The Good Life

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Beyond Flowers for Mom

Beyond Flowers for Mom
Published: May 4, 2011

In a few days Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day with roses, chocolates and fine dinners, inducing warm and fuzzy feelings all around. But, in addition, I’ll bet helping mothers less fortunate would also render any mom giddy.

That’s what some Americans have decided to do: commemorate motherhood by saving the lives of mothers halfway around the world — such as in this impoverished nook of Somaliland in the horn of Africa. Beyond celebrating moms with fleeting flowers, they are helping an extraordinary Somali woman, Edna Adan, run a maternity hospital here to make childbirth safer.

We in journalism often focus on villains, but Edna is one of my heroes. She’s a tireless 73-year-old whose passion is to save her countrywomen’s lives, get them access to family planning and end female genital mutilation.

Somaliland is a breakaway republic carved from Somalia but recognized by no outside country. It has only two OB-GYNs, and a woman here has perhaps a 1-in-10 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth. Just about the most dangerous thing a Somali woman can do is become pregnant, but Edna — with her American supporters — is changing that. They provide a lovely example of how Mother’s Day can be about something richer than the finest chocolate, and more lasting.

One of the first Somali women in this region to get a proper education and study in the West, Edna became a nurse-midwife and served in a senior post in the United Nations. For a time, she was foreign minister of Somaliland.

But Edna’s life dream was to open a maternity hospital. After she retired from the United Nations in 1997, she sold her Mercedes and took her entire life savings of $300,000 to build a maternity hospital on land that had been the town dump.

When the hospital was almost complete, her money ran out. But then an article appeared in The New York Times in 1999 about Edna and her flickering dream, and a few readers in Connecticut and Minnesota reached out to help. One of them, Anne Gilhuly, a retired teacher, told me that she and her friends leaped at the thought that they could use spare cash to keep women alive.

The Americans founded a tax-deductible charity, the Friends of Edna Maternity Hospital (, and a remarkable partnership was born that allowed the hospital to be completed and flourish. “If it weren’t for ‘Friends,’ we would never have built this hospital,” Edna said.

What they have wrought is stunning. On a continent where hospitals are often dilapidated and depressing, Edna’s is modern, sterile and hums with efficiency. She lives in an apartment above the hospital so that she is available 24/7, and she accepts no salary. She also donates her U.N. pension each month to help pay hospital expenses.

So far, the hospital says it has delivered about 10,000 babies, some of them after the woman was rushed to the hospital gate in a wheelbarrow. Edna has also used her hospital to train Somali midwives to serve in remote areas. Training a midwife at Edna’s hospital costs $215 a month for 18 months — and then that midwife will save mothers and babies for many years.

If there’s ever a time when the needless deaths of women in childbirth — one every 90 seconds or so somewhere in the world, according to the United Nations — should be on our radar screen, it’s at Mother’s Day. And we know how to save those lives…(click link to read the rest!)

Japan Miracle Rescues: Baby Girl, Elderly Woman Found Alive - TIME NewsFeed

Amid the silent corpses a baby cried out—and Japan met its tiniest miracle. 

On March 14, soldiers from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces went door to door in Ishinomaki, a coastal town northeast of Senda, pulling bodies from homes that had been flattened by the earthquake and tsunami. More accustomed to hearing the crunching of rubble and the sloshing of mud than sounds of life, they dismissed the baby’s cry as a mistake. Until they heard it again.

They made their way to a pile of debris and carefully removed fragments of wood and slate, shattered glass and rock. And then they saw her: a 4-month-old baby girl in a pink woolen bear suit.

A tidal wave literally swept the baby from her parents’ arms when it hit their home on March 11. Afterward, her parents — both of whom survived the disaster — took refuge in their wrecked house, worried that their little girl was dead. Soldiers managed to reunite the baby with her overjoyed father shortly after the rescue.

"Her discovery has put a new energy into the search," a civil defense official told a local news crew. "We will listen, look and dig with even more diligence after this." Ahead of the baby’s rescue, officials reported finding at least 2,000 bodies washed up on the shoreline of Miyagi prefecture. How the child survived drowning — or being crushed by fallen trees and houses — remains a mystery.

In a nation short on good news, other rescues have buoyed morale too. In Iwate prefecture, a devastating tidal wave swept away an elderly woman along with her house — but it didn’t extinguish her will to live.

