Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Mad Housers

The Mad Housers

"MAD HOUSERS Inc. is an Atlanta-based non-profit corporation engaged in charitable work, research and education. Our charter outlines our goals and purposes:

* To provide shelter for homeless individuals and families regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, religion, or age.
* To develop low income housing for people in need of housing.
* To help people develop the skills and knowledge for constructing and rehabilitating housing and shelter.
* To increase the quantity and to improve the quality of housing in the world.
* To act, if necessary as an advocate for the homeless, to ensure that their moral and civil rights are protected.

The Mad Housers believe that if a person has a secure space from which to operate, they are much more capable of finding the resources to help themselves."

The Mad Housers provide a unique service to challenge the evergrowing problem of homelessness within Atlanta. Their temporary shelters provide individuals with a chance to regain a sense of dignity in a situation that so often chips away at one's self worth. Some may argue that giving temporary shelter to someone is counter productive to encouraging someone to actively pull themselves out of poverty, the Mad Housers refute this, "Some may think that we make life too easy for homeless by providing them with shelter. Trust us, even with the shelters, homelessness is no picnic. The huts are a tool to help the homeless survive and hopefully, eventually, prosper, pure and simple. The is no problem that having no place to stay can help."

The shelters are built within "camps" so people can once again enjoy both the benefits of communal living and the benefits of privacy. The ultimate belief of the Mad Housers is that by giving someone protection from outside elements, you're giving them the chance to empower themselves to a better standard of living.

Monetary donations are accepted through their website as well as donation requests of building materials and used cell phones. Or you can pick up a few things from their cafepress site.

If you're in the metro-Atlanta area, you can volunteer directly with the builds. "All you need to have is a willingness to work, and a hammer. If you don't know how to swing a hammer, don't worry: we'll teach you."

And if you're not in metro-Atlanta, contact them for information on setting up a chapter in your own city.

No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes

No More Deaths

"No More Deaths is an organization whose mission is to end death and suffering on the U.S./Mexico border through civil initiative: the conviction that people of conscience must work openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights. Our work embraces the Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform and focuses on the following themes:
• Direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance
• Witnessing and responding

• Consciousness raising
• Global movement building

• Encouraging humane immigration policy."

As of June 21, 2009 there have been 94 migrant deaths in the Arizona desert since October 2008.

No More Deaths was formed by diverse faith-based and social activists groups who saw the situation faced by Mexican and Central American immigrants to be a morally repugnant and intolerable crisis. They see illegal immigration as the by-product of a system of economic imperialism in Latin American countries. On the ground they provide food, water, and medical assistance to migrants in the Arizona desert but they also monitor US operations on the border and seek to change current US immigration policies to a more just system.

What's really unique about No More Deaths is that it works as an umbrella organization to help multiple groups network and fight for the same cause. Whether Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, sectarian or other, all are united to ensure a stronger voice yet diverse enough to provide unique viewpoints and approaches to such a complex issue.

Dollar donations can be made through their website but supplies can also be made to their PO Box. Personal hygiene, first aid supplies, and nonperishable food items are all in high demand.

Volunteering is the most important thing you can do if you're in the Arizona area, especially during the hot summer months. No More Deaths provides opportunities as an alternative Spring Break program, full-time volunteer work, and recently weekend positions.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trama Textiles

Trama Textiles

"TRAMA is an association of 400 backstrap loomweavers in the western highlands of Guatemala. Here at TRAMA, we offer high quality products that ensure fair wages to the craftspeople. We also offer hands-on classes for individuals wanting to learn about traditional weaving processes."

Trama Textiles is a worker-owned women's weaving association located in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala that offers training to weaving cooperatives throughout the country. They enable other cooperatives to provide qualite, fair-trade textile goods. It began in 1988 during the most violent years of the Guatemalan Civil War. Trama keeps the indigenous backstrap loom weaving alive in the face of growing Westernization in Central Amerca as well as spreading this knowledge to travelers from other cultures.

Trama Textiles is composed of women from a variety of different cultures and mother tongues who unite under their passion for weaving. This enables Spanish-speaking representatives from different communities to learn from each other and take their empowering knowledge back home.

Dollar donations can be made directly through their website and they also accept donations of computer-related goods, office supplies, weaving books, and baskets. If spending time in Quetzaltenango there is also a weaving school that for as low as $5/hour or $25/sample cloth (you can also make scarves, table runners, or your own special project) you can learn the art of Mayan backstrap weaving. They also accept bilingual volunteers to work in graphic design, photography, marketing, product sales, store management, and translation.

