Happy New Year!
May 2015 bring you health, happiness, prosperity and a renewed sense of purpose.
Today’s post continues a tradition I started last year, whereby I dedicate the first post of the new year to noteworthy organizations, causes, and individuals committed to the advancement of human rights or the protection of Mother Earth. The criteria for this year’s list is the same as it was last year. And readers should know the numbers are intended only as counters. I refuse rank or otherwise organize the list because I think they’re all great!
Of course, the list below could be twice as long and each additional entry would be completely justified and equally deserving of recognition. But don’t fret, in about 365 days I’ll pay tribute to 16 more organizations. Feel free to leave a comment if you work for or know about an organization or person that deserves recognition. Now, and without further ado…
❃ My 15 for 2015 ❃
1. Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura (The Recycled Orchestra) and the Landfill Harmonic. Featured earlier this year on CBS 60 Minutes, the story develops in one of the poorest slums in Latin America. Just outside Asuncion, Paraguayans capital; Cateura is the city’s trash dump. It is built on a landfill. Here, people live in a sea of garbage. And they live from garbage. Every day, tons of rotting detritus spill from trucks and people swarm over it to pick the pieces of trash that are their livelihood.
The people of Cateura may be the poorest of the poor but they are proud and the life of their slum is vibrant. Family bonds, rivalries and friendships are intense. Surrounded by stories of drug-violence, alcoholism and destitution, they make herculean efforts to reaffirm their life and dignity.
A few years ago, one of the garbage pickers, “Cola”, an untutored genius of the slum, got together with local musician Favio Chávez to make instruments for the children of the slum. There was no money for real instruments so together they started to make instruments from trash – violins and cellos from oil drums, flutes from water pipes and spoons, guitars from packing crates. All the instruments are entirely made of garbage. They call it “The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura”.
The Orchestra has grown from just a few musicians to over 35. Their recent fame have peak the interest of the families and children of the community in such way, that many children are now enrolling for music classes. The music school of Cateura, does not have their own building yet, but teaches music and how to build recycled instruments to more than 200 kids of the landfill.
Landfill Harmonic is a film about the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura and the transformative power of music. The film also highlights two vital issues of our times: poverty and waste pollution. The film is still in production. They are close to completion but need any help they can get from you to pay for editors, audio mixing and color correction. Make a donation via Creative Visions, Landfill Harmonic’s 503c fiscal sponsor.
Donate Musical Instruments. Landfill Harmonic has set up an instruments’ bank in Marina del Rey, CA. They will gladly receive your instrument at Eureka Productions, Inc 4223 Glencoe Ave, Suite – C125 Marina del Rey, CA 90292, and, given the opportunity, send it to the Orchestra.
2. The Pollination Project seeks to unleash the goodness in every person through a daily generosity practice that makes seed grants, 365 days a year, to individual social change agents who seek to spread compassion in their communities and in the world for the benefit of all.
The Pollination Project does not fund projects that support the consumption, distribution, farming, eating of animals or animal products. Nor do they fund projects that attempt to colonize others through religion or dogma. Instead the Pollination Project seeks to fund the very grassroots.
Since January 1, 2013, the Pollination Project has been proving that small grants make a huge difference. Its daily $1000 seed grants has already supported nearly 800 social change projects in 53 countries and counting. Grantees are everyday heroes working on some of today’s most important social change issues at the local, national and global levels.
Oh, and here’s the best part: 100% of your donation goes to the grantee! No matter what amount you give – there is a direct connection between you and the grantees who are healing and empowering their communities and our planet. #GiveHappy!
3. World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Born in 1961, WFP pursues a vision of the world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. WFP work towards its vision with its sister UN agencies in Rome — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) — as well as other government, UN and NGO partners.
On average, WFP reaches more than 80 million people with food assistance in 75 countries each year. About 11,500 people work for the organization, most of them in remote areas, directly serving the hungry poor. WFP is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded.
4. REDRESS is a human rights organization that helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation. REDRESS works with survivors to help restore their dignity and to make torturers accountable.
Following his release in 1984, torture survivor Keith Carmichael begin to consult with various human rights experts in an effort to learn how to seek reparation for torture. Carmichael soon realized that while existing NGOs helped survivors in other ways – by campaigning for their release, providing safe havens and medical care – none assisted them to obtain reparation. While the right to reparation existed in law, the practical difficulties in obtaining reparation proved difficult to overcome. Carmichael set out to change this practical reality for survivors and, in 1992, developed REDRESS in consultation with four esteemed colleagues committed to obtaining reparation for victims of torture.
