Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘volunteer’

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 >

Stop State Killings

Dear friend,

We have a historic opportunity in California. We can shut down the nation’s biggest and most expensive death penalty system, with 720 death row inmates and a $4 billion price tag. But to be successful, we need to gather 750,000 voter signatures by February 15 (today).

We’re well on our way to gathering the signatures we need to put the measure on the ballot, but with only a few weeks left, we still need a lot of help. And we can only end the madness through another vote.

The SAFE California Act will replace California’s death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole as the maximum punishment for murder. This means convicted killers will remain behind bars forever, but with no risk of executing an innocent person.

California taxpayers will save well over $100 million every year without releasing a single prisoner.

Please sign up now to volunteer and help us collect the remaining signatures we need to qualify the initiative and shut down death row in California.

Click here to sign up:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=271062&id=35593-1274818-jp4nDGx&t=1

Why replace the death penalty with life without parole?

1. With the death penalty we will always risk executing an innocent person. Since reinstatement of the death penalty in the U.S., 140 innocent men and women have been freed from death row.1 Franky Carrillo from Los Angeles was released from prison last March after 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.2

2. Many people think that the death penalty costs less than life in prison with no chance of parole, but that’s just not true. California taxpayers would save well over $100 million every year, as well as hundreds of millions in one-time savings.3

3. Dangerous criminals must be caught and brought to justice, yet a shocking 46% of murders and 56% of rapes go unsolved every year in California, on average.4 We need to use our very limited public funds to get more criminals off our streets to protect our families. SAFE California would dedicate $100 million in budget savings to the investigation of open rape and murder cases.

4. While we cut our state budget for schools, violence prevention, and law enforcement, California spends millions of dollars on death row. We need more teachers in the classroom, not more lawyers in the courtroom.

Please join the SAFE California campaign. Volunteer to replace California’s death penalty.

Click here to sign up:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=271062&id=35593-1274818-jp4nDGx&t=2

Thank you,

–Natasha Minsker, SAFE California

Youth Foundation in Rwanda

Fair Children Youth Foundation (FCYF)

Our foundation was created in 2003 to restore human rights and to rebuild lives and community in Rwanda. FCYF is a nationally registered non-profit organization based in Musanze, a beautiful area in north Rwanda that suffered excessively from consequences of civil war, genocide and disease, because of its exposed border location with DRC and Uganda. Since 2008, FCYF has created:

– a school for deaf children and youth

– a vocational training center and cooperative for teenage orphans, who have missed out on formal education through taking care of their younger siblings after parents died

– a kindergarten

– a primary school which has come top in examination results in its district since its first year of opening

FCYF also provides infrastructure advice and training for hundreds of widows in agricultural cooperatives and trade associations. The foundation leads community workshops in child and women’s rights, nutrition and health, and HIV/AIDS prevention. It facilitates health insurance for the most marginalized households and it has created a highly successful volunteer mentoring program for orphaned households.

Through these community based and led programs and projects, FCYF has opened the door for many hundreds of children, women and marginalized people in Musanze to access formal education, vocational training and income-generating opportunities. The foundation also welcomes international volunteers each year from many countries, in a spirit of fraternity and mutual desire to learn and grow global community together.

Your generous donation will enable our foundation to widen its reach throughout and beyond Musanze district. Even a few dollars given to one of FCYF’s programs can make a life changing difference to an orphan or widow struggling to raise a family alone. If you would like to support a particular program, please note this on your donation comment.

ROP Eagles of Rwanda

From ROP Stories

ROP has a Day Out for a Football Match
Posted on September 1, 2011 by Sean

On Sunday the ROP Eagles played a match against children from OVC Rwanda (another orphanage across town). The event was meant to be an all day tournament featuring the ROP Eagles, OVC Rwanda, another local center and a team composed of mixed players, including myself, but at the last minute one of the teams cancelled so we decided just to have a friendly match against OVC. The event was organized by Veronica, an American working in Rwanda who wants to organize fund raising events that multiple centers like ours can participate in.

