I usually prefer to talk policy rather than politics. I can be quite sarcastic when vexed. Also, I try hard not to let my favorite defense mechanism, cynicism, get the best of me. Today I fail... but I've got to get this off of my chest!
consider if you will... The Landscape Guy, The Garbage Collector, The Construction Worker, The Grocery Cart Collector: All of them work in this heat and only a few of them get two weeks of paid vacation and even fewer get health insurance.
Next consider our Congress people who argue, obfuscate, fly on airplanes, shake a few hands, and sometimes miss a few hours of sleep -- all in climate-controlled conditions, rarely breaking a sweat. They have the best working conditions and only have to take a few steps to get a meal. Yet, they remain an epic failure and have no compunction about taking a month off and leaving 70,000 FAA workers in a lurch - for starters.
Yes, I know it is part of the schedule. Yes, I know the vacation schedule has been this way forever. Yes, I know that the individual congresspeople have no control of the schedule.
Just allow me this whistful thought: I wish I could waste as much time on my job as they do and still be able to take a vacation.
There is a documentary film in the works called Altruistic Arcs which will follow three social entreprenuers and tell their stories. I can't wait to see it as it is completely in my wheelhouse.
From their site:
"In the film we will reveal the lives of these social entrepreneurs who through their own dedication and sheer will changed forever the lives of those they reached out to. Some were trained in one discipline, but when the opportunity arose to help others, reinvented themselves and built an altruistic foundation where before none had existed. Some recognized their abilities and calling very early on and got to work immediately. They watched but never waited until support finally caught up to them. The film will follow the arc of their lives before, during and after their important work in order to fully show the development of each character. We will also highlight the target groups they seek to assist, and learn of the hardships they have overcome, and what challenges lay ahead of them."
Altruistic Arc is currently using Kickstarter to raise funds for the production of the film. Or you can use the paypal link on their site. If you'd like to contribute a buck or two, I know it would be greatly appreciated.
Over the last couple of days, I've had four people ask me the same question. "I don't want to drive all the way down to the food bank. How do I find a local place where I can donate food?" I guess if four people ask me, there may be others who want to know the answer as well.
Food Pantries and Food Banks: What's the Difference?
Food Banks are large, regionalized centers that collect and store food. Generally, food banks to not provide direct services to people who need food. Instead, they distribute food to their "partner agencies" or food pantries.
Food pantries are the local, neighborhood organizations that distribute food directly to people. They really are the boots on the ground in the war against hunger. Food pantries get their food supply from direct donations to them and by purchasing food by the pound from the food bank. The going food bank rate at this time is 15 to 20 cents per pound.
Each food pantry determines its own criteria for who is eligible to recieve food. Some work through referrals from pre-qualified sources. Some will serve walk-ins. Others screen applicants for assistance and others do not. Some are manned by one or two volunteers and open only one day a week while others are well staffed and open daily. Some have storage for fresh food and others can only handle non-perishable items. There is great variety out there and pantries can be quite different. However, they all share the need for donations to do their work.
How to Find A Food Pantry in your Neighborhood
In general, food pantries do not spend money on advertising and many do not have websites. Finding them is kinda like finding a needle in a haystack. In all reality, you could have a food pantry in a local church just a few miles from your house or office and never know it.
Sadly, right now, the easiest way to find local food pantries is to visit your local food bank's website and then find the page that tells you who their "Partner Agencies" are. If you need help finding your local food bank, the Feeding America website has a locator tool. Some food banks don't have websites, so you may have to call them.
Donating to Food Pantries
The best advice I can give you is to call your local pantry. Find out what they need and how they handle donations.
If you really want your dollars to stay in your corner of the world, then monetary donations to your local food pantry are an efficient and cost-effective way to do that. Money you donate can be designated to be used to purchase food from the food bank. At the current rate, $10 will buy 50 to 60 pounds of food which equates to 60 to 75 regular-sized cans of food.
There are many good reasons why some food pantries prefer to receive donated food. Some pantries have difficulty coordinating regular deliveries food banks. Additionally, some do not have enough room to purchase the volume to have them placed on the docket for regular delivery from the food bank. Furthermore, fluctuating demand caused by the loss of an area employer, a local crisis, breaks from school (see a previous post on hungry children), or some sort of disaster also complicates food planning.
Finally, another good reason to donate locally is that keeps resources in your community. You help out your local grocery store by purchasing there and help to keep jobs in the area. The tax you pay on the food you buy locally, much of it goes to local government. You also burn less fuel by keeping it local, which saves money and the environment.
