Blog Archives

Chance Encounters & Meaningful Gifts

For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share a wonderful email that I recently received from Avdesh Bhardwaj, an Assistant Professor in Delhi. This email made my entire week:

It was not more than a coincidence that I met Mr. Damodar Sahoo, more fondly known as “PAPA” on a train journey from Orissa to New Delhi. The beetle paan-chewing, friendly Papa caught my attention soon after boarding the train as he was reading a book whose title made me think. Soon enough the man had tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was in some sort of discomfort or ill. The enquiry made him smile and he asked me to read a few lines of the book he was reading. The concerned page was well marked. As I read the description of a paan-chewing saint I could gauge his emotions. The Weight of Silence had actually become The Weight of Emotions. As he was having some problems reading at night time I offered him to read it for him. I came to know about your work, Miracle Foundation, Caroline, and Papa. But the Journey ended soon and I could not finish the book. That is a regret.

Papa has sent his good wishes and blessings to all and specially to you. This truly was the most rewarding journey for me. I wish you all success and happiness in life.

Papa with his children

Amazing, isn’t it? This man happened to meet my Papa, a main character in The Weight of Silence, on the long train from Orissa to Delhi – and took the trouble to contact me and write about it. I had tears in my eyes reading his email, and we struck up a correspondence. As it turns out, Avdesh was also inspired by the chance encounter with Papa – in 2001, as he was in his final year of college, Avdesh was caught in the massive earthquake in Gujarat, India that registered 8.0 on the richter scale. The entire hostel that he was living in crumbled to the ground, and Avdesh was crushed in the pile of rubble.

For the next three years he was hospitalized, receiving medical treatment and trying to learn how to walk again. The doctors said he would be lucky to ever walk again – but he did; in his words, “Today I not only walk but dance, play and travel a lot.” He was extremely lucky, for most of his friends and teachers at the site died in the earthquake.

Avdesh went on to tell me that the people who rescued him from the rubble were “economically poor construction workers who we normally don’t pay much attention to.” Avdesh said:

I promised myself never to lose hope, be positive, smile,, enjoy life and help as many people as can in my life without any inhibitions, especially the less fortunate. But somehow in stabilizing my academic and professional career, undertaking research and fulfilling family commitments, things went out of my mind somewhat.

His chance meeting on the train with Papa and coming across my book telling of these amazing children helped remind him – just as they remind me every day. Thank you, Avdesh, for bringing such a smile to my face and reaching out to me. It is, indeed, a small world and I love when the connections grow closer every day.

On another note, now that we are nearing the holidays, I would like to share some meaningful gift ideas. iPods and the latest toys are very nice, but making a real difference in someone’s life? Priceless.

Here are some great gift ideas for the person who has everything – or who really wants to give something:

  • Buy your holiday cards at Scene East. Scene East has partnered with Akanksha, a non-profit organization in India that is dedicated to education of the poorest and most vulnerable children, to bring these beautiful holiday cards to the market. Scene East’s business is designed to share photos of magical places, while raising money to benefit worthy causes such as Akanksha’s work.
  • Gift card for saving the world. Best Buy, Starbucks? Sure, they have gift cards, but it’s not often you get the chance to give a gift card with which someone can change the world! A Global Giving Card is an amazing and unforgettable gift – in denominations starting at $10, the recipient can choose who the gift is donated to from a list of vetted, approved nonprofits doing everything from rescuing victims of child trafficking, to digging clean water wells. The cards are even bio-degradable, giving you even more reason to feel good this holiday!
  • Buy a backpack, mosquito netting or bike for an orphaned child in India. Through the Miracle Foundations “Gifts that Matter” catalog, you can purchase any number of needed items for children living in the Miracle Foundation homes in India, from $25 on up. This is the organization through which I met Papa, and since I got involved with them 5 years ago they have helped hundreds of children receive food, health care, shelter, and education – and most of all, love.
  • Give a gorgeous, handmade cashmere scarf. The nonprofit organization Citta has partnered with Tonic to offer beautiful Sutra pashmina scarves, all hand-made by artisans at the Women’s Center in Orissa, India – and each scarf features Sanskrit words of wisdom from people such as David Bowie, Natalie Merchant and Queen Latifah. Proceeds from the scarves go toward building a school for girls in Jaisalmer, India.
  • Become a Secret Santa for a child in need. One of the best lessons you can teach your children is the gift of giving. Have them round up those toys that have fallen by the wayside that other little boys and girls will be able to use, or take them shopping to buy new toys to donate. Then find the closest toy drive by going to www.secretsanta.org and to find a list of sites where you can drop off those gifts.

