Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chicago fundraiser on Sat., Aug 2nd, 3-5pm / Korea Project / C&A in the press in Japan!

1. Save the date! Cause & Affect will be holding a summer fundraiser in downtown Chicago on Saturday August 2nd, from 3 to 5pm. Details to follow. If you cannot attend, please make a donation to help us continue our worthy projects around the globe! Easy to make a Paypal or credit card donation here. As you know, every dollar counts!!

2. Cause & Affect recently began a project assisting North Korean refugees in association with our partner organization Helping Hands Korea. We have created and funded a vitamin program for the malnourished refugee children being rescued from horrible conditions in North Korea. Details coming soon! 

3. Cause & Affect's recent project in Fukushima highlighted in March 2014 issue from Japanese magazine Connect.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Helping Tsunami/Nuclear Disaster Victims in Fukushima, Japan

Please join the cause by making a paypal donation here.

WATCH FIELD REPORT VIDEO HERE


Like many concerned citizens around the globe, I was shocked to see the scale of destruction that followed the Tohoku Earthquake of March 11, 2011. The ensuing tsunami killed over 19,000 people and damaged over a million buildings. The region of Fukushima was devastated by the disaster and over 400,000 people lost their homes.





The explosion at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant created an ecological disaster, forcing more people from their land. The evacuees initially sought shelter in community centers and were then relocated to temporary shelters.







WATCH FIELD REPORT VIDEO HERE

Nearly three years later, most of these people still live in these shelters.  The lack of jobs and income means that many are living day-to-day, forced to accept government assistance and help from family members in other parts of Japan. This is a very tough adjustment for the proud, hard-working Japanese people.



When I arrived in Japan to teach English in a high school in August 2013, I reached out to a variety of organizations that were helping the victims of the Tohoku earthquake in order to assess what forms of aid were being delivered. In searching for a real hands-on approach addressing the everyday lives of those displaced by the disaster, I was directed to a project called the Save Minamisoma Project (SMP), founded by a New Zealander businessman living in Japan. Every two weeks since March of 2011, SMP has been shipping truckloads of food and supplies (much of it donated) to the evacuees in and around Minamisoma, which is one of the cities of the Fukushima Prefecture.


With only $1,000, Cause and Affect financed the delivery of more than 3,000 lbs. of food and supplies. We collected donated food, purchased more and loaded up a giant truck in Tokyo. We then drove 6 hours north to Minamisoma and distributed the goods to the residents in need, most of whom lost their homes to the tsunami or were forced to move due to radiation.



In each of the six communities, we the recipients who had received their coupon a month before, lined up to receive their food and supplies. By the time we were done, more than 800 people living in 355 households received onions, potatoes, mushrooms, apples, water, cereal and soup to more. While very pleased to have been able to lend a helping hand, the sad reality is there are upwards of 290,000 people still living in evacuation shelters or temporary shelters in these communities.




WATCH FIELD REPORT VIDEO HERE

We spoke to some families that have been shuttled from one community to another. They just want some stability in their lives. Many have lost faith in the Japanese government and most doubt they will ever be allowed to return. Entire communities have been torn apart, as the shelters have thrown random people together. While it is obvious they have managed to help each other out, it is clear that they yearn to go back home. Sadly, most will never be able to rebuild.

Luckily, Cause & Affect was able to provide some much-needed assistance to the people of Minamisoma. They are VERY appreciative to know that people from all over the world had united to help them recover from this disaster. Thank you to all of our donors and please join the cause by making a paypal donation here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Assisting Urban Refugees in Bangkok: Helping the "Forgotten People"


