How Citizen Journalists in Mongolia are Saving the Environment Using New Media

Posted May 6, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Asia, Environment, Technology

Tags: , , ,

Climate changes in Mongolia are not only threatening the country’s environment, they are also threatening a way of life for Mongolian nomads. Over the decades, seasonal winds have resulted in the desertification of 41% of the country as the nation’s grasslands gradually turn into dust and sand. Poor land management and unsuitable farming practices have also contributed to the problem and as a result, nomadic herdsmen have fewer available grazing plots for their livestock, causing a population migration from rural areas into the cities as families are forced to abandon their nomadic ways of life.

Unfortunately, the problem is not contained to Mongolia/China’s Inner Mongolia as the sand storms also affect cities in China, Korea and Japan. (Yours truly has had the lovely experience of enduring the “yellow dust storms” which frequent Korea every spring.)

The problem is so severe, that increased awareness is needed in the hopes that desertification can be stopped, or at least slowed. In an effort to address the growing concerns surrounding the fate of Mongolia’s land, a Rising Voices grantee, Nomad Green, is working to train citizen journalists in the use of new media in order to spread awareness about the country’s environmental crisis. Through the use of blogs, podcasts, videos and mapping mashups, participants will be better equipped in reaching a broader audience as part of their awareness campaigns.

Click here for the project’s blog and here for more information Nomad Green’s work through the Rising Voices grant program.


Giving Internationally for Mother’s Day

Posted May 4, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Gender Equality, Women

Tags: , ,

Last year for Mother’s Day, my brother and I decided to do something different in recognition of our Mom. Instead of giving her flowers and a card, or treating her to a day at her favorite salon, we chose to make a monetary donation in her name to a cause we knew she already supported.

As a hand-made rug maker and designer by hobby, our mother had been working with a fellow rug-maker who was helping (mostly female) villagers in Mexico create their own rugs and designs which are then sold in the United States. The project is known as the Las Rancheritas of Agustin Gonzales, Mexico.

The donation made in her name gave more than my brother or I ever imagined. It went toward opening the villagers’ first bank account which from there, taught them skills in bookkeeping and finance which were necessary for their growing business.

In January of this year, both my parents made a trip down to Mexico to the village of the Las Rancheritas. There they met the villagers, observed their modest rug making business and saw first-hand how our Mother’s Day gift had sprouted into something so much bigger than just money.

She still continues to support this group by organizing fundraisers and collecting donations which tells me that this Mother’s Day gift was better than any card or dinner out.

As the Mother’s Day holiday now approaches once again, I have compiled a list of suggestions for those of you who also wish to give the gift of giving to your mothers. Note that if you don’t have prior connections to your charity and its leadership as my mother did before we made the gift in her name, Charity Navigator has been a recommended online tool to intelligent giving.

The following are some basic recommendations, although if you know of others to add to the list, please feel free to leave a comment. (In honor of Mother’s Day and to coincide with the nature of this blog, the following are charities aiding women and each has an international scope.)

  • Women for Women International helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.
  • Polaris Project is an anti-human trafficking organization working to end slavery. It has offices both in the United States and Japan.
  • Girls Learn International pairs American and high school-based Chapters with partner schools in countries where girls have been traditionally denied access to education.
  • Womenkind Worldwide is a UK-based group aimed at empowering women in developing countries.
  • International Women’s Health Coalition promotes and protects the sexual and reproductive rights and health of all women and young people, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Global Fund for Women advocates female empowerment worldwide by working with women’s rights groups outside of the United States.
  • Equality Now is an international women’s human rights organization which operates around the globe.
  • Women Thrive Worldwide spearheads efforts that shape U.S. policy to assist women and their families in the battle against poverty.

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

Posted May 1, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Caribbean, Health and Healthcare Issues, Youth

Tags: , ,

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 “Swine Flu,” the Economy and Developing Nations

Posted April 29, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Current Events, Health and Healthcare Issues

Tags: , , ,

Piggy bank, originally uploaded by mag3737

Discussion is bubbling over the spread of the latest human epidemic also known as “the swine flu.” Among the babble is the disease’s impact on the developing world – both physically and economically. Below are some links addressing the issue:

The Potential Economic Impact of Pandemic Flu on Poor Countries: More Serious than a Sneezing Pork Chop – One of the first things this post questions is the appropriateness of the term “swine flu.”

The impact of this pandemic flu outbreak has little to do with pigs. And a lot to do with people.

Every time there is a global flu epidemic, we seem to want to blame it on something. In 1918 we called it the Spanish flu, though Spaniards had nothing to do with it. For the last few years we blamed it on birds, calling it the “avian flu” as if it were the birds’ fault. Now we’re blaming it on pigs, by calling it the “swine flu”. In an effort to appease the public, several countries have banned the import of pork!

None of this makes any sense. When was the last time you saw a sneezing pork chop?

The genetic code of a specific influenza virus may have snippets of a whole menagerie of viruses, but once it starts to spread among humans, it is a human flu epidemic. Let’s just call it the pandemic flu and get on with it.

It then goes on to calculate the pandemic flu’s affect on poor countries economically when added to the current financial crisis and closes by offering some suggestions on how to deal with it from here (in terms of assisting those said countries.)

Swine flu fear catching fast in weak world economy – On a similar note as the Global Development Views post, this article takes a look at the bigger picture in terms of how the flu has impacted an already weak global economy, as well as the potential damage it can do if not contained soon. Included is a warning to developing nations:

A report by the World Bank, updated last year, estimated that a severe pandemic — like the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918 that killed between 40 million and 100 million people — would cause a nearly 5 percent drop in global economic activity, costing the world about $3.1 trillion.

“Even a mild pandemic has significant consequences for global economic output,” a pair of Australian researchers wrote in a 2006 report cited by the World Bank.

In a global recession, a pandemic could present a greater threat. On Friday, the World Bank warned developing nations that slashing public health budgets could put their citizens’ health at risk.

And finally, a piece that sums up what has already been mentioned before in terms of the flu’s impact:

Swine flu will hit poor countries hardest – A piece that expresses concern that anti-virals, once made available, won’t be easily affordable or accessible to those in poor nations.

The Truth about Biotechnology, Agriculture and Sustainable Development

Posted April 27, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Agriculture, Current Events, Sustainable Development, Technology

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Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a more civil debate about them. Britain’s Prince Charles thinks they will lead to “real disaster,” and farmers in India are allegedly committing mass suicide because of them. In case you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about, maybe one of these terms will ring a bell: biotech crops, biotechnology, genetically enhanced seeds/grains or genetically modified organisms. The debate over this “gene revolution” is becoming especially important as global concerns about food security have made nations skittish about food production, supplies and whether biotechnology is a possible solution to their concerns. The issue of food security is so hot right now that just a few days ago the U.N. called for sustainable agricultural spending in Asia, stating that last year’s crisis was “a warning of things to come.”

While the fear-mongering headlines against biotechnology may seem alarming (ie. articles about how GMOs are bad for our health, the environment and the livelihoods of farmers worldwide) there’s another side of the story you most likely aren’t hearing. Biotech crops have a proven track record of alleviating poverty in developing countries and providing a sustainable lifestyle for farmers (and nations) who have adopted this technology. (Note, none of my notes are coming from GMO seed producers or distributors but from secondary sources.)

