International Women’s Day Event to Celebrate Ugandan Hero

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In an early celebration of International Women’s Day, Blue Planet Green Living is partnering with A GEM of An Idea to host a live and interactive, online forum featuring the subject of this post, Agnes Nyamayarwo, founder of Mulago Positive Women’s Network.

We’re focusing on Agnes — both here and in the online forum — to celebrate her singular accomplishments as a woman of initiative, courage, and strength.

We invite you to join us February 26, 2011 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. EST to speak with Agnes Nyamayarwo live from Uganda via the Internet.

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ReUse Connection – Ideas for Repurposing, Freely Shared

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  Ian Moise is the founder of ReUse Connection, a Facebook page and future website dedicated to finding alternative uses for items or materials people might otherwise throw away. For example, do you ever wonder what to do with used plastic tape dispensers? ReUse Connection readers suggested ideas as varied as making candle holders, using […]

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Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Helps Change Lives through Improved Sanitation

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“There are 2.6 billion people without access to improved sanitation. And, according to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that’s supposed to be halved by the year 2015,” Ian Moise [mo-EEZ] told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL).

Moise is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, who currently consults on a global sanitation project for the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). “Our project is one of the many projects working on expanding access to ‘improved sanitation’ for a target of roughly 1.3 billion people,” he said… (Part 1 of a 2-Part Interview)

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Notes from Canada: Giving Back to Uganda with Love

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I was born a white child in Uganda, East Africa to missionary parents, Velma and David Freeman. When I was 8 years old, our time in Africa came to a sudden and frightening end.

Just three months earlier, my dad had witnessed the brutal killing of our town mayor in Masaka. The mayor had been dragged through the town on the back of a pickup truck, and then a major in the army openly slit his throat as a warning to anyone who might stand against the regime of the ruthless and unpredictable dictator, President Idi Amin. My father was the only white man he could see, along with a few Asians in the crowd.

Our deportation was ordered shortly thereafter. Idi Amin’s soldiers picked up my father late one night and took him to jail. We had 48 hours to leave. Little did I realize at that young age that everything I knew as normal would change forever….

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Jon Hutson Says, “Enough!” to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

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Jonathan Hutson serves as the director of communications for the Enough Project in Washington, D.C. Enough is a part of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. Not long ago, a director of communications would have been confined to print, television, and radio to spread an organization’s message. Today, it’s a whole new game, with social media gaining in prominence as the medium of choice.

Fittingly, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) first became aware of Hutson through Twitter, where WeFollow.com ranks Hutson (@JonHutson) as among the most influential Tweeters on human rights and justice. We asked Hutson to tell us about the Enough Project and how they use social media to further the organization’s critically important international work….

HUTSON: The Enough Project was launched three years ago, and is helping to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. We are calling the U.S. and the international community to action — to witness horrible human rights violations and to take measurable, meaningful action that stops ongoing atrocities and prevents their recurrence.

Here’s the latest example of our work: a witty video by actor/director Brooke Smith and cinematographer Steven Lubensky, called “I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret.” It’s about Congo conflict minerals; it spoofs an iconic Apple ad. Since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof launched the video in a column called “Death by Gadget” in the Sunday, June 27, 2010 edition of The New York Times, this video has gone viral. It’s been covered by Gizmodo, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, ComputerWorld, Planet Green, Elephant Journal, TreeHugger, and CNN International. Please take a look and share it with friends….

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Ecotourists Save the World

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If you could help save wildlife and their habitats from destruction, would you do it? What if it involved traveling to a far-off location to live in relatively primitive conditions, work long hours, and complete difficult, sometimes dangerous, tasks? Oh, and you might have to pay to do it.

Is that your idea of a good time? Then Ecotourists Save the World is a book you’ll want to read.

In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, writer Pamela Brodowsky has compiled an extensive resource of volunteer opportunities to protect wildlife around the world. You’ll find, as the subtitle says, “More Than 300 International Adventures to Conserve, Preserve, and Rehabilitate Wildlife and Habitats.”

In the introduction, Brodowsky writes,

“Did you know … one in three amphibians, nearly half of all turtles and tortoises, one in four mammals, one in five sharks and rays, and one in eight bird species are now considered at risk of extinction? Habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution, and climate change are taking their toll on our world’s species and the places that they inhabit.”

The cool thing is, you can do something about it….

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Full-Circle Learning – Global Partnerships Unlock Potential

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After the 1992 civil unrest in South Central Los Angeles, a small grassroots group began an after-school program to show the children living in the area that diverse members of their community cared about them. Teresa Henkle Langness, who later founded Full-Circle Learning, was among them.

“Over time,” Langness says, “we began to see that what these children needed was to be a part of a community, to be a part of the solution, instead of feeling like victims of society’s ills.”

