Peaceful (Im)Possibilities

Photo Credit Bill Aquino

Our dystopian world is anything but peaceful today. Tensions have increased in scope and intensity, and have been further exacerbated by external interventions. Notwithstanding all the advances we have made in this century, progress on the peace front is still lofty and lacking. A closer evaluation of our most recent string of conflicts; Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Qatar, can help us obtain a deeper understanding of the causes, perhaps misunderstandings, and where opportunities for peace may exist. As it stands, a divided, inflamed Middle East is only adding more global challenges that go well beyond further taxing humanitarian aid efforts and fighting climate change.

The real question here is can peace be achieved by escalating global governance? Groups like The Elders, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, and the UN have already invested considerable time, energy, and effort in mediating peaceful solutions in zones of conflict. During the past 30 years Norway has become a front runner in peace brokering. Indeed, Norway’s peacemaking efforts facilitated ending years of deadlocked armed conflicts in places like Guatemala, Africa, and most recently the truce between FARC and the Colombian government. One could argue that yes, progress has been achieved on a certain level but perhaps a shift in focus, and a global governance reconstruct may be required to quell the list of crises which continue to massively grow and divide daily.

At a glance and in retrospect, the source of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran fundamentally boils down to the two rival branches of Islam. This 1400-year-old debate is about who is the rightful successor of Muhammad. The Sunni’s (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) believe the Prophet’s trusted friend and advisor Abu Bakr was the rightful leader of Muslims. While the Shia’s (Iran, Iraq) believe that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali was chosen by Allah to hold the title of caliph.

Coincidentally, albeit ironically, Catholicism splintered for similar reasons. One of the apostles, Peter, was appointed leader by Jesus and later became recognized as the first Pope. In 1054 the Catholic Church split in two factions. Those who followed the Pope became known as the Roman Catholic Church, and the churches that did not think that the Pope should lead all Christians became known as the Orthodox Church.
Catholicism continued to splinter off with the creation of the Protestant, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches. Similarly, Islam splintered off into thousands of competing sects.

If Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (all descendants of Abraham) were here today, what would they think of the status quo of their multi fractionalized religious representatives, churches and mosques? What would they think of the Syrian war or what is happening to the Muslim Rohingya? Would they be proud of the diverse versions of their scripture or abhorred at how far skewed the platform they crafted to foster moral fortitude had fallen?

Could the solution to today’s conflict management be as simple as giving the opponent a seat at the table like the Colombian, President Juan Manuel Santos did with the FARC?

Conversely, could the Middle East solution be the Saudi-brokered Arab Peace Initiative, which was endorsed by the Arab League’s 22 members during the March 2002 Beirut summit, and then endorsed again in 2007 and 2017? The Saudi’s plan outlined steps to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Their proposal? A two state solution with the caveat that Israel return Arab lands captured since 1967. Even Ban Ki-Moon, the former UN Secretary-General, said: “The Arab peace initiative is one of the pillars of the peace process … it sends a signal that the Arabs are serious about achieving peace”.

Having respected mediators facilitate dialogue amongst under represented warring factions at the Arab League of Nations and the United Nations is essential. Establishing regional mediation platforms akin to a “Middle Eastern Elders” could also play an important role in lessening the strife in the Middle East.

Regarding the recent rift with Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan are already stepping up their mediation efforts, and are calling upon restraint, and dialogue for resolving differences.

At this stage of the game the highly respected Aga Khan, Imam for the Shia would be a shoe-in for a Middle Eastern Elder candidate. Aga Khan is a proponent of peace and pluralism so who better to represent the Shia’s? On the Sunni side, perhaps Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid would be a thoughtful consideration. H.H. Mohammed is a forward thinker and spearheaded important projects like the happiness initiative in Dubai. The Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Abo El-Gheit, Qatar’s Chairman of National Human Rights Committee Ali bin Samikh al-Marri are additional key candidate considerations.

For parties taking sides in the Qatar matter or remaining neutral, hindsight is 20/20. If the different factions of the Catholic Church can peacefully coexist, then why not Islam’s Sunni and Shia sects?

