For the first time this week, I didn't have a cause that was clamoring for my attention. And so, I had the fun of going out to look for one. I was cooking Indian food, thanks to a recipe that was given to me by Anna Camaron of Ladysmith Jams, along with lots of cauliflower. So I went to one of my favorite websites, CharityFocus.org. This is an all-volunteer network that posts daily stories, videos, and conversations about everyday acts of kindness. In Berkeley they operate the Karma Kitchen, distribute Smile cards, and deliver free technical help to NGO's. This is one of their KarmaTube videos:
The nonprofit we've chosen is from their South Asia portal, ProPoor. It's called Door Step School and it's a group of educators who go wherever the children of Mumbai are – in vacant buses, on pavements, in construction sites, or parking lots.
Unlike the irrigation project, Door Step has a US partner through whom tax-deductible donations can be sent. You can learn more at their own website. Checks can be made out to the Maharashtra Foundation.
In addition, we brought our total amount raised for Palestine Flood Relief to $700 — greatly helped by a Westside neighbor inspired to give $500 to the International Relief Fund. You guys are GREAT!
This week I'd like to break with tradition and help someone local. Ken Kimes, who sells exotic mushrooms and sprouts at the Farmer's Market, was in a terrible accident on his farm. He lost his right hand and forearm, and seriously damaged his left. For me, Ken has been an inspiration. He saved my sanity back when I thought no one saw the things that seemed perfectly obvious to me. Every week I went to his political forum, aka mushroom stand, to try out my new theories on him. I came back with references scribbled on my paper bags, and the knowledge that there was a movement out there. The market became my church, largely because of Ken.
On October 1st, at the Pacific Cultural Center, there's going to be a fundraiser and silent auction to help with Ken's medical expenses. I'd like to raise funds to contribute. If you'd like to go with me, or you know someone who might donate to the auction, let me know and I'll send more details. Throughout this, Ken and his wife Sandra have been remarkably positive, and even have said that good has come of it. I'm sincere when I say that it couldn't have happened to a better person.
Both Ken Kimes and Sandra Ward grew up in Southern California. They met in the Los Angeles area, but moved to Santa Cruz in 1980. Together they founded New Natives Farm, a greenhouse-based farm certified by California Certified Organic Farmers in 1983, and located in Corralitos, California. There they tend organic sprouts, including alfalfa, wheat grass, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts, broccoli, and beans.
In addition to managing their farm full time, Kimes and Ward are both outspoken activists dedicated to the sustainable agriculture movement. They are longtime members of California Certified Organic Farmers. Kimes served on the board of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) for many years, and worked for Santa Cruz Trucking, an organic foods distribution company affiliated with the local health food cooperative, Community Foods.
New Natives Farm: http://www.newnatives.com/
For weeks, I've wanted to help Pakistani flood victims. However, the relief organizations that sent me appeals didn't meet my criterion of supporting local, on-the-ground, grassroots NGO's. But when I heard Amy Goodman report on the disparity in aid, I knew I had to do something:
Although the UN has said the Pakistan disaster surpasses the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and this year's Haiti earthquake in scale, global donations are far behind. According to Foreign Policy magazine, an effort to raise money for Pakistan through mobile phone text messages has raised about $10,000, compared to the $31 million raised for Haiti in a similar effort. An average of just $16 has been donated for every Pakistan flood victim, compared to $1,249 for every 2004 tsunami victim and $1,087 for every Haitian earthquake victim.
Finally, an appeal came from Avaaz, a global humanitarian network. Avaaz has been extremely effective with internet petitions. Two very moving accounts are on their site now, one for Russia to end the rape trade and one to save an Iranian woman from being stoned. They operate at a low cost and have given up their tax-exempt status in order to affect policy, not just buy band-aids. So I was pleased to read their relief appeal, sent through the similar US network, MoveOn:
A humanitarian catastrophe of terrifying proportions is unfolding in Pakistan, with a fifth of the country under water, and millions of people homeless and desperately needing assistance. Some relief efforts are underway, but the international response to the mega-disaster has been irresponsibly slow and weak — the UN has urgently appealed for $460 million of vital aid, but just 40% has been delivered. Relief workers warn that without an immediate increase in aid the death toll could sky-rocket.
With the expert advice of leading humanitarian NGOs on the ground, we'll offer donations to trusted local organizations, including: Hirrak Development Centre (HDC) and Participatory Welfare Services (PWS). With these partners on the ground our community will help provide much needed humanitarian aid. 100% of the funds raised will go directly to helping Pakistanis cope with this disaster and strengthen their local systems.
