When Doves Cry

When doves cry

With a plethora of “Open Letters” on the Internet, I decided to write my own. Here is my open letter to EVERYONE:

What has happened to us? Where has humanity escaped to? Where is our sense of compassion?

As Richard Branson recently said in his blog, “The dismantling of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War was ‘one of the greatest moments of our lives‘. In a world that is more interconnected and transparent than ever before, let’s raise our voices and call for a peaceful end to this conflict and the right of all human beings to live in peace.”

He went on to make a call on global leaders to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Ukraine with an online petition. You can sign it here.

Inspired and stoked by Branson’s heartfelt plea I searched the Internet for more Open Letters to our leaders. I found the following letter from Bono, Malala, Desmond Tutu, MoIbrahim Foundation and others.

And this letter from women to world leaders.

This open letter was sent to over 100,000 world leaders.

To put it mildly I was estatic to learn of so many heartfelt efforts to elevate humanity and I eagerly added my name to the list of petitions. I myself am no stranger to letter writing. When Putin banned foreigners from adopting Russian orphans I sent him a letter requesting that he lift the ban and instead that he help orphanages conduct screenings and background checks on would be parents. One would think a background check would be a shoe-in for someone like Putin since he is an attorney, was the former head of Russia’s FBI agency, Lt. Colonel of the KGB, Prime Minister and this is his second time serving as the President of Russia.

For years I have sent letters to our various Popes asking them to get help for priests suffering from sexual addictions. Just like bullies, people aren’t born sexual predators, they become one when they are abused. The St. Luke Institute is a hospital dedicated to treating addiction problems for people of the cloth.

I even sent a letter to Bashar Al-Assad begging him to uphold the Hippocratic oath. Before becoming the President of Syria, Al-Assad was a doctor and had worked as physician in the army.

And yes, I even sent a letter to President Obama when I learned about the plight of unaccompanied minors. I grew up in Honduras and know all to well how hard it is to take the Pan American Highway and traverse multiple countries and swathes of deserts and to get all the way across Latin America to Texas. I honestly can’t fathom how someone could slap handcuffs and shackles on a child (some with disabilities) and ship them home without allowing them to receive their due process. I cried when I learned that many of these children were killed within hours of arriving in San Pedro Sula and by the very gangs they were trying to escape from.

Enough is enough. So today we can add my Open Letter to the list of suffrages and a desperate plea to uplift the rights of the voiceless, our children.

We must end child marriage, child slavery, child trafficking, child soldiers, FGM and any form of exploitation and degradation of children.

Please join me on this important quest to elevate humanity and to protect our children. It’s time to take your blinders off, stop pretending this is not happening and do something, anything.

If you want to learn more about orphans and what you can do to help them, feel free to peruse more here.

Om Shanti. Om Padmi. Om Gayatri. Let it be so!

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9 Steps the Book

9 Steps the Book

At long last 9 Steps the Book is finally ready to be launched. 9 Steps the Book started out as 9 Steps to Eradicate Poverty. A labor of love to find simple solutions to help the poor become self sufficient by turning adversity into opportunity. As it turns out it became a journey into the past with lessons and rediscoveries of how our ancestors survived with low tech solutions and remedies.

A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step and in this case it begins with a single click. Together with the help of my friends, the internet and social media the journey of a 1000 miles can advance at warp speed.

This book is not copy written as it was meant to be shared. Please print and distribute to NGOS across the globe and anyone in need. Saving lives has never been easier.

I invite you to join me on this campaign to end poverty with just a click.

To view 9 Steps the Book in book format simply click below and reduce the scale to 75%.

9 Steps the Book Saving Lives with Holistic Remedies Updated

To view 9 Steps the Book translated into Spanish click here 9 Pasos para Erradicar a la Pobreza.


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The Art of Survival: Drawing Inspiration from Ancient Wisdom

West Kalimatan Borneo

Often I find myself saying things like “If I want to have a future I have to look to the past”. And asking questions like “How did our ancestors survive and how were their basic needs met”?

This lead me on a trail of common sense discoveries that eventually became the foundation for my 9 Steps to Eradicate Poverty. This quest also lead me to live in the rainforest jungles with the Dayak tribes.

Dayak indians live deep inside the lush rainforests in a region known as Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo. Many live in long houses located on the banks of the Kapuas Hulu River. Others live in hard to reach locations where they have coexisted in harmony with their surroundings for thousands of years.

