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Archive for September, 2011

I haven’t written about adoption in a rather long time … Heck! I haven’t written about much of anything … but an article in today’s BBC sets wheels to spinning and fingers to keyboard.

Hundreds of parents in Nepal are struggling to come to terms with the fact that their children have been adopted by Western couples without their consent.

The article goes on to say that there are “about 20, mostly female, agents operating in Kathmandu, obtaining children for orphanages …”, and I don’t doubt the accuracy of that estimation.

Reactions from the gut happen … my gut, too. The photo looks fake, the girl in it a faded insert, and the copy states the woman had just one female child yet the caption reads: Sarita Bhujel says that she is devastated that her baby daughter appears to have ended up in Italy.

Horrible. Rotten. Dirty tricks played on illiterate parents in poor countries and hopeful adoptive parents in more affluent lands that must be addressed.

Yep.

At the root of the problem … ?

Adoptive parents pay thousands of dollars in fees and “donations” to orphanages and government officials who process their cases, creating what many observers describe as an incentive for widespread abuse.

Many observers say that, heh? I’m sure they do, and to a certain extent they’d be right to do so.

But …

The root of the problem has nothing to do with potential adoptive parents; it goes so much deeper than that, deeper than the roots of the Himalayas themselves.

The issue is poverty, poverty compounded by corruption, a global circumstance of real life for many of the world’s people.

What happens to children in poor countries? Well, let’s take a look at Nepal, shall we, since this is where this story is set?

– Statistics shows that of about 7 million children between 5-14 years old working in Nepal

– The number of bonded children is estimated as 33,000

– It is estimated that at least 1 million children in Nepal are working as child labourers in difficult circumstances, often as slaves in carpet factories, brick kilns, domestic service, agriculture, plantation, construction, transportation, stone quarry, mines and as migrant workers.

– Available data suggests that approximately 7,000 girls between 10 -18 are lured or abducted into prostitution each year. In many cases, parents or relatives sell young girls into sexual slavery.

– As an illustration, it is believed that 200,000 of the prostitutes in India are Nepalese. 20% are thought to be under 16.

– Half of 100,000 girl prostitutes between 10-14 in Bombay are from Nepal and are kept in brothels against their will.

– Poor, uneducated young women from Nepal’s rural regions are trafficked to India to work as prostitutes and for bonded labour. Nepalese citizens also are trafficked to Hong Kong, Thailand, and countries in the Middle East. Government officials suspect that organised crime groups and “marriage brokers” are the primary traffickers in Nepal and state that parents and other relatives of trafficking victims are sometimes complicit.

– A survey done in Kathmandu on 52 commercial sex workers by the Department of Research and Planning suggests that out of the total commercial sex workers surveyed, 13% were between 13-17 years.

– The NGO CWIN alleges that 2000 brothels exist in Nepal and a high percentage of the prostitutes working were children.

– Notorious in their own right for appalling working conditions, Nepalese carpet factories, where 50% of the workers are estimated to be children, are common sites of sexual exploitation by employers, as well as recruitment centres for Indian brothels.

It has longed seemed that outrage aimed at adoption is a red herring. Sure, shit happens and it should stop and those who profit in any way through corrupt practices should be strung up …

BUT …

wouldn’t it be more helpful to take on the bigger issues of real life?

No. I’m not suggesting adoption should not be subject to examination, controls, effective protocol or that it’s the be-all-end-all-warm-fuzzy-fix, just that it’s too damned easy to slap “Adoption (insert negative emotive word here)” into a headline and prompt a diverting knee jerk that shifts focus from the shit that is our world, no matter how far from our neighborhood where everyone’s heard stories about bad adoptive parents who sent their kid back to Russia.