Though there are officially 5.5 million urban refugees who have fled their home countries to settle in foreign cities, the actual number is much higher. In most cases, these refugees have fled political persecution or ethnic violence in their home countries. This population, most of which are women and children, represent one of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Most lack access to services like education, health care and government assistance. In addition, they are often subject to xenophobia and daily discrimination.
 WATCH INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO HERE and GIVE here
In Southeast Asia, due to the ongoing ethnic tension in Myanmar (in what has been labelled the world's longest-running civil war), over a million people have fled their homes. Hundreds of thousands of these people (especially those from Karen and Shan ethnic groups) have fled their country seeking protection and refugee status. While most are living in United Nations-sponsored refugee camps in northwestern Thailand, those families that have applied for official asylum status can settle in Thailand's capitol city of Bangkok, where there are more educational and work opportunities. While they wait for their paperwork to be processed, they are provided with 6 months to one year's worth of assistance from the UN: money for rent and food and assistance getting their kids into school. But these families face many challenges:                                                                                   WATCH SHORT INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO HERE
1) Due to their inability to speak good Thai, they are discriminated against and the kids have trouble adjusting to school, both academically and socially
2) They face discrimination on a daily basis, which makes the children feel inferior and makes it very hard for the parents to find work to support the family
3) After the UN assistance runs out, they are left on their own, often with no income to buy food
4) Since they do not have official refugee status, they are technically stateless people and are often randomly stopped on the street by Thai police, who throw them in jail if they do not have papers. In many cases, this means the sole provider for the family (on their way to or from work) squander in jail for months before being deported.
  WATCH SHORT INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO HERE and GIVE here
Seeking a way to help these "urban refugees," Cause and Affect searched for an organization that was effectively assisting these "forgotten people" in Bangkok. Thanks to the help of our mentor Marc Gold (founder of 100 Friends Project), we discovered the amazing In Search of Sanuk Project. Founded by Atlanta native Dwight Turner (who has been living in Bangkok for 4 years), this project supports numerous refugee families from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other countries in a myriad of ways.

The first way is by providing accommodation and food assistance, what they call the "Survivor's Project." Last year, Cause and Affect visited some of these families and was treated to a very special home-cooked dinner by Mary, a Sri Lankan mother of three who has been in Bangkok for three years. We pledged to return to help.

They also help victims of trauma and torture through their "Esteem Project." By providing life-skills training and job placement assistance, they are able to help these overlooked, abused and often discarded women and girls, helping them find the courage to rebuild their lives and restore their dignity.  On our most recent visit, some of these teenagers showed their culinary skills as they prepare to become professional cooks. With great local cooks guiding the way, these young chefs seem to be on the right path! Cause and Affect has assisted culinary projects in the past and recognizes the value of encouraging under-privileged youth to become professional cooks.
  WATCH SHORT INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO HERE and GIVE here
Another great project is the "Thrive Project" which addresses the lack of engaging educational activities many of these urban refugee children face. Basing their approach on using play and reading, teachers are able to better prepare these kids for Thai schools and ensure each child develops self-confidence and a sense of achievement they can draw upon as they grow.

Upon our second visit to In Search of Sanuk Project, Cause and Affect learned that the project was looking to supplement their "Thrive Project" with art supplies and children's books, so we jumped to action, purchasing a myriad of supplies (crayons, markers, scissors, glue, paper, glitter, etc.) as well as children's books we got a great deal on.  Seeing as how the food and toiletries stocks were low, we also purchased lots of soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, female sanitary pads, cooking oil, rice, noodles, etc.                          
         WATCH SHORT INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO HERE and GIVE here
              

With only $500, we were able to make a profound impact. This is the beauty of the "micro-philanthropy" model: a small amount of money can accomplish so much!

Special thanks to my father Allan and step-mother Gina for their generous donation that made this project possible. You have made a big contribution to help these wonderful but forgotten people. Much love from Bangkok!

To support projects like this, simply click here to make a Paypal donation on our website. 
                                                                                                                                                                 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Emergency Family Assistance in Rural Guatemala

Ever think what life would be like if you and four
of your family members lived in a tiny shack like this one here?

High above the idyllic volcanic Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, near the destitute village of Tusuna lives Rosa and her 5 children, ages 5 to 12. Being indigenous Mayan, they have very little means of income or land to farm. Two years ago the father died, leaving Rosa and her kids with no stable income. To make matters worse, shortly thereafter, the family lost their home and their few possessions in a land-slide after a tropical storm. 

When we met them, they possessed  only the clothes on their backs and one single mattress for   all of them. The shack they were living in has dirt floors, a leaking tin roof, and makeshift walls of thin metal and bamboo.  Life in this hovel is unimaginably hard. The family lives on tortillas, rice and coffee. No fruit, no vegetables, no meat, no dairy. It is a tragic and appalling way for a family to live. Since their extended family is also quite poor, there is little help available to them. Sometimes Rosa is able to make a little money by collecting firewood but due to a very poor diet lacking in proper nutrients, Rosa and her family are all very small and malnourished. 

Luckily, help was on the way. The government offered to build them a new home but to get it stated, Rosa needed to pay $500 to pay to move the building supplies and hire a bricklayer. The house took two weeks to build. 