I must not have been the only waiting for an organization I trusted. According to their donation page, they reached their goal of $300,000 in one day. By Sunday, they'd already blown through their new goal of $750,000. By Wednesday, they'd almost reached the new target of $1 million. I'll make our donation online, in the interests of time. If you'd like to do the same, please forward the receipt so we can count it for FitH, and come get food on Friday to show our thanks.
With our matching funds, we'll be sending $450 to the Nicaragua-US Friendship Office. They will be so grateful! This week we'd like to benefit Iraq Veterans Against the War. They're raising funds for the legal defense of Bradley Manning, alleged to have given military records to Wikileaks, including the footage of an Apache helicopter attack on journalists and civilians.
They're also planning a Labor Day retreat for women soldiers, who face high instances of rape and sexual harassment, along with the trauma of war. The leader of this retreat writes about being deployed on a white phosphorous campaign in Fallujah, which killed hundreds of Iraqis. Later she read Baghdad Burning, by an Iraqi woman blogger under the alias of Riverbend. She realized that Riverbend was the same age and lived through Fallujah. That began her ongoing struggle with PTSD and, in her words, she began to regain her humanity.
At the retreat, they'll explore practical ways to pursue ongoing solidarity projects with women in Iraq and Afghanistan. The harsh contrast of their reality makes me so grateful to get together with you, my women of the ‘hood, in our easy and joyful frontyard dinners. May it be so for everyone, between military and Muslims, sisters and soldiers, women and warlords. And may it be soon!
This week I'd like to continue my matching offer to support the Alternative Truth Commission in Honduras. Our friends at Rights Action have just sent out a discerning article on the "official" Truth Commission as an attempt to legitimize a government that was imposed by military coup, who will be in charge of it.
Besides Honduras, there have been several unsettling recent US moves to militarize Latin America. The US Fourth fleet has been redeployed in the Caribbean. Costa Rica, which has had no standing army and had withdrawn from the SOA, will now allow in 7000 US troops. And importantly, Colombia is granting the US access to seven military bases for ten years.
The ALBA nations regard these as threats against their newly-gained sovereignty. Although WikiLeaks has its hands full in the Middle East, the truth is springing leaks all over. The coup plotters left a folder of papers in a hotel bar, which were given to the resistence. The strategy, led by a West Point graduate, involves four million dollars paid to US lobbyists to discredit Zelaya, and shows the foreknowledge of the US ambassador. The papers were revealed by ex-President Zelaya's minister in a radio interview that circulated on the internet. He has since been murdered, but the papers are still at large.
Lastly, an alleged terrorist wanted by Interpol for the 1997 bombings of several Cuban hotels was intercepted trying to enter Venezuela under a false passport. His testimony confirms that a network of "destabilization experts," operating out of Miami and DC, instigated the coup and are attempting the same methods in other countries. The good news is that these tactics are more public than they've ever been, and your support will continue that trend.
It's a great honor that Tom Louden has been asked to be the Executive Secretary of the Commission of Truth. Please help me to support him in this important endeavor. Checks can be made out to the Nicaragua-US Friendship Office.
This week I have a particularly urgent appeal. Since we started FitH, Honduras has been a major focus. The coup resistance movement is holding up under tremendous pressure. But pressure is also being brought to bear in the US. The organization that we funded has dropped its support of Honduras and ousted the people who were critically involved.
These people and their work have been welcomed by another nonprofit, The Nicaragua Friendship Office. It was started by Rita dEscoto, sister of Miguel dEscoto, the Catholic priest and former President of the UN General Assembly. She and her brother are very interested in the Honduran Truth Commission, in which our friend, Tom Louden, has been asked to serve a central role.
I would like to help Tom and his wife Jenny be able to continue their courageous work in Honduras. They have good candidates for accompaniment teams, which the leaders in Honduras need. For every donation given, I'll personally match the amount for this worthy cause. Whatever way Honduras goes, determines how long the struggle will be in all of Latin America.
This week Gardner is on vacation and so I'm trying my hand at pizzas. These once came out looking like cobbler too, so we'll keep the ice cream handy.
It was a hard decision who to benefit this week, with Democracy Now pointing out the lack of progress in Haiti. Everything I heard, however, confirmed that we had made good choices with our money – solid grassroots organizations working for justice. In Honduras, the situation continues to degenerate. Zelaya's minister of defense went on radio to reveal a folder of documents proving US complicity and foreknowledge of the coup. He was assassinated, but the folder remains at large.
Our choice for this week, however, commemorates the end of the World Cup by supporting a UK foundation called Alive & Kicking. Most soccer balls are made in a village in Pakistan, where one of every five children works, and is paid less than a living wage. My friend, Scott James, has a wonderful company called Fair Trade Sports that changes that model for the US. Alive & Kicking, however, makes balls in Africa, by Africans, for Africans. To date they've made 300,000 balls, 200,000 of which have been donated free of charge to African youth. We'd like to make that 200,010.
