Home>Service> Global Love of Lives Award> 18th Fervent Global Love of Lives Award> Street Educator —— Arnoud Raskin
【Utilizing Street wise and make Mobile School possible】

If the kids can’t go to school, we bring a school to them
─Arnoud Raskin

 
 
In 1996, Arnoud Raskin found his hope on streets. During the 6 months in Columbia as a street education volunteer, he thought of the prototype of a mobile school, that is, a blackboard on wheels. He established the first mobile school in Guatemala in 1997 and after 18 years of hard work, now there are more than 36 mobile schools in more than 29 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. Every day, the hope of education is delivered to more than 200 street children.
The street to what business can utilize when managing crisis. He set up a company called Streewize, which sells unique workshops to companies and the earnings will go to mobile school. It’s very touching that this Belgium based social enterprise can take from business and help those in need.
Mobile School was founded by Arnoud Raskin and his partners. The moving blackboard can provide education in a special way to children in the third world who can’t go to school. Mobile school is very simple, it looks like a blackboard on wheels. This piece of blackboard can be unfolded into five pieces, and each can be used both sides. Mobile school can be very flexible, it can go to slums in cities or village in remote areas, whenever there’s space, anywhere can be a classroom.
 “Street kids can survive on streets, which is a hard task, and that makes them different from normal students. They have their own living skills. When teaching, I don’t think we should teach the kids how to do this and that or deny them, instead, we will improve what they are good at, and hope that they can get out of the vicious circle.” Arnoud said.
Compared to normal schools, mobile school cares more about the children’s self-esteem. Raskin also emphasis the importance of encouraging those kids to make them aware that they are wonderful, they deserve to learn and can find their opportunities and their paths. For a better material for the street kids, Raskin cooperated with the experienced organization Street Kids International, which authorized the use of material to them.
Raskin and his partners also translate teaching materials from other countries, develop games that are suitable to street kids and design interactive teaching methods. Meanwhile, in order to be financially independent and not just rely on donation, Raskin founded Streetwize, a company that turns the skills of living on the street to what business can utilize when managing crisis. They sells unique workshops to companies and the earnings will go to mobile school so that more street kids can have access to education that is truly interesting and fits them.
Arnoud Raskin go against the trend and find hope on streets. He makes the skills living on streets into something valuable and mobilize mobile school. He knows what street kids need and grows with them, and he also finds the self-esteem and hope for street kids. He is a street educator that changes societies and the world. Hence, he stood out among 2341 applicants around the world and won the award of the 18th Chou Ta-kuan Love for Life Award given by Chou Ta-kuan Foundation.
 
Alternative Educator that stood against the trend
 
      In 1996, Arnoud Raskin was in his fifth year in college who was about to finish his thesis, but he didn’t know what to do in the future. He questioned himself “Why did I learn industrial design?” Raskin was born in a normal family in Belgium. He has set up his goal to be an inventor when he was little, and he successfully entered a renowned university in Belgium to study industrial design. It seems that there was nothing he could worried about, but after an internship program in his senior year, he suddenly found that he had a problem. “Designing profit-oriented industrial machines is not what I want to do” he thought.
In his last year in college, he decided to work on a differ project. He wanted to design something that can fulfill human’s basic need, but not for Belgian, who live in a wealthy society. So he started to look for inspiration from books or friends, but he didn’t find the thing that would touch his heart. Until one day, he went to a dinner invited by his friend. In that meeting, he met a group of street workers that just came back from Columbia. They shared their working experience, touching stories and showed pictures of local kids and the environment the kids had to work in. “This is what basic human need is.” He thought. He soon decided that he wanted to design a product as his graduate thesis for those uneducated children who were lack of food or even regular shelter.
As smart as he is, he soon came up with an idea, since these children don’t have a place to stay, why not designing a back-pack tent? At least they could have a place to stay at night. So he designed a back-pack tent and showed the design to the street workers, to his surprise, they didn’t support his idea.
“This is not gonna work. Listen, if those children see such a cool thing, most of them wouldn’t want to use it wisely to improve their lives but to sell it and take the money to buy food, cigarette, alcohol or drugs. This is a stupid idea.” His friend said.
That was indeed a timely warning which helps Raskin realized that if he wanted to create something for the street kids in Columbia that can improve their lives, he can’t make it by staying in rich Belgium and draw sketches. He has to be there and stay with them and think like them. Like any product that need to fit the need of clients, Raskin had to know what these kids want.
So he flew to Columbia and started his market research. In the beginning, he couldn’t express himself in Spanish even in everyday words. Suddenly, he had an idea of buying a notebook on which he could draw and ask the kids how to speak Spanish. He could learn Spanish faster as well as make friends with them.
 
