Subhadra Khaperde is an activist from the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. She helps people solve problems. In villages from the Khargone district where she is based, Subhadra noticed than more and more women were complaining about their health and about their husbands behavior. These families belonged to the Bhil tribe, one of the most ancient in India, but where alcohol is regarded as a “holy spirit”. Alcoholism among men was rampant, especially since they could buy it at illegal liquor stores run by the local mafia. Drinking sprees lead to sexual abuse and also husbands not being able to work for days. This situation gave another burden to the women who had to feed their families.
Subhadra, helped by health doctors collected data, discovering that most women suffered from reproductive health problems. Taking action, she gathered hundreds of women to an informal meeting in the village of Akya. There she painstakingly explained that medication would not solve their problems. Social customs had to change. Women answered that they were powerless in front of this kind of change. Guided by Subhadra, their own analysis concluded that the men had to be involved which was not possible because of the abundance of alcohol.
Subhadra passed their conclusions to male activists who conducted workshops exclusively with the men. They admitted that alcohol was the main problem. Before the illicit liquor stores appeared and the lack of reaction from the authorities, they had to brew their own alcohol using the flowers of the mahua tree. It was a time-consuming task and could be undertaken only occasionally. To reduce the consomption of alcohol the solution was obvious.
On a sunny afternoon, hundreds of men and women gathered in front of the illegal liquor shop of Okhla. They confiscated the alcohol and closed the shop. Similar actions were taken in various villages. The local mafia boss was not amused. Hearing that another operation would take place in Pandutalav, he came down with his henchmen, ready to crackdown on villagers. When he saw thousands of determined men and women, he fled. The illegal liquor store was shut down and the keys were handed to the police.
There is always an answer to a problem. Finding it always starts with trusting your ability to do so. Subhadra Khaperde empowered the women in her community, giving them the confidence to stand up and take action. Via oneworld.net
A blog about the Bhil tribes
Caroline Ngoena was born in the Central Africa Republic 39 years ago. She lives in the town of Paoua in the northwestern part of the country where its inhabitants are under tremendous pressure. Because of infighting between rebels and government troops she had to flee 3 times her home since 2003. She left all her possessions behind which means that she had to rebuild her life from scratch.
But her most-prized possessions are not her jewelry or her dresses. Caroline Ngoena is a pig breeder and these animals are her livelihood. A single mother of 7, she has to feed her family and by breeding the pigs she can make an income. She is also active in the community and takes action to have a better life. But how do you do that when your village is under the threat of rebels? Here is what she says:
“When shooting starts, you run into the house and pick up what you can: a bowl, a plate, some flour. You put everything on your head, a child on your back, and run, looking right and left, scared of seeing someone with a gun. When you get into the bush you look for tall grass or a large tree where you can rest, take the child off your back to feed him, because you’ve run a long way. After a while you go to find firewood.”
Caroline is a wise woman, who, like many Africans, is willing and hardworking. Far from self pity, she would like people to understand her plight. “Today we are here, tomorrow we could be somewhere else, we could be displaced all over again. I want peace and if there is peace the country can develop. There is no development now because there is no security or peace. In Central Africa, people are fighting for nothing. If they [the rebels and the government] were in front of me I would tell them I want peace, that’s all, peace.”
Who will listen?
Sean Stephenson is a 30-year old American inspirational speaker from Oak Brook, IL. He is a successful psychotherapist who is pursuing his PhD. He has worked at the White House for former President Bill Clinton. He has recently released a book and has appeared on Oprah and CNN among others. Envious? How about that: he is 3 feet tall. Still envious?
Born with an extremely rare genetic disease, osteogenesis imperfecta also known as brittle bone disease, he has defied odds since the doctors had told his parents that their baby wouldn’t survive 24 hours. They were partially true since from his birth until he reached 18, he broke his bones 200 times. But Sean had a secret weapon: his parents.
Knowing that the future for their newborn son was uncertain, they decided, beside their unconditional support, to emphasize on a few points. First they made Sean focus on what he could do and forget what was not physically possible for him. They also used an egg-timer and made him limit his self-pity episodes to 15 minutes a day. No more! When in pain, which meant often, they asked him to focus on pleasant memories. Finally, their most important decision was to refuse to hide him.
30 years later, the boy who could break a bone just by sneezing is alive and inspiring others including me. I just tried an experiment and I encourage you to do it too. Tomorrow, throughout the day, time yourself while being on a self-pitying mode and you might be surprised at how short 15 minutes are.
A real yearbook? A so 20th century idea?
When looking for innovation, teenagers can teach us a thing or two. Take the example of Catherine Cook. Have you ever challenged the idea of the ubiquitous yearbook? With her brother Dave, she did. When she was a sophomore at Montgomery High School in New Jersey, Catherine thought she could save some trees and revolutionize the concept of the yearbook to make it timeless, online.
