Just do what you can
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.'
But instead of leaving, they focused deeply on the intention to help that drew them to Thailand. Three days later, Kate and Steve found themselves in a fishing village north of Phuket that had been ravaged by the waves, losing 40 members and 20 boats. Kate and Steve helped the villagers launch the Waves of Hope Boat Building Project. The latest word is that the village has completed seven new boats and refurbished seven others, with the entire fleet scheduled to be back in the water by the end of August.
Code Pink In Print
IN NOVEMBER 2002, I joined a group of women at the start of a four-month vigil outside the White House. We called ourselves CodePink as a spoof on George Bush's color-coded security system, as a play on the alarm sounded when a child is abducted from a hospital (drawing an analogy to the theft of our children's futures) -- and as a playful way of celebrating the feminine nurturing of life. We couldn't prevent the war in Iraq, but CodePink has touched many lives, with over 100 chapters in this country, others overseas, and a lot of media attention. CodePink has taken groups to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. (Marla Ruzicka, who was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in April, committed herself to bringing attention to the war's civilian casualties after a CodePink trip.) Now CodePink is publishing a book, Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (Inner Ocean, 2005), edited by CodePink co-founders Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin (www.codepinkalert.org). More than 70 contributors (I'm honored to be among them) offer their prescriptions for peace. I can guarantee you that opening it to almost any page will deepen your commitment to peacemaking.