Twenty Years On: Reflecting On 9/11

Twenty Years On: Reflecting On 9/11

On September 11, 2001 – the day known to the world as 9/11 – I was a year into my new life in Canada. My office in the west end of Toronto had a perfect view of the Toronto skyline, including the distinctive CN Tower, then the tallest free-standing structure in the world.

About an hour after I got to work that day, I got myself a cup of coffee and was walking back to my desk. A colleague stopped me and handed me a printout from the CNN website.  It showed a picture of the World Trade Center’s North Tower with smoke billowing from the top half.  My immediate reaction was that this must be a Photoshop hoax. When I realized that it was a legitimate photograph, I thought the same thing as everyone else: that a freakish and tragic accident had occurred.

As I scrutinized the picture, I heard a shout coming from the direction of the conference room. Someone had been able to get the temperamental TV to work, and we all spilled into the room just in time to see live footage of the plane hitting the South Tower.  An hour later, we were still sitting in the conference room.  We were incapable of speech; someone muted the sound on the TV because the frantic commentary of chaos was violating the silence that we all needed. 

I don’t think anyone moved for about ten minutes.  Eventually, someone at the back of the room whispered, “Oh my God.”  That utterance was a catalyst for everyone to rush to their phones to call family members, pausing on the way past the window to see if the CN Tower was still there.

There was no question of any work getting done that day.  We all spent the day on the phone, contacting loved ones south of the border to find out who was alive and who wasn’t.  My parents called from South Africa, unashamedly relieved to hear my voice.  Toronto is not that far from New York, especially to people watching the chaos unfold from the other side of the world. 

After talking to my parents, I frantically tried to get in touch with my friends in New York City.  By late afternoon, there were two people I had not been able to reach – Luisa and Jason.  I went to bed that night not knowing whether they were alive or dead.  I didn’t sleep.  I suspect that most people didn’t that night.

Luisa’s husband emailed me early the following morning.  As soon as the South Tower had been hit, she and her coworkers had been evacuated from their office a block away to some hall somewhere.  Phone signals were jammed: for several hours, Luisa’s husband did not know whether she had been buried in the rubble of collapsing towers. It was almost midnight by the time she got home, traumatized but alive.

But what had become of Jason? At lunchtime on September 12th, I spoke to a mutual friend, Mark, who had commuted to work with him the previous morning. Jason had dropped his dog off at the vet on his way to work, so he was late.  The two friends had gotten off the subway at the same stop, and then they had gone into a Starbucks for their morning coffee.  With coffee in hand, Jason had gone into the North Tower, waving goodbye to Mark, who had to go a few blocks further.  The time was about 8:35 a.m. 

Eleven minutes later, the North Tower was hit.  I tried to convince Mark that Jason could have left the building in those ten minutes. Mark said it was unlikely. Jason had said something about a 9:00 meeting for which he had not prepared.  He would have been sipping his coffee and working on reports at his desk, which was right in the flight path of a hijacked plane. 

I said to Mark, “I hope Jason got to finish his coffee.” People say the oddest things in times of stress.

9/11 memorial museum
The 9/11 memorial

Now, twenty years later, I reflect on that day along with the rest of the world.  I think of Jason and hope he died instantly, with no pain or stress.  I look at my two children, neither of whom was alive on 9/11, one of whom is on the cusp of becoming an adult, and I wonder what kind of world their children will live in.  I look at the world around me – at the discrimination and violence that almost seem to have become normalized – and I wonder if we have really learned anything.

Poignantly, I wonder what became of Jason’s dog, the one he dropped off at the vet on that terrible morning. The dog is certainly not alive anymore, but I hope it found a new home, and perhaps helped some family get through the unspeakable collective grief from 9/11.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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Haiti Earthquake: The Power of Sisterhood

Haiti Earthquake: The Power of Sisterhood

Guest post by Nathalie Tancrede

The Morning of the Haiti Earthquake

On Saturday, August 14, 2021, while drinking coffee and scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a few alarming posts about an earthquake in Haiti.

I immediately posted on my page, asking for confirmation.

Within minutes, my DMs & WhatsApp messages were blowing up. Friends and family members were reaching out, recounting the horrible moment.

I sat there in shock, reading the messages, watching the videos, checking the photos coming in at a rapid pace.

