Fix The World

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Dr. Steve with the kids in Haiti

If you read the December 2011 issue of Outside Magazine, you will find a feature entitled, “The Outside Guide To Fixing The World.”  Outside made their pick of the 30 best- smartly managed groups and charitable organizations with transparent financials, efficient spending, and track record of on-the-ground success.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what organizations we, at Created Whole can support and be part of.  I believe that businesses must not only exist to earn a profit, but also to reach humanity.  Companies must make a conscious and determined effort to give back to the world.

Last year, I read the book, Half The Sky, a book that candidly addresses women’s issues in the world,  namely three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape, and maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute.  The tragedies are terrible, but solutions to these problems can be found, not by changing entire communities and livelihoods, but simply through educating women, among other things.

Because I have an entrepreneurial spirit, one story that has remained with me centers around the concept of microlending.  Microlending is the supply of loans, savings, and other basic financial services to the poor (http://cgap.org).  In developing countries, microlending allows women to start businesses through small loans that they are able to pay back over time.  This allows them the possibility of being financially independent, to build confidence in themselves, and to earn respect from their husbands and village.

One of the organizations Outside Magazine recommends is Kiva, a San Francisco based non-profit, that since 2005, has provided $248 million in microloans to small entrepreneurs in developing countries.  When on a trip to East Africa 2004, Matt Flannery, a former software engineer at TiVo, saw how much difference small investments can make, and realized he needed to help.  He launched Kiva, and currently the organization is now working to start microfinancing programs in the U.S., beginning with Detroit and New Orleans.

There are hundreds of ways that you can give back and help those around you. Some ways will speak to your soul and tug at your heart.  You may find you love children or you want to help bring fresh water to a village in Africa.  Find where you fit and step out and make a difference.

If you are interested in projects like Half The Sky, check out Orange County based International Princess Project, empowering women formerly enslaved in prostitution, to repair broken lives and restore their sense of self through providing vocational training and dignified work for women.

International Princess Project:  http://www.intlprincess.org/

ADRA, which stands for Adventist Development & Relief Agency, seeks to identify and address social injustice and deprivation in developing countries.  You can visit ADRAs Gift Catalog and personally choose what you would like to give to, whether it be sponsoring a child’s education or feeding a family for a month.

Here is the list from Outside Magazine of non-profit organizations. Also, check in your area for local non-profits.  Either way, constantly be looking for ways to improve your immediate world.  One small act, done consistently, with the combined effort of others, does a lot to create a better place for everyone to live.

December 2011:  Outside’s List of Non-Profits

Shelterbox: Practical tools for disaster victims. Shelterbox.Org

American Himalayan Foundation: Provides resources for education, health care, and cultural preservation in Nepal, Tibet, and Tibetan refugee settlements in India. Himalayan-Foundation.Org

Oceana: Conducts studies and research, inform lawmakers, and protect degraded oceans through concrete policy. Oceana.Org

Macro Sea. Turns “junk spaces” into inspired community rec centers and art projects. Macro-Sea.com

Adaptive Action Sports: Gives disabled athletes a path to extreme activities. ADACS.Org
KIVA: Micro lending in developing countries.  KIVA.Org

1% For The Planet. Businesses pledging to give 1% of sales to vetted environmental groups. OnePercentForThePlanet.Org

Big City Mountaineers: Gives underprivileged city kids a chance to experience wilderness adventure.  Mountaineers.Org

Waves For Water: Recruits surfers to deliver water filters in their travels through developing countries. WavesForWater.Org

African Wildlife Foundation: Includes local people in conservation activism. AWF.Org

American Forests: Establish and protect state and national forests. AmericanForests.Org

World Bicycle Relief: Distributes and sells bikes in developing countries. BicycleRelief.Org

Water For People: Helps those in developing countries gain access to clean water. WaterForPeople.Org

Climate Counts: Scores corporations on their carbon footprint. ClimateCounts.Org

Arch Angel Ancient Tree Archive: Mission is to clean up the planet’s air and water and reverse the effects of climate change by cloning the world’s biggest and oldest trees. AncientTreeArchive.Org

Citizen Effect: Online fundraising platform that connects citizen philanthropists with vetted, small-scale projects around the world. CitizenEffect.Org

IOBY: Posts local environmental projects in NYC like urban farm start-ups. IOBY.Org

American Trails: dedicated to building, expanding, and safeguarding trail systems. AmericanTrails.Org

The Marine Mammal Center: Rescues sea mammals. MarineMammalCenter.Org

Afghan Child Education and Care Organization: creates safe homes for Afghani orphans. AFCECO.Org

Foundation Rwanda: Pays for education, medical, and other care for mothers and children of sexual assaults in Rwanda. FoundationRwanda.Org

