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Red Cross Red Crescent in Chad. Photo by Daniel Cima/International Federation.

“‘I’m going to go to the big city,'” sounded familiar to actor Matt Damon. He was in Zambia walking with a young girl from a village as she collected the day’s supply of water a mile away. He had asked her what her hopes and dreams were and where she wanted to be. Damon told ABC News those are the same words he and Ben Affleck shared before their fame when they decided to take a risk and shoot for the stars.

So in 2009, Damon teamed up with environmentalist Gary White in an attempt to combine the efforts of non-profits to end water shortages and increase access to clean water. Their banner? Water.org.

A 2010 research report by the Society for Technology and Action for Rural Development said:

Only 2.53 % of earth’s water is fresh, and some two-thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and permanent snow cover. Nearly one billion people – one in eight persons in the world – lack access to safe water supply. Over 3.5 million people die each year from water-related disease; 84 % are children. 98 % occur in the developing world.

Similar alarming statistics pushed Damon to do something about it. The Zambian girl who inspired him would not have had any sort of access to her dreams without her basic needs being met. Instead of going to school, she would be too preoccupied with hunting for water. Without the proper combination of education and nutrition, she, and nearly 1 billion others will remain in absolute poverty.

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History in Motion

 

W.E.B. Du Bois

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded during a time when America was still picking up the pieces of the Civil War that resulted in the liberation of slaves, but left the country scarred. In 1909, a group of people who were from different races and religions came together to strive toward equality in all public sectors.

Check out an interactive timeline on the history of the NAACP

Today the NAACP is still actively involved in the public sphere focusing on issues like economic, health and education disparity. In 2011, one of the largest initiatives the NAACP sponsored was advocating the innocence of Troy Davis, a 42-year-old man executed in September for the murder of an off-duty police officer in 1989.

The NAACP is easily recognized for its contributions to historical landmarks in equality for all citizens, but take the time today as part of Black History Month to find out what this organization is up to today.

Photo by Kit Carson.

Her neighbors told her that she should leave her baby girl to die.

What was believed to be a severe reaction to a vaccine left her three-month-old child with little to no control of her extremities and frequent body tremors. Her firstborn could barely breast-feed and refused the inexpensive powder formula she had.

She prayed and prayed that God would send someone to correct her daughter’s physical problems, but no Cambodian doctor would commit to long-term oversight of her care. Ten months later, she had developed a system to slowly but surely breast-feed a child whose tongue seemed to have a mind of its own.

Photo by Courtney Cain.

Then a university student from America studying occupational therapy came to her home. The student was referred to her by her local pastor and a couple who operated an orphanage nearby. She started doing weekly exercises with her daughter to improve her mobility. Soon, she started to move her head from side to side and reach for her toys, something that was impossible before.

But that wasn’t enough. The Pediasure drink that she gave her was effective, but would cost three times the mother’s monthly pay. There were other hospitals she could go to, but the transportation and medical costs were too extensive.

A year later, she wasn’t producing enough milk for her baby and options were running out. She weighed less than a pound more than her birth weight. Thankfully one week, the couple said they were able to help arrange a hospital visit so she could have some long-term care. But with such corrupt practices in Cambodia, quality care was a long shot.

Photo by Kit Carson.

When the couple left that night, they paused outside. After a few minutes, they came back into the house because they said they had an urge to pray for her daughter again. The next morning, the baby woke up, saw the powder formula and reached for it, craving it and crying all at once. For the first time in her short yet painstaking life, she was drinking regularly. It was a miracle!

The hospital visit was arranged and the doctors were able to provide a specialized nipple that would be easier for her to feed from. They educated the mother on how to better care for her child. Doctors told her she will never fully recover from what the vaccine did, but she was on her way to living a functional, healthy life.

Photo by Laura Kebede.

Seven months later, she went from 2 lbs to 15 lbs and could focus her eyes on her mother, reach for her when she needed help and was much more aware of her surroundings. One mother’s faith and some help from a few people made the difference between life and death for one baby girl.

