Sunday, November 22, 2020

Hard times around the world and down the block

 November 22, 2020

These are hard times.  For all of us. 


It is difficult for students forced to be away from class.


It is stressful for business owners worried about the future of the businesses.  


It is bad for children who want to see their friends and loved ones.   


It is lonely for the elderly who are not allowed visitors, can't go out, and can not just "jump online" and video chat with friends around the world.  


It is difficult for the essential workers who are working extra hours in stressful conditions as well as those people who have lost their jobs and are not sure where their next meal is coming from.  


I could go on and on.  We all could.  


I do not want this to be a message of despair, but a message of hope.  I want this to be a message reminding us all (including myself) that we can make the world a little better.   A message of unity from the chaos and insanity of division.  A message of love from a world where many are determined to spread hate.  A message of “yes we can” in a world where we are all so overwhelmed that we feel our efforts are meaningless. 


In the past day alone I have heard from friends far and wide going through tough times.  They do not know (or just barely know) each other and had no idea they were all texting with me.  They are from around the world and down the block.  They are my constant reminder that we are all neighbors in universe-space. 


(note these stories are all true but I am changing just enough that they won’t be known as none gave me permission to share their stories.) 


I will start off in Haiti.  A text from a friend there was reminding me that many children can not go to school and that he and his team want to build a new school where teachers will be able to get more poor children off the streets and into classrooms. But that such a school costs money (his very low estimate was $2500 and money is tough to be found.  


I next heard from a friend who runs a home for poor children in Port au Prince Haiti.  She told of violence and killings in the Haitian capital and even kidnappings on their street.  She told of the chaos that the widely-swinging foreign exchange rate was bringing to the country, and of the energy crisis that was facing Haiti.  Oh and that Covid19 was picking up there too, but the government can not afford to have people tested.  


Jumping to the Bahamas, I heard from a friend who can not find work as many businesses have been closed and others are open but only for limited hours.  This friend was having a very difficult time back before hurricane Dorian hit ravishing the island.  When BonaResponds left the island in March (just as the virus was exploding around the globe and shutting down international tourism on which so much of Bahamas depends), my friend was handing out resumes.  The summer was exceedingly difficult as the island was shut down (Shut-downs there were MUCH more harsh than those in the USA) and then several months were lost to his/her own medical issues that led to a prolonged hospital stay. 


Going to a major city in Sierra Leone next, I got many texts from anfriend who had gone out of the city into a small village and saw how the poor children are suffering from a lack of food brought apart in large part from the economic downturn brought about by the virus and the political situation in Sierra Leone. 


Staying in Sierra Leone I heard from a very good friend who has been traveling.  A few weeks ago he was invited to speak at a school for disabled children and saw how bad it was there.  He wants to help so much, but as always funds are limited.  He is a wonderful person who want to help, but is in a difficult place right now.


Back to the USA, a message from a single-mom in Western New York (near Buffalo not the Hudson River) who recently recovered from the virus (it was awful by the way) and was now facing the simultaneous challenges of isolation, online schooling, excess work (she works in the healthcare field), and a lack of the typical stress relievers (gyms, restaurants, and family and friend time).  


And now we will come back to Olean where a text from a medical professional in Olean (where I live) led to this post.  She told of how many of her patients (who disportionately are elderly and many in nursing homes) are really suffering from social isolation. She texted that her kids wanted to see their grandfather.  She texted that she wanted to get back to more normal routines; of not having to worry about a fast stop at the market and not bringing back the virus to her family.  


I have probably written too much, given you too many examples, but I want you to all know that feeling stressed and “down” is normal right now.  It is not “just you”  it is all of us. 