The day of the match Coach Alex prepped the players at the ROP Center while Jean de Dieu, the Center supervisor, loaded up all the non-players on a bus to bring out to the football field near the airport. Jenny, myself and some of our friends were already on the pitch when the bus arrived, and soon the bus door burst open and dozens of our small boys started flooding out. All them were very excited to not only have a day out of the Center but to have the opportunity to support their older brothers from the sidelines. (excited fans below)

Shortly after the Eagles bus arrived OVC Rwanda pulled up in their own bus. The two teams changed into their uniforms and began their warm-up routines as the other children mingled with each other and with the various guests who were there to watch including Jenny, myself, my cousin Chris and his wife Sherri, Jonathan – our new social worker volunteer – and Veronica, the organizer. Also in attendance were Mary and Patrick, two Americans who had just came to Rwanda from Uganda and wanted to see the boys play football. Since Patrick was a neutral party we talked him into being the referee for the match. But first we had to improvise by making yellow and red cards for him to use. We just colored two pieces of paper with markers. (The ROP Eagles below)

At 2:30 sharp Patrick blew the whistle and the competition had begun. OVC Rwanda struck first in the 5th minute with a shot that was just out of the short Eagle keeper’s reach. The Eagles looked a little overwhelmed playing on this new, large field and it showed in their lack of good passing and confusion on defense. They pulled together and in the 20th minute scored an equalizer from a nifty counter attack, bringing loud cheers and shouting from the ROP supporters on the sideline. Their spirits were soon dampened, however, when OVC scored two more goals in the last ten minutes of the first half. The referee blew his whistle and the half ended with OVC Rwanda ahead of ROP Eagles 3-1.

Read the rest of the story, see more photos and find out the exciting conclusion of the game at ROP Stories. ROP Stories is the blog for the Rwandan Orphan’s Project.

Volunteering In Rwanda

A wonderful piece from ROP Stories about volunteering at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda.

A Volunteer’s Perspective – Tamsin

Spending time at the Rwandan Orphans Project was honestly a great experience and one which I will never forget. A fulfilling and eye opening time.

I would spend most afternoons playing and interacting with the boys and the new items and games I had brought over which were donated. It was great to see how happy each of the boys were whilst playing with the toys. It was also very impressive to see how quickly the group learnt to use the lego and maccano and create pieces they’d never seen before. Everyday activities such as these and time spent playing together clearly made the children really happy and they were so grateful for all the donations. Just sitting and reading books with the group was an extremely rewarding experience.

Read the rest of Tamsin’s post and photos at: ROP Stories.

The English Lesson – Part 2

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

Ruthie approached to a respectful distance. She bent over, looked briefly at the sentence and said with all the pleasantness she could muster, “Where is the bathroom?”

Mrs. Frankel frowned and pointed. “Down there. What wrong with you? You not remember?”

Inwardly Ruthie smiled like a kid at the carnival, but kept the amusement from her face. “No. No,” she pointed at the page. “The sentence says, ‘Where is the bathroom?’”

Mrs. Frankel let the paper collapse in her lap and turned her back. Red blotches arose on the back of her neck. Was she actually blushing?

Mrs. Frankel squared her shoulders, slowly turned around and held the lesson aloft. “Let us continue,” she said, as if they had just sat down to supper.

“Over there,” Ruthie read, after clearing the tickle from her throat. She went to the next line. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Mrs. Frankel repeated, with a strong guttural k on thank.

“You are welcome,” Ruthie read.

“You are welcome.”

“Very good!” Ruthie unconsciously touched the sleeve of Mrs. Frankel’s dress.

Mrs. Frankel stiffened, but perfectly copied her instructor’s speech. “Very good,” she repeated.

Ruthie giggled. “No. That’s not in the book. I mean, you are doing very well.”

Again Mrs. Frankel blushed, then rolled her eyes and nodded aggressively at the page. “Continue. No need for good good . . . how you say . . . flatternity?”

“Flattery.” Ruthie started back towards the sofa.

“No need to sit so far,” Mrs. Frankel said, “bring chair here.” She pointed at a small, round-bottomed, upholstered chair that stood nonchalantly in the corner, then wagged her finger at the adjacent space next to her own seat.

Ruthie cautiously moved the chair next to her unpredictable student.

“Now,” Mrs. Frankel almost whispered, “please help me read next sentence.”