Follow the original story:

1. “The Baby”

2. “A Small Plea for Martha”

3. “An update about Martha”

4. “Praise to God for Martha’s recovery”

5. “So far in 2012”

Just as we are trying to find the intersection of quality journalism and quality nonprofit work, that is where PhotoPhilanthropy specializes. Their motto, “Photography driven by social change. Social change driven by photography” sums up the exchange they wish to enhance.

Student and professional photographers can submit their unpaid work to PhotoPhilanthropy for awards between $2,000 to $15,000 and the chance to have their photo essays on display. Nonprofits can submit profiles and a description of their work on the website for photographers to find and respond to their need. They also network with nonprofit and photographer resources such as Truth with a Camera and BrandOutLoud.

This particular photo essay, entitled “Blindness” was made for Christian Blind Mission in Italy (CBM) by Stefano De Luigi:

Photo by Stefano De Luigi for Christian Blind Mission Italy http://photophilanthropy.org/gallery-posts/blindness/

How many slaves do you have working for you?

According to Slavery Footprint, I have 25 slaves worldwide working to fuel my lifestyle. Here’s some general insights:

  • 1.4 million children have been forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields. There are fewer children in the entire New York City public school system.
  • Every day tens of thousands of American women buy makeup. Every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica, which is the little sparklies in the makeup.
  • More than 200,000 children are forced to work in India’s carpet belt of Uttar Pradesh. That makes it a pretty large operation, considering Honda, Sony, Procter & Gamble, and Boeing each have fewer employees.
  • Bonded labor is used for much of Southeast Asia’s shrimping industry, which supplies more shrimp to the U.S. than any other country. Laborers work up to 20-hour days to peel 40 pounds of shrimp. Those who attempt to escape are under constant threat of violence or sexual assault.
  • Rubies are believed to be Burma’s second largest export after teak wood, and are commonly mined using forced labor. Mines are controlled by either the government or the army, who oversee workers in terrible conditions for little or no pay.

Fortunately, Call + Response campaign does not leave us mouths agape with no course of action. In an interview with CNN (part of CNN’s Freedom Project), one of the leaders of campaign Justin Dylan said:

“…what we didn’t want to do is create another calculator that only spits out bad news. What I believe is that people carry around stories and not necessarily statistics. So with Slavery Footprint we actually wanted to be able to tell you the story of your life and how it fits in with the globalized economy.”

Their “take action” step is to download their app, ask others to take the survey to assess their lives based on the supply chain of common items. As people spread the word, they also provide an opportunity for consumers to directly ask companies if they know the full chain of their materials and suppliers. This push for companies and consumers taking responsibility for products and the inspirational, personal platform are well worth the time.

Check out Dan Rivers’ piece following a simple gadget from Cambodia to Malaysia to London via the hands of a girl who just wants to go home:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/money/.element/apps/cvp/4.0/swf/cnn_money_384x216_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=/video/technology/2011/08/29/t-tt-indentured-tech-workers.cnnmoney

It’s a puzzling dilemma when veterans end up homeless. After service overseas, some veterans never fully integrate back into the community they sought to protect. Some fall through the cracks and don’t know about the benefits available to them. Some have troubles holding a stable job because of the emotional stress. Welcome Home Inc. strives to provide veterans with basic needs of food and shelter so they can focus on taking care of their mental health. Their adjustment coming from combat back to the U.S. can be emotionally draining. This story from the Columbia Missourian about Anesia Mattox and her vision behind serving veterans, is one of many inspiring stories from this nonprofit.

Anesia Mattox, executive director of Welcome Home Incorporated, speaks with the veterans living in the shelter, during a weekly group meeting. Photo by Breden Neville. Read the story and watch the audio slideshow: http://bit.ly/arOhXZ

A friend referred this story to me. It is part of the Missouri Photo Workshop. Even though there is not a nonprofit connected to this story, I found the content extremely inspiring. It tells a simple story with simple photos. The beauty of this photo essay comes with the amazing courage of this couple to rise prematurely into adulthood for the sake of their daughter. You can sense the intimacy of this new family and the support they have from their families and community.

Link to photo essay: http://bit.ly/oHu2Vp. Photo by Jason Lenhart.