But I would be remiss if I did not also tell you the good that is happening that might not be known.  So please stay with me for a bit.  Let me tell you of 4 pallets of school supplies and medical equipment going to Haiti, or the 2 pallets going to schools on the Navajo Reservation, or the pallet that was distributed to St. Francis Elementary School  an inner city school in Cleveland, or the van full of items that went to Buffalo’s Catholic Charities for refugees from the Congo, or 9 wheelchair ramps that BonaResponds made this semester, or the trails that are clear so people can relax with nature, or the penpal program started to write to those in nursing homes, or helping with toy distribution locally or helping to paint at the Warming House or about starting our Haitian tree program to give jobs/give food/reduce carbon in the atmosphere, or maybe our biggest success:  Ibrahim.  


To those who have been friends for a while, you probably remember Ibrahim.  He is from Sierra Leone.  Almost a year ago he was hit by a truck while selling ataya (tea) on the streets of Makeni.  Not having money, he waited for the badly broken leg to heal (both the tibia and fibula were broken).  This made things worse and we were asked to help.  YOU all pitched in and we raised enough money to allow him to have his surgery (about 8 months after the accident).  The surgery was a success and he is recovering.  This is a huge win and you all should be rightly proud that in the middle of political turmoil, a pandemic, and uncertainty everywhere, you made a positive difference.   You gave Ibrahim his leg back.  You gave him hope for a better tomorrow.  


This all reminds me of the famous starfish story.  If you have never heard me tell it, or even if you have, here is my favorite video on it.  (and yes, I have watched about 8 of them this morning alone):    https://youtu.be/Q-R5LqE3nzY

 

All of us can and do make a difference to many in all that we do.  From helping future generations, to checking in on friends, to being kind at the checkout stand, to donating to charities, to just smiling and listening to a friend.  You are all doing so much to make the world better.  I want to thank you.  


I also want you to try and focus a little more on the good, than the bad.  There is always enough bad to go around.  Let’s think more about the good.  Let’s all push to make the good a little more.  To give a helping hand to those near and far that need a friend to listen or a hand to hold (virtually of course as the pandemic is still real!).  


________________


How can you help more?  I am sure some of you will want to do more. 


First, let me suggest that you already are helping!  Your donations allow BonaResponds, HaitiScholarships, and PositiveRipples to do what we do.  Indeed, long ago (likely right after Katrina) I started saying “without you, BonaResponds is just a good idea” and I mean that still. So thank you!


If you want to help today or this holiday season, please keep this post in mind.  Together we can make the world better.  Big or small.  We need people to edit videos, to write newsletters, to be penpals, to stand in a parking lot and help collect cans and bottles, to make blankets, to write thank-yous.


I do not know how to rank all those that need help.  I do not have the mental power to say one gets help and one does not.  It truly is the worst part of all of this. 


But I can say that any donation will be used to make the world a better place.


But I can say that Ibrahim is asking for a $500 loan to get a business started.  We have about $200 left from the initial donations for him, so I think that is first.  Need $300 to PositiveRipples.org he can start his new business. 


After that I can definitely say that $1000 can give our microloan programs in Haiti a huge jumpstart, that $300 can plant about 100 trees in Haiti, that  $1000 would go a long long ways to helping the disabled students in Sierra Leone. 


I can say that $50 buys books for Bonaventure students from the new Brothers and Sisters All reading list, that $25 to HaitiScholarships.org pays for a month of schooling for a student.  


Or $5 buys a case of water for a ramp day.   


Well, you get the idea. Any bit helps.


So while it is super hard to rank the needs, I think I would say:


PositiveRipples, HaitiScholarships, and then BonaResponds (we are more constrained in how we can use the funds there) are how I would rank the needs.


But we also need helpers (virtual mainly)!  So if you want to help, please get on our Whatsapp thread and lend a hand!


Feeling better yet?  I hope so!  Let’s focus on progress and not the many many problems facing the world.  Many hands make light work.  Together we can make the world better. 


We have to start somewhere.  So start where you are.


We have to start sometime.  So start today. 


We can help one starfish.  We can help one person.  And one is much better than none!




https://www.positiveripples.org/

http://www.haitischolarships.org/

http://bonaresponds.org/


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 Update on "things": (from FB)


1. The virus has definitely limited our efforts but not eliminated them! We have done 6 ramps this semester, had 3 "can and bottle" drives, loaded 2 pallets and 3 more pallets

waiting to pack for schools, and have done 4-5 trail clearing days so far this semester.