Near the town of Putussibau lives the Ukit-Ukit tribe — a group of Dayaks who are now closely affiliated with WWF Borneo where together they are trying to save their forests from deforestation and the orangutans from being poached.

Access to West Kalimantan and the Denau Sentarum National Park is restricted and tightly regulated. Permits for visiting foreigners must be requested by local entities like WWF Borneo. My team had to carry multiple copies of my passport and permits for the law enforcement officers of each jurisdiction we visited.

In Unit-Ukit I was fortunate to stay at the home of Pak Unja and Ibu Sesilia. Pak Unja is a reformed logger who was enlisted by WWF Borneo. He now protects the forest around his village and instead of logging, he taps rubber trees for a living.

Sadly over 60% of Borneo’s forests have been cut down and only 8% of the island’s virgin forests remain. Now their mandate is to manage their natural landscapes sustainably (with practices like shifting cultivation and agro-forestry) so that both humans and nature benefit.

Today the community of Ukit-Ukit derives their income from rubber tree harvesting, fishing, farming, particularly red organic rice and making handicrafts. More importantly the rainforest is no longer deliberately destroyed for farming or logging. I learned a lot while living in the peaceful village of Ukit-Ukit, a tight knit community that shares responsibilities and is governed by a senate of village elders. Decisions are vetted and consensus based. Even when someone gets married the entire tribe comes together to plan the date, festivities, food preparation, music, wedding apparel and ceremony. Ukit-Ukit consists of 14 families who all have their own unique family crest/badge (see photo below).

Dayaks are resourceful but slowly over time their ancient art of healing has been replaced by costly Western medicine. While in Borneo I ran into an environmental colleague who had just come back from being in the field in Vietnam. I was thrilled to learn from him that in Vietnam medicinal plants are making a come back as they generate more money than timber logging. Tremendous news for the future protection of Borneo’s rainforests and for the overall health wellness of the indigenous groups of Indonesia.

The classes I taught were a huge success and I was eagerly invited back. While this trip primarily focused on repurposing trash and family planning, the mandate for my next trip to Borneo will be to plant a medicinal garden. A unique self serve permaculture garden that will include descriptive signage explaining the medicinal properties of each plant.

The garden and metal signage will be a cinch. Getting the villagers to not cook with MSG and to not put so much sugar in their coffee and tea will be more challenging. Overall their diet is healthy and they get plenty of exercise with their daily chores and harvesting.

WWF Borneo has installed several radio stations around the villages they support. Radio makes it easy to disseminate information and broadcast warnings. Smart move on the part of WWF as indigenous groups the world over today still actively listen to radio. A wonderful boon for me as it will help spread the word about our upcoming medicinal garden project and allow us to invite villagers to share their medicinal knowledge and plants with our community garden.

When teaching abroad I always return with lessons learned from the very people I came to teach. It is a valuable exchange and with each trip I share knowledge and gain knowledge. One of the many lessons learned from this trip is the importance of communal sharing. A gentle reminder of how our ancestors survived.

Today this ancient legacy continues and thrives with the Dayak tribes of Indonesia. And indeed, it takes a village coupled with devoted NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund.

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The Millennium of Aquarius

Photo Credit: Robin Hill

When I was in college I remember listening to the lyrics of the Age of Aquarius for the first time. The song struck a cord within me and the name of the band, The Fifth Dimension, an even deeper cord.

“The moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

Astrologers believe that an astrological age affects mankind and influences the rise and fall of civilizations. Traditionally Aquarius is associated with electricity, computers, flight, democracy, freedom, humanitarianism, idealism, modernization, astrology, rebellion, nonconformity, veracity, perseverance and humanity.

The song the Age of Aquarius was written in 1969 and today in 2014 we are living in the Millennium of the Age of Aquarius. Things have not turned out the way I imagined back then. I have been a staunch environmentalist since I can remember. Those of us who believe that the new millennium will usher in an era of peace and serenity are not ready to throw in the towel. We are standing at the precipice of climate change and our fate is being dictated by our own inaction. Now more than ever everyone needs to step forward and do their part.

