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Finally, The Good News

Finally, The Good News

Loaves & Fishes

In a rural corner of northern India, squatting on an unpaved road, a street vendor announces to her cohort, “I need to save.”

“And I dream of a pair of sandals.  But you can barely feed your three children – how do you expect to save money for future days?  The local bank agreed.  When they sought a saving plan from their local bank, our two street vendors were promptly ushered outside.  But these ladies were not to be deterred.

They began spreading news of their financial savings plans/dreams with other vendors.  Then they shared their idea with other mothers in their village.  The pot began to boil.  Individually, each was scraping by on nearly nothing.  But slowly they began to pool their resources.  Gradually, these ladies’ funds accrued, and their meager resources became bounty.  Thus was born the women’s bank of Utter Pradesh (The formal name does not translate easily).  Today, they make micro loans to neighbors wanting to set up a sewing business, or food loans to fellows temporarily without work.  This marvelous true tale shows how great prosperity can blossom when watered with the blessing of cooperation and determination.

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Ladies Take the Lead

When its women are poor – ain’t no nation wealthy.   And right as you read, the United Nations is aggressively taking aim to eliminate the poverty of women in its 68th annual Commission on the Status of Women Session.  From March 8 – 22, thousands of women representing 180 nations will flood into New York City to launch, push through, and make happen policies and programs that will empower all women and girls by addressing poverty from a gender perspective.

Did you know that in great number of nation’s women hold no right to own property – so that when a woman’s husband/brother dies all her possessions are up for grabs?  That more than 100 million women and girls are living in extreme poverty? Well, these CSW ladies and gentlemen are gathering around the U.N headquarters to lay out solid, working remedies.  The plans forged by both governmental and non-governmental organizations will create 300 million new jobs, accelerate vital aid to women entrepreneurs, and urge the 2.6 billion people going to the polls next year to cast their votes for gender equality.   (This writer must confess a special interest in the U.N.’s  2024 CSW, since his wife, Lorraine Jackson, is one of the delegates.)

To learn more about the 68th Commission on the Status of Women, visit UN/news.org – CSW68.

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For Roland Schatz, it’s a simple equation:

  1. Our planet needs reforestation to survive. (About a trillion trees are required.)

  2. Homeless people need jobs that pay in a currency that works for them.

Thus A + B = A social & planetary victory.  Roland arranges for homeless individuals in Europe and the Near East to plant trees in vital regions, for which they receive a credit card good at many of the local stores and eateries in their area.  (The homeless worker even receives the carbon credits as a bonus – good for extra food.)

As founder of UNGSII Foundation, this is just one of numerous projects Roland has set in motion to help humanity fulfill the United Nation’s 17 Sustainability Goals.

To learn more about Roland Schatz and the amazing work of his foundation, visit www.ungsii.org.

 

              Brushstrokes of Resilience

How refreshing to see individuals fight for peace, without creating new villains or enemies.   As 2023 came to an end, Mel Duncan and his Nonviolent Peaceforce team announced the inauguration of their Women Peace Team in Ba’aj, Iraq.  Since 2002, The NP organization has with great success and courage sent unarmed peacekeepers into violent and war-torn areas to protect innocent civilians.  The newly formed Women Peace Team celebrated its launch with poignant, pro-active strategy.  The NP laid out art supplies – paint, brushes, canvas – and extended an open invitation to the over 1000 attendees in the community to use the power of art to explain their experience and feelings about gender-based violence in their society.  I invite you to visit www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org  to ponder these powerful paintings.  My personal favorite: the painting of a 16-year-old Ba’aj schoolgirl who noted, “I feel like women are game in the hands of society.”  Please note that you will find no hate in these paintings – only a plea for change.

 

“Finally, Good News”

The phone rings.  “Do you need any help in moving your aunt’s furniture into the retirement home….I can’t come until this afternoon because I’m helping our minister who has been finding homes for immigrants for over 20 years – the man is amazing…”  And so come the calls into our home from friends this yuletide season.  Everyone is holiday-stressed, yet everyone is willing to pitch in and volunteer.  Out on our kitchen table stands a heap of mail from charities dedicated to bringing compassionate care to everything from whales to war-torn refugees and the disease afflicted.  Yes, these pleas for your hard earned cash are overwhelming, to say the least.  But think about it for a moment.  The United States boasts over one and a half million charitable organizations, to which we Americans donate nearly $500 billion every year.  Even adjusted for inflation, we Americans give three and a half times what we were giving in those supposedly golden times of 1954.  (If you want  a little uplifting, visit the Givers Hall of Fame at philanthropyroundtable.org.)  So let me personally thank each of you in our country for your generous – and increasingly generous heart.  It makes me proud to be an American.

