Thursday, December 31, 2009

The video: Bread for the World's Religion, Politics and Advocacy

Back in September, I mentioned that the CBS Religion Unit sent a film crew behind the scenes at Bread for the World’s Lobby Day in June of this year to experience faith-based advocacy in action. This was part of a documentary entitled Religion, Politics and Advocacy. In Albuquerque, the piece aired in the wee hours of the morning on October 11.

Following is the portion of the documentary that features Bread for the World.   If you want to order the full documentary, which goes into other issues where the faith community has been involved in advocacy, there is an address at the end of this segment where you can order a copy of the full version.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Multimedia Piece in Denver Post About Childhood Poverty in Colorado

While waiting at Denver International Airport to make a connection back to Albuquerque, I happened to pick up the Dec. 29 edition of the Denver Post.  A number jumped out when I perused the front page.


 Here's the text that was right under that figure:
The number of Colorado children living below the poverty line, defined as a household income of $22,205 for a family of four. By 2007, 87,000 childrenn were living in poverty than in 2000.  The state's 73 percent increase from 2000 to 2006 was the nation's highest rate of growth, according to the Colorado Children's campaign.
This is more than just an article about childhood poverty in Colorado.  The piece, which consists of photographs, narratives, an interactive map, and more can be found on the newspaper's website.

The newspaper did a great job in making the situation more than just a bunch of statistics.
Click here to enter the site.

Lavender Knows No Borders

Talk about a small world!  Two people I know here in Albuquerque, (and I have no idea whether they know each other), have a played a role in the success of a great cooperative in the the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico.    More about my friends later.

First, I want to talk about the cooperative and the project, which is known locally as El Proyecto Lavanda.  In the U.S., we know it as The Lavender Project.

The men and women who formed this cooperative grow lavender organically using drip irrigation and make wonderful products from lavender plants grown in their community of La Colorada (Rancho) near the historic town of Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato state.

The products are sold to hotels and other businesses in Mexico  and are also available for purchase at the retail level both in that country and through selected outlets in the U.S.  This project provides the men and women of the cooperative with some great economic development opportunities.
Yesterday, Patricia Herrera paid for her water meter. Ordinarily paying for a water meter wouldn’t be newsworthy, but for Patricia the $70 she had just earned as her part of the proceeds from the weekend sale of natural handmade soaps produced by The Lavender Project was the largest sum of money she had ever held in her hands at one time.   
One of the cooperative's leaders is Elizabeth Morales, who spent some time at a  lavender farm owned by Los Poblanos Inn and Cultural Center in the village of Los Ranchos in the Albuquerque area.
At Los Poblanos, Elizabeth learned the inner workings of a lavender farm in full production. They taught her how to make lotions, sachets and other body products, how to harvest the flowers and make fresh lavender wands and bouquets, and how to make the lavender essential oil.
Read more.   See photos

The project has a lot of supporters, including US author Jeannie Ralston and photographer Robb Kendrick, who live in nearby San Miguel de Allende, and two organizations/businesses in the Albuquerque area: St. Anthony Alliance and Los Poblanos Inn (which is also known for its organic farm Los Poblanos Organics).  Los Poblanos Inn is a major participant in the annual Lavender Festival sponsored by Los Ranchos.  Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque has also backed the project with some funding.

The Mexican online newspaper Milenio made a mention of this project in a recent article about microenterprises in central Mexico.

Tess Balcom of St. Anthony Alliance offers more details about  the support for the project from folks in Guanajuato.
The Azul Lavanda project which encompasses the farmer's side of the Lavender project got a 30/70 matching grant from the municipality of Dolores Hidalgo to build a workspace, put in two hectares of drip irrigation and buy a distillation unit for making oil. St. Anthony's put up 30%.  They put up 70%,

In addition the  took Aucencio Domenzain and Azul Lavanda in Universidad Tecnologica del Norte de Guanajuato as one of it projects for it's Business Incubator Program.  They have provided training for Azul Lavanda in all things pertaining to starting a small business, provided legal advice and support, helped them get their permits, designed a website, business cards and everything short of providing actual money for the program.  They remain a valuable supporter of the program to this day.
St. Anthony Alliance, which recently took a major role in sponsoring the project, not only helps with coordination from the U.S., but also held a successful benefit in San Miguel de Allende in  August 2009.  St. Anthony's is developing a strategy not only to expand the market for the products but also ensuring that all aspects of the operation comply with the concepts of fair trade.  But despite the big participation of St. Anthony Alliance and others, the men and women of the cooperative have a major say in all aspects of the operation.
The women are daring to dream, to make a plan for the future. Their horizons have expanded beyond the dusty highway of their village. One women’s husband may be able to come home soon if profits remain as they are or begin to grow.
And now to my two friends who have also provided their talents and time in some very important ways to this project.

