A Passion That Doesn’t Fizzle


She is not yet 12 but Casey Sokolovic from Noth Carolina has an incredible vision of what she wants to do. It all started four years ago when she visited the the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, NC, on a family trip. There, she discovered the world of injured turtles being brought back to health by a team of dedicated volunteers. The visit had such an impact on Casey that she decided to take action. She chose to raise money for the rehabilitation center.

First she had to create an organization and “Help Them LAST” (which stands for Love A Sea Turtle) was born. Second she had to find a way to raise money. She decided to bake and sell turtle-shaped cookies. She participated in school fundraisers. She ignited the interest of everyone she could possibly find. And a few months ago, Casey was proud to hand to the center a check of $3,000 as a result for her efforts.

Although the money is good to finance the rehabilitation center, Casey’s impact on people is also surprising. Her family who had no interest in oceans is now devoted to sea turtle conservation. Her parents and her brother joined the cause and are fully helping Casey. The family even booked a trip to Barbados because she wanted to clean the beaches and talk to marine biologists working there. At school, Casey is sharing her successes and involves friends in her activities. They, in turn are very supportive and come up with new ideas.

Make no mistake, her dedication is serious because she knows sea turtles are disappearing fast and need our help. Casey who would like to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist, has other plans. She is creating a logo and setting up a website for “Help Them LAST”. The family has collaborated with coffee creator Joe Van Gogh to introduce a special Fair Trade Organic coffee blend called Sea Turtle Blend. You can buy it online and 10% of the net profits will go to the rehabilitation center. Via oceans4ever.com

What about you? Are you passionate about something? or are you hesitating among several interests?

How Do You Stop Child Labor?

How do you get poor children out of the streets? How do you get them to attend school? The answer is difficult because even if you have a sound school system it doesn’t mean that all kids will come. The poorest families cannot afford to send their children, even if the school is free. Why? Because they need to eat and a child can work and bring an income to the parents. On the other hand only an educated child can break out of poverty. How do you break the vicious cycle?


Cristovam Buarque is a Brazilian politician and university professor who has been relentlessly fighting for education in his country. With a group of friends, in the late 80′s he came up with an idea to break this cycle. In 1995 he ran and was elected governor of the Federal District which includes the capital, Brasilia. That was the perfect opportunity to implement this program called Bolsa Escola (School Fund.)

The conditions to apply were simple. The family income had to be equal or inferior to half the minimum wage, all the children of the family had to attend a minimum of 90% of the classes and the father had to be enrolled in the national system for job seekers. In exchange, Bolsa Escola complemented their income depending on the size of the family. The money was given to the mother who culturally  shows more commitment and responsibility.

The results? During the four years of Cristovam Buarque’s mandate, the Federal District government managed to reach about  25.000 families, or 50.000 children, at a cost of less than 1% of the annual budget. Children became more confident about their future. Truancy fell from 10 to 0,4%. Employment and income through small businesses (food and clothing) rose by 30% in the communities involved in the program. NGOs noticed a reduction in domestic violence and an improvement of the parents’ level of schooling. The women’ s self-esteem rose and their power within the family too.

The program was so successful that other municipalities and Brazilian states adopted similar programs. Other countries like Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Tanzania, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and El Salvador followed the same idea. Even New York started in 2008 a pilot program modeled on Bolsa Escola.

In Brazil this simple idea, which requires little funds, was implemented nationwide by Cristovam Buarque when he became Education minister in 2003  under the name Bolsa Familia.  It is now credited as one of the main contributing factors for the reduction in poverty in Brazil.

Cristovam Buarque twitter page

Finding a Meaningful Life in Refugee Camps


Born in Sri Lanka, V. Thenmozhi saw her world being shattered when she had, with her family, to flee the civil war on her island. They lost everything and on rickety boat they crossed the Palk Strait to reach Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. There, she became a refugee in one of the numerous camps set up for fleeing Tamils by NGOs, one of them being the OfERR.

Then 18, she first thought about going back to school but soon the family having no income she decided to work for the OfERR where she felt at home among other Tamil refugee activists. Thenmozhi was young and people were doubtful she could do the job. How was she going to counsel men 4 times her age? How was she supposed to provide advice to a mother who had lost her children while fleeing?

