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The weatherman informs me we are in for a heat wave, which I don’t mind. It’s the humidity wave that kills me.
“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
As I get older my summer activies have become more and more respectful.
Another quote I really like is by Desmond Morris:
“Life is like a very short visit to a toyshop between birth and death.”
Being an Atheist I believe we only get one shot at life. We should try to wring as much joy out of it as we can.
1) Here are two vidoes that I hope will lift your spirits and make you laugh
a) Members of the Great Whale Conservancy find a humpback whale near death – entangled in fishing gear in the Sea of Cortez. They cut the whale free from the net, an act requiring great courage on the part of rescuers and great trust on the part of the whale. The result is spectacular – the whale clearly thanks its human benefactors.
b) A kitten testing its hunting skills against the wild Apple monsters.
2) Too many, for far too long, the circumstances of their lives don’t bring them much joy.
“An internally displaced Somali family are seen outside their makeshift shelter at the Hiran IDP settlement in Galkayo, northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Galkayo hosts over 60,000 internally displaced Somalis in 21 settlements and there are always new arrivals due to the prolonged drought.”
Photo by Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
American has had, and still has, its share of homeless refugees, as Woody Guthrie reminds us.
3) We all need the hope that our world can be better. For people living in desperate conditions that usually means someone reaching out a caring hand. Conditions don’t get more desperate than the killing fields of 1970 Cambodia.
Muoy You was one of the lucky ones who did survive that hell. Now she is reaching out her hand to try to help her countrymen.
From an article in the Christian Science Monitor series, People Making A Differnce” http://tinyurl.com/3ckpeon
Muoy grew up poor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during the Vietnam War. “We lived in a squatters’ shack, but I loved learning and I did well in school,” she recalls.
In 1972 she won a scholarship to study in France. It would save her from Pol Pot’s killing fields, where her parents and siblings were among the 2 million dead. She spent the next two decades in exile, raising a family and working as a teacher in Africa and the Middle East.
Now Muoy wants to transform the prospects of other Cambodian families by giving children of low-income cleaners, laborers, farmers, and tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) drivers a high-quality education.
“I don’t just want to teach them to read and write,” she stresses. “I want them to become professionals, writers, thinkers, artists – to make their country proud.”
In Cambodia today, few students have that chance; most have access only to basic education. So upon returning home to Phnom Penh in 2003, Muoy set up the Seametrey Children’s Village, a private initiative. She mortgaged a property she owned abroad, bought a small plot of land, and converted a run-down hut on it into a classroom.
“A school is just a building,” she notes. “It’s the resources that matter.”
Courteous and fluent in English, Muoy modestly calls herself “an obscure woman with dreams bigger than herself.” She started with a handful of young children – those of neighbors and acquaintances.
She ditched the rote learning that is common at crowded government schools and instead set about helping children discover the joys of learning by themselves in a free-spirited environment. “You shouldn’t just stick children behind desks,” Muoy explains. “You need to help them retain their childlike curiosity and spontaneity.”
“Parents pay according to their means. The poorest pay nothing; some pay small sums they can afford. Expatriates and better-off locals pay the full monthly fee of $290.
“A school like this would have been beyond our dreams,” says Ang Kim, a tuk-tuk driver whose two young daughters study in Seametrey. He can’t pay, but he volunteers as a security guard on Sundays.
Currently, the school has 80 students, from toddlers to teens. They learn in small groups from nursery through primary school. Whether from dirt-poor villages, urban slums, or well-heeled Phnom Penh homes, they’re treated alike – and are expected to treat one another alike, too.”
“Seametrey is a visionary project [aimed at] regenerating Cambodians’ self-respect and integrity,” says Elia Van Tuyl, a retired businessman in Palo Alto, Calif, who runs the Friends of Cambodia charity. “It seeks to attack poverty by addressing its psychological, educational, and cultural roots.
After just two years at Seametrey, young Samreth now speaks fluent English. “He’s a bright boy with leadership and oratory skills remarkable for his age,” Muoy says.