Trama also has an online store to buy their high quality, handmade, fair trade textiles at extremely reasonable prices.

And last but not least, Trama has begun a scholarship program to help children from the communities receive an education. For just $13 you can send a child to school for a month or $156 can send a child to school for a year.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ethiopia Reads

Ethiopia Reads

"To create a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books. By planting libraries for children, creating culturally appropriate reading materials and training educators to nurture a love of books, Ethiopia Reads brings hope and educational skills to this generation of Ethiopians."

Ethiopia Reads was started by Yohannes Gebregeorgis, a native Ethiopian who entered the United states as a political refugee early in his life. He earned a Master's degree of library science and worked as a children's librarian in San Francisco. Although there was a large Ethiopian population in San Francisco it was impossible to find children's books written in Amharic or other native Ethiopian languages. This prompted Gebregeorgis to team up with Jane Kurtz and write the first English/Amharic book for children titled Silly Mammo. In 2003 Gebregeorgis took it a step further and moved back to Addis Ababa to build the Shola Children's Library. Gebregeorgis and his team also regularly pack up a small library on a donkey to make books and reading available to children in rural areas.

Ethiopia Reads includes the Shola Children's Library, a school library development program, a publishing program to encourage more English/Amharic books, a training program for Ethiopian teachers and librarians, and various child development workshops and initiatives throughout Addis Ababa.

Donations of dollars can be made through the website and Ethiopia Reads is also accepting books, reading-related posters, and school supplies that can be shipped either directly to Ethiopia or to a United States office [book donation guidelines and addresses for shipment], and if you're a big spender consider sponsoring ($10,000) or co-sponsoring ($5,000) a library in Ethiopia. A full-sponsored library includes furniture, books, training materials, sorting & transport of books, Amharic and English education & fiction books, reference materials, art & office supplies, decorations, library skills training, management and oversight, and 3 years of collective development and training.

In 2009 Ethiopia Reads hopes to sell copies of Silly Mammo and other Amharic/English books for children on the website.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS)

Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS)

"Girls Educational and Mentoring Services' (GEMS ) mission is to empower young women, ages12-21, who have experienced sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth."

GEMS provides direct service to girls and young women who have been exploited in domestic prostitution rings. The organization was created in 1999 by Rachel Lloyd, who herself experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. GEMS' philosophy rests on the beauty and worth of every young woman and never falls back on a paternalistic, superior attitude towards the young women and girls they help.

There are a variety of services offered by GEMS including prevention and outreach (street and facility), intervention through legal advocacy, case management, transitional living assistance, and trauma based therapy and clinical support, and youth development in recreational/educational/therapeutic groups as well as youth leadership programs.

Donations can be made through the website or through purchasing merchandise (t-shirts, buttons, and bracelets that state "Girls Are Not for Sale" as well as DVDs and art books), or supporting through purchasing wishlist items and if you're located in New York City volunteering your time and energy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Homeboy Industries

Homeboy Industries

"Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and former gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education."

Homeboy Industries works with both men and women in Los Angeles that are trying to leave gang life. It began by Father Gregory Boyle as Jobs for a Future (JFF) and gradually grew into an all-encompassing, life changing experience for troubled youth. Homeboy Industries offers job training and placement assistance (including small businesses directly affiliated with the organization), education, legal service, mental health counseling, twelve step meetings, post-prison transition assistance, and tattoo removal; all free of charge.

Homeboy Industries can be supported through direct contribution on their website or purchasing merchandise which is made in a small business staffed entirely of former gang members and at-risk youth.

If you're in Los Angeles you can volunteer your time or visit the various small businesses staffed by Homeboy Industry successes: The Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Cafe, Homeboy Maintenence, or Homeboy Silkscreen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

"RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, was established in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1977 as an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan."

RAWA has remained an organization throughout the Soviet occupation and war, the Taliban take over, and the current United States occupation and war. They have opened up orphanages, schools, and hospitals throughout Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan. They provide literacy courses to adults and help with food distribution to the Afghan people as well as counseling and job training to women forced into prostitution. You can see all they have accomplished here or read the book With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan by Anne E. Brodsky.

RAWA provides several options for helping out financially. You can donate directly through their site, purchase books, shirts through their cafepress, or fund something from their amazon wishlist (the cameras and electronics are used by Afghan women to secretly film the atrocities committed throughout the country).

There are also ways to help out without opening your pocketbook. RAWA lists them here. For example, talking to local leaders about bringing a RAWA representative to your area, translating articles into other languages, or having a teach-in about RAWA and Afghanistan in your community.