Cruelty and kindness: two tales of soldier behavior


The biggest earthquake since 1976 hit Guatemala last week. At a time when animals are not in most of my fellow citizen’s minds, I marvel at the courage that others, halfway across from my country, display to save one animal (while others are taught to embrace torture as a right of passage).

Help Let’s Adopt Global operate Atlas!

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Keep your promises on sanitation and water


ICROSS (International Community for Relief of Starvation and Suffering) is working hard to provide basic sanitation rights for children in need in Africa. To give you an idea of their current needs, I`ll share with you part of what they discovered:

Women and children walk on average 6km every day to fetch water, and the average weight of water they carry is 20kg
 “ I stopped going to School when I was 14 because there was nowhere to wash, no place I could manage my period, no girls toilet and nowhere to wash my hand[s] , I had no choice “ Susan ( 22 Mother of 3 children, Kenya )
ICROSS has been working with communities since 1980 to improve access to water, improve sanitation and reduce infectious disease through hygiene. With Over a Billion without clean water and hundreds of millions without toilets the Global solution requires poitical action to provide these rights and create change.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is part of UNICEFS Global campaign to end this injustice. World leaders have made promises which they have not kept. These promises must be kept to bring an end to the global sanitation and water crisis.
Photograph of water faucet by Li-sung
Creative Commons photograph of drops of water
By taking part in the Keep Your Promises campaign, you can unite with hundreds of thousands of people across the world who are taking action to ensure that basic sanitation and clean water are available for EVERYONE!
ICROSS is part of an international partnership that is launching a year long campaign.
“It is hard for us to imagine life without ever having a toilet, It`s one of those things we have never thought about. Now imagine your young children, those you love and old and sick managing without a toilet, water to wash, the absence of every and any amenity, no toilet paper, sanitary towel, anything ! This is reality for a third of humanity and it has to stop. There`s no excuse, water is a right !” Michael Meegan

When to leave a non-profit


A few years ago, I served on the board of advisors of a Guatemalan animal welfare organization. This came to be after I had served as a volunteer for several years (and made donations when possible).  I learned a lot through the humility that comes with putting yourself in the background, letting the cause you love take central stage. I will later briefly mention the details that led to our mutual falling out with the non-profit, but for now, let’s focuse on 3 simple steps to identify when you need to part ways (either as an active volunteer, fund-raiser, donor or advisor) with an organization you believed in:

  1. Know when you’re outnumbered. The cardinal rule (as Merrick once told Buffy, it’s much easier to kill one vampire than a lot of them at the same time) applies. Your chances of getting your point across or initiative sold, will be diminished if your face with resistance from not one, but a lot of fellow members.
  2. Be clear about what you stand for, from the beginning. You’re all about animal rights, not animal welfare (believe me, there is a vast difference)? Then state it from the get go. Misinterpretations and conflicts of interest arise very easily. Letting the people who run and are a part of your non-profit know what your beliefs are will determine how long you stay with them (and why, above all).
  3. Take a cue from your favorite bands. Jason Newsted left Metallica when he felt his views were not being taken into consideration and that his side projects could not coexist with “the monster that is Metallica”. So, if you feel like the fun is over and that you constantly question your motives with remaining with this organization, it could be a red flag for you to consider packing your bags.

Now, when I decided to no longer be a part of this animal welfare organization’s board of advisors (and no longer volunteer or publicly support them), I knew that our differences in our core beliefs were huge. For instance, I opposed the initiative that contemplated using the biggest fast food chain in the world, in order to use their disposable place mats to educate people about companion animals. I voiced my opinion through email, then personally. We had disagreements between who did certain tasks, who took the credit and who refused to ask or accept for help. That’s about the executive summary of it. So, I hope my brief how to helps you keep things in perspective, if you ever encounter a similar scenario.

P.S. Yes, friendships may arise with other members, and not all of them will survive a falling out. It’s something to anticipate since, even though they are not for profit, these organizations are still a business. I’ll leave you with an outtake from Some Kind of Monster, where original Metallica lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, addresses some of the unresolved issues he had upon being fired by his band-mates (due to his alcoholism), faces a very emotional Lars Ulrich.

Milaap: an example of generosity


Following my brief earlier post (promoting Blog Ponderingsentry), I’m happy to share with you a short Q&A  with Shubhashree Sangameswaran, Communications Executive for Milaap:

How would you describe the response from the people who benefit from Milaap’s loan offers?