“I’m very happy for my grandchildren,” says Tes Kamsan, the boy’s grandmother. “They’ll have a much better life than their mother and I had.”
Muoy is certain of that. She points to a flowery vine in her garden. From its pot the plant has climbed all the way up to her fourth-floor balcony.
“That is my analogy for education,” she explains. “Place children in fertile soil, and they’ll blossom and flourish!”
1) Tony Campolo, of the Red Letter Christians Blog, writes of truisms we should live by. I am an Atheist not a Christian but I belive they apply to everyone on the planet http://tinyurl.com/3c2hq7u
1.You have no control over what you get; only over what you give.
2.You have no control over how long you live; you only have control over how well you live.
3.Play the hand that you are dealt. If you look at it closely, it’s a better hand than you think you were dealt.
4.It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. In other words, it’s never too late to become what you might have been.
4.“It’s not what you do that makes you great,” said Henri Nouwen, “it’s how you do it.”
5.Mother Teresa said, “We can’t all do great things, be we all can do small things with great love.
2) The “It Gets Better” project was started by syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage, http://tinyurl.com/2dvusvc
“Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted — even tortured — simply for being themselves.
Justin Aaberg. Billy Lucas. Cody Barker. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Raymond Chase. Tyler Clementi. They were tragic examples of youth who could not believe that it does actually get better.
While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better.”
This video by 13 US Senators shows some of our politicians are supporting this project of acceptance, and equality.
3) World In Pictures
a. In Jordan women get all the good jobs.
“A Jordanian female deminer uses a detector to clear a minefield in the northern Jordanian- Syrian border area, near Ramtha city.” (Nader Daoud/AP)
b. A picture of children playing should make us laugh. This one makes me cry.
Children play on waste products at a tannery, Dhake, Bangladesh (Andrew Barij/Rueters)
4) Music – Sugarland “These Are The Days”
1) “A Man may make a Remark” by Emily Dickson
A Man may make a Remark –
In itself – a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature – lain –
Let us divide – with skill –
Let us discourse – with care –
Powder exists in Charcoal –
Before it exists in Fire –
2) From the Week In Wildlife Guardian slideshow – http://tinyurl.com/47cayvr
An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders have climbed into the trees to escape the rising flood waters. Because the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh report that there are now less mosquitos than they would normally expect. (Photograph: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development)
A trio of striped hyena cubs at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters on 24 March in Nairobi where they have lived since they were rescued a month ago. The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is considered threatened in many parts of Africa. It has been widely hunted with dogs, poisoned or caught in traps (Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)
3) While idiots like Charlie Sheen give Hollywood a bad name, it’s actors like Sean Penn who show that entertainers, like all groups of people, are doing what they can to make the world better.
Who is a celebrate that you respect for the work they are doing to make the world better?
From an article in the New York Times, by Zoe Heller, about the work Sean Penn has been doing in Haiti.
“On a hot morning in January, at the Pétionville Internally Displaced Person camp in suburban Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a four-wheel dirt bike pulled up outside the tent hospital, bearing an elderly woman with a deep gash in her cheek. While a group of medics assisted the patient inside, Sean Penn ambled over from under a tree where he had been having a meeting with one of his camp workers. He walked with a slightly bowlegged cowboy gait, a walkie-talkie crackling at his waistband, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Having glanced into the tent and ascertained that the situation was in hand, he turned his rather dour gaze on a newly arrived reporter.”
“The Pétionville camp, which Penn’s aid group, J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO), has been running since last March, sits on the golf course of a former country club. (Some of the old staff can still be found lurking in the clubhouse, gazing out at the devastation like Alpatych, the loyal retainer in “War and Peace,” after the army has laid waste to his master’s estate.)
