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Archive for the 'Children' Category
Today’s the day! It’s World Water Day, and I’m totally #PUMPED.
The water crisis issue is one that I’m extremely passionate about, probably more so than most other issues.
Because it’s not a complex issue on the surface. It’s water. Our earth is filled with it. But for some reason, nearly 900,000 million people lack access to clean, potable water. I’ve only experienced a sliver of the detriments of this lack of access, but it’s been enough for me to know that something needs to change. There is no reason for 4,000 children dying each day due to water-related illnesses. With a death toll of 3.5 million a year, the water crisis takes more lives each year through disease than any war claims through guns. It kills more young people than AIDS, measles, and malaria combined.
So we have some great organizations like Lifewater International building wells for communities and training people on how to maintain good health through sanitation. Love that.
Another organization I love, of course, is The Adventure Project. Co-founder Becky Straw was checking in on water wells in developing countries when she realized that an absurd amount were broken shortly after being built.
And so she began TAP, which has a water-focused program that doesn’t go in and build wells though; it goes in, hires local men and women, and trains them to become mechanics. Simple. One mechanic oversees 50 wells, which provides clean water to 5,000 people.
Sustainable access to clean water for these communities. No more costly and disappointing breakdowns. Just empowered men and women, healthy communities, working water.
Help support The Adventure Project in its movement towards sustainable clean water.
Between being really sick for the past 24 hours, trying to still work today, and having some valuable discussions on the IC controversy, I didn’t get around to acknowledging #IWD on the blog!
This world is filled with some really amazing women and girls doing some really amazing work with great social impact. I can’t give every individual and organization a shout out, but I do encourage people to check out the following:
The International Rescue Committee: Wake Up
As most of you know, I’ve always respected this organization and am a huge fan of their work and the integrity with which they do it. Recently, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with some of their staff (who aren’t even on the program side), and I can see the integrity, diligence, careful thought, and passion with which they work.
Below is a video from their Wake Up campaign, which seeks to educate people on the violence and injustice that women face around the world. I think the statistic is 1 in 3 women globally will have been raped, beaten, coerced into sex, and/or abused in her lifetime.
The Wake Up campaign was listed today in Mashable’s “5 Social Media Campaigns Rocking International Women’s Day.” Makes me glad!
The Adventure Project
Yeah, I know you all are probably sick of me always talking about TAP, but the vision that Becky Straw and Jody Landers have is incredible: to eliminate extreme poverty, not through charity but through job creation.
TAP wants to educate Americans on smart giving. Donating to an organization is a social investment, and the women of TAP believe that investing in economic empowerment programs, training programs, and job creation for women in developing countries is an investment in sustainable solutions to poverty, hunger, the water crisis, and global health issues.
This is an old video from over a year ago, but it highlights one of the projects in one of the communities that they partner with: training women mechanics in rural India to repair the broken wells in surrounding areas. Love their projects so much.
(On a side note, co-founder Becky Straw was invited to speak today at the UN on International Women’s Day and women’s empowerment through social business.)
Camfed fights poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa by educating girls and empowering women to become leaders of change. The organization began in 1993 with a goal to improve the lives of two million children by 2013, and is currently at over 1,400,000 impacted.
“When rural girls and young women graduate from high school, they enter an adult world of massive unemployment.”
What I like about Camfed is that it doesn’t just stop at education; they continue to walk alongside young female graduates by providing seed money (microloans) to help them develop their economic skills and launch small businesses.
Okay, I think it’s time for me to pop some meds and get some rest. But let’s continue celebrating women and girls (not just on March 8th)!
In line with such festivities, my mom and I recently joined The Adventure Project in their most recent campaign for revolutionized health care in Africa.
It began with Jody Landers’ story about her youngest twins, adopted from West Africa, and her ambition to raise $170,000 — to honor the 170,000 mothers in Africa who die each year in childbirth because of a lack of proper health care.
To partner with her in this cause, my mom and I set out to raise $5,000 that will go towards The Adventure Project’s total goal. We figured that five is a significant number — the number of people in our family as well as the total number of hours my mother was in labor for also (true story; that woman is like a pro baby popper). My mom didn’t lose her mother at birth but early enough to understand first hand how no child should have to grow up that way. She also worked in maternal health and family planning, and knows the value of proper education and care for expectant and post-natal mothers in raising newborns and young children.
The Adventure Project is partnering with Living Goods, an organization that trains women in Uganda to become Community Health Promoters who in turn make home visits, meet with expectant and new mothers, and care for 700 people each in their communities. Best of all, there’s a social entrepreneurial aspect to it all. CHPs earn an income by providing extremely affordable (and accessible) health products to people. The goal within the next five years is to train and employ up to 5,000 CHPs, serving approximately 3 million people throughout different countries.
The money raised in this campaign will go towards making sure that that goal gets reached.