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Give the Gift of True Love this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up, the time for celebrating love. As we do so, what better way to show love than to do so toward those who desperately need it. Instead of the boring, traditional Valentine’s ideas, how about one of these unique gift ideas that will show your special someone that you care, not only about him or her but also about the world at large.

Flowers
Were you going to send flowers to your sweetheart this year? These bouquets from Organic Bouquet are not only eco-friendly, but they come with a complimentary vase. Plus, 10% of any purchase benefits school girls in Mozambique.

Jewelry
Nightlight Jewelry is handcrafted in urban Bangkok by women who have escaped the sex trade industry. Jewelry sales offer these women a sustainable income and the freedom to have a livelihood of joy and dignity.

Gift Cards
Send your Valentine a GlobalGiving gift card. Send them online or through the mail, and choose our “Give Love” card design for a special touch. Show your Valentines how much you care by giving them a chance to make a difference.

Give2Asia

Massive flooding in South Asia is affecting the lives of millions. Incessant rains in August in southern Pakistan, northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh have inundated vast tracts of valuable crops and washed out homes, roads, bridges and railways. Torrential rains have claimed hundreds of lives and displacing an estimated 20 million people.

An organization called Give2Asia is doing something about it. The nonprofit has started a disaster recovery fund that works with local groups who are already knowledgeable about their communities. These groups will help rebuild schools, hospitals and homes that have been damaged, provide medical care, and help people recover from the economic setbacks.

In Pakistan, they have identified local health care organizations to provide critical supplies and training to medical staff dealing with outbreaks of disease and malnutrition. In Bangladesh, where entire villages need rebuilding, Give2Asia’s partnership with the Asia Foundation will work with local communities to re-establish core social services, such as schools so that children move ahead with their education as recovery continues. In India, where farm lands have been flooded, Give2Asia is helping farmers reclaim their fields and once again earn income to support their families. In some cases, this may include training farmers on new farming practices so that they can quickly begin to recover.

As Give2Asia celebrates its fifth anniversary, their goal is to have a greater impact in Asia by 2010 by reaching 5,000 new donors and achieving $85 million in new giving.

In addition to emergency and disaster relief efforts, Give2Asia is starting schools for migrant children in Beijing, burn prevention programs in Vietnam, and is launching water education projects in China in collaboration with Starbucks. An innovative charitable giving model in the international field, Give2Asia is reducing the barriers to donor giving overseas.

Founded by The Asia Foundation, Give2Asia helps overcome the common challenges associated with giving overseas by providing a flexible menu of custom giving options. Give2Asia and its overseas program advisors make philanthropy to Asia convenient, accountable, and tax deductible.

For more information about Give2Asia and their work, visit their website at www.give2asia.org

No Child Should Suffer This Fate

Every year, nearly 10 million children under the age of 5 die from completely preventable causes. It doesn’t have to be like this. We have the power to save these children’s lives.

There is a bill in Congress right now that would provide some of the much needed money to save these children, but it’s currently at a standstill. In order to move, the bill desperately needs the political support that people like you and me can bring to bear.

Please send a message to your member of Congress to support the U.S. Commitment to Global Child Survival Act and build support for this desperately needed life-saving bill.

These children die from a variety of causes, from pneumonia to malnutrition and diarrhea. For us, diarrhea is a nuisance. For a child in the developing world, it is a death sentence. In 2007 it is estimated that 1.8 million children will die from dehydration due to diarrhea. In many cases, all that it takes to re-hydrate these children to save their lives is a handful of sugar, a bottle of clean water, and a pinch of salt. Download ONE.org’s pdf about this issue.

Sadly, there is one more ingredient needed to save these children: the will to do it. The Global Child Survival Act is an expression of that will. It would dramatically scale up funding for effective and affordable child and maternal health programs and it would require the government to develop a comprehensive plan for improving children’s health around the world.

Please write both your senators and representative and let them know that you want them to do their part and help move this bill forward.