Since the first homeless Haitians started arriving here in the days following the quake, the camp has grown into a vast tent city of 50,000. It now has a school, a market, two hospitals, a movie theater, countless salons de beaute and its own red-light district. As Penn led the way along the former golf-cart trails, past women lathering themselves up over basins of water and men playing dominos, he delivered a lecture on the issues facing post-earthquake Haiti. It was a rapid-fire, digressive monologue, studded with the acronyms of the aid world — P.A.H.O., W.H.O., C.R.S., O.C.H.A. — and ranging over a broad number of topics: the merits of the controversial cholera vaccine, the report from the Organization of American States on the November elections, the damaging effects of UV rays on tent tarps, the complex but fundamentally noble character of President Réne Préval, the relative merits of guns over fire extinguishers as defensive weapons. (Penn sometimes carries a Glock, but the fire extinguisher, he claims, is a far more efficient tool for crowd control.)
After about 45 minutes, we reached the western edge of the camp and began climbing a series of steep slopes. Penn broke off from what he was saying and turned to point out the view. Before us lay the patchwork sprawl of the camp, the battered cityscape of Port-au-Prince and, in the smoggy distance, mountains and ocean. “Look at that!” he said. “It’s beautiful, right? Right? That’s the thing! You get the air cleaned up in this city, and it’d be extraordinary. And the whole country’s like this — more so, even. That’s why I never have a doubt — nee-e-ver have a doubt — that this country can be successful. It’s too tangible, too containable to not do it. And the change is going to come of this earthquake.”
The commanders of the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who were using the Pétionville Country Club as their operational base when Penn first turned up there had their initial doubts about fraternizing with a bolshie movie star, but they have since become ardent J/P HRO boosters. “What surprised me the most about Sean,” says Lt. Gen. P. K. “Ken” Keen, military deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, “was how he went about learning the humanitarian assistance business. There was no ‘how-to’ book for that. You want to get stuff through the transportation networks? You want to get stuff out of the warehouses? You want to collaborate with the U.N.? How do you do all that? He was always willing to listen, learn and work with everyone.”
Brad Horwitz, the founder and C.E.O. of the communications company Comcel, Haiti’s largest U.S. investor, has provided J/P HRO with logistical support and all manner of resources over the last year. “Sean’s politics and mine are completely opposed,” he says. “His go left. Mine go right. But politics are kind of irrelevant in this. Comcel can only pick so many horses to back, and J/P HRO have shown real staying power. He’s been very good at figuring out and managing relationships. He’s also been extraordinarily efficient in using the resources he gets. I know if I provide J/P HRO with stuff, it won’t get wasted.”
Perhaps most telling of all is the respect that Penn has earned from seasoned aid workers. Dr. Louise Ivers, who is chief of mission for Partners in Health, Haiti, says of Penn: “His newness to this work has actually helped him in some ways. He doesn’t have misconceptions about what works and what doesn’t. He sees a problem, he talks to people, and he figures out solutions. As clichéd as it sounds, I think he really gives a damn about the Haitian people.”
Pakistani children play as the sun sets in a slum in Lahore, Pakistan.(CSM)
Bangladeshi children walk through a mustard field in Shingair village on the outskirts of Dhaka.(CSM)
From the Guardian 24 Hours In Photos – http://tinyurl.com/2dkvnd9
Srinagar, India: Kashmiri Muslim children play hopscotch outside their house on a cold day
2) The Snow Storm by Waldo Emerson
The frolic architecture of the snow.
3) Charities organized by children.
I wanted to post about a charity organized by a minor. I had a problem, there were too many to choose from. I can’t think of anything that shows the potential of the human spirit to live with compassion then the work being done by all these kids.
I am a optomist. When I go through the list of the thousands of organizations that are helping to make the world better my optimism about the future grows.
Question – How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future of humanity?
Maybe its time us adults got out of the way and let these kids run the world. 🙂
I randomly pick one organization, Free the Children. Here is its story:
One morning before school, Craig Kielburger was looking for the comics section of the newspaper when he noticed an article about a 12 year-old Pakistani boy who was murdered for speaking out against child labor. Craig was only 12 at the time and didn’t even know what child labor was, but soon learned there were 250 million child laborers in the world! Wanting to put a stop to this, he started Free the Children with a group of classmates. Craig is now 23 and Free the Children has become the largest organization of children helping children, with partnerships with the United Nations and Oprah’s Angel Network.
