Tag Archives: Blog Post 4 – Exercising Public Voice

Reconsider How To Fight Poverty in Developing Countries

In today’s digital social media world, it’s very easy to contribute to a whole lot of causes that are claiming to fight poverty. Everywhere there are non-profits and organizations that claim to help people in developing nations – the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed My Starving Children and more. It’s so easy to contribute without thinking critically about where the money is going and if it’s actually making an impact. 
 
As a native Haitian who spent a year working at an innovative non-profit fighting poverty in Haiti, I believe we need to seriously reevaluate how we contribute to eradicating poverty. 
First off, we can’t assume that non-profits, even the biggest ones in the world, are using donations properly. Two years ago, NPR found that $500 million in donated funds for Haiti earthquake relief were missing. This is not an isolated incident. Non-government organizations aren’t often transparent about where donated funds go to, partially because we as the donors aren’t that interested. We just want to feel like we’ve done something good. 
 
Our desire to feel good about our contributions goes so far that we sometimes inadvertently hurt the very people we’re supposedly trying to help. This excellent New York Times article shows how volunteer missions trips to do stuff like build homes puts local construction workers out of business and strains the local resources.
Volunteering seems like an admirable way to spend a vacation. Many of us donate money to foreign charities with the hope of making the world a better place. Why not use our skills as well as our wallets? And yet, watching those missionaries make concrete blocks that day in Port-au-Prince, I couldn’t help wondering if their good intentions were misplaced. These people knew nothing about how to construct a building. Collectively they had spent thousands of dollars to fly here to do a job that Haitian bricklayers could have done far more quickly. Imagine how many classrooms might have been built if they had donated that money rather than spending it to fly down themselves. Perhaps those Haitian masons could have found weeks of employment with a decent wage. Instead, at least for several days, they were out of a job.
This type of short-term, self-gratifying contribution is so common that we’ve become immune to it and have lost the ability to see that it’s happening. Instead, we need to partner with local communities to determine their needs, their desires and gauge the resources they already have at their disposal. As the incredible documentary “Poverty, Inc.” demonstrates, the work Westerners often engage in rarely involves the locals in terms of vision-casting, planning and execution. We assume these people are unable to do it themselves, so we must do it for them. It’s demeaning and it perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
What must we do instead? Work with organizations that express an interest in long-term change that involves the local communities and allows them to set the priorities and direction. Consider if the way we’re each contributing is actually helping people, or just making ourselves feel good while furthering their poverty.
That is how to be an enlightened partner to these people.
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Enough Already; NOW is THE Time

Once again.

Sadly, once again, the hearts of the nation and many around the world are broken for loss of life and injury and fear wrought upon everyday citizens of the United States like you and I. 

I hope in my lifetime to see a point where Hate is far outweighed by Love. Regardless of whom you love.

A post shared by Karen Smith (@kkjacknwilla) on

I’m speaking, of course, of the senseless acts of violence committed against folks just out to have a good time in Orlando early this past Sunday morning.   I know of no other legitimate way to describe this act.  I know many are saying “Hate Crime,” and yes it certainly appears that the individual responsible was filled with that.  Many are saying “home grown terrorist” and blaming a faith for the acts of one of their members.  Many are crying foul as the shooter apparently was in the throes of a mental crisis, and I’m sure we’ll hear more on that as well as all the other possible reasons he did what he did.  I frankly don’t care.  I don’t care what label we put on this, or what name or association the press shares with us.  I simply call him what he is: a murderer.  He will go down in the current history books as the perpetrator of the largest act of gun violence in U.S. history for his actions. 

Continue reading Enough Already; NOW is THE Time

Marijuana legality

Just an idea.

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Marijuana is something I was told growing up was a dangerous drug that people should stay away from. It’s been illegal my entire life but slowly more and more states are opening it up for medical use and in some states for personal use as well.

How did it go from being a dangerous illegal drug to one that doctors are prescribing? Well for starters its actually not that dangerous. According to one study,marijuana doesn’t. It can lead to bad decisions but you can’t overdose on it. on the flip side I know many people who have had their lives torn apart by alcohol. Some people by drunk drivers others by addiction.

Not your grandmas medicine

A post shared by Mark Rangen (@super.important) on

There are benefits to legalization too. Marijuana provides a good amount of pain relief and relaxation. In many patients it inspires an appetite. Another big benefit is the amount of tax dollars it brings in. According to reason.com,  in 2015 marijuana taxes raised $1 billion. Thats a lot of money.

I’m not a marijuana smoker, I’ve tried it a few time but its not for me and frankly I think a lot of the culture surrounding it is stupid. But I think the logic in legalizing it is sound.

Well? What are you wearing?

Every week, it seems, I see headlines about something awful on the news. TV headlines are outrageous, Reddit headlines are outrageous… heck, even Facebook headlines are outrageous! It leaves me with a sense of helplessness. What can I, personally, do against kidnappings, murder, violence, and terrorist attacks? Whenever I see these headlines, I’m filled with a sense of unsettled silence. A heavy sadness. A ruined peace that leaves me crushed for the rest of the day.

