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May 13, 2016

The long-term fight against Ebola + an invitation

Photo credit: Kidsave International
Photo credit: Kidsave International

The WHO recently declared an end to Ebola as an international public health emergency. While smaller clusters of cases may still arise in in West Africa, they are becoming less frequent and the affected countries have responded quickly to limit the spread of new cases. Your donations have supported organizations on the ground as they have played a crucial role in preventing and treating Ebola:

  • In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, International Medical Corps continues to invest in surveillance efforts, ensuring that new Ebola cases and chains of transmission are quickly identified and isolated.
  • Develop Africa is supporting 22 Ebola-affected children, who are excited to be working on their education after the crisis shut schools for nine months last year.
  • THINK also continues to support children affected by the outbreak in Liberia with basic necessities and schooling, and recently hosted “Clowns Without Borders” to bring joy to more than 1,000 children.

Because you have supported the fight against Ebola through the GlobalGiving Fund and helped communities become more resilient in the face of potential future outbreaks, I would like to invite you to a special event: From The Front Lines: GlobalGiving Disaster Response Panel.

Support from GlobalGiving donors like you has made it possible for our nonprofit partners to provide immediate and long-term relief for communities impacted by the Ebola outbreak, earthquakes in Japan, Ecuador, and Nepal, and the Syrian refugee crisis. At this event you’ll have the opportunity to hear first-hand experiences from staff who were on the ground during disasters, including. one who used technology to find homes for children orphaned by the Ebola epidemic.

From The Front Lines: GlobalGiving Disaster Response Panel
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Time: 06:00 pm EDT (Find this time in your city).
Location: You can join in person at GlobalGiving’s DC office, or watch online.

Please RSVP by May 17th. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Thank you for your previous and ongoing support. We look forward to seeing you on May 18th!

May 12, 2016

Wrapping up in Guatemala!

Communal forest of San Miguel, Totonicapan
Communal forest of San Miguel, Totonicapan

Hey guys,

Sorry it's been a while since my last report, things have been a little crazy around here! As of today I've visited with 26 different organizations here in Guatemala, and I'm starting to reflect on the last two months as I'm gearing up for the next leg of my journey in Honduras.

Guatemala... Where do I even begin. This country will always have a special place in my heart; it is full of contradictions and understated beauty, both in its landscape and in its people. Guatemala has the third highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, 54.5% of the total population and 69.5% in indigenous areas. Over half of Guatemalans live in poverty, many in a state of extreme poverty. Nearly 30% of children do not pass the first grade. Not to mention the fact that Guatemala is still recovering from a brutal civil war which lasted more than 30 years and which could be more accurately categorized as a genocide of the country's indigenous peoples.

Yet, despite the jarring statistics and its unsettling recent history, Guatemala has a magic about it that I find hard to express to those who have not experienced it first-hand. These people have a way about them that makes all statistics fall aside. So many of my site visits have been full of stories that are both heartbreaking and uplifting, fascinating and disconcerting, humbling and inspiring. When I think of Guatemala, I don't envision poverty or illiteracy or malnutrition or any of the other issues that plague many of these communities. Instead I see the wide, toothy smiles of its endlessly playful children; I hear the evervescent laughter of women cooking tortillas on a small wood-burning stove; I imagine the bright colors of their breathtaking textiles. I have such a profound respect for their resilience.

One of these special stories came from a man I spoke with while visiting People for Guatemala's projects in the rural town of San Martin Jilotepeque. At 35 years old, he had begun to lose his eyesight after many years spent working long days in dusty fields with little to no eye protection. He and his wife, who has also been blind since an early age, have two children ages 3 and 5. He confided in me the deep fear that he felt when he began to lose his sight, and how he worried for his children's future without a parent who could see in order to clean and cook and care for them. Thanks to People for Guatemala's health program, he and several other men from his village recently received cataract surgeries to restore their eyesight. So far the operation has been successful, and this proud father will be able to continue providing for his children.

Another experience that will forever be close to my heart was a site visit with the EcoLogic Development Fund and their partners in Totonicapan. I was shocked to learn that EcoLogic's partner organization 48 Cantones, a volunteer-based group of community leaders, has been fighting to protect this area's unique natural resources for nearly 500 years. The region is home to over 50,000 acres of old-growth forest, housing the world's largest remaining stand of endangered Guatemalan fir trees. We spent several hours getting lost in the forest, passing soundlessly across the beds of pine needles, through fields of newly planted fir trees from EcoLogic's nearby greenhouses. Together, EcoLogic and 48 Cantones are working to reforest areas devastated by illegal logging while educating locals about environmental impact and conservation.

As we strolled between these massive 200-year-old pines, our hosts Mario and Fernando from EcoLogic told us about an old Mayan tradition that I found rather poignant; one must not exit the forest on the same path by which he entered. Local villagers believe that we seek the forest as a way to clear the mind. So when you enter, you leave all of your negative thoughts and energy behind in order to emerge renewed.