Environmental Defense Fund:  devises solutions for environmental issues.  EDF.Org

Trekking For Kids:  Raises money for orphans by organized walkathon-style treks.  TrekkingForKids.Org

American Rivers:  Healing America’s waterways.  AmericanRivers.Org

Health In Harmony:  Better healthcare for Indonesian Indonesian farmers can improve the health of the forest. HealthInHarmony.Org

Pathfinder International:  Expands access to basic health and reproductive services so individuals in developing nations can plan families and build sustainable communities.  Pathfind.Org

Rainforest Alliance:  Aims to preserve the biodiversity of forests worldwide.  RainforestAlliance.Org

TechnoServe:  Connects entrepreneurs in developing countries with capital and educational resources. TechnoServe.Org

Vital Voices Global Partnership:  Combats human trafficking, supporting women entrepreneurs, and advancing women in politics and public leadership.  VitalVoices.Org

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Trust, Hope, and Haiti

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>I went to Haiti last week. My flight attendant benefits and fairly flexible schedule allowed me the opportunity to join my Uncle, and his family, along with a group of medical volunteers at the Adventist hospital located just outside Port-au-Prince.

I was hoping that I could be useful in some way, even without any medical training. Selfishly, I was also hoping that the trip and whole experience would be personally life altering. In a sense, I came back disappointed because I don’t feel like I was able to contribute much, and I haven’t had any life changing epiphanies yet. Yet…

I have a lot of questions. I question how my existence can make a difference in this world. I question how God can just watch so much distruction, so much pain. After four months, piles of rubble, tent cities, chaos, and brokenness is. It just is…

I asked Joseph, one of the translators, what it is like to be Hatian. “You have to be strong. You must be a soldier. You have to fight for yourself. Look out for yourself. Have your own weapons. Sometimes, maybe, someone will help you. But usually not. You just must be strong. Because you are alone.”

The woman at the clinic says she can’t eat. The nurse inquires to why. In creole, she says she doesn’t have an appetite. The woman then turns and points to a large pile of rubble right behind the makeshift clinic. “My daughter is in that rubble.”

Reggie says if he could take it all back he would. His english is perfect. It’s because he grew up in Miami, having moved there from Haiti with his mother when he was five years old. He’s back now, and not by desired choice, but due to other life choices. He was convicted in the United States and deported. He’s only 26. Along with the time Reggie spent in an American prison, he spent 21 days in a Hatian prison. Hatian prisons are a whole nother hell. A small space becomes a place to sleep, a bathroom, a shower. The only source of food is if the prisoner’s family brings it to them. If the prisoner has no family to bring food, the prisoner has three options; another prisoner shares his food, starvation, or fight someone for their food. Reggie says you can’t blame people for fighting. It’s just about surviving. In Haiti, survival is about looking out for oneself.

It strikes me how strange it is that I am walking past tent cities and garbage studded dirt streets with a convicted felon. A country with no sense of safety, and me, with no sense of direction. Ironically, I feel a sense of protection from a person that I would not easily trust on the streets of LA. But, I trust Reggie. Sometimes, you must trust people. But I wonder who can the people of Haiti trust? Can they trust that they will see the benefits of the 1 billion dollars in aid money and supplies that have been sent? Can they trust that their babies will be fed? Can they trust that their homes will be rebuilt? Can they trust that there lives will improve? Can they trust in their Voudoo gods? With no infrastructure and no leader, they have learned that they can only trust themselves.

Sabrina’s clinic is constructed from tarps and poles. Everything about it is mobile. The “pharmacy” is divided between four suitcases that lie on the dusty ground. The “exam room” is made up of the 90 degree converging of a brick wall and a vertical hanging tarp. It’s Sabrina’s Clinic because it is organized and continues to run due to the efforts of an amazing 20-something, nurse-midwife named Sabrina. For 4 months leading up to the January quake, Sabrina searched unsuccessfully for a nursing job. Even during the recent shaky economic times, nurses have still been in high demand, but Sabrina’s search proved fruitless. She felt strongly that God must have some reason for her unemployment and she leaned on the faith that God was going to do something in her life. A couple days after the quake, she got a call from someone asking if she could be at the airport in an hour and a half. She was needed in Haiti.

I ask her if she gets lonely in Haiti. Her family is not with her. She’s young. She’s learning Creole and French. Everything is so different. She thinks for a moment and then replies, “No. Not really. Since I came here, I believe that God has been telling me that I need to go to Him first. Not a boyfriend. Not a best girlfriend. Not my family. Instead, I need to rely on Him completely and tell him everything first. So, no. I’m not lonely.” Sabrina speaks with strong conviction and a calm peace. In Haiti, she has found something to trust. In Haiti, she has found the only thing to trust.

Click hereto see pictures from my trip