The best way to heal our world is to start with oneself. When we eat organic foods and use chemical free products we not only heal ourselves but we ultimately heal our planet. If everyone focused their efforts inwards then they would indeed bring balance to themselves and in turn would balance our world. Things heal better and quicker from the inside out and when you get to the root of the cause. So start with your own kitchen pantry, medicine cabinet, makeup case, perfume collection and stop treating your lawn with weedbegone and toxic fertilizers. For more tips check out this Earth911 link.

We must embrace the importance of working together with non profits like Oceana, the Sargasso Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council for the greater good of humanity and in combining our efforts so we can co-create something greater than the sum of the parts.

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the minds true liberation

How can we apply the Aquarian principals to our daily lives? For starters by committing yourself to be as centered and strong both mentally, physically and spiritually as possible. Change is just that, change and knowledge flow through us like the currents in the ocean.

The best way to facilitate change is to start a practice of pH balancing. And not just pH balancing of our bodies but also that of the oceans, rivers and soil. If you are not currently tracking your pH, this would be a good time to start.

The potential of Hydrogen (pH) within our body is controllable. One of the major cellular waste products in organic matter are hydrogen ions. These ions are responsible for changing the environment of the blood mainly by making blood more or less acidic. Too much acid can be detrimental to the functioning of bodily processes. Hydrogen is everywhere and is the most abundant element in the universe making up more that 90% of all matter. Combining hydrogen and oxygen is one of the best ways to remove acids in the form of excess hydrogen waste from our body and the same goes for soil and water. Bringing in oxygen by eating abundant alkaline foods, practicing deep breathing and drinking plenty of spring water is the best way to flush out toxins.

Alkalining Vegetables: Beets, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Peppers and Spinach.

Alkalizing Fruits: Apple, Banana, Berries, Cantaloupe, Grapes, Melon, Lemon, Orange, Peach, Pear and Watermelon.

Alkalizing Protein: Almonds, Chestnuts & Tofu.

Alkalizing Spices: Cinnamon, Curry, Ginger, Mustard & Sea Salt.

What better time than the Age of Aquarius to become aware of the body of water within us and all around us. Keeping our own pH balanced is as important as keeping the oceans clean to sustain life and the equilibrium of the eco systems on our beautiful blue planet. Did you know that over half of the oxygen we breath comes from the ocean? Just as each drop of water within us determines our health, so do the choices we make determine the health of our soil, water and the planet.

Our oceans have already risen 8 inches in the past century. For a while the notion that you could actually change the pH of the ocean just wasn’t acknowledged. What is alarming is no one expected the ocean’s pH could change at such an accelerated pace. Nowhere on Earth are these changes more apparent than at the poles.

In 2008 during an Antarctic research cruise north of South Georgia Island, the marine biologist Nina Bednaršek began to pull up net tows of tiny marine snails. As expected the nets were lined with pteropods, but something was off: their calcium carbonate shells were pitted with holes! The culprit? Carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to make carbonic acid. Deep seawater naturally has more carbon dioxide and less oxygen. Nina attributes this rising corrosive horizon to the additional input of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. When more carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere than is removed the balance not only traps infrared radiation that warms the air, but also makes the ocean more acidic. CO2 levels have already topped 400 ppm this year. And just like with humans an acidic pH is detrimental to the soil, the ocean and to us.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Victor Frankl.

So it’s high time to shift the focus to the mirror and ask ourselves to change our ways so we can have a future.

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Low Tech Midwife Tools Deliver Life Saving Results

Midwives from Bamako Mali

In developing countries barefoot midwives are armed with karuna and moxie and in many instances, little else.

The life of a Barefoot Midwife is anything but easy. Barefoot Doctoring has ancient roots for it has been around since the first person attempted to help another. Indeed any attempt to relieve another’s pain and suffering is a form of Barefoot Doctoring. Compassion, wisdom and skill are the necessary certificates, and consent is the only license needed to engage in the art of healing.

Many Barefoot Doctors are Herbalists, Midwives, Ayurveda Practitioners, Apothecarians, Bush Doctors and even Shamans. The more holistic and natural approach in combining many types of healing, the better because Barefoot Doctors must make due with what they have. Some practitioners receive word of mouth training and some are self-taught. What defines a Barefoot Doctor is their intention to move the life in question forward toward a higher quality of existence. A noble and tough task for these unsung heroes.