As my time in Guatemala comes to a close and I prepare to exit this part of my journey, I continue to reflect on how my perspective has shifted and how I have been changed by my experiences working with GlobalGiving partners in Central America. I am beyond thankful for your support and interest in the work I am doing with these organizations, and I can't wait to see what the second half of my trip has in store. I encourage you to share these stories and my project page with anyone who might be interested, and thank you again for your immense generosity!

Un abrazo,

Daillen

EcoLogic greenhouses for reforestation
EcoLogic greenhouses for reforestation
Nurse seeing patients with People for Guatemala
Nurse seeing patients with People for Guatemala
May 11, 2016

Teachings from Thailand

There are so many things I could share about Thailand, but I'll try to codense my thoughts and hit the highlights!

To begin, Thailand is truly one of the friendlistest and easiest to navigate countries that I have ever travelled to. I often would travel by bus or train, only to get off in a city and have little idea of how to get to the place I was going to sleep. No fear! Without asking, there was always someone who saw my confused face and took it upon themselves to ask "Where you go?" Everywhere I went, it was the same. A bus driver waving to me when it was my time to get off; a teenager who could speak a little English, asking if I needed help; a family that went out of their way to point me in the right direction. The kindness that has been shown to me, has been overwhelming. Needless to say, I learned to flag down the local bus, barter down with the local tuktuk driver, and even drive my own scooter. 

There are a number of incredible organizations here that (of course) take donations, but also take volunteers! There is much to be learned from the beautiful country, and I hope that if you are interested in learning about a particular organization, area, or volutneer opportunity, you do not hesitate to contact me.

South Islands

I began in the south of Thailand, in Phuket. I met with an organization that rescues dogs from the Vietnamese meat trade, another that provides transportation and education for ethnic minority children, and yet another that helps women learn skills and allows the opoportunity for them to empower themselves, through economic gains. 

The islands were stunning. Still blue waters, white sands, cloudless skies. Islands dotted with fishing villages and local boats waiting to take tourists for a ride. It was a little shocking to learn that, despite the absolute beauty and paradise that is the south of Thailand, there is so much more that goes on behind the facade of what has been designed for the tourist world. I would like to challenge future travelers to open your eyes, ears and minds to the life, culture and tradition that exists beyond the hostel parties, spas and amazing nightlife. Visiting ladyboys may be hilarious, but I doubt you would find their life stories so. Getting frustrated for a higher price than the locals pay is absoltuely frustrating (I know), but having a dollar less a day is not nearly as important to you, as it is to someone else. Thailand may have moved from a developing to a middle-income in only a few short years, but there is still so much development going on.

 

Bangkok and Central Thailand

Bangkok is a big, busy, busteling city. She boasts a well-organized and impressive transportation system, is less dirty than other developing cities, and has quite a bold and energetic atmostphere. Bangkok came in stark contrast to the south, where locals were still more conservative, people walked around in beachy clothes and the energy was more relaxed. Bangkok, on the other hand, is a mixture of people from all over the world, full of expats, new fashions, delicious food, long lines and bright lights. 

Like many other big cities, the gap between rich and poor was not hard to see. One morning I traveled into a different community, settled among towering businesses. I made my way through a maze that is the slums of Khlong Toey, learning about this little world. Without the young woman who guided me, I would have surely been lost. The sewage was quite bad and other sanitation conditions were poor. However, I would often pass a house that was so immaculately clean and organized, it was hard to know how it was kept that way among the stray dogs, loose trash, and dust and dirt that shrowded the community. I learned that the slums are not always a permanent home, and that often families move there when they are having financial difficulties. Unfortunately, the slums were also home to people with stories that you might expect to hear about. I met drug addicts, prostitutes and young children living on their own. Of course these encounters are an emotional experience. But more than anything, it only strengthened my belief that education is of the utmost importance in the circumstances, and that, for those of us who have a strong voice and a will, we should use this to do good and to be of service, by supporting the organizations that work to improve the education, advantages and choices that people living in these conditions are afforded. 

I also visited a city some four hours east of Bangkok, to the east, called Chanthaburi. There are far fewer tourists here, and the city still contained a splendor of old fishing villages and times of the past. I met a group of children here that came from surrounding mountain areas and often unstable homes. They lived in a group home and all learned, lived and played together. It was the happiest, most loving group of little ones I have ever met, and I will never forget them singing to me as they fell asleep in their home van, driving my colleague and me back to the bus stop. 

 

Northern Thailand

I spent most of my time in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and few other smaller villages on the border with Myanmar. The north is quiet and agriculturally based. I really loved it here. Rivers ran under mountains and houses sat helter skelter among the fields. There were gorgeous temples and ancient towns. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of agricultural burning going on this time of year, so it was pretty smokey most of the time. 

This more quiet atmosphere afforded me the time to visit a cat cafe while I worked on my evaluations, play with children from rural villages and shoot waterguns at locals and tourists alike during Songkran, the Thai New Year Celebration. This was one of the most fun weekends I've ever experienced! Children hauled out buckets from the boat moor and threw them on eachother while they're parents played music and talked. It was so good to see foreigners and locals eating, drinking and interacting. 

 
   

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