Kindling Fires for Japan, the U.S., and Congo

by Belinda Munoz on March 14, 2011

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If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it. ~Lucy Larcom

I love this tiny piece of practical yet poetic advice because it empowers me in three ways:

One: I get to define what cold means. It affirms that, if I’ve felt the icy tendrils of existence, then so be it, whether it manifests through a devastating relationship breakup, or unfairly missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime, or having to wait for the next bus after a bus driver, upon seeing me do my best impression of Usain Bolt toward the stop, proceeds to motor ahead instead of waiting two seconds.

Two: It doesn’t merely state that it’s a cold, cold world. It offers a solution to thaw the freeze for some much needed heat instead of leaving me wondering whether I could get my hands on a pick so that I may carve my way out of an ice block.

Three: It tells me that it is within my power to kindle the fire to create the warmth I seek.

JAPAN

There’s nothing like a natural disaster of cataclysmic proportions to mobilize the world to come to the aid of those needing help. We saw it with Katrina, the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, Haiti last year and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco which I very vividly recall. When the online links and the TV visual prompts are so frequent and graphic, it’s impossible to look away.

What’s also impossible not to notice are the many great fires burning for Japan right now. So much warmth flows through the oceans as evidenced by other nations sending search and rescue teams, donors from a wide range of income brackets making monetary contributions and countless Facebook updates, Twitter feeds prayers and meditation from compassionate individuals.  If you’re moved to toss another log in the fire for Japan, click here for some ideas.

U.S.A.

Recently, 60 Minutes did a segment on child poverty in the U.S. being at its peak since the Great Depression (video here). More and more children are awakening to homelessness in America as they, too, experience it for the first time. Sixteen million American children live in poverty; a figure that will soon be 25% of the child population in the country. They are being called The Motel Generation because their homes are foreclosed and they are forced to live in two-room motels with their families.

Should we and how do we kindle fires for these children? Is awareness of their condition enough? Is it an opportunity or a responsibility to do something about it? Is donating to food banks or giving a few dollars here and there enough? Maybe not. But it’s something and something is categorically better than nothing.  To learn more and for other ways to keep the fires roaring for child poverty in the U.S., click here.

CONGO

I’m aware that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. I’ve been writing about The Democratic Republic of Congo since I started this blog. What’s happening there is still largely unknown. Congo — a place where girls are deemed safer in a brothel than being free; where boys shape their boyhood by their possession of a rifle; what nation would like to be defined as such? How is it possible that these conditions exist today?  And when you know that something like this is happening on the same planet where you live, what do you do with that knowledge?

The truth? I continue to write about Congo because I’m very disturbed by this knowledge, that there’s not a bigger outcry for its people .  And I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with knowing what nightmare of a reality they are living.  So, if you don’t mind, I hope you will take the time to learn about their reality that I find so hard to grasp here and here so that you may tell others who may want to do something to help.

What are some things we can do to help?  1) By demanding conflict-free minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold) in our cell phones, laptops and tablets.  If that seems futile, we could boycott companies that continue to manufacture goods using minerals that perpetuate conflict.  To see how electronic companies are rated, click here.  2) By sponsoring a woman to improve her life through Women for Women International.  3) By helping to strengthen City of Joy, a safe house that trains victims so that they may become leaders when they return to their community. (To read about City of Joy in the New York Times, click here.)

The Congo?  It’s cold out there but not enough of us feel the chill.  Their fire  needs a whole lot of kindling.

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What do you do with knowledge that you find disturbing? Do you look away? Would you share it if you suspected it would help?
When we help ourselves, does it mean we’re also helping others?
Is it possible to help others without also helping ourselves?
Is it possible to help others without also helping ourselves?

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Action is eloquence. ~William Shakespeare

Image by DrPete

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Bloggers making a difference
March 18, 2011 at 5:27 am

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ayala March 14, 2011 at 6:30 am

My dear Belinda, what a great post. We must kindle the fires for all those in need. We should do whatever we can. As a whole it will make a difference if we all believe. I know a lot of people think that they can’t make a difference but that’s not so because in the end all of it adds up. I am clicking over right now.

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2 Belinda March 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Together is how we do it; not alone.

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3 TheKitchenWitch March 14, 2011 at 7:12 am

This is powerful stuff, Belinda. I’m with you on the Congo–there’s so much horror going on there. I’m almost afraid it’s beyond fixing. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

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4 Talon March 14, 2011 at 9:47 am

It’s so easy to be caught up in the moment – what’s huge and in the news at this time…and forget about the hurts that are occuring all over the world…on any ordinary Monday afternoon.

I applaud you for lighting a fire for the Congo.

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5 Sara Healy March 14, 2011 at 11:19 am

Belinda,

What I liked most about this troubling post is that you gave us ways to light a fire, even if it’s a small one. I don’t watch the news very often because of the way it’s presented. They give the impression that there’s so much cold out there; it’s futile to help. You, on the other hand, remind me of my responsibility to help and provide me with the tools to do so.

I didn’t know about sponsoring a woman in the Congo. I will check this out. Thank you:~)

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6 Belinda March 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hi Sara, I SO know what you mean. The trouble is the media doesn’t cover what’s happening in the Congo and it’s one area where if more of us knew what’s going on, we would definitely be moved to help and make a difference. Imagine what kind of impact we would make if we could successfully boycott even one electronics company that continues to use minerals used to keep the war against women going.

As for sponsoring a woman, what’s great about Women for Women International is the women write letters to their sponsors in their own handwriting and they let you know how much your help means to them. It’s a fantastic way to be helpful and feel connected to that region for as little as $27 a month.

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7 Marci | Liberating Choices March 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

from poetry to a woman of passion. You have many fires 🙂 The more I can focus on one cause/one passion, the more I can give wood for the fire. I don’t know how to help everyone but I can help in one area really well.

I had no idea we can buy conflict-free electronics /minerals! Thank you for the wealth of information on how others can help.

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8 Tessa March 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I have a sister in the Congo via Women for Women International. I want to do more. I strive to empower people to reach out and help, speak, act. It’s so tricky when we start to feel helpless and then just let the information put out our own fires, rather than transforming that coldness into something helpful. Love this post!

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9 brian March 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm

thank you for kindling those fires…sadly people start to forget over time…a short attention span…japan is hot…haiti was the last…i know we can not help all, but if enough build those fires we will attract communities of people to the causes…great post…

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10 Tess The Bold Life March 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Belinda,
I love how you use your blog to spread your passion and commitment for those who are hurting and have less. You never fail to remind me that my problems are minor inconveniences. I’ve checked out your resources and will make a decision tonight with hubs on which path to take to help. Thanks xoxo

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11 Belinda March 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Oh, Tess! You are such a wonderful and uplifting human being! I think it’s so important to remember how truly previleged we are compared to so many whose pain and suffering largely go unnoticed. We must never lose our capacity to ask: what if it were me? What if it were someone I love? I love how responsive you are and how big your heart is. You are such an inspiration! xoxo

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12 Cathy March 16, 2011 at 11:25 am

I really like point 3 – that it is in your power to control.

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13 Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I love the awareness you spread Belinda. I’ve thought about Japan and the Congo and the human suffering that exist in both places. You are right – we should never lose our capacity to envision if we were walking in those shoes. I say it over and over again. I strongly believe geography governs our destiny.

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