Archive for the ‘Youth’ category

How U.S. and Jamaican Doctors are Saving Jamaica’s Youngest Heart Patients

May 1, 2009

Until the middle of the 20th Century, heart attacks seldom occurred in Jamaica. But in recent years, the rate of heart disease has risen to the point where it is now the number one cause of death on an annual basis in the Caribbean country. Unfortunately, this includes children as well. In fact, the number of children with congenital heart problems in Jamaica is increasing rather than decreasing.

In response to this alarming issue, the Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund was established in connection with the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital (JDCH) in Hollywood, Florida. The fund sponsors a team of JDCH volunteer cardiac surgical doctors and nurses who provide free open heart surgery to children in Jamaica whose families cannot afford the expensive procedure. During their missions, the teams work with Jamaican doctors and medical staff to care for their young patients.

The fund is a 501C3 non-profit charity and has been active in Jamaica for 13 years.

In addition to providing free heart surgeries, the fund’s medical staff serves as strong advocates for children’s health care in the country. But perhaps more importantly, the staff is working side-by-side with Jamaican doctors, sharing ideas and learning from each other professionally while working to ease a serious, growing condition in Jamaica.

Note: As it gears up for its 2009 fund raising efforts, the Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund welcomes for the first time since its existence, recognition from a Jamaican government official as Jamaica’s ambassador to the United States, His Excellency, the Honorable Anthony Johnson, will act as the honorary guest speaker at the fund’s Mother’s Day weekend benefit event to be held in the Orlando, Florida area.


The Question of Cambodia

April 13, 2009

Cambodia girl, originally uploaded by dæxus.

Some of you may have noticed that Cambodia has been making headlines in the news recently. Here’s the reason why: About a month ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) issued a report titled “Manning the Barricades” which predicted which countries are most likely to experience social unrest due to the current global financial crisis. In its list ranking the top countries at risk, the EIU put Cambodia in fourth place – tied with Sudan. Needless to say, it was a position the Cambodian government strongly contested, but one the EIU has politely defended.

All this serves as the backdrop for more alarming news which we heard over the weekend: A “devastating” food and oil crisis has forced 50% of Cambodia’s households to to cut back on food, and the recession in Cambodia’s major export markets is expected to have a heavy toll on women and children.

“Women will be disproportionally affected by this crisis. They make up the bulk of the labour force, and they are the backbone of this economy. We know that when women’s incomes are lost, the whole family suffers, especially the children,” cautions UN Resident Coordinator, Douglas Broderick.

All this leads to a much broader discussion.

Despite the fact that parts of the country are making progress since the signing of the 1993 Constitution which allowed for a framework of democracy and social development, “more than 30 percent of the population is still living in extreme poverty.”

Together with corruption and continued human rights violations – especially the increasing forced evictions and land grabbing under the so-called development claims – there is little hope that Cambodia can move out of poverty. Thus the question arises: For whom is the Cambodian government attempting to achieve its development goals?

To no surprise, the article cited above faults the Cambodia government for failure of the country to lift itself out of poverty despite progress being made. For one thing, there is a gross lack of transparency on the government’s part and a blatant abuse of human rights, as detailed in the piece.

Unfortunately, the combination of a non-transparent government and the current financial situation doesn’t leave much hope for Cambodia and potentially serves as the tinder needed to spark an even bigger mess.

The UN fears many poor families will adopt “unhealthy” coping measures such as reducing their number of meals per day or eating less nutritious foods, cutting back on health services, removing children from school to work, and selling household assets or land. This concern is supported by the 2008 National Anthropometric Nutrition Survey, which showed an increase in acute malnutrition in poor urban children aged under five years – linked to higher food prices and reduced earnings among the urban poor.

Add to that the fact that poverty makes children and women more vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking and it seems that there is much about Cambodia’s situation that causes reason for concern.

Traveling the World to Help Children in Need

April 6, 2009

Cleft Lip Before (Chongqing), originally uploaded by interplast.

Cleft lip and palate is a birth defect caused when the tissues of the mouth or lips fail to form properly during fetal development. While doctors don’t know what causes this defect, they suspect it “may be a combination of genetic (inherited) and environmental factors (such as certain drugs, illnesses, and the use of alcohol or tobacco while a woman is pregnant).”

According to

Kids with a cleft lip or palate tend to be more susceptible to middle ear fluid collections, hearing loss, and speech defects. Dental problems — such as missing, extra, malformed, or displaced teeth, and cavities — also are common in kids born with cleft palate.

For unknown reasons, the condition is most often seen in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent.

Luckily, this is a curable disease, and thanks to medical exchanges involving teams of volunteer physicians who travel the world donating their skills to children in need of treatment, kids from around the globe are receiving the care they need.

One such medical exchange group is detailing their work on the Love Without Boundaries Blog where they are now in China preparing to carryout numerous surgeries for the patients at Fudan University.