Technology has facilitated many of today’s medical advancements and breakthroughs. So how is this knowledge and technical know how trickling down to benefit the world’s Barefoot Midwives? Trickling slowly but gathering steam with the help of groups like Maternova, Mobile MAMA Alliance and Save the Mothers. Maternova aims to cut through red tape and get desperately needed low tech solutions and midwife kits to the ones who need it the most. MAMA is a mobile phone health initiative partnership led by USAID, Johnson & Johnson and India’s ARMMAN that sends life saving text message alerts to expecting mothers. Save the Mothers equips professionals in developing countries with the know how they need to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Problematic pregnancies due to preeclampsia have been around for a very long time and documented cases date back 2000 years. Did you know that Eclampsia is a Greek word that means a person’s lights are turned off? According to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health preeclampsia is on the rise. For this study doctors examined data on 120 million births between 1980 and 2010 from national hospital discharge surveys. This is the largest study conducted to date to analyze changes in rates of preeclampsia in the US. In 2011 the WHO indicated the incidence of preeclampsia to be 7 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries. A by-product of the poor trying to make ends meet by eating cheap food that is high in starch and salt.

So what can you do to help prevent 800 women from dying every day in childbirth? If you are as shocked as I am about this staggering number, then perhaps you might want to consider becoming a midwife. Today it is easier than ever with the plethora of quality online courses offered at venues like Missouri’s Maryville University

Furthermore, how can we as a community of caring individuals better equip Barefoot Midwives with life saving knowledge and low tech solutions? Simple: By sharing the following data with as many midwives as we can reach through the Internet and Social Media.

1. Prevention is key so midwives should instruct expecting mothers to start with a balanced pregnancy diet. Fresh, healthy, wholesome foods and to stay away from junk food, fried foods and sodas. Consume multiple small portions throughout the day of fresh meals. Pregnancy diets should include fermented milk and yoghurt, whey, eggs, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, chick peas, tofu, moringa, kale, spinach, lentils, leafy lettuce, dandelion greens, broccoli, okra, collards, cauliflower, cabbage, beets, raw asparagus, tumeric, avocado, potatoe skins, watermelon and bananas. A new study has shown vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and sulfur deficiency to be a risk factor in developing preeclampsia so pregnant women really should try to eat the range of foods mentioned above including foods high in sulfur. Drink plenty of purified water (SODIS), coconut water, tumeric tea, white mulberry tea, red hibiscus tea, dandelion tea, raw beet juice, orange juice and aloe juice. Nota Bene: A probiotics in pregnancy analysis conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health determined that probiotic milk intake in late pregnancy was significantly associated with lower preeclampsia risk (adjusted OR: 0.80 (95% CI 0.68 to 0.94) p-value: 0.007). Probiotic intake during early (but not before or during late pregnancy) was significantly associated with lower risk of preterm delivery (adjusted OR: 0.79 (0.64 to 0.97) p-value: 0.03).

Pregnant women should soak in Epsom salts a couple of times a week. In absence of a tub, consider applying Epsom salts dissolved in warm water in a bucket and have pregnant mother’s soak their feet or dip a rag and apply externally. The recommended dose is 1 cup of Epsom salts dissolved in 1 quart of warm water but always go with the recommended dosage listed on the package. Soaking in Epsom salts helps to reduce ankle swelling and is a safe easy way to increase sulfate and magnesium levels in a pregnant mother’s body. Midwives should apply Epsom Salts Oil to the skin because it gets absorbed quicker into the blood stream of an expecting mother. Nota Bene: The above noted description is a low tech application of Epsom salts for treating Preeclampsia. The high tech treatment for severe cases of Eclampsia is to inject an Epsom salt solution intravenous which MUST be administered by a doctor and ONLY in a hospital setting.

