August 19, 2010

Micro-Financing Redemption

I've been reading a lot about microfinance over the last few months - what it is, what it isn't, how it works and so on. Thanks to Judy Gates I recently read this great speech on microfinance which goes really well with a great article Kara Estep shared with me on the new face of microfinance. There is a lot happening and, especially in our work here with the Sukhbaatar Social Business Community Fund, there is a lot we have to remember as we move forward. 

Here is a quote from the end of the speech, a quote from George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature, instead of a selfish, feverish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me, it is a sort of splendid torch which I've got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

August 16, 2010

They'll Call Me Freedom

Most people know that Wavin' Flag by K'Naan, in its multiple versions around the globe, has experienced a tremendous amount of success and popularity worldwide. However here are some things about the song you might not know...

They'll Call Me Freedom 1
When K'naan was 11 years old he and three of this friends were attacked and fired on by gunmen in Mogadishu, Somalia. His friends were all killed, but he survived. The chorus of the song, "When I get older / I will be stronger / They'll call me freedom / Just like a waving flag" is his response to this experience.

K'naan says, "At some point it becomes a was hard to look back on that experience, but then you write it and you make it a melody and all you have left is a beautiful melody and it's a song now....I have redrawn my whole life that way."

As Somalia looks to its future I hope K'naan provides encouragement to his people, "As someone who is from Somalia, and has a strong community at home, I have more affinity to my people than to my career," he says, "Music opened an eye or my own life, written as a country disguised as a person. If you pay attention to how I write, what I write, it's almost as if I'm writing about a collective experience, rather that just my personal life... trying to make sense of our identity. A lot of my songs are still weighty, but they don't stay there, they don't stay in anger, they don't linger in sadness, they address it and kind of fall into the light... That's the sentiment that people care about."

And We All Will Be Singing It 2
With over 3 billion people watching the World Cup, the song played before and after every game, and two ads running throughout the tournament in 160 nations, Wavin' Flag is playing everywhere. There are now more than 20 duet-versions of the song including Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, French, Greek, Japanese, Nigerian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Haitian, Arabic and Mongolian. I've included the Mongolian version here if you want to check it out and here is a good playlist if you want to hear other languages. I hope you all have enjoyed the song as much as I have.

August 12, 2010

JRC Sports for Peace

JRC Sports for Peace, a non-profit charity founded by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Mongolia in honor of James Robert Campbell, has been an inspiration to us here in Mongolia over the past two years. They have helped with great projects including...

  • Center for Disabled Children in Bayankhongor, Mongolia
  • English Resource Center in Khovsgul, Mongolia
  • Basketball Program in Hovd. Mongolia
  • Scholarship Program for Students and
  • Sports Complex in Suhkbaatar Aimag

It is currently being led by Mike Prelaske who is a great former Volunteer and a great friend. Thanks for all of your hard work Mike, you are doing great things and we really appreciate it!

August 9, 2010

Shipping Out

Two very exciting things are shipping out this week: the first orders of the Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook and... me. We just launched the online ordering system for my first published book and several copies are already shipping around the country and even around world - one new Volunteer named April just left for her Peace Corps assignment on Saturday and had her handbook shipped all the way to Africa to meet her when she arrives. So cool!!

I myself will be shipping out on Thursday, leaving my comfy apartment here in the eastern steppe for a deluxe apartment in the blue Ulaanbaatar sky. In the capital I will be serving as Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) this upcoming year as well as working closely with the World Health Organization. I'm very excited and I will be sure to share more information soon. It will take me a week or two to set up internet in my new place, but once I'm all settled in I'll be sure to post some pictures, answer my emails and Skype like a madman!

Oh, also, if you order the Unofficial Handbook, please let me know what you think! I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Thanks!

August 5, 2010

Helping Aiman

This update comes from Matt Becker, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Mongolia, who has been working very hard to help his friend Agii whose sister Aiman is having a very difficult time....

As of today, we raised $1,030 dollars, which I just transferred to Travis Hellstrom. As soon as Travis is able to withdraw the funds, he should be able to start transferring them to Agii's bank account. Hopefully, this money will help out at least a bit, allowing Agii to not go bankrupt and/or sell everything in order to pay for his sister's medical care. I sent Agii an email a few days ago but haven't heard a response to I may try and call him soon. I heard through Scott Burt (my friend and former site mate), who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bayan Olgii and works with Agii, that Aiman and their older sister had made it to Almaty, Kazakhstan, that she had to undergo a lot more evaluations, she will have the operation soon and that doctors seem optimistic. As soon as I hear back from either Scott or Agii, I'll post another update. I just wanted to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone that made a donation. Thank you to Jordan, Cathy, Eric and fam, Ryan, Sean, my mom, Nik, Andy and Debbie, Melissa, and my dad and stepmom. Also, a big thank you to Travis Hellstrom for being my 'man on the ground' in Mongolia, for being an awesome help and friend. Hope I didn't forget anyone! Thank you so much for your generosity and for recognizing that this is very important to me in so many ways.

Concerned Consumers

Something I have learned in Peace Corps, and had reinforced during many conversations with my family and close friends back in America, is that we have a huge impact as consumers. Beyond anything we could imagine. Action expresses priorities; purchases express priorities. Whether you buy from this store or that store, this brand or that brand, you are telling an organization that you support what they do - paying workers 10 cents an hour, paying executives 10 million a year, raising animals humanely or inhumanely, respecting or destroying the earth.

In my opinion one of the best things we can do to change our world is be informed and make wise decisions which express our priorities. Whether it’s by watching documentaries like The Corporation, Capitalism: A Love Story or Food, Inc. (all of which I highly recommend) or asking hard questions and searching for the answers, it has never been easier or more important to be a concerned consumer. Especially in America, where we hold a huge percent of the world’s wealth, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference every day.

August 2, 2010

Keep Moving Forward

I am absolutely fascinated by people who do extraordinary things. People like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, Brian Johnson, Muhammad Yunus, Walt Disney, and the list goes on and on. They are people with vision and they inspire me to create, imagine and to see what is possible.

With people like this leading the way, isn't it exciting to think about how our future may look? In the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons, which I saw a long time ago with my brother Eli and my sister Anna at the $1.50 theater, the future is incredible and amazing - something children can easily imagine.

I think that's why I love watching children's movies so much, they aren't used to the world the same way adults are. Children see how full of wonder the world really is and how wonderful things can become. I appreciate people that continue to inspire the children in our world and the children inside each of us.

"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney