Hope Knows No Borders

By: Bill Strickland

Everywhere in the world there are people whose lives, many times through no fault of their own, are a constant struggle. I have visited cities in the United States where unemployment is rampant and high school dropouts greatly outnumber graduates. I have toured Japan and met people whose lives were devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. I have traveled to Northern Israel and experienced a region filled with turmoil and warfare.

Despair runs deep. However, the human spirit is remarkable; hope runs even deeper. In each of the places I visit, there are people who have stepped toward the promise of light.

In the United States, we now have seven affiliated centers modeled on the unique combination of youth arts education, adult career training and social enterprise we established in Pittsburgh over 40 years ago. This model is now known as the Manchester Bidwell educational model. Community representatives from across the nation recognize the value of what we have here and seek our expertise in helping replicate our success for their citizens.

In Japan, I met the Saionji family. As royalty, instead of using their influence for personal gain, they tirelessly toil to create a better future for the people of Japan and, by extension, the world. They toured our North Shore campus and left knowing that establishing a center in northern Japan would be an incredible way to rejuvenate the areas destroyed by the natural disaster.

In Israel, I met Arab and Israeli children who want nothing more than a safe space to learn and a better way to communicate across cultural barriers. I also met adults who want to see those children's wishes made into reality and recognize the Manchester Bidwell educational model as a way to do just that.

All of these stories say the same thing: Hope is universal but it needs a safe space to be produced and grow. I believe we have a way to do that with our educational model. The National Center for Arts and Technology (NCAT) -- the affiliate of Manchester Bidwell which helps establish organizations based on our model in cities across the world -- has become the means to build the community-based centers where we manufacture hope.

Please join me and my friends worldwide in helping establish Factories of Realized Hope. To contribute to our efforts, please go to www.crowdrise.com/NCAT.