Featured Cause: Jubilee*

November 15, 2004

By Brenda Clemons

Imagine living in a place where you have no electricity, where there is no running water. The nearest water source is miles away. Your never went to school and your children do not attend school because the fees are too high. There are no clinics or doctors to go to if you are sick. Your children have not been immunized and are at risk to diseases like polio, malaria and TB. Your country is poor and highly indebted, meaning they owe huge amounts of money to the world’s richest countries. The interest rates on these loans are so high that it is unlikely the debt could ever be repaid. Your country is trapped in an endless cycle of loans and repayment.

Now, imagine a debt-free world where money that was once used for debt payments is now freed up to be spent on the welfare of people. Countries that have received debt relief have been spending money on digging wells, and building schools and clinics. After receiving a reduction in the money they owe, Mozambique vaccinated 500,000 children and Tanzania eliminated school fees, allowing 1.5 million children to return to school.

A debt free world is not impossible and may be closer than we think, thanks to the efforts of the international group Jubilee. Jubilee is made up of activists, religious leaders, politicians and celebrities.

Jubilee was formed in 1997 with the goal of eradicating the world of debt. Taking its name from a passage in Leviticus where God called for all debts to be forgiven every seven years. Jubilee was endorsed by the Pope who proclaimed the year 2000 to be a year of jubilee.

In 2000, Jubilee won a major battle when US President Bill Clinton passed a bill granting $435 million in debt relief. Last spring, the International Monetary Fund discussed the possibility of eradicating debt and continued these discussions at its fall meetings.

But Jubilee could not have made these accomplishments without the support and actions of individuals. It’s when governments hear from the masses that miracles such as debt relief happen. On the website of the organization’s US branch you can click on international campaigns under partners and find links to all countries that have Jubilee grassroots organizations.

Jubilee is not without its friends, most notably Bono. He has met with world leaders on the group’s behalf and during U2′s 2001 Elevation tour, the band invited Jubilee along to meet with fans. Bono recently gave Jubilee a copy of "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" which he personalized by writing notes in the sleeves and autographing it. At this very moment, that CD if being auctioned on eBay to benefit Jubilee. Visit this special eBay page to place a bid.

Featured Cause: Amnesty International*

September 20, 2004

By Brenda Clemons

In 1961 London lawyer Peter Benenson wrote an article for The London Observer titled "The Forgotten Prisoners" about two Portuguese students arrested in Lisbon after making a toast to freedom. Thousands of readers responded to the article, helping push Benenson to form Amnesty International later that same year.

Forty-three years later, Amnesty International is a Nobel Prize winning organization with over 1.8 million members. Its goal is to research alleged abuses of human rights and to take non-violent action in the form of letter writing campaigns to government officials and protest marches to stop such abuses. A key component of the organization is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that "All humans are free and equal," that equality does not depend on nationality, race, religion or political affirmation, and that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Amnesty International does not accept money from governments or political parties, relying instead on fundraising efforts and support from private donations and memberships to back its efforts. The organization’s Web site features a store with a variety of items including coffee mugs, mouse pads, and clothing whose sale benefits the group.

For more information about Amnesty International, readers can visit the international site at www.amnesty.org or do a Web search for the Amnesty branch located in their country. The U.S. site, found at www.amnestyusa.org, is informative, colorful and easy to navigate. Visitors to this site are sure to find something of interest, such as the part diamonds play in terrorism, why Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia Castillo has been imprisoned by the United States, and how to help 8-year-old girls who have been forced into the sex trade. With just a few clicks of the mouse you can send an email to your elected official asking them to do what they can to stop these abuses.

Amnesty International is effective, just ask Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman who had a child out of wedlock. In 2003 the group organized a letter-writing campaign on her behalf after the government of Nigeria declared her guilty of adultery, a crime punishable by death, and handed down the sentence of death by stoning. Her life was spared after 1.3 million letters were received on her behalf.

Featured Cause: The One Campaign*

August 23, 2004

By Brenda Clemons

The One Campaign is about the power of the individual, its goal to get Americans involved in the fight against global AIDS and poverty, specifically in African nations. American citizens are some of the most powerful in the world but we don’t act upon it, only a small percentage of us vote. According to the DATA Web site, it is estimated that Americans can help stop 23 million Africans from dying of AIDS each year, and put nearly 104 million children in schools around the world by increasing US aide to the world’s poorest countries and influencing other wealthy nations to do the same.