My Friday blog post focus is on Children
a. In Pictures
A girl with her face painted takes part in a beauty contest for children during the annual Christmas fair in Russia’s Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. (CSM)
A nomadic child peers out of warm clothing on a cold winter morning by a roadside in Allahabad, India. (CSM)
Khorramabad, Iran: A young girl wears a green headband, a symbol of the Imam Hussein family, as she takes part in a Shia Ashura religious festival (Guardian)
b. In Song
Included in Annie Lennox’s new Christmas album, Chistmas Cornucopia, is her song Universal Child
c. When I come across a charity one source I use the Charity Navigator to learn more about it. They give The Children’s Health Fund their highest rating. 4 stars, http://tinyurl.com/de5b8a
“Children’s Health Fund, co-founded in 1987 by singer/songwriter Paul Simon and pediatrician/child advocate Irwin Redlener, MD, is committed to providing health care to the nation’s most medically underserved children through the development and support of innovative primary care medical programs; response to public health crises; and the promotion of guaranteed access to appropriate health care for all children.”
What is your favorite song about children? What is your favorite Charity that benefits children?
1) Picture post from the Guardian – Thursday http://tinyurl.com/2urphxe
Al-Baraka, Yemen: Yemeni women go swimming wearing the traditional head-to-toe Islamic covering .
Blackburn, UK: Soldiers of The 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment leave Blackburn Cathedral
Cape Town, South Africa: Table Mountain illuminated
Know a lady who might like shoes for Christmas? How about these chopines designed by China’s Guo Pei Rose Studio.
Or maybe one of these dresses(?).
Chinese Communism has come a long way from Mao’s little red book.
From an article in the New York Times – http://tinyurl.com/22ne9q7
“Nothing prepares you for the many-hued jolt any more than the desert prepares you for Las Vegas.
On the second floor are three private rooms where luminaries of CCTV, the state-run television station; businesswomen; and the wives and daughters of Communist Party leaders come for fittings. According to Jack, many of the Politburo wives are customers, though few Chinese people would know since the wives do not play much of a public role. So there is no P.R. value as there would be for dressing Michelle Obama, but there are certainly guanxi, or connections, which anyone with a problem appreciates. On the third and fourth floors 140 people cut, sew and finish clothes, with a separate workroom for shoes and jewelry.”
3) People making a difference
Who do you know, or know of, that made a difference in the world in 2010.
From an article on AOL Good News Now – http://tinyurl.com/2csznlb
Twenty-five years ago, Donna Beegle was counting her pennies, trying to figure out a way to pay her electricity bill, feed her kids and keep her family off the street.
1)From the Boston Big Picture blog, some submissions to the National Geographic Photography contest 2010 – http://tinyurl.com/2362re7
A supercell thunderstorm rolls across the Montana prairie at sunset. (Photo and caption by Sean Heavey)
The Music Of Love. This picture was taken in Tenganan Village, Bali (2010). Tenganan is the most famous Bali Aga (original Balinese) village and is located close to Candi Dasa in East Bali. A man was playing bamboo music to entertain a disabled child which is not his son, but he loves this child likes he loves his own son. (Photo and caption by Ario Wibisono)
Oasis. (Photo and caption by Nam In Geun)
2) From a Guardian slide show “Working to improve women’s health in Afghanistan – http://tinyurl.com/26q5mw6
“Under the Taliban, maternal healthcare dropped to an all time low in Afghanistan. Because women were excluded from education, there were hardly any trained midwives left in the country. Over the last few years, NGOs have been working to cut maternal and child deaths in the country, which remain some of the highest in the world. The photographer Kate Holt records the work Care International has been doing to tackle the problem in Kabul”
Mahboba Sharieffy was trained to become a community-based educator (CBE) by the NGO Care International three years ago. Sharieffy demonstrates to women through a flip chart the importance of nutrition and hygiene while pregnant and lactating at a weekly health “shura” (meeting) she organises in District 8 in Kabul, Afghanistan
A young girl sits with her mother at a weekly health shura that has been organised by a community-based educator in District 8 in Kabul. According to UN figures, the under-five mortality rate in 2008 was 257 per 1,000 live births (down from 260 in 1990). In India, the figure is 69 deaths per 1,000 live births, while in the UK the figure is six