What better way to celebrate World Humanitarian Day than to highlight the women helping to bring revolutionized health care to their communities in need?
Don’t know about you, but I certainly love it.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing some work at Free To Be Kids, an organization that works with kids who have been exploited or were at extremely high risks of trafficking. Many of them have been in abusive/violent domestic situations. FTBK has multiple sites but the main one is here in south Kolkata, with a 25 kids living in the center (5 of them are boys). After a rigorous screening and approval process, the kids are admitted into the Home (which the staff does a really good job at making into a family model) where they live, can attend school nearby, get 3 meals a day, and are involved in other activities.
The main focus of FTBK (next to providing a loving home) is education. They have the kids go to the English school nearby during the mornings* and then they run a tutoring program in the afternoons after lunch. Tuition time includes about half an hour to an hour of working on homework and then about 2 hours of additional lessons by FTBK on life skills, soft skills, and more academics.
*I had asked why they chose an English-speaking school rather than a Bengali- or even Hindi-speaking school. I found out that in India, in order to graduate high school, you need to be pretty fluent in English, as the last two grades are conducted solely in English and university is often in English.
Last week, our tuition program revolved around understanding careers and helping the kids develop their dreams for the future. This week, I’ve been working on increased self-confidence and building resilience, which will allow the kids to better develop those dreams. A lot of them are relatively happy children, being in this safe and loving environment, but at the same time I’ve noticed they don’t have a very good concept of their strengths and talents. They also have a lower level of self-awareness than most kids their age (of course, I’m not sure if this has anything to do with culture too, which it might). So the focus is on creating activities for this week to help them be more aware and to build up esteem and vision, and developing a program that the staff can continue to carry out later on.
And of course, I did some academics with them. For instance, teaching them what vowels are and why it’s important to know them; sounding out words; addition, subtraction, and multiplication; etc. But I’ll probably write another post on my views of education in places like Kolkata…
FTBK also doesn’t have any formal or informal counseling in place currently. They don’t have any social workers, which is new to me in a non-profit like this one. So Jeanette had actually contacted me to specifically develop a training for the staff on basic methods of counseling. But after having been here for a bit of time, I’m realizing that there is a need to lay the foundation of understanding what counseling is and why it is needed for populations that have experienced trauma, because it’s just not a concept many Indians, like the staff, comprehend.
So the rest of this week and next week, I’ll be focusing on training the staff on “counseling 101″ and basic counseling skills — being attentive to the kids, noticing signs in behavior and affect, listening to and validating the child, etc. as well as a specific overview of TF-CBT (trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy) and easy therapeutic methods that work well with kids, like art therapy and relaxation methods.
When i’m back in the States, I’ll do follow-up with Jeanette and continue to help her prepare the staff for the implementation of a structured counseling program within FTBK.
Exciting that they will be doing this! We both agreed it’s definitely needed. In my short time of observation, I’ve noticed a few of the kids exhibiting some troubling signs. I think FTBK’s program will be a lot stronger and more beneficial for the children after a few tweaks here and there.
Oh, and the kids are unbelievably adorable.
Despite having had very spotty Internet access, taking freezing cold showers, and exchanging Kristen, Shaun, & Mortimer for geckos, armies of ants, and large unidentifiable insects, I’m incredibly glad and grateful that Rick & Jiji opened up one of their houses for me to stay at. Living in a barangay in Consolacion (as opposed to staying in a hotel in the city area) has given me opportunities to meet the local people and do some “local” things, which is good for me because I’m not too into the touristy things of traveling.
Thus far, I’ve…
- Hung out & chatted with a good amount of locals — from kids to adults — and gotten to see a very small glimpse of their lifestyle.
- Ridden on rickshaw tricycles, motorcycles (pretty much everyday), jeepneys, and taxis. I really enjoy motorcycles now, actually.
- Played barefoot basketball in the rain with local girls.
- Participated in the prepping and grilling of a Filipino barbecue!
- Experienced the market here…very interesting!
- Visited the local high school and watched an intense dance practice.
- Helped out at the tutoring center for local kids.
- Visited the homes of people living in this barangay.
- Learned a couple of phrases and words in Cebuano/Visayan
Probably more…but really, I just love talking with the people and getting to know them. It’s been really fun and equally as educational/informative as my time “working” in the anti-trafficking field.
I haven’t actually uploaded most of the pictures I’ve taken in Cebu so far, but here are some from my local area from the first few days here…the rest (i.e. barbecue) will come later hopefully!
This girl is the best — she doesn’t really speak English but she knows “hello” and every time she sees me walking down the street, she runs right up to me, smiles, waves frantically, and squeaks out a hello before waddling off.
Father Hynes told this story:
One time when I was here [in this Redlight District], all the little kids [points around us] were running around me like this. Two little boys, about 5 or 6 years old, came up to me and were very excited to play and talk with me. I chatted with them for a bit and then asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. The first boy immediately said to me, “I want to be a priest!”