My oldest daughter, Kayla, heard snippets of my phone conversations and asked what was going on. So, we watched the online news together, heartbroken by the harsh reality of the situation. Haiti has gone through so much already. Why this!?

Feeling Helpless

We wondered about the extent of the damage, the resources available to provide immediate help. We thought about those still stuck under the rubble and prayed someone would find them, alive. Our emotions were all over the place: shock, sadness, disbelief, worry…

I began to share updates on my social media pages, listing trusted organizations and reposting info from various sources to keep everyone in the loop.

Sleep eluded me as I stayed up late checking for updates, feeling compelled to keep abreast of it all.

As the days went by, the requests for help kept pouring in. Each story, more devastating than the previous one. People needed help; they needed tarps, tents, food, clean water, basic supplies. Many were left homeless, the clothes on their back, their sole possession.

A few friends and I began brainstorming about the best way to offer support. 

Making the Tragedy Human

Then on August 17, I received a video from a contact in Jeremie. The footage came from an artisan in the area who noticed the victim’s wound while walking around.

Though not her personal friend, she wanted to assist her in finding help.

The video recounted the ordeal of an older victim of the earthquake. She was seeking assistance as her family had lost it all. She wounded her head and her leg while running to escape the sudden shaking.  

The leg was swollen, poorly bandaged and she had no pain medication.

Roselene. Jeremie,Haiti

Roselene’s Story

Roselene Dorsa is a mom of 8. She lives in the Abricots area—a commune of Jeremie—with her husband, three of her children, and three grandchildren. Prior to the earthquake, Roselene did housekeeping work in the city to provide for her family. 

With over 50% of the area either damaged or destroyed, her chances of returning to work or finding a new job are slim. Yet, there are mouths to feed, including her grandbabies.

I watched her video several times, listening to her recounting the ordeal, noticing her surroundings, and my heart broke for her and her family. 

The Power of Sisterhood

As a mom, the well-being of my family is my priority. It gives me joy to see my children happy, to provide for their needs and to know they have all they need.

Roselene and hundreds of moms in Southern Haiti right now are not even able to provide for themselves, let alone their children. The earthquake devastated their neighborhoods, destroyed their homes, took away their jobs, and left them wounded physically and mentally.

As caretakers, we provide comfort and relief when others are in pain. We nurture our loved ones. 

Quite often, we forgo our own needs to make sure everyone else is taken care of.

Though there is pain in this story, I choose to focus on what struck me the most: the power of sisterhood. The woman who shared the footage is dealing with her own challenges. Her home was damaged during the earthquake, and her own children have pressing needs. Yet, her spirit rose above it, and she reached to advocate for a sister in need. She saw an urgent need and took action. 

My hope is that sisters around the world will rally and help lighten the load of Roselene and the victims of this terrible disaster. Though we may come from various backgrounds & countries, we are all women. We are sisters. We know the pain of our fellow sisters. Together, we can ease that pain and bring back their smiles. 

How You Can Help

If you’d like to assist in any way, please let me know. With the help of a small team, I am providing direct help to selected families. Many belong to an artisan community with whom I’ve collaborated for the last ten years. Please send me a DM if you’d like to help in any way.

If you would like to assist trusted local organizations that are currently providing immediate relief, please consider a donation to PSA (Project Ste Anne), ACT (Ayiti Community Trust), or Fleur de Vie.

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Nathalie Tancrede, Founder, Artisans Network, small business coach, and cultural ambassador to Haiti.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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UN Climate Report: Code Red for Humanity

UN Climate Report: Code Red for Humanity

Code Red for Humanity. Wildfires in Bodrum, Turkey in July 2021

Guest post written by Harriet Shugarman of ClimateMama

“We will be coming to terms with the urgent realities of our climate crisis for the rest of our lives. We all need to get comfortable with this fact, in a very uncomfortable way.”

Harriet Shugarman, How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst into Action

On August 9th, 2021, The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 6th Assessment Working Group 1 Report, The Physical Science Basis. The IPCC was established in 1988 to report to governments on the climate change emergency. To those of us that read it, this report felt and sounded like one of the final nails being hammered into the coffin of humanity. And yet, we have known what it would say for a long time. Sadly, we know that for many of our friends, family, and neighbors, this report is not even on their “radar” and many governments of the world do not even seem up in arms nor ready to take immediate action.

This must change.

