Sign the Petition
Sign the Petition
My apologies for being AWOL last week. I was sick as a dog. While everyone else on the East Coast (and much of America) was sweating through a heatwave, I was buried under mounds of covers with an electric blanket set on “7″ and shivering because I still couldn’t get warm from a raging fever. I’m back in the saddle, but bummed I missed a bunch of blogging days.
I leave for Haiti in less than a week (and hope to be able to blog from there, but may be inconsistent, as I’m told Internet…and electricity, are going to be inconsistent as well) and wanted to be sure folks know what I’m up to. I also wanted to create an opening for anyone who might be inspired, to support the work our little band of volunteers (myself, a 27-year-old woman from Florida, and a 45-year-old mom and her 15-year-old daughter) will be doing. Here is a link to a secure donations/fundraising page for my project (http://www.firstgiving.com/andrewmersmann). The organization is a 501(c)(3) charity, so donations are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
My explanatory text from the First Giving web page:
The January 12, 2010 Earthquake shook the already frail country of Haiti mercilessly. Around 230,000 deaths resulted as well as the displacement and destruction of legions of families and lives. Just over six months later, human resilience prevails as Haitians move to pick up the pieces, making a new life out of less than the little most people once had. The emergency stage is over, and now the long-term rebuilding begins. Volunteers who were not medical or engineering professionals were urged to stay away, as one in-country Doctors Without Borders physician told me “It [Haiti] is like an intensive care patient. It has healing to do before there can be visitors.”
Now there is a way for me to be useful. The hard work of locals is being supplemented by carefully curated volunteer projects. On August 15, I go to Haiti for 2 weeks to do a construction project, building a computer lab/classroom space for a school in Jacmel. (Jacmel is a town 2 1/2 hours from Port-au-Prince…70% of Jacmel’s buildings fell or were damaged, but like so many cities that are not the well known capital, they are getting far less foreign aid). Nearly every leader from within Haiti and of international aid programs and efforts agrees that education is at the top of the list of infrastructure that must be prioritized in a new Haiti. This school serves the poorest in the community who would otherwise be unable to access education, as well as the restavek population (“restavek” children are essentially modern day slaves, and this is the first outreach education to this alarmingly large population in Jacmel)
Elevate Destinations, Scopa Group, and Make a Difference Now are joining forces to support rebuilding efforts…and put me to work. I’ve paid for my trip, gotten my shots, bought my mosquito net, and am filling an extra suitcase with as many extra donated items as I can squeeze into American Airlines’ luggage rules. Now I want to ask your help, and just provide an opening for you to support the project. Money you donate will go directly toward paying the professional crews at the project (a huge consideration is that we NOT take paying jobs away from locals, but support them) and building materials. By the time we leave, the computer lab will be finished and ready to open doors, literally and figuratively/electronically, for the kids.
I hope you’ll find a way to pitch in. You’ll be in my heart and head while I’m there, it’d be cool if you were in the mortar and paint and plaster as well.
It wasn’t just rhetoric when everyone said rebuilding would take years. Join me and be a part of that. Thank you for standing by Haitians as they start anew. Please forward this to anyone who you think has been moved into solidarity and action by the tragic events of January 12th.
Thank you so much,
“We think that we’re not happy because of what we’re not getting, but really we’re not happy because of what we’re not giving.”
I’m a little peckish today. No big deal, I just skipped lunch. I’ve never truly known hunger, never had a legitimately empty belly. Sure, I groused as a teenager in the summertime, moaning “I’m hunnnnngggggrrrryyyyyyyy” as if I was the most put-upon soul in the world…but so many are truly hungry. Starving. Malnourished. Dying of hunger.
There are so many ways of addressing hunger, and so many efforts we can support. It can get overwhelming. It ought to be overwhelming–the problem is like that. A thing I love is when organizations and corporations make everyday habits into opportunities for us to give. Something you might do anyway that will, with very little extra effort from you, make a difference. In light of global hunger, this may seem paltry, but it truly isn’t. Mother Teresa said if you can’t feed 100 people, feed one…
Snickers has one of those no skin off my nose programs where we can help, almost effortlessly. Their new “BAR HUNGER: It Tastes Good to Do Good” program has newly printed candy bar wrappers. Inside the wrapper is a code. Once you’ve eaten your sweet snack, you enter that code on their website, and they donate a meal to someone in need. Up to 3.5 million meals are going to be donated while the program lasts (through the end of November). Their partner is Feeding America (they used to be known as “America’s Second Harvest”) and their efforts already make a huge difference in this nation’s childhood nutrition and hungry populations.