2. Another important step in prevention is early detection. If a patient shows any signs of having preeclampsia, the midwife should try to get her patient to a clinic ASAP for more thorough analyses. Preeclampsia in new mothers may often go disregarded since they may not know what they “should” be feeling. Therefore family members and midwives are key partners in preventing maternal deaths by intervening and getting medical attention when their spouse or partner complains of shortness of breath, relentless headache, drowsiness, difficulty speaking, blurred vision, seeing spots, nausea and vomiting. One of the easiest ways to determine if a pregnant mother may have preeclampsia is to see if she has protein in her urine. The low tech diagnostic for protein in urine is simple. Get a urine sample from the patient, preferably right after she gets up in the morning or 2 hours after a meal. Place the urine in 2 separate glass jars and place one in hot water for a few minutes. Remove the jar from the hot water and compare it to the non heated urine. If the heated urine sample is cloudy, then it contains protein which is an indicator she has preeclampsia. Next test for high blood pressure signs which develop in women after 20 weeks gestation. In absence of a blood pressure meter the midwife will need to take blood pressure the old fashioned way and regularly. First make sure the pregnant mother has not had any coffee or has been exposed to cigarette smoking and is sitting down in a relaxed position. Then hold the mother’s arm so it is straight with the underside facing upwards. Feel around their wrist, using your index and middle finger of one hand until you find the pulse (do not use your thumb). Use a clock with a second hand and carefully count how many beats you feel in a full minute. A normal resting heart rate for an adult is 60 to 100 beats a minute. To test the baby’s heartbeat midwives can use a home made Doppler (see video for DIY instructions) and fetal heart string beads (purchase from Maternova) or try to make the heart strings beads if necessary (bead sequence is 29 white beads followed by 10 green and 11 red). The midwife will need to assess the position of the baby and place the Doppler on the mother’s belly to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Hold the Heart String Beads with the red beads facing the body and brace the 1st white bead between your thumb and forefinger. You will need to use a 15 second timer or have someone count down 15 seconds. Start pressing a bead each time you hear the baby’s heartbeat. After 15 seconds you will need to look at where you have landed on the bracelet. If you are in the white section, the heartbeat is too low. Provide the patient with a small amount of sage tea to help raise her blood pressure. Also ask the patient if she has not eaten and if so, provide nourishment (preferably a banana which has potassium and is good for a weak stomach). If she can’t hold her food down, then provide some ginger tea. If she can’t hold the tea down then place a rag that has been dipped in ginger tea on the mother’s belly button so it can get absorbed into her system. Ginger is the best tool for treating nausea. Retest the heartbeat of the mother and baby. If the midwife landed on the Green bead, the heartbeat is normal. The Red, the heartbeat is too high. If the heartbeat of the mother and baby is too high give the mother some tumeric tea or baobab fruit tea to drink or clean water and retest their heart rate. If their heartbeat remains elevated then the midwife should take her patient to the nearest hospital or clinic. Remember: eclampsia warning signs include confusion, headache, drowsiness, difficulty speaking, blurred vision, seeing spots, nausea and vomiting. If present get your patient to the nearest hospital right away. If a hospital or clinic is too far away and a pregnant mother starts having seizures, turn her on her side so she won’t swallow her tongue and rub Epsom Salt Oil on the mother’s forehead and her belly button so it will get absorbed into her system quicker. If the pregnant mother is conscious ask her to cough really hard multiple times (cough CPR) and put a pinch of cayenne pepper in her mouth (promotes blood circulation). If she is unconscious and is not breathing, administer CPR until she stabilizes. To administer CPR roll the patient on her back and start chest compressions. Place the heel of your hand on the center of her chest. Put your other hand on top of the fist with your fingers interlaced. Press down so you compress the chest at least 2 inches in adults and children and 1.5 inches (equivalent to 2 fingers) in infants. One hundred times a minute or even a little faster is optimal. Now open the airway with a head tilt and chin lift, pinch closed the nose of the patient. Take a normal breath, cover the patient’s mouth with a homemade CPR mouthpiece (retrofitted plastic soda bottle with gauze soaked in aloe vera) to create an airtight seal, and then give 2, 1-second breaths as you watch for the chest to rise. Continue compressions and breaths – 30 compressions, two breaths – until the patient responds.

3. Many believe that “delivery is the cure” for preeclampsia but today it is known that in many cases the after effect of preeclampsia continues for 2 weeks following delivery and sometimes up to 6 weeks postpartum. Therefore midwives and spouses will need to remain mindful during this period. The new mother must maintain her healthy diet and should breastfeed her new born baby. Remember if the mother is malnourished then so will the baby. An improper diet is the main culprit behind maternal mortality in developing countries. It is the main cause of seizures and hemorrhaging. A tea made from the leaves of the stinging nettle plant is beneficial during pregnancy labor due to its rich mineral value and vitamin K, which guards against excessive bleeding. If the midwife does not have stinging nettle then she can give the Mother some dried ground up basil leaves mixed with peanut butter when contractions start. Dried basil has a higher percentage of vitamin K versus fresh basil leaves. Vitamin K is also a good supplement to strengthen the fetus. A uterine massage is also key for preventing postpartum hemorrhage. Breastfeeding is extremely important for the health of the baby. A mother’s milk right after giving birth is known as “liquid gold” or colostrum. In many countries colostrum is discarded because it is thick and yellow. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that protect the new born baby.

