Sunday, November 30, 2008

"The Best Buy in Public Health" -- by Dr. Josh Ruxin

During this time of appallingly bad buys in the stock market, I thought it might be worth taking a look at an area where there are still colossally good buys to be had. A study published this month examines the impact of the World Health Organization’s “Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.” Amazingly, 20 percent of the world’s residents (1.3 billion people) are at risk from the disease, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. Nearly 120 million are currently infected and 40 million are seriously debilitated by the disease. In the past seven years, the WHO program saved an astonishing 32 million DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years – the gold standard for a public health intervention). That includes 6.6 million children who never got the disease thanks to treatment and another 9.5 million infected patients spared from its more debilitating effects. You can therefore imagine why lymphatic filariasis treatment and prevention has been called a best buy in public health.

Don’t feel too bad if you don’t know what lymphatic filariasis is. Commonly known as elephantitis, it is one of a suite of lesser-known ailments that includes schistosomiasis, trachoma, leprosy, and soil-transmitted helminths, which affect billions of people in South America, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Elephantitis is among the most grotesque and terrifying of the diseases, though relatively easy to treat and prevent.

Though massively widespread, the neglected tropical diseases can be defeated with a more modest investment than it takes to fight pandemics like AIDS and tuberculosis. Ironically, because they are less well-known and potentially easier to fight than more well-publicized scourges, they have always been shunted off to the side of the global public health agenda – so much so that this has given them their name: neglected tropical diseases.

Fighting these diseases is a challenge, but it also represents an enormous opportunity, one that we can’t afford to miss. Gains made against AIDS and TB are often made “uphill.” We can get medication and treatment to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, but what good is that if patients are suffering from other disorders that reduce the effectiveness of that medical attention? Further, the treatment of these diseases requires more follow-up and attention than the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified these diseases as “targets of opportunity” in the battle to improve global health. Thankfully, efforts against some of these diseases are not just gearing up, they are gaining significant traction.

This success is the product of what’s been called the most rapid scale-up of a drug program in the history of public health. It could also become the largest program of its kind in public health history: so far, over 1.9 billion drug treatments have been administered to more than 570 million people in 48 countries.

This program shows what’s possible when the funding needed to fight these neglected-though-conquerable diseases is put into the hands of organizations that have the will to use it effectively. This kind of program is vitally important, because it’s so unlike what we’re used to seeing. This isn’t an effort to mitigate the effects of a disease, and it isn’t finding the cause of a disease. If followed through to completion, it is nothing less than the complete eradication of a disease. Lymphatic filariasis could go from being a threat to more than a billion people to being simply an interesting epidemiological footnote in a few years.

Given the success against this one neglected tropical disease, we shouldn’t hesitate taking on the rest. Beating these diseases is within our grasp, and it could be the most cost-effective investment we’ll ever make in global public health.

Dr. Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Background on Obama's Economic Team" -- by Chris Scott, The ONE Campaign

Today's post is cross-posted from the ONE Campaign Blog.

This week, President-elect Barack Obama is rolling out an economic team that will serve in his administration during a time of global financial distress. Two of his appointments announced yesterday bring with them strong backgrounds on global development policy. Here are some brief bios on each of them:

Mr. Timothy Geithner, appointment for Treasury Secretary, has supported initiatives to provide vaccines for children dying of preventable diseases, worked to lessen the burden on countries with significant debt, and advocated for the U.S. to fund basic health care to immunize, prevent and treat infectious diseases in the poorest countries. He is currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Formerly, he served at the Treasury Department and as a senior official at the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Lawrence Summers, appointment for head of the National Economic Council, has worked to achieve debt cancellation for developing countries and promoted policies that will make education available for African women. He served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan and as a Chief Economist for the World Bank before taking posts in the United States Department of the Treasury. He served as the U.S. treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001.

You can find more information about President-elect Obama’s economic team here.

And check out the Center for Global Development’s take on the appointments here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's YOUR faithful response to God's defining moment?

Make no mistake, EVERY moment can be God's defining moment ... but there are moments we become more aware of that possibility. They are usually moments where our foundations are shaken, where the things that make us feel secure are stripped away, where we realize how much we really cannot make it on our own, and how much we really need each other ... and God.

The world will call these moments of crisis, moments of fear. But for us, Christ's Church, they are moments of opportunity. They are moments of chaos and uncomfortability where if we respond out of faith and not out of fear, we can let God use us to tranform the world.

We're in one of those moments right now. A global economic system based on hyperconsumption is predictably collapsing under its own weight. Decades of going into debt trying to find meaning through buying more and using income growth as the only measure of progress has led us to the brink not just of economic collapse but spiritual poverty.

It is a moment of crisis. It is a moment of fear. But more than that, it is a moment of great opportunity. This is God's defining moment. And we cannot be silent.

We are all crew of the Ship of Fools that is the Church ... and it's time for all hands on deck.

At Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation's board meeting last week, what emerged through our prayer and conversation was not a new mission for EGR ... but a focus for that mission. Our opportunity -- and that means you -- is to lead the Church in grasping this moment of economic crisis as God's defining moment, a moment where we don't run in fear from the shaking of the foundations but stand fearlessly firm and proclaim the Good News that what can rise from this is a world not of not riches for the few but abundant life for all.

What does that look like? That's where we need your help. That's where we need all hands on deck. We need you to pray, study, dream, think, discuss, experiment, create ... use all the gifts God has given you to discern what a faithful response to this defining moment in time might be.

This includes, but is not limited to:

*Practical, simple, actions and choices we can make as individuals, families, congregations, dioceses and as a Church to reject the call to fear and step out in faith for a world where "all may have life and have it in all its fullness."

*Educational and programmatic responses for our communities that can open our eyes to the theological reality and opportunity of this defining moment.

*Creative expression (music, painting, scultpture, poetry, whatever your media might be) that can engage people in Christ's presence in this moment and Christ's call to us in the midst of it.

*Papers or shorter musings on the theological and scriptural foundations for an economic system that benefits all humanity.

*Opportunities for building global relationship that can be transformative.

*Things you have tried -- whether you think they have worked or not -- to try to live faithfully in this time of crisis and opportunity.

Share any and all of these things -- and anything else that addresses what a faithful response to God's defining moment of now might be -- with us by sending them to EGR at In turn, we will do what EGR does ... take the wisdom God has given you and make it available to all.