Know what street kids need.
 
He soon found some outgoing kids to be his Spanish teacher, and he soon found out that what they need, not food or water because they can work and feed themselves, not shelters because there are lots of spaces to stay in the city, what they need was education.
He found that many kids were keen to learn but they didn’t have the access nor suitable materials. Some children have the patience to read books but mostly get donated second-hand book which are irrelevant to their lives. They sometimes take tutor lessons from volunteers but it didn’t work out really well because it’s hard for them to focus on the lessons.
Raskin was confused, why those kids were enthusiastic when they taught him Spanish but showed careless in tutoring lessons? After careful thought, he found that the problem was the kids were being taught passively. If the kids can play the role of a teacher, they would enjoy more.
He learned that when you ask the children to be responsible and be involved in their learning process that’s how education can be done.
So he drew the sketches of this idea and design something that can let the kids to interact, this is the beginning of moving blackboard.
The moving blackboard is like a blackboard with four wheels. When it’s folded, it’s the size of a blackboard, which is easy to move and when needed, the blackboard can be unfold and turns to a blackboard that’s five times longer and can be used double sided. The wheels on it enables the moving blackboard to be dragged. The space is enough so that all kinds of materials and teaching aids can be put on it and children can interact with each other. There’s no need of a classroom or desks and chairs. With a moving blackboard, kids can learn anywhere.
After Raskin went back to Belgium, he finished his degree with the design of a moving blackboard. And he made a decision that surprised everyone. He wanted to make a moving blackboard and bring it back to Columbia for those kids.
Raskin quitted his well-paid job and threw himself in the production of moving blackboard. He flew between Belgium and Columbia often, when he was running out of money, he worked part-time, when he saved enough money, his would start his work. After this endless trial and error process, he finally could bring a moving blackboard to Columbia for those kids. 
After the product, he had to worry about teaching material. Mobil School cooperated with the experienced organization Street Kids International, which authorized the use of material to them and Raskin and his partner also translate material from other countries, develop games that are suitable to street kids and design interactive teaching methods.
Finally, he and his partners established the first Mobile School in Guatemala. After 18 years of hard work, now there are more than 36 Mobile Schools in more than 29 countries. The product created by this alternative inventor has influenced the society in a way and scale that major products can’t achieve.
 
Grow with street kids
Because it’s hard to measure the cost and effect of investing education on street kids, there are little or no government that want to handle this part. Street workers can’t be paid reasonably, and the projects often lacks continuity, these are problems that need to be solved.
Hence, Mobile School can’t be proliferated soon due to lack of financial aid. Though the school works in a small scale, ever since its establishment in 2002 as a non-profit organization, it has set up trainings and lessons around the world that local street workers highly appreciated about the sharing from mobile school.  
Iasi, a street worker from Romania said that “What Mobile School has brought to us was that we and kids and can learn from each other. The material of moving blackboard can help establish their self-esteem and explore the unknown. This is really positive for them”
Raskin explained that why Mobile School was successful was that they cared about the kids’ self-esteem. “When teaching, I don’t think we should teach the kids how to do this and that or deny them, instead, we will improve what they are good at, and hope that they can get out of the vicious circle.”
He said more about the importance of encouraging them positively. “Many children that lives on street don’t think they can live a normal life that include having education. What we need to do is to take this back to them. They have to understand that they are wonderful person that deserves the right to learn and to find their own opportunities. Maybe they can wash cars or polish shoes or sell fruits or go back to school. They have to think and descried their own path. ”
Once, when Raskin finished a project in Nairobi, Kenya, he was invited to visit a slum by a local NGO. When he first saw it, he was shocked. It looked like a living hell, there was garbage everywhere. Everyone living in that slum made a living by recycling garbage. The NGO workers who took him there also told him about the problem in the slum. There was no clear water or food to live, or even basic things needed in daily life.
A couple of weeks later, Raskin went back to that slum but he leaned a different story. “I met a child,” he said, “That child taught me one thing, that is how to find plastics that can be recycled from this garbage mountain so that they can make money.” Compared to the problems the NGO worker told me, the child showed me opportunity. I started to feel the differences and found that both sides are right. But I realized that as long as you are close to the core of the question, what you need is not to scrutinize the question over and over but to think how to find an opportunity in it. The problem is the reason to act, but it is opportunity that takes you further.
This is how Streetwize was inspired.
 
