Saturday, June 28, 2008

Storming Capitol Hill with Pen and Paper

There was no one from New Mexico at Bread for the World's Lobby Day this summer. But that doesn't mean that our presence was not felt on Capitol Hill this year. We made contact with our legislators with a huge exclamation mark!

New Mexicans Write More than 2,200 Letters to Congress

Through the middle of June, New Mexicans had written more than 2,200 letters to Congress as part of this year's Offering of Letters. This is more letters than we've ever written in a single year! A total of 19 churches, two schools and one drama class (along with a few members of the audience) participated in this year's letter-writing efforts.

Of the total, 710 letters were directed to Sen. Pete Domenici, 659 to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, 554 to Rep. Heather Wilson, 124 to Rep. Steve Pearce, and 128 to Rep. Tom Udall. We weren't able to determine to whom the other 68 letters went.

At one event, sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation, our efforts also produced a handful of letters to legislators from Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Illinois. (Pictured above is Erin Duffy from Dallas writing a letter to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas).

Our message was simple: Please increase poverty-focused development assistance in the next budget by $5 billion. And to our senators we were asking them to co-sponsor S. 2433, The Global Poverty Act. I'm very confident that the 500-plus letters he had received through mid-May were very influential in Sen. Bingaman's decision to co-sponsor S.2433.

We may yet get more letters this year, but I do want to pay tribute to some of the individuals who already made this year's Offering of Letters a huge success.

LaVerne Kaufman (shown at left with Bread member Kari Bachman) not only led the letter-writing effort at Peace Lutheran Church (Las Cruces), but also supported and encouraged St. Paul United Methodist Church (Las Cruces) as they held their first-ever OL.

Terese Rand Bridges
(right) was the lead organizer at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church (Albuquerque), with help from Deacon Jan Bales and Linda Towle. Pictured with her is Deanna Vick from St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

Larry Brotman, Beth Kissling, and Mark Stein helped organize letter-writing at Church of the Good Shephard- United Church of Christ (Albuquerque). This is the second consecutive year for an Offering of Letters at the church.

In the picture on the left, Mia Jumbo, a Theater student at the University of New Mexico, lay the groundwork for her hunger class and the cast of Hungry Machine to write letters to Congress about global poverty. The director of the play, drama instructor Anna Saggese, also had a major role in the letter-writing effort.
-Center, Kyra Ellis-Moore, organized students at Albuquerque High School to write 220 letters. Read her account.
- Ester Schneider not only hosted our Offering of Letters Workshop in Albuquerque but was the main mover and shaker behind the Offering of Letters at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque). Dana Bell, (pictured at right) helped with the letter-writing effort at the church.

Bob Riley (right) has frequently managed to get 100-200 letters at First Unitarian Church (Albuquerque). This year the church surpassed 200 letters. He is pictured with Bread for the World western regional organizer Matt Newell-Ching.

Jane Hanna
(left) has led letter-writing efforts at First Presbyterian Church (Santa Fe) for as long as I can remember. Here she is pictured with fellow church member Aurelia Fule.

George Huggins is not only passionate about playing the guitar at his church (and also at our Taize services), but has also led the letter-writing efforts at New Life Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque) for two consecutive years.

Heidi Ernst Jones
and Lydia Pendley not only hosted our Offering of Letters Workshop in Santa Fe, but organized letter-writing activities over several weeks at St. Bede's Episcopal Church (Santa Fe). Coleen Davidson, a teacher at Pi
ñon Elementary School (Santa Fe) and a member of St. Bede's, had her class write 21 letters.

Marjorie Williams has been in charge of Offerings of Letters at Trinity United Methodist Church (Albuquerque) for almost a dozen years now. She was assisted this year by Frank and Mona Hyder.

Virginia Pitts
(left) was part of a team of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Parish (Albuqueque) who organized an Offering of Letters over two weekends at the church. The team also included Jeannette Beaudette and Ellen Beulow. The OL produced about 500 letters (WOW!). Virginia is shown in this picture chatting with Carol Holland of New Life Presbyterian Church at the OL Workshop in 2007.