The second boy didn’t answer. The first boy then elbowed him and said, “You want to be a priest too, right!” The second boy furrowed his brows and pushed the elbow away. He said, “No, I want to be a pimp.”
Now you see what kind of environment they grow up in.
Yesterday morning I had planned to stay in and relax a bit before going out to Good Shepherd’s center in Cebu, scheduled for noon. Jiji, a family friend who is showing me around, told me that we actually were going to visit a kid in the neighborhood around 9am first. Having learned from Doña over my visits to the Dominican Republic, one always needs to be flexible when abroad (first lesson Doña and Maria pushed on me). So I signed off on my boyfriend (sorry, Brian!), got dressed, and met Jiji outside her home.
I wish I had brought my camera but I didn’t. I’ll try to take some pictures of the neighborhood though and post them up — but it’s very similar to the DR and most Spanish-colonized countries.
We trekked through the area, walking through people’s properties, stepping over mangy dogs and cats, avoiding the free range chicken and sitting ducks, hopping on stones over muddy pits, and pushing aside tall grass and plants hanging in our faces. Not too long of a walk and definitely not as treacherous as some of those hilly, rocky, steep paths in El Baden, DR.
We reached a shack of a home where two women — a mother and grandmother — were sitting. The mother was perched on a bench with a bucket of shelled oysters on one side and a small bin of de-shelled oysters on the other. Knife in hand, she was swiftly breaking them open and cutting out the meat. Despite her rapid work, the bin filled up very slowly since oysters are so small. She explained that she had to walk very far to get the oysters and walk very far again to sell them. She could sell the whole bunch for about 8 pesos — equivalent to around $0.18 ro $0.19 USD — which was her income to feed herself, her mother, her 6 kids, and her mentally-ill brother.
She called over her 5-year-old daughter Grace* and pulled aside part of her hair to reveal to us a fungal infection. They were really concerned because it was getting worse and because it’s on her scalp so close to her brain. The grandmother explained that they went to an expensive doctor and were giving Grace Amoxicillin now but feared it was not doing enough though they spent so much money seeing the doctor and paying for the medicine.
For once, I was able to speak up and use some past knowledge!
In the years I visited the Dominican Republic, I was a “pharmacist” for our makeshift medical mission clinic. Essentially, I took supplements, prenatal vitamins, antibiotics, etc. out of their original bottles, divvied them into makeshift pocket envelopes (I’m a skilled envelope maker now also, bt-dubs) and wrote Spanish instructions on each packet of how to take the medicine and what the dosage was. Ghetto pharmacy work but it worked (will not go into that right now though).
One of the makeshift prescriptions I had to portion out and instruct on were bottles of Selsun Blue that I poured into small containers. These bottles were given out to the locals we saw who had fungal infections and skin rashes. Years later, a friend of mine from home had a bad skin fungus spread across her back and her dermatologist recommended washing her back with Selsun Blue — so it’s pretty legit! Always good to know that we’re not randomly distributing gobs of blue goo in vain.
So I told Grace’s grandmother and mother about Selsun Blue, a common dandruff shampoo that one can buy in most stores. Jiji told me that they did in fact sell this in the Philippines and that she would buy a bottle for the family.
I mentioned personal hygiene cautions as well. If Grace’s scalp was oozing as they mentioned, that meant there’s an open wound somewhere under her hair and it was important that they refrain from touching her scalp with dirty hands (the mother kept showing us the girl’s scalp by pulling back her hair with muddy-oyster-water hands). They explained that bathing had become tougher since the hand pump that provided water to the surrounding houses was broken. They now had to walk far to the next pump to fetch buckets of water, which are heavy and for which they have to pay. This led Jiji and me to believe that the fungal infection may have come from or worsened because of them not bathing Grace enough.
I was reminded of how great a need there is for water well/pump maintenance and repairs. Many organizations focus on building wells, which I am 100% for, but it’s important that we not only build wells but also provide education to the communities about how to care for their pumps and how to repaid them if broken. I’m super grateful for organizations that focus on the whole picture, like Lifewater International. Or awareness and advocacy campaigns around well repaid, like the one done by The Adventure Project.
Afterwards, we bought some food from a local vendor (literally a teenage boy sitting outside with pots and plates of home-cooked meats and veggies on top of a kitchen table) and brought it back to Grace’s family. We said goodbye and headed back to Rick & Jiji’s tutoring center for the children of the area.
While going on house visits to the families of children with cerebral palsy, we had the chance to chat with this young man. My dad called him Talking Tom because anything you said to him (in any language — Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Spanish) he repeated.
Of course, he could hold his own end of a conversation too.
My dad: What are you eating?
Talking Tom: Popsicle.
My dad: What flavor is it?