Nafisa Jan Mohammed is three months pregnant with her ninth child and has recently suffered a stroke that has crippled half her body and made her unable to walk. She sits on her bed in the one room she shares with her husband, nine children and mother in law, who is seated on the floor, in District 5 of Kabul
Care International – http://www.care.org/
“Women and girls are the most impoverished, most discriminated-against group on earth. Of the 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty worldwide, 70% are women and girls. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, but earn only 10 percent of its income. They produce half the world’s food, but own only 1% of its land. And when it comes to literacy, two-thirds of the world’s 900 illiterate adults are women. CARE is committed to Millennium Development Goal #3 because empowering women and creating gender equality is the way to bring about lasting change against global poverty. Every single Millennium Development goal is directly related to women’s rights. Until the world gets this right, none of the other goals can be met.”
1) Friday picture post
Autumn Leaves – by Paul Marsh
In the cholera epidemic sweeping Haiti more than 1,000 have died, but Emmanuel Tima’s small son has been saved. However the future is still uncertain.
2) November is National Adoption Month
Mirette Franklin (l.) and Elsabet Franklin (c.) both biological sisters adopted in Ethiopia, hold flags as they listen to the singing of the national anthem during the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Adoption Day ceremony in New York. In recognition of November as National Adoption Month, USCIS naturalized 17 adopted children from six countries so that they may celebrate their first Thanksgiving with their families as American citizens.
The best adoption resource I found is the Encyclopedia Adoption site, http://tinyurl.com/2an49dx
From an article in the SF Gate with adoption statistics as of October 2009:
There are 423,773 children in the U.S. foster care system; 114,556 of these children are available for adoption. Their birth parent’s legal rights have been permanently terminated and children are left without a family.
More children become available for adoption each year than are adopted. In 2009, 69,947 children had parental rights terminated by the courts, yet only 57,466 were adopted.
Children often wait three years or more to be adopted, move three or more times in foster care and often are separated from siblings. The average age of waiting children is 8 years old.
Last year, 29,471 children turned 18 and left the foster care system without an adoptive family.
Adopting from foster care is affordable. Most child welfare agencies cover the costs of home studies and court fees, and provide post-adoption subsidies. Thousands of employers offer financial reimbursement and paid leave for employees who adopt and Federal and/or state adoption tax credits are available to most families.
Every child is adoptable. Many children in foster care have special needs. All of them deserve the chance to grow up in a safe, loving, permanent home. Support and other post-adoption resources are available.
Adopting from foster care is permanent. Once a child is adopted out of foster care, the birth parents cannot attempt to claim them or fight in court for their return. A family formed through foster care adoption is forever.
According to a National Adoption Attitudes Survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 63 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of adoption and 78 percent think more should be done to encourage adoption.
Nearly 40 percent of American adults, or 81.5 million people, have considered adopting a child, according to the National Adoption Attitudes Survey. If just one in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child in foster care would have a permanent family.
When Love Takes You In – Steven Curtis Chapman
1) Pictures – Weather
This is not the weather report for where I live – Mon 76 Clear – Tues 71 Clear – Weds 70 Clear , by Friday the temps drop all the way to 65 – http://tinyurl.com/3ymq9p6 . I wonder what a snow shovel franchise for Los Angeles sells for?
In other parts of the world:
a. Maria Medina waits for a bus during a snowstorm in Albany, N.Y
2)This story just blows my mind away, and feeds into the next one 3).
“Entropia Universe is an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) that has an actual working economy based on real money. The game uses its own currency, but pegs it to the dollar. Players must buy into the game using dollars, and then all their purchases and sales are made with the game currency which has a real value.
