Archive for October, 2006

A Dose of American Culture.

Just read this most ‘laugh out loud’ piece at the NYT – about the obsession with food; activities and overplanning, and losing sight of what is really important in the lives of these kids.  Perhaps many will relate.  Others may feel they too are guilty, but how does one extricate from this?  And then they will be those who just shake their heads in vain.   It is just another example of how much American parents are caught up in catering to their childen’s whims and what they think is the ‘done’ thing because everyone else is doing it. 

Was chatting with some friends on this topic recently and we all reflected similarly…Has life become over complicated?  In another life, another time (or not!), our behavior would have been mocked, and today people strive to emulate.  Gone are the days when kids would just walk out the front door, play in the streets (heaven forbid they do that now in this ‘who knows who will come by in car and swipe your kid off the street, etc…) and eat from meal to meal, vs. needing a snack in between, or just even have a simple birthday party without it becoming a 3 ring circus event!  But many of us are inextricably part of this rat race – and are guilty for fueling the fire so to speak.  Many of our children’s lives are super structured with afterschool classes, weekend meets, activities, music lessons, enrichment programs…when we see our friends children involved this way, we too feel, “Hey, they’re like me, shouldn’t my child be participating?”  And while the kids themselves may enjoy it, is it not up to the parents (at least during the younger years) to make some of those decisions?  Going to school and perhaps doing one special activity or club involvment a week seemed to suffice when I was growing up in an uber competitive New England  town north of NYC…And with all the work, I remember still being ‘stressed’….can’t imagine what our kids will go through in the coming years if we continue at this pace. Simplicity and simple pleasures seem a distant memory…Incidently, am reading another same topic book, “Madness of Modern Families” by 2 UK authors….it is a more in depth humorous account of the crazed ‘parenting’ frenzy of the 21st century. 

Anyway, thought this article was hilarious, all things aside.  Best lines: “Cupcakes the size of softballs” and “use the small foods as calming pellets? .”  Enjoy!

Op-Ed Contributor – New York Times

Will Play for Food

Published: October 27, 2006

Ridgewood, N.J.

Cartoon above by:Chip Wass

 

ENOUGH with the organized snacks.

When did this start anyway? I’m at my 7-year-old’s soccer game. The game ends and this week’s designated “snack parent” produces a ginormous variety pack of over-processed chips and an equally gargantuan crate-cum-cooler. Our children swarm like something out of the climactic scene in “The Day of the Locust.”

Do our kids need yet another bag of Doritos and a juice box with enough sugar to coat a Honda Odyssey? Can’t they just finish playing and have some water?

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Grameen Bank Microcredit -> Grassroot Development = Nobel Peace Prize 2006

Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank (first time a financial institution awarded the Peace Prize) in Bangladesh have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006.  This is a monumental acknowledgement that working from the roots up does and has made a difference in lives of so many in the impoverished parts of the world.  In the world of economic and social development of the so called, ‘third world countries’ or less pejoratively, developing nations of the world, the best or even only way many view that progress and poverty alleviation will occur is through grassroots development and locally inspired movements where the people themselves are involved in their own plight and hence success.  Often, the imposition (a segment of the study of anthropology namely, development anthropology, rests on this tenet) of a top down or ‘their’ view of what development or progress should be, comes from the outside – a remote international agency, or even urban government agencies, which are disconnected from the indigenous culture or societal norms of the region or people they claim to be helping.  

With Yunus and the Grameen Bank, providing small loans (microcredit) without collateral to the most impoverished on terms which were relevant to the people of those villages, made the initiative sustainable and a success.   Almost 97% of the loan recepients are women, which has positive development implications.  They used the funds to purchase egg-laying hens, cows or materials which they could sell for a return.  For many, their lives have turned around, as they are now able to sustain their small enterprizes.  Without the threat of predatory lending institutions, Grameen’s track record has been equally astonishing, with very high payback rates—over 98 percent. More than half of Grameen borrowers in Bangladesh (close to 50 million) have risen out of acute poverty thanks to their loan, as measured by such standards as having all children of school age in school, all household members eating three meals a day, a sanitary toilet, a rainproof house, clean drinking water and the ability to repay a 300 taka (Bangladeshi currency)-a-week (8 USD) loan.  Read the rest of this entry »

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UNICEF Photo Essay- Child’s view: My life after the earthquake

There are rays of hope amongst the continued despair in much of Pakistan’s earthquake affected areas.  While children bear the worst brunt of these horrific disasters, they somehow are the most resilent, strong and hopeful.  In a photo project initiated by Unicef, affected children were given photography training and then the opportunity to photograph through their own eyes, their experiences and needs of the aftermath.  The following photo essay was produced.  The images are pure, honest and human.  They still ask, as there is still so much need.  But, they are also moving forward.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/ HQ06-1234/Zubair
Zubair, 8, a participant in the ‘Eye See II’ project for earthquake-affected children in Pakistan, photographs himself in Haji Abad village, located in the Mansehra District of North West Frontier Province.

The exhibition of photos from the project opened [October 5, 2006] at UNICEF’s New York headquarters and in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Twenty-one children from areas that were hard-hit by the earthquake attended the Islamabad event. 

Excerpts follow below and the full story, here on the “Eye See II” photo project. 

Equipped with their powerful new tool, the young quake survivors captured images of their changed lives one year after the disaster.

