Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Peace Poles - Prayers for the World

The pole says...May Peace Prevail On Earth, six times, in as many different languages.
Masahisa Goi, founder of The Peace Pole Project, wants you to know this... If you fling all of your thoughts into these simple words, and, from this prayer keep living your lives anew, before you know it your individualistic or cliquish feelings will diminish, and you will feel humanitarian love welling up from within. Gradually, the individual's character will be approaching wholeness, and the person's lifestyle will strike a harmonious note - which is the greatest thing an individual can do for world peace.
These poles serve to remind us to keep peace alive in our thoughts, words and actions every day.

The peace pole project was founded 52 years ago by Masahisa Goi, a young man who lived through World War II and longed for peace. The project is carried on by the World Prayer Society (http://www.worldpeace.org/), a non-profit, non-denominational organization. There are now 200,000 plus peace poles erected in more than 200 countries across the world.

St. Rose Hospital in Las Vegas, NV welcomes you to come and lay your hands on one of the peace poles on their property and invite peace into your heart.

There are also peace poles at these extraordinary locations:

Magnetic North Pole, Canada
Confucious Burial Site, Taiwan
Pyramids of El Giza, Egypt
Gorky Park, Russia
Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
Robben Island, South Africa
Jordan River, Israel
Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima
The Hague, Netherlands
Baghdad, Iraq
2002 Winter Olympics - Utah, US
Visit one near you or order your own from http://www.peacepoles.com/

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham - Woman of Conviction but not Convention

Ruth Bell Graham died last month at the age of 87. She was the steady, guiding force in and the love of Billy Graham's life. It's not easy being married to one of the most influential men in the Christian faith but from the moment they met she knew it was her calling.

Ruth was born in China while her parents were Presbyterian medical missionaries. She wanted to be a missionary and follow in their footsteps but all that changed when she met a young, charismatic, Baptist with the nickname "preacher". When she married Billy she knew she'd be expected to remain in the background and silently support her evangelical husband. And that was alright because she never wanted the spotlight.

But Ruth was not the run of the mill preacher's wife. She helped her husband compose sermons, listening while he ran over the text for ways to more concisely present the message. She wrote poetry and was an accomplished artist. She was the author of 14 books and raised 5 children mostly on her own while Billy traveled the world spreading the gospel.

Even though Billy was a Baptist, she never renounced her Presbyterian faith and remained active in her home church in Montreat, North Carolina. She is reported to have once rode on a motorcycle during one of the Billy Graham Crusades. On another occasion she ripped a large sign from a protestor's hand at an anti-war rally and was nearly arrested.

They were married in August 1943. From the beginning, the marriage was what Billy Graham has called “happily incompatible,” full of tenderness and friction. Ruth’s role, as she saw it, was both to support and to challenge her ambitious, charismatic husband—and she did so unflinchingly.

When their son Franklin was wearing his hair fashionably long in the 1970s, Ruth reminded the boy’s aghast father that hair was not a moral issue. When over lunch at the White House in 1964, Lyndon Johnson wanted Billy to help him choose a running mate, Ruth kicked her husband sharply under the table. “You should limit yourself to moral and spiritual advice,” she said, “not political advice.” These acts may seem small but for the wife of a powerful Christain figure they were steadfast and true. She understood that as a preacher's wife she was expected to sacrafice but that did not mean she was subserviant to anyone but God. It seems that her husband also understood this often misinterperated biblical doctorine because he valued and sought her counsel as his most trusted friend and confidant for 64 years.

Of his marriage to this remarkable woman Graham said, “I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth." And in a statement issued after her death, “Especially for these last few years ... We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."

May all women strive to be as convicted, steadfast, and unconventional in the pursuit of their beliefs as Ruth Bell Graham.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Activism - The Power of One Voice

Activism - the process of taking peaceful, direct, or militant action to achieve a political or social goal.

That's the simple definition of activism. What's more difficult to explain is why certain people feel led to give their time, energy, and sometimes blood and lives to a cause. What special characteristic do they have that makes them set their individual needs aside for the advancement of a group or an idea?

In many cases the change they are working for will directly benefit the activist or someone they care about. An event has touched them so deeply they feel they must act. Not to act in the face of injustice would be more of a crime than a simple arrest for protesting on private property. Ruffling a few feathers is a small sacrifice for the greater good that might be achieved.

Activists are sometimes painted as radicals, malcontents, or social outcasts who will never be content. But then time passes and we (the masses) begin to see the fruits of the activist's labor. Think about these examples for a moment.

This is a picture of Joan Norman, famous in Oregon for protesting against logging companies. She took her lawn chair and sat in the way of the trucks to protect an old growth forest. "I want my grandchildren to know what it's like to walk among 800 year old trees. A tree shouldn't just be a picture in a book."