Thenmozhi was persistent. She first finished her training as a counselor, learning precious lessons, and then started visiting the 117 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. It was, and still is, a tough job because depressed or angry refugees would not easily tell their story, a crucial part of the healing process. Thenmozhi took the time to know them, get their trust and slowly they opened up, releasing memories trapped in their mind.

After that, she helped them get more confident, taught them to think positively so they could pick themselves up, start an activity and earn some much needed money. She particularly empowered women, pushing them to start small businesses which was against the traditional view. Thenmozhi, now 38, is teaching the next generation of counselors who step-by-step will take over. She feels a great sense of accomplishment even though it hasn’t been easy to take her fellow refugees from being nobodies to reclaiming their life.

Empowerment is everywhere. From the refugee camps to your own home, anyone can make a difference in someone else’s life. If you do it you will find meaning. Via oneworld.net

This week is World Refugee Week and you can donate to the UNHCR. Even a small token will be helpful! Added to thousands of other donations it will show how a group can be powerful. Thank you.

A Sister Fighting For Her Brother Gets Help From a Famous Musician


Veronica De La Cruz is a former CNN anchor who has put a career on hold to save her brother Eric. He was diagnosed five years ago with severe dilated cardiomyopathy meaning his heart cannot function normally.  Unfortunately for him he was faced with a lot of red tape. The different healthcare systems available in the US and in the state of Nevada where Eric is living didn’t help him much or even refused to support the cost of his treatment. Basically it is the story of someone who was dying because he had no money and bad insurance.

This spring his condition worsened and it became clear he would need a heart transplant. But Veronica learned that administrators at transplant hospitals were reluctant to admit Eric, requiring supplemental insurance. While fighting with the bureaucracy Veronica  started a grassroots movement on the net through twitter. She asked for donations to help Eric but also to push for healthcare reforms in the US.


Her efforts attracted the attention of Trent Reznor, frontman of Nine Inch Nails, who decided to start a campaign to help Eric pay his medical bills. With tour mates Jane’s Addiction he offered special deals for the remaining shows on their tour. In less than two weeks Reznor raised close to $900,000 lifting the financial pressure on Veronica De La Cruz and her family. Eric is now waiting for a heart transplant that will, hopefully, give him a new lease on life.

Update: Please RT, donate or go to this page where now other celebrities are spreading the word about #Eric. (Thanks e. nacino)

This story is touching because it shows how as a group we can make a difference. Just a reminder that this week is World Refugee Week and you can donate to the UNHCR. Even a small token will be helpful! Added to thousands of other donations it will show how a group can be powerful.

From The Bottom to The Top


If you live in a poor region rich in minerals you will end up for sure scraping at the bottom of pits. And if you are a child doesn’t matter.

Manan Ansari is a 14-year old boy from Dhaurkola, a village from the mineral-rich state of Jharkhand in Eastern India. Born in a poor family with six siblings, Manan instead of going to school went to work along with his family in one of the illegal and unorganised mines of mica dug by the villagers. It was hard. ”My work required me to collect mica pieces from ten in the morning to six in the evening. Sometimes, I couldn’t get any for earning,” remembers Manan. ”We had to dig up pits and sometimes, those pieces used to pierce into open wounds which would later result in infections.”

Fortunately for Manan and his siblings, the BBA (Save Childhood Campaign), came to the rescue. The BBA is an Indian NGO founded by Kailash Satyarthi, a famous human rights activist, which frees child slaves and put them back in the educational system. When Manan was finally able to attend school, he excelled so much that he topped his high school class exams.

Now Manan himself helps fight child labor by giving speeches. This week, for example, he will head to Geneva where he will be able to tell firsthand about the situation of millions of children. He has been invited by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to talk about child labor to leaders from across the world. From the mica pits of Dhaurkola to the stage of Geneva it’s a long road that has been traveled by Manan Ansari. I bet he is far from finished. Via deccanherald.com

To learn more:


Kailash Satyarthi’s website

Knowing Exactly What You Want


These days, football players seem to be doing more than football.