It is time for all hands on deck. And that means you are a critical part of figuring out what God is calling us to do and who God is calling us to be in this defining moment. We can't wait to see what happens next!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Financial crisis, spiritual crisis" -- by the Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

‘This financial crisis is a major spiritual crisis. It is the crisis of a society that worships at the temples of consumption, and that has isolated and often abandoned millions of consumers now trapped on a treadmill of debt….
It is the crisis of a society that values the capital gains of the rentier more highly than the rights of people to a home, or an education or health. And it is a crisis, in my view, for faith organizations that have effectively colluded in this idolatry, by tolerating the sin of usury.’
Ann Pettifor, a long-term campaigner on debt and economic justice issues, looks back to church history in the 1500’s to discussions about acceptable interest rates and lending practices.

The Old Testament calls people who lend freely and with generosity righteous and blessed which is confirmed by Jesus. (Lev. 25; Deut.15; Ps.37; Ps 112; Luke 6).

In Matthew 21:12-13 Jesus deals harshly with money changers in the temple.
‘Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.’ (Matthew 21:12-14 – The Message)

Let us pray:

*Ann writes that restoration comes if social values are considered ‘more noble than mere monetary profits’. Let us pray that we can have an attitude of nobility and generosity.
*We pray for a world in turmoil.
‘We reaffirm our faith in God and acknowledge that He is in control. We repent when we have placed our trust in money, institutions and persons, rather than God. Our security is not found in the things of this world.

We pray that God will honour those attempts to address the financial crisis. We call on governments, institutions and individuals to honour their commitments and, in particular, to work to limit the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable.

This crisis requires us to pull together as a community, to pray for one another, to care for those in need, and to model good stewardship in our spheres of influence.

We encourage Evangelicals to show leadership in caring for the poor, calling for the necessary reforms needed to addresses the crisis and the practices that caused it, and be prophetic in challenging the structures and practices that are incompatible with good stewardship of the resources entrusted to each and all of us. We must live simply and be generous.

May God give us wisdom.’
Excerpt from the WEA GA Statement on the Economic Crisis

* Reflecting on the statistic below: Lord, we acknowledge the complexity of the economic systems within countries and between nations.

We pray against greed of individuals and businesses. We pray for a sense of justice and great wisdom for those who have responsibility in financial institutions and over country budgets.
Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Target 12: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

‘The global food crisis is partly the result of domestic agricultural subsidies and tariff protection by developed countries, which for many years have discouraged agricultural production in developing countries.

Developed countries’ total support to their own domestic agricultural sectors grew by some $65 billion between 2000 and 2004, before being cut by $16billion in 2006. Nevertheless, at $372 billion, such expenditures remained more than three times higher than the official development assistance of developed countries.

The support provided by developed countries to their own agricultural sector has continued at a time when developing countries have been encouraged to end all public support to their agriculture. This acts as a disincentive to agricultural production in developing regions and undermines official development assistance’s broad objective of supporting development.’

Source: Millennium Development Goals Report, United Nations, September 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Trickle-down Hell" -- by the Rev. Lauren Stanley

By the Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

“The Dow Jones fell 5 percent today …”
“Markets in Asia plummeted on news of …”
“Foreclosures hit a new high in …”

The credit crisis dominates our lives right now. Every day, there is more bad economic news, so much of which can be traced straight back to pure greed.

The subprime mortgage crisis set off much of the trouble here in the United States, both the selling of these mortgages to people who were not qualified financially, and the subsequent bundling and selling of these risky loans as investments.

One thing led to another, and voila! We have a recession that is spreading around the world in record time, threatening another Great Depression.

The crime in all this is the greed behind all of it. Not the greed of those who wanted to own their own homes; for the most part, many of the people who took these loans simply wanted a shot at the American Dream, and far too many of them were misled by those giving the loans. No, the greed here lies with those who made the loans knowing that they were predatory, and who then bundled them into investments wherein the investors were, seemingly cavalierly, gambling wildly with people’s lives.

Talking with some friends about this recently, I pointed out the worst tragedy of all:

Those who will suffer the most are those who are in the most need.

How so, my friends asked.

Well, if everyone in this country, the richest in the world, is worried about their money, never mind losing it hand over fist, if they fear for their jobs and their homes, they won’t be able to help those most in need. So the people with whom I serve in Sudan are going to be hurt the hardest.

How can I continue to buy medicine for people, for the women and children, with malaria and typhoid and diarrhea, the three biggest killers in Africa, if people in the United States aren’t able to help? I don’t buy medicine in Renk with my own money – I don’t have it. As a missionary of the Episcopal Church, I don’t receive much in the way of salary; in fact, what I receive actually doesn’t cover my expenses over there, never mind expenses in this country when I am here.

I receive money for medicine from generous churches, friends, family and strangers in this country. I take that money with me and invest it – yes, invest it – in the lives of those who aren’t even on the economic ladder, who have no way to buy desperately needed medicines to save the lives of their families.

All of that money comes from donations.

But … if in these dire economic times people here are worried, are scared, about their own futures, they won’t be able to help secure the future of those far away.

And that’s the real crime of this economic mess.

Those at the top of the economic ladder are suffering losses in their portfolios. Suddenly, they are worth a whole lot less than they were before. Whether that qualifies as suffering, I don’t know. I’ve never been that high on the ladder, and while I understand their anxieties, having that much money, never mind losing a huge chunk of it, is beyond my ken.

Those standing on the middle rungs are clinging to them tightly, knowing that one small misstep will hurt them dramatically. They worry about paying off bills, education for their children, mortgages, jobs … and they are the ones who are retrenching, cutting back on eating out, on Christmas gifts, on anything they can. They are the ones who normally give to those in need … and that giving is already plummeting as they strive to protect their own. Their needs and fears I understand completely, since I used to belong to that class myself. And I don’t like asking for money from folks who need it for themselves.

And then there are those who are already on the bottom rung, the ones who could barely make things work even in the best of times, the ones who each month have to balance paying bills vs. buying food for their children. They don’t have health care and live in true fear of illness. They also are the ones who give most generously – always, it is the poor who share the most – but now, they are in desperate, desperate shape, and I absolutely refuse to take money from them. No, they can’t really fall farther down the ladder, but they are close to falling off the ladder, and I will not jeopardize them.

