Saturday, December 26, 2009

the power of one (/ jeremy's birthday) fund

how's it going? hope you're all enjoying the holiday season. in case you didn't know, tomorrow's my b-day. just wanted to use it as a shameful opportunity to promote my new blog. the subtitle sounds pretentious, but is an allusion to bryce courtenay's the power of one book, which i just finished reading. a great book (kh, don't read it if you haven't yet, i just sent my copy).

i also just started a small experiment called the the power of one fund to help out at the orphanage where i'm working. if you don't have money, that's ok. you can still help out. for my b-day, i'm just asking that you read the whole following post...

so guys, this is it. this is my first concerted stab at making an appeal for others to take action to make the world a better place. and i'm using my b-day (tomorrow) as a nice cover for it. interested? all i'm asking is that you read to the bottom of this article, the rest is up to you. the best part of it is how you take action is completely in your control. no pressure. honest.

so most of you know that for the past few months i've been working in thailand with a small start-up ngo called aqueous solutions. we focus primarily on providing clean water to communities in need and also work on building sanitation infrastructure and provide hygiene education.

one of our current projects is safe haven orphanage, a home to about 55 ethnic karen children who have no home or whose parents or family are not able to care for them. as the orphanage sits right on the border between tak province, thailand, and karen state, burma, it also has a transient community that fluxes. at the height of fighting on the burma side earlier this year, more than 300 karen fleeing the fighting fled to the orphanage for food and shelter. while i was there, more than 80 displaced persons were still living there. they have since left, but the thai military wants to relocate them back.

for the past couple of months, i've been working at the orphanage to put in a gravity fed water system, improve drainage, and promote good hygiene habits. i'll be going back tomorrow to work on improve water distribution and water storage, fix the boys' bathroom, protect the spring catchment system we built, and construct a baby cleaning area. some pictures of my work can be seen here. note, that we did not provide the ceramic filters or install any of the toilets pictured. the toilets sunk into the ground are at another site housing 100+ displaced karen.

for all intensive purposes, the orphanage is, in my opinion, run like a mini refugee camp--donors with competing interests and conflicting, often times misguided, goals; and children who are malnourished, plagued by malaria, have very basic water and sanitation services. luckily, most of the children are able to go to thai school, and that they seem very happy. many of them have come a long way before coming to the orphanage, having to deal with issues such as physical abuse, medical issues, and neglect.

the idea of the power of one fund came from my best friend who heard about the situation at the orphanage and asked how he could help. as many of the children there are without sandals, he offered to purchase flip-flops for the children. when we talked more about the food situation, we decided to split buying fruit for them for the next month or so that i'll be there this time around.

the power of one is the idea that our shared humanity helps us relate to the difficulties that those less fortunate than us are facing. many of the pressing challenges that millions of people face exist primarily due to apathy, indifference, ignorance, and inertia. we can each individual do what we can to surmount these four horsemen*. all of us cannot respond the same way, but by responding however we can as individuals and individually tapping into the power of one, this collectively makes the world a more humane and compassionate place.

[*the four horsemen idea comes from don cheadle and john predergast's not on our watch book, pg 10 (2007)]

this is how the power of one fund works:
you can contribute in 2 ways.

if you want to contribute financially, you can. the best part of it is that you don't give me a single cent.

if you can't contribute money, that's ok. keep reading to the end!

if you can help out with cash, you tell me (email me at tharsis133 @ gmail [dot] com) how much you want to contribute to the orphanage for things like buying fruit, school supplies, or hygiene products. another focus that i want to work on is to help develop the capacity of the orphanage to be more self-reliant so that they don't have to depend on outside help. i've done some training on constructing water systems and hygiene, but much more needs to be done.

a good idea is for capacity-building to extend to food security. meals mostly consist of mealie rice, fish paste, and some vegetables. fruit and eggs are very rare. by buy seeds and giving trainings, we can improve garden yields and lessen independence on donors. your contribution can also be put towards reaching this end.

so, based on how much you want to give, i will match your contribution dollar for dollar, up to $500. i will pay out of pocket for these non water and sanitation improvements, and in return, you contribute the amount that you pledged to any nonprofit that you believe in back home. no contribution is too small. this way, by doing both of our parts, we collectively think globally and act locally.

for example, if you want to pledge $15 to the orphanage. i will spend $15 on things like fruit, soap, garden improvements, stationery, kitchen supplies, etc. in turn, you donate to a nonprofit of your choice back home.

the following are organizations that i have supported in the past and whose work that i think is really valuable and timely. click on the organizations' names in grey to link to their sites.

partners relief and development "5 alive campaign"

delivering life saving supplies that will help keep a displaced family of five in burma alive for one month. $50 buys a cooking pot, a lighter, a machete, a plastic tarp, and rice and salt. fleeing persecution, fighting, and egregious human rights abuses, families flee from approaching government and pro-government troops, living sometimes for years without proper shelter, or adequate amounts of food and/or medicine. they are often shot on sight and vulnerable to landmines and tropical diseases like malaria.

save darfur coalition
campaigning to stop the genocide in darfur, the first new act of genocide of the 21st century.

oxfam america "unwrapped"
alternate gifts to fight poverty globally

practical action
using appropriate technology to challenge poverty worldwide.

stop genocide now
working to end genocide

i haven't had time to donate to the human rights campaign, but have been meaning to. the fight for lgbtq equality rights at home is the fight of our time.

the human rights campaign

i won't have access to regular access to email, but you can also call my thai cell and let me know +66 87 214-two five five four from outside of thailand or 087 214 two five five four from inside thailand. if you email i'll do my best to get back to you soon. and after this visit to safe haven, i'll put more photos up. i've already taken out $300 from my us bank account.

***whatever you decide to do, don't give through the safe haven paypal account for the moment. there's a technical issue that needs to be worked out***

if you can't help out with cash, that's ok. this is how you can contribute to the power of one fund. you do 3 random acts of kindness for strangers. you tell me how many sets of random acts of kindness you do, and i will do 3x that amount. for example, if you stop to give a lost person directions, help someone load his or her car at the supermarket, and open the door for someone, i will do 9 acts of kindness. hopefully, this will build up slowly to a movement of paying it forward.