2. Last two days to donate to http://PositiveRipples.org # to buy books for local (and Queens NY where Mark was from) libraries and schools. Focus of books: black lives. In memory of Mark Stewart a volunteer who died this summer in a hit-and-run accident in NYC. We have raised almost $2000 through can and bottle drives so far for this.

3. Raised $950 for HaitiScholarships. This will pay for a month of school for about 40 students! If you want to help: donate at HaitiScholarshisp.org. $1 a day is about what it takes to change the life of a child!

4. We have a tree-planting program ALMOST ready to launch in Haiti! It is so close. We had hoped to be started by the start of October, but well, things happened. (there is a pandemic happening and well school and about 1million other things). How it will work: we raise money to allow businesses (or individuals) to go 'Carbon neutral" (win 1) which will create jobs through our partners in Haiti plant trees (win 2). The trees lower run-off which will reduce flooding (win 3), lower erosion (win 4), and provide shade (it is hot in Haiti!) (win 5). Many of the trees will also provide food (citrus, moringa, coconut, avocado) (win 6). In a few years, once the trees are established, we can grow coffee under the shade (win 7). Yeah, donate! great program! BTW we hope to also do this tree program in the Bahamas where we have discussed it with schools and a member of parliament. (donate at PositiveRipples.org (mention trees) 🌳 🌲

5. We'd love to expand the microloan programs in Haiti. We did start a new one in Leogane with the help of Lamarre (it is taking some time as his mom is in danger of losing her leg at the knee to diabetes and he has obviously been tied up trying to help her!

6. We are playing an integral role is the starting of BrothersandSistersall.org a website for social justice in conjunction with the St. Bonaventure University School of Business and their new Black Student Enterprise program, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and Associates, Bonaventure Franciscan Center for Social Concern, and of course PositiveRipples! If you don't follow us, please do! Bonas for Social Justice! (also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SBU4SOCJustice)

7. This weekend we are building a ramp for a Vietnam war veteran, scouting and dropping off material for a ramp for a woman with cancer, and Hopefully getting some blankets made by a few local church groups as we are pretty much out of WarmSnugglyBlankets.

8. We also won a great honor from the Character Council of WNY as we were selected to represent character and honesty in action. A poster they made will be hung in high schools across WNY!

9. We'd love to have someone write up a newsletter :). and we still have many thank-you notes to write! We really need to get more first-year students involved. Also, one of our leaders will be graduating and one is transferring closer to home as a result of covid, so we REALLY need more leaders :) .

10. We were asked to share this "how Covid is affecting us" survey from the Buffalo United Way. (@Jennifer Owen is running the survey and is a former student who was a great student and I would love you to help her out with the survey!) She stressed it is for all of NYS and not just Erie county!


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bahamas trip and upcoming events

So much news, so little time!

In speed more, here goes:

  1. The Bahamas trip was VERY productive.  8 wheelchair ramps done, three roofs tarped,  three buildings (one house, one office, one apartment) gutted/partially gutted, 3 places where we did mold abatement, floorboards installed, classroom discussion on service and importance of education made, we worked one day at the YMCA, and ??  not sure what else I am missing.  The volunteers were GREAT and the people we helped were very happy to get the assistance!  
  2. We are going back!  Feb 28-March 8/9   Come with us!  We have jobs lined up, a place to stay, the tools are in shipment, but we need volunteers.  Look for a couple of meetings as soon as school starts back up.  Or contact any of the BonaResponds leaders (Maggie, Evan, Kelly, or Natalie will have the most info on it... or me (JMahar@sbu.edu).  
  3. Locally: have many jobs backed up.  First (given the weather) we will be doing iPads, Blankets, and an emergency production of Marsupial blankets.  Look for it Saturday, January 25 in Swan.    Also, have a workday at the Warming House coming up--I suspect Sunday, January 26th.   Moving forward, we need a couple of packing days (for the Bahamas and for Haiti), we also have a request to paint in Portville for aquaponics program there.   and of course, there are MANY ramps waiting for nicer weather.  
  4. Nationally: we want a short weekend trip to Cleveland.  The idea is to work at St. Francis Elementary school again AND to have an educational component, a service component, and a basketball tournament.  
  5. Internationally: Haiti: shipments, more work on microloans, and hopefully an educational conference with Enactus.    ALSO and this is MY favorite: more gardens and tree planting.  and of course fundraising for HaitiScholarships.org   
  6. Internationally: Sierra Leone: new gardens, more educational projects, working to reduce suicides by working on personal worth and projects to spread hope and jobs.  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Fall break trip



