Good People Doing Good Things – Kids

“The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.”  – William James, Philosopher & Psychologist

These days we often look around at the chaos of the world and ask ourselves, “what is the world coming to?”  On a daily basis we are exposed to stories about the evil of mankind, man’s inhumanity to man, and we wonder what future generations will be like.  Some days it seems as if humanity and compassion are destined to become a thing of the past.  So when a story about a young person doing good things crossed my path, I was encouraged and went in search of more.  Today’s post is but a small sampling of what I found, and I am encouraged … I hope you will be too.


Wed-Ponce-3Thomas Ponce is sixteen years old and already has a number of projects under his belt.  He is the founder of Lobby For Animals, the Coordinator for Fin Free FL, and founder of Harley’s Home, which is used as his school-based animal rights club. A vegetarian at age of 4, he began writing about animal rights at the age of 5.  Soon after, Thomas’s parents realized that his advocacy for animals was not a phase, but a way of life.

“I feel that it is our responsibility as both citizens and human beings to use our minds, hearts and voices to speak up against the injustices we see in the world.”

Somebody raised this kid right! There is so much to say about young Mr. Ponce, and he has done so much in his short lifetime, that I cannot possibly cover all his good works here.

At age 12, he was awarded a $1,000 grant by The Pollination Project  , an organization that makes seed grants to individuals who seek to spread compassion in their communities and in the world for the benefit of all. With help from his mentor, animal rights attorney Jessica Astrof, Thomas launched Lobby for Animals,  an on line lobbying and education resource for animal rights activists to come together and make their voices heard. Take a minute to visit the website … it is extremely well-done and contains tons of information, not only about animal rights, but also about climate change and other issues affecting our world today.

Wed-Ponce-2“I am starting the project because I am passionate about protecting animal rights. I am also just as passionate about educating as many people as I can about ways that they can make a difference in their own lives, as well as in the lives of the countless animals that are suffering on factory farms, in laboratories, and in animal entertainment. I know that this is the purpose of my life. I am here to make a difference, and I won’t stop until I do. I know this project will be a success because I will make it a success.”

Thomas’ other two projects, Fin Free FL and Harley’s Home are equally admirable, though on a slightly smaller scale.  This kid is 16 … just 16 years old … and look what he has accomplished in so few years!  He puts me to shame!  I cannot even begin to imagine the mark he will have made on this world by the time he is 30!

To read more about young Thomas, check out Thomas Ponce: On Behalf of All Living Beings


Wed-dresses-BaileyFour years ago, Bailey Chance’s grandmother, Nancy Geren, taught her then 9-year-old granddaughter to sew.  Little did she know how Bailey would turn her newfound skill into something for the benefit of others.  In the four years since learning to sew, Bailey has sewn more than 100 dresses … but not for herself.  She has made the dresses and donated them all to an organization called Dress a Girl Around the World, a part of non-profit Hope 4 Women International.  The dresses Bailey makes will go to places like Haiti, where girls have survived natural disasters and lost everything. The organization brings them hope. “Their goal is to help girls in poverty all around the world. They work with 82 different countries,” said Bailey.

Wed-dresses-1Last year, Bailey made hospice baskets with spa cloths, bath salts and soap, and gave them to nurses and patients at a local hospice.  Now 13 years of age, Bailey wants to inspire other young people to give of themselves: “ … no matter how young you are, you can change the world a little at a time. You don’t have to do it big – that no matter how small, you’re always helping someone.”


13-year-old Erin Byrnes of Syracuse, New York, had worked hard collecting cans and bottles for months, and finally she had earned $200 for her efforts.  What did she do with her earnings?  She bought 60 tickets for the annual Joseph’s House car raffle.  Joseph’s House is a home that offers mothers and pregnant women a place where they can live, raise their children and get parenting help. The goal of the home is to prevent abortions by giving women and children a safe place to live.

Wed-erin-SUVSo on the night of the raffle, with her 60 tickets out of the 26,000 sold, the winning ticket was announced and … WOW … Erin won a completely loaded, brand-new Chevrolet Tahoe, valued at $70,000!  Now what, you may ask, does a 13-year-old do with an SUV?  She donates it right back to Joseph’s House, of course!  That same night, Erin also received an award for her volunteer work at Joseph’s House.  Every Thursday night, she goes there to take care of the babies and do chores around the rambling house where the women and children live.

Wed-Erin-ByrnesThough Erin’s parents, with five other children and an older model car, could have used the SUV, they told her it was entirely her choice and they supported her decision. Great parents raise great kids, yes? For her next project, Erin wants to raise more money to buy Christmas presents for the moms at Joseph’s House.


Last August, 9-year-old Emma Burkhart of Durant, Oklahoma, just happened to receive two of the exact same blanket as birthday presents.  It happens … and blankets are pretty useful things overall … I have 3 or 4 on my bed.  But Emma decided that one such blanket was enough, and she gave the other away to a needy child.  Then she thought about all the needy children in her community and with a bit of help from her mother, started the Keep Kids Warm Blanket Drive. By Christmas, Emma and friends had collected some 200 blankets that went to three local organizations — Families Feeding Families Christmas Program, Adopt-a-Block Program and Student Assistance Program — and were distributed to kids who needed them.

Wed-blanket-EmmaB


These are just a few of the many kids who are making small contributions, granted, but they are small people without many resources.  What they are doing, though, is proving that their hearts are in the right place, and I am predicting that each of these young people will grow up to be the kind of caring, giving people this world needs more of.  I was deeply appreciative and inspired by each of these stories, and even more so by the fact that as I traveled through the Internet in search of them, I came across so many inspiring stories of kids who are giving and caring that it was difficult to choose only a few.  I think the moral of this post, if it must have one, is that even those who have very little can make a big difference in the world.  And there are some awesome kids out there!

Good People Doing Good Things – Dr. Teri DeLane

Sometimes the best help a person in need can get comes from someone who has “been there, done that”.  Those are the people who truly understand what you are going through, whether it is the death of a loved one, a divorce, or drug addiction.  Enter Dr. Teri DeLane.  Let us travel back to the year 1967, for that is where Dr. DeLane’s remarkable journey began.

13-year-old Teri came from an abusive, violent, drug-addicted family in Las Vegas, and in the summer of 1967 she and a friend decided to hitchhike up to San Francisco to participate in Summer of Love.  For those too young to remember, Summer of Love was the convergance of some 100,000 young hippies on the San Francisco neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury that summer of 1967. Teri spent much of the summer just hanging out in the area, staying with one person or another, until eventually she contracted pneumonia and ended up back in Vegas, By age 14, she was using heroin, running the streets, dropped out of school, and spent time in and out of juvenile detention centers.  When she was 16, she spent a year in a youth prison, and by age 20 she had overdosed three times.