Mary Quinalty, a member of our Peace and Social Justice Commission at Aquinas Newman Center, was involved with projects in Ranchos and other nearby communities for many years through an organization known as Esperanza de Joaquin (EDJ).  The organization recently merged with St. Anthony Alliance.

And then there's Rhetta Harlan, who owns Rhetta’s Soap Company, a home-based operation and a cornerstone of the Saturday growers market at Los Ranchos.  Rhetta, whom I met through my friend Vanessa Guerin, offered an internship to Elizabeth, where she learned  the intricacies and techniques of making soap and other products.

Here's a quote from St. Anthony's:
Elizabeth was a quick study. Rhetta told us she didn’t know how she was going to live without her after she left! Hardworking, meticulous and a perfectionist, making beautiful and aromatic artisan soaps from scratch was a natural extension of Elizabeth’s talents.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Final Thought for Advent: Simplicity

This wonderful reflection was posted on the site

Lightening the Load
The first thing we have to do
is to notice
that we've loaded down this camel
with so much baggage
we'll never get through the desert alive.
Something has to go.
Then we can begin to dump
the thousand things
we've brought along
until even the camel has to go
and we're walking barefoot
on the desert sand.
There's no telling what will happen then.
But I've heard that someone,
walking in this way,
has seen a burning bush.

-- Francis Dorff, O. Praem.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Send an E-Card to President Obama

The ONE Campaign and (RED)™ are urging us to send an electronic card to President Barack Obama urging him to place a high priority on the The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as he considers his budget proposals for the next fiscal year.

Here's a note from ONE
It's not just the holiday season, it's budget season -- when President Obama makes critical decisions impacting the Global Fund and all our other anti-poverty priorities. That's why it's so important for you to ask your friends to join you in sending President Obama a special holiday message about the Global Fund and the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. 

Click here to sign the card to President Obama

As part of this effort, (RED)™ has released a short videoabout people with HIV/AIDS who are alive and healthy today because of the miraculous power of antiretroviral medicine they receive through The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent: Getting Rid of the Clutter

By Cathy Brechtelsbauer
I didn't grow up knowing about Advent. So, I’ve been intrigued about it as an adult. I found out, it's about Jesus' next coming, not only his first coming.  Well, duh, we do plenty to remember the earthly birth. But what about the next coming? That's what started me on Advent justice projects.
I noticed that when company is coming to our house, the messes suddenly glare out - the stacks, the newspapers, the counters, the floors - neatness not being one of my virtues. Suddenly, cleaning and de-cluttering become high priorities.

At some point a similar reaction dawned on me while thinking about Jesus’ coming back to earth. How would we welcome him? The messes glared out - the violence, the hunger, poverty, unfair wages, lack of healthcare, trashed places, trashed people. Are these what Jesus' should come back to, after all he taught us?

So I began to do advent activities related to cleaning up some injustice. If you have come to my house lately, you know I have pretty much gotten over my previous company-induced house straightening compulsion, but the advent justice projects continue to make advent a worthwhile time for me.
I usually start the planning for Bread Days or the Bread for the World workshops. I talk to some legislators about some potential legislation on behalf of low-income people. Things like that. This year I am urging people to write to their papers on preventing a sales tax hike.
If you don't already, try adding a justice project to your Advent. For me, it trumps house cleaning.

The author is a Bread for the World activist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas and the Millennium Development Goals

Reprinted from the December issue of Prints of Peace,  the monthly newsletter for Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces

By Becca Winship

Jesus is HIV Positive. Jesus is dying of a hunger-related disease. Jesus has malaria. Jesus has no clean drinking water. Jesus needs a new pair of shoes for Christmas. How are you serving Jesus, your neighbor?

Four youth from Peace Lutheran Church recently returned from the Rocky Mountain Synod High School Youth Gathering. As some of you know, we have been focusing on advocacy since our return from New Orleans, and we spent a weekend talking about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the ONE Campaign, and what we, as young people can do to reach those MDGs by 2015.