BonaResponds' Fall Break trip will be to......Cleveland!   It is still too early (and expensive) to get the Bahamas, so we will be working at St. Francis Elementary school in Cleveland.    https://www.stfranciscleveland.com/

Jobs will include installing a new floor, painting, cleaning, installing a garden, and much more.  It is a poor school that can really use our help!  And a former BR leader works there so it will make our trip even more rewarding! 

There are a limited number of spaces available.  Cost is $40.  Includes transport and food.  We will be sleeping in cots on the basketball court.    



This Saturday we will be helping rebuild Olean's King Street park.  Meet at the BR trailer at GASP  8:45.  It should be a fun day helping put up playground equipment and landscaping!

ALSO for the Bahamas, we will be collecting school supplies, coloring books and crayons and toys for Christmas.  We have to ship before Thanksgiving.  So when you are home for break, or just out shopping, we would love donated items.  You can always drop off at 104B in Swan.  

thanks everyone!!!!

jim

Thursday, September 05, 2019

BonaResponds meetings


BonaResponds General Meeting Monday, September 9, 2019 at 5:15-6:00 in Swan 101.  

Topics will include Local workdays, HaitiScholarships, PositiveRipples, and a brief intro for our hurricane relief efforts.  

The world needs you to help.  We need you to help.   

We have many needs but we especially need people to help with social media, website design, and Maintenance for HaitiScholarships and PositiveRipples, people to help collect items for school projects in Haiti and the Bahamas, people to help with logistics of people and supplies to aid in all of our projects, people to clean up and set up used iPads for schools in Bahamas and Haiti, and people to make and deliver WarmSnugglyBlankets for people with cancer.  

We also would like a few people to coordinate our microloan program in Haiti and expand it to Sierra Leone.  FINALLY, we need some people to help set up a series of 3 on 3 basketball tournaments in Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and  (maybe) the Bahamas. 

Then, on Thursday at 6:00 PM there will a joint Enactus/BonaResponds meeting in the Walsh Auditorium to focus on hurricane relief efforts in the Bahamas.   Enactus has been going to the Bahamas for 18 years.  The destruction from Hurricane Dorian is catastrophic with flooding and winds of over 180 MPH.  It very well could be the most challenging hurricane relief efforts we have undertaken and we need the help of the entire Bonaventure community.   

Volunteer and change the world!   



Open to all.  


________________________

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Good is winning. Even though it may not always seem like it