Talking Tom: Red Bull.
Talking Tom: It really is.
His mom nods
My dad: Can I have some?
Talking Tom: No.
My dad: What if I said I’d give you money? How much did you pay for that?
Talking Tom: 50 cents.
My dad: Okay, I’ll give you a dollar for it.
Talking Tom: No.
My dad: How about two dollars?
Talking Tom: No.
My dad: But it’s a good deal…you’re making so much money!
Talking Tom: But you can’t eat money. Not worth it.
My dad: Ah, you’re a smart boy.
Talking Tom: I know.
In the field of “working with people,” one needs to understand where one’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and with what populations one is capable of working with (whether that be a matter of heart, skill, knowledge, accessibility, etc.). For me, I knew early on that one of the populations that I was undoubtedly not called to work with was people with physical disabilities. Fortunately, while my focus is on other social issues, there are people like Chris and Lydia Yeung who spend many of their days with kids with cerebral palsy.
Chris and Lydia are the founders of Silver Lining Foundation (note: website is in Chinese), an organization dedicated to improving the welfare of marginalized children in the Guang Xi region of China. Their work spans a broad range but succinctly they work with abandoned children, orphaned children, and children with disabilities.
I had the opportunity to shadow them during the past few days, with the first day focused on their program to support kids with CP and their families.
While cerebral palsy is a widely advocated and supported issue here in the United States, here in China there is a much greater lack of awareness and compassion towards children with CP and their families. Having a child with disabilities in general is something that is very “shameful” here, and between the social pressure and the economic hardship of raising a child with disabilities, many parents end up abandoning their children.
Teary-eyed, Chris told us the following the story (note: this is a rough version of it as my Cantonese is shaky and I was running on little sleep):
I was at a “welfare center” — that’s what orphanages are called here — and a kid with CP was found and brought in. A very severe case. He was about 6 or 7 years old and clearly had not had any OT or PT work done in those years so his muscles were completely limp. He was brought in and literally, all he could do was lay on the ground, almost like a piece of string. And he knew what had happened; he understood that his parents decided to leave him. He just laid there and cried and cried and cried. It was really heartbreaking to see a child feel so abandoned. He cried so much and was in such turmoil that he developed a high fever and became very sick.
We brought him into the hospital to get help and I told the workers at the welfare center that perhaps we can help him heal, then he can go to school, and then go on to college in America — he can lead a life like other children. The worker told me, “If he can learn to pick up a spoon and feed himself, that is already very progressive.”
I said, “Fine, then let’s just love him at least. He has no one — we need to show him as much love and care as possible.” And so I told a worker there that he seemed to like to play with to put extra effort into caring for him. The kid recovered from his fever and stayed at the center where they showed him love.
But sometime later, on Christmas Day, I received a call that the boy had passed away. My wife and I mourned and I remember just wondering, “What could I have done? What can I do?” It seems almost hopeless — this child died and his parents didn’t even know. How sad of a story.
I then thought that 6 years is a substantial amount of time. It’s not that these parents didn’t care, right? They tried for 6 or 7 years to care for him but it must be that they couldn’t do it anymore — emotionally or financially or socially. And I began to think that if there was a better support system for the parents who have kids with CP then perhaps the outcome will be better. We can reduce the number of families separated and the number of kids abandoned in China.
And so Chris and Lydia began focusing much of their efforts not just on the children themselves but creating a system and an environment in which parents can be encouraged and supported on multiple levels.
Chris took us to a rehabilitation center (loosely translated as Guang Xi Rehabilitation and Research Center for People With Disabilities) that works with various disabilities from hearing impairment to autism to CP. Silver Lining sponsors about 14 kids in the CP program, which requires parents to attend the day center with their child in order to learn and find support.
A professional occupational therapist from Hong Kong (in the yellow shirt), brought in by Silver Lining, taught the parents and the workers at the center (in the blue shirts) some exercises and ways to encourage and help the kids strengthen their muscles.
We spent the entire morning at the center watching the physical needs addressed through individual evaluations. The children were able to interact with one another also, parents with one another, and everyone learned strengthening methods specific to the child.
The kid photographed above had more muscle control than most children. His speech was very clear, which he took full advantage of as he kept talking and joking and laughing. I’ll write more about him in another post probably.
The kid photographed below had a funny personality too. He was the quietest and most reserved child but as soon as he saw my camera, he tried with much diligence to pose and to hold the pose for several pictures. His CP case is much worse; his leg muscles are completely weakened to the point that he is unable to stand, and as you can see in his photos, his finger muscles are very weak also. He tried to do the typical “V” fob pose, and upon realizing he was only holding up one finger still, cracked up and tried again. Despite being “behind” the other children at the center, he was still a very joyful and resilient child.
Our afternoon was spent making house visits to check in with the parents, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ll also highlight the other programs of Silver Lining as I continue my trip.