Ruthie almost fell off her seat at hearing the word “please”.

“Would you like to go for a ride,” Ruthie read. “I can pick you up on Sunday morning.”

“Wud you like to go for a rhide? I can pike you up on Soonday morgan.”

“Sunday morning,” Ruthie corrected gently.

“Soonday mornen.”

“Better, much better.”

“Thank you.”

Ruthie glanced at the page. “No,” she said, it doesn’t say thank . . .”

“No,” Mrs. Frankel put her hand on Ruthies. “Thank you. Thank you for helping me.”

“You’re welcome.”

Mrs. Frankel turned back to read. Ruthie struggled to regain her emotional balance, after her student’s kind words. In spite of her steadfast and prudent policy to never mix personal and volunteer time, she asked, “Would you like to go for a ride with my husband and I next week?”

Mrs. Frankel looked astounded. “No. No,” she said nervously. “I not intrude on you and husband. No. No.”

“It’s no problem. We’d love to take you with us. We were thinking of going for a drive to a little winery outside town.”

Mrs. Frankel shook her head emphatically. “No. No. Too kind.”

“Please,” Ruthie insisted. “It would be my pleasure.”

The grandfather clock yawned and announced the half-hour with a raspy clang.

Mrs. Frankel glanced at the oval-framed photo on the yellowing wallpaper. “Maybe,” she said, turning back towards Ruthie. “I think of it.”

Ruthie looked at the black and white picture; a dashing young man in a three-piece suit and French beret. “Your husband?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Frankel gazed at the photo.

“What’s his name?”

Her pupil hesitated, blinked several times, then replied mournfully, “Claude.”

“French?”

“No. Born and raised Germany like me.”

“Tell me more.”

Mrs. Frankel hesitated. “You really want know?”

“Yes, I really want to know.” Ruthie took her elderly students hand to provide some solace. Mrs. Frankel turned her palm upward, squeezed back and cried quietly.

CONTINUED TOMORROW

MORE STORIES

Women On Front Lines

Women are offering their personal resources, time and energy like never before. At least 59 percent of those surveyed in the U.S. in 2002 by United Way said they had volunteered or done community service work in the previous year and those numbers have continued to rise in the last eight years. Thinking about others and getting beyond our own selfish desires, seems to be a trend that nobody wants to stop.

Of course people volunteer for different reasons and are moved by a variety of intentions. Some folks want to get out of a rut, keep busy, feel needed or recognized and make new friends; others to have an impact or for personal growth. And some simply think it’s the right thing to do. As Daisy Gale, a quilting instructor, mother of eight and girls softball coach from Utah says, “It doesn’t matter how much you get involved or where, just get involved! Give a little each paycheck; donate time and/or energy. You don’t have to travel overseas. Go ahead and get your hands dirty.”

Daisy and seven other women did go overseas and joined a group doing humanitarian work in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. They provided medical care, job education and trauma relief for over 150 children at The ROP Center for Street Children. Like volunteering in the U.S., they didn’t have to take the time away from their jobs, families and homes to lend a hand, but they did and every single member felt they received more than they gave. “I haven’t volunteered much in my life,” says Joanna Ransier, a nurse in her fifties. “Raising three children and going through a divorce was more than enough. I never expected this to come around.”

Dottie Webster, a sixty-three year old housewife from Arizona, smiles, “We treated them (the orphans) and opened their hearts and helped them relieve some of the fears and pains. They know we care.” This sense of giving and receiving, even in the midst of some of humanities worst suffering, consistently runs through these women’s thoughts. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to give back,” smiles Caroline Sakai, a psychiatrist from Hawaii. “So many of the kids said before they felt so different and they didn’t have hope and now they feel like they have hope.”

There are over a million orphans in Rwanda and countless agencies, both government and private, trying to ease the impact such numbers have on society, by providing food, clothing, shelter and education, but there are still thousands of children living on the streets or temporarily housed in government centers, only to be released back on their own after three to six months.

The children at ROP are some of the lucky ones who have a home, food, clothes, medical care and some education. Upon entering the abandoned automotive warehouse that was once used for ROP, the team was greeted with exuberant music and dance by the children, teachers and staff. “This trip reminded me of what’s important,” says Paula Herring, a forty-year-old business management teacher from California. “Before I came I thought of the kids as having nothing and little to be thankful for, but since working at the orphanage I saw a lot of potential and a sense of hope that not only they, but most Rwandan’s seem to have.”