And then Teri discovered Delancey Street, the renowned San Francisco-based self-help program for drug addicts and ex-offenders. Teri entered Delancey Street Foundation in the early 1970s as a teenage prostitute, drug addict and school drop-out. Teri learned more than how to stop using drugs at Delancey Street.  She learned about being part of community and how to trust. “The Delancey Street Foundation saved my life by surrounding me with people who would not allow me to fail. The process is taking a person and giving them the tools necessary to live by, thrive by, to grow, to push you to your best potential, to pull out your strengths instead of always concentrating on your weaknesses,” she said.

Wed-DeLane-2Dr. DeLane would ultimately not only finish high school, but go on to earn two Master’s degrees and a doctorate in clinical psychology. It was while working on the doctorate that she became involved with running and developing programs for incarcerated men and women that were offshoots of the Delancey Street program. Then came a chance to work with a juvenile justice reform program as an advisor, and Teri knew she had found her calling. ”My heart and soul has always been youth because I was someone that got it and I desperately wanted to have an impact on changing kids.  Because I know that if you get in early and really work on them and help them learn to trust, they can change,” she said.

In 1998, Teri DeLane founded the Life Learning Academy, a non-residential San Francisco Unified School District charter school, based on the Delancey Street Foundation principles, that serves the city’s highest-risk, highest-need students. The school tracks a 99% graduation rate with 85% of the students going on to college.  The kids that do so well here are the kids with histories of school failure, truancy, arrest and substance abuse.  The ones that traditional school settings can’t provide for. The ones that would otherwise end up dead or in prison in a few short years.

“The idea about developing this school came up when Mayor Willie Brown contacted Delancey Street because the juvenile justice system in San Francisco was falling apart.”

DeLane incorporated practices of the Delancey Street program that could be integrated into a school environment:  creating community, engagement, leadership, dress code and working toward rewards.

And she trains her teachers and staff.  “It takes training to help people understand the complexity of teenagers.  The way to engage them is a push and pull process.  You give them a little and you take a little.  I train the staff to teach the kids how to think about their thinking so they can tune in and help them understand that have control of themselves, but it takes a long time to change that.  The kids are so engrossed in negative thinking and believing that they are failures.  What you need to know about teenagers is that they push against structure and crave it at the same time.”

Delane knows the background of each student and shares that with the staff.  Taking into account a student’s home environment, or even lack thereof, is key to understanding the behavioral issues that some of the students may have.  Even so, the Life Learning Academy does not rely on counseling and has no counselors on staff.  “We don’t need them,” she says, and recalls her own experience as an at-risk student in a traditional school system.  “I was sent to counseling because I was acting out in school.  No one said, “Wow, I get it.  Her environment and her family are complete disasters.  Now wonder she is angry, no wonder she is fighting.”  It wasn’t me that had the disorder really; it was the family system.”

“The way I changed wasn’t through traditional therapy.  It was by coming into an organization with people that helped me find my strengths, who yelled at me about the things that were going to get me in trouble and who kept me moving forward,” she said.  “Because the kids keep having to go back into their family environments I want to teach them tools to make them stronger and not take them back through their history.  Not to open them up but to empower them.  They may go home to a horrible environment, but they spend a lot of their waking hours in a positive, fun, exciting place.  Kids know that they can come in in the morning, be in a bad mood and people aren’t going to be on them and we will notice they are in a bad mood.”

Students are expected to take part in community service projects, internships and even to pursue part-time jobs.  “What we do at the school is a circle around the kids with a number of things that have to be included in their lives in order for them to have a full life:  education, a job, having money and a portion of the circle has to be learning how to give back,” she said.  “I teach that the way you get is by giving.  Not by sitting around talking about your problems. We don’t stay stuck in our past.  What we do is work through it, let it go and move on.”

All the students know Delane’s background, see what she has accomplished and witness her giving back every day.  And they know that the way she moved on from a troubled life is what they are learning at Life Learning Academy.  That realization allows trust to gain its foothold.

“I think I am really lucky because I have never forgotten where I come from. And as a result, I have gratitude to the ends of the earth because there is no better feeling in the world than watching kids become part of this community and start thriving and growing.”

Nobody can know how many lives Dr. DeLane has saved, how many she has kept from a lifetime of drug-addiction, prison, homelessness, but I suspect the number is high. Teri DeLane is truly an example of someone who has given back … and keeps on giving.  Two thumbs up to Dr. Teri DeLane!

Good People Doing Good Things – Helping Hands

Good morning friends!  I had only begun this post when the news flash came across my screen that FBI Director James Comey had been fired, making it a bit tough to concentrate on good deeds. But ever mindful that readers of this blog look forward to this Wednesday morning feature, I soon came back to it and am pleased to have a couple of people that I think you will tip your hats to after you read their stories.  The first was a carryover from last week when I ran short of time and space on my “pay it forward” piece.

wed-peanuts


Her name is Jessica Mayfield, and she used to be a nurse.  To many, she is now a saviour, an angel.  In 2014, Ms. Mayfield was serving as a nurse on a missionary trip to Tanzania.  While playing basketball with some local boys, she had an epiphany that she was meant to be more, to do more, and when she returned to her home city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, she quit her job as a nurse and got down to business helping people.  Jessica started a non-profit called Neigh’tions,  focused on helping refugees fleeing persecution.

At the time Jessica started Neigh’tions, there were 86 refugees living in Chattanooga, and she came to think of them all as family, and vice versa.  A young man named Adam was one of the first refugees she helped.  “Sometimes she’s like my mom, sometimes she’s like my sister, a friend, she means a lot to me.”

Wed-Mayfirld.jpg

Mayfield watching some of the kids she has helped

“There’s a lot of prejudice in our area, and just in our culture and fear, and so a lot of what God has called me to do, is to break some of those barriers and walls to educate people on the reality of the challenges they face,” said Ms. Mayfield.  Still not convinced she was doing all she could, she recently went to Iraq, where she served as an emergency nurse in a makeshift hospital in Mosul. She says more than 30,000 people are waiting for a home.

Neigh’tions helps refugees in a number of ways, including English classes, and matching up local citizens with families in need of a mentor during their transition to society in their new country.  While so many are advocating for banning and deporting refugees, it warms the heart to know there are people like Jessica Mayfield who just want to help them find their way in the world.

Last week, Jessica became a Pay It Forward prize recipient and won $500.  Asked what she would do with the money, she replied, “Oh! there’s been a program that’s been on my heart for the last few months, developing a program for women and children, specifically to address trauma,” said Mayfield.  Not a new sweater or pair of boots, not a new Cuisinart blender nor a trip to a spa … something to help others.  Small things, helping just a few people at a time, but they add up and Ms. Mayfield is definitely leaving her mark in the world.


The preceding story was about one person helping many.  The next story is about many people … 700, in fact … helping to save … a river!


For decades the Kuttemperoor river in Alappuzha, India, slowly choked under the weight of rampant illegal sand mining and construction sites that dumped tons of sewage on its once-pristine banks. Fish and aquatic life were completely wiped out.

