I swear, this is not what I typically spend my weekend nights doing. Really.
I swear, this is not what I typically spend my weekend nights doing. Really.
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)!
It’s Valentine’s Day!
Oh. You forgot.
But they’re not just e-cards, of course (when are they ever “just” anything with The Adventure Project?) — they’re e-cards that add venture and impact lives.
Show your love online (yes, we’re green like that) by sending a simple e-card with a major impact. Just choose from one of their four cards (each one supporting one of their four projects: Health, Environment, Water, Hunger) and include a note to your special someone. And The Adventure Project will send it out to your loved one at some point today. Simple and sweet.
Your gift will arrive on time, show that you care, and change lives. Can’t get much better than that, right?
Last night, I had the opportunity to watch Session 3 of Passion 2012, a Christian conference focused on social justice and freedom.
A woman named Christina Caine got on the stage and began to talk about her initial exposure to social injustices — namely genocide and human trafficking — and her experiences since then. Over the course of about 40 minutes, she shared anecdotes from her life that shaped her understanding of what it means to be a Christian in an unjust and broken world. Her driving point was that we weren’t created to live within some kind of “Bless Me Club” with fellow Christians, but rather were saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) so that we could do good and fulfill a purpose beyond ourselves (Ephesians 2:10). Specifically, she added, God intended for “rescued people to rescue people” – those still in captivity, both literally and figuratively.
But a lot of times, in Christian America, we do just sit around in our Bless Me Clubs and forget that we’re not just saved by grace, end of story. Or we push aside the pressing need to make an impact in this world.
“What is it about our temporal world that would take us away from the eternal purpose that God has us here on earth for?”
She shared a number of stories, some of which I may write about later on, but the one I want to retell right now is the one she ended with. Caine travels a lot and is an activist against human trafficking, leaving her with a lot of enemies including Eastern European mafia. People tell her often that she needs to be a more responsible mother and stop bringing such “darkness” upon herself. In response, she commented, “…as if the purpose of life is to arrive at death safely.” I laughed.
“Death is the ultimate statistic, sweetheart – one out of one will die,” she quoted someone.
Her final anecdote began with one of her daughters really wanting a Barbie flashlight. So Caine brought her to Walmart – evidently a big deal in Australia – and found a Barbie flashlight. She put in the batteries so that the girl would play with it right away as Caine paid for the item. The girl turned on the flashlight and, of course, that one light among all the fluorescent lighting in Walmart was ineffective. The little girl wasn’t able to see her own light’s impact because it had none.
“Mommy,” her daughter asked, “Can we please go somewhere with darkness?”
Caine stood on the stage and told the audience, “At 3 years old, my daughter had a realization… Light is most effective in only one place – darkness.”
I’m a metaphor person. I love them, maybe a bit too much, but they help me a lot in my thought processes. As I’m writing this out, I’m thinking we’re a bit like solar lights; we need to charge in the ultimate source of light of course, so being among light is necessary to our growth and carrying out our potential. But ultimately, we’re not made to sit in the sun or other light sources. We need to stop hindering our impact, leave our Bless Me Clubs sometimes, and go find where it’s dark and get our light on.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a bit of light-shining in 2012…
Who said getting coal in your stocking is a bad thing?
This holiday season, The Adventure Project is bringing out the coal again in order to improve the livelihoods of people in Haiti. Currently over half a million people are still living in tents in Haiti, cooking over open fires and breathing in heavy smoke.
But clean stoves can change that. They cook food faster, use half as much charcoal as open fires, and drastically reduce toxic emissions. Learn more about it in the video below.
If you’ve ever cooked over an open fire, especially in an enclosed home, you know it’s not fun. I was lucky that my eyes didn’t burn/sting as much or get as bloodshot as the other women cooking, but my lungs definitely had trouble breathing.
With a clean stove, families not only have improved health, but they have more time, more food, more money, and the ability to increase income and human capital (i.e. sending kids to school).
It only takes $20 to give a stove.
