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Mission motivates man to open new elementary school in India

By Sven Berg

The Post Register

Published: Thursday, Oct. 28 2010 1:46 p.m. MDT

IDAHO FALLS (AP) — The children who go to the new school in Sasaram, India, have no idea that the reason they're in class is the inspiration a Jefferson County farm boy drew from a mission to Albania and the bitter lessons he later learned in Brazil.

Casey Allred's two years on a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission to the eastern European country were enough to convince him that he needed to help people who weren't awarded first-world privilege at birth.

"That really opened up my eyes to what a Third World country is and what it has," Allred said. "When I got home, I vowed that I was going to make a difference."

On his return from his mission, Allred went to Utah State University to prepare himself for medical school. At about the same time, he began working with a nonprofit organization whose goal was to provide housing, hospitals and community centers in Brazil.

Between 2007 and 2009, Allred did his best to raise money for the group and help it achieve its lofty goals. Over time, however, he became disenchanted with the organization's direction. Ultimately, its mission failed and the group disbanded, leaving a bad taste in Allred's mouth.

"I felt like they were giving a man a fish instead of teaching him to fish," he said. "That exposed me to what nonprofits were about and what the emphasis should be."

Then Allred, 24, met fellow Utah State student Bushra Zaman.

A native of India's Bihar state, which she described as "very impoverished," Zaman actually reached out to Allred.

For years, she'd been interested in improving education opportunities and opening an orphanage in the region she calls home. Through the university's student service center, she found Allred, who wanted to get back in the nonprofit game but didn't have a specific avenue for his considerable energies.

Despite the vast difference in their backgrounds, Zaman and Allred found common ground. They also found something in the other that they lacked in themselves.

Zaman had invaluable contacts in Bihar. Allred knew the world of nonprofit organizations.

"She had an idea in her mind. I had a little more experience with nonprofits, so we kind of combined our visions," Allred said. "Without her contacts, this would be impossible."

Zaman, 33, said she was impressed with Allred's ability to convince investors that contributions to Effect International was money well spent.

"Though he's younger than me, he has a lot of experience with how to talk to people," she said. "That made me confident that he has gained some experience in that South American project."

On Sept. 21, Effect International's first school opened its doors in Sasaram, an area in which Allred said "the public schools are not very effective." Within a week, Allred said, about 40 children enrolled. That number has been increasing, and Allred expects the school will soon reach its capacity of 150.

The school's curriculum reaches no higher than fifth grade, but Allred said some students are as old as 14. In the Sasaram area, he said, education for girls is especially undervalued.

"We found many 13- (and) 14-year-old girls whose families thought they were better off working," Allred said. "The men and the elders just don't see the value of women having education."

Now, Effect International is working to install a second, similar school in Nepal, Allred said. But the time demands of running a nonprofit are beginning to clash with his school schedule and the arduous process of applying for medical school. Allred said he's looking for someone to help lighten his load at Effect International.

"I have to take a back seat, or I will fail med school," he said.

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