It’s extremely urgent that we do become involved now, because, as Bono has said, "This is not a cause but an emergency." Efforts, such as The Millennium Challenge, and PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) promised much needed aid to the countries hardest hit by AIDS, TB and malaria (as much as $15 billion over a five-year period) but funding for these initiatives has been slow or lacking. Just recently, the House passed its 2005 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill and cut nearly $2 billion from President Bush’s initiative to fight global AIDS and poverty. Our elected officials keep saying that they want to do more to help but then don’t, and this is partially because they do not hear from the voters. If they do not hear from us, they think that this is an issue that is not important to us as voters. In effect, by remaining silent, we are conveying the message that we don’t care.

What is the One Campaign petitioning for? Increased funding to fight AIDS, TB and malaria; more money for development assistance (of the richest countries, the United States gives the smallest percent to developing nations); a level playing field for trade (it is estimated that Africa could earn six times what it now receives in foreign aid if only they could trade equally with the rest of the world); and debt relief (for example Nigeria borrowed $5 billion and has paid back $16 billion yet still owes $32 billion in interest).

So, what can you do? Visit the DATA Web site at www.data.org to learn more about The One Campaign and the crisis in Africa. While there you can also find a DATA event in your area. If you belong to a religious organization, talk to your clergy and ask if there might be a way you can organize a letter-writing campaign. College students can check to see if there is a political group on campus that might be interested in working with DATA. Talk to your neighbors and help them understand the crisis in Africa and what can be done to help. Bono said, "For the first time we have the means to end extreme poverty and the scourge of AIDS but do we have the political will?" The One Campaign could prove we do.

Featured Cause: The Ugandan Children’s Charity Foundation*

July 5, 2004

By Debbie Kreuser

Of the many photos taken of Bono through the years, one of the most memorable is of Bono dancing cheek-to-cheek with teenager Ireen Nassaka in Uganda during his fact-finding trip to Africa in May 2002. Ireen is a performer with the Children of Uganda, a group of nearly 1,000 AIDS-orphaned children who have been given hope, nurturance and a place to call "home" through the years by the Ugandan Children’s Charity Foundation.

The UCCF began in 1995 in response to the tremendous struggle Uganda was having with HIV/AIDS. While on a business trip to Uganda, American Alexis Hefley was moved by the plight of so many Ugandan children left alone without any means of support after losing one or both of their parents to AIDS. Upon returning to her home in Dallas, Hefley started the UCCF in an effort to provide basic needs, such as education, food, clothing, shelter medical care, and a nurturing environment to some of the estimated 1.7 million AIDS-orphaned children in Uganda.

Over the years, the UCCF has contributed to the lives of over 1,000 children in several homes and outreach sites around Uganda. The Kiwanga Home is located on the outskirts of Uganda’s capitol Kampala and provides for around 200 children, including those in Philip’s House, a residential home for about a dozen special needs children. Philip’s House helps the children with specialized educational and physical therapy programs in addition to giving these children basic care. The Sabina Home is in the AIDS-ravaged Rakai District of Uganda (approximately about five hours southwest of Kampala) and is home to 400 children. A primary school operated by the UCCF is located there to serve the orphanage and the surrounding community.

The UCCF has a community outreach program in this area which provides financial and educational support for dozens of children living with HIV-positive mothers, enabling these families to stay together for as long as possible. It also supports a vocational training program for children who will not be pursuing a university education as well as a U.S. scholarship program to give higher-achieving students the chance to study abroad.

To support these efforts, the UCCF sponsors the Children of Uganda’s Tour of Light, an award-winning song and dance troupe comprised of AIDS-orphaned children ranging from 8-18 years of age. Under the direction of Frank Katoola, a renowned Ugandan dancer and musician, the Children of Uganda present the audience with a selection of traditional Ugandan songs and dances, including a segment where the girls of the troupe get the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency on the Engoma, the drum traditionally reserved for men. In February 2003 the group performed for Bono in when her was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year.

The Tour of Light travels around North America every two years. The troupe has completed its 2004 tour but is projected to return to North America in 2006. In the meantime, you can experience some of the troupe’s performances by going to the UCCF Web site where you can purchase their CDs.

For more information on the Ugandan Children’s Charity Foundation visit: http://www.uccf.org

Featured Cause: The Chernobyl Children

June 7, 2004

By Simone Schramm

The Chernobyl Children

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