SO a candy bar may not be the best thing for you, but it can do something extra for someone who genuinely needs help. Then pop over to the Feeding America Hunger Action Center to find more ways to help.
2010 is the “YEAR OF THE TIGER” on the Chinese lunar calendar. How ironic that the very existence of tigers is teetering on the edge right now as so many have been killed and poached and wiped out from their natural environments. There are probably about 3,200 tigers left in the wild–that’s in the entire world. The number of tigers in the wild has declined by 97% and three subspecies are already extinct.
The Chinese calendar repeats every twelve years. Continuing the decimation of the species means that by the next Year of the Tiger, in 2022, they could all be gone.
The World Wildlife Fund has a subsite: Save Tigers Now where you can learn more as well as donate directly to their conservation efforts. The goal is to reverse this ridiculous decline, and in fact DOUBLE the population of tigers in the wild by the year 2022. Leonardo DiCaprio is the ambassador for Save Tigers Now, and his commitment (to this and so many hugely important environmental issues), and ours, is what it will take to counter the poaching demand (tiger skins, bones, and organs are used in Chinese medicine and as tourist souvenirs) and indiscriminate clearcut logging and habitat destruction in Asia.
Anyone who knows me (or has looked at my photo on the “about” page of this blog) knows that I am wild about tigers. My experience at the Tiger Temple in Thailand and holding 5-week old tiger cubs as well as interacting with an adult tiger are memories that will always be with me. May we take the action required so that tigers can be more than only memory.
Immigration is an issue that grabs people’s spirit close to the root—I find people getting passionate about the issue more than I’d expect, and from that passion and oftentimes, anger, rash decisions get made and harsh laws get enacted. I don’t know how to defuse the level of heels-dug-in irrationality (on both sides, I fear), but I do, personally, find this situation untenable.
Since 2007 (and how absurd is it that it took us until 2007?), the United States has created a particular visa, called a U Visa, for undocumented victims of violent crime, sexual assault, and human trafficking, who cooperate with legal authorities to capture the perpetrators of the crimes against them. You can imagine how often victims of sexual assault and human slavery/trafficking (an epidemic here in the US as well as around the world) are told by kidnappers/pimps/etc that if they go to the authorities they’ll be deported and/or imprisoned. Most are so fearful of the US Immigration repercussions that they put up with violent assault or ongoing slavery/trafficking (and we are often talking about kids here–10, 11, 12 years old, too many of them…and of course, in many of these cases, it is the trafficker that has brought the victim into this country against their will and undocumented).
So this victims visa, the U Visa, can really help cut down on violent crime and trafficking…BUT… the government has a cap and only allows a certain number of the U Visas to be issued per year…and they are all used up! When the new fiscal year begins in October, the next year’s U Visas can be granted, but between now and then? Tough luck victims. I’m sure somebody somewhere thought that putting an arbitrary cap on the number of these visas made sense, but I sure don’t see the logic. For the individual victim of violent crime, it really doesn’t matter how many before you were also victimized. It is so clearly, to me at least, a case of bizarre randomness being made into law based on statistics instead of humanity.
From Change.org: “Think about it this way: 10,000 victims visas means 10,000 violent criminals who law enforcement is able to investigate and prosecute. We should offer as many visas as there are victims, to protect both those individuals and the public from as many dangerous criminals as possible. Sign this petition to tell Congress to eliminate the arbitrary cap on crime victims visas.“
One of the toughest truths about international charity work is the fact that outsiders, often necessary to get a project off the ground, infuse a community with money and energy, and bring important attention to a problem, can also be misguided even with the very best intentions. Not every community wants a school where we might see fit to build one for them. Perhaps electricity being brought into a village will damage the community infrastructure. There are too many examples of beautiful and inspired plans to help that create a whole new set of troubles for a receiving community. The only way to be effective with certainty is to have projects be generated from within the community, and then find creative ways to fulfill them. That’s one of the things I love about the mission of ASAP (African Solutions for African Problems). Their model and commitment is intuitive and sensitive to community needs, even when energized from outside. Their website states it best:
African Solutions to African Problems (ASAP) supports community-based organizations of women caring for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS.
