Astronomy for Equity will collaborate with established programs to expand their reach, increase their diversity, and adapt their solutions to a variety of situations and circumstances. Support from an international NGO can bestow credibility on small, local efforts, increase awareness through local media, and lead to governmental and commercial support.
Existing programs founded by the International Astronomical Union and other organizations, from national to local levels, have leveraged this unique science to create opportunities within marginalized communities through education, exposure to new ideas, and positive role models. Sustainability is a constant struggle for these programs, with needs far exceeding resources, and priorities of governmental agencies and foundations constantly changing. The value of astronomy programs, and the abundance of resources, have been demonstrated, yet its potential remains largely untapped.
Telescopes for School Astronomy Clubs in Libya
A national astronomy organization in Libya is creating astronomy clubs in middle schools in five cities across the country. After years of conflict, science resources are badly needed. Students, teachers, amateur astronomers, and Ministry of Education officials are coming together to bring this inspiring science education program to the young people of Libya. But the basics of astronomy – telescopes – aren’t available in Libya. Astronomy for Equity’s campaign will provide telescopes, inspiring the next generation of scientists.
Volunteer outreach and education programs can quickly reach the limit of what local organizers can accomplish. Developed under the aegis of Astronomers Without Borders with the support and encouragement of the AWB founder and President Mike Simmons (now founder of Astronomy for Equity), AWB-Nigeria regularly conducts astronomy-based STEM camps for girls and STEM camps for children of refugee families who have fled Boko Haram in the country’s north. With operations primarily funded by volunteers, plans for expanded activities are on hold. Stalled momentum risks losing volunteer motivation. Support will include one-time expenses such as transportation for carrying equipment and personnel (currently provided by the volunteers themselves) and support in acquiring the small revenue stream required for sustainability. The program will also serve as a model for others in the developing world.
IAU Office of Astronomy for Development
A limited number of small grants are awarded annually by the International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development for programs that use astronomy to support development in their societies. Many more proposals are submitted and approved than the office can fund. Astronomy for Equity supports proposals leveraging astronomy education for development that are approved, but not yet funded.
Other Informal Education Programs
Astronomy clubs in every country engage in public outreach, educating others while sharing their passion for the cosmos. In developing countries, groups often lack the most basic of resources, such as small telescopes and books. Providing these simple resources to existing programs allows them to do far more with the most critical resource they already have in abundance – experienced, eager volunteers.
A few $200 telescopes for an astronomy club, or $2000 for several telescopes and reading materials for a school, returns uncounted hours of ongoing public education programs that foster scientific understanding and awareness, and support for science programs and education. Once empowered, volunteer individuals and organizations tend to expand beyond their initial plans, reaping additional return on the investment. Astronomers with a reputation or significant online presence in astronomy often receive appeals for these materials from individuals and organizations around the world.
Astronomy for Equity vets requests and uses its reputation and access to western audiences to fund or find other ways to support these widely dispersed groups.