Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

#BarbieSavior is Funny, But Maybe Damaging Too

Barbie doll behind rose stemsLook, I get it. I think the whole #BarbieSavior meme that has taken Instagram by storm is pretty hilarious–pretty dolls posed in the worst possible ways mocking “savior” voluntourism situations, clearly motivated by the plastic needs of the plastic character to assuage her own guilt and show the world how fabulous she is. (The photo in this blog, BTW, is NOT from BarbieSavior…it’s just Barbie)

I get that it’s all cool to be jaded and superior and above it all. Hell, I know lots of folks who make a living at it with professional snarkiness being their trade.

I also wonder if that route isn’t too easy. I wonder if pissing all over the best intentions of others moves us forward in even the slightest way, or if it, as I suspect, demeans and degrades us all, the critics as much as those they criticize. I think it’s brilliant that Savior Barbie has a tribal tattoo of the African continent, and gives her high heel pumps to tiny dolls of color, and puts dreadlocks in her perfect blonde hair. She is the Queen of cultural appropriation and, by herself (and her very astute creator), serves as a terrific cautionary tale…HOWEVER…what happens when you shame the folks that truly ARE making a difference?

Especially with the political process going on right now, I have a fair bit of cynicism exhaustion.

What happens when the NGOs and charitable organizations around the world doing truly meaningful, progressive, transformative work that is generated from WITHIN the communities (not delivered…or dispensed… from without) cannot survive without volunteer efforts?

What happens when the foundations shutter due to lack of interest and it guts the jobs of the locals who were running the programs? All so we can feel holier than thou pointing out how others feel holier than thou?

It’s pretty messed up that our default setting seems to be resignation and negativity and suspicion when we are faced with stories of people trying to do something positive in the world.

Do I sound defensive? I am quite sure I am. AND I firmly believe we can help educate and uncover the multitude of amazing, effective, non-harming ways that people can volunteer that leaves ALL in a better place than they would be without these programs and initiatives.

We can teach people about how to look for shady companies and avoid them. We can help them know the questions to ask of voluntourism organizers. We can illuminate the way to diagnose if a program is generated by the people served, and if it is their genuine wish to have help and how to discern and avoid like the plague those that are band-aids or put locals out of work or exist mainly as feel-good photo opps that do more harm than good.

One sassy college student’s experience with a crappy couple of volunteer ventures she didn’t vet very well can not be extended to the entire world’s volunteer situation, no matter how many people share her blog. She is WRONG, not about her experience, but about making that mean that her very specific and unfortunate circumstances are somehow universal.

My main question: Is that really where you want to put your energy? Does doubting and damning somehow give you something?

I ask because I want to know.

I ask myself.

*and by the way…in addition to being truly funny, the folks at BarbieSavior.com have this great statement on their site:

Together we have over a decade of studying, traveling, and working abroad. While this left us cynical and jaded enough to create Barbie Savior, we know full well that this issue – and these conversations – are so much bigger than us.

We don’t have the answers. This site we hope will become a place where we can pose questions, promote conversation, and try to learn together how to best do better.


Photo: horantheworld | CC License

Do Your Due Diligence – Give Well

coins stacked up in pilesSo many of us are staring the Tax Man down in these last weeks running up to April 15, and one of the deduction categories I am always wishing my wallet would allow me to use more is Charitable Contributions. I was able to donate more in 2015 than in some previous years, but wish I could support every race, walk, dance-a-thin, head shaving event, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and volunteer gig that every one of my friends undertakes as well as the many issues and organizations to which I am already loyal.

When you are donating to a good cause, especially if it is new to you (or one you think you’ve understood for a long time…witness trouble with some of the largest charities in our country and how much of their donated money actually goes toward their mission), do you dig in a  little and find out more about them before you hit the digital PAY button or write your check? Please do–it is easier than ever to get the skinny on charities and non-profits.