Joan recently died at the age of 72 in a head on car collision. She wanted to leave behind a legacy for change, a memory of someone who didn't stand by and watch as the world she loved "went to pot".

Cesar Chavez once said, "I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice." Chavez was instrumental in changing and improving the working conditions of migrant workers in the grape vineyards of California. He founded a labor union so the workers could organize and have a voice against the vineyard owners. As a Mexican-American migrant worker who toiled along side his family after they lost their Arizona ranch during the depression, he became the face of the migrant worker.

Protests like the ones led by Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. are one form of activism. There are other ways, as demonstrated by Bono, Angelina Jolie, and many others who do not have the advantage of a high profile career. These people use their time and resources to throw themselves into the conflicts or social injustices they wish to change. They live the concept of One Voice, Strong Voice, using whatever means are available to them to bring about positive change.

Email campaigns, petitions, meetings on Internet Virtual Realities such a Second Life, attending city council meetings with a group of like minded folks are ways to let your voice be heard. Use the power of your vote to let our government know what matters to you, not just in national elections but on the local level, too.

Our country is divided about so many issues but that is okay. We are a diverse society of many cultures and concerns. The important thing is that we care. We exercises our right to voice our individual views and to organize protests against injustice.

If you are so inclined....act. In the words of Gandhi, "Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Help for Stray Animals in the US

Every day in the United States 70,000 stray and unwanted dogs and cats are born. This alarming number comes straight from the Human Society. In Detroit, Michigan the problem is so bad that packs of wild dogs run unchecked among abandoned buildings. This is true in most large cities and despite the shocking numbers, only 20 states have laws requiring sterilization of such animals.

Shelters all across the country are overwhelmed, even though they euthanize regularly. Euthanization is considered cruel by many private citizens and they have banned together to form no kill shelters. Even that is not enough. They are also overwhelmed and have trouble finding homes for the animals. It takes manpower, money, and proper facilities to successfully run a shelter. Even the most kind hearted of rescuers eventually run face first into these obstacles.

One such group is FLOCK (for the love of cats and kittens). They operate a cat and kitten sanctuary in Pahrump, NV. Their president recently resigned, she says, leaving the 400 animals in good condition. Six weeks later, Nye county called in the help of an animal rights group to investigate charges of neglect.
The answer to animal overpopulation is difficult to implement but relatively simple in concept. Pets must be spayed and neutered. Strays must be spayed when taken in by shelters and adopted out. Pet owners must be responsible when making reproductive decisions for their animals. If you are not a licenced breeder then you animal does not need to reproduce. Kittens and puppies are no doubt some of the cutest animals on the planet but that alone is no reason to let you cat give birth. There are so many animal waiting for homes, wandering our streets, starving and needing care. If you want a pet, please go to a shelter and adopt or rescue a stray that comes across your path.

The efforts of tireless shelter and rescue organizations should be commended. The Internet has made it even easier to adopt with some private no-kill shelters advertising for long distance adoptions.

One such organization is Hearts United For Animals, http://www.hua.org/Tias-Place.html. They encourage long distance adoption if safe flights are scheduled and there is a volunteer in your area to do a home inspection. Many of their dogs have been rescued from abusive situations and HUA takes extra measures to insure they will not suffer in their new homes. You can also become an animal buddy by giving a donation to a specific resident of HUA. Buddies help to defray the cost of care until a permanent home can be found.

FurKids, http://www.furkids.org/, is an organization for cats based in Atlanta, GA. There are many like them all over the country. They foster cats and kittens until homes can be found. Their animals are shown for adoption at the local PetSmart stores. They accept donations and fund programs for public awareness about solutions to animal overpopulation.

We can each do our part by being compassionate to animals and open to solutions on their behalf. Take in a stray or deliver it to a reputable shelter or veterinarian's office. Report animal abuse and neglect. Care responsibly for the pets you own. Above all give them lots of love. I think most spiritual leaders would agree that the golden rule applies to ALL the creatures of the planet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Power of Schmooze Award

I've won a blogging award! I've won a blogging award! Did you see me jumping up and down in a fit of joy? If you were in my living room yesterday you would have and I'm still flying high.

My new friend Charlotte R. Dixon who runs Word Strumpet, http://www.wordstrumpet.typepad.com/, thought that the work I'm doing with LifePrints was worthy of an award. Writers should click right over to Charlotte and check out her advice on writing. She is a copywriter and creative writing teacher of the highest caliber.

The Power of Schmooze is a blogging community involvement award given to bloggers who make an effort to get to know others in the blogosphere. The tough part is now I must pass the award along to five others.

Since I've become involved in Blogcatalog I've met some interesting people who run informative, fun, and entertainingly irreverent blogs. I am in good company at Blogcatalog. The members have set a high standard for excellence.