We were treated to a wonderful conversation with Bishop Mark Hanson, who shared with us the story of a Bishop in Tanzania who opened a sermon “Jesus is HIV Positive” and what that means for us as Christians.

As baptized believers, our call to action is to live out our faith in such a way that we treat all people with love, honor, and respect. We are to help where we’re able, we are to fulfill the challenge of Jesus-to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we are to work hard-together- to achieve the MDGs.

Bishop Hanson challenged us to think about what we as congregations are doing to help achieve the MDGs as part of the ministry we do together. Listed below are the 8 MDGs; take some time to reflect on what you as a minister in this congregation are doing to help achieve them, and spend some time thinking about how we (or you) can do more.
The Rocky Mountain Synod Youth were challenged this weekend by our Lutheran Youth Organization to take on MDG #6 and participate in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. The LYO challenged each congregation present at the gathering to raise $1,000 by the Synod Assembly in May. In addition, each participant was challenged to raise $100. That sets our RMS fundraising goal for the Malaria Initiative at $75,000. That $75,000 will provide approximately 25,000 mosquito nets to be placed over beds in countries where malaria is rampant to help prevent transmission of the disease.

The youth in our congregation are challenging you to help us raise $1,500, one and a half times what we were challenged to raise. Only $3 (three dollars), approximately what you would spend on a coffee out, buys a mosquito net to help save a child from contracting malaria. Buy a mosquito net as an alternative gift for someone this Christmas.

Help save lives.  We have been given a beautiful gift-the love and grace of Jesus Christ, who gave himself to die so that we may be saved. We are set apart as baptized believers, with a faith that calls us to action, and we can change the world. ONE voice at a time, ONE step at a time, ONE simple change will make a difference.

Join us in the fight; help us say “Time’s up!” to all that prevents our world from being ONE.

The author is the Family Ministry Coordinator at Peace Lutheran Church 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Lights of Advent

By Rev. Kay Huggins

This morning I’m up early...wandering through the house, enjoying the lights inside and out. In the family room tiny colored lights intertwine with greens and plants, in the living room white lights surround the nativity scene, through the bay window icicles shine, across the backyard wall stars twinkle...and atop the roof a large star marks our home. 

Lights are a magical gift we give ourselves and others at Christmas time. Soft lights inside, bright lights outside, and the twinkle of a star help us appreciate and endure the darkness. 

Our seasonal lights are improvisations on the survival technique of those who learned the secret of sparks from fires or light from oil lamps.  We’ve transformed their ancient wisdom into Christmas lights!

And then come the luminarias, lighting the way for the Christ child into our hearts and homes. This dark morning as I watch for dawn, I’m comforted by small lights and aware of their symbolic value. My thoughts relax into the promise of the season: In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4-5). How are you appreciating or enduring the darkness of Advent this year? 

Seek with me loveliness divine in small, soft lights -- look out your windows at the trimmed houses, light a candle, watch a fire -- and ponder God’s gift of spiritual light in Christ Jesus.

The author is interim pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lieutenant Governor Opposes Tax on Groceries

Thanks to the Democracy for New Mexico blog for alerting us to Lieutenant Gov.Diane Denish's comments opposing the proposed tax on basic groceries.  Denish adds a lot of weight to the growing effort to defeat this ill-advised solution to the state budget deficit.  

Here are the Lieutenant Governor's comments:
“Like many other states, New Mexico is facing tough times and we have to make some tough decisions in order to close our state’s budget shortfall. A lot of ideas have been put on the table, but one thing I will not support is an across-the-board tax on all food. When families are pinching and scraping to get by, taxing the basics like milk and bread is just not right.

We need a solution to the state's budget problem, but it should not come at the cost of making tough times even tougher for regular New Mexico families. We must start the upcoming legislative session by identifying ways to make government smaller and more efficient, such as overhauling the capital outlay process and ending the practice of double-dipping.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent is an Oasis

Reprinted from the Immaculate Conception Church Bulletin
By Father Rafael Garcia, S.J.

What has changed during Advent?  I hope that you are finding some time for prayer, reflection, remembering that “Jesus is the reason for the season”!

One suggestion that I once heard which appears to be great for families that are typically “on the go” is the following:  Set aside a evening(s) during the week when all the family can be present.  Have dinner together; have some time for prayer together (more than just saying grace).

