October 15, 2007

Take baby steps to change the world

Last Friday as I sat on a bench across the street from my job, I couldn’t help but look at the empty playground. I also couldn’t help but watch, what I presumed to be homeless men, walking back and forth with a gaze in their eyes as if they were thinking “where will this shitty life take me today.” No more than ten minutes later was I greeted by a man, perhaps in his early to mid forties, who asked if I was as stressed as he was. “Not at all mister, just real tired” is what I said to him, secretly hoping that he wouldn’t talk anymore so that I could catch a quick nap before heading back to the office.

The complete opposite happened! We ended up talking my entire lunch break where I learned about the personal, emotional and financial difficulties he was facing. As a single father raising a three year old son he said to me “life is so hard. Sometimes I wonder how a good person like me could have it so bad at times.” I had no advice for him, so I listened. To my surprise, this man was smiling almost throughout our entire conversation. His heart was hurting and yet he kept smiling. He simply needed someone to talk to, an impartial party; one who would not judge him but merely listen.

After listening to him share his story, I looked him in the eyes and asked what type of assistance, government related or not, was he receiving. He ran through a list of the help he was getting, and to my surprise I did not hear of one nonprofit or social-mission organization. You’re living in NYC and can’t find any help?! This can’t be I thought to myself.

So what did I do? I told him to follow me up the front steps into the office building where I worked, and in that building housed the United Way of Dutchess County. My actions went something like this…“Excuse me Jane (fictitious name), I just met this gentleman and he’s having some difficulty. What can we do to help him? Who or what agency can we refer him to? Please give him their number, address, and/or website. Sir, give this number a call and they can give you a list of organizations in your area that can help. Please use this service and contact me in the future if you need any more assistance.”

Guess what? Helping someone can be as simple as that. What I did is something that you can do too! Perhaps it was a coincidence that he and I met outside the United Way office. Maybe not! If you work for a nonprofit like the United Way, you too can help. It doesn’t have to be the United Way; it can be any other organization you know of whose mission, broadly put, is to advance our society. The next time someone comes up to you and starts telling their life story, just listen. You never know where life, or a lunch break, will take you. Open your ears my fellow brothers and sisters! Speak out and help your fellow wo/man.

How are you taking steps to change the world?

This blog was written by Chanelle N. Carver, social entrepreneur, management consultant, and founder of The Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project™, a community-driven initiative that seeks to educate and build communities of empowered citizens that will strive to advance adult literacy and economic equality worldwide. Please leave your comments and email questions to info@makesocialchangeareality.com.

October 8, 2007

Rape in Congo...Learn and Take Action!

Each day I receive my usual subscription email from NYTimes Online. But on Sunday, October 7, 2007, there was an article I read which made me think “what can I do, with the help of other concerned citizens, to solve this problem.” The article is titled “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma in Congo”, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th.

While this rise in sexual violence against women is unknown, we cannot ignore the effects it has on people not only in Congo but around the world. Dr. Mukwege who works in South Kivu Province states “we don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear. They are done to destroy women.” Whether you do or do not believe these rapes are being used as a tool to destroy Congolese women, I think we can all agree with the latter. Rape does destroy women, often times mentally, physically, and emotionally. It destroys all women, victims and spectators. In no way shape or form is it done to uplift or advance women. At first glance, rape doesn’t seem to have a direct relationship with illiteracy or poverty; however, take a closer look and you may discover that all of these issues are in fact connected.

Wilhelmine Ntakebuka, coordinator of a sexual violence program in Bukavu says the beginning of this epidemic started back in the 1990’s during the wave of Hutu militia that fled Rwanda into Congo following the 1994 genocide. The article states that in almost all reported cases “the culprits are described as young men with guns…poorly paid and often mutinous government soldiers; homegrown militias called the Mai-Mai…members of paramilitary groups originally from Uganda and Rwanda who have destabilized this area over the past 10 years in a quest for gold and all the other riches...” Could these acts be a direct result of Congolese men low economic status or lack of education? Could their desire for better living situations be causing this inhumane behavior? Given economic situations in most African countries, these men probably need to search for gold and “all the other riches”. Their greed no longer is a desire but an issue of survival.

I’m not writing today to offer any reasons as to why this is happening to Congolese women. My reasoning behind this post is to open your eyes to the very injustices and violations of human rights occurring around the globe. They are not problems for the local government but to our global community. I think by starting the dialogue we –the global community, are headed in right direction to creating social change. Is talking enough? No, but it’s a fabulous start!

What do you think?

This post was written by Chanelle Carver, social entrepreneur, nonprofit consultant, and founder of The Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email questions to info@makesocialchangeareality.com.