So drum roll please...here are the winners.

Kali Karagias at Out of Focus, http://adhd.typepad.com/

Kali was one of the first people to reach out to me. She is so funny. She has a dry sense of humor that always makes me laugh out loud when I read her posts. With a sharp wit and keen insight she challenges the way I think about the world. I love people who can do that.

Philip Harris at All Things That Matter, http://philipharris.blogspot.com/

Mr. Harris is the author of Waking God. He has his own talk radio show called All Things That Matter and currently works in special education. Also, he is knowledgeable in the areas of secret societies, occult and religious studies and has been a student of mystical studies for over twenty five years. Phil's post about our true place in the Milky Way Galaxy blew my mind and I've been reading faithfully ever since.

Delirante (Wen) at La Delirante, http://ladelirante.blogspot.com/

Wen is from El Salvador and lives in Malta. She writes about her life there. I've enjoyed talking to her and learning through her eyes about living outside your homeland.

Lisa Wines at OMYWORD! Did I Say That!, http://omywordblog.blogspot.com/

Lisa added me to her feeder! I remember when she sent that message. I was as happy then as I am now to pass on this award to her. She lives in France and has the most interesting take on life. I'll never think of fake boobs in the same way and her recent post on the Bible...well, I won't give away the ending.

Vienne at Eavesdropwriter, http://eavesdropwriter.blogspot.com/

Vienne has created one of the most unique resources for writers that I've ever had the pleasure to stumble upon. I wish I'd thought of it! She is an accomplished eavesdropper and uses the tidbits she overhears to build characters and spark her creativity. Every writer should check it out.

That's my five and it was a difficult task. I wish I could give one back to Charlotte at Word Strumpet but that's probably against the rules. Congratulations everyone. Now it's your turn to pass it on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Are You Driving Green or Mean?

Recently the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released their list of the Greenest and Meanest Vehicles of 2007. The ACEEE is a Washington, D.C.-based independent, non-profit research group dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy. They seek to encourage manufacturers to produce high-efficiency, low-pollution vehicles and also to motivate consumers to purchase them. A cornerstone of this effort is ACEEE's Green Book: The Environmental Guide to Cars and Trucks and its website: http://www.greenercars.com/.

Topping the Green List was the Honda Civic GX with a green score of 57. The scores were calculated using engine specifications, emmision standards, and city/highway miles per gallon.

The Honda Civic GX runs on natural gas and is being billed as the cleanest running car on Earth. There are even devices available for refueling at home in your garage since there are not natural gas filling stations on every corner.

Toyota Prius came in second with a green score of 55. It gets more miles to the gallon than a Honda Civic but lost on emissions. Who could compete with a zero emissions model like the GX, anyway?

The rest of the Green List goes like this:

HONDA CIVIC HYBRID, rating of 53
TOYOTA YARIS, rating of 47
TOYOTA COROLLA, rating of 46
HONDA FIT, rating of 45
KIA RIO / RIO 5, rating of 45
HYUNDAI ACCENT, rating of 45
HYUNDAI ELANTRA, rating of 45
HONDA CIVIC, rating of 44.

The ACEEE also compiled a list they called the Meanest Vehicles of 2007. That lists the biggest offenders to the enviroment. So if you are driving a Volkswagen Touareg or a Mercedes-Benz GL320 CDI you might want to think about trading it in for one of the great cars on the greenest list. They have the dubious honor of ranking the lowest on the Green List.

I can personally recommend the Prius. I've driven one for a little over a year and find it comfortable, reliable, and surpisingly powerful. You might like it, too. We can all do the environment a favor and send a message to the auto industry by buying fuel-efficient, low-emissions cars and turning our backs on the bigger-than-a-mountain, gas guzzling SUV's. Lobbying our government to set stricter standards is also a positive step toward a cleaner Earth.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty - Celebrating All Women

In 2005 Dove Soap launched an ad campaign featuring real women. Ones who didn't fit the industry standard. They were a cross-section of society, different races and ages, curvy, plump, pale, freckled, fit, unconventional, and gorgeous in their own way. I remember hearing comments like, "What do they think their doing? Who wants to look at that? She looks like my mother! I want Victoria's Secret girls!"

I couldn't help but chuckle. Tyra Banks is one of the most beautiful and celebrated models in the world but after following her television show for a few episodes it became apparent that she's shaped much more like me and my friends than her famous Victoria's Secret pictorials would lead you to believe. Like all models, Tyra had been photoshopped seven ways to Sunday.

Funny thing is....the beauty industry didn't need to rework her into an unacheiveable image. She was gorgeous before they ever turned their computer mouses loose to "touch up" her photos.