Slide from the IPCC Working Group I Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report

More than 200 scientists, who reviewed more than 14,000 papers to arrive at their agreed-upon conclusions, prepared this IPCC report. The information is scientifically solid, proven, and accepted by the world community. This is part one of the IPCC’s 6th report to governments.  The complete report will be released in September 2022 and will be comprised of 3 working group reports (of which this is one), three special reports, and a synthesized document.

What we already knew and what scientists have been telling us for decades is:

  1. The climate crisis is real
  2. It’s really bad
  3. We are causing it to happen
  4. It’s getting worse
  5. BUT there are things we can do to slow it down.
Slide from the IPCC Working Group I Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report

The August 9th report confirms the 5 points above and makes strong and direct statements about the state of the climate emergency. We can summarize the three main takeaways as follows:  

  • It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land. 
    Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred because of human influence.
  • Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region globally and will continue to do so, regardless of what we do, through mid-century. Many of the changes we have put in place are irreversible. 
  • Limiting global warming to a place where it would level off and begin to get better is possible. However, this will require strong, rapid, sustained, and immediate reductions of CO2, with net-zero C02 emissions the required goal.  We need to reduce Methane emissions immediately, as well as all other human-created greenhouse gases. 

The report also, for the first time, offers five scenarios for future global warming. Depending on how decisively the world addresses the climate crisis, the outlook for humanity will likely be extreme and harsh. However, if we take the most aggressive action in reducing emissions, the report outlines a scenario where emissions level off by mid-century and then begin to bereduced, giving us a small but real window of hope. The report also looks at impacts on specific areas and specific countries. 

Where does this leave us? If increasing climate chaos is “baked” in to the system, what can we do and why should we even try?  

First, we must do everything we can so that the future will be less grim, less chaotic, and more hopeful for our children and their children. This won’t happen by itself. It will take all of us.  The world community is meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. This United Nations COP26 (Conference of the Parties) will discuss the current report and review government reports on what countries are already doing to address the climate crisis, based on what was agreed to at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in 2015. This recent report tells us directly that incremental change will not work.  Everyone has a role to play.  

Slide from the IPCC Working Group I Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report

As moms, we can help our children understand the gravity of the situation at hand but remind them of the following: 

We are alive at a critical juncture in human history. Those of us alive today have a unique opportunity to shape the lives of future generations and help create a world that is livable and sustainable.

Everything we do must be done through the lens of the climate emergency. We must use our passions, our voices, and our actions to do what we can and to demand that those who can “go big” do so.  Elected officials at every level of government, government departments, big corporations, organizations of all kinds must focus on creating climate solutions and resiliency. The time for talking is well past. The time for action must be now.

Harriet Shugarman is an economist, professor, writer and activist. Her recent book, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change, Turning Angst into Action” was released in 2020. 

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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The Plague of Human Trafficking Around Us

The Plague of Human Trafficking Around Us

A couple of years ago, 3 South Asian women entered Singapore, with promises of a lucrative dancing career at a nightclub.

To be employed, they were required to sign a contract in English, surrender their passports, and stay in shared accomodation – all for a pay of S$900 (USD 660) per month, a veritable fortune in their eyes. As newbies to a foreign country, they thought this was normal. Their poverty-ridden background made them view the opportunity to earn Singapore dollars and send money back home, as a dream come true.

The nature of their work soon made it apparent that they were trapped.

They had to provide sexual favours to nightclub patrons and work even when sick. They were barred from leaving their apartment. Unless their employers gave them access to a phone, they had no way to contact their families back home. Being unable to speak English proved a deterrent to contact the authorities. Plus, they were constantly threatened with social stigmatisation if they ever spoke out. Faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, they felt truly alone in a country where they knew no one, except their employers.

Just before Covid-19 made global headlines last year, authorities cracked down on the operations and rescued these women. And Singapore got its first ever conviction on labour trafficking charges. The ’employers’ were fined and jailed, and the women were returned to their home countries, and assisted with re-settlement.

This human trafficking story ended on a positive note. Not all do.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as: 

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

In simple words, human trafficking is “the process of trapping people through the use of violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain” (courtesy: antislavery.org).

So, to qualify as human ‘trafficking’, victims needn’t be transported overseas; they simply have to be forced into a situation of exploitation. Here are some mind-boggling statistics on this crime:

  • There are between 20 and 40 million people in modern slavery today.
  • About 71% of enslaved people are women and girls, while men and boys account for 29%.
  • Human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers; $99 billion comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Advocates report a growing trend of traffickers using online social media platforms to recruit and advertise targets of human trafficking.