At the Muzaffarabad Government Girls School, the pupils were proud of their contribution.

“Through our pictures, we want to show the world what it’s really like here in Kashmir right now,” said one 13-year-old student. “By taking pictures,” added her classmate, “we can tell people about all our problems, and we have a lot of problems right now.”

You can view the actual Photo Essay, here.   Here is a photo essay on the training workshops

With this post, I complete rememberance for now, on the one year anniversary of that ill-fated day in Pakistan.

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Documentary Film: Rebuilding @ 73°E

Came across this blog today on the 1st anniversary of the deadly earthquake in Pakistan.   It is a wonderful documentary produced by Nasir Aziz, from Seattle, WA after the October 8, 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan.  It is the story of how a group of concerned Americans and Pakistanis living abroad made a world of difference in the lives of close to 700 families in a village left in ruins. 

It is moving, inspiring and selfless.  It reminds us again, how one person or a group of individuals committed to a cause, can radically change the lives of so many other human beings in such a profound way.  

You can view the 26 minute film here or on a larger screen on Google VDO, here

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One year on…Pakistan Earthquake struck on October 8, 2005

How irreversibly the lives of millions changed on this morning one year ago in the Northern Areas of Pakistan (and parts of India) after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the livlihoods of those living in these most heavenly mountain ranges and valleys.  According to UNICEF, over 16,000 children died in schools on that fateful day, as they were crushed by the faultily constructed roofs of their 2, 3, 4 storey cement school buildings. (Estimates say, in total, almost 35,000 children died). The death toll total was over 80,000 (in Pakistan, and about 1,500 in India) and close to 200,000 succumbed to their injuries (according to ReliefWeb/UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)).  About 11,000 children were left orphaned.  Several thousands more lost their limbs or the ability to walk or move again.  Close to 3.5 million became homeless and without proper shelter.  Government estimates say some 600,000 houses, 6,298 schools and 796 health facilities were demolished, about 6,440 km of roads damaged and 50-70 per cent of water supply, sanitation, telecom and power infrastructure made non-operational.  Then winter came and the suffering and urgency to help the second round of victims continued.  With the passing of time, spring came and snows melted.  Some roads were made passable again.  Some were lucky to move to ‘temporary’ tin roof shelters vs. the damp, frigid tents where millions slept each night, barely making it through the relentless snows.  Many dead were finally given a proper burial in the earth, in exchange for the concrete graves they had been left in during the winter months, before heavy machinery could remove all the boulders and bricks from over them. 

The world gave again – well, as much as their pockets allowed them to, after a year of giving had ensued, beginning first with the Tsunami of December 26, 2004, and later with Hurricane Katrina.  And Pakistani’s in Pakistan and abroad gave – in kind, in currency and in humanity by either volunteering, providing medical assistance, moving supplies to the hard hit areas or building temorary shelters.  It was an unprecedented response to the tragedy. There were fund raisers, volunteer organizations, international vigils, media campaigns, letters to wealthy corporations, & emails to NATO and US government officials to appeal for more aid, helicopters, media attention.  Still, now, in retrospect, it did not seem to be enough.  Yesterday’s stories of heroism, activism and humanity, now a year later, seem to be filled with stories of neglect, unfulfilled promises and despair.  People were still without basic dry/winterized shelters, food and proper medical facilities months after the earthquake.  A year later, an estimated 1.8 million people are still displaced and not yet permanently rehabilitated.  

There were over 2ooo aftershocks since the earthquake struck, and the harsh winter was followed by monsoons.  While the traumatized survived aftershocks, flu, pneumonia and worse, the monsoons wreaked even more havoc.   Massive landslides and torrential floods swept away whole sides of mountains – those villages or homes which may have survived the destruction from the earthquake now were permanently gone after the monsoons – thanks to the timber mafia which have systematically deforested much of the spectacular Kaghan Valley mountains.

According to various estimates, there are at least 35,000 to 40,000 people still living in tents/camps, and who will face another uncertain, cold and unprotected harsh winter.  While organizations like Refugees International, and various UN entities continue their work alongside many local NGOs like Sungi, Rural Support Programmes, etc. are still working towards aiding the displaced victims of the October 2005 earthquake, much of the international donations have yet to be realized and the government entity (ERRA) has yet to fully deliver to the people. 

The ruined city of Balakot is still under rubble for the most part, as the city has been virutally left untouched by any reconstruction efforts, as it is felt that it’s precarious location on a dangerous fault line could possibly be the site of yet another powerful quake years from now.  The government wants to move the city to another location 20km south, to a town called Bakryal.  Estimates say that not even 1 in every 2 inhabitants of Balakot survived the earthquake, as it was situated at the epicenter.   People here are still living in tents and gearing up for another fierce winter, as their city has not been rehabilitated.  The frustration is rampant (from The News):

However, the earthquake victims, by and large, are deeply frustrated at the slow pace of work by government departments and by their indifference towards the plight of the common man.

“We are being told time and again that houses made of fibre glass will be imported from Saudi Arabia but we don’t know when the promise will be translated into a reality,” said Mohammad Khalid Khan, a teacher at a tent school in Balakot.

“Most of the children have come out of trauma but now the question is how to survive against the odds, especially when the winter is fast approaching,” he said. “The relief phase was good but the reconstruction phase is moving at a snail’s pace,” he said.

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