Jacobs isn’t the first to make a small fortune on virtual real estate sales, and he hasn’t made the most. In another MMO, Second Life, Ailin Graef has become a real millionaire thanks to her virtual-world business dealings. Graef, known online as Anshe Chung, buys and develops virtual real estate just as developers and investors do in the real world. She reportedly takes home $150,000 every year for this work.”
3) The Invisible People TV blog gives a voice to the homeless, http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/. This is one man’s story:
Johnny is a Vietnam Veteran living homeless in Nashville. During the interview, Johnny, who is in a wheelchair, starts telling me how the small RV he was living in was impounded. They even came to tow it when he was still inside.
The money was raised. There is always hope as long as there are people who care. Social media can do more that keep us up with the latest gossip.
A boy walks in a city park amidst fallen leaves on a sunny autumn day in Stavropol, Russia
A family looks out to the sea shortly after sunset in Kovalam, Kerala state, India. Kovalam, a popular tourist beach town on the Arabian Sea.
“Like so many highly trained young women these days, Elizabeth Scharpf has choices. She could be working in a Manhattan office tower with her Harvard Business School classmates, soaring through the ranks as a banker or business executive and aspiring to become a senator or a C.E.O. someday.
That’s Scharpf’s choice. Now 33, Scharpf was interning in the summer of 2005 for the World Bank in Mozambique, helping local entrepreneurs, when she encountered a business impediment that she had never heard of. It was unmentionable, and thus unmentioned. It was menstruation.
A female boss griped to Scharpf about absenteeism caused by women reluctant to come to work during their menstrual periods. “It was because pads were too expensive,” Scharpf recalls. “I was trying to figure out why I had never heard of this before. This was causing productivity rates to go down.”
Scharpf began asking around, and everybody told her — in whispers — that, yes, of course menstruation was keeping women and girls from jobs. Back at Harvard, where she was pursuing joint degrees at the business school and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, she began asking friends from Bangladesh, Nicaragua and other countries if they were aware of this problem. Of course, they said. “This spoke to me,” Scharpf recalled. “Hasn’t every girl or woman experienced the inconvenience, the disadvantage and the embarrassment in her life, when her period strikes at the ‘wrong’ time? I think half the world can relate to that. What really struck me was that this was a global issue that seemingly had significant costs. From back-of-the-envelope calculations, it had huge costs. And it could have a simple solution.” She paused and smiled tightly. “I was a little naïve there.”
“And so Scharpf joined a revolution, so far unnamed because it is just beginning. It’s all about what might be called Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid, because it starts with the proposition that it’s not only presidents and United Nations officials who chip away at global challenges. Passionate individuals with great ideas can do the same, especially in the age of the Internet and social media.”
As a college sophomore, Jennifer Staple founded Unite for Sight, which has now provided eye care to more than one million people around the world. Kyle Zimmer, a corporate lawyer who tutored inner-city school children on the side, went on to create First Book, which over nearly 20 years has delivered more than 70 million books to book-deprived children in the United States and Canada.
One of the world’s largest grass-roots organizations is India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association, or SEWA. It was founded in 1972 by a lawyer named Ela Bhatt, who helped people living on the margins — textile workers and later peasants and small vendors, among others — by organizing them so that they could improve their health, start businesses and even bank among themselves.”
Scharpf’s organization, Sustainable Health Enterprises (or SHE), will begin manufacturing pads early next year in a tiny factory in Rwanda. It will be a pilot project, producing some 1,200 pads per hour, but once the kinks are worked out she hopes to have women in other countries franchise the system so that it spreads around the world. SHE has also taken on advocacy, calling on the Rwandan government to lift an 18 percent sales tax on feminine hygiene products so that they become more affordable. Awakened to the issue, the Rwandan Parliament recently appropriated $35,000 to pay for sanitary pads for impoverished girls who otherwise might miss school — a small sum, but an acknowledgment that the problem is important and real. Some Rwandan women Scharpf has interviewed say that the attention has made a difference in their homes: their husbands are now more willing to allow them to spend money on pads.”