4. Hygiene is crucial so midwives need to keep soap handy and in absence of soap keep some home made soap in a vial in their midwife kit or even a piece of aloe vera. Soap can be made by soaking soap seeds in water and/or soaking peeled yucca root in water to release the saponins. The younger the yucca root, the more it will foam and lather. In absence of water you can peel aloe vera and use the gel to sanitize your hands, treat wounds including a new born’s umbilical cord. Aloe contains 6 antiseptic agents that kill bacteria, viruses and fungus and can be taken internally or applied externally. Regarding cutting the new born baby’s umbilical cord, it is now known that the umbilical cord contains Wharton’s Jelly and this protects the arteries and veins in the cord. This is why knots and tangled babies are fine the majority of the time because Wharton’s Jelly keeps the cord firm and unable to collapse. After the birth the jelly slowly “clamps” down on the arteries first, then the umbilical vein. Usually after 3 minutes the cord will slowly turn from heavy and firm (and colored) to limp and white. At this point it can be cut with little to no mess at all – no medical clamps needed! The 30 seconds rule for cutting umbilical cords no longer applies. Interestingly enough umbilical cord care research has also demonstrated that using the mother’s milk to treat the umbilical cord twice a day helps the cord detach sooner and prevents infection. Lastly the yellow creamy vernix that is coated on the new born’s skin keeps the baby warm and is also an antibacterial that protects the baby so just like the cord, don’t be too quick to cut and don’t be too quick to bath the new born baby.

5. New born assessment and care. The midwife should wipe and dry the new born baby using clean, warm towels. Swaddling should not be done too tight and should be loose around the hip and leg areas. If swaddling is done incorrectly it can lead to hip problems. Midwives can use the following chart to gauge the baby’s foot size and determine if the new born is under weight and size for a normal baby. If the baby appears to be malnourished then most likely the mother is too. In this case the best treatment for the malnourished mother is a paste made from cooked black chick peas or regular chick peas if you do not have the black variety. In absence of this a home made peanut butter paste will suffice as this is the main ingredient in Plumpy Nut.
Measure baby's feet

It is important to mention that currently the intravenous use of magnesium sulfate in severe preeclampsia and eclampsia in a hospital setting is supported by The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), World Health Organization (WHO), Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

It is also noteworthy that the SOGC and WHO both have provided statements that support the use of soaking in magnesium sulfate in low tech settings for the treatment of preeclampsia.

Please do your part and help us spread this life saving information with your #midwife connections and counterparts so we can put an end to #maternalmortality. Because #everymothercounts!

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The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Syrian Refugee Crisis

A tragic problem of historic proportions. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict more than 2 million refugees have been displaced and half of these are children. According to UNHCR more than 6.5 million internally displaced people within Syria require immediate humanitarian assistance. A complex situation that will require the assistance of all.

With limited access into the country for humanitarian groups, the number of refugees arising from the Syrian conflict may climb up to 4 million in 2014 according to UNHCR.

What can be done? How can we help? Queen Noor Al-Hussein and the team at the King Hussein Foundation are assisting us with the preparation of the legal paper work required by the Jordanian tax and custom departments.

Here is what is really needed for Syrian refugees during this winter season and especially for new born babies.

Thick/woolen clothes and especially for ages 0-6 years:

Woolen gloves, hats and scarves
Woolen /thick socks and tights
Thick blouses, cardigans and coats
Complete kits for new born babies (set of blankets, underwear, bottles, diapers, gloves, hat, pajamas, coats, etc.)
Boots or shoes – sizes from 30-37

Please send this list to any of your contacts in the retail industry and have them ship donations to:

Bridging Humanity in care of Innovative Surfaces, 7300 SW 45 Street, Miami, Florida 33133.

For federal income taxation purposes please note that Bridging Humanity Inc. is a US registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. Our Federal ID number is 45-5515265. We will provide donors with tax receipts so they may deduct their contributions as provided in IRC 170(c)(3) of the U.S. Tax Code.

Please send any inquiries or questions via email at tinacornely@bridging-humanity.org.

