Monday, November 24, 2008

AWARENESS: Education as a "Weapon" in Pakistan

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times chronicles a private program promoting education in Pakistan. Particularly eye-opening are the shoddy public schools and the stories of girls seen as threats because of their education -- mothers secretly taking their girls to school and hiding it from fathers. Also, people testify that the Taliban is less likely to infiltrate a village if the populace is educated.

Opinion | Nicholas D. Kristof

Books Not Bombs

While the U.S. government is fighting Islamic extremism in Pakistan with bombs, private donations are quietly financing a more important campaign: education.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SERVICE: Turn Black Friday into Buy Nothing or even Make Something Day

From God's Politics - the blog at Sojourners online

Make Something Money Can’t Buy (Glue Gun Optional)
by Julie Polter 11-19-2008

Since the early 1990s, a guerrilla campaign has been waged by Adbusters magazine and others to change the day after Thanksgiving into Buy Nothing Day (slogan: “participate by not participating”). Of course, buying nothing will be a given this holiday season for the many Americans struggling simply to pay for the basics—food, housing, clothing. Some of us who thought our faith in God was strong are finding ourselves haunted by anxiety as we watch retirement funds evaporate or enter yet another month of unemployment.

Perhaps we find ourselves in spiritual crisis as well as financial crisis. To find our way to an economy in balance with God’s call on our life, we can begin by not just buying nothing, but making an investment in God’s currency of grace.

Last year, members of the San Diego-based Ecclesia Collective, a Christian community network, put forward Make Something Day (see Jason Evans’ post earlier this week). In this new spin on Buy Nothing Day, people are encouraged to turn their resistance to consumerism into positive, productive action by gathering with friends and family to share Thanksgiving leftovers and make crafts and fruitcake and mix CDs, instead of going to the mall.

Perhaps, like me, you suffer from craft anxiety (glue guns don’t make ugly Christmas ornaments, people like me do). Or maybe Make Something Day seems a little na├»ve for hard times, trying too hard to counter a culture that may be down for the count. With the overstuffed “good life” being sold to us on every flat surface, the fact that making something may be the only prudent option when it comes to stuffing stockings or having dinner can seem at first like loss, not gain.

Yet hands and hearts are truly amazing things, and the works they produce can be suffused with love and memory and individuality in a way that money really can’t buy. If yarn tangles when it sees you coming and Martha Stewart gives you hives, think computer-aided and functional: Make a hard-copy, hold-in-your-hands album of photos for that relative who hates digital; type up your childhood memories or those of family elders and bind them in simple booklets for the younger generation; compile family recipes for sharing. Make a gift certificate for a far-off friend, promising at least one handwritten letter a month for the next year (and then make a solemn promise with yourself to follow through).

Make a commitment of presence or treasure to your local food bank or homeless ministry. Make an interest-free loan. Make an offer of mentoring to others in your community. Make someone happy. Make an apology. Make someone know they are loved.

Julie Polter is an associate editor of Sojourners. For more of her thoughts on Advent, see Re-Rooting Ourselves in God, her commentary in the December issue.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Hello! Allie Naskret has become a dear friend to many in the ORB community, and a good friend to me personally. As many of you know, her heart is in serving the poor and needy and addressing issues of global poverty.

She decided that God was calling her to a year in Guatemala. And she is blogging about it regularly. So I would like to post all her posts on the ORB CARE blog so we as a community could all follow her adventures!

The following post is from Allie's blog - Adventures in Guatemala.

Friday, October 24, 2008

So I´ve been in Chocola for about a week and a half now, and a lot has happened already. Sorry for not updating in a while, but it´s been hard to get to the internet in the past weeks. I tried to update earlier this week, but the internet here is painfully slow. I have moved in with the Menchu family, and I think I´ve finally mastered everyone´s name. My host parents, Juana and Miguel, have eight children and one grandchild living with them in the house. Plus, there are two dogs, a fat pig, six turkeys, several chickens, and a hen with about ten baby chicks that also make their home here. The chickens run freely through the house, and it is quite funny to see the children shooing them out of the kitchen sometimes. Juana keeps saying what a shame it is that I don´t eat chicken, because their chickens are delicious. My first night here, it was very difficult to sleep - the pig makes all kinds of snorting noises through the night (sometimes it sounds like he´s dying), and the roosters start crowing at about 3am (what I like to call the bewitching hour). But I am slowly adjusting to my family, my new home, and the strange noises at night. It feels good to finally be settled in one place, and (somewhat) unpacked, although I am still living out of my suitcase.

My first full day in Chocola, my host sister Sonya, who is my age, showed me around town. We walked to the bosque, which is a big park with a basketball court, tables, and benches, and we sat down and talked for a while at one of the tables. We walked through the streets, past brightly colored houses, tiny tiendas, the big coffee processing plant in the center of town, the market where vegetables, fruits, and meats are sold, and the camioneta stop outside the market. We wove through groves of banana trees and coffee plants, following some of the unruly dirt roads in town, which are spotted with puddles and lots of rocks. We sat for a while on a big rock, watching a group of children outside their school, doing excercises for phys ed class (they enjoyed putting on a show for the onlooking foreigner), and climbed a big hill from which you can see all of Chocola.

