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Tracy Frank, Published March 23 2012

Global children’s advocate, author to speak at Concordia

If you go

What: Social Entrepreneurship Globally: One Child at a Time

Presenter: Maya Ajmera

Where: Centrum, Knutson Campus Center at Concordia College in Moorhead

When: 7 p.m. Monday with a book signing following the program

Info: Free and open to the public

MOORHEAD – Maya Ajmera is proof that one person can make a difference in the world.

Ajmera, who speaks Monday at Concordia, was 25 when she founded The Global Fund for Children, an organization that makes small grants to community-based groups working with the world’s most vulnerable children.

Ajmera’s visit Monday is jointly sponsored by Concordia College’s Women’s Studies program in celebration of Women’s History Month and the Global Studies program.

“She epitomizes what a lot of global studies majors want to do, which is to go out and make the world a better place,” said Kenneth Foster, Global Studies program chairman.

Foster said he’s been working to help bring Ajmera to Concordia so his students can see an example of someone who tried to make a difference and succeeded.

“I think students often feel overwhelmed by the problems we face,” he said. “She is an example of someone who shows that you start with small steps and you can make it into something big.”

Ajmera was inspired to start the Global Fund for Children during a visit to India, where children were receiving an education from a teacher with flashcards on a busy train platform.

The school, which gave an informal education directly to children who lived and begged on train platforms, cost about $400 a year to support 50 children and two teachers. It provided the children with education, clothing and food and instilled in them a sense of worth, according to The Global Fund for Children’s website.

Ajmera founded The Global Fund for Children in 1994, four years after that encounter, based on the belief that small amounts of money, when given to innovative, community-based organizations, could make a real and lasting impact.

Since then, the group has invested $23 million in more than 500 grassroots organizations in 78 countries, serving more than 7 million children, the web site states.

The organization also operates a media program focused on children’s books, films and documentary photography, including an award-winning book Ajmera co-authored, “Children from Australia to Zimbabwe.”

In addition to learning about Ajmera’s work and the lives of those she has impacted, Concordia’s program will also give people the opportunity to learn about the types of programs that serve women and girls best, said Elna Solvang, co-director of Women’s Studies at Concordia.

“For us, this is a golden opportunity,” she said. “She demonstrates the ability to think critically, innovatively and collaboratively and the willingness to raise problems of justice and respond to those problems in new ways.”