Rescuers found the 70-year-old alive inside her home on March 15, four days after the wave wiped out much of the region. Osaka fire department spokesman Yuko Kotani told the Associated Press that the woman is  receiving treatment at a local hospital. She is conscious but suffering from hypothermia.

Elsewhere, 60-year-old Hiromitsu Shinkawa survived two days at sea by clinging to his floating rooftop. He was discovered 10 miles (16 km) off the Japanese coastline. “Several helicopters and ships passed, but none of them noticed me,” he said after his March 13 rescue. “I thought that was going to be the last day of my life.” (via Daily Mail)

Homeless New Yorker reunites with his daughter after 11 years thanks to Twitter - Yahoo! News

A homeless New Yorker tweeted his way to a reunion with a daughter he hasn’t seen in 11 years.

Daniel Morales, 58, got a Twitter account about three weeks ago, documenting what it’s like to be homeless - 140 characters at a time. The number of people following him on the social networking site ballooned to about 3,000 and climbing.

Morales quickly mastered the fine art of tweeting and decided to use the tool to find his 27-year-old daughter.

He struggled a bit with spelling, but used a prepaid cell phone donated by Underheard in New York to reach out for Sarah Rivera.

"Hi thi is to let yo people know that in lookin eoq my daughter her name is sarah m rivera," he tweeted Wednesday evening.

Morales also posted his cell number and a picture of his daughter at age 16. He initially had no luck.

"It makes me cry for real," he said yesterday afternoon. "It’s like a part of me is missing. But I have a feeling I’m going to find her."

He was right. Hours later, his daughter called.

"She lives in Brooklyn!" Morales said. "We are going to get together tomorrow, but we don’t know where yet. I didn’t even recognize her voice, but it turns out she is so close. It’s too much, too much."

"I pray I see a tweet saying, ‘Danny, we have a place for you to stay and a job,’" he said. "That would be so, so great. The Internet - I never knew it could be so great."

YouTube - DeSean Jackson's emotional, surprise visit with bully victim

The 13-year-old boy who was bullied and beat up by a “wolf pack” of teenagers in Pennsylvania last month received a surprise visit from his favorite football player on live television.

Nadin Khoury was walking home from school on Jan. 11 when he was randomly accosted by seven teens who attacked him for 30 minutes. The incident was filmed by one of the assailants, which helped propel the sickening incident into the national spotlight.

On Thursday, a resilient Khoury appeared with his family on “The View” to discuss the incident and bullying in general. Near the end of the segment, he was surprised by Philadelphia Eagles players DeSean Jackson, Todd Herremans, and Jamaal Jackson.

Jackson, the Eagles star receiver, is Khoury’s favorite player. After coming out on set and hugging the middle school student, Jackson gave Khoury the jersey off his back (literally) and let him know that if he ever needed help, he and his two lineman had his back. Herremans later mentioned that the Eagles would give the family tickets to any Eagles game next season.


From ourphotos of the day gallery for today. We love this shot.
Qasim, a laborer, smiles as a camel nuzzles him near sacks of grain in a wholesale market in Karachi, Pakistan. 
Photo from Akhtar Soomro with Reuters.  See the rest of our gallery here.


From ourphotos of the day gallery for today. We love this shot.

Qasim, a laborer, smiles as a camel nuzzles him near sacks of grain in a wholesale market in Karachi, Pakistan.
Photo from Akhtar Soomro with Reuters. See the rest of our gallery here.

(via mohandasgandhi)

Wake Forest Demon Deacons baseball coach Tom Walter donates kidney to player Kevin Jordan - ESPN

Wake Forest freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan needed a kidney transplant. None of his family members was a suitable match for a donation.

That’s when his baseball coach, Tom Walter, stepped in.

Both men are recovering at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after Walter donated a kidney to Jordan on Monday. One of the surgeons in the procedures, Dr. Kenneth Newell, said the operations went well and that both men are expected to make full recoveries.

"When we recruit our guys, we talk about family and making sacrifices for one another," Walter said before the operation. "It is something we take very seriously. I had the support of my family, Wake Forest and my team. To me it was a no-brainer."

It wasn’t until April that Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, a condition in which abnormal antibodies were causing his white blood cells to attack healthy tissue in his body. It left his kidneys functioning at 8 percent by August. He still attended Wake Forest for the fall semester, despite needing 18 to 20 hours of daily dialysis.

When none of Jordan’s family members was found to be a suitable match for the transplant, Walter had himself tested — a complex process that takes five weeks.

