1 September 2010

Hunger Action Month

Posted in events, food, social justice at 9:11 pm by Tricia

September is Hunger Action Month – go to their web site to get ideas about how to fight hunger in your community, and sign the pledge to say you will take action this month. There are also links where you can find local participation or advocacy events happening during September. For readers in my area, you can get a downloadable PDF calendar with some info about local events direct from Food Gatherers of Washtenaw County. Check it out!


15 January 2010

Help for Haiti

Posted in social justice at 10:04 am by Tricia

A few years ago, we helped build a playground in Costa Rica. This project was run through Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village initiative. It was an outgrowth of a “family build” project the year before, specifically designed to involve families rather than just adults. Friends at our school had been part of that team, and the 10 year old daughter was struck by how the children in the community could only play in the streets. A playground might almost seem like a frivolous initiative, but it wasn’t. The residents in the area had to form a neighborhood association – combining those in Habitat homes and government homes. They helped with the design (for example, they wanted a picnic pavilion) and of course helped with the construction. But a lasting impact will arise from that community association – neighbors working with neighbors to improve their community. And the children have a safe place to play.

Mortar Work

On the last day or two of work, my husband and oldest son worked on the playground’s sign. Even for a playground in an impoverished neighborhood, we had to construct that sign up to earthquake code (see the rebar?). A few months ago I learned from a colleague that Costa Rica no longer qualifies for “developing nation” status when it comes to international aid. In the old-fashioned lingo, it’s no longer third world. (Although my brief stint of online research just now could not confirm this!) To be sure, there is still poverty and need in the country, but as a country, they’ve managed to achieve a certain level of economic development and progress.

Not so in Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Although it has begun to stabilize, the political system has been in a shambles since – I don’t know, forever it seems like. Unemployment is devastatingly high. The Haiti side of the island is 97% deforested. It’s in hurricane territory, and was hit by a couple in the 2008 season. That deforestation? Leads to landslides during hurricanes and tropical storms and maybe even normal rain for all I know.

And now this earthquake. The people, I’m told, are strong and resilient. But how much can one nation bear?

I have a friend in Haiti. She’s a teacher at Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince. Her family is okay. Her house survived – even the cistern is intact. And the school is structurally sound. In fact, the school chapel is serving as a medical clinic, and the playgrounds are providing temporary residence.

But the emotions are raw, the nerves are frayed. With tens of thousands of people dead, some in the streets and others buried under rubble, disease is sure to start spreading soon. Because of the devastation, it is difficult to distribute the aid that is already arriving. The need is great.

Here’s some organizations that are working in Haiti and accepting targeted donations:

A friend of mine is matching donations that her children have made, and then those are being matched by their employer. We don’t have any options for employer matches in our family, but I’m going to match what my kids donate. Can the people of Haiti count on you?

25 October 2007

open source wheelchair design

Posted in social justice at 11:28 pm by Tricia

I regularly listen to the “Geo Quiz” podcast from PRI’s The World radio show. A recent episode focused on wheelchairs in the third world. I learned there is a designer based in Nicaragua who won a MacArthur “genius grant” for his innovative work, designing wheelchairs that can easily maneuver the poor road conditions found in many developing nations. Apparently the designs are much more innovative than in the US, and much more affordable. One key feature is that they use common bicycle parts, so that anyone who can repair a bike (many such people in developing nations!) can repair the wheelchair. They release their wheelchair designs to the public domain rather than protect them by patent – how cool is that?

For more info, listen to the geo quiz and visit the web site for the organization (Whirlwind Wheelchair International). And watch this video to get a really good sense of how much better they are under tricky conditions.