Streetwise became problem solver
As an NGO, Mobile School not only has to rely on donation but also need to share the resource from the government with other NGOs. What’s more, if the scale can’t be enlarged, the developing speed of the organization would become slower.
‘We preach and encourage the kids to live on their own, but the organization has to rely on others, isn’t it just sarcastic? ”
After chatting with a friend who was working as a business consultant, Raskin saw the business opportunity.
“There are lots of companies that lacks creativity and the ability to react to sudden changes. What I’ve learned from the kids is the streetwise of how they survive with creativity. Why not express the streetwise in a business way and start a training lesson for managers? ”
In 2007, StreetWize was established, an institute that turns streetwise into training lesson for crisis managements. Raskin consulted some phycologists and designed a training course to teach managers how to think creatively for new plans or renovation with videos and discussion.
A year after its establishment, financial crisis stroke Europe and some big companies that faced stagnation needed solutions. The service of StreetWize was just what the market needed. Until now, institutions like Nike, BNP Paribas, Leuven University and more have consulted Streetwize. As the economy in Europe hasn’t shown recovery, it’s likely that more and more local companies would need lessons like this.
He also share with them stories about street kids as examples. Junieth from Guatemala was a street kid, but with the material provided by Streetwize, she earned enough money to support her high school and college tuition. Now she is a reporter that speaks for local communities.
The earnings by Streetwize in 2011 can cover 60% of the expense of Mobile School. The institute no longer has to receive financial aid from the government because the donation they receive can cover the rest of the expense. It’s an all-win situation for Mobile School, street kids and government.
However, the founder admits that the combined model of Mobile School with a profit organization attracts criticism because it challenged the idea of a NGO. Most criticism come from the government of Belgium. The law in Belgium is not friendly to social enterprises. When Streetwize makes money, it has to hand in business income tax to the government before giving the money back to Mobile School. Raskin complains that social enterprises should lobby the government so that they can be treated reasonably, while most NGOs just ask for resources from the government publicly. Large enterprises can avoid taxes legally, but the government ask for more taxes from social enterprises that are contributing to the society and shouldering the responsibility.
“These can’t be changed in a short time, all we can do is to move forward.”
 
Believe that we can change the world
Raskin just finished a series of documentary co-worked with a Belgian TV. It’s about him going back to Latin America and visiting places that he originally went to, where he fulfilled his dream. Mobile Schools not only provide education to street kids but also held workshops in middle schools and elementary schools of Belgium so that students who were born in the wealthier society can know more about what’s happening to kids on the other side of the planet. In addition, Mobile School also set April 12th as International Day for Street Children. Many activities are held on this day and to raise people’s attention and awareness to them on media or social media like Facebook.
When speaking of the future of Mobile School, Raskin shows great passion. He hopes that in the next two years, the income from Streetwize can cover the expense of Mobile School so that they don’t need to rely on donation. He also wishes that the headquarter of Mobile School can be moved to a bigger place so that the office can be designed as an open-space area, where Streetwize workshop or lectures about moving blackboard can be held. In regards to the teaching resources, Raskin wants to design a free portable material so that those who wants to take part in working for street children can download it online and can take it into practice on street soon.
There are more and more young people who wants to join the field of social enterprise. Raskin was quite blunt, he said that social enterprises faces lots of obstacles without the support of the government. However, he suggested that young people should follow their hearts and find right partners and investors. The most important thing is to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you can make it so that you can change the society and change the world bit by bit.
“When no one need moving blackboard anymore, that’s when we are successful.” He said optimistically.