Giving Food Feels Good
Last night, some friends and I staffed a local food pantry. Our volunteer hours enable the food pantry to stay open one night per month so that working families and working single parents having a hard time making ends meet can access some help. I see moms and dads come in stressed, worried and embarrassed. It amazing how a little kindness, compassion, and food can lift a burden just for a little bit. These moms and dads, while still worried, can walk out proud that they have done what they needed do for their kids. It really feels good to have helped and to have offered some respite.
I was just not feeling the creative juices this week. I'm afraid the pollen (and allergy medicine) have my brain in slow-poke mode. So here are some posts I found this week that I really enjoyed. I hope you do too.
“The deep root of failure in our lives is to think, 'Oh how useless and powerless I am.' It is essential to think strongly and forcefully, 'I can do it,' without boasting or fretting.” - Dalai Lama
Often we shrink back from a social ill, an unjustice, and abject suffering all because we tell ourselves a bunch of falsehoods:
That doesn't happen in my community.
I can't change the world.
If I do something I might endanger myself or my family.
The problem is too complex and the simple thing I do won't solve anything.
The list goes on...
The problem is that most times, these things are in your neighborhood, endangering you and your family already and you do change the world anytime you make even the smallest action to alleviate the suffering of a single person.
The eye opener this week is about child sexual trafficking. So before you go down the road of saying, "I can spot a pedophile and it doesn't happen in my neighborhood...let me just offer you some fact-based alternatives:
The average age of child sexual exploitation appears to be 14, but girls as young as 10 and 11 are regularly exploited.
Ignorance is not an excuse. A recent study found that "Most men who commercially sexually exploit adolescent females are not necessarily looking for a female they know to be under 18, but rather are looking to pay for sex with “young” females. Some of these men actively avoid any discussion of the actual age of the “young” female they are requesting, while other men ask for a young adult (e.g., a 19-year-old) apparently without realizing that in doing so they put themselves at extremely high risk for soliciting sex from a female who is actually under 18."
In 2005, the Department of State conducted a world-wide survey and found child marriage to be a concern in 64 out of 182 countries surveyed, with child marriage most common in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia.
In Ethiopia’s Amhara region, about half of all girls are married by age 14 with 95 percent not knowing their husbands before marriage, 85 percent unaware they were to be married, and 70 percent reporting their first sexual initiation within marriage taking place before their first menstrual period, according to a 2004 Population Council survey.
n some areas of northern Nigeria, 45 percent of girls are married by age 15 and 73 percent by age 18, with age gaps between girls and the husbands averaging between 12 and 18 years.
Between half and three-quarters of all girls are married before the age of 18 in the following countries: Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Nepal, according to Demographic Health Survey data.
Child marriage can result in bonded labor or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation, and violence against the victims, according to UNICEF.
Most countries with high rates of child marriage have a legally established minimum age of marriage, yet child marriage persists due to strong traditional norms and the failure to enforce existing laws.
In Afghanistan, where the legal age of marriage for girls is 16 years, 57 percent of marriages involve girls below the age of 16, including girls younger than 10 years, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Investments in girls’ schooling, creating safe community spaces for girls, and programs for skills building for out-of-school girls are all effective and demonstrated strategies for preventing child marriage and creating a pathway to empower girls by addressing conditions of poverty, low status, and norms that contribute to child marriage.
"Child marriage is a massive human rights issue throughout the world, and it's completely indefensible. Do you have a daughter? A sister? A niece? Where should she be in her early teens--in labor or in a classroom? In the last 8 years, 60 million girls in developing countries were married before they turned 18. Each day 25,000 additional young girls become brides. Though the United States spends over $450 million on international development annually, child marriage prevents 50% of girls in developing countries from accessing the programs it supports."
enable the US government to provide assistance, including through multilateral, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent the incidence of child marriage in developing countries and to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women
integrate protection & prevention initiative for underage girls into current programs that receive assistance from the US government
modify the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to make countries who have a child marriage rates above 40% in any regognized geographical area ineligible for assistance from the US.
All summer I have had my Doodle Bug coloring and putting stickers on lunch bags for kids in our area who rely on someone to bring them what is likely their only meal for the day. Poor girl... she's just 2 1/2 and I've already got her doing her part.
Older kids can do stuff too... click here to read about the Lemonade Kid. It is important for kids to learn early that the little things they do make a difference. And it is never to late to learn the important lessons that helping another person can give you.
Since my Doodle Bug knows the Auburn Fight Song and her lovie is orange and blue, perhaps a new goal for her is to make it into the Auburn Villager news for doing something for someone else.
I'd be a fool to think that this is an epiphany of the universe. In fact, I know that if you look for something you will find it. So maybe I'm just feeding my ego, but I'd like to think that I'm just searching to understand how "Girl Power" really works.
With that said, I just found a great article by Mary Welch on CARE, an Atlanta-based humanitarian organization.
Click here to read about how CARE puts women at the center of a number of their community-based intiatives.