All of which means that the people who need help most desperately, the poor all over the world who aren’t even on the economic ladder and who have no ability to make it on their own because there is no stability where they live, well … they are literally out of luck. What little help they’ve been getting probably will dry up. New donors will be hard to find. And so these people will continue to suffer, and their suffering will get worse, and there’s not going to be much that can be done about it.

All because someone somewhere decided to gamble, not with his or her own money, but with the money and lives of others, not thinking about the trickle-down hell into which so many would be thrown.

In the old days, most of those who invested funds did so by combining their own money with that of investors big and small. So the men in charge of all this investing actually had a stake in what they were doing. That made them, it seems, more conservative and a whole lot more caring. Now, the money managers get their fees and their exorbitant salaries and go before Congress crying about how they have been hurt by the losses and how they absolutely deserve every cent of their enormous paychecks and benefits … and not once – not once – do they talk about the hardest-hit, the ones suffering from their flawed policies of greed.

There’s very little justice in trickle-down economics.

There is no justice in trickle-down hell.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy, Biblical Greek and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Our Moonshot" -- by Elaine Thomas

There are two seemingly disparate strands running through my mind these days, but I think some sort of connection is actually there. The first thought is of my niece, Suzannah, who recently returned from a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. She primarily worked with the women on health and economic empowerment. In this heavily Muslim country, empowerment of women is a daunting, if not impossible, task. In her first months in Niger, Suzannah was convinced that she would never learn to speak or understand Hausa yet is fluent upon leaving the country. Her genuine compassion and concern for the women of her village is just what the impoverished countries of sub-Saharan Africa need. Not someone to tell them what to do but just to be there, helping connect them with resources they need to climb out of the poverty trap.

However, Suzannah will not be going back to Africa. There was a time when she was pretty convinced that she would go into international development work as her parents had before her. But now, she says she’ll probably stay in the States, devoting herself to women’s issues here.

What happened? Why the change of heart? Shortly after her return to the US, she met up with a woman who had served in Niger twenty years ago. Although they were in different villages, as they compared notes it dawned on Suzannah that the things she was doing and the issues the people of Niger face have not changed in those twenty years. Aid organizations might as well have saved their time, money and energy for all the results they produced. Disheartened, this good and talented young woman will not return to the continent that so desperately needs people just like her.

The other thought occupying my mind? The video from the village of Kogelo, Kenya, Barack Obama’s ancestral home, on the eve of his election as President of the United States. The unbridled joy of these people that one of their own could ascend to the most powerful position on the face of the earth was thrilling to witness. As media reports poured in from around the world, it was abundantly clear that the American voters sent a very clear message to the world about the kind of country we are and intend to be, reclaiming our role as the land where tired, poor and huddled masses are welcome and as a symbol of justice and liberty throughout the world. The hope right now is palpable.

So I think that I can connect the two strands of thought. Where once things did not change or improve, maybe, just maybe things might be different. Maybe, just maybe, the new administration will live out its promises to support the MDGs with full financial commitment, not just words. Maybe, just maybe, we can say to the people of Kogelo, Kenya or Konni, Niger that we share a common humanity and live out those words in action. It’s clear that much of the development money of the past has not been utilized appropriately or effectively. That doesn’t mean that we stop trying. Surely in this time of renewed hope, we can dedicate ourselves as a country to finally making a real difference in helping those in extreme poverty climb onto solid footing.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued his man-on-the-moon challenge:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.
There are those who say we need to issue a similar challenge to address global climate change.

Well, I’d like to make another proposal.
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, before this decade is out, assuring that every man, woman, and child on this planet has the resources and capabilities to be self-supporting, free of preventable disease, with access to education and economic opportunity.
Someone tell Mr. Obama.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Aiden's Story: Not 'Just Another Death'" -- by Meredith Bowen

The past few days have been some of the most joyous and the most painful of my life. And although the recent events are personal, and not work related, I have decided to share them anyway. I have decided to blog about the past few days with the hope that sharing will help me to heal.

Last Wednesday I received a call from a Tanzanian friend of mine in Arusha. He is a social worker and a village leader. People often seek him out for advice. A young couple had come to him in need of help. Both are HIV positive. Although they are not married, they are in a serious relationship. Despite their best efforts, they had become pregnant. Pregnancies are incredibly difficult on HIV positive women. In addition, this couple had no intentions of starting a family.

This is where I came in. I got the phone call asking if I would be interested in adopting their baby. As many of you know, I am planning to adopt in the coming year. So, I said that I would love to meet them and make sure that they fully understood what an adoption really meant.

I drove to Arusha and was informed that the mother – Stella – had been admitted to a local hospital with contractions. I went to the hospital and spoke with the couple. I had my Tanzanian lawyer join us and asses the situation. The couple was already incredibly informed and their decision was a conscious one.

I asked if she would be willing to transfer to another hospital in town – the “best” option - and undergo a c-section in order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. She agreed.

I took her to this hospital’s “best” ob-gyn in Arusha and had her checked out. He said the contractions were Braxton Hicks and that he would do the c-section on Monday the 13th.

Unprepared for a newborn, I spent the weekend with friends shopping for supplies, thinking about names, celebrating the immanent arrival. I visited the mother each day and we spoke about the future of her little boy or girl.

Monday finally arrived. I drove to the hospital first thing and invited myself into the surgical room but missed the actual birth by a few minutes. It was a boy. He was born at 10am on Monday the 13th of October 2008. I named him Aiden.

Unfortunately, he came out covered in meconium. As all mothers know, that is the first stool after the baby is born. Releasing the meconium in utero is a sign of stress on the baby. He weighed 3.0kg – 6 ½ pounds – a great weight for an African baby born to a mother with HIV. The mother made it through the surgery well.

Everyone said that the baby was doing fine and that meconium is not a big deal. He was seen by Tanzanian doctors and nurses, as well as two American doctors who are doing a visiting rotation at this hospital.

The baby spent most of the day in an incubator – with oxygen – and iv antibiotics. Around 5pm I finally got to hold him. I never expected to adopt a new born. It was a blessing I thought was too rare a miracle. Holding him was one of the most joyous moments of my life – imagining our lives together.

But I had been coming down with a head cold all weekend and decided that I would return to where I had been staying with friends for the night – get some sleep and some cold meds – and head back to the hospital in the morning. I wasn’t going to be any good with a cold.

I returned to the hospital Tuesday morning. The baby’s father was waiting.

The baby had died.

The hospital form said that he died of respitory arrest at 6:40pm. Just moments after I left.