You could read the Gospel for that day or for the previous or for the following Sunday and then make comments on what you find is the message for you.  Talk about Advent.   Then, play a table game together, preferably non-electronic, where you are all interacting.  Thus, eat together, pray together, play together.  Definitely, No T.V. during any of this time!

This seems to be a good “oasis” in our fast-paced, fast-food, electronic dominated, individualistic, secular culture.  There are many good things in our culture, undoubtedly, for example it’s efficiency and the many alternatives available to us, but our spiritual life pays a price for this.

Make Advent different than “ordinary time”.  Slow down to encounter Jesus at Christmas.

Christ's Peace.

The author is pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Albuquerque

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Another Voice Against the Food Tax

In a blog we wrote a couple of weeks ago entitled, Feeding America vs. A Food Tax in New Mexico, we discussed an ill-advised proposal to re-impose a tax on groceries.

The plan, endorsed primarily by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, is one of several solutions floating out there to deal with the state budget deficit.  But critics say the tax would disproportionately hurt low-income working families.  

Several ant-poverty advocates have come out publicly against the tax.   But the opposition comes from all circles, ranging from the New Mexico Voices for Children to blogger Mario Burgos.

 The latest group to make its opposition known is the respected think tank Think New Mexico, which says, "We believe it is a bad idea to balance the budget on the backs of working low- and middle-income New Mexicans."

The organization reinforced this view in an opinion piece  co-authored with the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, that was published in the Albuquerque Journal   Furthermore, the food tax is viewed as a counterproductive measure for the economy.
The money that would be spent on  a new food tax is money that these families would otherwise be able to spend on other goods and services.  In this sense, reimposing the food tax would function as a sort of antistimulus, draining dollars out of the economy.
This is not to say that all taxes are opposed.  Think New Mexico and others have come out with a plan to impose a tax on junk food.
A junk food tax would do some good. It would, for instance, help combat New Mexico's growing obesity crisis.which would reduce health care expenses over the long term.
Think New Mexico encourages us to add our voices to this effort by writing our state legislators and the media

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sunday People Column: At the Summit in Copenhagen and A Mayoral Camapign in Florida

Who would have thought that we'd have a "people column" in the Bread for the World-New Mexico blog? It's my way of highlighting the activities of two great people I know. One of them has a connection to New Mexico and the other is someone I know from Bread for the World.

Blogging from the Summit in Copenhagen

Joan Brown, a Franciscan sister who is director of the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, is in Copenhagen, Denmark, to attend the UN Climate Change Conference on Dec. 7-18. Joan will be updating us about the conference through a blog. Joan's coverage will complement videos from Odyssey Networks featuring faith leaders and organizations at the summit who are working on issues related to climate justice.

I don't have a link yet, but check this site later.  You'll get links to Joan's blog and videos from Odyssey Networks.

Joan's work at the summit is relevant to the Bread for the World Institute's 2010 Hunger Report, which argues that that reducing climate change and creating so-called green jobs are key factors for economic growth and reducing world-wide hunger and poverty.

Joan is a great friend of Bread for the World-New Mexico.  She was one of the speakers for our workshop on the 2007 Offering of Letters, which sought to ensure just changes in the Farm Bill.

A Bread Activist in the Mayor's Office?

Peter England, a Bread activist in the Miami area, has launched a campaign for the mayor's office in Palmetto Bay, Florida.  The election is in November 2010.

 Peter and I have both served on the Bread board, but our terms did not overlap. I had the pleasure of meeting him through our joint work on a special task force to examine Bread for the World's grassroots strategies.  I've also seen him in Washington at several National Gatherings. 

Peter is part of a group of Bread activists, including my friend Pablo Sanchez (with whom I did serve on the board), that has been instrumental in getting parishioners at St. Louis Catholic Church in Miami to participate in a big way in Bread's Offerings of Letters every year.  This congregation sends thousands of letters to Congress yearly!  

Peter has also served a director of government relations at Camillus House, an organization that provides humanitarian services to men, women and children in South Florida who are poor and homeless.  Camillus House was founded by the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, the same order of Catholic brothers that staffs Good Shepherd Center in Albuquerque.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Another Advent Reflection

"Hope" is the thing
with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune
without the words –
And never stops at all. 
- Emily Dickinson

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Thought During Advent

There are only two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. 

- Edith Wharton,
American novelist (1862-1937)