Wed-river-India.jpg

Before …

Kuttemperoor is a small tributary that connects the Pambha and Achankoil rivers but is crucial for the villagers in this region where water sources are increasingly polluted. “When water scarcity turned unbearable, we decided to revive the river. Initially many discouraged us saying it was a mere waste of money and energy. But we proved them all wrong,” said Budhanoor panchayat president P Viswambhara Panicker.

Tired of waiting for the government to act, and suffering from a drought, the villagers took matters into their own hands.  They first removed weeds and then plastic that was lodged solidly in the river bed. The next step was to dredge the water of pollutants and other debris dumped over the years. Many of the workers were women, a number of who fell ill with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. “I was down with dengue for two weeks but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,” said P Geetha, one of the villagers.

It took them 70 days of back-breaking labour, but finally the water flow has returned and the people’s wells are once again full.  The river now brims with water, the stench is gone and children are playing on its green banks once more.

Wed-river-India-2

And After

But a bigger challenge awaits: To fight off the sand mafia and encroachers and ensure the river doesn’t turn into a sewer again. But for now, their herculean effort has catapulted the sleepy village to the headlines.   With climate change and environmental issues being so important to the future of our planet, it is wonderful to see a small group of people who are willing to take control of their environment, roll up their sleeves, and just do what needs to be done.  Two thumbs up to these villagers!


That’s all I’ve got for today, folks.  Sorry, but I’m still battling tiredness, so I am going to take Doc Gronda’s advice now.  Just remember … we may not always see them on the news, their good works may be overshadowed by politics and incidences of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man, but they are out there … those good people doing good things!

Good People Doing Good Things – Pay It Forward Day

“From what we get we make a living – from what we give, we make a life.” – Arthur Ashe

wed-pif-2

As usual, I am about a day late and a dollar short.  Well, actually about 5 days late, as it were.  But, better late than never, right?  Turns out that April 28th was the 10th annual Pay It Forward Day.  Yes, folks, there is actually an annual Pay It Forward Day, and it is one of the more worthy ‘national days’.  A bit about the day:

In March 2000, a little-known author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, published a book titled Pay It Forward.

“Pay It Forward is a wondrous and moving novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts the challenge that his teacher gives his class, a chance to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world for the better — and to put that plan into action.” – Amazon

The book was adapted into a movie starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment in 2000, and the concept of “paying it forward” entered the real world, spreading kindness far and wide.  In 2014, Hyde also published a version of the book for young readers.

Hyde started the Pay It Forward Foundation to foster the movement, and a supporter in Australia, Blake Beattie, started Pay It Forward Day.  From the Pay It Forward website:

“There is tremendous power and positive energy in giving – it is a shame that not enough people have experienced it to the fullest. Pay It Forward Day is about all people, from all walks of life giving to someone else and making a positive difference.

So why Pay It Forward?

To encourage all of us to embrace the incredible power of giving.

To show each other that we care and that there is love, hope and magic all around us.

To know that we may be only one person in this world, but to one person, at one time, we are the world.”

Last year, in celebration of Pay It Forward Day, the Epoch Times interviewed Ms. Hyde.    It is an interesting Q&A, complete with a video that describes how she came up with the idea for Pay It Forward as a concept.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa

So what are some examples of the ways in which people celebrated the day last week?

  • In McCloud, California, McCloud High School students cleaned the grounds around the Siskiyou Humane Society in Mt. Shasta, as well as the New 2 You and Paws & Shop thrift stores.

Wed-McCloud

  • Pupils and teachers at the Bispham Road school completed tasks such as helping others with their work, playing with different friends on the playgrounds, and even holding doors open as part of the annual Pay It Forward Day UK.

wed-pif-5

  • In Ronkonkoma New York, a pay-it-forward may have saved a man’s life, or so he claims. Dennis Kust had recently lost his wife, Cheryl, after a 5-year battle with cancer, and suffering from deep depression, he had lost his will to live.  On April 28th, he entered Albert’s Pizza on Long Island to pick up his pizza and was brought to tears when he was told his pizza was free … part of the pay it forward initiative by the owner of Albert’s Pizza, Rich Baer. On the inside of the box was a message:  Stay Strong!

Wed-Kust

When 8-year-old Myles Eckert found $20 in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, he took it as an opportunity to pass it on to Lt. Col. Frank Dailey as a gesture of gratitude. Along with it, he also wrote a note: “Dear Soldier — my dad was a soldier. He’s in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It’s your lucky day! Thank you for your service. Myles Eckert, a gold star kid.”

Wed-myles.jpg

At Mason Wartman’s pizza shop in Philadelphia, customers can pre-pay for a slice of pizza at $1 and leave a Post-It on the wall. Any homeless person can redeem the Post-It for a warm slice later. This heart-warming gesture has helped Wartman relieve the hunger of several needy people in the city.

Wed-postit

When Mark Redmond, the executive director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington, Canada, met a couple at his office, little did he know that they had formerly stayed at his shelter. He soon discovered that the two had met at the facility, fell in love, and were married for four years. The duo had returned to the shelter to donate a bag of clothes as a way of helping the needy, just like they had once been helped.

Wed-homeless.jpg

When Mike learned that his favorite waitress at a New York restaurant was served an eviction notice, he paid her a tip of $3,000 on a bill of about $40 with the message “Don’t let ‘pay it forward’ end with you.” Speaking about it, Mike told ABC News, “This woman had been serving us for almost a year now. She’s a lovely individual, and she talked about how she was served an eviction notice last month.”

Wed-tip

There are thousands and thousands of these stories this week.  I purposely chose some that were small things, like cleaning up around an animal shelter or giving away $20, in order to make the point that an act of kindness need not cost a lot of money or time, it requires only a good heart. I am particularly encouraged by the young people who are learning early in life how important small acts of kindness can be.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi

wed-pif-3In my searches yesterday morning, I came across numerous sites devoted to ideas for ‘paying it forward’, most of them worthy, but when it comes down to it, we don’t really need to find ideas in books or on the internet.  We all know people who could use a bit of a helping hand, we see people as we go about our business who could use something, whether it’s a hot meal or just a smile, a hand-up from a fall, or help carrying their groceries. I think this is what happiness is really about, this is what gives our lives purpose and meaning.  When we ‘pay it forward’, we are giving to ourselves as well as to another.  It’s a win-win, as they say.

wed-pif-4

Good People Doing Good Things – Lots Of ‘Em …

When I first began this Wednesday morning Good People Doing Good Things feature, I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it going.  I feared I would run out of ‘Good People’ after only a few weeks, or that people would find it boring.  Neither of those have come to pass.  The only times I have struggled to find those good people were when my own mood was too dark to open my heart, and my readers have been very positive, some even looking forward to Wednesday mornings for this reason.  Even the posts that I deemed only mediocre garnered enthusiasm.  I think we are at a point, in the U.S. and abroad, that we need to see that there are good people doing good things for others, despite all the gloom and doom of the multiple issues threatening our planet, our nations and our lives.  Moving on … today I am focusing, once again, on people who are not wealthy in terms of material possessions, but who are wealthy in the most important of ways, in their hearts and spirits.