REDRESS aims to obtain justice for survivors of torture; to hold accountable the governments and individuals who perpetrate torture; and to develop the means of ensuring compliance with international standards and securing remedies for victims. The primary strategies of REDRESS are casework, advocacy, and capacity building.
REDRESS provides services free of charge to torture survivors and thus relies on the generosity of its supporters. Individual donations can help cover essential costs of cases, such as legal research and investigation, medical and psychological reports for survivors, notary and court fees, translation and interpretation costs, etc.
5. DoSomething.org makes the world suck less☺. It is one of the largest nonprofit orgs for young people and social change. It’s 3.2 million members tackle campaigns that impact every cause, from poverty to violence to the environment to literally everything else. Any cause, anytime, anywhere. You don’t need a car, a parent, or money to participate in any of their campaigns, just the motivation and desire to DO SOMETHING!
6. Bring Back Our Girls. On April 14th, 276 school girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Secondary School in Nigeria by Boko Haram terrorists. Since April 2014, Boko Haram has continued its reign of terror – torturing and slaughtering men, burning buildings, and kidnapping women and children.
Boko Haram’s campaign of violence and terror has outraged the international community, including a team of volunteers in California who started the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The campaign is comprised of students, mothers, and activists (myself included). We are dedicated to the immediate rescue and return of all the schoolgirls and women kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign made this year’s list because it’s an excellent example of how everyday people can join forces to advance the call of human rights at home and abroad. Both the website and accompanying facebook page was created by Ramaa Mosley, filmmaker and co-director of the wildly successfully documentary Girl Rising.
7. #BlackLivesMatter was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society and has directly led to the extrajudicial killings of Black people (e.g., Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, etc.) by police and vigilantes.
#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. We affirm our contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. We have put our sweat equity and love for Black people into creating a political project–taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.
8. HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for gender equality initiated by UN Women. It aims to engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights, by encouraging them to take action against inequalities faced by women and girls. Grounded in the idea that gender equality is an issue that affects all people — socially, economically and politically — it seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement that was originally conceived as “a struggle for women by women”.
A special event was held to kick-start the HeForShe campaign on 20 September 2014 at the United Nations in New York. It was hosted by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, who spoke about her own path to feminism and challenged all men to promote women’s rights and gender equality. Additionally, UN Women made a call to mobilize the first 100,000 men in the campaign, a goal successfully reached in just three days. US President Barack Obama, actor Matt Damon, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are among some of the high-profile male champions featured on the site.
The HeForShe map — which uses a geo-locator to record global engagement in the campaign — was also activated. The map counts the number of men and boys around the world who have taken the HeForShe pledge, as UN Women works towards its goal of engaging 1 billion men and boys by July 2015. The campaign website also includes implementation plans for UN agencies, individuals and civil society, as well as on university and college campuses, both through online and sustained engagement.
9. The Favela Painting Project is the name of a series of community artwork in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil painted by Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn (known as Haas&Hahn) with the help of local people. Firmeza Foundation, an organization based in Netherlands runs the project. The project aims to provide an opportunity for people to transform their own neighborhood from a place seen as negative into a place that is able to communicate its creativity, beauty and innovation to the outside world through art.
Three artworks have been completed under project thus far. The first artwork in the project, “Boy with Kite” was completed in 2006 followed by the completion of the second artwork in 2008 – both painted in Vila Cruzeiro, a slum in Rio de Janeiro. In 2010, the duo painted murals over 7,000 square meters (75,000 sq. ft.) of public square in the Santa Marta. The ultimate goal of the artists is to paint an entire hillside favela in the center of Rio.
While painting the houses brings a visual improvement, plastering them helps with controlling moisture, acoustics and temperature. Through training and hiring, jobs are created in places where opportunities are scarce. More people coming to see the artwork will bring new business and employment opportunities for locals.
The projects create a voice for the inhabitants, influence public opinion and media, and can help to change perception and remove the stigma associated with favelas. The project is mainly funded by grants and donations made via Kickstarter.