Countries that conduct business under a layer of sleaze are crooked on all levels and those making money selling kids aren’t picky about who they sell them to … not even biological parents more often than most would like to think … so how about a global push to chop the balls off any man who has sex with a child? That seems a much better use of time and funds and energy, seeing as how the bottom would fall out of the kiddy sex industry pretty fuckin’ fast if there was a real chance they’d be separated from their testicles … not to mention all the extra duck food around.

Of course, some will argue that such drastic action would rob girls of a way to make a living, and in far too many circumstances that’s exactly what child prostitution is, so there would have to be provisions made, but perhaps a population lighter in the scrotum might find ways of being more creatively concerned with methods of living better suited to the welfare of all.

As this in The Independent suggests, the turn against adoption has not been the answer to the needs of children.

Only 60 babies were adopted in England last year – startling evidence of how Britain’s system for adopting children is grinding to a halt despite record numbers being taken into care.

Thousands of children are being held in limbo in care homes, secure units and temporary fostering because so few adoptions are being signed off by social workers. Their guidance has been to try to keep families together, which has also led to some children being left with negligent or abusive birth parents for too long.

Sadly, I can almost hear the standing ovation inspired in some by the news of adoption “grinding to a halt” and hope they read far enough to get to:

Three-quarters of the children in care, or about 48,000, were placed with a foster family. Twelve per cent, almost 8,000, were cared for in residential accommodation. A third of young adults who left care were not in education, employment or training last year.

The world is not a fair place. Bad things happen to good people, and many of those people are children.

Adoption is not a perfect solution, nor is it an evil foisted on the world. It is nowhere near the scale or condition of the sale of children into prostitution, yet one could be led to equate the two and with adoption far less a challenge to halt making that focus an easy rant.

And a BBC headline that shouts, “NEPAL COMES TO TERMS WITH FOREIGN ADOPTIONS TRAGEDY” misses the point that Nepal … for one … needs to come to terms with corruption and the sale of its children to pimps, that children in Britain languish for years in foster care and institutions and that a lot of men will pay money to have sex with kids.

By the way, writing about this again after all this time has brought to mind why I don’t often have adoption as a topic any more …

It just fucks with my head.

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An end-of-year update from one of the most effective organizations on the ground in any country …

Dear friends and partners,

Today is the last day of our program year and what a year it has been. We had so many goals – so much we wanted to do. We had so many dreams we wanted to achieve – dreams that each of you made happen.

Let me share some of our highlights.

This year our goal was to work with and reach out to 42,545 families with 340,228 dependents – we ended the year with 43,546 families with 348,368 dependents – we worked with another 358 families in cottage industry. It is a remarkable achievement.

Our goal for our New Year starting this week is to reach out to 59,140 families with 473,120 dependents. Together we can do it.

The core of our program is savings: 90% of acute poverty is attitudinal – a mindset created by any number of factors – for our families it has been 40 years of war and genocide. It results in despair – an inability to think ahead – to plan for the future – what is the use – I will lose all anyway. It results in an often heard slogan from our families – we are bad – a statement that reflects
their inability to grasp the loss of so much in their lives.

Savings breaks down the attitude for savings involves people starting dreams – achievable dreams – it involves saying they are worth something – no matter how insignificant we think that something is. It involves action, for the people must give of their own money – it involves people standing with them, cheering them on – it involves achieving those dreams and making new ones.

Their initial savings isn’t much – usually .25 cents a week – but those little bits of money grow into big money – our families saved $2,037,313.90 this year but what is the miracle is the purchase and life changes brought about – they purchased $10,919,450.00 worth of goods and services. Savings works – for families pull together all their resources to make a positive change in their lives – we as Tabitha staff are cheerleaders, encouraging and celebrating each achievement.

The families say to us – you helped us to think again. The attitude has changed. It is so very good.