It was one of the saddest days of my life.

I have faith that I will survive this and that all of this was meant to happen - that one day I will realize why and for what purpose. In the mean time I am simply trying to breath.

In the midst of my grief, it has been incredibly obvious to me that had this baby been in the US he might have survived. There is no way to know for sure. But I am positive that the medical care in Arusha where we went was some of the worst I have ever seen. In addition to terrible facilities, the staff had nothing invested in their jobs. At 7pm when the baby died, there were NO doctors on the entire medical campus. They had all gone home for dinner. The nurses were basically useless. Even the morning I was told that the baby had died, no one seemed to care. Just another death. Just another expendable life.

We will never know what really happened, what was really wrong with Aiden, or what could have been done to save him.

I realize what a blessing it is to work here in Karatu with doctors and nurses who actually care and are properly trained. They are a rare commodity.

Please pray for Aiden. That he is resting comfortably with the angels.

Please pray for Aiden’s mother, Stella, that she fully recovers from the surgery and this tragedy.

Read Meredith's update on Stella's health on The African Orphan Education Fund blog.

Meredith Bowen is an Episcopal young adult living in Tanzania. She has volunteered in Tanzania with the Rift Valley Childrens Village (an orphanage) as well as with the Anglican Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Diocese of Tanga. Started the African Orphan Education Fund to award scholarships for secondary school and university.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"In a forgotten corner of the world..." -- by the Rev. Lauren Stanley

RENK, Sudan – In 1922, the Soviet Union was born.

In 1948, three years after my parents got married and long before I was even a twinkle in their eyes, apartheid became the official policy of the Republic of South Africa.

In 1961, mere months after I was born, the Berlin Wall went up.

By 1968, the “Troubles” were well under way in Northern Ireland.

These were facts of life with which I grew up; I didn’t like any of them, but presumed that this simply was the way the world was, and I’d have to deal with them.

And then in 1989, the Wall came down in Berlin and I thought: My God, there is hope.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and the whole world was realigned, and hope grew. Then apartheid came to an end in South Africa, something I never thought would happen, and the hope grew some more. When Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa a few years later, I cried with joy.

And in April 1998, with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, I knew that all things were possible.

But I still didn’t believe – not with my whole heart – that my country would elect a black man president.

Oh, I hoped. I believed – I knew – it would happen some day.

But I have to admit, I wasn’t confident that day would come in my lifetime. After all, I grew up in a country that didn’t even confirm the voting rights of African-Americans until I was 5 years old.

In January 2006, when Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois announced his candidacy for president, I thought there was a chance that once again, I would be wrong, and that that which I thought wouldn’t happen actually could happen. On that day, when Obama spoke with such power and clarity of restoring hope and seeking redemption, I knew, with all my heart, that I would have to support him.

After all, I’m a priest. I preach hope and redemption from the pulpit. I live in hope. I believe in hope. How could I not support someone who based his leadership on that same ideal? But even with all that hope, his and mine, I wasn’t sure it would happen. Not now. Not yet.

So when I woke up on that Wednesday morning here in Sudan, clutching my radio and trying to find a clear signal from the BBC, I was filled with hope, but still not quite believing.

Sudan is eight hours ahead of the East Coast, so waking up at 4:30 in the morning was a little silly. The polls were still open in the United States, and there would be no announcements for hours yet. Still, I woke again and again, seeking a radio signal, hoping to get some clue.

Finally, the BBC announced that the polls would close in California in “30 seconds,” and moments later, declared Obama’s victory. I let out a whispered shout of “YES!” (many of my neighbors were still sleeping), and felt a huge surge of joy.

My country had done something absolutely momentous: We had elected a black man president.

Within minutes, I received the first of many phone calls from Sudanese friends celebrating with me. “Mobruk! Mobruk! Congratulations! Congratulations!”

An hour later, when I heard Obama’s speech, I stood frozen in one spot, not daring to risk losing the signal, and cried … with joy, with some shame that it took so long for something so simple to happen, with pride because that simple thing had happened.

And when Obama spoke directly to those of us “huddled around our radios in forgotten corners of the world,” the tears flowed even more freely. For half the year, I live and move and have my being in one of those forgotten corners, and to be remembered at the moment of his greatest victory spoke to my heart, and to the hearts of so many people here. To hear the new president-elect remember those of us who live so far away in such different and difficult circumstances means more to us here than he will ever imagine.

You see, for the past six months or so, most of the Sudanese I know actually have supported Sen. John McCain. For a variety of reasons, they thought Obama would never win, and thus decided he shouldn’t win.

But today, the day after Obama’s election, those same Sudanese are celebrating. For in Obama, they see hope, and hope is something they most definitely understand. Sudan is a land that has been torn apart by war for most of the past five decades. Death still stalks the people daily. There is not enough food or clean water or health care or education. Malaria and typhoid kill people here daily. It’s hot and dirty and dirt-poor to boot.

The only thing most Sudanese have, really, is hope. Hope that their lives one day will improve and their children will live to adulthood. Hope that the fragile peace we have here will grow and expand into a real, lasting peace.

So they’ve been calling to tell me, “Mobruk! Mobruk! Congratulations! Congratulations!” Not just because Obama’s election is historic and almost unbelievable, but also because his election gives them hope as well.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"For Africa, 'Energy From Dirt'" -- By Cate Doty, New York Times

START-UP companies around the world are looking at Africa — where 74 percent of the population lives without electricity — as a test market for new, off-the-grid lighting technologies.

Many of these efforts involve wind or solar power. But one group in Cambridge, Mass., is working to develop fuel cells made from the bacteria that occur in soil or waste.

“You can just literally make energy from dirt,” said Aviva Presser, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “And there’s a lot of dirt in Africa.”

Ms. Presser is one of the founders of Lebone Solutions, which is being financed by a $200,000 World Bank grant and private investments. Lebone’s idea is a microbial fuel cell, a battery that makes a small amount of energy out of materials like manure, graphite cloth and soil, which are common to African households.

But Lebone — which means “light stick” in the Sotho language — does not just want to make the batteries and sell them to African consumers. The group hopes that eventually, as the technology becomes more refined, each household will be able to build a battery at a one-time cost of no more than $15.

“Africans are very, very creative,” said Hugo Van Vuuren, a Lebone founder. “It’s very entrepreneurial, just not in the way we traditionally define entrepreneurial.”