Or you can purchase a box of coal to give to your friends and family as funny stocking stuffers, and provide 5 stoves to women in Haiti. Naughty or nice, this gift has you covered — plus it’s like giving 6 gifts in one.
Learn more and give: The Adventure Project.
I had posted this TED Talk a while back on my previous blog but recently came across is again. I think it’s great, and Jacqueline, as I had said in that old post, is an amazing woman.
The video is a bit lengthy but it’s really great, I assure you. Among the many inspiring stories she tells is one of a little girl during the United States’ early stages of desegregation (around 14:25 in the clip), which is a favorite for me.
Jacqueline Novogratz is the author of The Blue Sweater and the founder of Acumen Fund.
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.
I’m entering my final week of my trip. I want to say right off that it doesn’t feel like I’ve been gone for 2 months but when I really think back to when I was in China or previous places, it seems like quite a bit of time ago.
This past weekend was my last weekend before heading back to New York, and I’m glad this was my “concluding” weekend. It was absolutely awesome.
I’ve been staying with Shaina, the India program coordinator for NEST (which I plan to write about soon!). She’s here in Kolkata for at least one year — possibly more — and lives in a quaint and relatively convenient part of town. It feels like “real India” in her neighborhood, and I’ve had the chance to meet her local egg man, sweets man, and tea man, among other friendly folks.
Shaina also knows a good number of ex-pats living and working here, as well as short-term volunteers, so I got to meet some people — Americans too, finally!
So a breakdown of my weekend?
Went with Shaina to Destiny Reflection, one of the social enterprises that NEST partners with in India. I met the founder Smarita Sengupta, whose birthday it happened to be!
Trekked up to Sari Bari, taking the Kolkata Metro for the first time. Will make a post about Sari Bari later on.
Stopped off at South City Mall, a super modern mall that makes me feel like I’m in another world within Kolkata.
Met up with Shaina and we headed to dinner at Bar-B-Q on Park Street with a bunch of Americans living in Kolkata.
Went to the cutest coffee shop in Kolkata, Mocha, where I somehow managed to finish an entire Kit Kat milkshake. Great menu and great ambiance.
Met up with Kate, the other volunteer at FTBK, up at New Market. Got some henna so that some of the older girls at the center could do some mendhi. Ended up spending far too much on jewelry made of real silver and stones. Said bye to our friends at New Market (Babalu’s family) since we weren’t going back after Saturday.
Kate left to go to the movies and I met Clementine, a MakeSense member who is currently doing a traveling tour to meet social entrepreneurs involved in addressing hunger and malnutrition issues. Ate at Blue Sky Cafe, a popular ex-pat and tourist restaurant in New Market (clean food is key in India!).
Met an Indian man on the street who just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and whose brother attends Boston University (“Have you heard of it?” haha). He spoke French as well as some Chinese.
Walked to Maidan Park and walked through a religious festival for Krishna and Rama before discovering an open park with families sitting around. Reminded me of Central Park. But a small, Indian version.
Met a nice family with a young son (high school age) with whom we chatted for a while. He took a picture with us on his phone, haha.
On our way out, we met a man named Munoj. He works with the Children’s Welfare Committee in conjunction with the U.N. and is very proud of Kolkata. As he walked us to the Metro, he gave us some history and stories behind some of the buildings, including a government building he described as “where the corruption begins.” He also recommended a restaurant to us that has the best Bengali food in all of Kolkata.
Got back too early to Shaina’s so I wandered her neighborhood and stopped by a sweets shop. Chatted with the couple who owned the store, as well as several of their customers, for over an hour! They welcomed me to the neighborhood, invited me to go for morning walks with them, gave me free food, discussed culture and language, suffocated me during their incense burning, and shared parts of their lives with me. It was fun.
Went to Kolkata Christian Fellowship with Shaina, a church with mainly local Bengalis but also a good amount of ex-pats and visitors. Service is held in English translated to Bengali.
Went to lunch with some of the folks from KCF at South City Mall. Met some interesting and encouraging folks. Tried to get a pedicure and massage with Shaina but that failed. Instead, we caught some street cricket action.
