USA: Syria, Five Years Later . . .

USA: Syria, Five Years Later . . .

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This week marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian war. Five years of fighting, death, destruction. Heartbreaking stories, loss and questions. How much longer can this go on for? How is this going to end? (more…)

Nadege Nicoll

Nadege Nicoll was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. She stopped working in the corporate world to raise her three children and multiple pets, thus secretly gathering material for her books. She writes humorous fictions for kids aged 8 to 12. She published her first chapter book, “Living with Grown-Ups: Raising Parents” in March 2013. Her second volume in the series just came out in October 2013. “Living with Grown-Ups: Duties and Responsibilities” Both books take an amusing look at parents’ inconsistent behaviors, seen from the perspective of kids. Nadege hopes that with her work, children will embrace reading and adults will re-discover the children side of parenthood. Nadege has a few more volumes ready to print, so watch this space…

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BELGIUM: My Frame World

BELGIUM: My Frame World

reality frame worldNext to me in the coffee shop, an elderly lady loudly complains to everyone who cares to listen. How poignant it is, this refugees’ crisis. How she doesn’t understand how nothing can be done to help all those poor people. How entire families are torn for life. How her hair had cost 80 euros. Seventyninepointfive full euros. Scandalous, don’t you think so, miss?

I try to escape her glaring eyes. I’d like to escape and take all of them with me, those refugees. To a world without expensive hairdressers. To a world where their devastating pictures don’t need to travel around social media. To a world where a simple I’m on the run is enough to offer help.

I’m not sure where this world is. It doesn’t seem to be ours. Ours is full of rich self-preservation. I have worked hard for my wealth. I will not share it. I do not wish to be bothered with the misery of others.

Well, I’m more than less disgusted by those I’s.

And still, there I am, blogging about my petty worries. About the difficulties my kids face at their expensive private school. About depression, because my perfect life is not perfect enough. About baking homemade cookies. All the while, somewhere else, another mother has to choose between her own drowning or that of her child. Knowing she doesn’t have a choice, in the end. It will probably be both anyway.

More than ever, my world has two realities. One reality is manageable, the other is immense. The manageable reality is my reference, a framework to enable me to keep functioning. It enables me to get up at a quarter past seven to cut some pieces of imported mango for my precious children. To sigh when looking at overflowing laundry baskets. To nag about an energy-devouring meeting that took longer than expected. It’s the framework that’s keeping me whole. The Frame World.

The other part is bigger and endlessly more complex. It’s the angry, overarching Dome World. In this world I’m the naive, fleet-footed creature that is called out to fight the Great Evil that is hiding in the Dome, where no escape is possible. It’s the theme of many heroic stories, like I love to read them. Lord of the Flee.

The reality of the Dome World today is raw and ruthless. We can try to change the picture of the drowned toddler in an icon, giving him wings and balloons, but it’s too late. It’s too late for all those children who didn’t wash up at the feet of a photographer. We’ve let them down.

There is no escape from this Dome World. You can only bang on the glass wall and try to hide in your own Frame World. But the Frame of those fleeing families has been reduced to firewood. Without a frame they’re adrift. More than literally.

Later today, I will find out once again where I can contribute to help.

Later today. Again, I’m disgusted. Later today, because I’ve promised homemade pizza to my children.

After all, my Frame World is still there.

How do you deal with the discrepancy between your own private life and the tragedies around it? Does your Frame World help keeping you sane or is it rather keeping you from acting?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther. Photo credit: Bart Everson. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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WORLD VOICE: Talk To A…..

WORLD VOICE: Talk To A…..

Photo: Courtesy of Mona Haydar

Photo: Courtesy of Mona Haydar

In the age of cellphones and social media, it’s very easy to disconnect from people without realizing you’re doing so. How many of us create walls subconsciously, especially if it concerns people of different nationalities we don’t usually associate with?

I was struck by a story of a woman who decided to set up a stand outside of a library in Cambridge, MA. Inspired by a story her husband saw on NPR titled “Ask an Iraqi”, Mona Haydar thought that it was important for her to establish a connection with those who may not know what’s it’s like to be a Muslim, especially a Muslim woman living in the United States.

For Haydar, setting up a stand titled “Talk To A Muslim” was a way for her to dispel any preconceived notions or stereotypes so many have of foreigners, especially of Muslim women.