But there are certain headlines, and certain comments on the internet, that just make me mad. And violations of women’s rights, especially when it comes to the way she looks or dresses, fit that bill.

Continue reading Well? What are you wearing?

Students: Avoid the Cost of College

Student loan debt

So college is the great equalizer, right? It’s the vehicle that hypothetically will bring opportunity to the disadvantaged. It’s the catalyst for the modern American dream, or at least that’s the narrative that has been told to America’s youth.

With a national average of $37, 173 for student loan debt, it’s understandable why many Americans have chosen to pursue paths that don’t require a 4-year degree. In addition to rising student loan debt, young Americans are also faced with the increase in cost of living. For many, this modern American dream has become the source of the new American nightmare.

A post shared by Samuel F (@uz8502wz) on

 

Continue reading Students: Avoid the Cost of College

Electronic Cigarettes are Harmless, You Say?

Remember when the electronic cigarette (e-cig) fad began? I sure do. One of my first exposures to e-cigs was in 2013 on a riverboat cruise in Stillwater for my boyfriend’s high school graduation. One of his acquaintances had an e-cig that he kept puffing on throughout the evening. His fruity emissions filled the air around us. Of course the fad began in America several years before (in 2007), but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began really noticing e-cigs…everywhere.

While strolling around in malls, meandering in grocery stores, and eating out at restaurants, I recall being extremely thrown off when I would see a cloud of smoke exit an individual’s mouth. Maybe my shock was due to the fact that the Freedom to Breathe (FTB) amendments (part of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act [MCIAA]) became effective in 2007, which meant that we would no longer see any smoking indoors.

What am I saying? This was fine. This was safe. E-cigs aren’t really smoking—they’re just vapor. Wrong. Apparently, some U.S. municipalities are hostile toward e-cigs. Spokane County, in particular, has just recently banned the use of e-cigs in all public places, which means e-cigs and cigarettes are viewed as the same thing (the ban will become effective on July 1, 2016). Many other states and municipalities also regulate e-cig use (ecigslaws).

So, what’s the deal and why are people banning e-cigs? First off, do you really know what an e-cig is? I’m sure you do in theory, right? It’s a battery-operated cigarette that heats up a liquid containing nicotine, fruity flavoring, and other chemicals (link). The concern stems from the “other chemicals” part of e-cigs. Being so new to the U.S., not having FDA regulation or review, and having very little research behind them, e-cigs are an enigma.

The little research that has been done has shown that there are toxic/cancer-causing substances in many popular e-cig “juice” brands (e.g., diethylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze). There is also little information regarding the emissions or secondhand smoke effects of e-cigs. Formaldehyde and benzene, which are both carcinogens, have been found in these emissions and may pose a danger to bystanders (as well as the first-hand individual).

The fact of the matter is that due to the lack of knowledge we have about e-cigs, it would be best to avoid using them until more research is done and the public can make an informed decision about whether or not to use e-cigs.

Child Bride

too young to wed

Last night before bed, I was scrolling through my Facebook and came across an article about a child bride that was oddly written by the child bride herself. Her story captivated me and connected with me on an emotional level.

Read her story here or read my quick recap below:

Yasmine’s story begins as a child. Her two older sisters were married off when they were teenagers, but Yasmine never knew about it until she was forced into marriage too. A year after Yasmine graduated from middle school, her mother and grandma took her to Palestine to find her a mate.

Yasmine  Yasmine’s 8th Grade Graduation Photo

Yasmine was tricked into going to Palestine as she was told it was a vacation to visit her sisters. As much as she wanted to run away, she couldn’t. She didn’t have her passport or any money. So she ended up marrying a man for a few weeks until she could get a hold of her friends via Facebook. It was through her friend that she got the contact information to get help. Since then, she has returned to the United States. She has been in three foster care homes and thought she would be until she turned 18. However, one day she got the news of a lifetime. A foster family wanted her and they wanted her to be a part of their family forever. In her new life, Yasmine graduated high school and received a full ride scholarship to a University.

Yasmine graduates
 Yasmine’s High School Graduation with her new family

There are many details that my summary above didn’t touch on, but I didn’t want to rewrite her story. If you have the time, I would highly suggest reading the article. It is incredibly touching and heartfelt.

Yasmine’s Courage

I applaud Yasmine for her courage to use her mother-in-law’s lab top to contact her friends via Facebook and I am amazed at her bravery to use the mobile phone her husband gave her to call the Embassy for help. It has to be difficult going against everyone in your family, ruining their “reputation”, and knowing that your relationship with your family will be slim to none after an act like that.

yasmine bride Yasmine’s Wedding Day

My Position on Child Brides

The entire concept of child brides is so wrong. How could it be right? Even if the child consents to marrying a man, it’s still wrong. A child is mostly influenced by their family, then teachers or community leaders and then by their society. If a child’s parents are telling her that getting married as a young girl is the right thing to do; then it’s likely that the child is going to think it’s the right thing to do. A child bride isn’t thinking for herself when she consents because she is being highly influenced by her parents, relatives and religious leaders. How can a young girl say no to those people?