Every day (and indeed every life) has some good and some bad. It important to remember that. We must face and admit the “bad”, but we can not dwell on it or it will paralyze us and halt our progress.
To say "It is a good day" or "It is a bad day" is in many ways just sloppy or incomplete thinking. Every day is good AND bad.
Every day, babies are born and people die; fortunes are lost and fortunes are made; teams win and other teams lose. It is life. Good and bad.
I hold as a central tenet of my existence that we should our attention as much as possible on the good and on the things that we can exert some influence over, while not focus as much on the “bad” and the “scary” that will be there always waiting to hijack our minds and, by extension, our efforts.
That said, today my updates have a large proportion of news I wish I didn't need to share.
The day started off a text from Charles in Freeport Bahamas that “Mama Marge” a wonderful friend who had become a regular acquaintance of those on the Enactus/BR trips had passed away this morning of cancer. She was a wonderful woman who ran a small souvenir shop in Port Lucaya. But the economy has been bad there and she lacked material wealth. Last year a group of volunteers cut back trees so her house could be seen (she had been robbed and hoped more visibility would help) and painted her home. She offered them all food. And yet, when I went inside her home, she confided that things were so tough her water had been turned off. But in spite of that, she was always willing to help, always there with a hug, and some words of advice. I hope that her life serves as a reminder that we should never judge a person’s success by the amount of money in his/her bank account, but by the way (s)he treated others. She will be greatly missed by all.
Less than an hour later, I received news from Sierra Leone that one of CAMSL’s leaders (our partner group there) had been rushed to the hospital. BUT the doctor needed to be paid ($250) for the surgery. Stop and think about that. I do not know the answer. Doctors need to be paid AND people (yes, even the poor) need to be cared for. I just do not know.
In a similar vein, I then read this. I should start off by saying I HATE cancer. I truly hate it. It causes such suffering. It took my mom, it took “mama Marge” today in the Bahamas, many of you are fighting it as you read this. I hate the disease.
While our ability to fight cancer is improving, a cancer diagnosis is still scary. Nowhere is that truer than in poor countries. Take for instance, Haiti. Haiti has limited health care facilities and even more limited funding for treatments. The nurses and doctors, often undertrained and overworked, struggle in incredible conditions. The patients suffer not only from their disease but from lack of adequate care. Today’s Miami Herald did the necessary and painful job of reminding us how much help is still needed. (I think this should come with a warning, you will want to get some tissues).
https://www.miamiherald.com/…/…/haiti/article217050580.html…
Then we had our own updates from Haiti. For those of you who don’t know, Haiti has been having days of protests and strikes to protest government corruption. Schools have been shut. Banks closed. Public (and most private) transportation non-existent. In Les Cayes our wells were scheduled to be shut for a day of cleaning and repainting, but city officials asked that they remain open. Microloan recipients have been forced (due to safety concerns) to temporarily close their businesses. A school leader is stuck in Port Au Prince and unable to travel home because of the violence. These are all bad things. I do not know the solution. Violence is wrong. Corruption is wrong. Abuse of power is wrong. But when they happen, how do we stop it? Education and patience are great but can be so slow. I do not know.
I started by saying that every day is both good and bad. The bad only appears to be winning. We can remember the bad easier. Bad news gets our attention more readily. So in spite of everything I just wrote, and in spite of the way today APPEARS to be going, I want to say that the good is actually winning.
As evidence let me just give you a few examples. Today, we were able to help someone in Sierra Leone get his needed surgery. Today in Sierra Leone, children went to school with school supplies and school uniforms. Today in Leogane Haiti,, we were able (through HaitiScholarships) check in to make sure all of the students were safe. Today in and around Les Cayes Haiti,, hundreds of people are able to have clean water from our wells on a day when traveling to a distant well might be too dangerous. Today, around the USA our Blankets are reminding people with cancer that they matter and that where there is life, there is hope. Today, we have 53 students in school in Liberia who would not be there if not for your generosity. Today, in the Bahamas, seeds are being planted for our garden program that will begin in January. Today in Haiti and the Bahamas, many people have roofs over their heads that do not leak because of your donations and the hard work of volunteers and Bahamians and Haitians. Today, we have people around the country getting in and out of their homes because of the wheelchair ramps that your donations have allowed us to make. Today, you are alive and can read this.
So today, when someone asks “how was your day?” I hope you hesitate just a bit to remember all of those who are going through so much but then answer “it is a good day-- the good is winning.”
From my (Jim's) page, so I am copying it here too. have a good day! 
If you want to help with any of these projects, you can donate atPositiveRipples.org or BonaRepsonds.org or HaitiSchollarships.org. We really can't do it without you!

Monday, August 06, 2018

How to get involved from off campus.



From out FB post:   

We will be having many big work days coming up, but some of you can't travel and most of you are away from campus now, so how can you help right now? From where you are?  Here is a SHORT list of ways from home.

