Tag Archives: human rights

On the Ground in Nepal: 4th Update from AJWS Staff

AJWS’s Director of Disaster Response & International Operations, Samantha Wolthuis, and Associate Director of Risk Management and Administrative Services, Aaron Acharya, traveled to Nepal last week to lead AJWS’s response to the earthquake. This is the fourth on-the-ground update from Samantha and Aaron. Read their first, second, and third updates. 

A snapshot of the earthquake’s aftermath in Kavrepalanchok district.

A snapshot of the earthquake’s aftermath in Kavrepalanchok district.

Yesterday, we headed east to the Kavrepalanchok district, about 40 miles from the Tibet border, where future grantee BBP-Paliwar showed us scenes of devastation, resilience and hope. The hike up the terraced mountain to get to Makaitar, a small, rural village, was more difficult than previous trips. We met Pabitra Bika, a mother of four who was widowed because of the earthquake. Her husband, a basket weaver, had stopped at a friend’s house while he was out collecting bamboo when the disaster struck. While trying to rescue others, the house fatally collapsed on him.

“If he was at home, it would not have happened,” Pabitra told us.

Pabitra tends a vegetable garden and leads the women’s group BBP has helped organize in the village. She knows groups like BBP will help with housing, but she was in such a state of shock when we spoke to her that she wasn’t sure how to move forward.

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Pabitra and one of her sons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We don’t have a life; we don’t have shelter,” she said, adding that her children will have to quit school to help support their mother with weaving, gardening and rebuilding. “It’s a difficult time. We haven’t seen the Army.”

The earthquake carved a creek through the village, but Pabitra said she refuses to send her children a few hundred yards away for water because she fears for their safety.

“I can’t bear to lose somebody else in my family,” she said. “I wish I could have just died [too].”

A few days after she shared this with us, the second earthquake hit. We haven’t heard an update about the Bikas yet.

This was the hardest visit we experienced and reinforced for us the importance of prioritizing psychosocial support in AJWS’s relief efforts. We also saw the resiliency of the Nepalese people in the smiling face of Dipa, one of Pabitra’s daughters, who boasted that—for now, at least—she’s still in school.

Sam with Pabitra’s daughter, Dipa

Sam with Pabitra’s daughter, Dipa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children in a nearby village survey damage.

Children in a nearby village survey damage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A house in Makaitar sustained ubiquitous cracks, displacing the family that lived there.

A house in Makaitar sustained ubiquitous cracks, displacing the family that lived there.

A boy in Kavre is happy to be alive and proud of his country.

A boy in Kavre is happy to be alive and proud of his country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam and Aaron are inspired by their visit.

Sam and Aaron are inspired by their visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To help earthquake survivors in Nepal recover and rebuild their lives, donate to our Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund here.

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On the Ground in Nepal: 1st Update from AJWS Staff

It has now been 10 days since Nepal was struck by the deadliest earthquake to hit the country since 1934. The death toll has exceeded 7,500 and the United Nations reports that millions are affected. AJWS set up our Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund within hours of the earthquake and we’re providing immediate support and humanitarian relief to six organizations in Nepal.

Yesterday, two of our staff members arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal to assess how AJWS can best provide assistance to some of the most vulnerable communities devastated by the earthquake. Our Director of Disaster Response & International Operations, Samantha Wolthuis, and Associate Director of International Operations, Aaron Acharya, will meet with the local organizations we’re supporting and assess how AJWS can best provide both immediate emergency assistance and respond to the disaster in the long-term.

Samantha shared the update below after she and Aaron arrived at the Kathmandu airport.

On our way to the hotel, there were open fields filled with tents that people are living under. We are staying in what normally would be considered a very busy and touristy part of town and it is desolate. Many of the buildings have been vacated and labeled uninhabitable. The streets were dark last night although a few restaurants were open—with candlelight—and starting to get back on their feet. We have confirmed 5 meetings today—with a mix of local, potential future partners; 1 large international non-governmental organization; and a few people who have been recommended to us and can help us understand what is really happening on the ground.

Samantha and Aaron took the devastating photos below on a walk in Kathmandu earlier this morning.

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Follow our blog in the coming days for more updates from Samantha and Aaron.

To help earthquake survivors in Nepal recover and rebuild their lives, donate to our Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund here.