With so many crises affecting different nationalities, in light of events happening in Syria, Haydar’s goal of creating a physical stand and waiting for people to approach her was a bold move since she had no clue how it would be received. What was surprising and hopeful was that people did stop by and spoke with Haydar, and that was a start. She was quite surprised to see how people did respond to her stand and while the reception was initially uncertain, it was enough for her to think about setting up the stand again.

In the current climate regarding people of cultures we aren’t familiar with, not willing to find out about them says more about us than them. There shouldn’t be a division of “them” and “us”, but unfortunately, there is.

How many times have we been guilty of giving in to fear of the unknown instead of taking a step back and dispelling the stereotypes we have learned about other cultures?

As someone who has had to answer questions about my nationality or religion over the years, the initial offense I felt has made me rethink of how people perceive me. Over the years, I have been mistakenly identified as either Korean or Japanese, rarely a Filipina. In addition, since I’m married to a Jewish man, I have been asked whether I’m a convert or adopted due to my Jewish maiden name, and to which I answer “no” to both. Answering these questions over the years, my frustration over being categorized primarily due to my physical appearance has made me realize that it’s not because of ignorance, but lack of communication. Asking questions and conversing about each other’s cultures would go a long way than being presumptuous about other people’s lives.

After reading about Haydar and seeing the NPR segment titled “Ask An Iraqi”, it made me wonder if we should put ourselves in Haydar’s shoes. Should we have to set up a stand in order to be understood or be compassionate towards others? Have we become so desensitized by our own prejudices that we have no room for being tolerant? I would hope not. Haydar’s stand may just be one form of starting conversations regarding one’s culture, but I think it’s an idea worth exploring. We might just realize that we may not look alike, but we all share the same intrinsic values of goodness towards humanity.

Read the original article regarding this post Here.

How do you think we can nurture better cross-cultural understanding?

This is an original post written by World Moms Blog Contributor Tes Silverman of The Pinay Perspective

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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USA: Outcasts, Refugees, and Giving Thanks

USA: Outcasts, Refugees, and Giving Thanks

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On November 26, 2015, here in the USA there was a celebration. It is called Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is celebrated by many Americans as a day when the ‘Injuns and pilgrims feasted together in harmony’. When possible, families gather to spend the day eating a plenteously-sized meal, and go over the things for which they are thankful.

When I came to the U.S. I heard of a couple of stories behind the meaning of Thanksgiving. I heard it marked a day in American history when pilgrims came from England and after having being helped to plant food by some Natives, they all gathered and had a big feast with the first harvest. I was also told that there was an exchange in which the Natives gave the English food like wild game, and the English gave the Natives blankets contaminated with smallpox which wiped out almost an entire First Nation. So it is that without researching further, I knew I didn’t want to celebrate this particular thanksgiving day without looking into its history first. I was okay with my family gathering, eating good food, and giving thanks for all that I had. I just wasn’t about giving thanks for the planned killing of anyone.

During the course of my life I have figured out that I am too idealistic. I am also fairly optimistic, so saying that I am ‘too’ idealistic feels wrong. However, as life has proven, I am too much of an idealist. That’s okay; I am still staying true to that for I am sure there is purpose in it, and I am rewiring some other thinking patterns. All this to say, that by the time I heard of the smallpox story, I knew there was a great chance that this had actually happened. The idealist in me immediately asked why any human would cause suffering and death to his fellow, but Sophia the realist started going down a list of atrocities that she knew about, that would make this new information less shocking.

The research I did before was in books I do not recollect the titles of. I presently did some more research, though, and I came across a story that an educator put together so the truth about the First Thanksgiving day may be shared with elementary school-aged children. With this story there were books cited and more information given in a more graphic manner than that written for young children.

I read the article and I leave it to you to read it as well. As I scrolled down and read more, I read the following paragraph and immediately I thought about the current situation in Syria, its people who are fleeing war seeking refuge amongst other human beings, and how many of said other humans are responding to this need. This paragraph reminds us of the history of U.S. Americans’ Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and so it is ironic that any of their descendants should feel okay saying Syrian refugees aren’t welcome to this land.