There are no countries or industries completely immune to the vice of human trafficking. Some high-risk industries are agriculture, fishing, textile manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment. Europe, North America, Middle East, and some countries in East Asia and the Pacific are popular destinations for trafficking victims.

Human trafficking takes many forms; people coerced into working as money/drug mules, sex trade, organ harvesting, cheap factory labour, domestic help, and children forced to serve as soldiers or commit crimes. Human trafficking is considered a hidden crime – nearly impossible to detect through traditional means. This is because victims almost never come forward – be it due to fear of retaliation from abusers, language barriers, or psychological/financial burdens borne by them.

The victims are all around us. They don’t carry placards or have their victimhood stamped on their faces. But look closer, and worrying signs may emerge; persons who appear timid, submissive and fearful in public, reluctant to speak, deferring to another in control, having few possessions or no personal identification. These are potential red flags that indicate trafficking.

Or not. There could always be perfectly valid reasons why someone behaves in a particular way in public. Unfortunately, this ambiguity in behavioural red flags and victims’ reluctance to point out their abusers, makes this crime extremely difficult to identify and convict legally.

Advances in technology has enabled more to join the fight against human trafficking. Financial institutions offer assistance through transaction monitoring and analysis that helps identify patterns in money movement, indicating the presence of human trafficking. Some fintechs have also developed machine learning models that can be trained to detect suspicious transaction patterns, and alert authorities. Yet another tool used to identify human trafficking red flags is social media analysis.

How can you help? First, be aware of the signs of human trafficking – that’s one of the best ways you can contribute. Volunteer your time at a shelter dedicated to victims of human trafficking. Be an informed consumer; find out where/how the products you consume are produced, and boycott companies connected to human trafficking. Together, we can help combat this evil and reduce the number of victims claimed every year.

The United Nations observes July 30th as "World Day Against Trafficking in Persons" and has included it as one of its Sustainable Development Goals.

Veena Davis (Singapore)

Veena has experienced living in different climes of Asia - born and brought up in the hot Middle East, and a native of India from the state known as God’s Own Country, she is currently based in the tropical city-state of Singapore. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Several years ago, she came across World Moms Network (then World Moms Blog) soon after its launch, and was thrilled to become a contributor. She has a 11-year old son and a quadragenarian husband (although their ages might be inversed to see how they are with each other sometimes). ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ On a professional front, she works in the financial sector - just till she earns enough to commit to her dream job of full-time bibliophile. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ You can also find Veena at her personal blog, Merry Musing. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ An aside from Veena: The last time I edited my bio was when I joined as a writer here - my son was 11-months old and 'helped' me write by hitting all the keys on my laptop, and 'feeding' it water from his glass when he felt the laptop looked thirsty. Now, as I'm updating my bio, he's a cheeky little 11-year old who already thinks he knows more than me! How time has flown!

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What Our Words Can Do

What Our Words Can Do

What do you think about when you hear I am from Israel? 

(Don’t worry, I am not about to get into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But the fact that we go there, and not usually in a good way, is kind of my point – and what I am going to talk about.)

It is exciting and a real privilege to be part of an international community – it’s one of the blessings of our generation, the ease with which we can interact with anyone, anywhere in the world. But what is it that we will use this power for? What benefit can we create with this gift we have been given? 

I have started about 10 different articles – for this – my first communication with all of you amazing people – and none felt exactly right. I love writing humorous pieces or sharing little moments of my life, but I feel that I first want to share something else. This. 

Everywhere we turn, it feels polarities are gaining strength and becoming volatile. Either you are with us or against us. So often when people speak about a person with whom they don’t agree, it’s with vehemence, or even with hate. Sometimes it’s because those opinions themselves are so extreme that they feel anathema to the values which we hold dear. It’s not as easy as just to say – accept everyone when some of those opinions or thoughts feel so wrong – and harmful.  So that’s where we are today, and it sucks. 