Mr. Van Vuuren, who is from Pretoria, South Africa, and who graduated from Harvard last year with a degree in economics, likened the simplicity of the battery to “the potato experiment that most of us did in high school class,” a two-step reaction that produces a simple charge.

But the bacteria in a microbial fuel cell produce electrons while doing what they naturally are supposed to do: metabolize organic waste, like dead leaves or grass or compost, for energy. The electrons then stick to an electrode, like a piece of graphite, and the chemical reaction that follows creates a small charge sufficient to power a small lamp or cellphone.

“It can be made by people with minimal training,” Ms. Presser said. “It doesn’t take a massive investment.”

The founders of the Lebone team were classmates at Harvard, and looking at sustainable lighting technologies for Africa was their class project. Last summer, they took the technology to Leguruki, a village in Tanzania, to see how the batteries work in households. For three hours each night, six families used batteries made of manure, graphite cloth and buckets, and a copper wire to conduct the current to a circuit board.

While in Leguruki, Mr. Van Vuuren said, the group learned as much about the people who used the batteries as the batteries themselves.

“People walk an hour or more a day to the local high schools to get their phones charged for two or three days,” he said, noting that the phones were sources of light as well as communication devices. The batteries are also used to power radios, Mr. Van Vuuren said, as important a medium of communication in Africa as the cellphone.

Read the entire article here.

"Becoming 'Communities of Practice'" -- by the Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.


What are characteristics of a healthy, vital congregation?

Wayne Whitson Floyd from the Alban Institute writes:

‘In my experience, vital congregations are more than a collection of individuals drawn together by similar personal experiences and needs that in turn are expressed through common beliefs or by similar styles of religious life.

'Vital congregations are communities of practice, where we immerse ourselves in those “patterns of communal action,…create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy and presence of God may be made known to us.’
In the attached reflection, he lists five essential spiritual practises that endure over time and across cultures: discernment, story-telling, proclamation, radical hospitality and transformative service.
‘But it does not end there. Service requires the Practice of Stewardship, which depends on the Practice of Generosity. The more we live out our congregational life as intentional communities of practice, the more vital our congregations become.'
In Acts 2:42-47 we read of the first vital congregation in the history of the church.


Let us pray:

*That we can play our part in shaping our churches to become ‘intentional communities of practice’.

*For the emergency summit of the G20 which will be convened in Washington DC this Saturday 15 November. Please pray:
-For wisdom for the Heads of State as they seek to tackle the global financial crisis.
-That these 20 economically strong nations will consider the plight of economically poor nations, many of whom are already suffering under the effects of increased food prices and threatening starvation for the poorest.

*Our prayer focus this week is for Micah Challenge Netherlands. Otto Kamsteeg, the coordinator of MC Netherlands writes:
‘We have had a very busy time in the run up to Micah Sunday, particularly aiming to mobilize Dutch Youth. We have also had the opportunity to publish the Pastoral letter from our sisters and brother in the Global South in the main Christian newspapers and magazine to raise awareness of global poverty issues.

'Together with the Dutch One campaign, we have released the movie ‘Amazing Grace’ to raise awareness of modern slavery, global poverty, justice and Micah Challenge.

'Please pray that Dutch Christians will be motivated to participate and act and that we will have wisdom to know how to engage them in a meaningful way.’
*Reflecting on the statement below: We pray that this current financial and food crisis will indeed lead to reform and radical change. We pray that new ways of doing things, more effective, efficient and equitable, can be found.

Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Indicator 5: Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption
‘There are two lessons that history and our personal experience teach us. One is that when crises occur, the least responsible are usually the worst affected and the least able to cope. The second is that crises can provide the momentum for reform and radical change.’
Kofi Annan, Michel Camdessus, Robert Rubin; Members of the Africa Progress Panel

Source: Financial Times, 31 October 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"International Aid and Saggy Pants" -- by Stephanie Rhodes

I never thought I'd be one to praise a Bush administration tactic or to side with free market investment over government safety nets. It seems that Palestine may have brought me back to my Republican roots after all. That, or I harbor some secret desire for the entire place to implode. It's hard to know.

What I will say is this: the aid system here feels completely broken. And in many ways I hold it directly responsible for the development paradox in play on the ground here.

This place feels like all the worst criticisms of a welfare state: that the money goes to those who don't really need it, rather than those with a genuine desire to progress; that it is a system of handouts that perpetuate poverty rather than alleviating it; that taxpayers would be better off keeping their hard-earned cash and distributing it as they see fit.

If I weren't the card-carrying liberal that I am, the conversation would probably end there. Instead of living in the Middle East, I'd stay at home and tell myself that those who won't/can't help themselves are a lost cause.

The thing is, the Palestinian people are caught up in some strange Bermuda Triangle version of a welfare state. Israeli policies control the borders, the customs, the "security" and, most of all, the movement. Palestinian Authority systems seem to exert a redundant internal bureaucracy, one that allegedly enriches its key players but that produces few tangible results. Meanwhile the international community props up both of these systems politically and financially. It funds the weapons that make genuine efforts at conciliation less attractive, it supports political administrations that no longer serve at the people's will, and it generates the same aid projects that have failed in the past and that will continue to fail in the future. It is a welfare state that supports only itself. It is a cycle that serves not to address the root problems but to continuously reproduce a failing system.

It is a cycle that prefers a shadow state or a meaningless logframe to a dynamic idea. It is a cycle that hasn't a hope in hell of making a difference.

In many ways, it is a waste of time. It is almost certainly a waste of money.

The Bush administration's response to this conundrum has not meant a fundamental policy shift away from these systems. What it has meant is a parallel effort to put money into the Palestinian private sector. It is an effort to boost private industry without dismantling the welfare system.

Do I think the effort does enough? Probably not, but it's a decent start.

And now for the non sequitur.

I keep replaying Barack Obama's response to an MTV question in my head. It is admittedly tangential, but let's call it our moment of zen.

That welfare state? It's like saggy pants laws. Its funds address a surface sense of decency while ignoring the world's real problems. Yet many argue that dismantling it altogether would be worse than a waste of time -- it would be a complete humanitarian collapse.

And they're probably right. Problematic though the system is, it keeps Palestine in arguably better shape than many places in Africa. So maybe it's doing something right after all.

At the same time, all the international aid brothers out there need to pull up their pants and readjust their funding priorities.

