Education knows no borders

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Educator, humanitarian, photographer, philanthropist, avid cyclist, cool dude, journalist and author are only a few words that might describe math professor, Tadashi Tsuchida. A 15-plus-year veteran at Skyline College, Tsuchida completely obliterates the nerdy lab-coat-pocket-protector-bespectacled-math-professor caricature stereotype. Tsuchida plays electric guitar, rides a motorcycle and travels the world.

Starting out in college as a music major, it wasn’t long before Tsuchida dropped out, joined a band and began chasing a dream of being a professional guitarist and vocalist. Tsuchida is quick to admit he eventually grew sick of eating a steady diet of Top-Ramen so he decided to go back to school when he was about 25 years old.

Never intending to study math, Tsuchida says he had a “great calc-professor” who got him hooked, and he discovered that he really enjoyed it. At the same time Tsuchida received an offer to try his hand at teaching at a local high school as a math tutor, which, only two days later, blossomed into him becoming “the science teacher.” He says that he really enjoyed that experience and it just “clicked” with him.

Tsuchida then began teaching college classes while he was attending grad-school at San Francisco State University. Here we are 15 years later and he still loves it. I can tell you first hand that his energy is infectious.

Tsuchida is also a world traveler who enjoys photography and writing. After quite a few trips here and there, on the recommendation of a photographer friend, Tsuchida and his wife (also a college math professor) traveled to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand in 2004. This is where Tsuchida and his wife got the idea to began writing, “No Lunch, No Money, No Rice: The pursuit of Education in Asia” a book full of interviews and absolutely beautiful photographs that chronicles the lives of Southeast Asian children struggling to get an education.

“Being teachers, my wife and I would naturally ask questions about people’s education. We were completely blown away to hear how hard it was just for people to complete a basic high-school education,” Tsuchida said. “One of the major themes we saw was that it wasn’t necessarily hard to go to primary school because most villages have them, but to go to secondary school was few and far between.”

Tsuchida said the reason secondary school doesn’t happen for most kids is because of the long travel time between home and school. Plus, most families are very poor and they need the help of the kids at home so there isn’t much time for them to go to school.

“For example, in Cambodia, if your family is too poor to afford a $30 bicycle, you won’t be able to go to secondary school because it’s too far to walk and you won’t make it there and back home in time to help out with the family,” Tsuchida said. “In Nepal, most people that I talked to who completed secondary school had to walk two hours to school and two hours back, over extremely rugged mountainous terrain in the Himalayas.”

Tsuchida says that it’s amazing what people do to get an education when they value it so much and compiling all the material for his book completely changed the way he thinks about things and it changed he and his wife’s lives.

“We realized how far a dollar goes in these places,” Tsuchida said. “We found that in the highlands of Vietnam that for about $100 a year we could pay for a young girl’s school and pay for her room and board at school. So basically for about $15 a month, you can totally change someone’s life.”

While not what one would consider wealthy, Tsuchida and his wife have helped a number of kids in a number of countries pursue an education in some way or another. With their book, “No Lunch, No Money…” they are raising awareness of just how little it takes to help someone less fortunate.

“When you meet somebody who is struggling so hard and wants it so bad and are so bright and talented, and all they’re looking for is just a crack for the door to open just a little bit of an opportunity, why not do that,” Tsuchida said. “You know, it’s money that’s extremely well spent. It makes us feel good and it gives someone a real opportunity.”

“No Lunch, No Money, No Rice; The Pursuit of Education in Asia” by Tadashi Tsuchida and Katrina Keating can be purchased from www.nolunch.org and you can check it out at facebook.com/nolunch.org. Purchase one and you’re not only getting an extremely informative read with absolutely brilliant photographs, you’re also boosting the educational opportunity of someone in need.