During Ramadan, a time of deep reflection and prayer, it is my sincerest hope that a new Middle East Mediation group can be formed so the Sunni and Shia voices can be jointly heard.

Like Jo Cox so poignantly stated, “We have more in common than that which divides us”. The same holds true for the Sunni’s, Shia’s and all of the religions and philosophies across the globe.

Peace is possible when we realize we all want the same things, and that religions diverge and cross connect back to one another.

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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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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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Beyond the Clouds of Nepal

Photographed by Jamyang Dorje

Nepal is an intoxicating country to say the least. At night you almost feel like you are on top of the world and can touch the stars with your outstretched hand.

With Tibet to the North and India to the South, Nepal is a land steeped with mysticism, forbidden kingdoms, beauty and charm.

While traveling by taxi to Kokhana which is located outside of Kathmandu, we passed a long winding line of about 70 school children waiting in the rain. The taxi driver explained these children were waiting to register for school and that they would be there throughout the night. I cringed at the thought and then marveled at their dogged determination and burning desire to receive an education. Education in general is highly respected and regarded throughout the country of Nepal.

During our travels we spent time visiting villages and conducting community outreach meetings where we performed vocational training with the locals. We covered topics like how to repurpose plastic garbage bags into plarn (plastic yarn) so they could make useful items they could sell and how to make Family Planning Cycle Beads. This calendar based necklace is an affordable solution for women of little means. Many of Nepal’s remote villages are poverty stricken. By repurposing garbage bags they are able to help address Nepal’s serious pollution problem and also have a means to earn a living. Sadly most of the women living in remote areas are illiterate. As such if they become widowed they are left penniless and unable to support themselves or their children. By showing these women how to repurpose trash which is available in abundance, they are able to earn a living and provide for themselves and their kids.

To the West nestled in between the majestic Annapurna mountains you will find the Pema Ts’al Sakya Monastery. It is located just outside of Pokhara near the famous Fishtail Lake. A fairytale setting where 50 young monks (or baby monks as I lovingly call them) and 45 college monks live and study. The life of a monk is not an easy one. They start their day at 5:00 am and prepare for their daily 6:00 am morning prayer session, or pujas as they call them. Their daily activities revolve around praying, learning, studying, debating, practicing the lama dance and performing community service. Their only day off is Sunday which is usually spent swimming and washing their robes in the beautiful setting of the Seti Gandaki River.

Most of the young monks at Pema Ts’al come from the extremely impoverished region of Mustang. Once or twice a year some of the monks return to this region to visit with their families and to perform community service. This coming October some of the young monks will be teaching local Mustangy’s the Bridging Humanity technique for getting a higher potatoe yield with the help of garbage bags. A simple cost effective solution that once again repurposes garbage bags and can be seen in the following video.

Stay tuned for more Bridging Humanity encounters from the land of the gods. A world bathed in a special atmosphere and enriching experiences from beyond the clouds of Nepal.

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Will Blog for Love

Eco Artist Eva Ruiz Wearing Family Planning Cycle Beads

If you really want to make a difference in the world, it starts with Love. Love of self, Love of nature & Love of others.

If you take Love as the key component & couple it with the following formula, Poverty can indeed be eradicated & the basic needs of the poor can be meet.

1. Water Purification. We can live on little food but we can’t live without water. One of today’s deadliest killers of children is contaminated water. There are many ways to purify water but the following 3 methods are the easiest & most cost effective. Boil your water for 3 minutes. SODIS method using plastic PET water bottles (thick plastic will not work) or glass bottles that are filled with water & left in the sun for 6 hours. The other is to use moringa seeds to kill bacteria & other pathogens.

2. Nutrition. Grow papaya, peanuts, sesame seeds, chick peas, beets, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, moringa, etc. Moringa is better than a multi vitamin because it contains:

22% daily value of Vitamin C
41% daily value of Potassium
61% daily value of Magnesium
71% daily value of Iron
125% daily value of Calcium
272% daily value of Vitamin A

These plants are nutritious, robust & easy to grow. Sell what you do not consume.