Dove realized this, not nessecarily about Ms. Banks but about all models, all women, and the images mass media was selling a whole generation of growing girls. The company made a bold move to do something about it, to expose the secrets of their own industry, and hopefully reverse some of the damage to the self-esteem of millions of young women.
The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Dove Self-Esteem Fund have launched print ads and particularly a series of television ads to further the cause. The evolution commercial shows the transformation of an every day pretty girl to a cover creature that only exists in a photoshopped folder on a laptop. The end tag says, "It's no wonder our perception of beauty is so distorted." All I can say is, "Amen."

On their website, http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.co.nz/site/default.asp, Dove provides resources for getting involved, mentoring girls and promoting positive body image, and a forum where you can express your views.

This is a quote from Leanne Landolfi, Brand Manager, Dove Australia. Hopefully, more beauty companies will follow suit and begin to sell a real and realisitic idea of beauty.

"Being a global beauty brand, we strongly believe that it is our responsibility to make women feel more beautiful every day. As girls care about the way they look from such an early age, we believe that it is extremely important to encourage younger girls to build a healthy body image and to have a balanced view on what real beauty is."

She continued, "This is a long-term commitment from Dove. We will be setting new goals for the Fund each year, reviewing past activities and assessing their effectiveness in building the body image self-esteem of young people. The Fund has already made a big impact in other countries, and we are tremendously excited about the potential for it to become a positive influence."
I will be buying Dove products and supporting their efforts. Ideas are alreay changing. I asked my daughter to sit with me and watch the evolution commercial.

When it was finished she said, "Yeah, I know that and I like the way I look."

"Well, alrighty then." I beamed with pride.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Astronaut Farmer - Go After Your Dreams

Earlier this week my family and I went to an outdoor movie screening at Lake Las Vegas Resort. During the summer months they run a series called Movies Al Fresco. http://www.lakelasvegasresort.com/. If you live in the area and want to go, use this link to check schedules. The sunset over the backdrop of the lake was breathtaking. The grass was cool and soft after a hot, dry day and it's free.

We relaxed on our blanket, bit into drippy, steaming pizza and watched a gem of a movie, The Astronaut Farmer. The projectionist welcomed the crowd and proceeded to tell us that The Astronaut Farmer was a good family movie but a bit unrealistic. After all, there are all sorts of problems that go along with building a rocket in your barn.

I didn't care. Ten minutes into the movie I was a believer and so were my boys, who reclined in front of me staring at the screen. Charles Farmer washed out of the space program but he hadn't lost the burning desire to go into space. He uses his skills and knowledge as an aerospace engineer to make his dream a reality. If NASA won't sent him into orbit then, by God, he'll do it himself.

What captured my imagination was this man's ability to believe in himself and the possibility that anything can be accomplished. It's what we are supposed to believe as Americans. The ironic (and unfortunately realistic) part of this movie was the ridicule he recieved from his friends and the townspeople. Even his own government jumped on the bandwagon to stop him. Who did he think he was trying to go into space without them? How dare he circumvent their authority over the skys. So much for the American dream. "You're just crazy," the town nurse told him.

Against the odds, Charlie infused his family with his passion. At the dinner table they played a game. "I'm going to the moon and I'm taking a pillow," his little girl says.

"Okay, you can go to the moon," her father responds.

His teenage son, Shepard, is in charge of mission control. His father raised him to believe in his problem solving abilities. He's helped his father build the rocket. It's going to work. The family thrives on faith in each other.

I worry about what happens in American homes these days. Do we encourage our children to be all that they can be? Do we give them the help they need to experiment and learn, even when what they strive for sounds far fetched? In my house I have children who dream big and I have to constantly remind myself that it's okay to encourage them along their individual paths. So far, we have a future president of the USA, a chef, a professional football player and a music producer in the works. And who am I to tell them that maybe they should think about careers in retail?

What The Astronaut Farmer did for me was to remind me that the best way to show my children how to rope in their big dreams is to pursue my own. No matter what movie critics thought of the movie it had a positive affect on this writer, best selling author wanna be.

Like Charles Farmer, don't be afraid to shoot for the moon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

1 Million Love Messages - Giving the World a Big Hug

Love makes the world go round. That's a worn out, oft repeated phrase. I like author Franklin P. Jones verson better. Love doesn't make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

Blogger, Mauro from Portugal, agrees with me. Last year he started a project he calls 1 Million Love Messages - 1 blog, 1 million love messages from around the world. http://www.1millionlovemessages.com/.
His goal is to post 1 million messages sent to his blog from all over the world. Reading the posts brought tears to my eyes. What did I find that made me cry? Emotion, pure, raw emotions that all human beings share. I think we forget sometimes that we are all the same and have one underlying basic need. No matter where we are from, how or if we worship God, what we look like, or where we work, we need love and lots of it.

