Category Archives: Social Justice
A little while ago Heather Johnson and I met up to discuss what it’s like being a big sister, also known as a big, through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program. Her insight is vast–from talk about her first time meeting up with her little brother, also known as her little, to advice for strivers.
Many of us love jewelry, but worry about whether our purchases are fair trade and are produced in environmentally sustainable ways. It is true that some companies are fair trade and friendly to the environment, but do not pay for the certification because it costs money—and if you are one of those companies, then email me with what makes you just and I’ll add you to the below list. For now, here are five ethical places and brands:
- Artisan Wedding Rings. According to their website, purchases here benefit fair trade abroad, living wages at home, and environmental sustainability. All wedding rings are very unique as well—with filigree designs, and the like. Read on here.
- Celtic Jewelry. While they are of the same quality and company as Artisan Wedding Rings, Celtic Jewelry is more vast in their selection of jewelry kinds because they carry everything from beads to belt buckles to necklaces. Read on here.
- Citizen Eco-Drive. Watch batteries cause waste, they leak, and so forth, but Citizen Eco-Drive’s are powered by light, and I’ve seen them even boast conflict free diamonds. They sell men’s and women’s, and have an array of styles. Read on here.
- Ruff & Cut. Ruff & Cut is unique because not only do they have classy pieces, but ten percent of their proceeds go to non-profit partners. They sell men’s jewelry as well. Read on here.
- Ten Thousand Villages. This is an established seller of fair trade jewelry, including collections, but also of home décor and other gifts. Plus Ten Thousand Villages prides itself on their relationships with artisans being based on mutual respect. Read on here.
There are many more fair trade jewelry sellers! Here is an insider list of resources and suppliers, here is No Dirty Gold, and here is an article that explores in depth “What Exactly is Ethical Jewelry?”
A few days ago I had the good fortune of doing a Q & A with Olga Murray. Soon before her retirement from practicing law in San Francisco she was trekking the Himalayan Mountains when she broke her leg. A local porter carried her for days, which significantly touched Murray, and then she was moved again by the countless children at the hospital with such terrible disabilities and bleak resources. So soon after her fall—in 1984, she started to work with children in Nepal. In 1990 she founded the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation. NYOF’s mission is to empower the youth of Nepal—and already their successes include freeing over five-thousand girls from bondage. But even after around two decades of service, Murray says she believes that there is still much work to be done. The eighty-four-year-old Californian volunteers full time to lead her causes forward, even living much of her time in Kathmandu, where she was when I interviewed her. Below is her insight:
When and why did you get into service work? Because I was approaching retirement, always had an interest in children, and wanted to do something to help them.
Before NYOF how did you picture retirement? I thought I would work as an advocate for a child in court or tutor at a community center, but I fell in love with the children of Nepal when I came trekking here in 1984, and decided that I would work with impoverished children here.
How did you start the nonprofit? NYOF developed organically, driven by the needs of children in Nepal. We started out by giving scholarships to orphans, but expanded to other programs when we encountered children in dire circumstances who really needed help.
How did you obtain support? At first, through friends. Later, we became more organized, wrote grant applications to foundations, and increased our donor base through publicity.
Is the work what you expected? Why or why not? The work has far exceeded my expectations both in scope and [in] the amount of satisfaction I get every day from knowing that we are providing a better life to thousands of Nepali children.
What were the needs you were originally filling? At first, we started by giving college scholarships, but eventually [we] increased our scholarship base to disabled children, those whose parents could not afford primary school, those who had no homes, and poor children in villages so that today we support thousands of youngsters in school, from kindergarten to medical school.
How have those needs evolved? They evolved from our observations about the needs of children in Nepal. When many children were dying or became stunted because of malnutrition, we began a nutritional rehabilitation home to restore them to health and educate their mothers about child care. [Today NYOF has restored the health of more than five thousand children and has educated thousands.] We now have ten such facilities all over the country. When we learned that little girls were being bonded away for fifty dollars a year for labor, we began a program to eradicate the practice, which is now on the verge of success. [Estimates are that around 1200 girls, which is twenty percent of the former total number, still need to be rescued from bondage.] When we discovered children who had no homes and no hope for an education, we established two homes for children—one for boys and one for girls.
What are your largest setbacks? Lack of funds. We could do so much more if we had more money.
What, if you can distinguish one, is your most touching experience in Nepal? My relationship with the children at our children’s homes is the most touching experience here. I see them come in as neglected, malnourished little waifs and leave to go to college as confident, happy young people ready to give back to society.
What is your typical work day like? I spend a good part of the day on the computer keeping in touch with donors and our office. In Nepal I also do this, but I also spend time with the children at our children’s homes and visit our projects.
Who are your idols and why them? The usual caste of characters—Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, The Dalai Lama, because they have found a way to encourage people to live in harmony together.
What are your future goals? To expand NYOF’s activities. So much needs to be done in Nepal, and we have a local staff and organization that is able, passionate about children, and could provide for their needs.
Need more information about NYOF? Read on here.
Photos are reproduced with permission from Gregg Tully of NYOF.
Over the weekend I watched Pedro, a biopic based on the short life of Cuban immigrant, AIDS activist, and MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco star Pedro Zamora. Due to its raw inspiration stemming from Zamora’s personal and societal battles with HIV—he was the first HIV positive person to be on television (and in a time of HIV ignorance no less)—this film is a must see. But regardless as to whether you see it or not, I feel compelled to relay two main traits—openness and passion—which Pedro demonstrates as having leveraged success for HIV awareness.
From the first scene on when Zamora is defending to his sister his decision to be honest about having HIV to The Real World we are introduced to how vital openness is to undercutting prejudices. Then by continually being his kind and fun self while also being honest about not only having HIV but also being gay, Zamora helped normalize the once alienated HIV and LGBT communities.
Also, throughout Pedro we see how critical passion is to pushing HIV awareness into mainstream. Even as his own health deteriorated Zamora continued his efforts until he ended up in the hospital, reminding everyone of the towering importance he ascribed to HIV awareness. As is human nature, this fervor spurred people to pick up the ropes. But sixteen years later, with new cases of HIV in the United States hovering at over 50,000 annually—a number that the CDC reports is roughly stable since the late 1990s—Zamora’s successful advocacy tools of openness and passion surely need more use.
Want to take action? Visit AIDS Action.