From a 2008 report issued by the non-profit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications:

  • Biotech crops have improved the income and quality of life of small and resource-poor farmers and their families, and contributed to the alleviation of their poverty – case studies are cited in Brief 39 for India, China, South Africa, and the Philippines.
  • The impressive contribution of biotech crops to sustainability is reviewed: 1) Contributing to food, feed and fiber security including more affordable food (lower prices); 2) Conserving biodiversity; 3) Contributing to the alleviation of poverty and hunger; 4) Reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint; 5) Helping mitigate climate change and reducing greenhouse gases; 6) Contributing to more cost-effective production of biofuels; and 7) Contributing to sustainable economic benefits worth US$44 billion from 1996 to 2007. In summary, collectively these seven thrusts are a significant contribution to sustainability and the potential for the future is enormous.
  • Five principal developing countries: China, India, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, with a combined population of 2.6 billion, are exerting leadership with biotech crops, and driving global adoption – benefits from biotech crops are spurring strong political will and substantial new investments in biotech crops in several of these lead countries. [Emphasis mine.]
  • Of the economic gains of US$44 billion during the period 1996 to 2007, 44% were due to substantial yield gains, and 56% due to a reduction in production costs (including a 359,000 tonne a.i. saving in pesticides); the production gains of 141 million tons, would have required 43 million additional hectares had biotech crops not been deployed – a land-saving technology.

And the list goes on. Case studies supporting the report’s findings can be found on the ISAAA Web site. Read the rest of this post »

Why Do Celebrities Ignore North Korea?

Posted April 24, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Africa, Asia, Current Events

Tags: , , ,

I admit, this could be a blessing in disguise, but the question remains.

Is North Korea just not sexy enough? Do stars not want to be affiliated with propping up the Kim Jong Il regime? (I could foresee the North Korean propaganda that would result from Bono holding a charity concert in NYC or Pyongyang for that matter. Of course, the Dear Leader himself is known to be an admirer of many things coming from Hollywood.) Or does the lack of transparency just make it not worth the effort? And if that’s the case, what’s not stopping celebrities from donating their statuses to the victims of other corrupt governments?

When I was growing up, we were told as kids to eat all the food on our plates because children were starving in Ethiopia (this was in the 1980s). These days, parents might as well tell their sons and daughters to eat all their veggies as there are kids dying of hunger in North Korea. Unfortunately, there are kids dying of starvation in many countries and as a result, emphasis or awareness on North Korea’s humanitarian disaster loses out to other nations also struggling with malnourishment.

But this goes back to my original question: What dictates, in the world of stardom, why one country receives attention and another does not? Read the rest of this post »

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and a Plea for HR 1066

Posted April 22, 2009 by colonymagazineblog
Categories: Volunteering

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Yesterday President Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that, among many things, will establish the Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) program in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and expand the number of AmeriCorps slots from 75,000 to 250,000 by 2017, in addition to increasing volunteer opportunities at home and abroad.

The Serve America Act will provide incentives for students and senior citizens to participate in volunteer community service and includes the Nonprofit Capacity Building Initiative, designed to expand organizational development assistance to small and midsize nonprofits. [OMB Watch]

Next on the books: The passing of HR 1066, otherwise known as the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009. There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of making this a reality. HR 1066 would essentially “pave the way for an expanded and improved Peace Corps by authorizing Congress to provide $450 million, $600 million and $750 million in 2010, 2011 and 2012” respectively.

According to an email I received last week, 101 members of Congress have co-sponsored Congressman Sam Farr’s Colombia 64-66 bill to more than double the Peace Corps’ budget, but that is not enough to make it a reality and more support is therefore needed. Those campaigning for the cause have a goal of obtaining 150 co-sponsors for the bill by June 1, 2009.

As there are 334 congressmen/women who still have not co-sponsored HR 1066, citizens are encouraged to write their congress person urging them to support the bill.

A sample letter can be accessed here.

For a list of co-sponsors who, as of the writing of this post have not yet come on board in support of HR 1066, please feel to contact me at: blog [at] – I would be happy to forward the list to interested parties.

If you believe Peace Corps deserves extra assistance for expansion purposes, please write to your Congress person urging them to get behind the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009 if they have not done so already. Washington has already recognized that service is valued and expanding the Peace Corps is another way of following through on that belief.