On 1 Million Love Messages there are the expected letters from one lover to another but the ones that tugged at my heart were the ones that reminded me that love comes in many different forms and is expressed in a many ways as there are stars in the sky.

A mother expresses remorse to her son for decisions she knows hurt him. A man praises his brother for a job well done. A woman writes to her deceased husband on father's day. A man sends some love out to his pet cat and ferret. One woman wrote a love letter to herself, an encouragement that things will get better, just keep trying.

You and I can be part of Mauro's admirable quest. On the blog is a submit button asking for participants. Click it, open the new email message and let that special someone or animal know that you care. Post poetry, videos, song lyrics, letters, pictures...be creative. I can't think of a better way to honor that love and spread some positive energy around the globe.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

William Kamkwamba - An Inspiration to All

I discovered an amazing human being today. His name is William Kamkwamba and according to Grist Magazine I am way behind the power curve. Maybe you already know about William and his Do It Yourself windmill that powers his parents home and charges car batteries and cellphones for his neighbors and relatives.

If you are like me and didn't know about William, the super-intelligent 19 year old from Malawi, then prepare to be humbled and inspired by his efforts to gain an education, learn everything he can about passive/efficient energy sources, and take the internet by storm.

Well, in all sincerity, I don't know if he actually MEANT to take the internet by storm but that's what's happened. It was only a few months ago when he was introduced to the World Wide Web for the first time, after being invited to attend the TEDGlobal conference in Southern Africa. Not long after, he began Googling words like solar power, wind power, and crop rotation. How many young men would have go straight for the porn or youtube?

Not William. Maybe later when he's satisfied his thrist for knowledge but for now girls and mindless distractions seem to be the last things on his mind. After dropping out of school at 14 because his family had no money to send him to secondary school, he has returned to the classroom through the hard work of mentors he met at the conference. He will be attending a different school next month that is primarily reserved for the children of Christian missionaries.

Almost immediately, after gaining somewhat regular access to the internet and with some coaching by his mentor, Tom Rielly from TEDGlobal, William started a blog on typepad.com. It's called William Kamkwamba's Malawi Windmill Blog. http://williamkamkwamba.typepad.com/williamkamkwamba/.

On his blog he laid out the design for his windmill step by step with photos of the construction process. He quickly gained mass media coverage and now his blog has received 113,000 page views with 64,000 on one day alone. You can follow his life and acheivements as he works on other innovations to help his community. Find out how his is using the generous donations that have come his way due to the media attention. So far he's bought supplies to improve his windmill design, essential items for his family like soap and laundry detergent, and a sanitary drinking water dispenser.

I am left speechless when I think about this young man from such an impoverished country. He has every reason to give up but yet he is part of a new breed of Africans. They are called cheetahs and they are out to make a difference on their continent. No more waiting for their government to get it's act together or for aid workers to save the day. William is saving himself, his family and his village.

Now what excuse can possibly I come up with for not achieving my goals? Any would be a joke in the face of William Kamkwamba's example.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cargotecture - A World of Possiblity in a Metal Box

Our country imports more than it exports. One byproduct of this recent development is the metal mountains of empty shipping containers piling up at our shipping ports and transport centers. What to do with them all?

Groups of innovative architects have an answer. How about a house? An artist studio? A weekend get away spot? A clinic in a remote area? Relief housing after a natural disaster? HyBrid Architecture of Seattle and other companies like them around the world are experimenting with building prefab, ecologically intelligent structures from empty cargo containers.

A 40 foot container costs from $500 to $2000 plus a shipping fee to your building sight. That's kind of amusing...a shipping fee for your shipping container, but anyway. A company like HyBrid will outfit the container with window, insulation, and all the desired ammenities from upscale to utilitarian.

The containers as housing are interesting eye candy to some and hideous eye sores to others but our concept of the world is changing. It's time to utilize the junk we've created and reconfigure the way we think about our right to a disposable lifestyle. If not for a house, the containers make perfect low cost structures for clinics in remote or impoverished areas. A building such as this might mean the difference in a non-profit having the money to start medical services or not. Facility expenses can be a huge burden when calculating the money needed to get a project off the ground.

HyBrid has built a studio cabin in Enumclaw, Washington. It's a 320 sq. foot masterpiece full of natural light and urban attitude in the woods. There are intriguing aspects of building with containers, besides the availability and economy. All the structural load in an 8-by-40-by-9 1/2-foot container is carried by the corner castings, steel columns at each of the four corners. This means that doors and windows can occur anywhere else in the structure. Whole walls can be cut out and replaced with glass, and interior walls can be anywhere or nowhere. The boxes can be stacked like giant Lego blocks, cantilevered into space to create intriguing overhangs and practical decks, or cut apart and reassembled into new configurations.

