How Can You Help?

Just do what you can


| July / August 2005


Today is cold and wet, and though the lilacs are in full bloom, it is hard to believe that spring is possible. By the same token, though I believe we humans can evolve from fear and terror to compassion and courage, the seemingly endless bad news makes its hard to keep the faith. I've drawn hope lately from hearing about people who simply set out to do what they can to fill a need. I'll share a few of those stories, with the conviction that helping others is a potent source of the creative energy we need to meet the challenges of our world.

The Beaders Tale

TWO WOMEN FROM COLORADO, Torkin Wakefield and Ginny Jordan, were visiting a slum in Kampala, Uganda, where refugees from the country's civil war were living in a mud village called the Acholi Quarter. A woman making beads from strips of recycled magazines explained to them that she, like many others, dreamt of finding a market for their simple yet beautiful handiwork. Torkin and Ginny bought a few samples and found that others liked the colorful jewelry as well. They returned to the quarter and gathered 60 beaders, hoping to turn the beads into a local export business. Two years later, there are several hundred families that participate in Bead for Life (www.beadforlife.com). including many beaders who are HIV positive. The collaboration has created scholarships, reduced malaria rates, improved housing, built a new center for the beading business -- and, most important, fostered a hopeful sense of connection within the community and across continents.

Look for their handiwork in our new and improved online store at www.utne.com this fall.

Boats Of Hope

'TWO WEEKS AFTER the tsunami,' Kate Priest recently told me by email, 'my friend Steve Malkenson and I flew to Thailand just on our gut instincts that we could help. Everyone told us not to go.' And for a few days wandering around Bangkok and the tourist haven of Phuket, it seemed their advisors had been right. 'We simply could not connect and were even told that the relief efforts were done,' Kate wrote. 'The only work left was forensics and body identification.'