We talked about our impacts on families – we always start with basic necessities of which eating better food is a key marker – in our newest expansion areas people eat only once a day – rice and whatever insect’s people can scavenge from the fields. This year 27,907 families were able to achieve better food. I asked the managers what that meant – it means people are eating two to three meals a day which are balanced with vegetables and fruit daily and meat and fish at least twice a week. As we were talking, I asked how much do you think that costs a day say for a family of 8 – the universal answer was $5.00 a day – we started multiplying the numbers – families eating
times day times cost in a year and the end figure boggled our minds -over 50 million dollars worth – it is teaching all of us about the micro economics of food.

13,129 families are moving towards food security with their ability to purchase 3 months supply of rice. All of our families were able to purchase basics such as clothing, sleeping mats, beds, tables and chairs, pots and pans, mosquito nets and much more.

Water and its life giving strength – we were enabled to install 2015 sources of water – with over 1000 hectares of land put under year round cultivation – earning our families an average of $500.00 US per month – or $6,000.00 per year up from the low of $300.00 per year.

In Income generation, especially in agriculture and fishing – 18,728 families were able to raise animals such as pigs, chickens, ducks, cows, etc.. Another 18,893 families were able to grow crops such as rice and vegetables year round – it is so very good.

We talked about the number of school aged children in our program- in the communes where we work – and how many got to attend school this year. We had a dream to build 7 schools and we ended up building 14 schools. We talked about the impact it has on the children in our program. In our new areas, an average of one child per family is able to go to school – in areas where we are in mid – program – the average is 3 out of the five – in the areas where we built our schools – it is 4 out of the 5 children. This year we enabled 120,878 children to attend school for the first time.

Our dream this past year was to have 55 teams come and build 950 houses – we had 97 teams come with 2,425 volunteers come and help build 1,182 houses for our families. It is so very good – The volunteers become friends and supporters – people who have a deeper understanding of poverty and its impact on people.

It has been an amazing year – a year of being blessed and giving blessings. I thank my God for this privilege. I thank my God for the staff and for each of you who have made so much happen this year. I pray that our dreams for the next year will bear much fruit for those whom we serve.

Janne

Tabitha USA was established in 2003 to provide funding and support for Tabitha Cambodia, a humanitarian NGO in Cambodia. Our mission is to improve the lives of people living in poverty in Cambodia. We seek to raise funds to support Tabitha Cambodia’s community development efforts, which include a savings program, house-building, digging water wells, and building schools. Tabitha USA is an official IRS 501 (c)(3) non profit organization that grants all donations tax-exempt status.

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Ah, the subtle swaying of simple minds ...

Election furor in the US.

Some of that here, too, with the National Assembly vote very soon.

Palestine’s bid for membership in the UN will be vetoed.

An execution in Georgia took place.

Austerity measures are protested in Greece.

Facebook makes changes.

Just a few of the topics swirling this morning that bring to mind a recent discussion on democracy, what it means, what it is, and what’s do be done with it, spawned partly from last week’s declared International Day of Democracy marked on the 15th.

So, what exactly did that occasion celebrate?

democracy
diˈmäkrəsē
noun ( pl. -cies)

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives : capitalism and democracy are ascendant in the third world.

• a state governed in such a way : a multiparty democracy.

• control of an organization or group by the majority of its members : the intended extension of industrial democracy.

• the practice or principles of social equality : demands for greater democracy.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule.’

As a quick read through the democratically organized Wiki shows, democracy comes in many different flavors.

You’ve got your Representative Democracy, your Consensus Democracy, your Deliberative Democracy, Cosmopolitan Democracy, democracy Representative, Parliamentary, Presidential (and Semi-Presidential), direct, inclusive,
participatory, Socialist, Sortition, Supranational and the Anarchists … any of which can be liberal … or not … characterized by Majority Rule, but, as mentioned, ” … it is also possible for a minority to be oppressed by a “tyranny of the majority”.

While there is no universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, equality and freedom have both been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times.These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes.

Nice idea, heh?