Ever hear of a man named Rick Steves?  I had not until this week, but apparently he is well-known among those who watch travel shows.  According to Wikipedia, he is an American author and television personality focusing on European travel. He is the host of the American Public Television series Rick Steves’ Europe, has a public radio travel show called Travel with Rick Steves and has authored numerous travel guides.  But that is not all Mr. Steves does …

Wed-Steves

Young Rick Steves

As a teen backpacking through Europe, a journey he refers to as “Europe Through the Gutter,” he slept on trains, ferries, the pews of Greek churches, the concrete floors of Dutch construction projects, and in barns at the edge of unaffordable Swiss alpine resorts. Early in his life, he came to appreciate the value of a safe and comfortable place to sleep.

Steves worked his way up in the travel business, teaching classes, writing travel guides, consulting, organizing group tours, and a storefront business. Eventually, in 1991, came his first television show.  For all his hard work, Steves was making a decent living, but he never lost sight of the important things in life.

Wed-Steves-1In 2005, Steves constructed a 24-unit apartment complex in Lynnwood, Washington, called Trinity Way and administrated by the local YWCA, to provide transitional housing for homeless mothers and their children. Members of the Edmonds Noontime Rotary Club help maintain the buildings and grounds, providing everything from furniture to flowers. The club also raised $30,000 to build a play structure for the children there.

“Imagine the joy of knowing that I could provide a simple two-bedroom apartment for a mom and her kids as she fought to get her life back on track.”

Steves also raises funds for the hunger advocacy group Bread for the World. A supporter of the Arts, he gave $1 million to the Edmonds Center for the Arts and Cascade Symphony Orchestra. Just this year, on January 20th, inauguration day, Steves donated $50,000 to the ACLU.  This is a man who obviously cares about people more than profit.

Oh, and that 24-unit apartment complex?  He recently donated it to the YMCA to continue the work he began.


This next story has multiple good people doing good things …

Two years ago, a man named Eugene Yoon, inspired by philanthropist talk show host Ellen Degeneres, had a strange feeling that he was being called to do a random act of kindness for a stranger.

Yoon-1

Eugene Yoon

Arthur Renowitzky was paralyzed when shot by a mugger in the parking lot of a San Francisco nightclub in 2007. Refusing to accept a doctor’s assessment that he would likely never walk or talk again, Renowitzky has gone on to become a an advocate for the disabled, founding the non profit Life Goes On Foundation, speaking out against gun violence, and visiting newly paralyzed patients to reassure them that, indeed, life does go on.  “My message is simple: to keep pushing, life goes on and to never give up,” Renowitzky said.

Wed-renowitzky

Wed-PerretteIn 2013, Renowitzky’s wheelchair was crushed by a hit-and-run driver.  Enter yet another good person, Pauley Perrette of NCIS fame, who saw a news story about the incident and bought Mr. Renowitzky a brand new wheelchair!

Fate sometimes moves in strange ways to bring people together.  It happened that one day Mr. Yoon was scrolling around Facebook and happened upon Mr. Renowitzky’s message.  “I reached out to him blindly and told him, ‘I’d like for you to achieve your dream of walking again.’ So, I pitched him this outlandish idea of walking the state of California to help him walk again!” Yoon said.

As it happened, Mr. Renowitzky had hopes of someday being able to purchase a device that would enable him to walk again, an exoskeleton from ReWalk Robotics that was designed to help paraplegics walk again – the only problem was that it cost $80,000.

Determined to earn the money, Eugene Yoon got the idea to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in order to raise awareness and money to help Arthur. He spent months getting into shape for the more than 2,600-mile journey from California’s border with Mexico the Canadian border. Yoon began his journey in April 2015 and reached the Canadian border in October of that year.  When he reached Acton, California, Mr. Renowitzky met up with him and provided some food and other supplies, saying, “There’s no way I can re-pay him. I’m forever grateful,”

yoon-2

When he was midway through the state of Washington, two weeks before the completion of his hike, Yoon received word that the monetary goal had been reached and Mr. Renowitzky would be getting his exoskeleton.  “I can remember that moment like it was yesterday,” Yoon said. He recorded a video on the spot, screaming “We did it!” at the top of his lungs.

yoon-4.jpg

The story, of course, does not end here.  Mr. Renowitzky continues his non-profit work through his Life Goes On Foundation.  He also spends much of his time advocating for an end to gun violence, having spoken to more than 100,000 youth on the dangers of gun violence and how they must have the strength to be good citizens and find positive ways to overcome their life obstacles.

Mr. Yoon continues helping people, one person at a time.  His latest venture is a man named Alberto who was struggling to make ends meet while taking care of his 24 family members.  Yoon hired Alberto as a seamster to start a clothing line called Kin Lov Gra (stands for Kindness Love Gratitude), which manufactures the Inside-Out T-shirt. The company’s stated goal:

“Every INSIDE-OUT T-SHIRT and INSIDE-OUT DENIM will support a lower-income family whom I met on Skid Row. Every item sold will help fund nine months of food, rent, and necessities. During the nine months, the low-income family will also be given a fair-paying employment opportunity under KIN LOV GRA so they will be able to create a savings for themselves. Once the nine months expire, they will be able to sustain themselves out of poverty through the savings they will have created.”

And as for Ms. Perrette, she supports many charitable organizations, including animal rescue organizations, the American Red Cross, civil rights organizations, and LGBT rights organizations. She once said, “I have learned the best cure for depression is forgiveness & doing random good deeds & acts of kindness to others.”


It really helps to read about people like this … helps put the rest of our worries and troubles into perspective, I think. I had a third story for this post, but I have already surpassed my self-imposed limit of 1,200 words, so I shall save the third for next week (besides which it is after 1:00 a.m. as I write this, and I might like to sleep sometime soon  🙂  )

Good People Doing Good Things – Dr. Sanduk Ruit & Dr. Geoffrey Tabin

Every Wednesday morning, I write about good people who are giving of themselves, their time, their money, or whatever resources they have to help others.  Some weeks I write about millionaire philanthropists, or foundations, other weeks, average, everyday people like you and me who are doing small things that make big differences in the lives of others.  Today I would like to introduce you to a pair of doctors, Dr. Sanduk Ruit, a Nepalese eye surgeon, and Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, an American eye surgeon and world-renowned mountain climber.

Together, these two eye surgeons have restored sight to more than 150,000 patients in 24 countries. Doctors they’ve trained have restored sight to 4 million more. They are on a mission to completely eradicate preventable and curable blindness in the developing world, and they have made a great start.