Fortunately, one factor buttressing D.I.Y. foreign aid is that altruism is contagious. In 2005, Lisa Shannon and her live-in boyfriend ran a stock photography business in Portland, Ore. But she was feeling a nagging emptiness, and then she happened to watch an “Oprah” show about women suffering from war and rape in eastern Congo. The episode featured Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American who started an organization called Women for Women International to help such survivors in places like Congo. Shannon was dazzled by Salbi and decided to pitch in herself by cajoling friends to sponsor her for a 30-mile run to raise money for women in Congo.
That first run was exhilarating, and left Shannon with the warm, fuzzy and novel feeling that she was really doing some good in the world. After sponsoring several Congolese women and reading their letters, she founded an organization called Run for Congo Women that held fund-raising runs across America and around the world. Eventually, she made a trip to Congo and had a joyous meeting with her new “family.” She was bowled over when one of the women she sponsored introduced her baby girl: the mother named the baby “Lisa,” after Shannon. She poured her soul into the cause, but her fiancé grumbled as their business floundered. Finally he told her she had to choose: him or the Congolese women.
So in the end Shannon lost her business and her fiancé. She is struggling with no income, because she pays herself no salary and passes on all the money she raises to Women for Women International. Devoting yourself to helping others may seem wonderfully glamorous — until you’re single, jobless and alone on a Saturday night. Shannon has taken in five roommates to share her house, and she saves pennies everywhere she can, but at some point she will become a pauper unless she finds a way of supporting herself.
I caught up with Shannon earlier this year in Congo. She took me to see the Congolese Lisa, and also to visit the hut of the Congolese woman she’s closest to, Generose Namburho, a 40-year-old former nurse. Namburho is a stocky, self-assured woman who led us down a mud path, using a crutch to replace her missing right leg. An extremist Hutu militia invaded Namburho’s home a few years ago, killed her husband, raped her and then hacked off her leg with a knife. Then the soldiers cooked the flesh from her leg and forced her children at gunpoint to eat it. When her beloved oldest son refused, they shot him in front of her.
Shannon paid $1,500 to buy this home for Namburho so she would have somewhere to live after she returned from a stay in the hospital. “I believe God sent Lisa to rescue me from my misery,” Namburho told me, as Shannon squirmed in embarrassment.”
“In the end, Shannon’s work — along with that of many, many other activists — seemed to make a difference. Some electronics companies became more aggressive about scrubbing supply chains of tainted minerals. Most important, Congress addressed the issue in this year’s financial-reform law, which requires companies to disclose whether they use minerals from Congo or an adjoining country, and if they do use them, to reveal how the minerals were acquired. It’s a step forward, and Shannon hopes that the result will be fewer Congolese enduring rapes and massacres.”
“It’s striking that the most innovative activists aren’t necessarily the ones with the most resources, or the best tools. If that were true, a team at the World Bank would have addressed the menstruation problem long ago, and G20 countries would be leading the effort to prevent Congolese warlords from monetizing their minerals. Rather, what often happens is that those best positioned to take action look the other way, and then the initiative is taken by the Scharpfs and Shannons of the world, who are fueled by some combustible mix of indignation and vision.
Maggie Doyne epitomizes this truth, for she began her philanthropic work as an 19-year-old financed by her baby-sitting savings. Yet she has somehow figured out how to run a sophisticated aid project in a remote area of Nepal.
“Doyne returned to New Jersey and began to take odd jobs and proselytize for her shelter. People in her hometown thought that she was nuts, but in a benign way — and they wrote checks. After a few months, when Doyne had raised $25,000, she moved back to Nepal to oversee construction of the shelter, called the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.
“The children’s home was soon overflowing with orphans, and Doyne was desperate for money to expand it. At that moment she received a call from CosmoGirl magazine. Now, Doyne never wears so much as lipstick in Nepal. If there’s enough water, she showers — and if there isn’t, she splashes water on her face, brushes her teeth, puts her hair in a ponytail and is ready for another day. Sometimes she misses dating, but she has no boyfriend and has put her romantic life completely aside. “My main concern beauty-wise,” she says, “is trying to keep the lice out of my hair.”