3. Hygiene. Hygiene is so critically important to staying healthy & natural soap is actually not hard to make. Natural soap can be made from yucca root or soap seeds. This kind of soap can be used for washing clothes & for personal use. It is easy to make, just remove the skin of the yucca root & place the peeled root in water. Just slosh it around to activate the saponins. The younger the yucca root, the more it will lather. For the soap seed preparation you just need to remove the hulls from the seeds & then place the hulls in water. You can also use this soapy water for washing your hair. Or you can mix 1 tbsp. baking soda with 1 cups warm water in a glass jar & pour over wet hair. Rinse & then combine 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar with 1 cup warm water in the glass jar, pour over your head & rinse. In absence of water for making soap you can use the gel from the aloe plant to wash your hands. It’s 6 antiseptic agents kill bacteria, viruses and fungus. You can take it internally or apply externally to clean and treat wounds. A natural household cleanser is also easy to make. All you need to do is add vinegar to a jar & place used over lemon, lime or orange rinds in it. A wonderful substitute for toothpaste is mint or sage leaves. Sage can also be used to heal mouth & gum sores & to stop bleeding. The Miswak toothbrush from the Arak tree has amazing antibacterial properties & was used since ancient times to brush teeth.

4. Compost Toilets. When time & money is of the essence I teach the poor how to use a chamber pot or plastic bucket. I prefer to have one bucket for pee & one for poo. Why you might ask? Well, pee contains a lot of nitrogen & can be used to water plants when done early in the morning. If you use pee to water plants in the afternoon, you will need to water it down. Now for the pot you poo in, keep a bucket of saw dust, dried leaves or rice husks close by because you will need to add a cup full to the pot after you are done doing your “business”. The pot with the poo & saw dust should get dumped in a secure, remote compost bin. Over time keep adding leaves, till often & eventually it will turn into healthy soil that can be used in your garden. Nota Bene: Keep a stash of home made yucca soap or soap seed soap in the bathroom area & wash your hands after doing your business & after emptying the compost bucket!

5. Alternative Medicine. Most medicines are made from plants. This youtube video will help you have a better understanding of some of mother nature’s first aid tips An important tip I teach the poor is how to not get malaria by taking Vitamin B1 or eating foods high in Vitamin B1 (sun flower seeds, asparagus, green peas, acorn squash, soy beans). It is also important to not leave empty containers around their homes where mosquitos can propagate. I also show them how to make natural bug repellent & how to plant marigold, lemon grass, lemon balm, citronella, etc. around their homes & gardens to keep pests away. What I am about to share with you is not widely known but the plant that is used to make malaria medication & has a 95% cure rate is called artemisia annua. It is a weed & you can get 10,000 seeds for just $3USD. It is easy to grow artemisia annua & if you harvest the leaves right before the flower blooms, it will be at its most potent. Dry the leaves & mix with peanut butter to treat malaria. Another life saving tip I share with midwives is to use epsom salts (which contains magnesium) as a low tech treatment for pregnant women who are suffering from eclampsia or swollen ankles. All you need to do is dip a rag into water & mixed with epsom salts & then place the rag on the head or belly of the pregnant mother.

6. Family Planning. Cycle Beads Necklaces or Fertility Necklaces are easy to use & help women keep track of the days when they are at their most fertile (which is between the 8 & 19 day after their period starts). The necklace is a string of 32 color-coded beads & a clip charm that can be used to track the days in their cycle once their period starts. Not everyone has access to beads. Therefore I teach poor village women to make these necklaces with the materials they have available to them, mainly trash. I also show them how to come up with helpful color schemes & recommend they leave a Red bead to represent when their period starts & to try & use a color that makes the 12 fertile days really stand out. Artist Eva Ruiz & I collaborated on the following Cycle Bead necklace. We used a large red speckled Bead to represent the 1st day the period starts & picked 12 chrystal green beads to represent the “fertile” days.