Stephanie Rhodes divides her time between Alabama and Jerusalem, where she directs Palestinian aid projects.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"NonProfits Challenged by Financial Crisis" -- by Huma Kahn, ABC News

As Americans tighten their purse strings because of the financial crisis, nonprofit organizations are facing new woes.

The economic downturn has certainly created challenges for Josh Ruxin, who directs several projects in Rwanda that rely on donations.

A benefactor for a health center that's being built in Rwanda by one of Ruxin's organizations pulled out of the project because of money problems.

"It's a very challenging time," said Ruxin, founder and director of the Access Project in Rwanda. "I am fearful that there has been a fundamental loss of wealth that is not going to come back anytime soon."

Nonprofit organizations across the United States, whether their focus is domestic or international, are eyeing budget cuts. While it is still too early to assess the overall impact, a combination of factors is adding pressure to the already competitive nonprofit landscape.

With the volatility in the financial sector endowments have taken a hit. Government funding is also declining in many sectors and cost of capital continues to increase.

One of the biggest challenges that nonprofit organizations anticipate they will face is securing donations.

"There's a psychology that sets in in circumstances like this that people tend to spend less even when they can afford to spend more," said John Readey, a partner in the Kansas City office of law firm Bryan Cave LLP. "Some high-end clients are holding back this year. ... It's part of the general psychology of keeping your powder dry."

Changing Strategy

Small nonprofit organizations that specifically rely on small donor contributions face the toughest prospects in the current economic climate, said Edith Faulk, vice chairwoman of the Giving USA Foundation and chief executive of Chicago-based Campbell & Company, a fundraising consulting firm.

"Many donors are now having to make a choice between making a donation or putting food on the table," she said.

That means more organizations will be contending for large donors in a market that is already saturated and highly competitive. And even then, organizations will likely be competing for fewer dollars.

Analysts and nonprofit executives alike concur that foundations, and even high-net-worth individuals, will be looking less at donating to new projects, and are limiting their philanthropy to existing programs they support.

Even large nonprofits are not immune. Although they are likely to sustain themselves longer than their smaller counterparts, most large organizations have investments they rely on in addition to donations. If an endowment loses value, nonprofits have to look for alternative funding to make up the difference, which can be hard to attain in the tight donor market.

On the other hand, charities such as Access Project for Rwanda are viewing donors as investors and turning their not-for-profit ventures into profitable ones.

Ruxin once divided his time between private business sector development in Rwanda and the rest on health care projects, but now 80 percent of his work is focused on money-making projects that would yield monetary investments for his donors.

"The wake-up call is that there really should not be such a distinction between for-profit and not-for-profits," he added. "It is about survival of the fittest."

Read the entire article here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Self-determination, sustainability and learning the lessons of the past" -- by Reynolds Whalen

During my time abroad in East Africa, I had the unique opportunity to spend about a week with the Hadzabe people of Tanzania, some of the last truly nomadic hunter-gatherers on Earth. They spend much of their time harvesting yams and roots beneath trees, picking berries, harvesting honey, and pursuing wild game. Their impact on the environment is negligible and they live in amazing symbiotic relationships with nature that raise interesting questions about what it means to be human.

Let me give you an example.

One of the staple food items for the Hadzabe is honey that must be harvested from hives that dwell deep within tree branches. The hives are identifiable by a tiny tube protruding from the branch, visible only by a special bird that eats bees. When this bird discovers a hive, it begins calling out until one of the Hadzabe people follows the sound and uses an axe to split open the branch and grant access to the hive for the bird. After the bird has eaten the bees, the Hadzabe harvests the honey and a portion of the bee eggs, leaving enough for the hive to regenerate and start the process all over again. Pretty sustainable, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, the Tanzanian government has decided that living this way is “primitive” and “uncivilized”, and the Hadzabe people face real danger of losing their way of life. In many instances, the government has encouraged encroachment of Hadzabe land by pastoralists, who are losing their own land to the most “advanced” method of agriculture. While not all of the Hadzabe wish to maintain their current livelihoods, I firmly believe they should have the choice to continue doing so.

More importantly, I think that mandating specific land use for people who have lived in an area for hundreds or thousands of years is a terrible idea. Agriculture is simply not an effective use of land in parts of Africa.

While spending two weeks with the Maasai people at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I saw this first hand. Pressure to privatize communal land has led many to lease plots for farming, overseen of course by various development programs and “experts” in agricultural production. The reality is that these tracks of land do not produce the volume or quality of crops to adequately compete in the cash economy transplanted by the West in the past century. In fact, many are struggling to survive and can only use an area for a few years before the land stops producing.

Of the hundreds of farmers we encountered, none had been on one track of land for more than five years, and few had even heard of such a situation.

In addition to the obvious degradation of converted land, agriculture has caused conflict in the area between pastoralists and farmers. This is by no means a unique situation. In fact, many of the current high profile conflicts on the continent have roots in land disputes caused by restructuring and reorganizing of land.

Consider Darfur. Most people in this arid region of Sudan have historically relied on grazing livestock and cultivating large tracks of land communally. In wet seasons, sufficient grazing land is relatively easy to come by, and pastoralists spread out over a large area. However, in the dry season, only a small percentage of land is fertile enough to provide nutrients for livestock, so everyone congregates and shares these few areas until the rains allow their dispersal once again.

When the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) introduced Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) in the 1970s and 80s, they provided important loans and development services that benefited many of those who received them. However, in order to receive many of these services, people were required to privatize land.

When you privatize land and introduce individual ownership, one family or group “owns” these crucial areas. When the dry season comes, or there is temporary drought or famine, conflict arises as other groups must use this land to survive. As this continues over time, these groups polarize and ethnic violence, now based largely on land ownership, becomes a major concern. Many scholars and experts on African culture and history recognize this as one primary reason certain groups are willing to join the government-sponsored militia force called “Janjaweed” and participate in attacks on villages in the region. This violence continues as I write this article.

Now, as we begin this millennium with a new development framework, we must pay close attention to the lessons of the past. When pursuing the MDGs and looking especially at Goal 1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, we must be careful to pay close attention to the desires of those we seek to serve. We must continually analyze and dissect our own notions of “civilized” and “developed” so as not to repeat the mistakes of similar initiatives only thirty years ago. We should strive to be truly open to the ideas and rich knowledge of the people we are assisting and not presume to advance any agenda of our own, even one as seemingly simple as agricultural production, in an area of the world where we all have much to learn.