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AJWS Responds to the Earthquake in Nepal

The devastation of last Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal is just beginning to sink in. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25th was the worst quake to hit the country since 1934. Eyewitnesses report that historic buildings, including seven major temples, have been destroyed near Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and the force of the quake triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. Latest reports state that there are at least 5,200 dead and thousands more injured in Nepal, India, Tibet and China. Hundreds of thousands of people are greatly affected, particularly in poor rural areas outside the city center. Damaged roads, landslides, and at-times heavy rains are limiting transportation, preventing search-and-rescue specialists as well as supplies of medicines, water, tents and other critical aid from reaching people in need. Images of the destruction are truly horrifying.

ATTENTION RUSSELL, FOR NGOs.

Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitraka, courtesy Trust.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With our long-standing commitment to disaster relief in the developing world, AJWS set up an Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund within hours of the earthquake. In response to Saturday’s tragedy, we are staying the course to address both immediate needs for earthquake survivors and invest in long-term recovery for the Nepalese people. Donations will support community-based organizations that are doing the following:

  • Providing food, shelter, emergency medical aid and supplies to the most vulnerable communities in Nepal—including ethnic minorities and indigenous communities—who are often neglected in the aftermath of crises.
  • Offering psycho-social support to survivors and their families.
Local villagers sit next to relief supply at Gorkha

Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitraka, courtesy Trust.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AJWS believes that community members are best placed to serve their own communities in times of need, and thus we will distribute funds through community-based groups led by and for these local communities. We will focus our efforts on helping to rebuild broken infrastructure, provide psychosocial support to survivors who have experienced tremendous trauma, and support communities to prepare for and protect themselves from future natural disasters of this magnitude.

People survey a site damaged by an earthquake, in Kathmandu

Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitraka, courtesy Trust.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding that poor and vulnerable communities are often disproportionately affected by disasters, AJWS will support vulnerable populations that are typically not reached by other funders and may be at greater risk of further trauma in the aftermath of the earthquake. These vulnerable groups include communities in remote regions, women, youth, LGBT people, Tibetan refugees, people with disabilities and the Dalit community. Dalits are the lowest caste of Nepal’s centuries-old caste system. Referred to as the “untouchables,” they are frequently ostracized, discriminated against, deprived of economic opportunities and blocked from using public services.

 

AJWS’s Grantees: First Responders

As of April 28, AJWS is providing immediate support and humanitarian relief to the following organizations in Nepal:

International Medical Corps (IMC): IMC has extensive experience in Nepal and in disaster relief, having served as a first responder after recent major earthquakes in Pakistan, Haiti and Japan. IMC is operating two Medical Mobile Units (MMUs) that treat approximately 200 people per day in Gorkha, Nepal, which is the epicenter of the earthquake. With an emergency grant from AJWS, IMC is providing survivors with immediate first aid and psychosocial support.

The Blue Diamond Society (BDS): The BDS was established in 2001 and works with local communities in Kathmandu to improve and promote the health of Nepal’s LGBT community. Today, the BDS is comprised of more than 200,000 LGBT members. In response to the earthquake, they are providing rescue, relief and rehabilitation support to HIV positive LGBT people affected by the disaster, but are struggling to provide sufficient care and support due to the lack of food and gas. With an emergency grant from AJWS, the BDS will provide the LGBT community with immediate medical support and relief.

Friends of Shanta Bhawan (FSB): FSB is a non-profit medical center located in a very poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Kathmandu that has been providing free or low cost medical care to some of Nepal’s poorest residents for the last 30 years.With an emergency grant from AJWS, Friends of Shanta Bhawan will offer free medical services, food and safe drinking water in a very impoverished community that was hit hard by the earthquake.

Himalayan Healthcare (HH): HH provides healthcare, education, and employment opportunities to disadvantaged communities in remote mountain villages, some of which are hundreds of kilometers from a paved road. In the aftermath of the earthquake most humanitarian efforts have been unable to access these regions, and so HH has been a vital lifeline. It is distributing about 4 tons of rice daily to prevent starvation and has mobilized a medical team of 10 health professionals to fly to remote areas to treat injured and sick survivors. With AJWS funding, the team will  meet the needs of four remote villages that were hard hit by the quake, distributing urgently needed food, tents and emergency care. Once the immediate needs are taken care of, HH will begin longer term recovery and reconstruction work.

Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund (Tewa): Tewa is a women’s rights organization based in Lalitpur, Kathmandu that works to empower rural women and promote justice and equality throughout Nepal. Tewa mobilized in response to the earthquake to provide pregnant mothers sheltering in the tent camps with food, water, medical care and blankets. With AJWS funding, Tewa will provide vitally needed maternity and postnatal care for pregnant mothers and their babies born during this disaster. They will also raise awareness in the camps about the risks of water-borne diseases and health epidemics that may arise and will teach earthquake survivors how to practice safe hygiene to help reduce the risks of these life-threatening illnesses.

 

To help earthquake survivors in Nepal recover and rebuild their lives, donate to our Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund here.

 

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Ebola From the Front Lines

Ebola from the front lines: AJWS’s Liberia consultant reflects on the crisis and AJWS’s work to stop it

Dayugar Johnson (“D.J.”), AJWS’s in-country consultant in Liberia

Dayugar Johnson (“D.J.”), AJWS’s in-country consultant in Liberia

Dayugar Johnson (“D.J.”), AJWS’s in-country consultant in Liberia, imposed a quarantine on his family soon after the Ebola epidemic struck their neighborhood in Monrovia last year. He was especially strict with his children.

“If you leave,” he warned them, “don’t return for 21 days!”

When they needed groceries, D.J. drove his wife to avoid taxis, which proved a dangerous virus transmission source. They only left the house dressed in long layers of clothing and armed with bottles of diluted chlorine to sanitize their hands. The kids couldn’t play with the neighbors, and hand-washing became ritualistic.

During the height of the epidemic, the road the Johnsons live on—normally teeming with traffic—was eerily quiet, except for the constant fleet of emergency vehicles headed to the nearby crematorium.

“On a daily basis,” D.J. told AJWS, “you heard the sirens going up and down carrying loads and loads of bodies. Death was everywhere. People died on the streets.”

At least 4,716 people, to be exact, have died of Ebola in Liberia since March 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been more than 26,000 cases in West Africa overall. Liberia’s last known victim of Ebola died on March 27. Barring the discovery of a new case, Liberian officials are prepared to declare the country Ebola-free on May 9, after conducting a 42-day countdown.

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AJWS on the ground

In two conference calls for AJWS supporters and interviews with AJWS, D.J. recently spoke about his work with AJWS grantees to stop the epidemic. He explained that 19 courageous organizations used AJWS funding to teach people in their communities how to implement the kinds of precautions that D.J. enforced on his family. Even as quarantine and travel bans restricted his work during the worst parts of the crisis, he continued to support grantees via phone and internet.

AJWS has worked in Liberia since 2003, and until Ebola hit, had provided more than $1.7 million in grants to advance human rights in the country.

When the Ebola crisis swelled last August, AJWS sent more than $763,000 in emergency aid to help its grantees lead public health campaigns; go door-to-door to educate communities about the virus; train religious leaders, women’s groups and media organizations to educate Liberians in their own languages; provide health care and psychosocial support to communities and work to stop stigma and discrimination against Ebola survivors; and collaborate with county health teams and task forces to ensure a coordinated response to the epidemic.

Ebola DEN-L organizing a community meeting to respond to questions on Ebola in Bong County

Grantee DEN-L organizing a community meeting to respond to questions on Ebola in Bong County

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming the witchcraft myth

D.J. explained that Ebola spread rapidly in Liberia because many people didn’t take sufficient precautions. He says culture had a lot to do with that. “For Liberians, it’s difficult to greet you without shaking your hand,” D.J. said. “They will feel offended if you didn’t, especially elderly people.” The idea of quarantine is alien in this close-knit society.

Another deadly cause was mistrust and misinformation. The country’s civil war, which ended in 2003, left the population with an enduring mistrust of their government. For this reason, “A lot of people did not believe it [and] doubted it,” D.J. said of Ebola.

Many people thought news of the spreading disease was a cover-up for an impending invasion or civil war, a way for the government to embezzle money from the international community, or—because the devastation seemed so incomprehensible—witchcraft. Others saw the hazmat-clad international health workers as frightening foreign invaders.

As a result, many people eschewed health workers’ advice or took the sick to traditional healers, native doctors and spiritualists. And they didn’t heed instructions to stop the traditional practices of washing and dressing infected bodies before burial.

A trusted, grassroots response

In this climate of misinformation, mistrust and fear, D.J. says AJWS’s grantees were able to get messages through to people that outsiders could not. As trusted members of their communities, they went door-to-door and over the radio waves to convince people to take the life-saving precautions necessary to stop Ebola in its tracks.