Family Planning Cycle Beads
Family Planning Cycle Beads
The Standard Cycle Bead System (which is not the necklace in the picture to the left) uses a different color scheme. In a perfect world this would be fine expect women living in remote villages have limited resources & need to use what they can get their hands on. Furthermore it is important to note that this system will not work for women who have irregular periods. Women with irregular periods should see a doctor & determine the cause.

7. Eco Refrigerator. Electricity is a luxury in many developing countries. In the past our ancestors used eco refrigerators in the form of a root cellar. In Europe they were called “Caves” which were used for storing wine & beer. Mountain caves were also used because they were dark, damp & cold. I recently came across the pot in a pot cooling system. It is an easy to assemble clay pot within a clay pot. The empty space in between the 2 pots is filled with sand. Pour water over the sand & voila! Just add your veggies, milk & cheese & place a wet rag over the top & you have a mini frige. Do not mix fruit (bananas, apples, ext.) in your eco frige because it will make your vegetables ripen faster. Also to extend the life of your produce even further just dip the wet rag in cinnamon or clove water which will prevent bacteria from forming. If you are truly destitute & do not have clay pots, then you can place your produce, left over cooked food, milk, etc. in a glass jar or other container that can be sealed tight & bury it in the ground. Preferably in a shady area.

8. Solar Energy. Sun can purify contaminated water, provide eco lights for homes, start a fire & help us prepare meals. Solar stoves can be made out of cardboard boxes & reflective material (shiny balloons, aluminum foil, inside of chip bags, etc.). You can also start a fire using the sun’s rays aimed at the bottom of a soda can. The concave part of the bottom of the can refracts the sun’s rays. Aim the sun light towards easy to burn tinder to start a fire. To create an eco indoor light during the day all you have to do is fill a 2 liter soda plastic bottle with water, some vinegar & place in a hole in the roof. This system is better known as the “Liter of Light“.

9. Art made from trash. I teach a wide range of eco art classes using found objects, plarn (yarn made from plastic bags). The easiest class I teach is how to repurpose broken vases. When a vase breaks most people usually throw it out. I teach people to glue it back together & then to collage the exterior with trash. The collaged material will help cover up the broken cracks. For collaging I use egg shells, candy wrappers, the foil found inside of cigarette boxes, tobacco leaves (the part that gets thrown away when hand rolling cigars), etc. Basically, you convert these broken objects into works of art & sell them to make money. Repuposed Vases

These 9 simple steps can help eradicate poverty. Even during difficult economical times we can still share what we have with those who do not. We can share our Knowledge, our Time, our Love & Compassion… And it costs nothing.

Click it, spread it, share it & save a life or two. Join our “Will Blog For Love” campaign to Connect People, Transform Lives & Bridge Humanity.

Saving Bibi

The name Bibi means “Lady” in Mali. Bibi also means “My Love” in Arabic. I like to call Madame Maly Sangho “Mama Love” because this is what she epitomizes. She is all of the above and much more.

I met Bibi through a kind hearted, enterprising teenager named Alejandro Ernst. Alejandro lives in DC with his family. He visited Bibi’s orphanage on a school trip to Bamako, Mali a couple of years ago. It was a long trek from DC to Mali but young Alejandro managed to navigate multiple countries with 5 duffle bags filled to the hilt with donations for Bibi’s orphans. The orphanage home is called Orphelinat Niaber and their registered NGO name is Asemali. In reality Bibi’s personal home has always been a refuge for asylum seekers and orphans. Bibi was born in the historic town Timbuktu. Growing up as a child she learned from her mother to never turn a blind eye on someone in need. In 1993 Bibi decided to formalize her efforts to help abandoned babies and founded a foreign non profit (NGO) called Asemali.

I was deeply touched by Alejandro’s story as he continues to help the orphanage to this very day. I visited Bibi and the babies in June of 2012. Nothing could have prepared me for the trip that lay before me. The abject poverty, dismal conditions and the tragic reality of new born babies being abandoned in hospitals and on the side of the road was more than I could bear. Through it all Bibi’s efforts to help her fellow countrymen/women and children has been unwaivering. Click here to see a video of Bibi during better health times at the orphanage. She has been an unstoppable force answering every desperate plea for help, hearing about sightings of babies who were being abandoned and doing spot checks in the middle of the night to make sure the recently arrived malnourished babies were receiving constant care. It was a wonder if Bibi slept 2 hours each night. I urged Bibi to take care of herself. To eat better, to unplug the phone, to go on a spiritual retreat or to do anything that would help re-energize her physical batteries.