Reynolds Whalen is a 2008 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and has traveled extensively in Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. He spent fall semester 2006 in Kenya working with AIDS orphans -- read his blog on it here and has made a documentary film on that experience. He is currently raising funds to spend 2008-9 working in Rwanda for Millennium Congregation helping people in the villages of Rwanda tell their stories. You can give toward Reynolds work in Rwanda with Millennium Congregation here (be sure and put Millennium Congregation - Reynolds Whalen in the designation field)

"Practical Idealists" -- by Dr. John Hammock

The following is taken from the new book I co-authored. EGR believes that its work to promote the MDGs is a way to build a movement for spiritual transformation as well as to help those in poverty. The book Practical Idealists: Changing the World and Getting Paid was not written specifically for Christians; however, it is relevant, I believe, to the work of those who struggle to blend personal transformation, working for social change and making enough money to survive. The following is taken from different parts of the first chapter of the book.

Practical idealists can have any type of educational background and work in the private, public or nonprofit sectors. They can also self identify in any number of ways, including Type A, Type B, traditional, or nonconformist. A practical idealist might be an MBA who wouldn’t touch a pair of Birkenstocks or a hemp-wearing environmentalist. In organizations throughout the country, these are the people who have asked themselves questions about how they can have a life that they enjoy, make an impact on society, and still pay the bills.

Practical idealists

* See a connection between their individual choices and social change;
* Take time to evaluate their actions and choices in light of their value system;
* Are not content to merely envision positive change but are committed to making choices in their own lives that will help them bring that change about;
* Are well informed about their options.

…They have all confronted the questions that you may be currently facing:

* Can I be an idealist in today’s world?
* Can I make enough to live reasonably well and also live out my values and my idealistic dreams?
* Can I have meaning in my life through my work, my relationships, and my free time?

[Our] answer was a resounding "yes!"

Practical Idealists: Changing the World and Getting Paid is intended to encourage and inspire, as well as provide concrete tools for making the kinds of choices and decisions necessary for the practical idealist life. Through examples and exercises, the book explores

* Clarify your values and passions
* Learn relevant skills
* Find work
* Understand money issues and personal finance
* Create supportive community, and
* Use college and graduate school effectively.

…The interplay between your passions and your values will be the foundation for your practical idealism. For example, if you hold economic fairness as a value and are passionate about the environment, you might work for good air quality in economically disadvantaged regions. On the other hand, if you are excited by politics and its processes, you might work for equity by lobbying local governments to provide low-income housing for their citizens or work in government to enact legislation for school improvement. Thinking seriously about your values and your passions allows you to shape the form your practical idealism will take…

Take some time to read and answer the questions below. Write down what first comes to your mind and then consider whether that is genuinely what you believe at your core…

Spend the time to answers these questions even if you think you know exactly what you want to do to express your practical idealism. Doing this exercise can only serve to solidify what you have already established. The practical idealists we spoke with took the time to check-in with themselves about what they were doing and these types of questions allow you to do that.

1. What are your values? What do you believe in?...
2. What are your passions?...
3. How much is enough?

Your financial needs and desires will play a large role in your answer to this question. As our
practical idealists will vouch, however, “How much is enough?” does not just apply to money. [It also applies, among other things, to your time, your idea of success, and prestige.] What is
'enough' success?

Dr. John Hammock
is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy & The Fletcher School, Tufts University. Currently working with the Rev. Dr. Sabina Alkire as a senior research associate at the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative, John was Executive Director at Oxfam America from 1984-1995 and Executive Director at ACCION International from 1973-1980. He is the president of the EGR board.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"The Power of Privilege" -- by the Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.


The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:18-27 that creation is waiting in ‘eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed’ (v.19).

‘Isn’t that us? asks Kendra Langdon Juskus. ‘Doesn’t Paul say, several verses earlier in Romans 8:14-17, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God”?’

She continues: ‘sometimes I think we underestimate the power of this privilege. Now that we are God’s children, filled with his Spirit, we are empowered to start living in his hope of resurrection and renewal—not just by what we say and do and think, and not just by who we share his Gospel with, but by how we live as a part of his creation.

Let us pray:
* That the Holy Spirit will empower and lead us to be good news to creation.
* Our prayer focus today is for the troubled Great Lakes Region, particularly DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi where conflict has soared up again in recent weeks.

Please pray:
· That the present increased attention of the international community will bring about strong commitments to help solve this lengthy civil war in which an estimated three million people died, mostly through starvation and disease.
· For the over 1 million displaced men, women and children as they are threatened by atrocities against civilians, in particular mass rape. Many are likely to be caught up in the fighting while trying to hide in the region’s hills.
· That aid agencies will be able to provide safe shelter and food.
· For Micah Challenge campaigns in the DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi as they seek to work together for the good of their region.
· Reflecting on the statistics below: Lord, we long for an end to violent conflicts all around the world.

We pray for responsible arms transfers and good accountability structures so that more money can go towards social services.

We pray that a strong Arms Trade Treaty can be negotiated as soon as possible so as to increase inter-governmental and public transparency in the international transfer of conventional arms.

Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Target 12: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system (Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally)

‘At least 22 of the 34 countries least likely to achieve the MDGs are in the midst of – or emerging from – conflict. By 2010, half of the world’s poorest people could be living in states that are experiencing violent conflict or are at risk of it.’

‘Irresponsible arms transfers force up defence spending in developing countries and divert resources that could otherwise fund education, health care, and social development. The obscure and unaccountable practices involved in many arms sales also increase the risk of corruption and wasteful expenditure, costing developing countries millions of dollars more.’

Source: Report ‘Shooting Down the MDGs’, Oxfam International, October 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Keeping Promises: President-elect Obama and the MDGs"

Last night, we elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States. Early in the campaign, the ONE Campaign asked all the candidates in both parties to go "on the record" about what they would do about the Millennium Development Goals and making poverty history. Here, in his own words, is president-elect Obama's commitment.

Now it's up to us to remind him of it, to hold his feet to the fire to keep it, and to partner with him in it.

For video statements by president-elect Obama on the MDGs and global poverty go to the ONE blog here.

On the Millennium Development Goals

I’ll make the Millennium Development Goals American policy. By the end of my first term I expect to see progress to meeting the MDGs, including reducing by half the number of people living on less than a dollar a day and suffering from hunger, and reversing the number of new HIV infections and malaria cases.

On reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis:

I’ll double annual foreign assistance from $25b to $50b by 2012. I was a co-sponsor of the Lantos-Hyde Act that authorized $48 billion by 2013 for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. I support lifting the 33% cap on US contributions to the Global Fund, ensuring at least 4.5 million people are on ARV treatment by 2013, and preventing 12 million new infections.

On eradicating malaria:
I will support the goal of ending deaths from malaria by 2015 by building on the $1billion per year commitment to malaria in the recent PEPFAR reauthorization and dramatically expanding access to mosquito nets that for less than $6 will lower the risk of getting malaria and save lives. I will also expand access to ACTs - at the relatively inexpensive cost of $2 per dose - to treat people who get malaria.

On improving child and maternal health:
I will increase funding for child and maternal health and ensure that increases in other important areas - including HIV/AIDS - do not come at the expense of child health and survival programs. I will expand access to vaccinations, increase research into new vaccines, and expand access to reproductive health programs.

On achieving universal primary education:
Worldwide, an estimated 100 million children - including nearly 60 million girls - are not attending school. By 2010, getting these children into school could cost $10b annually. To meet our share of that sum, I look forward to signing the Education for All Act and will request the funding levels needed to carry it out.

On cutting in half the number of people without clean water or enough food:
More than 1b people lack access to clean water, and that number will increase with the impact of climate change. The US has an obligation to increase access to clean water and sanitation. Through increased funding of up to $1.3b annually and innovative programs like ‘play pumps,’ I will expand access to clean water and sanitation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Today ... Bring One Billion People to the Polls With You" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman


How would Jesus vote? The Bible is silent on Obama v. McCain, but our scripture speaks loudly about what factors our Lord might consider before pulling the lever.

While both candidates have spent millions of dollars trying to convince voters how each will be better for the "middle class" and "Main Street," what we know of Jesus suggests we use a different ruler if we are to cast a Christlike vote.

For Jesus, greatness was to be found in service ... particularly service to the least powerful in the world. Who cares more for the outcast? Who will help us as a nation not so much achieve our self-interest, but look beyond that self-interest to a greatness borne not of rhetorical bluster or military might but of leading the world in a commitment to compassion.

More than one billion people still live in extreme poverty ... and the global financial crisis threatens to send that number upward even as the MDGs struggle to cut it down.

Today, when you vote, consider that the people for whom you vote have a chance to inspire us and lead us toward fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals. There are a billion reasons to cast your vote not for yourself, but for the world's poor who have no voice, much less vote.

Use the resources below to pray, study, discuss and cast a vote that is a dream not just for you, not just for America, but for a world made extraordinary by the power of Christ's compassion.

A world where, with God's help, we have made poverty history.


Here are some resources for prayer and study as you prepare to vote today:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
Click here for an election day message from the Presiding Bishop and more prayers.
Consider these before pulling the lever.

Click here to download "Obama & McCain: On The Record" -- a one-page collection of statements by the candidates in their own words about their postions on the MDGs.

Click here for Citizens for Global Solutions' "Obama vs. McCain on U.S.-UN relations"

Click here for the Pew Forum's "The Candidates on Poverty."

Click here to download the "Vote All Your Values 2008 Voter Issues Guide" from Sojourners.

Click here to go to "The Global Hunger Crisis and Elections 2008" from Bread for the World.

Click here for excerpts from Lancet's article on Obama & McCain on Global Health, with a link to the entire article.

The Rev. Mike Kinman is the Executive Director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Dignity" -- by Craig Cole


This is the one word I want people to remember when they think about the plight of the poorest in our neighborhood, in our country, and in our world.

It is a shame that we continue to overlook the gifts and talents of those who are poor. We still see them as lazy, uneducated, always making bad choices, needing our help to survive. This view of the poor is simply wrong. The description of the poor I have just given describes me and many of my friends and colleagues on occasion.

So, why is it that as Christians we sometimes see the poor as a group of people that need us to solve their problems? In graduate school, we called this the “Messiah” complex. It’s like taking an old saying and putting a twist to it, “We are from an affluent church and we are here to help.”

Does help mean giving out plastic sunglasses to children in a village in Sudan when they have little to eat? Is throwing candy to a group of children from a bus that is leaving a village really a smart idea. Some think it’s cute to watch these children scramble and then devour the treats. I think it’s demeaning. And, quite frankly, I am tired of seeing these kinds of things over and over again.

What about a development project that doesn’t involve any of the people in the community only those coming from the outside? How about building a school and never involving the local labor who are desperate for work and actually have the right knowledge?

During the summer, a rival clan, who had some disagreements over cattle, burned down a village in the Wau district of Sudan. Five Talents International along with the Episcopal Diocese of Wau and several other international organizations including World Relief and World Concern had established a microcredit and savings program in this village. More than 350 members had saved about 10,000 US dollars over about 18 months in their village bank. When the clan burned down the village, one of the buildings left standing was the bank and the money was safe. Why?

The primary reason was because it was their money and it was their bank. We didn’t put any outside loan capital into the bank; they owned it all. The consortium of organizations only assisted with training to start the group savings project and mentor them as it grew.

I believe, as does everyone else associated with the program, that if the outsiders had controlled the program, dictated the design of the program and put all the money into it without involving the community - the money and the bank would have disappeared when the village was raided.

Santino, the chairman of the village bank, said this. “If you grow your own grain, you will be careful how you use it. If the grain is given to you, you can finish it in a few days.”

Independence creates dignity not dependency. Ownership creates opportunity for the poor to develop their own skills and talents.

On Nov. 16, many congregations in most of the mainline denominations will read the parable of the talent (Matthew 25: 14-30). The second verse in that parable is, “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability.”

This is a very powerful statement, “each according to his own ability.” I am convinced that this passage says that God gives us all abilities and that we are to use them to help ourselves, our families, and our communities. This is a very liberating message for the destitute and really for all of us.

When we give away things to the poor, when we run the project for them instead of with them, I believe we are crushing this important message of empowerment. We leave instead the poor dependent and feeling unworthy and demeaned.

I hope you will think and reflect on this parable Nov. 16, which we have called Five Talents Sunday. We have developed curriculum for Sunday Schools and other material for those interested in finding ways to serve with the poor instead of doing everything for the poor.

Craig Cole is the Executive Director of Five Talents International, an Anglican microfinance nonprofit. Craig is a member of the Diocese of Virginia's Mission Commission and an EGR board member.