Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘poor’

Running Into the Past

Life Happens On The Stairs by Amy J. Markstahler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61yvbeR9oJL._SY346_Seventeen-year-old Elsie’s dad is dying, she’s falling for an amazing guy (Tyler), and the divide between rich and poor in Hardin County Tennessee has never been wider. Elsie’s mother (Claire) cleans the house of stuck up and wealthy Mrs. Vaughn, and Tyler is her smart-as-a-whip grandson. Life Happens On The Stairs has hints of the classic The Prince and the Pauper, with an intense love story in the contemporary south. Ms. Markstahler takes us into the mind, heart, and body, of this young teen whose father brought her and her family back from Illinois to his families land.

Here’s a little of what happens when Elsie fills in for her mother at Mrs. Vaughns and meets her in the hallway. “For the next few hours, I vacuumed, dusted, scoured the bathroom and polished the glass on the upper level. Mom always cleaned when she was mad or frustrated. Now I understood why. As the day moved on, I started feeling better. At one-thirty, I walked down the hallway towards Mrs. Vaughn’s bedroom. The passage seemed to narrow as apprehension overwhelmed me. I slowed my steps. Why did I feel like sprinting out of the house? A doorknob clicked. The hair stood up on my arms. That’s why.”

The tension and conflict between Elsie and her mother, and Elsie and her brother (Mark), are spot on and completely relatable. The growing bond between Tyler and Elsie is well developed, with each of them pushing the other to experiences, and memories, they may never have explored, or remembered, left to their own devices, family backgrounds and expectations. Ms. Markstahler also knows how to describe what it’s like when carrying for someone you love who is dying. Life Happens On The Stairs is an excellent story about love and family, for both young and older adults.

Cinderella’s Question

From the wily Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Master Tarantino Toshiba always believed in equality and freedom for all. She freely taught to one and all — young, old, men, women, children, smart, stupid, rich, poor, and even the middle-class. There was a little girl named Cinderella who had been taken in at the monastery after her parents had died. By the time she was of age, she started noticing that all the nuns would visit their master daily for a private session. She was told that these sessions were called nodzen and were designed for each student to be given a special koan (or mind problem) for them to solve and reach enlightenment. Cinderella said she “reeeeally” wanted to participate in nodzen as well, and asked for permission to do so. She was now of age, so her Master could not refuse.

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Cinderella approached Master Tarantino Toshiba’s room the next morning and banged loudly on the door (as she had been instructed). She was invited in and asked to squat in the middle of the room.

“Tell me,” asked the Abbess. “Why are you here?”

“I have come to receive my koan Master.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because I want to be enlightened and find peace.”

“Why are you here?”

“I told you before,” Cinderella replied, somewhat annoyed. “I’m here…”

“Why . . . are . . . you . . . here?”

“How many times do I have to say it? I’m . . .”

“Stop!” exclaimed The Master. “This IS your koan. Why are you here? Not here in this room, but here on the planet. Why are you alive? What’s your purpose? What does it all mean? Why are you here?”

Cinderella rolled her eyes. “Oh. Now I see.”

“Not sure about that,” the Abbess whispered quietly.

“Thank you,” Cinderella said. She stood and bowed several times and then departed.

Cinderella pondered her koan deeply night and day. She watched the water in the stream flowing by and contemplated upon its existence. When her time for nodzen was upon her the following week, she entered The Master’s room with great excitement, certain that she’d solved the problem.

“Why are you here?” asked the Abbess.

“My existence is temporary. Like water, we come and go.”

“That is not the question. Yes, we are all transient, but why are we here?”

Making sure to avoid water the following week (and getting quite smelly as a result), Cinderella sat in the town square and watched and listened to the people living their lives. One afternoon, after seeing a farmer receive some turmeric in exchange for her chicken’s eggs, she knew she had discovered life’s purpose. She could hardly wait until it was her turn to visit the Abbess.

“I am here . . . we are all here,” Cinderella bubbled, when she next saw The Master, “to share what we have and help one another with what we need.”

The Master rolled her eyes and then smiled. “You think you’re hot, but you’re getting colder by the minute. The tinniest forms of life make exchanges for their existence, but why are they here? Why are you here?”

Cinderella was crestfallen. She had been certain that she’d had the answer. The following week she spent in isolation in a dark cave. There was no water or people to disturb her meditation. In the darkness, her sense of hearing was amplified. She became aware of her breath as it moved in and out. After hours of sitting it seemed as if the air going in and out of her lungs was a title wave of energy and her body a receptacle of its life force. Upon this discovery, she made her way out of the cave (after running into a few walls) and went straight to see The Master without waiting for her appointment. She pounded loudly on the door, entered, and called out.

