Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From the horse's mouth

I've never been close to a refugee camp or a major famine, but I've seen my share of distended bellies and red-tipped hair since 2007 and my time in Kwa Zulu Natal. It explains what anyone who has dined with me in recent years can attest to - a near neurotic attempts to skirt wasting food. I've always loved left overs, but these days it's harder and harder to justify the copious portions offered in so many American eateries when I've seen how quickly a bag of beans can go.

The truth is, there are children starving in Africa...moms, dads and lone survivors too. And while taking food home after a meal helps me assuage the guilt of always having too much - it does nothing to address this reality. Thankfully, there are things that can be done.

I've been posting links to the World Food Programme on Twitter and Facebook because it's the best thing I know how to do. Still, I sense that like me, many will resist donating at first - because aren't there always starving children in Africa? I mean there have been since our moms first started making us eat all our peas, right?

The answer is yes, and no. Yes, the continent remains plagued by food insecurity and many nations are especially drought-prone and under-developed. But as a far more practiced and insightful development blogger notes, these are no longer death sentences when the rains fail to come. As Owen points out, Ethiopia (perhaps the most famous of dinner-table references) is weathering this drought ok, thanks to infrastructure and a safety-net system set up by their government with international assistance.

So lest we be tempted to hold back support for fear that there's nothing we can do but accept that countries like Somalia just drew the short straw in the allocation of natural resources, we cannot. Right now, in the horror of a true humanitarian crisis, we can send money to feed people that are starving.

Please do. And if you're not going to take that leftover pasta home with you, I'll be happy to.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Global threads

I've been involved with Rising International for a number of years. It's a group that buys artisan crafts from around the world and sells them in home party settings. Anyone who has been to a Rising party can tell you how magical they are. Often a woman from one of the countries where the crafts are made will speak about her experiences back home and what it's like to give birth, raise children or try to make a living in an underdeveloped and often poverty stricken country. With clarity and poise she will tell her story to a room full of strangers, and by the end she is amongst friends. Women empowering and educating each other - it's a beautiful mission.

A few months ago Rising partnered with Apliiq, a creative clothing company based in L.A. that lets buyers customize cozy sweatshirts, lightweight tops, dresses, hats and bags with amazing fabrics from around the world. A portion of sales from certain designs benefit various non-profits, including Rising. I worked with Rising to source these fabrics from one of the groups I worked with in Kenya and am so excited to see them on the site!

Bombolulu Workshops work with disabled people from around Kenya to provide jobs and skills training. Visit Apliiq's fabric section under the ethnic category and see three fabrics from Bombolulu's workshop in Mombasa:
Rising, Kenya Krew and Bombolulu Blast. You can customize a piece with any of these fabrics and know that Bombolulu and Rising will benefit from your purchase. I warn you - it's addicting!

Here's one I put together:

And a couple others for inspiration...

Seriously - the possibilities are endless! Treat yourself to a fun, ethically sourced and sweatshop free goodie and support Rising and Bombolulu along the way.* Remember - look for the fabrics Rising, Kenya Krew and Bombolulu Blast. Make sure to send me a picture of what you create - I'd love to see it!

*My inner copywriter can't help but make an appearance in this post.