10. NO MORE is a public awareness and engagement campaign focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault. Using its signature blue symbol to increase visibility and foster greater dialogue, NO MORE seeks to break social stigma, normalize the conversation around domestic violence and sexual assault, and increase resources to address these urgent issues. NO MORE is aligned with hundreds of organizations working at the local, state and national levels on prevention, advocacy, and services for survivors.
The signature blue “vanishing point” [logo] evolved from the concept of zero – as in zero incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault. It was inspired by Christine Mau, a survivor of domestic violence and sexual abuse who is now the Director of European Design at Kimberly-Clark. The symbol was designed by Sterling Brands, and focus group tested with diverse audiences across the country who agreed that it was memorable, needed and important.
11. National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is the nation’s most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.4 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals. The New York Times calls NDRC “One of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups.” The National Journal says they’re “[a] credible and forceful advocate for stringent environmental protection.”
NRDC priorities include:
❀ Curbing Global Warming and Creating the Clean Energy Future
❀ Reviving the World’s Oceans
❀ Defending Endangered Wildlife and Wild Places
❀ Protecting Our Health by Preventing Pollution
❀ Ensuring Safe and Sufficient Water
❀ Fostering Sustainable Communities
❀ NRDC 2014 Victories
12. ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.
Its mission is to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions. They do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them..
ProPublica is headquartered in Manhattan and was founded by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. It is now led by Stephen Engelberg, a former managing editor of The Oregonian and former investigative editor of The New York Times, and Richard Tofel, the former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
ProPublica has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2011 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting.
13. The Marshall Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization founded on two simple ideas:
1) There is a pressing national need for high-quality journalism about the American criminal justice system. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Spiraling costs, inhumane prison conditions, controversial drug laws, and concerns about systemic racial bias have contributed to a growing bipartisan consensus that our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform.
The recent disruption in traditional media means that fewer institutions have the resources to take on complex issues such as criminal justice. The Marshall Project stands out against this landscape by investing in journalism on all aspects of our justice system. Its shaped by accuracy, fairness, independence, and impartiality, with an emphasis on stories that have been underreported or misunderstood.
2) With the growing awareness of the system’s failings, now is an opportune moment to amplify the national conversation about criminal justice.
The Marshall Project believes that storytelling can be a powerful agent of social change. Its mission is to raise public awareness around issues of criminal justice and the possibility for reform. Although The Marshall Project is nonpartisan, it is not neutral. The hope is that by bringing transparency to the systemic problems that plague our courts and prisons, The Marshall Project can help stimulate a national conversation about how best to reform our system of crime and punishment.
14. UNLOCK IRAN is an immersive digital campaign led by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) to raise awareness about Iran’s “prisoners of rights”—individuals jailed for their beliefs, lifestyle or profession.
The very things we celebrate people for (e.g., exercise of intellectual, political, religious and artistic freedom of expression and association) are consider high crimes. The result: hundreds of jailed lawyers, artists, scientists, and other prominent Iranian citizens.
There are approximately 945 prisoners of rights currently jailed in Iran’s prisons for exercising their basic rights and freedoms. With new leadership in Iran, and renewed international engagement with the country, UNLOCK IRAN stands in an optimal position to take the existing groundswell and pivot it towards human rights issues.
Sign the UNLOCK IRAN Petition, calling on Iranian officials to publicly acknowledge human rights abuses against prisoners of rights currently jailed in Iran, or make a donation. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) receives 100% of all donations, which are used to ensure the stories of prisoners of rights are documented in detail and are used by Iran’s civil society and global decision makers as a tool for progress.
15. Just Vision highlights the power and potential of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, equality and human security using nonviolent means. Founded in 2003, Just Vision is based in Washington DC, New York and East Jerusalem. It is nonpartisan and religiously unaffiliated. Just Vision’s overarching goal is to foster peace and an end to the occupation by rendering Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders more visible, valued and effective in their efforts.
Just Vision drives attention to compelling local role models in unarmed movement-building and demonstrate to journalists, community leaders, public intellectuals and students – in the US, Israel, Palestine and beyond – what is possible when leaders at the grassroots choose to act. Just Vision tells under-documented stories through award-winning films, digital media and targeted public education campaigns that undermine stereotypes, inspire commitment and galvanize action.
Donations to Just Vision helps drive critical attention to the stories of Israelis and Palestinians pursuing freedom, dignity, equality and human security using nonviolent means. All contributions are tax-deductible in the United States.
Last Year’s Edition: 24 Human Rights Organization to Support in 2014