But she was incapable of turning a blind eye and her breakneck pace continued as the war in Mali raged on. With her orphanage over flowing with refugees she started developing chest pains. Eventually her chest pains got worse and she was flown to Tunisia where she was admitted into a hospital. Fortunate for Bibi one of her daughters works for an airline and as such was able to provide Bibi with a family travel pass. When Bibi finished her treatment her daughter arranged to have her flown back to Mali so she could resume her role at the helm of the orphanage. Over the years Bibi has received many humanitarian awards. Years prior she received the Malian Chevalier des Ordres and on April 3, 2013 she was being honored as the Malian Mother of the Year in Istanbul, Turkey. While she was in Istanbul she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. This is when they discovered Bibi had a brain tumor and she had to undergo surgery. Bibi’s surgery was a success and she returned home to Mali. I marveled at Bibi’s resilience and ability to bounce back from one illness after another. I was relieved until I recently received a frantic call from her daughter, Tina Traore who lives in the United States. She brought Bibi to the States because she was retaining water, so much so that her skin was splitting. I could not believe my ears. I was dumbfounded and amazed that this brave woman and beacon of light for the downtrodden seemed to have no health respite in sight. My heart ached for her and what she was going through.

Today is Bibi’s turn to receive help instead of being the one to give it freely and lovingly. Please read below about the Saving Bibi Campaign as help comes in many forms:

1. Write Bibi a message on our blog. Talk to her. Learn from her. Get to know her as she needs to read your words of encouragement.

2. She needs a laundry list of medicine! If any of you have connections with the pharmaceutical industry, please let us know at The medicine she needs for her seizures is called Keppra.

3. Make a donation so we can purchase the medication she needs. Here is our PayPal link to “Make a Donation“. After you enter all of the pertinent information, the second screen will allow you to specify that you want your donation to go towards “Saving Bibi” (ie purchasing her medicine and/or paying her doctor bills).

4. Make a check payable to Bridging Humanity and make a notation on the bottom of the check that it is for “Saving Bibi“. Mail the check to Bridging Humanity at 3426 Franklin Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133. Upon receipt we will send you an acknowledgement letter and tax receipt.

5. If you have any additional ideas, doctor connections or suggestions please email

Bridging Humanity is a volunteer based 501c3. Our Federal ID number is 45-5515265. All proceeds and donations go directly to fund the projects we support as specified by our donors. None of the funds donated are used to cover administrative costs.

On behalf of Bridging Humanity, Bibi Sangho, her family and the Orphelinat Niaber orphans, we THANK YOU!

May God and Allah bless us all.

Tina Cornely
Founder of Bridging Humanity

Bridging the Gap with Trash

What better way to help the poor become more sustainable and self sufficient than by connecting them with their environment, economy and community? At Bridging Humanity we accomplish this by showing them how to create artistic and useful products made out of trash. In doing so we inadvertently teach them about the impact their decisions are having on our environment. To toss on the ground or not to toss… This is inherently the question we all need to ask ourselves. In developing countries the poor drink water from plastic pouches. When they are done… they toss the empty pouches any and everywhere. As such the streets in many developing countries are over flowing with empty water pouches. An empty water pouch has no value, or does it? The people we have helped in developing countries eventually realize that trash has enormous potential. This is the tipping point that drives them to embrace their environment. Many of the orphanages we support have followed through with direct action and are repurposing thousands of empty water pouches. Their efforts are serving to make our world a more sustainable and better place. From waste pickers to enterprising entrepreneurs. We are there supporting them and championing them to become passionate stewards and care takers of their environment.

Here is a video of just of one of many ways to repurpose plastic bags and empty water pouches. [youtube][/youtube]