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!