Taking action

#1101 From holy terror to beloved son – love heals

Photo by veggiegretz; via morgueFile

Every school has them, those children teachers try to avoid, the ones who disrupt every classroom they are in. For Brown Elementary School in Lubbock, Texas one of those students was Cruz Riojas. Natalie Gross described him in an article…


#1095 Upsee miracles: children experience walking for the first time


Bethany and the inventor of the Upsee Debby Elnatan; photo from Firefly’s Facebook page

When Debby Elnaton’s second child was born with cerebral palsy, he cried through most of his first year. She figured Rotem was frustrated because he wanted to move the way any other child could. Her therapist galvanized her when he said, “Your child doesn’t know what his legs are. He doesn’t have consciousness of his legs.”

She began experimenting with special shoes and harnesses that would connect Rotem with her. After numerous tries she created the Upsee. With the child strapped to an adult, facing forward, he could experience what it was like to walk, to dance, to kick a ball.

Thanks to her partnership with Firefly, “a leading light in the research, design and development of postural care solutions for children”, youngsters with physical challenges will have a chance to experience more of the world.

Elnaton told the Belfast Telegraph:

I am crying when I see how parents use the Upsee to fill in a big void in their life and when I see the happiness that it brings to the parents and the children.

The mother who danced in her Upsee and said the hardest part was losing herself. I can relate to this sentence. We often forget what makes us happy. If the Upsee will help families be happier, then I have done my job.

A version of this post first appeared on Hope Habit.


#1091 You are beautiful just the way you are

Colbie Caillat

The pressure to measure up to some cultural standard of “beautiful” – to wear the right clothing and makeup, have the culturally accepted body type and convey sexiness (and, of course, accept blame if she’s assaulted) – is so powerful…


#1090 They stand firm against the terror of Muslim fundamentalistm

Karima Bennoune

Karima Bennoune at TEDxExeter; photo clip from video below

Karima Bennoune, professor of international law at the University of California-Davis School of Law, is telling the stories of women and men risking their lives to counter right-wing fundamentalistm. She asks us to do the same.

Always in her mind is the bravery of her father. In the 1990s the University of Algiers professor faced death threats for his vocal opposition to fundamentalism and terrorism. Although he was forced from his university position and had to flee his apartment, he remained in Algeria, publishing denunciations that kept him in the crosshairs of those he saw as the destroyers of true Islam.

In the TEDxExeter talk she gave in March 2014, she introduced four of the people she interviewed in writing her book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism. Until his death of a heart attack in 2012, Faizan Peerzada and the Rafi Peer Theatre brought children’s theatre to Pakistani audiences in spite of terrorist attacks. Maria Bashir, Afghanistan’s only woman prosecutor, fights for the rights of women in spite of threats to her life. Abdirizak Bihi works tirelessly in the Somali-American community of Minneapolis to counter the recruitment efforts of the militant Al Shabaab. The 22-year-old Algerian law student, Amel Zenoune-Zouani, refused the fundamentalists’ order for women to halt their studies and was murdered as an example to other young women. That was in 1997. Today Amel’s sister Lamia practices law in Algiers.

When she spoke to CBC’s Michael Enright in December 2013, Bennoune said the people she interviewed for her book have been abandoned by the west. Their stories are virtually unknown. She wants to change that, with our help.

If we are serious about supporting the struggle for social justice, we need to know and share the stories of these courageous people. They are putting their lives on the line. They give me hope.

Amazon US, Amazon Canada or your public library



#1085 They sailed the seas; now they house low-income women

Atira housing units

Atira’s shipping-container housing development in Vancouver, B.C.

Those big metal shipping containers kick around the world on the decks of ships and the beds of rail cars. Sometimes they end their days as houses, as they have in Vancouver, British Columbia’s Downtown Eastside.

The Atira Women’s Resource Society had a small, unused space beside the heritage building they had purchased. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, they won BC Hydro’s ‘Home of the Future’ unit, (scroll down on the Container West site for photos). They plugged it into the small lot and built on top. The original, energy-efficient home was constructed from a shipping container. BC Hydro and private donors donated others, and Atira bought an additional 8 from Port Metro Vancouver. A total of 12 were designed, remodeled and turned into an attractive structure for low-income residents.

The small (280-290 sq. ft.), self-contained units are studio apartments, with a full bathroom, kitchen, and laundry. Half are rented for $375 to older women with minimal income. Rent for the others is on a sliding scale that stops at $850 per month.

Right next door, the heritage building offers 16 units for young women. That sounds like a forward-thinking housing developing, with old and young side by side, perhaps enriching each other’s lives through the intergenerational connection.

Atira has more container housing units in the planning stages. The first residence cost $85,000 per unit. In a city as high priced as Vancouver, that is something to celebrate. Attractive, affordable housing is still out of reach for far too many people. Atira is working to change that. They give me hope.


#1083 When his buddy needed surgery, this 7-year-old swung into action

Brayden and Quinn

Good buddies, Brayden and Quinn; photo clip from the fundraising video

Quinn Callander of Maple Ridge, British Columbia is the sort of friend we all need. He’s there for the good times and the hard times. So when the 7-year-old’s buddy needed $20,000 for special surgery in New Jersey, Quinn did more than sympathize. He started raising money.

Quinn’s friend, Brayden Grozdanich, has cerebral palsy. The surgery might give him a chance to walk without braces. A CBC story says he could have surgery in Canada, but it might consign him to a wheelchair. New Jersey is the only place where a different kind of surgery is offered. It has a good chance of giving Brayden a future free of braces or wheelchairs.

You know what’s coming, or at least a version of it. Quinn decided to set up a lemonade stand. You also know it takes a lot of lemonade to earn $20,000 USD.

That is where the story takes on a bigger life. Brayden’s dad is a firefighter. So his buddies showed up to help out with the lemonade stand. Quinn’s mom took another step, starting a crowdfunding initiative to add to the kitty.

The result? The initial goal was met in the first few days, but money just kept pouring in.  Once again, social media showed its strength, and a lot of strangers showed their goodness. Come August, Brayden and his mom will be in New Jersey for the surgery. They will have enough money to cover the survery, travel expenses and the followup physiotherapy.

Chances are very high Brayden will be walking down that airport ramp and into the arms of his buddy when he flies back to Maple Ridge. That gives me hope.

Thanks to my friend Judith for the link to NBC’s story about Quinn and to CBC for covering the good news.