“….The Puritan “Pilgrims” who came to New England were not simply refugees who decided to “put their fate in God’s hands” in the “empty wilderness” of North America, as a generation of Hollywood movies taught us. In any culture at any time, settlers on a frontier are most often outcasts and fugitives who, in some way or other, do not fit into the mainstream of their society. This is not to imply that people who settle on frontiers have no redeeming qualities such as bravery, etc., but that the images of nobility that we associate with the Puritans are at least in part the good “P.R.” efforts of later writers who have romanticized them.(1) It is also very plausible that this unnaturally noble image of the Puritans is all wrapped up with the mythology of “Noble Civilization” vs. “Savagery….”  Chuck Larsen quoting Berkhofer, Jr., R.F., “The White Man’s Indian”.
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We were driving by downtown the other day (what city is irrelevant) and saw people standing by the side of the road with signs reading ‘Refugees are not welcome here’. Immediately my mind rewound to when outcasts from England came here, and it is their descendants who are now standing on the side of the street saying they don’t want refugees here. These current refugees aren’t even outcasts, they are simply people who are no longer safe in the country they know as home. I say this very simply because I cannot pretend to understand what Syrians and all people in the middle of war zones are going through. Many Americans can afford to feel so detached because the war isn’t on American soil. However, we are at war, and the side of war we do not see here, is the side where there are humans who are suffering and dying. It’s easy to not put ourselves in other people’s shoes when we don’t see or know what they are going through. To feel anything but heartbreak or anger when seeing footage of women, children, and men being carried…body parts dangling, faces torn…. of children’s bodies washing up on shore or lined up with other dead children’s bodies… to know that there are humans who feel something other than heartbreak or anger, and who instead feel good as if these ‘strange people from a foreign country’ deserve it, is heartbreaking! It’s the kind of thing that makes me ashamed of being human. We have become so accustomed to these imaginary lines dividing our world, that we believe they are actually real. Otherwise, how could we feel anything but compassion for a father trying to find refuge for his remaining family?
I know I think too ideally. I know this. And I also know that because of this I tend to leave challenging questions and conversations alone. Truth is, though, that as a person I am hurt every time I see a sign/banner, a meme, or other social media image, saying something negative about a refugee. It’s like there is no compassion and history is forgotten. Actually… history isn’t forgotten. History is re-written; which is why the truth about Thanksgiving is not told in schools. It is changed a little, and changed a little more, until it is just the nice Pilgrims and the Indians who were sharing a nice harvest feast. This is why people forget where they came from, and this is part of the reason why when it comes to deciding whether or not we would welcome a refugee into our city or country, we feel comfortable and proud in saying “No, refugees are not welcome here!”
Ultimately my point is this: We are human. All of us. Chinese, Kenyan, Norwegian, Sioux, Japanese, Syrian, Mexican, Goan, etc… etc… etc…
We are all… human.  How dare we not extend our hand in support of our fellow human in need?
Let’s not forget where we have come from, and let’s work together to build a better humanity. For those of us feeling a bit more self-assisting than altruistic (for whatever the reason), it may be good to remember that helping another person makes us feel good inside. If we were to die the moment after helping another living thing (human or otherwise), maybe our sincere moment of kindness would redeem us from other times when we weren’t so kind. Thus it is that extending our hand to someone in need is a win-win.
Hopefully, if there ever comes a time when we need help, someone will reach out and say “Come, you are welcome here.”
Are you and idealist or a realist?  How do you feel it affects how you think about world issues?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo credit to Rakel Sánchez.  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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WORLD VOICE: Providing Sanitary Products for Sisters in Need

WORLD VOICE: Providing Sanitary Products for Sisters in Need

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Lovallo

What would you take with you if had to leave at a moment’s notice? Other than the clothes on my back and possibly some photos of my family, there would be nothing else that I would carry with me. For those fleeing dangerous situations, as in the case of Syrian refugees, so much emphasis is placed on the welfare of men and children, but what about the needs of women, especially when it involves their hygiene?

In Essex, England, three women are making a difference in the lives of Syrian women with regard to this issue. Helen McDonald, Megan Saliu and Helen Pudney founded SOS Calais, or Supporting Our Sisters in Calais. Together they organized drives to collect sanitary pads and had them delivered to the one of the biggest refugee camps in Calais, France where women make up 10% of the population. Donating food, water and personal products are just as necessary, but for women, menstrual products are crucial.

For most women, menstrual products are easily accessible, but for women who have been displaced due to crisis situations, access is virtually impossible.

In addition to access, there is the question of safety for these women. The women McDonald, Saliu and Pudney encountered in Calais were in their twenties and outnumbered by men in the same camp. These women are forced to look out for themselves to avoid harassment due to minimal or no security or support for them otherwise. Providing these women with products specifically for them gives them a sense of inclusion and empowerment.