But now CosmoGirl was on the phone, telling her that she had won a $20,000 prize for her work, financed by Maybelline. Doyne could now pay to add second and third floors to her shelter and bring in more homeless orphans. “It gets even better!” the woman on the phone went on excitedly. “We’re going to whisk you away to New York for a Maybelline makeover!”
Once Doyne expanded the children’s home (and had her makeover, gaining false eyelashes and blond highlights— all very briefly), she began to focus on education. Last year, she won a $100,000 grand prize in a contest run by www.DoSomething.org, and that money provided the wherewithal to start a new school that she had long dreamed of.”
The school opened with 220 students and will soon expand to 300. The plan is to offer health care and dental care as well, starting with deworming the children — because their load of intestinal worms leaves them anemic. A $300 donation covers a child’s educational costs for a year at the school, including health and dental care. Doyne is also working on a vocational element, training kids to raise livestock for a living, to repair bicycles or to develop other skills that will give them steady incomes. The school is coed, but the girls who attend are particularly important to Doyne, for two reasons. One is that uneducated girls are particularly at risk of exploitation. The other is that there’s considerable evidence that educating girls is one of the best investments available in the developing world, because it leads to lower birth rates and a more skilled and productive labor force.
As for her own needs, Doyne is blasé. When she had an infected tooth in a remote village far from any doctor, and her face swelled up so that she couldn’t even see, a local man obligingly took a chisel and pliers and pulled the tooth — without any painkiller. Regarding education, Doyne is thinking about earning a college degree by correspondence someday (my hunch is that she’ll have an honorary doctorate before she has a B.A.). Listening to her chatter about her shelter and school, describing her hopes to replicate her model in other countries, it’s easy to forget something quite extraordinary: she’s still only 23.”
“The challenge is to cultivate an ideology of altruism, to spread a culture of social engagement — and then to figure out what people can do at a practical level. Peter Singer, a Princeton Universoty professor, is the philosopher of this effort, and it has a thousand foot soldiers. In Seattle, for example, a couple named Eugene and Minhee Cho are encouraging middle-class Americans to think of themselves as philanthropists, every bit as much as Bill Gates is. Eugene is a minister and Minhee a stay-at-home mom who looks after their three children but recently returned to grad school. They were moved by the suffering they’d seen around the world, but they weren’t well off and didn’t know what they could do to make a difference. Then Eugene happened to take a trip to Burma, visited a school and saw how tiny sums could keep children in class. “That kind of wrecked my life,” Eugene says, laughing.
After the trip, they resolved that for one year they would donate all their earnings — Eugene’s salary of $68,000 — to Burmese education and other charities to show that you don’t have to be a zillionaire to be generous. Later, they founded One Day’s Wages, which asks people to donate a single day’s pay — 0.4 percent of annual income — to various causes and organizations that they have vetted and put on their Web site. Forsaking a year’s salary was a romantic idea when the Chos conceived it, but life without paychecks turned out to be brutal, even humiliating. They exhausted their life’s savings, and Eugene sold his beloved car. With several months to go, they had to sublet their home and become homeless — taking their children and moving onto friends’ couches. “That was the most painful decision I’ve had to make as a father,” Eugene says.
The One Day’s Wages campaign has proved more practicable. In the past year, the Chos have raised more than $400,000, all of which will be forwarded to the organizations they work with. About 60 percent of the donors have been women or girls, they think, the youngest being a 6-year-old who gave up her birthday presents and started a birthday campaign on the onedayswages.org Web site. “The aim is to inspire the everyday person,” Eugene says, summing up the rise of do-it-yourself foreign aid. “We’re trying to communicate that you don’t have to be a rock star or a millionaire to make a difference.”
Kopila Valley Home and School:
Sustainable Health Enterprises:
One Day’s Wages