At night, we went to Kewpie’s, the best Bengali restaurant as recommended by Munoj, with Clementine and Melissa, an IJM summer legal fellow. The food was super yum.
A few weeks ago in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to visit a number of organizations. One of them was Red Window, which focuses on developing economic opportunities for adolescent girls and young women who have been sexually exploited — many at a high risk of re-trafficking.
Red Window was actually founded by a former board member of Restore NYC who had also previously worked in a number of anti-trafficking initiatives such as Hagar. I was not able to meet Laura unfortunately as she’s actually in New York getting her PhD at Columbia School of Social Work (we’ve swapped locations).
I met with Amy Collins, who was the first social work intern at Restore back when it was just launching and is currently part of the staff at Red Window. After talking over dinner with me about her work at the organization, she invited me to observe a day of class with the students.
A few days later, I hopped on a jeepney and headed over to her building, just in time for a class. I actually recognized a few of the students from working with them at The Haven and at Welcome House and was glad to be able to take part in a bit more of their post-care experience.
I actually connected with Red Window because they had helped Restore quite a bit this past year in developing our own job readiness program for our clients. It was pretty exciting to see where our program first stemmed from and how it’s tailored for the two different populations in NYC and in Cebu.
The lesson I observed was conducted pretty much all in Cebuano by two locals but fortunately I understood enough to get by. The focus of the class was developing their vision statements.
I cannot express how much I LOVED this class and how it was run. The teachers were phenomenal and handled everything so wonderfully. I can’t go into the details of the lesson for the sake of respecting Red Window’s lesson plan and program that they worked so hard to create, but I’ll try to give a small glimpse into it.
After the first part of the class, which entailed an exercise that encouraged the girls to develop a sense of their strengths, interests, and aspirations, they were given a short explanation on how to create and write a vision statement. Each girl was given a card to write out her statement.
After each one presented her statement, they moved on to a self-awareness portion. When asked how they felt about their statements — what thoughts and feelings they were experiencing in relation to the statement — they began to shout out things such as “hopeful” and “inspired” and “excited.” I started to wonder how the teacher would handle the girls having completely negative reactions of discouragement towards this activity. And then the girls must have read my mind because some began to say things like “not real/possible” and “too ambitious” and “inadequate.”
I loved what the teacher did then. She wrote each one down on the board, just as they were calling them out. After the list was compiled, she acknowledged the positive feelings/thoughts and then circled the negative ones. She asked, “These statements are not as encouraging, right? These feelings can overwhelm us at times and hinder us greatly. But they’re not true statements. What true statements can we tell ourselves to counter these negative ones?” And as she went down the list, each of the girls began to shout out things targeted to each negative statement.
As she wrote them down, she had them all say it loudly.
“I will be strong!”
“You can do it!”
“I will be confident!”
I then had to butt in. I turned to them and said, “You shouldn’t say ‘I will be strong.’ There is no need to tell yourself to be strong and confidence because you already are strong and confident. Do you know what I’m saying?”
And they all began to nod and rephrase the counter statements to be assertive.
“I AM strong!”
“I AM confident!”
“I can do it!”
“I will not quit!”
The teacher asked for added phrases or quotes or verses as well. Since the girls expressed that they enjoyed Bible verses (it’s a heavily Catholic society) I shared with them Joshua 1:9 — “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for I, the LORD, and with you wherever you go.”
Each girl chose one or two statements to write down for herself before sharing with the class. A number of them recited the verse from Joshua, which was encouraging to hear from them. The teacher made them re-say it if they didn’t say these positive statements with oomph too, haha. It was nice.
Before I left, I noticed their goals and dreams collages on the wall, which was the first lesson that Kelly had conducted with our clients at Restore and which I had conducted with the girls at The Haven also. Loved seeing it done in so many places!
Though I was at Red Window just for one day and only to observe, I absolutely loved my experience there. The program is great and the staff is great. The students there definitely display some difficulties in seeing their own potential and self-worth but at the same time, there is a lot of resilience shining through which is being encouraged even more by Red Window’s program.
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.