Walter found out he was a match on Jan. 28 and told the team three days later about his decision to donate. That didn’t surprise Wake Forest senior outfielder Steven Brooks one bit, according to Baseball America.

"The Tom Walter I know has been a very stand-up man at all times," Brooks said told Baseball America. "When he made a commitment to Kevin, he did it for good and bad. It may be eye-opening for other people, but not for me because that’s just the kind of guy he is."

"It’s like divine intervention when you look at everything that happened and how we even got to Wake Forest," Jordan said. "And then to meet a coach like Coach Walter and look at some of the things he had been through and done, and then to now do this, you just can’t express it in words."

Guardian Christmas charity appeal raises £428,000 | Society | The Guardian

Guardian and Observer readers have raised £428,000 for the Christmas appeal charities, which work with disadvantaged teenagers and young adults.

The sum will be distributed equally among 10 projects that help youngsters held back by poverty, chaotic family backgrounds, low educational attainment, addiction and mental illness.

The sum includes £17,000 pledged during the Guardian and Observer journalists’ “telethon” and £100,000 of match funding raised through the Big Give, which collates information about charities worldwide.

The Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, said: “This money will make a real difference. These are fantastic, inspiring charities that are able to transform the lives and life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people.”

The charities are: Access to Industry; Fairbridge; IntoUniversity; Children Our Ultimate Investment UK Teens and Toddlers project; Action for Children Hackney Young Carers; Catch22 Unity football project; Llamau; N-Compass butterfly project; Bolton Lads and Girls club; and Venture Trust.

Andrew Purvis, chief executive of Fairbridge, said: “The generosity has been amazing and will allow Fairbridge to work with even more young people at a time when they really need our support.”

Joyce Moseley, chief executive of Catch22 said: “The money will go towards recruiting, training and supporting more peer mentors who will help steer more young people into making more positive contributions to their communities.”

Africa shows signs of winning war against female genital mutilation | Global development | The Observer

In Africa, if you play music in an open space, any music, then people will generally come. “It is the way to reach people, to bring them together.” So says Sister Fa, a Senegalese urban soul and hip-hop star who has been lending her voice to a remarkable new drive against female circumcision in 12 of the countries worst affected by the practice across the continent.

The first report into a United Nations project that began in 2008 has shown remarkable success rates with more than 6,000 villages and communities in six countries already abandoning the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) – also known as cutting or female circumcision – with the numbers growing every month.

The change is down to a unique approach with a proper understanding of local culture, says Sister Fa, who has seen her own home town of Thionck Essyl, where she herself was “cut”, abandon it altogether. Mutilation is practised in 28 African countries, where 140 million women have been subjected to the brutal practice and a further two million are at risk every year.

"We’re using music because the young people are the future. They need to understand that they are not alone," Sister Fa told the Observer from Dakar, where she is on a tour called “Education Against Mutilation”. Other cultural ambassadors are performing similar journeys.

"It is when you are alone, when you think: ‘How can I not cut my child? She will be marginalised, pushed in a corner’," Sister Fa continued. "When the cutting ceremony is organised for the village and one girl is not there, everyone will know that she is not there, the whole village knows she is not cut. Then that girl is treated like an animal, you can’t get married, you can’t cook or pass water to someone for them to drink.

"So usually the NGOs come in from outside, foreigners maybe, and they try to do a demonstration and say: ‘We don’t want you to do this’, and the people think: ‘Why should we stop? This is our culture, our tradition, who are you to come here once and try to put pressure on us? This is our life, go away.’ But if you reach communities and keep coming back and keep coming back, then we are finding you can change things."

It was her Austrian father-in-law who persuaded Sister Fa that it was time for her to speak out. “He said: ‘It’s time. It’s time to break the taboo.’ It wasn’t easy for me. Even now, when I talk about these things inSenegal, if I am interviewed on the radio, then people will call in and not talk nicely, threats, tell me I must not talk against these things.”

But African women talking to African communities about mutilation is exactly the way to change things, says Nafissatou Diop, co-ordinator for the UN project, a joint programme between the United Nations Population Fund and Unicef…

"We are realising that you need to sustain what you are doing, open a dialogue, non-judgmentally, put things in local context and bring them to a voluntary abandonment of FGM. When this type of intervention is driven by and within a community, it is not seen as being a ‘foreign influence’."

In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80% to 74%, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Egypt from 97% to 91%. With the help of strong voices like that of African women like Sister Fa, the ambition is to wipe out mutilation within the next generation.