I don’t think I really ever experienced anti-Semitism in my life. Except for once, when I was in middle or high school, someone dropped pennies in front of me, but I didn’t even know what it meant and the boy with me knew and started swearing at the perpetrators and I think at the time I was more shocked by the way he spoke. (Apparently, they throw it because Jews love money so if I bend down to pick it up then it shows how desperately greedy I am. Even if I pick it up to give it back, which is kind of what I was thinking of doing until I was told why they did that. I was incredulous. How could someone look at me and want to do that?) This year, in some liberal spaces, which is always where I have always felt most at home spiritually, I have seen such venomous anti-Semitism, towards me, that, although it did not insult me per se, I am old enough and maybe thick-skinned enough to not be personally insulted by keyboard warriors, but the hate, it shocked me to my core. And yes, I know the Israel issue isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, but the conversations I am talking about were purely anti-Semitic. I have never felt anything like it. 

And let’s face it – if those people who spewed hate at me really wanted to change something – would their calling me names make me change my beliefs? Would their wishing me dead make me go away? None of this does anything but make us more extreme. “Ah, you hate me. Ok, then, I will go in my corner and hate you…! Do you say awful things about me? I will say worse things about you!” Kind of back to 2nd grade. But it’s human nature. It feels scary to be sidelined, maligned, misunderstood, lied about. It doesn’t make someone want to engage, love, understand – it makes them want to hide, defend, protect. And this is true for anyone: democrats arguing with republicans, socialists arguing with libertarians, conservatives arguing with progressive. The more we polarize, the more we hide in our corners and send daggers out, to protect ourselves. 

So where does that leave us? Good people of the world who want to change the energy? How can we create change in a real way, in a way that doesn’t disrespect anyone, that includes and connects rather than separates and polarizes?

There is one thing that I believe in with all my heart. It’s something that I spent years trying to implement and figure out. This thing is the power of our words. 

Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

Words create. In the Old Testament, we are told this straight out – with no filter – God spoke the world into being. And then, it continues to say something that we don’t always remember: that we were created in God’s image, and therefore, we also speak our worlds into being. And the Old Testament is only my most convenient source material for this information – it is everywhere, and not connected to one culture or another. I have encountered this theory, this knowing, in so many of the traditions and cultures I have become acquainted with in my life; the power of words to create is a universal belief. It’s a human power.

The way we talk about something absolutely affects what exists. I have known this for all of my life and still, I don’t always know how to implement it in real time. 

In a lot of our self-help seminars we talk about this. Many of us use these concepts to help ourselves change our lives. 

On a personal level, this means –

We can’t have what we don’t believe we can have. 

We can only create what we imagine. And once we imagine our dreams, we need to speak them into being. Think about your own life and you will see how true this is. The things that exist aren’t necessarily what you have wished for – but what you believe you could have and what you have spoken about – and then taken action on. The action is of course important. But the belief and the words always come first. 

And I always think – this is just as true on a societal level. We spend all our time in fighting injustice, angry at what’s wrong – but how much energy do we spend building what we want – with our words?  I do it myself. I get angry at a political leader – and rile against things that I think are harmful. But how much do I concentrate my thought power, my incredibly creative and powerful thought power, to imagine what I want into reality? Why don’t I use my words to talk about what I do want instead of complaining about what is wrong? What would my world look like if I did that religiously and with intent? 

There’s one more thing I want to talk about – it’s connected. I have a great friend. I genuinely love him dearly. (I was going to write “but” – but the proper term is “and”) – and we are diametrically opposed politically. I sometimes read what he writes on Facebook and I visibly cringe. I can’t understand how he thinks that way. I don’t like talking politics with him because I know we aren’t going to convince each other – but sometimes he really corners me into a conversation – and while I vehemently disagree with his conclusions – I discover that his reasoning is not as “evil” as I worried. He is not basing his ideas on a nasty world view but a difference of belief in how to achieve good for all. And so, in this, I discover that there may be a way forward – there is enough common ground to build a future. Because the result that we both want is a good future for all. We disagree – vehemently perhaps – at how to get there. 

There is a concept in Judaism (probably in other cultures too – I just don’t know it from elsewhere that says “dan lekav zechut” – when we are appraising people, we should judge favorably, we should expect that they have good reasons – try to see them in the best possible light. Now, this is hard to do – we get angry at the person who cut us off in the road and it’s hard to think – oh, he is probably running home to pick up his sick child from school. But that is the idea. To try and judge favorably. Even in the most unlikely situations. When someone writes awful things about me and my people – like really awful – don’t run into my corner and think – what an evil person. What a monster! But, turn it around. This person is speaking from the knowledge that they know and coming to harsh conclusions. This person is speaking from a place of trying to do good in the world – but they haven’t been able to see me. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept the bad but I use my energy to send love to this person – not to send hate. I don’t descend into the spiral of sending hate as a result of hate. Now when I say “I send”, this is of course a figure of speech. I should be writing – I try. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. This is a work in progress. It’s where I am aiming. It is what I know to be the building blocks of crystallizing myself to transform my world. 