The response from the borrowers has been quite amazing. Since Milaap gives out loans for essentials like clean drinking water, toilets, energy and vocational training education that are not traditionally the focus of microfinance institutions, the demand has been very high. For ages people in parts of rural India have had to make do without toilets, walking miles for drinking water, living in darkness. Now that more people are aware that they can change this, they are coming forward to make use of this. Peer pressure works wonderfully well in these cases – once a group of people in a village get piped water at home, another group is inspired to do the same, and another, and so on.

What ultimate goals do you envision for your organization and the people of India?

We hope to make essential services accessible to all. If basics like clean drinking water and sanitation are taken care of, a lot more time and energy is freed up and it paves the way for real progress. As for lenders, our aim is to make giving a part of people’s everyday life. Currently it’s only the rich, or the very socially conscious who think of charity – by creating a model where small amounts can be loaned out. Instead, we want more everyday individuals to be a part of giving as well.

How important is the element of trust in Milaap’s structure model?

Trust is quite important. But thankfully, so far, people have put faith in us and made the loans. On our part, we put our trust in our field partners, who in turn put their faith in the borrowers. We take all the care we can, and do all the groundwork we can before taking on new field partners, so that risk is minimized.

On the lender part, we know for a fact people sometimes simply put in their money, not really expecting to be repaid -but they are pleasantly surprised when that happens. Here are a couple of such people who were so impressed with the model, they went on to blog about us and lend again!

http://1000beautifuldays.blogspot.com/2011/10/day-690-milaap.html
http://priyavksingh.blogspot.com/2011/12/lending-helping-hand.html

About Milaap:

Milaap is an online platform that enables you to lend to India’s working poor so they can get access to education, clean water, energy and more. It’s a loan, not a donation. This means you get your full loan amount back once your borrower repays it.

Milaap – Loan a little. Change a Lot. from Milaap.org on Vimeo.

Embracing The Spirit of Unity


As part of one of the challenges that I signed up for on Media Cause, I decided toMuslim kids peace sign tolerance highlight  CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Florida’s work to foster tolerance in the Tampa, Florida. Here are a few questions that Hassan Shibly,  CAIR Florida’s Tampa Executive Director, was kind enough to answer via e-mail:

When and how was CAIR Florida born?

CAIR Florida was born ten years ago to promote an accurate understanding of Islam and the American Muslim Community in Florida. We are a grass roots civil rights and media advocacy organization supported exclusively by local member contributions.

What are some of the current issues regarding American-Islamic relations?

There is an unfortunate rise in acceptable Islamophobia. Extremist speakers are being given the stage by groups like the Tea-Party to spew anti-Muslim hatred. They are also calling for limiting the rights of American Muslims. This hatred and bigotry threatens the very Bill of Rights for all Americans. American Muslims seek to promote tolerance, understanding, and civil rights, thereby defending the Bill of Rights for all Americans.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you face, from the transition of an advocacy office to a legal entity?

Just balancing our workload. We believe that by engaging the media and public at large we can foster an environment where bigotry and discrimination is not tolerated. Thus our advocacy work is critical. However, until that time, being able to offer legal civil rights work is necessary. Our advocacy work is preventive and our civil rights work is responsive. We hope to have three lawyers on staff by the end of the year to defend the Bill of Rights and help enforce the Civil rights Act for the Tampa community.

Breaking Barriers one day at a time


People suffering from illnesses struggle to avoid feelings of being a burden to family and friends. I fear being, not only sickness, butBreaking Barriers Community Services Center the possibility of having to rely on someone for transportation, financial aid or medical care (I vividly remember the efforts it took my grandmother to visit my family after having one of her legs amputated, as a result of being run over by a bus).

Throughout the dozens of non-profit organizations that participate in Mediacause, I found Breaking Barriers, a way in which people can volunteer as drivers to help patients in need (in Sacramento, California). Also, it provides education and HIV testing:

Our counselors are specially trained to provide in depth counseling and referrals to those they test, but we always need people to help recruit clients, staff info tables or assist clients with paperwork.

The services that Breaking Barriers offers include:

For HIV/AIDS patients:

  • Transportation to Medical Appointments
  • Household Help
  • Moving Assistance
  • Holiday Food Baskets
  • Talking about Positive Prevention

For breast cancer patients:

  • Referrals
  • Treatment Navigation

If you or someone you know live near Sacramento, please spread the word about what this organization provides (or donate!).