In 1995, Drs. Ruit and Tabin founded the Himalayan Cataract Project, which began as a small outpatient clinic in Kathmandu. It has since spread throughout the Himalayas and across Sub-Saharan Africa, providing education and training for local eye-care professionals, and has overseen around 500,000 low-cost, high-quality cataract surgeries.

Dr. Ruit was responsible for developing a simplified technique for cataract surgery that costs only $25 and has nearly a 100% success rate.  His method is now even taught in U.S. medical schools, though in the U.S. you will not find cataract surgery for $25.

In 2015, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times visited Dr. Ruit in Hatauda, in southern Nepal, and observed the process.  The patient was a 50-year-old woman, Thuli Maya Thing, who, blinded by cataracts for several years has been unable to work.  “I can’t fetch firewood or water. I can’t cook food. I fall down many times. I’ve been burned by the fire. I will be able to see my children and husband again — that’s what I look forward to most.”  The process to remove Thuli’s cataracts and replace them with new lenses took about five minutes per eye. When the bandages came off the next day, her vision tested at 20/20!

Wed-Thuli

Thuli Maya Thing

In the United States, cataract surgery is typically performed with complex machines and costs upward of $5,000.  When asked in a 2013 interview with Prospero of The Economist why the surgery the same procedure could not be replicated in the U.S., he answered …

“In America we do not have a health-care system, we have a crisis-intervention system where everyone demands and expects the best possible outcome and looks for someone to blame if things are not perfect. We have so much wasted time, so many middle men, redundancies, third-party payers, legal issues.”

All of the Himalayan Cataract Project’s facilities strive to be completely financially self-sustaining through a unique cost-recovery program in which the wealthy patients subsidize the poor patients. One third of the patients pay the full $100 for a complete work-up, modern cataract surgery, and all post-operative care. Twenty percent of the patients pay a smaller amount based on what they are able to pay. The remaining third of the patients receive the cataract surgical care entirely free. With this model, the facilities are able to cover all costs.

Additionally, the doctors have created a system whereby everyone works up to their potential and no one does anything a person with less training can do. This maximizes the most expensive element, which is the time of the doctors and nurses. They have also been able to bring down the material costs through local manufacturing and elimination of waste. Imagine if these methods were used in the industrialized world … we would not need the ongoing healthcare debate we are perpetually undergoing in the U.S.!

wed-second-sunsJournalist David Oliver Relin shadowed the doctors for nearly two years, an effort that culminated in the book Second Suns, published in June 2013, about the heroic accomplishments of the two doctors.  Sadly, the author committed suicide in November 2012 due to controversies over another book he wrote, Three Cups of Tea.  I have not read Second Suns, but took a quick glance at the sample on my Kindle, and it seems well worth the read.

I had a good chuckle over a story related by Dr. Tabin:

“One story I enjoyed learning from the book was that Dr Ruit had tried to get rid of me by sending me to work in Biratnagar, Nepal, during the monsoon. At the time I thought I was needed there but in fact it was because he found my enthusiasm annoying. He was sure that the 40-degree heat with 99% humidity and lots of biting insects, plus the difficult state of the hospital, would send me scurrying back to America.”

In developing nations, suffering from blindness affects not only the blind person but also members of his/her family. Where there are few paved roads and where terrain is rugged and mountainous, a blind person has incredible difficulty moving around and depends on a caretaker. There are no social services available to the blind, and individuals who are blind cannot contribute to family income. A blind person, unable to care for themselves in such a harsh environment requires the help of a family member, which essentially takes two people out of being able to contribute to family income, or community life. With sight restored, many patients would be able to return to work and to traditional roles in their families and societies.  Drs. Ruit and Tabin have dedicated their lives to restoring sight to blind people in some of the most isolated, impoverished reaches of developing countries in the Himalaya and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last Sunday, 16 April, the two doctors were featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes and it is well worth checking out!

I have tremendous admiration and respect for these two men, and they are certainly prime examples of good people who are doing good things for others.  I have included a few links below … I think you would especially enjoy the article written two years ago by Nicholas Kristof which includes a short video.  Hats off to Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoffrey Tabin!

wed-two-docs

Nicholas Kristoff Article

Interview with The Economist

Himalayan Cataract Project

Good People Doing Good Things – A Teacher, A Group Of Kids, And Peanut …

Good Wednesday morning!  I almost didn’t write my usual Good People Doing Good Things post for this morning, because I thought this was Tuesday!  My schedule is off by a day, since I was driving home from Pennsylvania all day Monday, and Tuesday seemed like Monday, and … well, you get the picture.  But, as I was perusing information about the upcoming French elections for what I thought would be this morning’s post, it suddenly hit me that today would be Wednesday, so I quickly switched tracks.  Today I have rounded up a few people who, though their good deeds may seem small compared to some, are no less meaningful … they are doing what they can to make the world just a little better.


Last Thursday, some 650 children, the entire student body of Pepperhill Elementary School in North Charleston, South Carolina received a very special gift … the gift of wheels … they each received a brand new bicycle!  Credit for this goes to a teacher at the school, Katie Blomquist who, after a conversation with one student who admitted that he wanted a bike more than anything but knew his parents could not afford one, realized that many of the students in her school had never owned a bike, and had few hopes of doing so.  “It’s the basic childhood right – it’s joy. Every single child deserves that, and a bike is one of the top things that represents that.  I wanted to make family memories, a sense of ownership. A lot of Title 1 kids don’t own anything that is theirs,” said Katie.

But, Katie herself is not wealthy … she lives on a teacher’s salary, after all … so how to make this happen?  Well, Katie may not be wealthy in terms of money, but the lady is resourceful.  She set up a GoFundMe page, then spent hours each evening working to get the word out.  Her initial goal was to collect $65,000 in donations, but at the end of just three months, Blomquist had amassed over $82,000!  Among those who made donations were people with only a few dollars to their names, people living in other countries, major corporations and star comedian and talk show host Steve Harvey. Radio Flyer donated 100 big-wheel tricycles and training bikes for the pre-school students.

Wed-bikes-2But it didn’t end there.  Getting the money to purchase the bikes was one thing … but how to get 650 bikes assembled?  This is where the community really stepped up to the plate.  A local church volunteered to serve as a staging area for the assembly process, and as the word spread, members of the community answered the call, coming out to volunteer, some even taking off work to help out.  Even so, they were only able to get about 100 bikes assembled, and then a local business, Afford-A-Bike, pitched in and, at no charge, assembled the other 550!

Wed-bikes-3On Thursday, the dream became reality when the tarps were pulled back to reveal 650 shiny new bikes, and Katie Blomquist yelled from a loudspeaker, “Every student at Pepperhill Elementary is going to get a brand new bike!”  The students jumped with joy, hugged one another and squealed with delight, which was all the reward Katie Blomquist needed.  Hats off to this special teacher!

doffing-hat


Who says today’s youth are selfish, lazy and spoiled?  There is at least one group of young people who cannot fit into any of those categories. These are college kids on spring break last month … kids who, instead of spending their spring break on a beach or partying with their friends, are installing solar panels on homes for low-income families.  The program is called Solar Spring Break, and is a voluntary program through non-profit GRID Alternatives, which provides free solar arrays to low-income families.