Read the August issue of Readers Digest for a quick snipet about cargotecture or go to http://www.hybridseattle.com/ to see renderings of the company's designs and vison of cargo communities.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BoGo - Lighting Up the Third World

Thanks to BoGo, orphans in Rwanda can see to walk at night to the outdoor toilets. Thanks to BoGo, children in Terrier Rouge can do their schoolwork and read at night after working with their parents all day to support the family. Thanks to BoGo, missionaries in third world countries have light for safety, no matter where they are.

What is BoGo? BoGo stands for Buy One Give One. It is a task light powered by a photovoltic cell and rechargeable batteries. They produce more light with LED technology than incandescent bulbs. They are made of durable materials that can withstand serious wear and tear. Bogos last years longer than conventional flashlights. BoGo's can only be purchased through http://www.bogolight.com/.

The lights cost $25.00. When a purchase is made through the website BoGo will send your light to you and give one away to a non-governmental organization that has partnered with BoGo, a SunNight Solar Company based out of Houston, TX. When you place an order BoGo provides a drop down list of affliates to choose from.

It is also an option to buy a light to give away. If you do this BoGo will match your donation one for one. If you buy two donation lights, BoGo will also give two away to the organization of your choice.

SunNight Solar and president of BoGo, Mark Bent are quickly expanding the business. The response has been so great that they are revamping their order and distribution systems. They have other projects in the works to help the citizens of third world countries by utilizing solar technologies. These include solar powered water purifications systems, solar lamps to cure jaundiced infants, and a room illumination system that utilizes LED lights.

BoGo has a bright future and is well on it's way to making life better and safer for many of the worlds most impoverished people. Thanks BoGo. I think I know a few people who could use your lights and would be proud to know that the purchase helped someone else along the way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stoves from Berkeley Scientists Saving Lives in Darfur

Think about this one for a moment? What would you do without your microwave oven?

"I'd be fine," you say.

Alright, what would do you without your gas or electric stove?

"That might be tougher," you answer.

Okay, try this scenario on for size. You live in a war torn country where you've been forced into a refugee camp in the desert. To feed your family you cook over an open fire but this is the desert. There is little to no wood and everyone in the camp is scrambling for the same few scraps. That's bad enough, but you HAVE to cook and eat, so the only solution is to walk and hunt for wood outside the boundaries of the camp. You've watched the neighbor women put on a brave face and leave the safety of the group. As much as seven hours later you've seen them return, exhausted, with small arm loads of wood. Some of them return with glazed over expressions, limping, or crying. They've been raped, beaten or terrorized by militants but they had to go. To send the men out for wood would mean certain death. The men are simply slaughtered on sight. This is what you face to feed your children. So tell me, as you pour your second cup of hot coffee, if this woman were you, what now?

Ashok Gadgil, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkely National Labortory in California has an answer. It's called the Berkely-Darfur Stove. The simple but clever design uses 75% less firewood than an open fire and 50% less than a traditional clay cookstove. What does this mean to the women of Darfur? Less trips away from the safety of the camp to gather wood.

What does this mean to Darfur's severely depleated environment? Time for vegetation to recover and reclaim the land.

What does this mean for the people of Darfur who desperately want to have normal self-sufficent lives again? It means a way to make money. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove is designed in such a way that it can be produced with simple tools and materials.

There are many advantages to cooking in this manner. Using open fires on the desert plains with constant winds often results in fires, burning down shelters and tents. Also, wood is so scarce that refugees have taken to exchanging or selling their food rations to barter for fuel. The stove dramatically drops the need for more fuel and give the families the option of holding onto their food and using it for nutrition instead of currency.

The partnership is offering the stoves to the refugees for a very small lease to own fee and providing help in a start-up manufactoring process. In this way, Dr. Gadgil and his associates feel they are empowering the refugees instead of making beggers out of a proud people.

The Darfur Stoves Project is taking donations, looking for businesses willing to do corporate funds matching, and groups to hold fundaraisers. Newsweek Magazine ran an informative article on the project in the July 16th issue and OPRAH Magazine highlighted Darfur Stoves in its June issue.

In a time when it's easy to throw up your hands and say, "What can I do? The problems are just too big. Think of the Berkeley-Darfur Stove Project and the impact and empowerment five little pieces of shaped steel can give to persons life.

To read more about this project go to http://www.darfurstoves.org/.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Assisted Living Residents Remember the Importance of Wartime Letters/Packages

During wartime it is so important to send cards, letters, and packages to our soliders. They are in stange lands, sometimes fighting for causes that are complicated and unclear, and wondering if anyone at home gives a darn about what they face every morning when they open their eyes.

