save lives in texas
august 17, 2017 – september 2, 2017
by melinda bak
'It's a storm of Biblical proportions," said newscasters, trying to describe the unprecedented deluge that continues to fall on Texas.
Hurricane Harvey has set a record for US rainfall from a tropical system, dropping nearly 52 inches of rain in 6 days. "A total of 1 trillion gallons of water have fallen," Houston's Mayor Sylvester Turner told media. "That’s equivalent to just over four feet — which is the median height for an 8-year-old boy," reported the Centers for Disease Control. Before it was it done, Hurricane Harvey equaled the devastation of Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record; reaching a wind speed of 134 mph and causing $125 billion in damage.
So who was there helping?
People from every branch of service and stream of life and faith, saving lives without distinction.
Members of Muslim Youth USA and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association were on the ground before the storm hit and have been handing out supplies ever since. The groups follow the teachings of Caliph Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who preaches empathy for fellow Americans.
“Your faith as Muslims and your identity as Americans needs to hold you accountable... Whenever your fellow Americans are in need, you need to be the first ones on the ground to help them,” Mr. Qasim Rashid, an Ahmadiyya Community spokesman, told the Independent news organization.
The Christian Group, Samaritan's Purse,
which bridges Christian traditions, has five tractor trailers of supplies in Texas and is seeking thousands of volunteers and donations to help now and in the weeks and months to come. "We will be moving into the hardest hit areas as soon as we are given the all-clear by the state authorities," said Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham.
A Reform Jewish Summer Camp in Bruceville, Texas, the URJ Greene Family Camp, has opened its doors to provide housing and meals for an indefinite period of time. In addition, these Jewish organizations are contributing support: Nechama, A Jewish Response to Disaster, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, and the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.
This New York Times article and this NPR article contain some of the best links we've found for locating an organization that's active right now in Houston, and one that aligns with your values. You can research a charity's integrity at Charity Navigator.
in solidarity with jews
pummels puerto rico, 155-mph winds
september 20, 2017
by melinda bak
Thousands of Puerto Ricans flooded into emergency shelters still housing Hurricane Irma's homeless. . "As of 2:30 a.m. we count 10,059 refugees and 189 pets (in shelters)," the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, tweeted.
Pray for Puerto Rico.
It's hurricane season, but this year's Atlantic cyclones have hit oceanic islands and cities with one devastating blow after another. "Hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, require a set of atmospheric ingredients to form," said Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading.
"Warm upper ocean water provides the most vital hurricane fodder - energy and water. But changes in wind and moisture with altitude are also key and the rotation of the Earth increasingly spins these storms up as they travel away from the equator. Especially strong seasonal warming this year combined with the other factors mentioned, partly relating to natural ocean fluctuations, have made conditions ripe for tropical cyclones to form in the Atlantic."
Overall, the trend is toward fewer but increasingly powerful hurricanes, and scientists on both sides of the global warming debate agree that, for the foreseeable future, this is likely our new normal.
top 6 faith-based charities
recommended by Charity Navigator for their part in the response to Hurricane Harvey
The Navigator scores charities on a scale of 1-100 which includes a rating for the percent of donations going directly to charity:
muslims during Prayer
As Muslims bowed in prayer in Tahrir Square in Cairo Egypt (2011), pro-regime vigilantes began to throw stones. In response, a group of Christians joined hands and faced out surrounding hundreds of Muslim protesters so that they might pray without fearing for their lives. Christians and Muslims, standing together. READ MORE
Where Warsame has been busy building a separatist city, Ilhan Omar is building an integrated movement.
“Ilhan's was a bright spot in this election cycle. Her win is ‘off the charts’ thrilling,” said Patricia Mack who has lived in the Seward neighborhood, bordering Little Mogadishu, for 40 years.
“She represents a new generation of leadership and will represent ALL of us, whether we are immigrants, the descendants of immigrants or Native Americans,” said Mack.
But then it was time to duck. Again. When physical threats and violence didn't work, Ilhan Omar's adversaries went after her reputation. Lurid and uncorroborated allegations of bigamy and immigration fraud were blasted across social media and websites, seeking to undermine and discredit Ilhan; the unsubstantiated posts often including pictures of Ilhan Omar's young children, a tactic long considered unscrupulous. And still, Omar stood. Stood for Somalians. Stood for women, for their sons and daughters. Omar stood for America.