Langness adds, “When we began to incorporate character themes linked to local and global service within each lesson plan, the students’ scores suddenly began to leap. They became much better students, much better people. They began to teach their parents conflict resolution. Outside organizations in the community began to benefit from their work. Families wanted to replicate the model and began asking us for help in doing so.”

Today, Full-Circle Learning provides a full preschool-through-high school curriculum in 13 nations. Langness told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), “The mission of Full-Circle Learning is to help young people embrace their role as humanitarians and change agents. We do this through educational programs that integrate and expand students’ character strength, academic excellence, creative capacities, and conflict resolution skills.” …

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Fair Trade Connects Local Producers with Global Consumers

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Zulugrass necklaces are at home in both Kenya’s pasturelands and a trendy boutique in Los Angeles. A colorful, coiled group of The Leakey Collection’s Zulugrass™ strands costs $39.95. But what the price tag doesn’t mention is that the woman who cut, dyed, and beaded the native Kenyan grass into this necklace is earning enough money to feed and educate her family for years to come.

Katy and Philip Leakey founded The Leakey Collection™ after a devastating drought a decade ago destroyed the livelihoods of their neighbors in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. As the landscape became charred and depleted, the community’s men moved north to find grazing grounds for their cattle, and the women and children were left behind with no source of income….

Recently, Philip and Katy visited one of these retail outlets — Zero Minus Plus in Santa Monica, California — to discuss the local impact of buying fair trade products. “Fair trade is a response to globalization,” Philip said. “Several decades ago, people produced [goods] for their local markets. With the internationalization of markets, many producers lost their buyers.” Fair trade is a market-based attempt to connect these producers with their new, global consumers, focusing on ethical and sustainable business practices….

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Industrial Overfishing Causes Food Insecurity in Uganda

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“Fishing has almost collapsed in Uganda, especially Lake Victoria,” said Seremos Kamuturaki, Executive Director of Uganda Fisheries & Fish Conservation (UFFCA). “The stock has dwindled tremendously, as evidenced by the fishermen’s small daily catches. This has resulted in very low incomes and a food-insecure fishing community. The people have nothing to eat.”

While visiting in the United States, Kamuturaki explained the dire situation facing his nation in an interview with Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL). He was on a mission to ask for public support from the US, Canada, and the EU in boycotting Nile perch in order to save the livelihoods of local Ugandan fishermen and their families….

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Computer Recycling – The Downside of Upgrading

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In an era when prices for goods are escalating while product quality seems to be decreasing (“they don’t make ‘em like they used to”), electronics equipment is one bright spot on the consumer landscape. The products keep improving, and the prices keep dropping. That flash drive you’re carrying is about the size of a stick of gum, yet it has quadruple the storage capacity of the laptop you were using on the job ten years ago. With all these advancements in the computer arena, why not upgrade?

The downside of upgrading is disposing of all that old equipment. You can’t sell it, and you can’t give it away. Your local charities and schools won’t accept electronics donations — you’ve checked. So you make the environmentally responsible decision to recycle. Congratulations, you’re living green.

Or are you?

What if you knew that the obsolete cellphones, TVs, and computers you just recycled with a clear conscience are on their way to a “burn village” in China? …

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Brooklyn Free School Plans Service Learning Project in Tanzania

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Imagine you’re attending a public school where you can determine what you will study based on your interests. Imagine planning a trip that you will take with your classmates, teachers, and parent volunteers half a world away. Now imagine that you are only six years old.

Students at the Brooklyn Free School in Clinton Hill (Brooklyn), New York, are experiencing a very different kind of education — one that teaches independence and responsibility, as well as academics, art, and all other subjects. In a few weeks, 11 students, ages 6 to 17, and 13 adults will be traveling to Tanzania on a remarkable service learning field trip — one that the students helped to plan and fund….

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Travel for Change Brings Fair-Trade Cultural Tourism to Tanzania

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Soon after University of Iowa senior Stephanie Enloe graduates in December, she will be on a plane to Tanzania. Enloe, 22, is the director of sustainable projects for Travel for Change International, a small group of committed volunteers who are building an eco-lodge near Njombe, Tanzania. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) met with Enloe to find out what makes Travel for Change different from other travel venues serving visitors to Tanzania. — Publisher

ENLOE: The term for what we’re doing at Travel for Change is “fair-trade cultural tourism.” In East Africa, quite often, tourist initiatives are foreign-owned — the hotels, resorts, safari companies, and climbing companies. This is the case in a lot of developing countries. Travel venues and services are foreign-owned and really expensive. People go over there thinking that they’re getting an “African experience.” They pay huge amounts of money, which goes to foreign bank accounts and is not even remotely beneficial to the people in the area.

The first goal of our organization is to create a community-owned travel initiative, where, once the business model is intact and sustaining itself, it passes into community hands….

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Notes from Namibia — Waiting for Elephants

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As a Peace Corps Volunteer working in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in Namibia, it never occurred to me I would be intimately involved in human-wildlife conflict: I consider having to wait 40 minutes for elephants to cross the road before driving the last hundred yards to our campsite pretty intimate.