The residents of Sierra Springs Assisted Living Home in Hartselle, Alabbama remember all too well the sacrafices of WWII. Recently they partnered with Anysolider.com to launch Operation Red, White, and Blue.

They are collecting packages and letters to send to US soliders overseas. The drive began on the 4th of July and will continue until the 18th.

Irene Sullins, who lives at Sierra Springs, remembers that during WWII she sent hundreds of letters to her husband who served in the army. She wrote to him everyday during his two year absence. In an interview with the Hartselle Enquirer, she said. "I remember his serial number yet and as old as I am, I still know his serial number that I put on his letters." Now she writes to her grandson who is currently serving in Iraq. "I pray for him every night," she stated.

Irene is participating in Operation Red, White, and Blue. The program is especially important to the four Sierra Springs residents who served during World War II and other residents who either have served or currently have family members and loved ones serving overseas.

The town of Hartselle is excited about Operation Red, White and Blue. "As we get the word out, we are getting more and more people that have come forward to encourage us and to help us any way that they can," Mary Thomason, marketing director for the center, said. "It's growing into a community-wide effort." Senior Circle of Hartselle has also joined the effort and several businesses are providing financial support to offset shipping costs and donating supplies for the packages.

It's encouraging to see people from every walk of life contributing to the morale of our faithful soliders. With the recent mindset of our country, the men and women in Iraq must be wondering where they stand with the average American. No matter the sentiment about a specific conflict, it's important to remember the individuals who've pledged, with their lives, to trust the judgement of our country's elected leaders.

To start your own campaign, like Operation Red, White, and Blue or to send an individual package go to http://www.anysolider.com/ and brighten the day of a tired and faithful warrior.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Send a Smile - Free Ecards with a Conscience

My mother often scolds me because I don’t send out cards the way I used to. I blame my laziness on the ease of the Internet. With one click I can send my “connected” friends and family an e-card to commemorate a birthday or anniversary. I save trees from destruction and paper from going to the landfill. I save money on stamps and the gas it would take to go to the store. My justifications are endless. So if you are like me and enjoy sending e-cards, I’ve located some sites that allow you to send FREE cards that will help spread the word about a worthy cause and create a warm smile on your recipient’s face. Have fun brightening someone’s day.
Conservation International – Founded in 1987, Conservation International (CI) is an innovative leader in global biodiversity conservation. E-cards with beautiful pictures sending a message of hope about the future of our planet. http://getinvolved.conservation.org/site/PageServer?JServSessionIdr011=ch3kd5cl%20f3.app2b&pagename=ecards_google

Make A Wish Foundation – Make A Wish Foundation helps to make the dreams of seriously ill children a reality. These e-cards are illustrated with drawings by the Make A Wish kids. http://www.wishcards.org/

Arbor Day Foundation – Inspiring people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. Send a card with inspirational poetry and a breathtaking photo. www.arborday.org/cards/CardList.cfm.

Day Spring – Offers Christian e-cards with spiritual messages. www.dayspring.com/ecards.

NamasteDirect – This organization provides capital for first-time loans to women in rural Central America. Raise awareness by sending their free e-card. http://www.namaste-direct.org/ecard.php?gclid=CJ2UpMW3oo0CFRDVYAodnAaf0Q

World Wildlife Fund – Helps endangered species around the world. These e-cards are perfect for animal lovers.

SOS Children’s Villages – responding to the needs of orphans since WWII. Send an e-card with the face of a beautiful child. http://www.sos-usa.org/cgi-bin/sos/jsp/eCardSelection.do?lang=en&site=US&hNav=show&nav=3.7&et_cid=2&et_lid=1398&et_sub=free+e+cards

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Microloans - A Helping Hand for the World's Working Poor

The last time you had twenty-five dollars in your wallet what did you spend it on? A new blouse? A couple of movie tickets? Dinner at your favorite restaurant? Most of us lay down the bills and never give it another thought. Twenty-five dollars is a drop in the bucket.

What if the twenty-five you spent on a book at Borders could change a person's life? That twenty-five was all it would take to buy supplies that would help a mother in Tajikistan open a fruit stand. With that twenty-five she'd have the means she needed to run a successful business and have a regular income for her family.

I think because we live in such an affluent country where the cost of living is so high, we forget that the majority of our fellow man survives on less than two-hundred dollars a year. Our pocket change can truly be the difference between success and failure to the working poor in developing countries.

So how do you get your money to where it can do the most good? I recently discovered Kiva.org and the idea of microfinance. Kiva becomes the middle man by introcducing you to small business owners in other countries who cannot get loans from the traditional banking system. Usually this occurs because the amount they need is too small to be of any concern to a lending institution. Without established credit or collateral, reliable, industrious people fall through the cracks and have to give up their dreams of bettering the situations of their families.