1.  We are collecting small toys, school supplies, children clothes, winter boots, and children books for the St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School. We will be packing on August 26th.

2. We are packing small toiletries, granola bars, NEW  socks, NEW underwear, and winter jackets for Outside the Walls to distribute to the homeless.  Also, tee shirts.

3. We are still collecting tools, medical supplies, school supplies, soccer equipment, for schools and medical centers in Haiti. We are also collecting the large (empty) bags that pet food comes in! 

4. We need pill bottles for a packing event where we will be shipping fishing and garden "kits" to Africa and Haiti.  The fishing kits are in honor of a NYS trooper who lost his life.  The family sends hundreds as a way to keep his memory alive while helping others.

5. Don't like any of these options?  Buy a backpack (donate $55 at HaitiScholarships.org or at PositiveRipples.org.  The money will buy the backpack, buy school supplies, and pay for a month of schooling in Haiti.  (HaitiScholarships PositiveRipples).  The backpacks will then be donated to a student in Haiti (unless you want them and that can be arranged).


6. Agree to help manage the PositiveRipples/HatiScholarships social media pages. Or to work on the WarmSnugglyBlanket Web page. 

7. Like science?  or Marketing?  We are looking for some people to work on a carbon offset reforestation program in Haiti.  We need a website developed, and help in marketing the program to individuals, businesses, and organizations (classes, teams, and church groups)

8. Still haven't found how you want to help? Donate to this great GoFundMe page.  We are trying to educate 53 #Ebola Orphans in Liberia and could really really use your help!  https://www.gofundme.com/school-support-for-53-ebola-orphans


If none of these excites you, let us know.   We will see what we can do to come up with a project tailored to your needs!

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Early April updates

So much happening!

BIG announcement:

BIG NEWS!!!

Next trip: May 15-22 (assuming we get people signed up) back to Dickinson Texas. We'd love to have you along with us!

Other updates:

* Spring into Bonas went very well! Thank you to those who came out and helped!
* The aquaponics program at Portville school is almost ready. Great great work by Natalie and Evan of UrbanBiosphere!
* On April 19 we have 25 high school students coming from Olean High School to Campus to see what a day in college is like. If you are on campus and can help, we would LOVE the help!
* BonaResponds/Positive agreed to buy approximately 500 coffee trees in Les Cayes. $150 a year will be given back to an agriculture fund once the trees start producing.
* 20 fishermen ended their three days of training on loans for nets. Tomorrow they will clean up the beaches by where they fish. Next week they will be able to go back to their jobs for the first time in 18 months (since Matthew). EXCELLENT work by Jean Emmanuel Verdier and his crew!
* Harvests in Sierra Leone went great. Bangura Alimamy Tejan is doing a great job over there and we hope to be long-term partners.
* I think we are now over 115 microloans (mainly through Tout Moun Se Moun and PositiveRipples ) in Les Cayes and Leogane Haiti have all been paid off :)
* FINALLY getting updates from Bishop Nelson Sampson Boegbah and his crew in Liberia. This has been our most difficult program this year. The need is so great there, but we need a better system. A work in progress :) :) The Ebola orphans cannot be forgotten. PERIOD!
* Refunds for Praebibo should finally have gone out this week. Sorry for the delay.
* We are looking for a used van/truck. Possibly Explorer? Any suggestions/donations would be great!
* The Trails have taken a beating due to the winter storms. We have been out numerous times already but there is much work to be done.
* Two great videos focusing on BonaResponds/@Chris Branche came out this week for Spring Into Bonas:

* Next big things internationally: WE HOPE: water well near Les Cayes Haiti, aquaponics near Leogane Haiti, a Cassava farm in Sierra Leone, another payment for the Ebola Orphans in Liberia, and a shipment of medical and school supplies (maybe some sporting goods too?) to Haiti.

* Coming up locally: many many wheelchair ramps are lined up as soon as the snow leaves.

Thanks everyone!!!

(to donate for the international projects, please donate at https://PostiveRipples.org)

jim