We are currently working with 6 pioneer community-based organizations made of up 585 women supporting 8500 orphans and vulnerable children in more than 112 community Drop-In and Daycare centres in impoverished communities in South Africa.
A key aspect of ASAP support is to provide capacity-building interventions that help the groups to develop their organisations, improve their services and attain their own development goals.
ASAP has demonstrated that grassroots organizations and their social networks of women are capable of scaling up and replicating effective models of care for orphans and vulnerable children.
Based on practical experience, ASAP has developed a unique 7-year Model of community-based intervention that builds the capacity of emerging groups to develop into mature organizations with a community network to care for the majority of orphans and vulnerable in their community.
ASAP is expanding our model to a further 6 community-based organizations. By allowing them to develop their own models of care, in conjunction with training, gardens and regular onsite capacity building visits, these organisations and their networks of women will reach an additional 12,000.
The senate just passed an incredibly important act, H.R. 725,also known as the Indian Arts and Crafts Amendment Act of 2010. While arts and crafts may not seem like a matter of life and death (except, of course, for the artisans–but that’s a different issue), attached to the act were most of the provisions of the “Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009,” and that’s where it gets monumental. Because of tribal law, sovereign nation status, and differing rules between tribal communities, a jurisdictional tangle and loophole has historically allowed for violent crime against indigenous women to go unpunished. Sexual assault and violence against Native American and Alaska women was not against the law!
The Tribal Law and Order Act represents an important step forward in combating violence against Native American women. Violence that is an ongoing violation of Native American and Alaska Native women’s most fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Amnesty International detailed this violence in a 2007 report entitled Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA. The report revealed shocking statistics of violence such as the fact that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general.
But the victory is not yet complete!
The Indian Arts and Crafts Amendment Act must now pass the House with the Tribal Law and Order provisions attached. Take action now to let your Member of Congress know that you support passage of H.R. 725, the Indian Arts and Crafts Amendment Act, which includes the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009!
To find out who your Representative is, go to http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/officials/ and enter your ZIP code.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, a bit of a lunchtime addiction for me, has got a plan that not only helps kids throughout the country, but also gives us a bit of devious satisfaction. You know all that e-garbage you get in your electronic mailbox every day? If you forward your JUNK EMAIL to Chipotle’s project email account, email@example.com, they will turn that into healthy lunches for kids in school. For every 100,000 spam emails sent to that address, Chipotle donates $10,000 to The Lunch Box, a non-profit that works with schools to improve the quality and health of school lunches.
I’ve got some ads for penile enhancement and prescription drugs from Canada that would look MUCH BETTER translated into carrot sticks and apples. This could become a full-time job!
Isn’t it fascinating that the symbol for financial confidence and strength, the animal totem the world economy is so desperate to once again court and have lead us from the global crisis…is the very animal that is brutally tortured in the name of entertainment in dusty rings in several Western European cities.
Bullfighting is unspeakably cruel, on par with dogfighting and yet the odds aren’t as good. The bull is guaranteed to suffer and die—there is no chance for victory, the results are predestined. Even if a bull were to inflict an injury to the matador or picadores (fight assistants who, usually on horseback, also stab the bull with spears, gradually weakening him with blood loss and fatigue…the horses, by the way, also regularly suffer great injuries), the bull still ends the match dead, in a pool of its own blood, every time. I’m not a complete pie-eyed optimist. I know that many of these bulls would be slaughtered regardless of the spectacle, and their bovine kin are killed by the jillions for our burgers…I even love me my Hemingway, and he aspired to becoming a matador (the word matador, by the way, translates as “killer”)…but the drawn out suffering required for a “good” match is beyond the pale of any definition of “entertainment” or “sport” that I can wrap my head around. I understand the category of combat as sport, but usually…in boxing, fencing, ultimate fighting, wrestling, there is at least some possibility of either party being victorious—impossible in bullfighting—and rarely in other one-on-one match games is one opponent killed as part of the design.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals is working to bring an end to bullfighting. With ultimate respect for culture and tradition, it remains an issue I can’t reconcile. Ricky Gervais has done a Public Service Announcement to help get our international support, via petition, to encourage the Catalonian government in Spain to bring a ban to bullfighting. Cataloina is one of the main centers of the practice, and they are close to a decision that the gory bloodsport is best left to history books. If this matter resonates with you, consider adding your name to the petition here.