Whenever there's a debate about "man's innate nature" and whether it's possible or impossible for our species to turn from conflict and violence into care and benevolence, you can guess which side I'm on in the discussion. I have hope. But until the internet, I didn't see "how". I often tell my clients, "If you hold the vision--the 'what'--steady, the 'how' will appear." And, voila, a few years ago when I noticed that my kids were communicating with other kids all over the world, I saw the "how" for creating a different world: our newest evolutionary tool--instant global communications.
Saturday, January 26, is the World Social Forum's Global Action Day 2008 (it takes a minute for the map to load), a confluence of hundreds if not thousands of groups, organizations, and people looking to act on their longing for a different world--and they're all connected on the WSF site, working locally, connected globally for their tagline: "another world is possible".
The reason I'm telling you this now is, in case you've been harboring a latent idea or wobbly wish to make a difference in a particular area in the grand scheme of global change, this weekend would be a perfect excuse to use our new tool to find a group in your area, learn more about the cause you're passionate about, or even just use this inspiration to spend a few hours giving your time, objects, or presence to a community of fellow global citizens. Hence, the name: Global Day of Action.
A recent inspiration for me in this idea of taking a small step, any step--toward something you care about-- is Scot. As unlikely as it sounds, he's a 40-year old Minnesotan (from the very north, way-the-heck-below-zero part of Minnesota) husband, father of teenagers, professional nurse, and volunteer webmaster extraordinaire who's using social networking to raise awareness and connect orphan organizations and orphanages to sponsors for the children.
I found him when I was researching orphan organizations. With the numbers of AIDS orphans in Africa alone, not to mention orphans on other continents, it wasn't surprising that my Google search turned up not only UNICEF and the other major NGOs working for children but more than 4,000+ entries for orphans and orphanages. An inordinate amount of different searches all had a common denominator: Scot's MySpace page, Orphans and Orphanages. Recently, in response to the volume of connections and requests Scot received from his MySpace page, he began a web directory for orphanages and orphan organizations, Spotlight On Orphans.
Since "the church" was a big example of social networking before the internet, thousands upon thousands of small church communities around the world have supported church-sponsored orphanages. Though Scot belongs to a church, his church doesn't sponsor his work. In 1998, his mother and her friend formed Hearth to Hearth Ministries, a non-profit supporting African volunteers in African orphanages through their churches. Over the years, through trouble and triumph the women continued to garner support through church organizations and expanded their support to five orphanages in Kenya and Uganda. Hearth to Hearth is a non-denominational, faith-based non-profit. Many of the other orphanages and organizations in Scot's directory are sponsored by churches of different denominations, and many are in regions representing more than one tribe. "We're unaffiliated," Scot says. "We're not converting anyone, we're not siding with anyone. We're just there to help orphans."
And, the way they help orphans is to support the African people who are helping the orphans, like Father Maurice, who, when the original orphanage in his village was found to be corrupt and dissembled, gathered as many orphans as he could into his home. Scot spoke appreciatively of Father Maurice, now administrator of the 250-children Hope for Children Center, who is a one-man educational campaign for the "girl child" rights, speaking against forced marriages for orphan girls living with distant relatives for a dowry that will support the rest of a struggling family. Although American volunteers visit the orphanages (Scot's son was there last summer), it is the African volunteers in local villages, most working for small stipends only, who are working to save the children. What Scot is offering is visibility, voice, and connection for all those many communities who need support to all those many people who can offer support.
You can visit Scot's MySpace page and get a glimpse of his over 2700 friends (a great list of great organizations) and read some blog entries for an understanding of what the African volunteers are doing against all obstacles. Or, you can visit his directory and read about the orphanages and orphans groups and communities like Hearth to Hearth are supporting all over the world. If you're ready to help, you can just sign up to sponsor an orphan through Hearth to Hearth Ministries here.
And, if you've got your own cause that's tweaking your heart, we'll have more on the Global Day of Action coming up the next few days. What can you do now, with what you have, for what you want to see in the world?