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IC church aids Pakistani girls

BY MARLEEN LINARES | MARCH 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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When Jane Cranston visited Pakistan in 2009, the first thing she noticed was the dearth of women roaming the streets.

“You see but one or two women on the streets; the rest are men,” said the College of Education instructor. “When you do see them, they usually look very vulnerable and are completely covered up.”

Cranston said she wasn’t shocked or horrified at the treatment of women in Pakistan because she knew this behavior is ingrained in Pakistani culture. Approximately 70 to 90 percent of Pakistani women are subject to violence, she said.

Cranston was interested in changing some young girls’ lives.

So she went to Pasrur, Pakistan, to visit a girls’ boarding school sponsored by her church, the First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City. She plans to discuss — and show video and photos of — her trip at 12:30 p.m. today in the Lindquist Center.

She said her primary goal with the lecture is to raise awareness about the students’ circumstances.

“Sometimes, you read about something tragic, but it doesn’t feel real,” she said. “I want people to see that it is real.”

The church helped fund the building for the boarding school, and it sponsors 100 girls who attend. A year’s scholarship for one girl costs $420 and includes room, board, and education costs.

The girls are recruited by ministers in their villages, and they must pass a standard test before they are accepted into the Pasrur Boarding School.

“These girls are given an incredible opportunity that would otherwise be almost impossible,” Cranston said, noting many of the girls come from troubling situations such as a paralyzed father or a widowed mother.

The church’s project began in 1999, when it signed up for an exchange program, in which Presbyterians from all over the world learn from each other’s challenges and successes.

In 2006, church constituents decided to build a dormitory for the school.

The Presbyterian Education Board oversees the boarding school and 11 other private schools in Pakistan.

Janice Baumback, a member of the church’s mission council, said she became interested because she wanted to follow the example of her grandfather, who was a missionary in Pakistan in 1888.

“I am very passionate about this project,” the 87-year-old said. “I believe it’s the only way we can improve things for women of the country.”

Nancy Stensvaag, who sponsors one of the girls attending the school, said it has been an exciting and satisfying adventure.

“These girls have ambitions that they would never have the opportunity to reach until now,” Stensvaag said. “It is so rewarding to know you are making that kind of a difference.”


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