At last, the 34-year-old Omar, the Somali woman who currently serves as Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, won the Democratic primary for the Minnesota State Legislature with 40.95% of the vote, beating out incumbent representative Phyllis Kahn, who had held the seat for 22 terms, And then Omar won the November 8th election.
We are changing. And change is difficult in any culture. So we duck. And then, we get back up. And, like Ilhan Omar, we stand strong. We lead with honor.
Well done Ilhan Omar, winner of the Minnesota House seat for District 60B and the nation's first Somali-American legislator! You embody the resilient, persevering spirit of America!
Sitting with her husband, Ahmed Hirsi, and their three children on the night of the election, the family waited as the results trickled in from the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. When Ilhan's victory was finally announced, friends, families and supporters cheered. When Omar's husband, Hirsi, stood to speak about strong Muslim women, there were even louder cheers. According to Richard Marshall for MPR News,
Hirsi addressed the men, saying, "When you see a strong, African, Muslim woman, don't be afraid... appreciate that. That's the model, that's the new 2016."
[Research thanks to City Pages, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, MinnPost, Fusion.Net, News.Mic, WOWdems, IhanOmar.com, Insight News]
athlete swims for refugees
by melinda bak
Training in a Damascus pool where the roof had been blown open by bombings, 100-meter Olympian, Yusra Mardini dared to believe in her Olympic dream. But, a year ago this month on August 21, Yusra was swimming for her life and the lives of 19 others.
When her home in Syria was destroyed, Mardini and her sister Sarah made the difficult decision to walk from the rubble and join the more than 11-million Syrian refugees in search of safety. Making their way through Lebanon and Turkey, they boarded a boat for Greece.
Crowded among 20 people in a boat made for 5, the motor sputtered and stopped. Adrift in the Aegean Sea, Mardini, her sister (also a competitive swimmer) and two men jumped overboard. Mardini held a rope with one hand and swam with the other.
"At first, no one wanted us to jump in the water because we are girls," Yusra told ESPN. "When we got in the water, the guys from Somalia were like, 'My god, you are brave.' I was like, 'Shut up now. Please shut up. Don't tell me I'm courageous. When we arrive safely, then say whatever you want.'"
Swimming under the weight of their clothes, pulling a dinghy in a turbulent sea, Yusra and Sarah told themselves that the others "couldn't handle as much because they are normal people... we are sports people... I thought it would be a shame if we die in the water and we are swimmers."
"You think, 'I don't want this trip," Sarah told ESPN. But, "You are in the middle of the sea. No one is hearing you and no one is helping you. So you keep going."
Late into the night, the small boat of 20-survivors was pulled ashore on the Greek island of Lesvos, gateway for the greatest migration surge since World War II. The United Nations' refugee agency estimates that, in the past year, more than 850,000 refugees have entered the European Union through Greece.
It would be months before the girls got back in the water. At a refugee camp in Berlin, an Egyptian interpreter connected the sisters with a swim coach.
Yusra and Sarah were later granted asylum in Germany, where Yusra trained in early mornings and late evenings, around her school schedule. "These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem," said International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
For the first time in its history, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that this Olympic Games would include a team of athletes whose refugee status would otherwise exclude them from competition.
he IOC then created a $2 million training fund and shortlisted 43 athletes in whom they invested, 10 who met final competition standards: 5 from South Sudan, 2 from Syria, 2 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 1 from Ethiopia.
"We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world," Bach said in a report by CNN. "These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit."
Yusra Mardini, an 18-year-old refugee, would become the first member to qualify for the Refugee Olympic Team.
A year ago, Yusra, a Christian, swam for a boat of refugees. This month, diving into Olympic waters, Yusra hopes to inspire a world overflowing with refugees.
Winning her initial heat in the 100-meter freestyle, she finished seventh in a subsequent race, ending hopes for a medal.
Was it worth it? All those before and after school practices in a bombed out gymnasium, a perilous journey across land and sea, and relocation in a foreign land replete with the trials of learning a new language while trying to attend school and focus on Olympic-level training?
"Absolutely, absolutely yes," Mardini told reporters, "because this team is amazing and there are all the colors, all the countries all the nations and yes this is amazing."
"I want everyone not to give up on their dreams," Mardini told Sam Kimball of UNICEF. "I want everyone to do what they feel in their heart even if it (seems) impossible."