Kiva.org give you a way with to connect with a man in Cambodia who needs $500.00 to buy more pigs and expand his farm. This will help him provide for his wife and four children. He also makes about six dollars a day from washing cars and motorbikes, which is enough to pay for his children to go to school.

With Kiva.org you pledge to loan him twenty-five dollars and so do other kind souls around the world. When his goal of $500.00 is reached a microfinance company in his country will loan him the accumulated amount.

You might be wondering if this is actually a loan how do you get your money back? You loan your money through Pay-Pal and when the business owner repays the loan in full, the money is redistributed to you and the other investors and deposited back into your Pay-Pal account.

There is slight risk involved but amazingly enough over 90% of the interest-free loans are repaid in full. And if for some reason the money is not repaid you really have not lost much in your attempt to help move another toward a better life. You've lost the price of a night at the movies or a cheap pair of shoes.

It's easy to establish a Kiva account. After you've made a loan to one of the business owners listed you can follow their progress on the journal section of the site. Some Kiva.org contributors have gone so far as to visit the people they've helped and see their good will in action.

If you'd like to get involved in changing the world one person at a time go to http://www.kiva.org/.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Amber Hagerman - You Are Not Forgotten

On January 12, 1996 Amber Hagerman went for a short bike ride around the block with her little brother. They'd stopped with their mother to visit their grandparents in Arlington, TX.

Her mother grew up in this neighborhood and as a child rode her bike on the same streets. The family waited in the yard, chatting, until the children returned.

Eight minutes. That's all it took and Amber was gone, abducted by a man in a pick-up. A neighbor heard the girl's cries and called 911. Police were dispatched. Amber's grandfather walked the block looking for the girl, since his grandson had returned without her, saying he couldn't find his sister. Four days later Amber's body was found in a drainage ditch. Her murderer has never been found.

Amber, the little girl who loved Burger King, Barbie dolls, and the song America the Beautiful because of the line with her name it in (amber waves of grain)...she's gone but not forgotten. She's left a legacy that so far has helped to save 324 distressed children.

The AMBER ALERT Law was signed by President Bush in 2003. Amber's brother Ricky and her mother were there to see the bill enacted into law. AMBER stands for America's Missing:Broadcast Emergency Response. All 50 states now have plans in place to immediatly broadcast information over the airwaves when a child is found to have been abducted. Just like a weather bulletin forecasting an impending tornado, AMBER ALERT send out immediate calls for help about where and when someone was taken and all the pertinant information to hopefully find them before more harm can be done.

90% of the 324 recoveries occured after AMBER ALERT became a national program. Before that, Texas operated its own AMBER program, which was used as a model for the national effort.

Amber's family would much rather have her back. She'd be a young woman now, leading her own life, voting for the first time in 2008, and maybe going to college. Her family understands that is not possible for their little girl but with AMBER ALERT another child like Amber will have that opportunity.

Amber's legacy is triumph out of tragedy, if not for her, at least for other children like her who fall into the hands of evil predators. Because of her there is a chance other abducted children will be found quickly and their captures will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Storycorps - Recording our History One Voice at a Time

For centuries humans passed down mythology, oral histories, and sage advice around the campfire at night. As our society became more techonological, more isolated and less tribal the art of storytelling gave way to reading books, watching television, and
delving into the virtual online world. We hardly talk to each other anymore.

Since 2003, Storycorp has attempted to change that fact by providing professional sound quality booths were two people can sit down together, ask questions of one another and record the stories that make up the fabric of American life.

In Grand Central Station in New York City a mother and daughter can ask each other the difficult questions or the questions that just don't get asked because it's never the right time. "How did you and dad meet?" "What was it like to move to a new country as a young adult?" "Tell me about the day I was born."

The conversations are recorded. The participants are given copies and the master is added to the StoryCorps Archive, housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which they hope will become nothing less than an oral history of America.

Not since the WPA (Works Progress Adminsitration) project of the 1930's through which oral history interviews with everyday Americans across the country were recorded has anything on this scale been attempted. The WPA recordings remain the single most important collection of American voices gathered to date. StoryCorps hopes to build and expand on that work, becoming the WPA for the 21st Century.

If you would like to participate and don't think you'll be in Grand Central Station any time soon, you can visit one of the three MobileBooths criss-crossing the country and record your story inside an Airstream trailer. For the MobileBooth route and StoryBooth locations go to http://storycorps.net/participate/record_an_interview/locations/. To listen to some of the stories being added to the oral history at the Library of Congress go to http://www.storycorps.net/.

vision is to promote understanding between all people. What better way to do that than to share our personal stories with each other and record them for future generations?