Ebola DEN-L leading a community radio show  to raise awareness around Ebola prevention - Copy

Grantee DEN-L leading a community radio show to raise awareness around Ebola prevention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA)—which before the epidemic worked to increase women’s participation in local human rights movements—ran Ebola protection trainings for women in communities throughout Grand Bassa County, a hard-hit area. The main takeaways: Ebola is not a government ploy, and it can be prevented by hand-washing, steering clear of dead bodies and refraining from eating wild animal meat.

BAWODA also deployed religious leaders as a powerful vehicle for educating large numbers of people.

“Their congregations believed them,” D.J. said. “They trusted them. This did a lot in preventing a lot of the infections.”

Not just hygiene

AJWS grantees also helped with the medical response to Ebola and the ramifications of the health system collapse it caused. Before the outbreak, Liberia had just 50 doctors and one health worker for every 3,400 people, D.J. said. Ebola killed about 180 of those workers.

“Thousands more people have died of other things, like childbirth or malaria,” D.J. continued. “I saw pregnant women, children and elderly people left to die in wheelbarrows in front of clinics or hospitals.”

Imani House International, an organization that offers clinics and housing for women and girls throughout the country, appealed to AJWS when the crisis began overburdening hospitals. Imani renovated a clinic to provide Ebola-related triage and routine health care to people in desperate need. When two Imani staff members caught the virus and tragically died, the surviving staff persevered with their work even as they mourned.

“The Ebola virus came so close to home, and they were still able to have the courage to open the clinic and serve communities,” Mr. Johnson marveled. “[Others would] just close the clinic, pack up and go.”

Ebola Imani House staff--clinic near Monrovia that renovated part of its center to support Ebola quarantine and triage - Copy

Staff from AJWS grantee Imani House, a clinic near Monrovia that renovated part of its center to support Ebola quarantine and triage

 

In Gbarnga, the capital of hard-hit Bong County, AJWS began funding Development Education Network-Liberia (DEN-L), which took on the task of locating sick people who were hiding throughout the county to evade quarantine, to prevent them from infecting others.

“The fact that such prevention measures were coming from within the community,” Mr. Johnson said, “rather than from the government or Westerners, made the people more trusting that these difficult things were necessary.”

Den-L also established teams of 15-20 youth to patrol communities at night, because ineffective policing during the height of the crisis led to a spate of burglaries and other crimes.

Looking ahead

All of AJWS’s grantees are still doing Ebola work, now focusing on message reinforcement to combat complacency and bring the number of cases down to zero, as well as providing psychosocial support to those who were left behind. Getting orphans back to school and destigmatizing survivors prove particularly challenging.

“It completely devastated these communities and traumatized people,” Mr. Johnson said. AJWS is currently formalizing a new grant to an organization that will train groups in counseling.
As the crisis slows, AJWS’s grantees in Liberia are working to fill in the gaps left by an exhausted health system and give relief to communities affected by food insecurity issues that Ebola caused.

“Most farms were abandoned, either because of migration or death due to the outbreak,” he said. “A major challenge will be getting the systems—governance, health, and accountability—working again. Civil society will have a major stake.”

D.J. says the past year has reminded him why he wanted to work for AJWS in the first place.

“This crisis has kind of underscored the important work that AJWS is doing in Liberia and the importance of AJWS’s approach of having community organizations take the lead,” he said. “A lot of [other] donor organizations set criteria that a lot of grantees could not meet. When [those organizations] leave, they only leave signboards behind to show they were in those communities. With AJWS, the impact lasts after they leave the community.”

 

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His Survival, My Commitment: Honoring my father on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Monte Dube is a member of the AJWS Board of Trustees. He joined the board in June 2011.

It hurts me when people suffer in the world. It feels personal.

Heshy Dube, late father of Monte Dube

My late father, Heshy Dube, was just a teenager when he last saw his parents and his older brother before they perished in the Holocaust.

My dad survived the destruction of the Jewish community in his small Slovakian town. He suffered starvation in forced labor camps and concentration camps. He washed himself in snow to stay clean and avoid being infected with typhus. He even hid in a pile of dead bodies to escape being discovered and killed.

So, yes, when I read about genocides looming on the horizon or hear about the persecution of minorities, it feels personal.

That’s why I serve on the Board of AJWS and why I’m reflecting today on my very Jewish reasons for fighting injustice worldwide and supporting human rights for all.

Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am honoring my father’s memory by recommitting to do all in my power to stop tyranny and persecution. And I’m asking you to take a moment today to reflect on what this anniversary means to you and how you are engaged in changing the world.

After the genocide of the Jews of Europe, the world swore, “Never again.” The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to help keep that promise. But securing human rights takes work and time. And today, in places like Burma, Uganda and Sudan, people are suffering ethnic cleansing, hate crimes and the most profound kinds of degradation.

As the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, I am speaking up with AJWS for these people the world has forgotten. 

Whether they are working on behalf of minorities persecuted for their ethnicity, LGBT people hated because of whom they love, or women raped en masse as a tactic of war, AJWS’s 530 grantees in 19 countries around the world are rising up to exercise and defend their human rights. They demonstrate that when people organize and take action, they can overcome hatred and bigotry.

Hershe Dube, left, the father of Monte Dube, right

Heshy Dube, left, father of Monte Dube, right

So on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I honor my father—who resisted genocide through his survival and throughout his traumatized life in his own resolute and loving way—by sharing his story with you.

With AJWS, I have committed myself to doing all I can to ensure that the darkest chapter in the history of my family and our people does not repeat itself in the lives of others. And I thank all of AJWS’s supporters and community for your own ongoing dedication to working with AJWS to create a truly just world.


Dube-Monte-1293-195x230Monte Dube is an attorney at Proskauer Rose LLP, where he heads their Chicago-based health care department and counsels non-profit and for-profit health care companies worldwide on business and regulatory issues. He previously practiced law at McDermott Will & Emery. Monte has served as a board member of Aitz Hayim: the Center for Jewish Living and the Solomon Schechter Day Schools of Metropolitan Chicago. Monte is originally from New York, but has lived in Chicago for the last 30 years with his wife Lori raising their three children. Monte joined the AJWS board of trustees in June 2011.

 

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#Faith2EndPoverty: Let’s end poverty by 2030

AJWS is joining the World Bank and more than 30 faith-based organizations to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Our President Ruth Messinger joined the World Bank and leaders from more than 30 faith-based organizations today to launch a major global campaign, #faith2endpoverty. It is our faith-based obligation to improve the lives of every man, woman, and child living in extreme poverty affected by this crisis. The #faith2endpoverty campaign includes a statement of Moral Imperatives that acknowledges our commitment to inspire others to join in this cause; reasserts the beliefs that unify the world’s major religions in massive efforts to combat extreme poverty; and attempts to galvanize greater action from within the world’s faith community. Simply put, we need to construct a new paradigm of socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth that eliminates extreme poverty.

“AJWS is deeply gratified to endorse the joint Moral Imperative statement because as an organization motivated by the Jewish commitment to justice, rooted in Jewish values and Jewish historical experience, we are committed to realizing human rights and ending extreme poverty in the developing world,” said Ruth Messinger.

World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim convened a diverse group of faith-based organizations and religious leaders to discuss the goal of ending extreme poverty, recognizing each group’s distinctive roles and strengths in this massive undertaking. Ruth Messinger has joined several interfaith leaders to build a statement of Moral Imperatives to end extreme poverty. You can join our fight to end poverty by 2030 by joining the #faith2endpoverty conversation on social media and spreading the word to your family, friends, and colleagues.

Together, we can end extreme poverty by 2030.

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Ruth Messinger speaks on keynote panel at Georgetown University

On March 4, 2015, AJWS president Ruth Messinger joined a panel of distinguished guests, including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Katherine Marshall of World Faiths Development Dialogue, who each spoke about the relationship between religious proselytism and development at a forum hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Read the coverage of this event in The Washington Post.

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Essy of Kenya on #Quorum: Global LGBT Voices

Originally published by Quorum, a project of The Daily Beast.

On Human Rights Day in December 2014, activists from around the world gathered at The Daily Beast’s “#Quorum: Global LGBT Voices” to share their struggles and achievements in working for LGBT rights worldwide. Essy, a Kenyan activist who works for AJWS grantee Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved (PEMA Kenya), shared her story about her work fighting for the rights of LGBT people in Kenya. Watch her speak with AJWS President Ruth Messinger from behind a screen, to help protect her privacy and her ability to continue her work for LGBT human rights.

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Making History for LGBT People Around the World

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AJWS’s Executive Vice President Robert Bank welcomed Randy Berry as the U.S.’s first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT People at the State Department on February 27th.