When we learned about the gravity of her family’s situation, we jumped to action. 
Upon meeting Rosa, it was immediately clear what a strong mother she is. We could see the pain in her eyes that she is not able to properly care for her children. She is quick to point out though that ALL the kids go to school every day, as she is determined they will all get an education. She is very eager to help her family climb out of this cycle of poverty.

Cause & Affect provided the $500 Rosa needed to get her home constructed. 
With an additional $300, my mother Linda and her friend Mary equipped her home with beds, blankets, pillows and kitchen supplies like pots, plates, a stove...basically everything she needed to make her house feel like a home. 

Rosa is now one of our partner organizations Feed the Dream for free to pay off the money in sweat equity, as she is very proud and doesn't want to live off of hand-outs.  

Needless to say, Rosa is extremely appreciative for the generosity of others, most of whom she has never met. When my mother Linda recently met with her, she was expressed how joyful she was that someone “heard her prayers for help.” Mom explained that Cause &Affect  was pleased to have been able to help her, as we have all been very blessed in our lives, but she made it clear that one thing was expected from her: one day, when someone else is in need, in whatever way that she can, Rosa will help out another family.   Pay it forward, as they say.

Seeing how far this family has come in just a few months proves once again how effective Cause & Affect's micro-philanthropy model is. Special thanks to my amazing mother who invested the money and sweat equity, shlepping furniture up a mountain, to help rescue this impoverished family in their time of need. You’re amazing mom.  

Please click here to support life-changing projects like this. Credit card and Paypal donations accepted. 




Friday, June 21, 2013

Reducing Disease and Improving Sanitation in Rural Guatemala by Building Latrines

In searching for local non-profits to partner with, Cause & Affect looks for those organizations that implement a bottom-up model, allowing the local community to speak up and propose solutions for the issues that affect them.

For, this reason, we were overjoyed to discover the work of People for Guatemala, a US and Guatemalan-based NGO that creates development councils of village women that meet to discuss their local issues, propose solutions and then submit a detailed proposal to the organization's board to seek funds.

 WATCH FIELD REPORT VIDEO HERE
This model is imperative as it allows the local Mayans, for decades cut off from any involvement in their own development, to identify problems and seek solutions. In many cases, the only thing holding them back from realizing all of their projects is a lack of funding. Cause & Affect visited one such village, Los Magueyes, to learn about their attempts to improve their living situation. Fortunately, they had already addressed two of the most pressing issues:
1. They had built Chapin-style stoves in their home to cut down on respiratory problems caused by use of wood-burning stoves
2. They had installed water purifiers to reduce the amount of
 water-borne diseases
The 3rd issue was addressing the unsanitary and often dangerous latrines they had been using. Without running water, rural Guatemalans use latrines, but the old-fashioned ones (basically a hole in the ground) present a lot of dangers, such as:
1. Flies breed in the waste and then enter the family home, spreading disease through contact with food, etc.
2. Mosquitoes breed in the latrines and spread disease
3. Children accidentally fall into the deep holes, often drowning
4. During rainy season, latrines overflow, spreading waste everywhere
5. Fecal matter seeps into the groundwater, tainting water supply.

What are needed are a special type of dry latrine that separates the waste between urine and feces, as it is this mix that becomes noxious; on its own, the feces biodegrades and can be used to fertilize the fields, as all of these families grow their own food.  These latrines are much safer and do not breed flies or mosquitoes.

 WATCH VIDEO HERE
The community has seen these special latrines in action and only lacked the start-up funds to make it a reality. Another great component of this development model is the fact that each family makes a financial contribution to the projects, so they have a stake of ownership and maintain the facilities with pride and diligence. With $1,500 Cause & Affect financed the construction of 5 latrines for the community of Los Magueyes. In addition, everything is done on a communal basis. We purchased the materials and dropped them off and taught them how to construct the first latrines and then the village men get together and build the other four. This is the most effective model of communal development and we are very happy to have been able to help the inhabitants of Los Magueyes help themselves! The film shows the success of this model and the entire process in action. To donate to projects like this, simply click here - donations accepted via credit card and Paypal. Wonderful projects like this are financed due to all of your wonderful donations, no matter how small!

 PLEASE GIVE TO PROJECTS LIKE THIS  - EVERY DOLLAR MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN PEOPLE'S LIVES!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cook & Affect: Assisting a Vocational Training Culinary Arts Program in Guatemala

In rural areas of Guatemala, the indigenous Mayans have been economically marginalized for decades. One of the biggest challenges they face is finding sustainable jobs, beyond seasonal agricultural work. Luckily, a fantastic local non-profit called Amigos de Santa Cruz is addressing that need and helping the locals of one such town help themselves and find work.