In 2005, she launched myYearbook.com with older brother Geoff as first investor and CEO. Fast forward 4 years later and the social network has become one of the most visited place online. But what makes myYearbook stand out against giants like Facebook or Myspace is its uses of virtual money to fund charitable causes.
The virtual currency called “Lunch Money” is earned by completing activities on the social network or by purchasing it with real money. Then the “Lunch money” can be donated to one’s favorite charity. Six months after being launched, the results are already staggering. Members have saved 3 million square feet of rainforest, sent 22,000 books to Africa, and bought 40,000 pounds of rice for the hungry.
A 20-million members group can be very powerful and Catherine has found a wonderful way to harness that power. At the same time “Lunch Money” provides a great lesson. It shows teens that very small donations can add up to have a significant impact on the planet.
Sometimes you have it all at a very young age.
American Mark Lewis was doing exactly what he wanted. Passionate about sailing since he was 12, he was enrolled in a program of college studies on a ship that was taking him for a 100-day trip around the world. It was all about meeting new friends and exploring cultures. Suddenly, it all came to a stop when a swimming accident in the Seychelles left Mark quadriplegic.
“Life is what you make of it“, told him the doctor in the intensive care unit. Mark cried quite a lot but finally remembered those precious words. Nine months later he was back to school and graduated cum laude. More importantly, soon after he was in a boat, sailing again. He formed a sailing team and made an unsuccessful attempt at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Having learned from this, he is doing it all over again for the 2012 Paralympics in London.
What’s even more interesting about Mark, are his views on life. Supported by his family and having surrounded himself with great friends, he tells us that whatever path you choose, it will not go exactly as planned. Those misfortunes, you can use them to your advantage. As Mark says about his quadriplegia: “I am taking one of my lemons in life and turning it into an opportunity.”
I look at my own life and I see times where lemons were handed to me. Did I turn them into opportunities? Rarely but when I did, the lemons blossomed into wonderful experiences. How about you?
There is no time for regrets. More lemons are coming. More opportunities!
Mark’s inspiring blog: Take On Life
If you follow the NFL you know Amobi Okoye. He is a defensive tackle for the Houston Texans. He is not yet 22 and became the youngest player ever to be drafted in 2007 at age 19. Not bad for someone of such a young age. Even more interesting is that Amobi, immigrated for Nigeria with his parents when he was 12 having never played football before. He also achieved academic success by majoring in psychology and graduating one semester earlier.
Is he the ultra-gifted-talented-boy, the Michael-Jordan-style that appears once in a while? Amobi would tell you no and would credit his parents and tight-knit family for his achievements. He says that his two biggest influences have been his father and his mother who encouraged and believed in him.
That could be the end of the story: a young NFL star player enjoying the good life. But Amobi feels he has been lucky. He feels like many kids don’t have this chance to have supportive parents and he feels like if your belly is empty it is difficult to be a good student.
So he created his own non-profit, the Amobi Okoye Foundation. He rallied other young superstars players and took them to Nigeria to raise awareness, distribute scholarships and improve education and living condition. His foundation has done much more than that in and outside the US and he just came back from another trip to Africa. And he is not yet 22.
What Amobi Okoye is doing we can also do. Look around you. I am sure there is a kid, someone who is looking for some support, some encouragement, he or she is not getting at home. Don’t blame the parents, just give some of your time to that kid. You never know, a 5-minute talk or playing time could have a tremendous impact down the road and change his or her future.
American Tara Suri is young but she already has accomplished a lot. She started at age 13 when on a trip to India she couldn’t bear to see orphans abandoned in the streets. She raised money to help them and since then she has won numerous grants and sponsorships to finance her ideas on how the world should be. She now encourages other teens to take action through her umbrella non-profit ‘Turn Your world Around‘.
Tara’s facebook page.
When he was 12, Alec watched Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and decided to take action. He wanted to be one of the trained presenters of the former vice precident’s slide show but was rejected because he was too young. He made his own and started giving presentations on climate change to school groups. Now at 14, Alec is giving presentations around the US and is supercharged to get the word out. And he finally met his hero: Al gore. Via venturacountystar.com
Tiffany, from Albertville, AL, when she was 12, picked up the phone to call the police. She was scared and wanted to escape abuse from her drug-addicted mother. She had the courage to denounce her mother. Strangely enough her parents had divorced twice but officials didn’t question her mother’s ability to raise young children. This is what Tiffany is fighting for, changing the law to make it tougher for parents suspected of abusing drugs to win custody or visitation rights.Via sandmountainreporter.com
8 months ago he lost his dad from brain tumor. After mourning, he is turning his life by helping other families facing the same challenge. Via azstarnet.com