Notes from Virginia: Love in the Time of Cholera, Air Conditioning, and Basic Human Rights

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At the end of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book Love in the Time of Cholera, Florentino Ariza’s lifelong love is finally reciprocated. Fermina Daza, an aged widow, accepts his invitation to ride a riverboat down the Magdalena River. As owner of the company, he gives her the presidential suite.

The river’s nearly destroyed. Timber that held the bank of the river had been harvested to fuel the ships, to the point where it’s difficult to find any trees along the muddy riverbank. At the end of the trip, fearing the return to her former life, Fermina Daza says, “It will be like dying.” Florentino Ariza, to please his lover, commands the captain to turn around and continue puffing up and down the river. Jolly and obedient, the captain replies, “And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?” Florentino answers, “Forever.” …

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Notes from Iowa: The Downside to Biofuels

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Fully 58 percent of Iowa’s 2010 corn crop was used to make ethanol. So, it is not just “surplus” corn that is going into ethanol, as is claimed by the ethanol industry. Even the livestock industry does not believe the ethanol industry’s claim that this much corn going for ethanol does not affect prices. That is why the livestock commodity groups for hogs, cattle and poultry are all lobbying against ethanol subsidies in Washington, D.C.

A recent Iowa State University analysis indicated that ethanol subsidies are no longer needed to keep the ethanol industry profitable. It’s time to end the $0.45 per gallon ethanol subsidy, which cost taxpayers nearly $6 billion in 2010….

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“I Can’t Walk Away and Leave Malnourished Children Standing There”

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My cousin, David Wasson, knows about childhood nutrition better than most. David is an award-winning chef who spent his career preparing meals for wealthy people and teaching their children to cook. He also taught cooking at a community college in the United States. As he approached retirement, David embarked on a completely new venture that would profoundly change his life. Today, as the Chef and Child Foundation Ambassador to the Philippines, David cooks for children who are as familiar with hunger as most people reading this post are familiar with a full belly.

His work is urgent. With every meal he cooks, he fights to save children’s lives and the health of their brains and bodies….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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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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Haiti on Our Minds

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching three days of news reports streaming from MSN.com and CNN.com. As I sit here in the comfort of a sturdy Midwestern home, I grieve for people I have never known. I watch in frustration as the planes land with supplies, yet reports from the streets are that aid is not reaching those who are most affected and most vulnerable.

What amazes me is the overall calm that has prevailed so far in this desperately poor country, even in the face of a disaster of massive proportions. Men, women, and children alike wait for help that is far too long in coming — in a relatively orderly manner for the most part. Yes, there are outbreaks of violence and looting. But the astonishing thing is how long peace reigned before any trouble began — and that it still reigns still over most of the capital city.

Speaking to an MSN.com camera crew, one young man with a clear American accent said, “I don’t expect you to get it to us immediately. But at least give us something, so we can have courage.” …

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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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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Audio, Blog, Books, Front Page, Poverty, Women

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Women hold up half the sky – Chinese Proverb

Mercy Corps is inviting book clubs and reading groups throughout the nation to read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Their book tells the inspiring stories of brave women who have overcome the most terrible circumstances to set their lives on a bright new path.

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Grameen Bank – “Working toward a Poverty-Free World”

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On October 13, 2006, Professor Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh stepped to the podium in Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The work for which Yunus was being honored had started a financial revolution of sorts in 1976, when he turned the banking industry on its head by giving microloans to poor people. With the success of his initial loans, he founded the Grameen Bank. (The definition of Grameen is rural or village in the Bangla language.)

“We were happy that the world has given recognition, through this prize, that poverty is a threat to peace,” Yunus writes on the Grameen Bank’s website. “Grameen Bank, and the concept and methodology of micro-credit that it has elaborated through its 30 years of work, have contributed to enhancing the chances of peace by reducing poverty. Bangladesh is happy that it could contribute to the world a concept and an institution which can help bring peace to the world”…

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Kiva – “Make a Small Loan, Make a Big Difference”

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When someone with an entrepreneurial vision lives in a developing nation, they often need only a little capital to turn their dreams into reality. Costs are low, relative to the developed world. And a small amount of money — by first world standards — goes a very long way. But even “a little capital” is out of reach when the person has a daily struggle to buy the barest of necessities.

Raising capital for a micro-enterprise can be an insurmountable problem in a third-world country. Entrepreneurs who have nothing but their vision to use as collateral are generally considered a poor risk by institutional investors. The harsh reality is, without an infusion of capital — often as little as US$100 — they must give up their dreams. But with micro-loans through Kiva, entrepreneurs are turning their dreams into income, and lifting themselves and their families out of poverty…

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Heifer International – A Sustainable Solution to Poverty

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“Lifting people out of poverty doesn’t come from the outside in; it’s an inside-out job,” says Christine Volkmer, spokesperson for Heifer International. The organization she represents is known worldwide as having a highly effective method for helping one family at a time to not only survive, but prosper. More important, families helped by Heifer International also commit to share, passing on the benefits they have received…

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Make a Difference in Hunger, One Person or Village at a Time

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When most people I know talk about hunger, we are referring to a rumbling emptiness in our stomachs that makes us look forward to our next meal in a few minutes or, at worst, a few hours. We get hungry, but we are far from starving. Yet I have known plenty of kids whose only meals were the breakfasts and lunches they received at school. I’ve seen hungry people standing in line waiting for a free lunch. This is what hunger looks like in the U.S. and most other industrialized nations…

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Swallowing Your Pride to Put Food in Your Stomach

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I was at the local food bank today, having given a ride to a friend. He’s talented and capable, but temporarily out of work and low on resources in this tough economy. The experience was a painful one for him, and I write this with his reluctant permission. He wishes to be anonymous, he says. He’s embarrassed that he has to avail himself of these life-saving services. He’s not alone….

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