Dimensions and weights must be provided to the team at the King Hussein Foundation so they can prepare the necessary paperwork so. We need these items ASAP so we can Pick, Pack and Ship!

God bless and God speed!

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Should Remittance Fees Be Waived to Expedite Aid?

Electronic Money Transfer

Without a blink of an eye I would say yes, we should waive remittance fees during times of crisis. But for us to fully understand and quantify the scope of remittance fee savings, we first need to understand the money audit trail.

Let’s begin with where does the money come from? The global response to humanitarian crisis is a collective outpouring of help from communities, organizations, national and international governments, each facing a range of choices about how, where, when and how much they contribute to meet humanitarian aid. The largest donations come from today’s richest countries and the 5 largest donors are the United States, the EU institutions, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden.

Now let’s discuss how the funding gets to the country in need. Humanitarian funding follows a variety of pathways and incurs numerous remittance fees while passing through multiple transactions between donors, funds and delivery agencies en route to crisis affected regions. For a more detailed analysis let’s use some known statistics from 2010. In 2010 humanitarian response to crisis amounted to $13 billion. According to the World Bank sending remittances costs an average of 9% of the amount sent. So in 2010 we could have saved $1,170,000,000 billion dollars in remittance fees! That is one large chunk of money that could have been used to save lives.

Reducing and/or eliminating remittances fees during times of crisis is the ethical thing to do. During the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan the following banks waived remittance fees (for a specified period) for money transfers to help with Philippine Humanitarian Aid:

Western Union, Wells Fargo, Xpress Money, Noor Islamic Bank, Luminus, BDO, PNB, Metrobank, RCBC, the BMO Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The following members of the financial services industry did not waive remittance fees but did dedicate millions of dollars in donations to humanitarian agencies assisting relief efforts in the Philippines:

BNY Mellon, Citi, MasterCard, Webster Bank, TD Bank, ING US, Capitol One, GE Foundation, Discover and HSBC Philippines.

An abundance of gratitude is owed to these financial institutions and to everyone who stepped up to the plate in providing assistance to the Philippines.

Imagine what would happen if 5 of the largest banks worldwide waived remittance fees during times of crisis? Namely ICBC, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole and BNP Paribas.

Imagine if the billionaires of our world collaborated to create a Non Profit Bank that benefited humanitarian agencies and NGOs? One that would facilitate and/or waive remittance fees? One that would provide guidance and counseling services to NGOs regarding checking, savings, CDs, endowments, annuities, tax exempt financing, capital campaigns and bridge loans?

One can dream that one day the top tier of our world will collectively play a larger role and become a force in shaping how the financial industry addresses humanitarian needs during times of crisis.

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In 2012 Unsuspecting Migrant Workers Paid $4 Billion in Remittance Fees

Electronic Money Transfer

In January 2013 The World Bank stated that “African Migrants Could Save US$4 Billion Annually On Remittance Fees“. Africa’s overseas laborers, who sent home close to US$60 billion in remittances in 2012 actually pay more to send money home than any other migrant group. South Africa charges the highest remittance fee followed by Tanzania and Ghana with prices averaging from 20.7%, 19.7% & 19% respectively.

Confused? Well the disconnect is because migrant workers typically do not have bank accounts and are largely unaware of mobile bank services like Vodacom, M-Pesa, Transferwise and World Remit. Migrant workers are sending money home to their destitute families via exchange agencies that charge higher commissions, nearly 25-30% more than banks.

Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a boom in mobile phone usage over the past decade. The total number of cell phone subscriptions on the continent increased from 11 million in 2000 to 463 million in 2011 and continues to grow exponentially. The good news is that with half of these poor African subscribers using their phone to send or receive money, Tanzanians have become the fastest users of mobile money services in the world, just behind Kenya.

So how can we bridge this gap? Could our governments & unions like the International Trade Union Confederation put a little pressure on migrant worker sponsors to facilitate mobile money transfers for their laborers?

The Middle East is catching in the Mobile Money industry. And their building boom is providing an amazing opportunity for them to help their poor construction laborers.

Following are some interesting statistics from Middle Eastern Building Boom Cities:

-Qatar has a population of 1.7 million, of which 94 per cent are migrants.

-An estimated 80 per cent of the 7.5 million people in the United Arab Emirates are migrants.