The headlines from almost every corner of the globe in the past few weeks have been endlessly depressing. February may be New York’s coldest month since 1934. And yet, I’m feeling rather elated because something spectacular just happened.

On Friday, February 27th, AJWS President Ruth Messinger and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent AJWS at Secretary of State John Kerry’s Welcome Reception to commemorate the announcement of the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT People, Randy Berry.

Thousands of AJWS supporters, activists and donors from around the country worked tirelessly to advocate for the appointment of this Special Envoy. And, together, we did it! We made history.

It is difficult to convey the excitement and emotion of Friday’s welcome reception for Randy Berry. Ruth and I were both deeply moved. Having spent so much of our careers fighting for the human rights of LGBT people and people living with HIV/AIDS, this day was truly momentous.

And as a Jewish gay South African who came to the United States fleeing apartheid, I have longed for a day when my newly adopted country would not only recognize my human rights as a gay person, but would recognize the need for foreign policy leadership against the brutal discrimination and subjugation of LGBT people in over a third of the countries in the world. And that day has come!

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Powers of Ten: Reflections from an AJWS Global Justice Fellow

David Lieberman is a member of AJWS’s Los Angeles Global Justice Fellowship cohort. The Global Justice Fellowship is a year-long program designed to inspire, educate and train key opinion leaders in the American Jewish community to become activist leaders in support of global justice. David wrote this reflection at the end of his trip with the Global Justice Fellows to India, where they learned from grassroots activists working to overcome poverty and injustice in their own communities.

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The AJWS LA Global Justice Fellows visited AJWS grantee SAATHI in India, which provides access to healthcare, education and employment services for India’s marginalized communities.

 

There is a short educational film called Powers of Ten, which starts with an overhead view of a couple having a picnic in a park. One square meter is outlined in the center of the screen. In the upper right hand corner is an indicator reading one square meter.

The camera zooms out and ten square meters are outlined. The indicator reads 10 square meters. The camera continues to zoom out by powers of 10 until our galaxy is speck in a sky full of galaxies and the indicator reflects the area in powers of 10.

The camera reverses and zooms in to the original one square meter, then zooms in further to powers of -10 focusing on the hand of the male picnicker, and continues to zoom internally down to the cellular level, the atomic level and the nuclear level.

I think that’s exactly what we’re doing when we work with AJWS.  Every effort we put forth is multiplied by powers of 10 through AJWS’s support of more than 500 social change organizations around the world, striving to overcome poverty and oppression in their own communities.

Powers of 10.

And each organization has its own networks. We met some of them on this trip. And each organization in their network multiplies their efforts  through their community organizers, and  each community organizer’s efforts are multiplied throughout their communities.

Powers of 10.

And I look around at our group. Each of our individual efforts are again multiplied as we work together.

Powers of 10.

When we work to transform social conditions, we bring about a change in ourselves. I noticed it in myself this week. For one example, when we checked into our hotel in Kolkata, India, I wondered how many people on the street were displaced by the building of our hotel.  I wondered this after seeing what I’ve seen on this trip, after our meeting with AJWS grantee Kislay, which works to promote the rights of urban poor communities in slum areas of New Delhi. I learned the following morning that although the hotel was renovated recently, the structure has been there for 150 years, so nobody on the street today was displaced by the building of the hotel.  But my thinking to ask the question was a change in me; the awareness was a change in me.

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The AJWS LA Global Justice Fellows visited AJWS grantee Kislay, which works to promote the rights of urban poor communities in slum areas of New Delhi, India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we marked the end of Shabbat, a Global Justice Fellow mentioned that the blessing over the wine is about transformation; grapes into grape juice, grape juice into wine, and the human effort it takes to do so.

So, I ask each of the Global Justice Fellows to think about our trip—what you’ve done, what you’ve seen—and let’s use that to continue driving forward to transform social conditions for those who face poverty and injustice around the world. And when we work outwardly to transform social conditions, we transform ourselves internally by powers of 10.

Lieberman, DavidDavid Lieberman, an AJWS-LA Global Justice Fellow, works in the corporate security field for a global biomedical company.

The AJWS Global Justice Fellowship is a selective, year-long program designed to inspire, educate and train key opinion leaders in the American Jewish community to become activist leaders in support of global justice. Learn more about the Global Justice Fellowship

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