But does this really come under the heading of human-wildlife conflict? Not for me anyway! I found it terribly exciting and only lamented the fact that I couldn’t get a really good photo through the windshield of our Land Rover.

It is sobering, though, to realize that year after year, people where I work lose not only crops but sometimes their lives to wildlife. …

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Kami Lee, Contributing Writer

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Africa, Kami Lee, Namibia, Peace Corps

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Before joining the Peace Corps, Kami Lee lived in Guatemala for more than 30 years, where she married and raised two kids. She was an independent consultant, working with development agencies and schools. She also did community organizing work. …

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The Next Right Thing – Saving Children’s Lives, One at a Time

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In Cote d’Ivoire, on September 28, a child entered the world with a cleft palate so severe that he cannot nurse. He cannot eat. If he is to live, he must have surgery. The newborn is named Leandre. He cannot be helped in his home country. But he can be helped in the United States — if he can get here in time.

Tiny Leandre has a cleft so severe he cannot eat. Photo: Courtesy Strongheart Group
Tiny Leandre has a cleft so severe he cannot eat. Photo: Courtesy Strongheart Group

Half a world away, Todd Grinnell thinks about Leandre every day.

Grinnell is just one person. He can’t save the world all by himself. But he is making an impact, one child at a time, by volunteering with the Next Right Thing (NRT). NRT is a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Strongheart Group, founded by Cori Stern. Through his work with NRT, Grinnell helps bring hope for a normal life to impoverished children who have disfiguring or life-threatening conditions. One of those children is Leandre.

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Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa by Ande and Richter

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Open to any page of Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa, and you’ll find haunting photos and text that will either make you weep for, laugh with, or give applause to the children who are profiled here.

The story of one tiny girl, whose image flees across the page, gives a new perspective on the word “hardship,” as we experience it in the West. Author Ruthann Richter writes, “Two-year-old Mary Maishon was near death when she was found with two other children living under a piece of cardboard and plastic. Her limbs were skeletal, bent from lack of nutrition, and she was barely able to sit up. She didn’t speak at all.”

In a later photo, taken after she was restored to health through loving kindness and the generosity of strangers, tiny Mary beams at the camera, full of life and joy. Over a period of many months, photographer Karen Ande has captured the child’s journey from the brink of death to the beginning of a hopeful future…

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The Leakey Collection – Making “Something from Nothing” Creates Sustainability for Maasai Families

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Under the shade of a small stand of acacia trees, more than a dozen Maasai women are laughing, talking, and singing. Their brightly colored dresses create a cheerful contrast with the buff grass beneath them. Nearby, their children run and play together while the women string colored beads cut from strips of Zulugrass.

The result of their labor is both versatile and lovely — necklaces, bracelets, belts, and earrings in a rainbow of colors. Each piece is made primarily of natural materials harvested sustainably from local resources. The jewelry they make will be sold by the Leakey Collection in more than 20 countries around the world…

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Namibian Research Project Leads to Unforgettable Adventure

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When Elsita Kiekebusch agreed to conduct an environmental awareness campaign for Integrated Environmental Consultants Namibia (IECN), she expected to face challenges. After all, the Namibian landscape can be harsh and inhospitable at times, and she would be driving across some of the most remote and desolate areas of the nation. While the results of her survey proved unspectacular, the journey itself contained surprises that made it an unforgettable adventure.

Miriam Kashia, international editor for Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), interviewed Kiekenbusch by email to find out about both her experiences and the work that sent the young woman on her remarkable journey.

Washed out roads and flash floods challenged Kieckenbush and colleagues…

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Miriam Kashia, International Editor/Contributing Writer

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For 18 years, Miriam Kashia worked as a psychotherapist in private practice. She also has a long history of doing social justice volunteer work. In 2005, Miriam departed Iowa for Namibia, where she served two years in the Peace Corps. While in Namibia, she was a community health worker with orphans and vulnerable children in a rural area….

Miriam recently took on another volunteer position as Blue Planet Green Living’s international editor. She is also a contributing writer, when she has time between her extensive volunteer and work activities.

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Seeking Sustainability in a Harsh and Beautiful Land

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Miriam Kashia, a Peace Corps volunteer who returned from Namibia one year ago, recently spoke with Blue Planet Green Living about her experience. What follows is Part 2 of a two-part interview.

BPGL: I’ve heard, over the years, about problems with poaching of African game. Is that an issue in Namibia?

KASHIA: In almost all African countries, there’s been a lot of poaching of wild animals. And most animals now only live in the game parks. There are very few left just roaming wild. There are still many varieties of antelope and, depending on where you are, a few others. But most of the more exotic animals now live in game parks or on game farms, actually. When I say farm, I’m talking about what we would call a ranch. Because it’s a desert, it takes thousands of hectares to support their livestock of goats, sheep, cattle, and wild animals.

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