Wed-spring-breakTatyana McAllister, along with 18 classmates from North Carolina Central University, installed solar panels for a family on the La Jolla band of Luiseno Indians Reservation, near Palomar Mountain in northern San Diego County. Another 25 students from the University of Michigan and Arizona State University contributed by installing panels at the nearby San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians Reservation.

Wed-spring-break-1GRID deploys volunteer labor to construct infrastructure projects for families in need. The San Diego effort was part of a national campaign involving 100 students from 15 colleges and universities, aimed at curbing climate emissions and helping cut electric bills through solar power. GRID obtained a half million dollar Department of Energy grant for the solar installations, and matched that with another half million of its own money and tribal funds. GRID Alternatives is, in and of itself, a story of hope in a nation where the leadership has shirked its responsibility to the environment and to future generations.  Perhaps one day soon I will write a post about this organization, but meanwhile, check out their website. Theirs is a story of hope in our new world of alternative facts and disregard for our planet.

A number of the North Carolina students are majors in biology and environmental science. For them, the solar project was a practical example of class topics such as sustainability and energy conservation. It’s also in line with what the historically black university describes as a tradition of preparing students “to become global leaders and practitioners who transform communities.”

Twenty-six-year-old Alvon Bailey, who is researching sustainability and watershed protection for his master’s degree in Earth Science, said he wanted to visit California to learn about practices that are still in early stages in his home state. The students also learned about local culture, sampling what they described as “Native American lasagna” — enchiladas — and enjoying native bird singers and traditional Luiseno games. That cultural connection was important for Katherine Gates, 22, an environmental and geographical science major, who said she appreciated the environmentally friendly traditions of Native American communities.

GRID is a prime example of what is right in this country, and these young volunteers are the future we all want for our nation.  They are environmentally conscious, ambitious, and put helping others above indulging in their own pleasure.  I am so encouraged by these kids … they are our future and I give a two-thumbs-up to both GRID and the volunteers!

two-thumbs


And to wrap up this Wednesday morning, who said only ‘people’ could do good things?  Meet Peanut.  A year ago, Peanut arrived at the Delta Animal Shelter in Escanaba, Michigan, with two broken legs, a belly full of carpet, and broken ribs. Her owner was arrested and convicted of animal abuse, Peanut healed from her wounds and found a wonderful new forever home.  But the story doesn’t end there.

Wed-peanutEarly one morning last month, Peanut began acting very strangely, running up and down the stairs, barking and yelping. The man in the house thought she wanted to go outside to attend her business, but as soon as he let her out, she ran into the field behind the house at full speed.  Puzzled, the man followed her to the field where Peanut had come to a ditch, stopped, and looked back at the man.  For those of us old enough to remember, it rather reminded me of an episode of Lassie! In the ditch, the man found a naked, shivering, 3-year-old girl curled up in a ball.  The man quickly took the girl back to the house, called an ambulance and police, and the girl is well and fine.  Stories like this abound on the internet … some are true, some are not … but this one was verified by Michigan’s Delta County Sherriff’s Office.

So see … humans are not the only ones who can do good things!  Thumbs up to Peanut!

thumb-up


And that wraps up yet another Wednesday morning!  Thanks to all those good people out there who are doing good things, making the world just a little bit better.

Good People Doing Good Things – Little Kids With BIG Hearts

I have been working on this post for some four hours, and thus far, this sentence is all I have.  I made several false starts … people who seemed to be philanthropists, seemed to be doing good things, but on further digging were merely collecting on other people’s altruism.  Then there were scandals with some of the people/organizations I looked into.  So, as time and energy are running on fumes at this point, and my family members who walk on all fours are determined to drive me nuts, I decided to think small tonight.  Child-sized small, in fact. Children may only be able to do small-scale deeds, but it shows us that though their bodies may be small, their hearts are big. And since these pint-sized do-gooders hold our future in their hands, it is good to see that they already have a sense of caring for others, a sense of humanity.


You are never too young to understand the value of helping others.  Second grader Phoebe Brown was running errands with her mother last week in Independence, Missouri when she came across a winning, $100 scratch-off ticket, just lying on the ground. For a fleeting moment, Phoebe admits, the thought of a spree in the toy department held a certain appeal, but it didn’t take long for her to remember that her school was having a canned food drive that week, and she ended up spending the entire $100 on canned food to donate to those less fortunate.  Her good works even inspired her dad to match every dime she spent!  At the end of the food drive, Phoebe’s class had collected 541 items of food, making them her school’s winner. As a fun reward, Phoebe and her classmates were invited to shave their gym teacher’s beard.

Wed-beard.png


A group of schoolboys in New South Wales, Australia, were about to board a bus and head home after a rugby league game when they noticed an 81-year-old gentleman moving his woodpile from the front of his home to the back, one piece at a time.  Without hesitation, the boys and their dads jumped in and moved every last piece of wood for the man.  A small gesture?  Perhaps, but it is a sign of respect and caring, a sign that these kids are being taught values and compassion.  Hats off to the rugby team at Cooma North Public School!

Wed-boys-woodpile


jaden-sink-3Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its intense hatred of most everything, is located on the East Side of Topeka, Kansas, directly across from Equality House, a resource center established by the non-profit group, Promoting Peace (interesting juxtaposition, don’t you think?).  Equality House and Promoting Peace is a whole story unto itself, but that will have to wait for some other Wednesday, because today’s story is about a six-year-old girl named Jaden Sink. After Jaden’s dad tried to explain to her that Westboro members promote messages of hate, Jayden decided she wanted to raise money toward spreading messages of love and peace. So Jayden opened a lemonade stand … not just any ol’ lemonade stand, but a pink lemonade stand, mind you!  And in the first day of business, she made $1,400!  I think this is proof that love sells better than hate!  By the end of that summer in 2013, Jaden had raised more than $23,000, all of which she donated to the cause of peace.

But Jaden’s story didn’t end there.  The story of Jaden’s pink lemonade stand went viral during that summer of 2013, and other children jumped happily on the bandwagon.  Today, there are some 70 stands worldwide, with all proceeds going toward Equality House’s anti-bullying initiatives.  Says Jaden, “We’re giving [the money] to the rainbow house to help people who are sick, and to help people be nice to each other.”  That’s my kind of kid!

Wed-Jayden-Sink


When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, it made history as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.  Then-10-year-old fifth-grader Talia Leman, seeing images of the destruction on the news, launched a charity urging kids to trick-or-treat for New Orleans, ultimately raising more than $10 million for the Hurricane Katrina foundation. From there, she founded RandomKid, a nonprofit that provides resources for young people who want to make a worldwide impact on any issue. Among the company’s successful efforts are reusable water bottles, which helped fund a water pump for an African village, and a push to provide crutches and artificial limbs to Haitian earthquake victims. Here is an example of a kid who started out doing small things and ended up doing some pretty big things!