One terrific tool to use is the online site GiveWell.com. Give Well is like other charity scoring organizations, but perhaps a bit more faceted and nuanced than the review sites that simply break down dollars toward overhead, administration, and service. Give Well focuses on a more modest number of charities for its examination—the ones they feel are most likely to succeed and best accomplish their mission. Then they take a deep dive and ferret out how an organization does on many levels, not just spending, but how they genuinely impact the world. Their analysis is evidence-based and thoroughly vetted, inclusive of open and transparent conversations with the organization themselves (instead of coming from a secret shopper separate status). Site visits and interviews with stakeholders mean the heart-driven business of a non-profit is not judged like a high schoolers GPA–numbers alone rarely tell the story we care most about–but on real change.

Check out the site, discover something new to engage your passion, and share what you find! We’d love to hear about what fires you up in the comments below.

After a Long Hiatus – Meet the Sheroes

My apologies to readers–it’s been too long since I’ve posted here on my blog. We all get into those frenzied busy states and inadvertently push things to the back burner. Well, I pushed the wrong things back, and I’m sorry that Change by Doing got neglected. My world is no less busy at the moment, but I hope to right my priorities and continue to find ways of inspiring, connecting, and informing. Please use this space as a place of dialog, and send ideas or requests for what you want to see here–I truly love hearing from you.


the staff of Sheroes Hangout in Agra, India, sit in front of mural

Photo: Staff at Shero’s Hangout

SHEROES HANGOUT

In India, where the cruel and inhumane crime of acid attacks is perpetrated against women with frightening regularity and beyond the reach of current laws, a group of breathtakingly powerful survivors is flying against the wind of tradition and bringing new attention to survivors. In India, at least five women are attacked with acid, usually targeting their faces, every week, and it is rare that they get the immediate medical or legal attention required to begin a long and difficult recovery.

Sheroes Hangout is a coffeehouse and cafe based in Agra (where you’ll find the Taj Mahal), where survivors of acid attacks not only proudly eschew veils that would cover their scarred faces, they work tirelessly to empower women and advocate for desperately needed change. The Hangout has a cafe and a growing donation library of books and magazines, a community radio broadcast program, an activism workshop and meeting place, and a handicraft exhibition space and gallery.

Workshops train girls to use computers and social media for change and expanding education and employment opportunities, teach the community of survivors and supporters about legal rights and routes for judicial procedures (acid attacks are not always prosecuted, and are most often perpetrated by family members—fathers, husbands, brothers…), and cultural programs like film screenings, art classes, poetry, and gender issues.

The Sheroes Hangout is an initiative of Stop Acid Attacks and the Chhanv Foundation in New Delhi and just one program of their diligent work to change laws and support survivors. Due to scant access to care and support, most survivors find no hope and live out their lives as outcasts. The Sheroes are changing that in a big, bold way. Consider lending your support here.

Here is a short video with some of the Sheroes:

Help a Lucky Iron Fish Travel the World

iron fish held in hand and over soup potIron deficiency in the diet is a severe problem in many developing nations. Around 3.5 billion people suffer from anemia and iron deficiency—it ranks as the worst diet/nutritional problem (aside from hunger) and it is so easily treated. The kinds of vitamins and pills we commonly give kids as supplements at our breakfast tables are not as affordable or easy to come by in other societies (and if you live anywhere humid at all, you know your kid’s little cartoon-shaped chewables can, very quickly, get super gloopy and unusable).

Here comes the Lucky Iron Fish to the rescue! Looking like a cool Pottery Barn table decoration, this palm-sized fish made of iron is a simple solution to the problem. This project started in Cambodia, and basically, a family takes this metal fish sculpture, drops it into boiling water for ten minutes, and the small amount of trace iron that leeches from it is enough to help fight the deficiency in a family, straight from their normal food source. Pull out the fish, add all the other ingredients you may want for a soup or stew, and the lucky fish has worked magic in your pot.