For someone like me who has experienced moments of embarrassment or horror for not having sanitary pads when I’ve needed them, it’s quite disconcerting to know that these women are forced to find alternative means to take care of their needs, especially with menstrual products. It is an unfortunate byproduct of being torn from one’s home or country as a result of war or oppression and it is unrealistic to think that women and children are less affected than men.

Women in these environments become targets as a way to weaken their resolve in achieving independence and have to rely on others for help or do without. With the crowdfunding page created by McDonald, Saliu and Pudney, they intend to raise awareness of how crucial it is to provide these women with their needs. It is up to us, and the rest of the world, to step up and ensure that everyone, especially women in crisis environments, get their needs met. It’s the least we can do for them and future generations.

Read the original article that inspired this post, and find out more about this fundraising effort, and how you can help.

What other basic needs would you have if you had to flee on short notice?

This is an original guest post written by Tes Silverman for World Moms Blog.

643977_4650501065206_366589375_nTes Silverman was born in the Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for more than 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Brussels, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Four years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. Currently residing in Huntington, NY with her husband, sixteen year-old daughter and nine year-old Morkie, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

 

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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WORLD VOICE: Embracing Diversity & The European Refugee Crisis

WORLD VOICE: Embracing Diversity & The European Refugee Crisis

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Lovallo

In a time where one’s ethnicity is being questioned or disregarded, as evidenced by the treatment of Syrian refugees, I thought it timely as one of the topics at the recent Social Good Summit.

I’ve attended the Social Good Summit three times, and each time, I came away wanting to be involved more than I ever had before. The topics ranged from human rights to AIDS activism and most importantly this year, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are being discussed and implemented by 2030. One of the speakers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, spoke about the importance of being involved at a time of intolerance. The topic was titled “Refugees: The Route to Resettlement” and the panelists outlined what must be done to resolve this issue.

For UNHCR Guterres, it wasn’t just Syrian refugees that need to be addressed as he states, “let’s not forget that 86% of refugees are in the developing world”. It’s become almost “normal” to hear about refugees from Syria looking to resettle, but that’s where the problem lies. Developed countries like the US and Europe should be taking in more refugees, but whether it’s a matter of logistics or fear of being replaced, it has affected the plight of Syrians. Currently, there are more than 4 million Syrian refugees displaced globally and while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced this September that the United States would accept 200,000 refugees, that is a fraction of those who are currently displaced. For Guterres, it’s not enough that we open our doors wide; he believes that the international community must do more and time is of the essence if these issues are to be resolved. These “refugees” should not be shunned but embraced because “diversity is a richness, not a problem”.

Another panelist who made an impassioned plea to find some solutions for this issue was UNCHR Ambassador of Goodwill Ger Duany. Duany was a former child soldier, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, until he fled to the United States in 1994. For Duany, being a former refugee makes him a great barometer for what could be the future of refugees. When he became a political prisoner, he turned his life around and has become an example of what one can accomplish given the chance.

What is becoming dangerous at this time and affects the future of anyone looking for asylum are the economic ramifications that result from helping them resettle. In addition to economic instability, there is a pattern of xenophobia that is being experienced in Lebanon, Jordan and currently, Europe. Xenophobia is an unfortunate byproduct of the unknown, but it should not shape or affect how we treat others, especially those who are in danger.

It is necessary that as a society, we remember that so many of us came from places where we were forced to leave our homes, families and lives. It is vital to remember that without “refugees” our society would not have the richness of cultures that we have today.

It is disconcerting that a “refugee” , whose primary goal is to find a safe haven for themselves and their families, has evoked negative responses from those who feel threatened by their presence.

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Lovallo

As someone whose parents came to this country to escape martial law in the Philippines, it is heartbreaking to see photos and read of the plight of these refugees, seeking asylum and freedom from their suffering. As a wife and mother of a teen, I can only imagine how I would be if I were ever in the same situation. My family was lucky to have escaped from a dictatorship, but I also know that it could have gone quite differently.

While the Social Good Summit has come and gone, there is more work to do if we are to solve the refugee crisis at hand. The SDG’s and conversations are great starting points, but concrete actions are needed to ensure that refugees are not ignored or forgotten. It is my hope that the implementation of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals will propel actions to resolve this crisis.

Does your own family have a history that includes a refugee tale?

643977_4650501065206_366589375_nThis is an original post written for World Moms Blog by guest  contributor Tes Silverman of www.pinayperspective.com

Tes Silverman was born in the Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for more than 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Brussels, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Four years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. Currently residing in Huntington, NY with her husband, sixteen year-old daughter and nine year-old Morkie, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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