I would even go as far as saying that even if the child bride had an option and she chose to marry; it’s still wrong. I think we can all think back to a time when we were younger and made poor choices, but at the time they seemed like they were the right decisions. A child bride simply has not had the time for personal growth and has not had enough life experiences to make that sort of decision.

Police Brutality vs. Police Protection in School

image

There was recently, an incident at Central High School that brought up the debate of police brutality vs. police protection in School. According to stories in the Twin Cities news A 16 year old boy, who was not a student of Saint Paul Public Schools was roaming the school without permission. School Officer responded to situation and ended up using pepper spray and arresting the young man for trespassing. High School students observing the incident filmed the young man being arrested. Black Lives Matter Movement caught onto the story and assembled a protest at Central High School calling it Police Brutality.

image

As and n employee for Saint Paul Public Schools these articles and videos brought many questions to my mind. For example…What was the young man’s purpose or motive of being on school premises? Did he have weapons? Did he come to the school to threaten, beat up, or cause disruption? Did he have a bomb? Was he gang associated? Why is he out of school himself at 16 years old? With all that is going on in the news about gangs and young adult shootings we have been recently in the Twin Cities. It’s understandable we want to protect our young adults as much possible.

imageIn my opinion, the police officer was called in when the situation was escalated to a high level where protection was needed. I believe the officer used his training he had to get the student off the school premises where he did not belong. When an officer comes to situations he is also putting his himself in harm’s way and asking himself some of the same questions I did above. I think the officer was protecting the school, students, staff and young trespasser to best of his abilities and training. I think about what if their was a trespassing student in my building that was asked to leave by multiple by adults and he refused, it would cause panic and chaos. Students would be cheated and distracted out of learning time, staff would become on edge, and school procedures such as lock down might need to occur to assure the safety of all involved. When I think about the possibilities or what ifs this situation could have brought it really scares me. I’m glad schools and school officers have procedures and ways to address trespassers so that bigger and tragic situations don’t occur more often. I believe we should all work together to keep our schools safe from harm.
To check out articles on this situation written by the Pioneer Press click on the links below…

http://www.twincities.com/2016/05/26/heres-how-st-paul-police-describe-a-students-arrest-at-central-high/

imagehttp://www.twincities.com/2016/05/25/cops-force-in-st-paul-central-trespassing-arrest-criticized/

 

Workplace Complainers

Do you have that one person in your office that constantly complains about the job, the people, the process, the day, the weather, or the fact that someone just complained to THEM? Is this striking a nerve? In my 25 years of employment in the “real world” I have often encountered people that rarely have a positive word to share in conversation. Unfortunately, I am the person who thinks I can have a positive affect on these personality types and, at times, wear myself out trying to change them.

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I recently read a blog titled: How to Handle Chronic Complainers that listed all the efforts I ever attempted in making a difference in a chronic complainer’s life. When reading the article, I almost lost all hope! The list goes on about all the things that DON’T work!  Cheering them up, suggesting solutions, ignoring the or complaining right along with them. These are things I’ve tried and tried only to fail and wonder if I am the problem! Why are these people drawn to ME!?

But, there is a glimmer of hope offered by the blogger. A trick that DOES work. When a person complains to you or sheds a negative light on something, you can respond with something like, “You know, that sounds terrible. I don’t know how you deal with all of these problems.” This wording, in a sincere fashion, is what I have been searching for in my 25 years of work. Sincerely let the person know you are sorry things are so bad, that you understand the trials and acknowledging that you hear them. This statement doesn’t mean you agree with their point, or are siding with them on their negative approach.

Words of Wisdom from Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa once said,“Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” If we could implement this into our daily lives, how would that affect those that we interact with on a daily basis? If only we could embrace joy and contentment over anger and jealousy. I know, it is easier said than done, especially for the chronic complainer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to be fake at work. But, there is a difference between venting to a co-worker, seeking advice and living out life with those you spend a great deal of time with and bringing people down, asking for advice that you really aren’t going to follow anyway and trying to make a contest out of who has it worse.

This makes me think of Kristen Wiig as Penelope trying to “one up” everyone on everything.  Kristen Wiig/Group Therapy   AAAHHHH!  Maybe if the people in these sketches were to use the tip suggested by Alexander Kjerulf in his Chronic Complainer blog, Penelope wouldn’t be able to come back with her famous “one-upping” comments.

work complaints

What am I asking for?

My hope is that when we come to work we would try to focus on the good things about our job, co-workers, boss and company. Maybe just enough to not drag others down with you. If you want to tell me about an occasional incident or share something about your day, I’m all in. But, if you’re going to take my precious work time, in which I have a LOT to do, to complain for the sake of complaining, then I would rather you blog about it. I’ll read it when I get to it.

 

 

 

 

Controlling the Weight of an Elephant

Driving to work this morning I found my mood going down the tube. It wasn’t just a case of the Mondays or due to the change in weather. It was a case of I hate people. Yep, I hate people. To be more specific, I hate people who are not focused on driving and nearly crash into me.

Continue reading Controlling the Weight of an Elephant