazing individuals and hopes that their stories will spark the imaginations of our young readers, inspiring them to pick up a pencil to write their own stories.

Highlighting the “Stories Behind the Stories”…

In addition to a fun tale about an endangered species based on stories by young women and children, each book in the set also features – quite literally – a number of “stories behind the stories.” After each story, readers will find additional educational materials that teach about the featured endangered species, country, and culture. Readers will also learn about an inspirational female role model who is dedicated to empowering girls like those who helped author the story, as well as a conservationist working to protect the featured endangered species. Finally, in each book, Dot-to-Dot tells the story of nonprofit organizations that are working to empower girls and protect endangered species. Our hope is that these “stories behind the stories” will prove both educational and inspirational, encouraging our readers to join the hundreds of volunteers from around the world who are committed to supporting the goals of the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project.

With an Emphasis on  Individual and Collective Action…

Simply put, the hundreds of volunteers who have already contributed to the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project do not believe that it is OK for thousands of girls to be trafficked into slavery each year. We do not believe that it is OK for girls to face the threat of violence due to a desire to learn in Afghanistan. We do not believe it is OK for violence against women to be used as a weapon of war  in Eastern DR Congo. We do no believe that it is OK for girls in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Tanzania, or Rwanda to lack access to a secondary school education. We do not believe that it is OK for tigers, Ganges River dolphins, Hawksbill sea turtles, and other species to disappear from the wild within the next few decades.

Most importantly, we do believe that we can and should do something about these issues. It is not enough to hope that someone else will. That is why we view the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project not as a set of books, but rather as a platform for change. By reading the books, readers young and old gain awareness of these important issues and ways in which they can help address them. Sales of the books generate funding for organizations that have demonstrated an ability to make a difference (a minimum of 30% of sales is donated to empower girls and protected endangered species).

Please, join us in making the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project a success. Consider purchasing the books for the children in your lives. Donate a set of books to classrooms in need in the U.S., or donate local-language versions to the communities where the stories were written. Spread the word about our project through Facebook, Twitter, email, or word-of-mouth. And, most importantly, work with people you know – young and old – to take action to address these important causes. Hundreds of people from around the world have joined us in taking action to make a difference – we hope you will too! Click here to purchase or donate books. Click on the pictures below to learn about each creative writing workshop.

From Facing the Future…

Connecting Students to the WorldEngaging K-3 Lessons on Literacy, Science, and Social Studies

Connecting Students to the World is an interdisciplinary teacher lesson plan guide for grades K-3 that engages students’ desire to learn through hands-on exploration of real-world issues and sustainable solutions. The lessons are designed to develop the critical thinking skills and developmental assets that young people need to thrive at school, at home, and in the world. This research based, teacher-tested resource is aligned with language arts, science, social studies, and Common Core standards in all fifty states for easy integration into core classroom teaching. Connecting Students to the Worldhas been named a finalist in the 2012 AEP Awards which honors excellence and innovation in the education community.

Lessons topics include:

  • Ecosystems and biodiversity,
  • Human-environment interactions,
  • Culture and identity, and
  • Responsibility and teamwork.

The lesson plan guide will provide age-appropriate instructional materials including:

  • Engaging, hands-on lessons,
  • Detailed instructions,
  • Reflection questions,
  • Action project ideas,
  • Print and web resources for further information, and
  • Reproducible handouts.

Connecting Students to the World complements the eight educational children’s books written in partnership with local communities in countries around the world for the Endangered Species, Empowered Communities Project.

Grades: K-3  aligned with educational standards in all 50 states.
Subjects: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies

Price: $9.95

To learn more and purchase, visit Facing the Future here

For other elementary lessons on global issues and sustainability, check out Teaching Global Sustainability in the Primary Grades.

Facing the Future is a nonprofit organization that engages students in learning by making academics relevant to their lives.  Facing the Future curriculum is in use in all U.S. states and over 120 countries across multiple subject areas in grades K-12 and university classes.