Monthly Archives: November 2009
For today’s Good News Wednesday, I wanted to share a fun, uplifting story that I recently read from a Washington Post writer. The article described a program in one of the poorest areas of India, the village of Pannithittu, that is really amazing to me in its potential to open up the world to kids who might not have the possibility to dream very big otherwise.
In this seaside village, the children of farmers and fishermen aspire to become something that their impoverished parents never thought possible: astronauts.
Through community-based programs, India’s space agency is partnering with schools in rural areas such as this one, helping to teach students about space exploration and cutting-edge technology.
The agency is also training thousands of young scientists and, in 2012, will open the nation’s first astronaut-training center in the southern city of Bangalore.
“I want to be prepared in space sciences so I can go to the moon when India picks its astronauts,” said Lakshmi Kannan, 15, pushing her long braids out of her face and clutching her science textbook.
For today’s Good News Wednesday, I wanted to report on the beautiful “Miracle Under the Stars” party last night, for the Miracle Foundation. Held at the incredible home of Steve Hicks and Donna Stockton-Hicks, the party enjoyed a huge turn-out and was a celebration of the organization’s accomplishments, as well as an unveiling of a 3-year plan and fundraising to make that happen.
Since I became involved with the Miracle Foundation five years ago, I have watched it grow from a struggling little one-woman enterprise, with no staff and just a handful of dedicated volunteers, to an organization that is still small, yet has staff, an incredible Board of Directors, and enough backing to be supporting 500 children in four homes in Northeast India.
Last night at the party, I looked around at some of the high-profile guests in attendance, and the sheer number of people in attendance, and marveled at how far Caroline Boudreaux’s passion and dedication has brought her for these kids.
Since the night she accidentally stumbled upon her first orphanage in Orissa, India, and filthy toddler Sibani fell asleep in her lap, Caroline has gone from a woman who turned her successful corporate life upside down to single-handedly try to affect change for these kids; to the woman who spoke last night to a group of dedicated and influential supporters with the utmost conviction that another miracle will happen – that she will raise 5.6 million dollars for the “1000 Day” plan that involves building more children’s villages so that more children live in a good home, receive medical care and nutritious meals, and be fully educated.
As Caroline pointed out last night, no gift is too big or too small to make an enormous difference. From $25 so a child can have books for school, to $10,000 to sponsor an entire cottage to be built that will house 10 children and their housemother – Caroline’s drive and dedication to devoting her entire life to a better future for these children are undeniable.
I’m proud to support such a woman and such an organization – I have seen the work first-hand myself, many times. It was what inspired me to write the book, The Weight of Silence. I applaud how far the Miracle Foundation has come, and I look forward to seeing these new homes built and hundreds more children receive the family and support system that they currently lack.
Today is Children’s Day in India; yet for 25 million Indian children, there is no cause for celebration. Amidst their country’s growing prosperity, these 25 million children live without parents, in orphanages or on the streets where they are vulnerable to abuse, child labor, trafficking, malnutrition and disease. For these young people, Children’s Day is simply another day to survive.
Close to four million more children are joining their ranks each year, and India is home to the world’s largest population of AIDS orphans, at approximately two million. According to UNICEF, one of every three of the world’s malnourished children lives in India, and about 50% of childhood deaths in the country are attributed to malnutrition or starvation. Save The Children found that more than 400,000 children each year die within the first 24 hours of life in India.
While the rest of the world celebrates United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) from November 14-21, these children have lost their rights and indeed, even their voices. UNICEF defines a child as “invisible” when he lacks an environment that protects him from violence, abuse and exploitation; goes without basic necessities such as adequate food, health care and schooling; and is neglected by the state.
The UNCRC is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, and the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not.
However, twenty years later, India has fallen far short of meeting the rights of these children. So, what can you do to help ensure their rights, and prevent more children from falling through the cracks?
- You can sign a petition for the United States to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S. and Somalia are the only two countries in the world who have failed to do so.
UNICEF has some other great resources for ways to make a difference:
- If you are a parent, teacher, social worker or other professional working with children, raise awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child among children.
- If you are a member or employee of an organization working for children’s rights, raise awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, research and document governmental actions and policies and involve communities in promoting and protecting children’s rights.
- If you are a member of the media, promote knowledge and understanding of children’s rights and provide a forum for children’s participation in society.
- If you are a parliamentarian, ensure that all existing and new legislation and judicial practice is compatible with your country’s international obligations, monitor governments’ actions, policies and budgets and involve the community—including children—in relevant decisionmaking.
You may also be interested in reading this beautiful essay from an Indian writer (and Save The Children photographer), who recounts how when growing up, Children’s Day meant sweets and fun – and how only much later, did she realize the struggles that many other children faced simply to survive.
Together, we can all get involved to make sure that all children have their needs met – and to give them that most basic of all things that each one deserves: a childhood.
For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share a wonderful story about an artist, a journey, and the incredible organization that came from them. I’m talking about Michael Daube and his amazing story, which I’ve shared before.
In the late 80s, New Jersey-based artist Michael Daube was backpacking around India. In Calcutta, two small children approached him on the street, begging for money. Michael began talking with them, and soon the children had invited him to accompany them to the place where they had lunch every day.
Michael and the children arrived at a Catholic charity where dozens of children were awaiting their lunch. Michael asked one of the sisters if he could volunteer or help in some way; the nun told him that he better talk to the sister in charge, and led him to another room to wait.
Into the room walked Mother Theresa – whom Michael had never even heard of at the time.
Flash-forward a few years: Michael is back in New Jersey working as an artist, and still thinking about those kids in India. One day he goes dumpster diving for sculpture materials, when he discovers amongst the trash a drawing by legendary British artist David Hockney. This was the watershed moment he had been waiting for. Michael sold the drawing, and in 1997, used the money — along with a lot of travel, determination, inspiration and hard work — to found Citta, an organization dedicated to boost the education, health care and economic prospects of some of the most economically disadvantaged people in the world. Citta currently operates hospitals, schools, orphanages and women’s centers in India, Nepal and Mexico.
Today, Michael and Citta have a great new venture to raise funds and awareness, and increase the work being done by Citta. Tonic, a website focused on the good that happens each day in neighborhoods all around the world, is hoping to spread Citta’s message of help and hope through a new partnership. Sūtra Scarves are hand-made, beautiful cashmere scarves that feature words of wisdom, strength and inspiration. Each piece includes embroidered Sanskrit translations of words chosen by creative powerhouses including Natalie Merchant, David Bowie, Queen Latifah and Scarlett Johansson — making them as meaningful as they are luxurious.
The scarves are works of art unto themselves and are knit and embroidered by the artisans at the Women’s Center in Orissa, India, providing the means for locals to empower and help themselves. Exclusively on Tonic, a portion of the proceeds from each scarf goes to help make the next Citta dream a reality.The goal is to raise funds toward the $65,000 needed for Citta to build a girls’ school in Jaisalmir, India. Read the full article on Tonic here.
So, just in time for your holiday shopping – buy an amazing, one-of-a-kind cashmere scarf – and feel great about helping to empower women and children at the same time. Namaste!