There are many other people who did a fantastic job organizing letter-writing events at their churches. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of them, so I'll just name them: Estella Gahala at First United Methodist Church; Jamie Terra Hawk at La Mesa Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque); Hank Hughes at the United Church of Santa Fe (Santa Fe) Else Tasseron at St. Paul Lutheran Church (Albuquerque); Matt and Amy Keller and Lucretia Tippit at All Saints Lutheran Church (Albuquerque); and John Barton, Rev. Carole McGowan, and Maria Smith at St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church (Albuquerque). I organized the Offering of Letters at Aquinas Newman Center (Albuquerque) with the help of the Peace and Social Justice Committee and Campus Ministry. We produced about 110 letters at our university-based parish.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Social Enterprise

When I first met Tim Keller, a candidate running for the 17th state Senate district, he mentioned he had done some work with a non-profit organization in Cambodia.

My first thought was that perhaps he had worked in one of the traditional areas: agriculture, community organizing, water management or even engineering or architecture. But Tim said his work was in the field of
information technology. Those involved in the field simply refer to it as "IT."

So the obvious question is: How does this apply to a country without a history of technology? This is something that's more applicable to Silicon Valley not Phnom Penh. But according to a BBC article, Cambodia is pushing to diversify its economy, and Tim's company,
Digital Divide Data, is a perfect fit in this context.

DDD is a social enterprise that utilizes a sustainable information technology service model to benefit some of the world's most disadvantaged individuals-those disabled by land mines.

The company offers youth in Cambodia and Laos
with the education and training and essential management skills they need to deliver world class, competitively priced information technology global to global clients. DDD has over 500 employees and was ranked by Fast Company magazine as a global Top Innovator. DDD was also profiled in the best selling book The World Is Flat by Tom Friedman.

Partly funded by Global Catalyst, a Silicon Valley foundation, Digital Divide Data is the brainchild of two former McKinsey & Co. colleagues who first went to Cambodia on vacation. They came away determined to help a struggling country to bridge the much-debated gulf between technological haves and have-nots, said an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

So there you have it. There are many aspects to development assistance, and this is one unique and innovative way to provide economic opportunities in a developing country.

Now let me get back to Tim's story (in his own words)

My life was changed forever when, at the age of 23, I moved to Cambodia and start DDD's operations. At the time I was pondering leaving the world of investment banking and living in San Francisco. A month after learning about DDD I was living in Cambodia as DDD's first President.

I remember my first day, After clinging on to the back of a scooter from Pochentong airport (back when it was more of barn) to our office through the unpaved, dilapidated chaotic roads of Phnom Penh, I arrived at our office and met our first 10 operators....

I lived in Cambodia for almost two years as we grew from an start up to
about 120 employees. DDD was the first I ever maxed out my credit card, before we figured out remittance, I'd take out $10,000 for payroll each month and pray Visa wouldn't cancel my card. After my first few months, and a lot of hard work and fair bit of loneliness, I partnered with several faith based organizations and was able to make the operation sustainable.

Tim, who has since been elected to the New Mexico state Senate, has brought his concerns about helping people to New Mexico.

"Today I am a business consultant and spend much of my time volunteering on the boards of several non-profit groups that foster economic opportunities in the Southeast Heights and around the New Mexico,"
said Tim.

Tim put together a powerpoint presentation illustrating the high financial costs to the state when people do not have access to Food Stamps. The presentation makes the case that by not fully funding the program now, our state will pay more in the long run. "Tim should be a fierce advocate for the issues that we care about," said Janet Page-Reeves, who once led a special Food Stamp Task Force.

(Tim is pictured above with co-workers from DDD in Cambodia and with his companion Dierdre McGinty on election night)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Second Annual Feast for Change

A recent article in the Kenya News Agency speaks in glowing terms about the Kisesini health centre, which has made free health care available to hundreds of residents of the local community of Kyua.

That health clinic was constructed in large measure because of the efforts of local doctor Angelo Tomedi, an Associate Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Tomedi built the clinic through his organization called Global Health Partnerships (GHP). The Albuquerque community has come through with strong support for GHP, including a bicycle auction and a benefit last year.

Thanks to the generosity of Scalo Northern Italian Grill, a second benefit will be held this year. Most of the proceeds will go to the clinic in Kisesini, particularly the purchase of an ambulance. Some money will go to GHP's overall global work, which includes health-care efforts in Guatemala. Two other community organizations will also benefit from the fundraiser, the Life Stitches Project Uganda and Peacecraft, a fair trade store.

Below is information on the benefit:

Feast For Change
Sunday, August 10
11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
To benefit a mosaic of projects that reach out to women and their children in developing countries.

Scalo Northern Italian Grill
3500 Central SE (Nob Hill)

Tickets $50

To purchase or reserve tickets, call Peacecraft at 255-5220
or come by the store at 3215 Central NE
(100% of the profits will go the the three organizations)