After touring the town, we returned home for a lunch of fried fish (it was pretty much a whole fish on my plate), vegetables, and of course, tortillas. My family cooks everything over a fire behind the house. I have been trying to help Juana, Sonya, and Franci cook meals, and I´m slowly learning to make tortillas. It is a lot harder than it looks (actually, it looks pretty hard)! Juana can make about three perfectly round tortillas in the amount of time it takes me to make one, thicker and somewhat oddly-shaped tortilla. But I am learning, and it certainly is a thrill to eat tortillas that I made with my own hands. I told Juana that it is a good thing I have all year to practice...maybe by the time I return home, I will be able to make my own tortillas for family and friends!

I spent most of my first afternoon playing hopscotch with Mindy (the youngest in the family, five years old), Armando (the granson), and Ludwy. Ludwy drew lines in the dirt with a machete, and we used rocks for the markers. Mindy just hopped and spun around without paying any attention to the lines. :) Mindy is so cute, and she has already become very attached to me. Juana told me the other night that Mindy has been praying for me before she goes to bed! How sweet! Mindy is very curious, and she always comes in my room to investigate what I have out on my desk. The other day, she made me show her all my photos of my family and friends, and she had many questions about everyone.

So far, I have been spending a lot of my time just getting to know my family and the town. At times, I´m not really sure what I´m supposed to be doing, because my work isn´t really delineated for me. For now, I am just accompanying my host sisters and brothers when they go out to different places, whether it be to the market, or the panaderia (bread shop) or to grind corn for tortillas at the molina. I am slowly figuring out Cholcola, and meeting people at the church, and finding opportunities to be present to people here.

I have been going to the church quite often (they have services every night), and attending different events with my family. My host father Miguel is an elder at the church, and the whole family is very involved in the life of the church. The congregation is fairly small (the Menchu family makes up a good percentage of the attendees), but there is a lot of life and energy there. My first night in Chocola, one of the elders from the church gave me a hymnal with the music to all the hymns (all the other hymnals just have the words, no music, because everyone knows the hymns by heart). The church has an old keyboard, but it has gone mostly unused, because no one knows how to play it. The music at the services is led by a single man or woman who sings acapella over a microphone, at the top of his or her lungs, and often out of key. The elders of the church are all very excited to have someone who can play the teclado (keyboard). I have been going to the church some afternoons with Sonya to learn some of the hymns - she sings while I play the teclado.
Last Thursday night, I had my first music gig at the church. About an hour before the service, the singer for the night (Carlos) gave me about 7 or 8 hymns; I quickly learned them, with the help of Sonya, and was pretty much expecting to be a rock star at the service...for there to be applause and cheering, and a big parade afterward. I prayed to God before the service that my music would be for His glory, and not my own, and He certainly answered my prayer, in a very humbling and funny way. About halfway through the service, the keyboard stopped working (I think it shorts out when it is on for too long), so I told Carlos to sing the next song without me. So he started, and then halfway through the song, the keyboard came back on, but by that time eveyone had already started singing in a totally different key, so it was useless to try to join in. Also, different people kept coming up front to sing different hymns that were not on my master list, and that I had never heard before. So I just let them sing without me, as I sat up at the keyboard smiling and laughing to myself a little bit. Nevertheless, all the church elders were still thrilled to have someone at the keyboard, and I´m afraid they are going to expect me to play every night. I am excited to bring music to this church, and I am hoping that I can teach some people lessons, so that when I leave, someone else will be able to accompany the services on the teclado. I have to adjust and improvise a lot, because the congregation sings a lot of the hymns in a different rythym than is written in the hymnal...It is quite interesting at times. :) But in many ways, I think the music is so much more sincere- unrehearsed, raw, and from the heart. It doesn´t matter so much if the notes are perfect.

Other highlights from the week:

1) There was an earthquake here last Thursday! Actually, it was just a tremor here, but apparently it was pretty strong in other parts of the country. I have never felt one before, and it was very strange to feel the earth moving under my feet!

2) I got to ride on the back of a motorcycle with my brother Pablo to Santo Tomas! We went to go buy bread, but the shop was closed, so we just rode around a bunch to see the town. It was kind of scary, especially on some of the windy and rocky dirt roads!

3) I think there was a scorpion in my room the other day...I saw it on my door, and tried to swat it out of my room with a notebook, but it scurried under my bed and disappeared, never to be seen again. I slept very restlessly that night.

4) I am still afraid to get up in the night to go to the bathroom, since I have to walk around the house in the pitch dark (the bathroom is sort of like an outhouse). Also, a huge cockroach and the biggest spider I have ever seen live behind the toilet.

5) I think I might have eaten shark the other day for lunch! We had this broth thing, with fish, crab, and shrimp, and there was an unidentified piece of something, with very thick and slippery skin. I thought it was a fish I had never seen before, but after I ate it, I heard Juana tell Miguel that it was shark!

6) It has been raining quite a lot here lately, and the roof over my bed has started to leak. :(

There is so much more to write and not enough time...Hopefully I will write again soon! Until then, que les vaya bien!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

SERVICE OPPORTUNITY: Make loans that change lives - The ORB CARE Kiva Lending Team

Kiva is a non-profit website that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in the developing world. You choose who to lend to - whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq - and as they repay the loan, you get your money back.

ORB CARE has a lending team at Kiva to help alleviate poverty, started by ORB member Emily Tang. Once you're a part of the team, you can choose to have a future loan on Kiva "count" towards the team's impact. The loan is still yours, and repayments still come to you - but you can also choose to have the loan show up in our team's collective portfolio, so our team's overall impact will grow!

If you are interested, e-mail, and I will make sure you will get a registration e-mail from Kiva! Also, join the "Make loans that change lives -- The ORB CARE Kiva Lending Team" Facebook group!

Special thanks to team captain, Emily Tang!