Those of us who were around during the time the US was busy wrestling dominos in the course of “saving the world for democracy” might be forgiven for thinking democracy a new-ish, western-ish concept since not a lot of talk about Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and India, cultures that adhered to democratic practices before the Greeks came up with the word, entered debates over whether or not dropping cluster bombs over Cambodia was a good plan.

Democracy went from being a Greek word to a Buzz word once … dum de dum dum … communism gave it something to bounce off of and resonate, and as is the nature of such things it became undemocratic to question the righteousness rightness of democracy.

It doesn’t take a deep investigation into history to see how that worked out. Do the term McCarthyism ring a bell?

During the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person’s real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment.

As Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it: A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

So, is democracy a red herring, a set of shiny, jangling keys designed to take our eyes off the prize of true freedom and call it healthy compromise?

American history is rife with praise for the democratic way of doing government, starting as it did from roots dug from monarch trees that had held the mountaintop for centuries, but perhaps the motivation was best summed up years later by that very British brain, Winston Churchill, when he said, ” … democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

Unless the world ends in 2012, there is much more to come in the way of evolving systems of governing bits of our increasingly crowded planet. Power will shift, economies will weaken and strengthen in little relation to rightness or wrongness, wars will happen and winners will be touted as those holding the true path to glory. People will even adjust to Facebook altering the way feeds work.

“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either [aristocracy or monarchy]. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
~ John Adams

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Ten years ago today I was on a sofa in North Carolina staring into the beautiful eyes of my granddaughter who had just passed her first month on earth. My daughter had handed her into my care so she could get a bit more sleep and I was about as content as I’ve ever been with perfect, tiny fingers grasping one of mine as the baby girl dozed in my arms.

I lunged for the phone when it rang, hoping my daughter wouldn’t be disturbed, and was surprised, yet happy, to hear my son’s voice on the other end. It was very early in California, an unexpected time for him to be calling the East Coast.

“Mom,” he said, interrupting my queries as to what the heck had him up at the crack of dawn. “Turn on the TV.”

Tucking the phone under my chin and the baby against my chest, I fumbled for the remote to the huge set and clicked.

Of course everyone saw what I saw.

“What the fuck is happening?” I asked Jaren.

“We’re under attack, Mom.”

The second plane came in before I’d managed to absorb anything but terror, and like the rest of America the only words that came to mind were: Oh my god!

The juxtaposition of realities … the new life in my arms, the new horror in New York … could only compound the distress.

“What sort of world do you have now, Baby?” I asked.

Part of the answer I knew then: her world was one in which people drove planes into buildings full of other people.

In efforts to try to gain perspective, I conjured an image of another woman at another time holding another newborn as a radio announced the attack on Pearl Harbor, that woman asking the same question I just had just posed to the cosmos.

The specter rising from that was World War III.

Over the 10 years between then and now that has not happened. We have not experienced mass conscription or concentrated conflict inflicting colossal damage across great swathes of the developed world or food rationing or bombs dropping on our beds or that-country-against-this-country, but rather sporadic terrorist attacks and religious fanaticism and fear.

Civil wars and oppression and human rights abuses continue as they always have, people starve and fight and kill and rape and poverty breeds the hungry, the uneducated and the dangerous while wealth motivates those hungry for power and equally dangerous. While many strive to survive, others do what they can to protect, to inspire, to effect change for the positive to varying degrees of success and failure.

The world of my granddaughter turns out to be not much different, in human terms, than the one my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother … and so on … and I were born into — a world where people perform deeds of great kindness and acts of almost unimaginable horror.

No, my granddaughter will not be able to sling on a backpack equipped with a Swiss army knife and a couple of pints of contact lens solution then board a plane like I did. She’ll learn to travel without belts in slip-on shoes and allow 3 hours for check-in. She’ll probably never sip a cocktail in a rooftop bar overlooking a major city without at least some trepidation. She may look askance at those who dress and worship differently and choose to surround herself with the familiar for illusions of safety.

History will show her that paradigms shift, that deadly enemies, the evils incarnate, eventually become familiar trading partners no matter how dissimilar they may be in look and faith and culture and background as it absorbs the dead and those imprinted with images of fire and smoke and collapsing monoliths full of humanity pass along.

We no longer tremble at the thought of Japanese or Germans, no matter the price they exacted from the world only a bit more than half a century ago in their bids to accomplish their goals, but have contextualized the horrors and moved beyond as we comprehend new evil, new enemies,

This is how we humans do things. This is how we have always done things, and it’s history that dictates wrong from right as it divides winners from losers.

What will be far different for the children born with the rubble and toxic dust of the Twin Towers in their path are the impacts of events less dramatic in the making but much more in outcome and harder to live with — the results of the relentless attack of man on the planet.

There is no template for putting the climate back together after an onslaught, for negotiating a truce between rising seas and inundated land. No reconciliation can be won once patterns of weather are so drastically changed that the seas no longer function as Earth’s lungs.

Reparations will be futile and even discussion of them will set human against human, as will attempts to share out slices of the ever-diminishing pie. Once again, wars will be waged and many will die, a circumstance that will relieve a bit of Earth’s burden, but when she’s too wounded to carry on we’re done and all fights are over.

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I’ve not had the energy to post much lately.

Yes, feeling a bit the dim bulb these days as I look for a light at the end of the tunnel, unlike a dear friend who is an energy-making machine!

Aside from her inborn facility to generate no end of sunshine exuding ion after ion of positivity, she is not only a powerhouse … she is now a power plant.

Between a collection of photovoltaic panels, a new wind turbine and a battery of batteries, she’s almost completely off-grid now, producing enough power to run her house on her own power 22 out of 24 hours on cloudy days. She also collects rainwater in a series 5,000 liter tanks, so her needs for water are satisfied by what falls from the sky.

She is, of course, careful, conserving rather than wasting, with low energy bulbs she flicks off when she leaves a room, not allowing water to run freely down the sink without reason and such as we all should be. (The bright idea that illuminated us for years is now being replaced … as should others.)

Unlike almost everyone else on this tropical island with its 12 hours of daylight year round, frequent rains and almost constant breezes, this friend is harvesting all, and so very happily.

On hot, sunny days, she’s over the moon. Blustery days are a breath of energy-laden fresh air to her. When it’s pissing down rain and the tourists are groaning, she is happy as a clam.

No matter what the weather, she has it covered.

Granted, none of the setup came cheaply. The original outlay was substantial, installation was … well … drawn out and riddled with frustration. But …. what’s done is done and it’s done. She now faces low maintenance, free power and water and … well, power and water.

When the electricity goes out, as it does, her lights are on.

When “weather gets into the pipes” and water doesn’t flow, her toilets flush.

When ever-growing bills come, they don’t come to her in any size other than extra small.

Seychelles, so far, is not an petroleum producing nation, yet our electricity comes from diesel-powered generators with fuel coming to us on ships that also require huge amounts of diesel to get it here. Our water catchment systems can sometimes not meet demand and during times of little rain need supplementing by desalination plants that run on … you guessed it … diesel.

Does this sound just plain silly to anyone else?

How much would it take to require new construction … and some of this involves huge projects that cover many acres … to include the technology my friend has voluntarily installed?

Sure it would add some cost to construction, but putting more pressure on already stressed systems is expensive, too, and in more ways than financial.

If individuals were also encouraged to invest in retrofitting homes with energy producing equipment and water collection systems, and helped with those investments, the country could move closer to self-sustainability, save a fortune on importing fuel, reduce pollution and increase the ‘green’ factor by a huge margin.

Our tiny island nation could set the bar by which other countries would have to compare their own commitment to sustainability, the environment and forward thinking, just has my friend has in her small, yet significant way.

It’s only old fossils who insist we continue to rely on old fossils … we can be reNEWable!

Gee. Seems just writing about energy has given me some ….

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