The fish is a lucky symbol in Cambodia, and as the project spreads, they can create other shapes for this reusable (just rinse and it is ready to go next time, for hundreds of pots) treasure that in each meal can add 75% of each person’s recommended amount of dietary iron. Locally made and hand-packaged, the project also employs locals, many of them recovering survivors of landline injuries. Safe, easy, socially spectacular, and kinda cool to use. Some lemon or other citrus makes the iron, which doesn’t change the flavor of the food, even better absorbed by the body. Restored iron levels increase energy and health, as well as brain power and focus. In Cambodia, the communities where this project is underway have seen more than a 50% decrease in iron deficiency and anemia.

Check them out, donate, watch the video below to learn more, buy a Lucky Iron Fish for yourself and one is donated to family in need, and help put  fish in every pot.

 

How Do We Ensure Sustainable Tourism? TreadRight

1430843_75984981The TreadRight Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to guaranteeing the health of the environment and that the communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. More than $2.5 million has been donated to sustainable tourism projects and partners like WWFConservation International, and The National Trust. The projects they support must meet key criteria:

*Conservation and protection of the environment, wildlife, and cultural heritage sites

*Relief of poverty and the improvement of the conditions of life in socially and economically disadvantaged communities through community involvement in sustainable tourism initiatives

*Promotion of sustainable tourism as a means to achieve economic growth and regeneration

There are four themes in which projects are pursued: Biodiversity, Community, Leadership, and Water. This organization, a joint venture with The Travel Corporation brands, sets the bar high for other travel and hospitality companies to step up their game. A recent new venture is support of the National Geographic Travel World Legacy Awards.

The foundation website even includes a great graphic and 25 tips for traveling responsibly–food for thought from some folks doing it right.

 

 

Welcome to World Turtle Day

117368_4372Today, May 23, is World Turtle Day, so give some love to the shelled wonders of the world. More than one species of sea turtle is endangered, and all of them need us to be caretakers of the seas to better protect the environment they share with so many species. Saving the integrity of oceans saves land masses as well.

Toward that end, and trying to better aqua environments, Greenpeace is championing a proposal for a Global Network of Marine Preserves. These preserves would be protected ocean regions, more than 40 percent of international waters, beyond control of individual governments, but critical for the health and vitality of sea life. The global sanctuary network can prohibit overfishing, mining, and drilling as well as begin to heal regions and populations from climate change and pollution.

As you head into a holiday weekend, send an S.O.S. to world leaders on behalf of turtles everywhere, and all their aquatic neighbors, to protect their homes…and lives.

HAPPY TURTLE DAY!

Light It Up Blue for Autism Awareness Day

LIUB-VERTAt awards shows, on the red carpet everyone is asked “Who are you wearing?” Today, I want to know what color are you wearing? I hope it’s blue. Today, worldwide, we all don blue for Autism Awareness Day. The education and fundraising day, April 2 each year, has, for several years, had international cooperation for the “Light It Up Blue” campaign, where landmarks in cities around the world light blue in the evening. From the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, even the International Space Station will be illuminated with blue lighting to mark the day.

Aside from our indigo t-shirts and porch lights, what does this day really mean? Autism Speaks, the advocacy organization out at the helm of the fight, tells us that 1 in 68 kids will develop autism (the figure is 1 in 42 for boys), and that autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. As we are all hyper-focused on insurance right now, it is interesting to note that a family will spend about $60,000 a year on autism-related expenses, and there is no cure at this time. Being “on the spectrum” of autism means very different things for each individual, and there seem to be many factors that come into play when we try to determine how an individual develops autism. The controversial vaccine theory that got so much attention has not really been borne out by science, but we are learning more every day about pre-natal care, genetics, parental age at conception, premature birth, complications in pregnancy, and more. While we are definitely learning more, we haven’t cracked the case yet—which is why it is so important to keep the bright blue spotlight on the cause, advocate for research funding, and—so crucial—support individuals and families dealing with autism.