 

***

 

The world had opened before Maggie Doyne.  She was 18, just graduated from Mendham New Jersey High School, and her backpack was all loaded for a trip “off to see the world.”  High in the Nepalese Himalayas, Maggie befriended a six-year-old girl in need of – everything.  She became determined to break the cycle of poverty first for this girl’s family – then for others.  And so the revolution began.

Today, Maggie Doyne’s BlinkNow Foundation runs and operates the Kopila Valley School, a children’s home, women’s center, and an expanded new 400-student campus, erected with astoundingly inventive environmentally sustainable features that are being emulated worldwide.

Who says 18 is too young to begin changing the world?

Want to Pitch In?  Visit www.blinknow.org.  Read the BlinkNow story; consider donating cash, books, school supplies….and perhaps have your son, daughter, parents join Maggie’s team over in Nepal for a life-uplifting experience. Why not? 

The Hidden Revolution is erupting all around us. You feel it, benefit from it, and odds are you don’t know who’s involved. While the mayhem mongers seize media headlines, quiet legions of dedicated individuals and inventive organizations are transforming our world for the better. Their creativity is astounding, and their achievements seem unimaginable. For example, take the contributors profiled below…

Tom Johnson – Founder, Africa Surgery, Inc.

Tom leads me through the whitewashed basement, sorting through shoes, electric sewing machines, eyeglasses, medical supplies, water distillers, fabric, bicycles, soccer balls, and mounds of clothing.  For six months of the year, he’s here, in Morristown, New Jersey’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church, diligently collecting these vital donations into a huge container load. Then, the next six months he returns with these necessities to poverty-stricken communities throughout Sierra Leone distributing them to where they save lives, heal, and help launch micro businesses.  That’s Tom’s minor miracle.

Tom’s primary miracle is overseeing Africa Surgery, Inc. which brings in scores of physicians, nurses and surgeons, to the Hospital of Makeni and other medical outposts, where they provide free treatment for thousands of suffering folks.  Malaria, OBGYN issues, hernias, cleft palates, burns, broken bones, typhoid, hernias, major wounds, clubfeet… healing comes to the medically-bereft Sierra Leoneans.

Twenty years ago, Tom was a beekeeper who joined the Peace Corps, and witnessed first-hand the desperate need for medical supplies and doctors.  After completing his Peace Corps term, Tom stayed, rolled up his sleeves and engineered ways to deliver tools and treatments to the people he had come to love so dearly.  Today, he is known throughout the rural villages as “The Old White Man on the Bicycle.”

          Want to Pitch In?   Visit www.Africasurgery.org. Learn more.  Discover how to make a tax-deductible donation, and check out the list of items to donate.  

                        Help! Who You Gonna Call? – 211

When you and your family’s back are pushed to the wall because of hunger, mental health problems, homelessness, cut off electricity…. When you need free tax assistance, unemployment aid, cybercrime solutions, addiction help for self or family members…or you want to report human trafficking or fraud… The answer is YES, help is here.   In all fifty of the United States, you can just grab a phone, punch in 211 – and you will be connected to a real person – no annoying robos – a community resource specialist who has the knowledge and ability to find solutions.  They can link you with over 6,600 community programs and services (and that’s just in my state.) And they don’t just “patch you through” and move on. These trained volunteers take pride in getting to the root problem.  They work with the individual in need until that caller finds practical answers.

Last year 211 brought solid assistance to over 18 million individuals. They provided benefit for 2.4 million people facing food insecurity.  The generosity of the United States’ people and their government is legendary.  Our land is filled with helping hands – and 211 is the group that effectively links them with those reaching out in need.

(P.S. If you only speak Azerbaijani, don’t worry.  211 reps handle 180 languages.)

Want to Pitch In?   Visit your state’s website e.g. www.nj211.org for www.nh211.org, learn more;  make a tax deductible donation, and consider becoming a volunteer.