22-year old Myron Rolle, born in Houston, TX, is an oustanding athlete who was ranked number one high school prospect. He then helped Florida State University win many victories. Having just graduated he seems promised to a brilliant NFL carreer. Yes?

No, because the safety of FSU has other ambitions. He wants to become a neurosurgeon. Many would just be happy with a career as a football player or a doctor in their lifetime. Not Myron who has very specific goals far in the future. He has earned his bachelor degree in 2.5 years and will be heading soon to Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar, to earn a M.A. in medical anthropology.

What about his potential NFL carrer? Recruiters will have to wait as Myron put the emphasis on studies. Also, having just created a foundation bearing his name to support global health and education, he has already planned after retiring from the NFL to go back to the Bahamas, where his parents and three of his four brothers were born. There, he will open a free health services clinic on Exuma island.

His parents played an important role in creating an atmosphere of respect and drive. At home, the brothers learned to address everyone with “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” If a question was asked, no one would answer “what?” While driving, Myron’s father made sure to ask questions, so there was no idle time for their minds. Because his parents believed that an idle mind lead to trouble. Obviously they were right, as besides Myron, his brothers include a lawyer, a banker and a nursing student.

Myron Rolle’s website

Women Find Their Collective Power


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 Is a Resilient Woman


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?

Via irinnews and hdptcar

An Unstoppable College Student


Kristin Eliott is a 19-year old college student from Houston, TX. Since an early age her parents taught her the value of giving and helping. They took the family several times on trips to help the less fortunate in Mexico.

When she was 16, Kristin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her thigh. It was advanced enough for doctors not to be very optimistic. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy but the treatment was not successful. The last possibility was for Kristin to have an 8-hour surgery on her thigh. This was followed by radiations treatment which badly burned her skin. Doctors did not expect her to have much function of her leg afterward.

Amazingly, she recovered and was quickly back in her volleyball team. The family took another humanitarian trip, this time to Zambia where Kristin was touched by the needs of the children. She decided that she wanted to do something for them, especially the orphans who had no place to stay. Returning to the US, she was handed another news: the cancer had spread to her lungs and she needed one more surgery to remove the tumors.

Around that time the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted her. They usually grant wishes of children and teens with life-threatening illness. At that moment, Kristin saw an opportunity, not for her, but for all the kids she had met in Zambia. She asked the non-profit to help fund her idea to build an orphanage there. She needed to raise $60,000 and through numerous donations, sparked by her resilience, ended up with $300,000. Next month, she will travel to Zambia again and will officially open the orphanage. The extra money raised will go to build an AIDS clinic in the same area.

This is a pretty amazing story for a 19-year old college student who credits her Christian faith with helping her to cope with cancer. You might think that your own actions are small in comparison to Kristin’s achievements. You couldn’t be more wrong. I believe that every single action counts to make our world a better place. You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to do good. I am sure Kristin would agree with me. Wherever you are and whatever is your situation, you can do something. And you don’t need anyone to tell you what to do. Intuitively you will know. Agreed?  :)

Kristin’s website: Kristin’s Heart

A Mother Who Would Not Give Up on Kids


Let us say it again: education is everything.

Doris Mashego was born in Uta, South Africa, about 400 km east of Johannesburg. Thanks to her parents, she could receive a basic education. Growing up, she understood the value of this gift and having a big heart she decided to help the children of her community.

Fifteen years ago, on her own, she started a makeshift nursery school and, as a volunteer, relentlessly helped the children of her village to study. A local NGO later stepped in and built for her a structure to teach in. Even tough there was no government funding she found ways to keep going. Now, the nursery school is one of the most successful in the region, teaching kids the alphabet, counting, basic English and Xitsonga, one of the official languages of South Africa.

The best proof that can be given on the importance of education is to look at Doris own children. One of the rare single mothers of her community, she found the time to raise three kids. She made education a priority along with strict rules. Because she was educated, Doris could help them with their homework. The three siblings got grades high enough to qualify for scholarships and attended university. They are now working professionals holding steady jobs. This is a rare achievement in Uta where unemployment is estimated at 70% and where literacy rates fall far below national standards.  Doris Mashego was right and because of her selflessness, a lot of children in Uta get a chance to have a better life. Via smrc

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