I've gone back into my Summer files for this shot. It was taken last August at one of South Pasadena's concerts in Garfield Park. This is childhood. Or, at least, this is what childhood should be.
Along with all of you, I have watched the news in horror as the innocent civilians have have been killed in Gaza. What I find most unbearable are the reports of how many children have perished in a conflict that shows no sign of letting up -- those beautiful lives forever snuffed out, another generation shattered by violence. I am stunned with grief in what has become an all too familiar feeling: helplessness and resignation to the inevitability of more bloodshed, more suffering, and more sorrow caused by politics, borders, ethnic mistrust, religious zealotry and the killing machines of war. As a humanist, I sigh. As a mother, I weep.
We mothers of all political stripes want a better future for our kids. As we push those screaming newborns out of our own bodies and into the uncertain world, each one of us hopes for a brighter, more peaceful planet. Whether we pray to one of three interpretations of the god of Abraham, or to the son of that god; whether we meditate to the lessons of the Buddha or simply marvel at the wonders of the known natural world, we mothers have a spectacular connection to life. We share in its creation in a very personal way -- our bodies host it and create food for it, we spend years loving and scolding and rocking and snuggling it to maturity. We mothers are dedicating to nurturing lives. Perhaps that is why, for most of us, reckless killing is intolerable. The term "collateral damage" can never begin to adequately describe to a mother -- any mother -- the death of an innocent child.
With this in mind, I thought I would share a few links to charities whose work helps suffering children in areas of conflict all over the world. I feel fortunate to live in a community as beautiful, safe and happy as South Pasadena. Here are some organizations trying to make the whole planet into a more kid-friendly place. As you look toward your 2009 budget for charitable donations, please consider these groups:
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Coordinating response by national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the ICRC is an independent, neutral organization offering humanitarian protection, aid and assistance for victims of war and other armed violence. With headquarters in Geneva, the ICRC operates in 80 countries. As stated on the ICRC website, it has a "permanent mandate under international law to take impartial action for prisoners, the wounded and sick, and civilians affected by conflict." Click here for an up to date report of the ICRC's efforts to assist in Gaza as well as Southern Israel.
Seeds of Peace
Founded in 1993 by journalist John Wallach, this organization promotes personal relationships critical to peacemaking and conflict resolution. Beginning with a camp in Maine for teenagers and continuing through programs all over the world, Seeds educates young people to develop empathy, respect, confidence and the skills of negotiation -- allowing them to see the human face of their enemy. Focusing on Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian teenagers, Seeds also includes young leaders from South Asia, Cyprus and the Balkans.
Room to Read
Founder John Wood left his cushy job at Microsoft after a trip to Nepal opened his eyes to the shocking lack of educational resources for the children there. Room to Read partners with local communities throughout the developing world to build libraries, create local language children's books, build schools and computer labs and provide education to girls in areas where schooling is rarely an option for them.
Voted as a best website of 2008 by Time magazine, Kiva is worthy of the recognition. While it is not specifically aimed at helping children, I can think of no better way to assist poor families than to lend them the funds to start their own businesses. Kiva allows you to lend money to a specific small entrepreneur in the developing world to help lift that person out of poverty. They repay the money ... and you get to lend it to someone else. Sound like a pipe dream? Kiva has become one of the hippest names in microfinance. Check out what Forbes had to say.
I know we can't solve the problems of the world in a generation. But little by little, maybe we can make sure our children's generation has less work to do. Feel free to leave links to your favorite charities in the comments below.