Many of these stories are about small acts of kindness, but these children have the right idea, and I would not be surprised to see them make major differences in the world one of these days.  Hats off to the kids, of course, but also to their parents who have obviously taken the time to instill compassion, kindness and caring about others into the hearts of their children.

Good People Doing Good Things – To Help The Homeless

Once again it is Wednesday morning and time for me to do a bit of digging and find some good people who are doing good things with their lives.  Last week, I wrote about a mega-good group, Doctors Without Borders, so this week I am turning to a few individuals who are taking on a mega- challenge:  homeless people.  In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that there are more than a half-million people who are homeless, people who know not where they will sleep tonight, nor where their next meal will come from.  And globally, there are an estimated 100 million homeless. As I sit here writing this, homemade veggie soup simmering in the crock pot, fresh bread in the oven, a cup of steaming, hot coffee by my side, I remember a day … nearly forty years in the past, that I and my children were homeless for a short period of time.  Yes, you heard me right … due to circumstances and poor decisions I made, for a few short days I found myself not knowing where I would live, with no money in my pocket, no job.  It was the most terrifying time in my life, I never felt more powerless before nor since. I was so fortunate to have good friends who helped me overcome, and within a few days I was mostly back on my feet.  But what about those who do not have friends who can or will help?  Can you imagine it?  Probably not, and neither can I.

In a short search mission, I found several people who have done good things to help the homeless, which convinces me that there are many more out there, operating in the shadows, so to speak, to help people in need.  In the words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  Or in the words of my former boss, John Clements, “Peanuts make elephants”.  So let us take a look at some good people now …

homeless-suchmanIn New York City lives a woman named Carol Suchman who has donated toys to homeless children at Christmas every year for many years.  But in 2015, she felt her contribution was not enough, and she wanted to do more.  So what did she do?  She bought an entire bloomin’ toy store and donated every last toy to homeless children!  The store had a “going out of business” sign on their window, and Ms. Suchman negotiated to buy every single toy, stuffed animal, and art supply in inventory.  No word on the cost, but I’m sure it was more money than I have in my pocket at the moment!  Hats off to a very generous, caring lady! doffing-hat

homeless-giggs-nevilleAcross the pond, in the United Kingdom (UK), there are two football stars, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, who bought the old Stock Exchange building on Norfolk Street in Manchester for some £1.5 million ($1.8 million USD) with the intention of turning it into a boutique hotel, complete with basement gym, spa and rooftop private members’ terrace.  A fancy place for the rich and famous. Meanwhile, however, a group of not-so-rich-and-famous homeless people found refuge in the empty building.  While many would have been calling for police to evict the squatters, Neville told them to feel free to stay … through the winter.  Housing and human rights activist, Wesley Hall, broke down and cried when Neville informed him that he wanted to provide shelter to any who needed it through the winter.  Hall plans to provide hot food, health checkups, benefit advice, workshops, signposting to other services and help with securing permanent accommodation. Another hats off to two benevolent men for their generosity! doffing-hat

homeless-lily-fardellAnd down under in the land of Oz, 96-year-old Lily Fardell died in 2015.  But her legacy is one that will live on for many years.  Lily stipulated in her will that her estate … her entire estate … be donated to St. Vincent de Paul to provide services for homeless children.  How much was her estate, you ask?  Oh, once the house and furnishings were sold, it came to only about $4.3 million!  Lily never had children of her own, but she loved children and her most generous gift will change the lives of many children who might not have had a chance in life otherwise.  Thank you, and a posthumous hats off, Ms. Fardell! doffing-hat

Those are just a few of the stories of people doing some pretty big things to help the homeless.  Obviously, most people cannot buy an entire toy store, and few of us own homes worth $4 million, but there are a lot more people out there doing what they can … making a difference in small, but important ways.

homeless-coatsEmilia Flores owns The Taco Stop in Dallas, Texas.  She sells … well … tacos!  And beer.  But in front of her shop, she has placed a coat rack with a sign that reads, “Are you cold? Take one… Do you want to help? Leave one.” Says Flores, “This is a way of people not being embarrassed about asking. They just come and pick what they need and leave.”  The rack was stolen four times last year, but Flores and her regular customers keep replacing the rack and bringing in more coats!

homeless-morrieIn Grandville, Michigan, 91-year-old Morrie Boogart is in a hospice facility, where he is battling skin cancer and a growth on his kidney.  But do you know what he spends his days doing?  He does not spend them sitting around bemoaning his own problems … no, he spends them knitting … hats … for homeless people!  He has knitted more than 8,000 hats for the homeless! “Why do I do it? It just makes me feel good. This has been the best thing that’s happened to me because I just stay in my room,”

East High School in Utah has some 80 students who are homeless.  To help them with some basic necessities, the school recently installed washing machines, dryers, and lockers for their homeless students. The Leopard Laundry room – as it is called because of their mascot being a leopard – is also equipped with donated shampoo, conditioner, detergent, towels, and free clothing for the taking.

And at Washington High School in Beaufort County, North Carolina, students have set up a food pantry that remains fully stocked with non-perishable goods for students to take if they need it. Along with the canned goods, school supplies and personal toiletry items are also made available to the student population.

And the list goes on and on and on.  Good people ARE doing good things.  Some are doing big things, like Bill and Melinda Gates, but others are doing smaller things, giving as they are able, whether it is cash, their skills, or just their time.  I think that today it is all too easy to focus on the greed and inhumanity we see every day when we turn on the television or boot up our computers, and perhaps sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there are a whole lot of people out there who have hearts of gold, who are giving, caring, sharing and loving their fellow humans.

Good People Doing Good Things – Doctors Without Borders

“We deal with a lot of death — a lot of death — much more than we’re used to seeing at home by far.”

Sometimes I view the posts I write as an opportunity for me to learn something new.  Even when I don’t think of them in those terms, I almost always learn from my research.  It came to me last week that I knew only a little about a large group of people who are doing good things all over the world, and I would like to learn more, and at the same time honour them in my Wednesday “Good People Doing Good Things” post.  Today, I am pleased to write about a group that is maybe doing the hardest, yet some of the most humanitarian work around the globe:  Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders.

 

doctors-msf-logoMy first question was “how did Doctors Without Borders get its start?”  Rather interestingly, it was a combination of politics and the Civil War in Biafra in the late 1960s that led to its formation.  A group of French doctors working with the International Red Cross (IRC) in Biafra were frustrated because by the policies of the IRC they were not allowed to speak of the political atrocities they saw in the region.  Meanwhile, a group of French journalists, trying to bring attention to victims of natural disasters in spots like Iran and Bangladesh, became frustrated that doctors were unwilling to help out the victims of these catastrophes.  The two groups with similar frustrations came together and in 1971, joined forces to form Médecins Sans Frontières. Today, MSF has about 30,000 people working in its organization to provide medical aid in over 70 countries.