And so this is my practice, and I share it with you. This is what I work on in order to create a world that I want for my child. Using my words to create what I want and when I meet the opposite, “dana lekaf zechut” I do my best to send good energy and judge favorably. And in a place of conflict, I send my energy to creating the best possible result for all involved. I don’t waste time “knowing the answers” – but send my energy to creating peace and happiness for all sides and let God or the universe – whatever we believe in – take that energy and turn it into gold. 

UN World Refugee Day is June 20th

UN World Refugee Day is June 20th

UN World Refugee Day 2021 is themed Together We Can Achieve Anything

“Only together can we end this pandemic and recover. Only together can we revive our economies. And then, together, we can all get back to the things we love.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

United Nations World Refugee Day is a day to build empathy and provide insight into the struggles and the resilience of the millions of people forced to leave their known lives behind and start anew. Each year on June 20th, World Refugee Day honors the tens of millions of humans forced to flee unbearable conditions with bravery and resilience. UN Refugee Day is also a day to applaud those countries and communities who have opened their borders to support and protect displaced persons on their way to better lives.

What would you take if you had to leave your home with only as much as you could carry? 

What risks would you be willing to take to keep your family safe or to secure a better future for them? 

Every day those in the world fleeing persecution, natural disasters, war, or famine have to face these questions. The numbers are astounding, and not just statistics, each number represents an individual human life. Each one uncertain what the future will hold. According to the 2020 UNHCR Global Trend Report one million children were born into displacement between 2018 and 2020. Making sure that their needs are met is not only important for their future success, but for the shape of global economies as well. Children are the future of this world.

 In 2021 UN World Refugee Day lands amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic. The world came to a standstill last year, yet the struggles faced by refugees persisted. The pandemic did not prevent conflicts, so while the numbers of displaced people hit an all time high in 2020, because of COVID-19 there were also fewer routes of safe escape. The theme this year for UN World Refugee Day 2021 is “Together We Can Achieve Anything.” We know this to be true. With collective determination and shared resources the world’s most pressing problems can be solved. Now more than ever, we need to work together to choose love and collaboration over fear and divisiveness.

We are witnessing a changed reality in that forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly more widespread but is simply no longer a short-term and temporary phenomenon.” 

-Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

The heartbreaking reality is that most refugees flee due to ongoing human-made conflicts. Additionally the increased frequency of natural disasters due to the climate crisis impacts some of the most vulnerable populations from the poorest of regions.

Most recently, the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has forced over 45,000 people to flee over the border into Sudan. Tsige and her daughter had to stay behind as her husband and son fled to safety, not knowing when and how the family would meet up again.

The author’s great grandparents

Four generations later, my own family’s saga of fleeing persecution as Jews in Russia has been all but lost over time and assimilation. A tattered and faded newspaper clipping provides me just a glimpse of the story, the rest of which is forgotten with those who came before me. Their story gives me a feeling of solidarity and hope for those seeking a better future. I can’t imagine the agony of splitting up as a family to escape danger. Those in my family who came to the US by way of Cuba took years to reunite. In my own family’s story, I recognize that I am the future they hoped for: Safety, education, opportunities, and Home. The type of security all families want for future generations. To survive with the chance to thrive. Every human deserves that. Only by working together can we ensure a better future for all.

Together we heal, learn, and shine.

Here are a few ways to get involved from the UN Refugee Agency:

 HEALTH

 Donate to help protect refugees from COVID-19

EDUCATION

Donate to create scholarships for young refugees to attend university

Teach your kids and students about refugees

Watch one (or all) of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett’s Watchlist of recommended films:

Capernaum, directed by Nadine Labaki

Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

News from home, directed by Chantal Akerman

The Other Side of Hope, directed by Aki Kaurismaki

Babel, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The Joy Luck Club, directed by Wayne Wang

Get a free copy of Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community and unlock a donation tothe UNHCR in support of refugees and their families. #CookWithRefugees

 SPORTS

Watch this video to be inspired and see the power in Supporting the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams  

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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