Some problems, both locally, nationally and internationally seem so big that people dismiss them as unsolvable, hopeless or impossible to solve. Feelings of helplessness and impotence in the face of such seemingly unsolvable dilemmas can create apathy, detachment and a turning away from the realities in the world, let alone on our front door. And yet . . . the fact is that you don’t have to solve ALL the existing problems or end ALL the suffering in the world. Yes, you can look at the big picture and provide the maximum impact for the most people possible, but it still comes down to helping one person at a time. Suzanne Connolly, a grandmother from Arizona who was teaching trauma relief with the women in Rwanda said, “We try to stay in the background and train the community. The teachers are the ones that will continue to be here when we leave, not us.” When people find ways to multiply their giving and leave tools for living, it can literally touch thousands of lives.

Most of the children at ROP are survivors of the 1994 genocide and the AIDS pandemic, which took their parents, families and relatives lives. Yet, even in the aftermath of some of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated by humans upon other humans, people have found hope, renewal and inspiration. “I think I walked into this experience with a lot of sympathy for the kids because they have so little and I, as an American, have so much,” Kelli Barber, a young nurse from Tennessee explains, “and so many of the kids were dealing with trauma and shame. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were much more than their past or their circumstances. I was really inspired by their strength, sense of community and spirit.”

Remembering you “can’t do it all” is just as important when you volunteer, as it is with your own job or family. No matter how clear or well defined your intentions are, you are human. Everyone has different limits, boundaries, amounts of energy and personal resources. Whitney Woodruff, a nurse practitioner in her twenties, who was in charge of the medical team at the orphanage, says insight-fully, “Working with the kids here is overwhelming. I’ve seen more children in one day then I do in a week of private practice and they are dealing with such an array of issues. I’m so glad we’re taking a two day break.” All of the advice that people give to “take care of yourself” can be used when you volunteer – give your self breaks; no when to stop; find healthy ways to relax and rejuvenate; and be sure to pause, take a deep breathe and remember that you are just as important as those you are helping.

Whether you’re checking in on a neighbor across the street, volunteering in your community with children, youth or elders or flying around the world to help orphaned children in Africa, just DO something and be clear why you’re doing it. Audrey Blumeneau, a teacher and mother of five, originally from Chicago, joined the women who worked at The ROP Center for Street Children. She says, “I originally went to be with my husband, who was asked to contribute to the orphanage work, but once I was there I realized I had come home to a second home. I cared not because they were orphans in a land and culture I found fascinating or because they had experienced such great loss, but because they were just like my kids. We all need the same thing . . . to love, be loved and remembered.”

Rwanda’s Children

Rwanda has made incredible changes and strides in the last 17 years, since the 1994 genocide. Most people who lived in the country previously, would not recognize the advances now made in education, health care, the environment, reconciliation, security and work. They still have a lot to do and have not always had completely fair open elections, but what the government and people have accomplished after having to start from scratch (in just 16 years) is remarkable. A lot of people don’t realize it is also a beautiful country (landscape and people).

I’ve been to Rwanda twice and worked at an orphanage there called the ROP Center for Street Children, which provides shelter, food, water, education, vocational skills and health care to homeless children. There are now over 100 kids at the center (age 5 to 18). It is run entirely by Rwandans, with a sister organization in America called The Rwandan Orphans Project, which helps raise funds to keep the center going. They pay for the water, food, teachers, nurse, clothes, rent, utilities, transportation and some secondary and college costs for the children.

These children are the future of Rwanda, East Africa, the African continent and thus the world. Please consider making a donation to this non-profit organization, which started out taking in children who had been orphaned from the genocide. 100% of the money raised goes directly to the center in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). The administrative costs by the Rwandan Orphans Project in the US are completely done on a volunteer basis. READ MORE

There is a book I put together from stories the children at the center told me. It is called The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales. All of the royalties from its sale go to the Rwandan Orphan’s Project. TAKE A LOOK

Tag Cloud