You can read about their first day in country here.

H/T to SharonGilor (Twitter ID: expatguide) of the Expats Moving and Relocation Guide.

Giving back to the “Motherland”

April 1, 2009

For decades now, America has been known as the world’s largest patchwork quilt. Some would even argue that we have become a nation of hyphens: African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Indian-Americans … you get the picture. Only a small minority of us can actually trace our ancestral roots to the United States.

And so it’s natural to want to go back and see the kind of lives we could have lived. But with a younger, more educated generation of diaspora coming of age, interest in the motherland has become more than a yearning to quench one’s curiosity. Many of us are returning to our ancestral countries and making positive contributions.

Carole Ketnourath is one such individual. Her parents brought their family from Southeast Asia to the United States in search of a better life. A string of events soon brought Carole back to Southeast Asia where at age 26, she is living in Thailand as the director of operations for a non-profit she co-founded called The Warm Heart Foundation. The organization is involved in numerous projects ranging from public health, water projects, micro enterprise and children’s homes. Carole is one of many Americans who is helping by giving back to the part of the world her family once called home.

While Carole’s journey to the motherland was by choice, KK’s was not.

“KK” is a Khmer who escaped Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge era to Long Beach, California. A teenage life of gangster affiliation and crime led to his de-portation back to Cambodia four years ago. Channeling his love for break dancing as well as his affection for his native land, “KK” started a break dancing school for at-risk youth.

The following video differs from the clip featured in the previous link. Watch and listen as KK tells his story and see the contributions he is now making to the children in his birth country.

How to Help Street Children when Traveling Abroad

March 30, 2009

Street kid, originally uploaded by mysaliva.

I remember my first experience dealing with street kids. Although I acted with the kindest of intentions, I made a huge mistake and perhaps a common one among people traveling abroad who encounter children begging for food or money.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. It was a bone-chilling late winter night, and I was being followed by a street child begging for a loaf of bread. Since she wasn’t begging for money (and since I had little money myself as a PCV), I caved in and went to a road side kiosk to purchase a loaf. I gave the packaged bread to the tiny, freezing little girl who actually thanked me before running off into the night.

Not 10 seconds after she vanished into the darkness, I heard yelling, scuffling and then a high-pitched scream of agony. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the poor soul I had given a loaf of bread to was getting beat up by other street kids who were just as cold and just as hungry as she was and wanting her food.

Since then, throughout my travels, I have never, ever given anything to a begging street child.

Still, it’s such a difficult situation to face. You see these poor children enduring the worst of conditions and you just want to do something. As a traveler, you often don’t know what to do – giving away money or food is the first thing many of us think of, but as I learned the hard way, it’s not the best thing to do.

There are other options though and with the exception of #3, this list of “10 Ways You Can Help Street Children Without Giving Money” is a great guide for travelers faced with the conflict of how to help the needy faces we see in the streets overseas.

Really, what it all boils down to is giving your time, whether it be to local organizations that are in need of short-term volunteers or supplies, or a little one-on-one time with the kids themselves. You can even help long after you leave the country you are visiting. Read “7 Ideas for Helping the Locals You Leave Behind” for inspiring ideas on how to help from your own hometown.

Street children, poverty and overt begging can be just a few of the many culture shocks those of us in developed countries witness during our travels, and of course we want to help – immediately. But as I learned, there is a wrong way and a right way to do this. When you help a street child responsibly, you’re helping them ten times more than you would by simply giving them food or money. And I believe that is the kind of difference we all want to make.

Editor’s Pick: Interview with Andy Gray of Global Adventure and

March 9, 2009

Photo by Andrew Gray at

Photo by Andrew Gray at

Last week we published a video post we titled “Inspiration in Cambodia,” which showed how one man is making a huge difference in the lives of Cambodia’s poor and his efforts to help the people help themselves. This week, we get to talk to the individual behind the making of that video, Andy Gray, who has served as our bridge into the village of Andong and the lives and needs of Cambodia’s poor.

Based out of Tokyo, Japan, Gray serves as the eyes behind the photo blog, which acts as a window into his and his wife’s work in their non-profit venture Global Adventure.

In Gray’s own words, Global Adventure takes “small groups of people from Japan to see another side of life in Cambodia. We go to build relationships, learn, and serve in simple ways. We spend most of our time at an orphanage about 50km outside Phnom Penh.”

Andy was generous enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about Global Adventure. Below you will find the contents of our interview, and you will also find a link to his photo blog on our sidebar: (more…)

Inspiration in Cambodia

March 4, 2009

There is not much that can be added to this story or expressed as powerfully as this video, and there is not much else that can be written as eloquently as this post.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

*Note: While The Advanced Ape and Colony Magazine are not tied to any one religious viewpoint, we do acknowledge the good work being done by such ministries to help the needy, especially those ministries who are accepting of all religions and beliefs and who do not offer aid in exchange for conversion.