Wednesday, January 20, 2010

103 Cranes and A Child's Hope in Haiti

This is a story of a bubble gum machine, a man who saw a need and did something about it, and a place of hope in Haiti.

The bubble gum machine was in an auto shop, as was I. I'd read the shop's Sports Illustrateds (I subscribe) and I'm just not interested in gossip magazines--so I read the bubble gum machine. The machine informed me that its quarters would benefit "A Child's Hope Foundation."

I remembered this information, somehow, and months later I googled "a child's hope." My eyes got round (figuratively--I'm Asian) when I realized that the foundation's office was located 5 minutes literally down the street from my home. The website said "visit for more information," so I drove down the street, walked through a door, knocked on a door, spoke to a nice (and very tall) guy and asked if he could come to my club's breakfast to tell us more about "A Child's Hope."

He came, spoke, and I have just returned from said breakfast full of french toast and inspiring thoughts. I'd like to share a few of them.

A Child's Hope Foundation germinated when a need was brought to the attention of a man with means to meet the need. A friend invited Paul Cook to visit a Haitian orphanage, to which Mr. Cook had previously made a monetary donation. When Mr. Cook saw the 800 sq. ft. orphanage, literally "stuffed" with vulnerable children, with no electricity or running water--he knew he had to act.

Mr. Cook started A Child's Hope Foundation and built, with volunteer labor, a 14,000 sq. ft. adoption orphanage in Haiti. I am pleased to report that the facility, children and staff are all "fine" after the quake, though the orphanage is outside of Port-au-Prince. They providently had reserves of food at the facility; they have a week of food left; and A Child's Hope is partnering with the Phoenix Suns (basketball team) to airlift supplies to Haiti as soon as possible.

That is what's right. I learned much else about Haiti that highlights why we, the better off, must be mindful of its children. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its life expectancy is below 50 years. Its literacy rate is below 50%. Its government, after the quake, is no more--it is literally no longer in existence.

Children are already vulnerable--but when adult caregivers die at such a rate; when parents can literally not afford to feed their children; when official protections and recourses do not exist--then you have infants left to die on the floor of hospital hallways (real story); children sun-baking real mud pies (made of wet dirt, not chocolate) to eat; and the risk of trafficking, exploitation, slavery, prostitution and human rights violations almost unimaginable to our sheltered, civilized minds.

There are populations that cannot help themselves, that require outside intervention to provide basic needs and human dignity. I'm going to try really hard, after the earthquake coverage dies down, to remember that need isn't suddenly born in a disaster and doesn't fade out with the coverage. A need persists until good people see it, take action and persist themselves, to meet it.

A Child's Hope Foundation has been expanding its coverage into other countries across the world. As their resources grow they will be able to meet even more real, present needs--needs that aren't
going to just disappear without conscious needbusters. We're all in different places in our lives, but it would probably be well to stay informed of real needs and real efforts. I signed up for the A Child's Hope newsletter. I think it's a good way to be remember and be mindful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bentler Byt: Jeffrey has a new drum set

Kenneth Bentler: Jeff got another drum set

Terrence Bentler:
I'm sorry Kenn

Jeffrey Bentler:
Hey now, I'm a lot more considerate now than I was back then + Kenn isn't as bossy as some people

Terrence Bentler:
How is "hit that one more time and I'll hit you" bossy?

Jeffrey Bentler:
lol I heard it as a straight dare.

William Bentler:
Sorry Terrence, I really didn't know how much he was bothering you until you um broke the set. I would've done something sooner.

Jeffrey Bentler:
Terrence allus talked with his hands (in a manner of speaking). For the record, I'm sorry that I bothered you on purpose.

Monday, January 11, 2010

88 Cranes and are the Bentlers "real" or did Roci make it all up?

This is a rewrite. The previous version still felt, to me, as if I were telling people what to think. When I read, I like stories that don't spell everything out; that leave room for my imagination. I enjoy developing my own interpretations of a story's meaning.

I decided that instead of telling you what to think, I will describe what I was thinking about as I worked on the final revision of For Cory's Sake. I will describe the issues and questions that were on my mind, and their attendant emotions. I will offer an opinion as to the reality of the Bentlers, and offer arguments in support--but it will take the form of just an offered thought from me to you.

As I was revising For Cory's Sake, the problem of child abuse was very much on my mind. Roci came to represent an abused, philosophical child with a strong imagination. Specifically, he believed in the possibility of good, caring, brave people.

I wanted Roci's world to be saved by people of whom he would approve, in a story with issues that he would find interesting and important. So I used the thought of Roci to mold the final version of For Cory's Sake. It's themes and many small details were shaped by Roci's nature and worldview. It is the kind of story Roci would tell.

So it is natural that one might think the Bentler's story was actually invented by Roci. I left the question unanswered in the book--I think I wanted the reader to think or feel (if so inclined) how bad it would be if the caring people did not exist, and Roci must remain a slave forever.

But I believe, like Roci, in the existence of the good, caring, brave people. The other day, I was reading about Miep Gies, who with her husband sheltered the Anne Frank family for 25 months during the Holocaust. I know there have been good, caring, brave people in the past, and I know they exist in my present world. And I prefer to believe that humanity and heroism will never die; that the good, caring and brave will never go extinct; and specifically that Roci's faith was justified.

(That it was justified in a story that was "the kind of story" Roci would tell--well, I wanted it to be like that. It gave cohesion to the themes and literary decisions; and I am a fan of Dickensian coincidences . . . two Kerrys, anyone?)

That's as far as I'm going to go, because I do believe that whatever each reader thinks--is also right.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

74 Cranes and my thoughts on "unacceptable evil"

When creating characters for my dystopia novel For Cory's Sake, I did not start with family members, friends or co-workers. Rather, I took parts of myself and amplified them. Kerry Bentler--obsessed, angry Kerry Bentler--is an amplification of a small part of me.

Slavery is rampant in Kerry's world. Every day, people including young children are being beaten, forced to work and sexually exploited. And yet, the majority of civilians on her planet ignore this reality, and so it continues. And so Kerry is mad. She cannot understand how her fellow citizens can ignore or accept such evil.

Slavery is rampant in my world. According to the Polaris Project, "modern-day slavery is the second largest criminal industry in the world." According to the United Nations, "over 12 milllion people worldwide are trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation." According to the University of Pennsylvania, "over 200,000 children in the United States are at high risk for sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation every year."

Monday, January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and so I am going to amplify the angry part of me in this world and say: we need to be aware of this unacceptable evil. We must care about it. We should do something about it. Otherwise we might just be stupid enabling cowards (hey, I said I was going to amplify the "Kerry B" part).

We're most of us not millionaires or powerful voices. We've got what we've got and must do what we can with it. Here's what I've got and what I did or will do with it. I know the Book says we're not supposed to broadcast our deeds on street corners, but it also says we're not supposed to hide our lights under bushels. Since this is an Awareness day, I'm going to follow the latter advice =D.

I have a Twitter account. I am going to use Hootsuite tools on Monday, January 11 to share relevant information, links and quotes (I use quotes sparingly). I am going to use my little voice.

I had Christmas money. I used $200 of it to buy Christmas CDs from an organization called Heavenly Night, which supports restoration services for children rescued from the Cambodian sex trade. Heavenly Night's benefit concert raised over $70,000 for this cause.

I have a book. All author's royalties are donated to organizations that provide services to abused, neglected or exploited children. I've donated $50 to The Innocent Justice Foundation, which helps US law enforcement get more resources for their fight against child pornography (a massive global business in itself).

I would love to know what you are doing.