-Two-thirds of the 2.7 million people in Kuwait are migrant workers.

-In Bahrain migrants make up 1/4 of its 1.2 million population.

-Almost 30 per cent of the 2.7 million people in Oman are foreigners.

-The largest Gulf state, Saudi Arabia, has a population of 27 million of which around 30 per cent are migrants

M-Pesa, Vodacom, Mobile Money, Transferwise and Worldremit, are great platforms that provide the poor with access to financial services and the ability to save and send money safely, no matter where they are located. This information needs to get into the hands of migrant construction workers and their sponsors.

The Middle East could use more mobile money agencies and a champion to get the message across. Help spread the word so we can give the world’s disadvantaged a fighting chance! Poor migrant workers need our collective voices so we can help protect their rights!

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World Epiphany Day

What if?

What if the answers to end poverty were in plain sight?

What if they were simple & straight forward?

What if we used free technology to get life saving information to the masses via today’s top humanitarian agencies?

The quality of life of so many would improve exponentially. A captivating & provocative thought, is it not?

These were the questions that begged an answer & propelled me to dig deeper. Often times I would ponder how our ancestors survived without electricity, refrigerators & running water. This lead to the creation of a series of self help Youtube videos titled Operation Self Sustainability. And guess what? It really is not that complicated. What is more challenging is getting this information into the right hands.

9 Steps to Eradicate Poverty was born from devoted action, extensive research & dogged determination to do something to help the poor. To learn more click here to read the full article on the 9 Steps to Eradicate Poverty. And to watch our video dedicated to the victims of Syria & the Philippines, please click here “In Case of An Emergency“.

Nota Bene: Did you know that World Epiphany Day actually does exist? It is otherwise known as the 3 Kings Day or the Feast of the Epiphany. Join us in our efforts & lend a helping hand to the less fortunate by celebrating Epiphany day on January 6, 2014. The greatest gift of all is Love & it costs nothing. Spread it, share it & save a life with a click!

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Young monks showing off their recycled art

A friend recently asked me to expand on why I founded Bridging Humanity. Initially I was not too keen about the idea of starting yet another non profit. There were already enough of them out there & I wondered to myself, do we really need another one? Rosa de la Cruz, a friend & supporter strongly urged me to reconsider my position on the matter. There were other strong community leaders suggesting I take the plunge. Charity work was nothing new to me. I was the past Chair of the Friends of the Orphans local chapter and had already spent a life time of vacations volunteering at orphanages around the world.

Once the decision was made the doing became effortless. Bridging Humanity is essentially what the name implies & in effect is the embodiment of Karuna. One of the principles of Karuna is to help the weak become strong. But, how do you accomplish this? This question would change the course of my career path as I struggled & endeavored to better understand the challenges faced by the poor here in the US & abroad. This new course lead me to many exciting discoveries as I started to realize & understand, it really is not that hard.

If you have the Will, the Universe will help you find the Way. To really make a meaningful difference, a holistic & all encompassing approach is the answer. Essentially I teach the poor how to grow their own food & prepare nutritious balanced meals. Cooking food is challenging in developing countries so I teach the poor how to make eco friendly briquettes or bamboo charcoal. Additionally bamboo is a prolific plant & can deter deforestation. Contaminated water is the number one killer of children world wide & this simply should not be! Purifying water is as easy as sealing contaminated water in a clear plastic bottle & leaving it in the sun for 4 hours. Conversely millions of women die each year from child birth because family planning medicine is a luxury the poor can’t afford. This should not be when the solution is as simple as a fertility necklace! A calendar based necklace that helps women manage their menstrual cycle so they know when they can get pregnant. Trash is a valuable free resource that is available in abundance in developing countries. Repurposing trash into useful items is a way for the poor to earn a living. These are just a few examples of ways one can help the poor become more self sufficient.

If you want to help the poor then I urge you to read Bridging Humanity’s Nine Steps to Eradicate Poverty. Please join us in this important endeavor. Your expertise, time, connections & donations are of great value. Click here to send us an email with your thoughts & let us know how you would like to get more involved & help make a difference in the lives of orphaned children & the less fortunate.

Our next trip is just around the corner. Each year we visit Haiti at Christmas so the homeless children who live in the tent city of the Cite de Soleil are not forgotten. We could really use your help rounding up toy donations & school supplies.

With much Love, Respect & Karuna!

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