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) reports that in 2015, an average of 24 people were forced to flee their homes every minute of every day; that's 4-times as many as a decade ago.
Yusra, who was 17 at the time she braved the Aegean Sea, is not alone; half of refugees are children under the age of 18. Of those, nearly 100,000 children became orphan-refugees traveling without parents.
Yusra remains committed to standing up for refugees. Watch for her to make a splash on behalf of our changing world!
refugees come aboard
by melinda bak
Yusra and Sarah Mardini (left) are among nearly 11-million Syrians who have fled the bombs and bullets that have devastated their homes. While 6.6 million are internally displaced, 4.8 million have fled Syria altogether according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC - check out this re). About a million of those who have left Syria (and other hot-spots) have entered Europe by washing up on the shores of Lesvos.
People arrive exhausted, afraid and sometimes traumatized. That makes operations complex, says island coordinator Gerald Canals to US NEWS. "Yesterday we had a boat sinking. There was a problem with the engine," he adds. "When we approached people began to scream... If they jump, we have a problem we cannot handle," says Canals.
It is remarkable to see how Greek citizens have come out to the shore line to help refugees," says Boris Cheshirkov, the UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR) whose humanitarian work is entirely funded by donations.
Alongside worldwide efforts, local individuals are opening their homes and businesses. Restaurant Owner Melinda McRostie launched the Starfish foundation to help refugees who arrived "wet and hungry." Their food bill went through the roof and a Facebook audience rose to the challenge; Help for refugees in Molyvos. McRostie has no formal humanitarian background or degree; she just saw a need and choose not to let it be someone else's problem. Since Starfish's launch, she's received training and support from the UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, and the Red Cross.
"We felt maybe it's our turn to die. But we didn't want to die," said Sahar, 25, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon. So we made up our minds to leave." The UNHCR helps the most vulnerable with cash for medicine and food, stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, thermal blankets and winter clothing.
According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts over 2.7 million registered Syrians, with around 260,000 surviving in 23 refugee camps.
Jordan shelters another 600,000 men, women and children who have been exiled, some in local towns but many in the refugee camps of Za’atari and Azraq.
Syria's war, now in its sixth year has created a humanitarian crisis for the world which has left millions unemployed, without work-visas or the education necessary to participate in their own solutions. Funding that often falls short of the need makes difficult choices necessary and inconsistent nutrition a reality.
Refuge camps contain few opportunities for self-sufficiency or long-term sustainability. Austere camp conditions make people eager to return home - which is a relief to both host countries and the refugees. In truth, the average stay in a refugee camp is 17-years, a lifetime.
Paths to refugee integration vary. Full integration means that refugees are granted legal residency, expected to work, and granted the rights and duties of a member of society; a path that may or may not lead to citizenship. Self-settled refugees live with others and have no legal status within the host country, no benefits or ability to work (though they often work for unregulated and substandard pay in order to survive).
Facing a world to which they cannot return - and a world that has no room for them - refugee camps become tomorrow's cities.
Funding infrastructure in what are now camps with open sewage streams and bottled water will be costly; to not fund a long term solution will be even more costly.
Currently $15-billion dollars amounts to about $2,000 per refugee per year. For people barred from supporting themselves, it's a stretch for donors and recipients. The total number of displaced people worldwide is 65.3 million, a third of them refugees, and half of those are under the age of 18. Today's solutions matter.
We can be part of the solution where we live and work.
Start a conversation.
life inside a refugee camp | salam neighbor
Obtaining special permission from the United Nations (UNHCR), Filmmakers Chris and Zach make an unprecedented recording of life inside a Za'atari refugee camp where they are allotted a refugee's quota of supplies and a UN tent. Putting down stakes alongside Za'atari's residents they uncover inspiring stories of individuals rallying, against all odds, to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors.
Za'atari (مخيم الزعتري) is a refugee camp hosted by Jordan and run by the United Nations (UNHCR). Opened in 2012, Za-atari was oringinally meant to house 20,000. It is now home to more than 120,000 refugees escaping violence in Syria's ongoing civil war. Za'atari is Jordan's fifth largest city, one that is gradually evolving into a permanent settlement.
Check out this Chris and Zach's website
and their incredible film Salam (Hello) Neighbor available on NETFLIX, or on-demand anywhere in the world at VIMEO.