Archive for December, 2014

The Giving List – 2014 Edition

I thought I would end 2014 with this year’s collection of The Giving List. In the past few years I have found that I love compiling this list and looking back at the ones from the past. In an odd way looking at these lists every year feels like a way of capturing where my mind was, what has moved me, and what was going on in my life and the world around me at that time.

Best wishes for 2015!

Love,

Ra

MARTIN DE PORRES HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY:

All-ways closest in my heart. I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information. martindeporres.org

NEW HOPE CAMBODIA:

The light for this incredible place still shines so brightly in my memory and in my conscience every day. One of the most remarkable and inspiring places I have experienced.

“Set in Mondul 3, Siem Reap, one of the poorest slum areas in Cambodia. A broken community of army families, karoke/sex workers and displaced men women and children.

New Hope Cambodia’s mission is to restore hope, dignity, and promise to these once proud and prosperous people.”

Note: Quote taken from New Hope Cambodia Website. See link for more information. http://www.newhopecambodia.com/

BUILD A SCHOOL IN BURMA:

This past year Build a School in Burma was fortunate to complete five schools in poor communities in Myanmar.  Their next opportunity is to build their first middle school (most village children have no chance for an education beyond the fourth grade).  I am proud to know Bob and this extraordinary organization.

“Build A School in Burma’s mission is to build schools in underserved areas of Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a chance for a better future. Build a School in Burma built [their] first school during 2011 in Nan Ouw village.”

Note: Quote taken from Build A School In Burma Website. See link for more information. http://www.buildaschoolinburma.com/#!

BLOSSOM BUS:

I was saddened and horrified by the young girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria this year. It drove home the importance of education in this world for everyone. Education may be along with food and water one of the most vital and important things in life, and young girls and women receiving education has been at the center in my mind for years of what is the very spark of the light that can change our world. Blossom Bus is making education possible for girls in rural Indian Muslim communities.

“The Blossom Bus bridges the chasm between parents’ legitimate concerns for their daughters’ safety and a girl’s right to education. By providing pioneering families with a bus and a parent chaperone to safely deliver their daughters to secondary school”

Note: Quote taken from Lotus Outreach International Website. See link below for information and scroll down for short film.

http://www.lotusoutreach.org/india#blossom

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS:

The Giving List is by far not the only places I support nor is this time of year the only point when I donate, but this list is a representation of  what I have been thinking about this year. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has long been an organization I have admired and supported, but this year especially with the Ebola outbreak I have found myself moved by the courage and selflessness with which so many medical professionals go abroad and risk their safety for the sake of others in need.

“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.”

Note: Quote taken from Medecins San Frontieres Website. See link below for information:

http://www.msf.org

AFGHAN DUVET PROJECT:

This was an organization my father introduced me to this year. I find so often that after a short news cycle many places and the people who live in them are ignored when another story comes along. The Winter Duvet Project in Kabul Afghanistan addresses this, in a country still in the middle of conflicts people are dying of not hunger or violence but the cold.

“Two winters ago in Kabul, Afghanistan, the New York Times reported the deaths of at least 22 children in refugee Camps in Kabul : Driven Away by a War, Now Stalked by Winter’s Cold

In the following winter of 2013, the Afghan Peace Volunteers ( APVs ) organized the making and distribution of duvets to poor families in Kabul, including those in refugee camps.  60 Afghan seamstresses were paid wages for sewing a total of 3000 duvets, which were then delivered for free to poor families in Kabul, including to the street kids in the APV street kid program, widows, the visually impaired and the disabled.”

Note: Quote taken from Our Journey To Smile Website. See link below for information:

http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/the-winter-duvet-project/

GROW DAT YOUTH FARM:

This is more of a pay it forward moment as opposed to something from 2014, rather this is what I am looking forward to at the start of 2015. I will be in New Orleans in January and my father is going to meet me and we are going to see our friend Jeanne who works here and introduced me to the organization. I am excited to explore this city and to see how this farm is transforming it’s residents.

“The Mission of the Grow Dat Youth Farm is to nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food.

On our farm we work collaboratively to produce healthy food for local residents and to inspire youth and adults to create personal, social and environmental change in their own communities. Grow Dat is a place where people from different backgrounds and disciplines come together in research and practice to support public health, local economies and a sustainable food system in South Louisiana.”

Note: Quote taken from Grow Dat Youth Farm Website. See link below for information:

http://growdatyouthfarm.org

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12 2014

Magic in Iceland

There is so much magic in Iceland one could hardly imagine it. There is magic in the earth. There is magic in the sky. There is magic in the strong winds. And there is magic and a whole lot of steam and heat in the water.