Since partnering with Amigos de Santa Cruz back a few years ago (see 2010 field report here), we have been charting their amazing progress in building their CECAP center, which is a vocational educational center for the local Mayan inhabitants of Santa Cruz. Since Santa Cruz has very limited educational and work opportunities for its inhabitants, this center provides very valuable training for the locals in six fields: sewing, computer education, carpentry, welding, foot loom weaving and culinary arts. On a recent visit, we saw these classes in action and salute Pat Torpie, the organization's founder and their amazing staff for helping prepare and place so many locals for employment that will allow them to provide income for their families. Their program director Juan Antonio is a great cook and patient instructor who shares their vision and is an integral part of the program's success.
                          
                            WATCH FIELD REPORT HERE
One of the greatest successes of CECAP has been the culinary arts program, as all 17 of the graduates from the first two years have steady work as cooks in hotels and restaurants in the area. Building upon this success, we offered to help them develop their program, as they are looking for ways to make the program self-sustainable. They have established a small restaurant in the CECAP building, which has majestic views over beautiful Lake Atitlan. In one year, profits from the restaurant Sabor Cruceño have already allowed the culinary arts program to be self-sustainable.  

In order to expand their menu and bake goods they can then sell in the local market, Cause & Affect decided to help them by purhcasing the kitchen supplies they need to start baking pizzas, desserts, cakes, etc. With $955, Cause & Affect purchased a new food processor, a Kitchen Aid hand mixer, a rolling pin and various other kitchen accessories needed to expand the program's menu, instruction and profitability. 

We then brought in our resident chef, Linda Champagne (Adam's mother who lives in Guatemala and used to teach cooking classes and write cookbooks) to share her expertise by conducting a series of cooking classes to teach new recipés. In her first class, she taught them how to make pizza, including making the crust from scratch. Special thanks to Mom for her great help - and very impressive Spanish skills! It's such a joy to work with Amigos de Santa Cruz and their wonderful work helping the residents of Santa Cruz find such rewarding work.     WATCH FIELD REPORT HERE




 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Helping Deaf Children from Calcutta's Slums Become Heard

WATCH FIELD VIDEO HERE

WATCH FIELD VIDEO HERE

Life is very tough here in the slums of Calcutta, India but it is even more challenging for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Faced with such a lack of medical care, many diseases and conditions go undiagnosed. The same is true for deafness. As a result, many parents simply assume these children are just stupid or mentally-handicapped. In many cases, these kids do not get properly diagnosed or ever learn sign language. Can you imagine being trapped in your own home, unable to express your most innermost feelings. Never being able to play with your brother, tell your mom that you love her or ask your father how his day was?

WATCH FIELD VIDEO HERE


Fortunately, an amazing woman named Brinda Crishna recognized this problem and decided to open an amazing non-profit to help address this shortcoming of aid and education.  Today, VAANI (which means "sound of the soul") works in several regions in India, but Cause & Affect decided to address the situation here in Calcutta, where VAANI works directly with deaf children and their families through their Kolkata Metropolitan Project. 90% of all the project's deaf children and families come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and low literacy levels.




The project is an effort mainly to combine center-based specialized services with a community-based approach and aims to:
  • Ensure that all deaf children aged between 0-14 years have access to diagnosis, early stimulation and education
  • raise awareness of the issues surrounding the primary education of deaf children
  • work towards raising the expectations of parents and the wider community for the deaf child’s potential
  • help the parents and the wider community to understand the value of educating the deaf child

It has been a challenge convincing parents who are mainly concerned about their child’s educational needs to also be involved in his/her emotional and social growth. VAANI's community mobilizers have worked hard to make them understand the need for communication, and to convince reluctant parents to come with their children to the resource centres and to be a part of the VAANI extended family.


 WATCH FIELD VIDEO HERE

After numerous field visits, Cause & Affect looked for the most direct way to assist the project. Our timing couldn't have been better, as they were looking for funding to open a brand new Resource Center. This facility will house a new Early Prevention Program to allow babies up to 3 years old to participate in the project as well.  Cause & Affect donated $1,000 to purchase supplies and materials for the project. As the video shows, this project is transforming these children's lives. It is amazing to see children suddenly have the ability to express themselves for the first time in their life. We are so thankful to VAANI for their amazing work and professionalism!

Please allow us to continue supporting worthy projects like this by donating here.
Special thanks to Eric Wiesner for your assistance and generous donation - you da man!