If you'd like to donate directly, the best way is online, which is how we'll transfer your cash donations. For fun, an interesting debate on the politics of sports between Arun Gupta and Dave Zirin is a Democracy Now web exclusive, called Are Sports Boring?
Last week we raised $200 for Jubilee USA. Special thanks to the anonymous donor who left the $50 bill in the jar. And thanks to Randall and Melie whose strawberry lemonade stand added greatly to the festivities. It was terrific to introduce Barbara Novelli and her partner to our chickens. Afterwards, Beth Regardz and I continued plotting the future of the UniverseCity, while Fatima and Cassandra hatched their own plots. Really fun!
This week we're raising funds for the New Forests Project. For $10, they can ship 5000 tree seeds, or 7 oz, to a farmer in sub-Saharan Africa, along with planting instructions. $100 provides 1000 gallons of drinking water to Central America. $200 sets up a tree nursery and $1000 trains 80 rural farmers in agroforestry, reforestation, and environmental restoration.
Last year, I worked with Pia of New Forests to spotlight a project in Peru where my friend, David Bayer, has planted a forest. I've found them to be very frugal and sensible. For years, they mailed a packet of appropriate seeds to any farmer in the world who requested them. Then, customs officials started charging a fee to irradiate every packet. So now they work with regional distribution centers, which has been a benefit to both.
This week I'd like to support Jubilee USA, which fights for cancellation of third world debts, incurred by illegitimate governments for the purpose of repressing their people. Even after the dictator is gone, the debt remains. Why is it that corporations and banks can dissolve at will, but countries can't? If we change Haiti's name to Xe, would that help? Jubilee was instrumental in freeing Haiti from its debt after the earthquake. They've also introduced a bill to stop vulture funds, which I talk about in this episode of Third Paradigm.
In our first year, we gave away $2500 during the first six months and $5000 during the second. If these numbers seem a little too even to you, yes, I admit it – I do round up when I write the checks. During the rainy season I was known to round $101 up to $200 - I never was good at math. But my math is getting better, thanks to all of you.
Last week we donated $200 to the Center for Victims of Torture. We also took advantage of another opportunity presented by Transition SC – $50 to help Michelle Whizen receive training on climate solutions, which she'll be sharing later with the local community. Michelle, or Ms. Whizen, as she's affectionately known, was one of Veronica's favorite teachers in biology. We're sure she'll make good use of it!
This week we'll continue raising funds for National Torture Awareness Month by sponsoring NRCAT – the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. They're a wonderful organization that's produced the banner I had on my house saying, "Torture Is Wrong." They've been keeping the focus on this issue for almost a decade, and it's not over, I'm ashamed to say. Physicians for Human Rights have also just released "Experiments in Torture" – a white paper demonstrating that the CIA engaged in illegal experiments on detainees abducted after 9/11. Help support those standing up against torture!
This Friday, after FitH, is an event put on by Devin of the Grow Food Party Crew. I'll be going, if anyone would like to drive with me:
Here is a special invitation to come hear one of the most important stories of our time - The Peacemaker Story, told by Jon Young.
The Peacemaker Story is a story of the Hodenosaunee People (Iroquois Confederacy) and is surprisingly a huge part of our lineage in this country. This story presents triumphs of peace from the past and paints a vision for community for the next 200 years.
This is also a chance to check out Jon and consider joining him for one of the Getting Nature Connected weekends he is leading at the Waldorf School. These weekends include both adults' and kids' programs. More at his site.
This school year we've made many new friends and customers. Without FitH I'd have no idea how many incredible people live right in my extended neighborhood. Every Friday has been like a mini-block party. This next year, we'll be looking at ways to extend the concept further. Until then, we'll be taking next week off for Veronica's graduation, soon to be followed by her 18th birthday. Lotsa changes!
Last week we donated $100 to the Monthly Review, which will increase our library. We donated the other $45 to TLC Ranch, who had 300 of their chickens stolen. They were wondering why their egg production was down. This helped them buy 3 ready-to-lay pullets, and with help from their friends, they've been able to replace all 300. Yea for community-supported agriculture. Theft sucks!
June is Torture Awareness Month. It's a tough area to work in, but a group that does an amazing job is The Center for Victims of Torture. Over the past 25 years, they've restored the lives of 18,000 torture survivors, from the Congo to refugees who've come to the US. When I met them a couple of years ago, they'd just launched New Tactics, a collaborative thinktank that promotes strategic thinking in human rights. Their current discussion is on the use of community radio. Heal Torture is another alliance they're part of that shares resources among those helping torture survivors.
There's no more important work anyone could be doing... unless it's ending torture.