On a recent trip to Iceland I arrived with little expectations but the hope of seeing the elusive as I had heard them, Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis, and to soak in the Blue Lagoon. Beyond this I knew little about the country I was about to visit and the magic I would find there, in fact I arrived in Iceland knowing less than I had known about most places I have traveled.

We arrived early in the morning and with the long nights of winter the sun didn’t rise until 10AM we found a life of commuters and city dwellers in the dark. We spent our fist day discovering the capital of Reykjavik. I was charmed by the colorful houses, and entranced by the views of the sea and the mountains that would surprise us between streets and around corners.

The next morning we flew further north to Akureyri a small town set amidst the fiords of the arctic north. All around us was stunning nature – snow capped mountains that descended into green hills that hid houses built into their sides. Cracks in the grass and land emitted steam from deep below in the heart of the earth. We soaked in the outdoor hot pools while a gentle and cool rain fell.

That night with hardly any expectations and if we are honest a fare amount of skepticism we headed out to try to see the northern lights. Our guide helped set our expectations even lower but said no matter what we should still try.

The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, and Norðurljós in Icelandic are named for Aurora the Roman Goddess of Dawn and Boreas the Greek God of the North. While they seem mystical, magical, and unbelievably awesome they are also perhaps one of the most stunning natural phenomenon one can witness.

With a silhouette of dark mountains in the night sky behind us we sat patiently and watched as a faint glow that was almost unrecognizable started to deepen and then change color. Over the next hour the clouds departed and the sky turned slowly into a light show I could never have expected, slow moving lights that would undulate and pulse and then short flickers where it would appear to “dance”. We watched as they would come and go, faint and stronger, white, palest green, deeper green, then white again. They stretched from the open field on our right to the mountains on our left and then would flash back across. We sipped on hot chocolate to keep ourselves warm and then just as we started to think about departing a circle of light emerged above us with colors that would move and “dance” the green turned violet and red and pink! Our guide who started the night hesitant slowly over our time said the show was better and better until by the end he said it was one of the best we could have seen! We had expected so little heading out but we had gone despite our doubt and magic happened right there above us, more magic then I could ever have asked for.

We headed back into town and drank and sang and danced the rest of the dark away with gentle images of that night’s sky electrifying us.

The next day we drove towards the Lake Myvatn Area. We watched a late sunrise by the banks of Godafoss waterfall.

We drove through stunning farmland and past lava craters. At times the air smelled thick of sulfur and at other times of the smoke from smoke houses curing lamb and fish. The ground bubbled in places with hot brown mud, it hissed in places with steam, and in the stark lava fields there were crystal blue waters that would mirror and reflect the earth and sky back to us.

We had lunch at a farm by a lake. And then we saw where the earth seamed to split apart or collide together. Huge black gashes of rock and chasms where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide. Steam from beneath the earth rose and the sun slipped like a red orb on the horizon. We hiked into an underground cave that had a pool that was as hot as hot tub at its base. After hiking back out, we perched on the top of a black lava rock with the crack that separated one content from another where we sat as we watched the sun set!

Once back in the south we experienced the Golden Circle. Thingvellir National Park with its green mountain peaks and lakes and forests.

We saw Geysir Hot Springs for which all other Geysers are named and the erupting spurts of water that would shoot up 2 stories into the air.

And Gullfoss waterfall with its mighty power and crashing strength of water.

Our last day we soaked in the electric blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. Amid the almost moon like environment of lava fields the blue water shocks the eyes. Then you slip into the heat and warmth of the water that rivals the Caribbean, the air outside still a cool northern reminder of where you actually are, but submerged it feels like a different place entirely. We caked natural mud on our faces, the minerals felt heavy and earthy and good. So many elements in one small place.

I went to Iceland with no idea of what to expect and found so much more than I ever could have imagined. I felt myself impressed by the kind people, the warm hearts as warm as the natural hot water that is everywhere throughout the country. I felt myself melted in a way by the understatement of such a spectacular place. I have struggled my entire life with expectations and my mother always used to say “expect nothing but hope for everything”. I never understood what she meant but somehow in Iceland I did. She meant I have to have an open mind that is willing to meet occasional disappointment but never give up the hope even when it looks unlikely and dark because somewhere there may be magic in the air. Iceland was magic and for that I am so grateful and I can’t wait to go back to experience more!

Love,

Ra

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12 2014