“Master! Master!” Master Toshiba stepped aside just in time, as the door swung her way. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”

Master Toshiba stepped out from behind the door.

Cinderella looked around. “Oh, there you are. Master, I’ve got it!”

“I was just going out for some fresh air,” Master Toshiba replied. “Come with me.” Cinderella followed like an adoring puppy. “What is it you think you have?”

“Why I’m here. Why we’re here.”

“And why is that?”

“Because energy cannot exist in a vacuum. We are all interdependent.”

The Master stopped, put her hand on Cinderella’s shoulder and calmly said, “This is true, but you still do not understand why you are here.”

“Help me. I don’t know what to do.”

“Go,” the Abbott replied. “Go help yourself and don’t come back until you can answer the question.”

Cinderella’s head dropped and she started crying. “I give up.”

“That’s not why we are here, to give up.”

Four months later, while reading a children’s story, Cinderella asked, for the millionth time, why she was here. She realized that she would never know the answer and decided to tell the Abbess.

“There are so many stories Mistress and none of them can tell us why we are here or what our purpose is. I will never be able to answer your question. I’ll just live my life and do what I have to do to get by. I don’t need to know why in order to live.”

Mistress Toshiba smiled and kissed Cinderella on the forehead. “My dear little pumpkin. You got it.”

More questions at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

70% Of The Worlds Poor

Gabriel,

Did you know 70% of the world’s poor are women? Mothers, sisters, and daughters often face discriminatory barriers to education, well-paying jobs, and credit. Yet, despite limited access to opportunities of economic advancement, these women are often tasked with caring for children and extended families. This immense burden of responsibility should not have to be borne alone: Lend a Hand.

Join our unique online community of sponsors, and connect with resilient women and men around the world. Through Lend a Hand, you can browse through the stories of our featured borrowers and learn where they’re from, what business they’re in, and what they hope to accomplish with a FINCA loan. Once you select a client, you can choose a donation amount, and then track their progress towards their goals.

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One Woman + One Loan = Many Lives Changed.

Any donation will make a difference: as little as $50 can help a client build a business so she can pay school fees, employ neighbors, and provide goods and services to a local community. Your loan will empower women around the world. As one FINCA woman told us: “My knees are softer. I used to have to kneel to my husband to beg for money for every little thing. Now I don’t have to kneel much, so my knees are softer.”

All FINCA clients have a deep desire to work hard, support their families, and strengthen their communities. They are not looking for a hand out: all they need is a hand up. Change the lives of many: Connect with a FINCA woman today.

Thank you,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President
FINCA

Child Marriage

MAYBE SOMEDAY, BUT NOT TODAY
from CARE

Legally, Mukeshwari’s marriage should never even have been a possibility. She was only 15 years old. But Mukeshwari lived in Thuadabri, an isolated rural village where it is traditional to give girls in marriage soon after they reached puberty. And her grandfather insisted. “The boy is good; the family is good,” he said. “This chance may not come again.”

The groom was an older man, a driver living in a nearby village. Mukeshwari agreed that he might be a suitable match, but that was beside the point. “I didn’t want to get married,” she says. “I wanted to go to school.”

Early marriage poses a host of problems for girls like Mukeshwari. Girls who marry young are less likely to finish school and have fewer economic opportunities. They are more likely to undergo physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. They often have little or no control over when they have sex or when they have children. And when they do become pregnant, adolescent girls have a much greater risk of complications and death than older women.

Under other circumstances, Mukeshwari’s parents might have intervened. But her family was poor, and her parents had left to look for work in the neighboring state of Maharashtra. So when she learned that her grandfather had arranged her marriage, she had no one to turn to but her friends – and Parwati Sahu.

Parwati is a CARE-trained volunteer health worker in Thuadabri. Though her primary responsibility and expertise is working with mothers and young children, Parwati and the other health volunteers CARE works with are also trained to be “change agents” – individuals who help transform the way their communities treat women and girls. Parwati had worked with Mukeshwari and other teenage girls in the village to discuss health issues, including family planning and early marriage. She knew right away that Mukeshwari’s marriage was wrong, and that something had to be done to stop it.

Parwati went with Mukeshwari, her friends and other volunteer health workers to confront Mukeshwari’s grandfather. But he was adamant: He had made an agreement with the boy’s mother and he intended to carry it through. So Parwati went to the panchayat, or village council, and presented the case.

Fortunately, Parwati and Mukeshwari had the law on their side. The panchayat voted to stop the marriage until Mukeshwari was at least 18. Faced with the community’s overwhelming decision, her grandfather had to give in.

This was the first time an early marriage had been stopped in Thuadabri, but it won’t be the last. With Parwati’s help, the village formed a committee on early marriage. The committee visits the houses of families with adolescent girls, discussing the problems of marrying young and making sure no early marriages are arranged.

