By Emily Stifler, Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BOZEMAN – In its first year, the Iqra Fund provided scholarships for more than 100 Pakistani girls and 10 Moroccan girls to attend high school.
Many went to Pakistani girls directly affected by an enormous landslide in 2010, said Doug Chabot, who co-founded Iqra with his wife Genevieve. The disaster destroyed the only road and dammed the river, creating a 16-mile long lake.
“Farmers once made a living selling crops, now they make nothing,” Doug said. “They have no money, and their pockets are empty. Paying tuition, even $3 a month, is too much, and sending girls beyond seventh grade requires selling land or other assets.”
The Chabots started the Bozeman-based nonprofit a year ago, and in that time have raised more than $175,000. The organization reported in its fall newsletter that 97 percent of that money is being used on educational and health programming in Pakistan and Morocco.
Iqra has already handed out 600 applications for next year’s scholarships, more than it can provide, Doug said.
But that pressure may ease a bit next year, with new funding on the way: In late August, the group received a grant from the Innovate Foundation; the funding will span four years and provide $100,000 each year.
In the newsletter, Genevieve noted several other accomplishments:
Eliminating school fees for 64 girls between both countries; starting a girl-friendly school environment initiative for Hushe village in Pakistan; supporting 11 teacher salaries and a teacher training for staff in two Pakistan villages; funding a tutoring program for more than 50 fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Morocco; developing a special education program to support nine families with special needs in Hushe; and developing a community health program with a service-learning curriculum for more than 200 mothers and daughters in Morocco.
“The greatest return on investment in education is for children between the ages of three to seven,” Genevieve wrote. “We know this because if they are well prepared for the start of first grade, they will more likely succeed through primary school and beyond.”
Iqra translates to “read” from Arabic. Iqra Fund operates in remote villages in Pakistan and Morocco, providing opportunities for women and children to improve their quality of life through education.