Who are these men and women who give their time to such a noble cause?  Doctors, of course, but also nurses, midwives, and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators. They provide medical care irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation. Their charter emphasizes “independence and impartiality”, and explicitly precludes political, economic, or religious factors in its decision making. For these reasons, it limits the amount of funding received from governments or intergovernmental organizations, which allows them to speak freely with respect to acts of war, corruption, or other hindrances to medical care or human well-being. 90% of Doctors Without Borders’ funding is private, coming from a loyal base of five million donors. That gives it the independence to speak out and do what’s really needed, not just what’s best for raising money.

In another example of standing behind their principles last October, Doctors Without Borders refused an offer by pharma giant Pfizer to provide one million vaccine doses against a deadly form of pneumonia.  Their reason?  The fact that Pfizer has overcharged dramatically for the drug, making a profit of $6.245 billion in 2015 from just that one vaccine!  MSF took a stand against the greed of Pfizer that made the vaccine off-limits to the people and countries that could not afford their harshly inflated prices.

  • In 1999, MSF deservingly won the Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of the organization’s pioneering humanitarian work on several continents”. 
  • In 2007, MSF increased its presence in Mogadishu in different locations and opened an emergency response program in Afgooye, just outside the capital, where an estimated 200,000 internally displaced persons sought refuge, living in extremely harsh conditions with little access to food, water, and shelter. Many of those remaining in Mogadishu were staying in makeshift camps with little more than ripped cloth and plastic sheeting for shelter and were exposed to a high degree of violence.
  • The group also set up equipment to produce clean drinking water for the population of San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, after a 10 October 1986 earthquake that struck the city. In 2014, the European Speedster Assembly had contributed $717,000 to MSF.
  • In December 1979, after the Soviet army had invaded Afghanistan, field missions were immediately set up to provide medical aid to the mujahideen, and in February 1980, MSF publicly denounced the Khmer Rouge. During the 1984 – 1985 famine in Ethiopia, MSF set up nutrition programmes in the country in 1984, but was expelled in 1985 after denouncing the abuse of international aid and the forced resettlements.

The work they do is not without danger, In addition to injuries and death associated with stray bullets, mines and epidemic disease, MSF volunteers are sometimes attacked or kidnapped for political reasons. In some countries afflicted by civil war, humanitarian-aid organizations are viewed as helping the enemy. If an aid mission is perceived to be exclusively set up for victims on one side of the conflict, it may come under attack for that reason.

  • On 3 October 2015, 14 staff and 28 others died when an MSF hospital was bombed by American forces during the Battle of Kunduz.
  • On 27 October 2015, an MSF hospital in Sa’dah, Yemen was bombed by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition.
  • On 28 November 2015, an MSF-supported hospital was barrel-bombed by a Syrian Air Force helicopter, killing seven and wounding forty-seven people near Homs, Syria.
  • On 10 January 2016, an MSF-supported hospital in Sa’dah was bombed by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition, killing six people.
  • On 15 February 2016, two MSF-supported hospitals in Idlib District and Aleppo, Syria were bombed, killing at least 20 and injuring dozens of patients and medical personnel. Both Russia and the United States denied responsibility and being in the area at the time.
  • On 28 April 2016, an MSF hospital in Aleppo was bombed, killing 50, including six staff and patients.

And then there is the risk of disease.  In 2014, an Ebola crisis broke out in West Africa.  Along with Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors Without Borders were there, and stayed through 2016.  Below you will find a link to the Story of Salome, a young woman treated for Ebola by Doctors Without Borders, then working with them after her recovery.  During the Ebola outbreak, 16 of the MSF’s staff contracted Ebola, nine of whom ultimately died from the disease.

doctors-2.jpg

And yet these doctors, nurses and others keep coming back. Why do they do it?  The money? While many staff are volunteers, the doctors do receive a modest salary of approximately $1,900 per month, or about $4 per hour, given that they often work 16-hour days, seven days a week.  Working conditions?

“To do this job well, you’ll need to get used to dealing with difficult situations. Many of the patients you see won’t make it. When it isn’t from an epidemic or a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, it’ll be from the ravages of war. And any of those things could do you in just as easily.

You’ll also have to be cool with going to the bathroom in a hole in the ground and not seeing your friends or family for almost a year. You’ll be on call 24/7. Sleep will be in short supply. You’ll see horrible things that’ll make you want to hurl, but luckily, you won’t have much in your belly to give up anyway.”

doctors-faces

Just a few of the faces of Good People Doing Good Things for MSF

And many of the areas are in some of the worst climates in the world.  Take, for example, the MSF hospital compound in Bentiu, South Sudan where in the rainy season, the camp turns into a giant mud pit. In the dry season, the temperature hits 115 degrees and it becomes an expanse of dust.

doctors-3

This is why they do it!!!

So again, why do they do it?  For some people, there’s an overriding need, a driving force, to do the most good they can in the world. For some, the upside comes from knowing you’ve directly helped to save the lives of countless people. I am sure there are other reasons as well, but I can only say, whatever the reason, I admire each and every one of these people.  And hats off to those who donate to this cause … it is certainly money much better spent than donating to politicians!

“Now I can’t imagine going back to work in Amsterdam to an academic hospital. I feel happy being here. It’s hard work. It has really high highs and deep lows, but I’m happy to be here.” – Dr. Jiske Steensma, serving with Doctors Without Borders at the United Nations Protection of Civilians Site Bentiu, the largest refugee camp in South Sudan.

doctors-Time-magIt is a tough program to get into.  Thousands of eager, hopeful docs apply to MSF every year, but only a select few are chosen, mainly because this is an incredibly demanding job and very few have the skills, temperament, and overall ability to handle it. Although some make a career of it, moving from mission to mission; in other words, be homeless—or, permanently displaced — with a medical degree, most sign on for a shorter term, four months or so, and do it every year or two.

There are so many wonderful, heartwarming/heartbreaking stories out there and I cannot possibly cover them all in this post.  But here are links to a couple that I think will give you insight into the people who risk their lives and give of themselves to help others:

Five Days and Five Nights with Doctors Without Borders  – I highly recommend this one! It is touching, but oh so heartwarming!

Story of Salome – Warning … this one does not have a happy ending, but is still a worthy read.

And of course, there is the Doctors Without Borders website, a plethora of interesting information

There is also a documentary that I hear is excellent, although I have not watched it yet.  It is available to watch free of charge if you are an Amazon Prime member (I am), or you can buy the DVD for $17.16.  The title is Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders.

doctors-docu-film

Christopher Dickey, international reporter and foreign editor for The Daily Beast, sums it up best: “You will show the world what is happening, you will touch the conscience of the world and thereby try to make things better for people who otherwise would be utterly forgotten.”