As for Mukeshwari, she’s back in school and happy. “I don’t want to marry anyone right now,” she says. “I want to be a doctor. I’ll come back to Thuadabri and make sure everyone here stays healthy.”

It takes a lot of work, time and investment to become a doctor. But by staying in school, Mukeshwari has kept the opportunity open. With Parwati and the rest of Thuadabri firmly behind her, it is entirely possible she’ll succeed.

Help girls like Mukeshwari escape child marriage >

Women Not Intimidated

Dear Gabriel,

How easily do you scare? We all have a sense of the lines we won’t let bullies cross, and rightly so. For poor women in Guatemala, fighting for their dignity can be a daily struggle. But fight they do.

Poor women in Central America have often been refused service at “traditional” banks and even been manhandled out the door for having the audacity to enter the premises and apply for small loans.

Treating poor women this way is designed to humiliate and intimidate. It reinforces a poverty trap and reminds Central America’s most excluded women of “their place” at the bottom of a hierarchical society.

But, today, these women refuse to be intimidated; they will not accept second class status. And they take their business elsewhere. They come to FINCA.

Growing numbers of mothers and sisters and neighbors are finding FINCA’s doors open. We want their business, trust their financial management and believe in supporting small enterprises, morally and as reliable sustainable micro-businesses.

Ironically, we know that the average repayment rates for microfinance loans are better than those for “regular loans” in Guatemala, the US and most everywhere else.

More importantly, FINCA’s work is not just about financial services, it’s about empowering women to shatter the poverty trap and beat the bullies who would happily see them permanently excluded from access to financial services. We are proving, woman by woman, loan by loan. that people can fight their way out of poverty.

We believe in the poorest women from Central America and we’re asking you to believe in them too. Many of these women face poverty, the backdrop of a particularly violent society and gender-based exclusion day and daily. And they face it down, again and again. Please stand with them today.

Your support is more than symbolic. Your donation will help find and fund another microfinance client, potentially a women who’s been mistreated, but who will not accept exclusion.

Don’t accept second class citizenship. Take a stand. Support FINCA’s One In A Million campaign to find client one million and help her prove what women can achieve with access to small loans.

Please give generously,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President,
New Business Development
FINCA

Read React and Act

Dear Gabriel

A girl sick with hunger. A mother too poor to send her children to school. A farmer with weak, dying crops.

When the need is greatest, that’s when CARE steps in. The immediate and long-term solutions we provide and the lives we transform are possible through something immensely powerful: the generosity of our donors.

And now as a ferocious hunger crisis grips the Sahel region of Africa, and communities around the world are still in desperate need of help, a new matching gift fund has become available. Every dollar you give through August 22 will immediately be doubled, up to the match limit of $150,000.

There’s no secret formula to lifting people out of poverty: just the compassion and help of people like you. Please make your tax-deductible gift now and it will be matched.

I know that together, we can make extraordinary things happen. Last year, CARE reached more than 122 million people in 84 countries. There’s no way we would have been able to help individuals and families in the world’s poorest communities without the compassion of CARE’s donors.

But we don’t have time to celebrate our success – not when so many are struggling through the daily grind of poverty, trying to feed themselves and their children on less than a dollar per day.

Many of these people think they have no way out. But after over 60 years working in developing countries, we know how to help communities rise out of poverty. We help treat children suffering from malnutrition, support women running small businesses, and teach farmers how to get more milk from their cows or better harvests from their fields. We know that by investing in girls and women, we’re strengthening entire communities.

You make it possible for people in desperate circumstances to improve their lives. Please give by August 22 – help us reach our goal of $300,000, and your gift will go TWICE as far, up to the $150,000 match limit.

Thank you so much for all of your help. With so many millions of people suffering from the food crisis right now in the Sahel and so much continued need for long term poverty solutions around the world, your help is especially crucial this summer.

Sincerely,

Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH
President and CEO, CARE

A Voice for U.S. Poor

From Nation of Change and GritTV
by Laura Flanders
1 June 2012

A Coming-Out Movement for the Poor?

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo the minimum wage in New York is harder than passing marriage equality. If this is true a question comes to mind. Is it all only about the money? Could it be that there’s something we need, namely a coming-out movement about poverty in America? Democrats in the New York state Assembly have passed a bill in order to raise the minimum wage from the federal $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. Unfortuantely, there is likely to be no passing a minimum wage hike through the Republican controlled Senate. So this bill will be stuck for the rest of the session. “This is broader and a deeper divide,” Cuomo said. “Marriage, in some ways, was more of a personal judgment for people on their personal values. A working class coming out movement might be just what this country needs.

Watch video at Nation of Change.

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