Archive | October, 2008

Examples to Follow

27 Oct

Below is an amazing commentary by actor Javier Bardem and John Pendergast about the atrocities being committed in the Congo.  We must recognize the power we have to use our voices on behalf of those who do not have the freedoms to speak for themselves.  The first step to solving the problem is recognition of the problem.  I hope you will share this with your friends and continue to support the Interface Foundation which supports high impact organizations achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
 
 
(CNN) — Over the past decade, waves of violence have continuously crashed over eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in the world’s deadliest war.
A study by the International Rescue Committee says the war has led to the deaths of 5.4 million people.
The human wreckage that washes ashore in displaced settlements and shattered communities has few parallels in terms of pure suffering.
With the most recent escalation in the conflict during September and October, another tidal wave of destruction is hitting the embattled population of eastern Congo, with devastating consequences.
The perpetrators and orchestrators of this violence do so primarily in a mad scramble for one of the richest non-petroleum natural resource bases in the world.
All kinds of minerals are mined in the Congo that end up in our computers, cell phones, jewelry, and other luxury and essential items of everyday use. Because there is no rule of law in the Congolese war zone and no ethical code impacting the international supply and demand for these minerals, the result is that anything goes.
In Congo, this means the vampires are in charge.
Vampires take many forms in Congo. They are the militia leaders who control the mines, and who use mass rape as a means of intimidating local populations and driving people away from areas they want to control.
Vampires also include some of the middlemen based in neighboring countries who arrange for the purchase and resale of Congo’s resources to international business interests, run by people who are often accomplices. They need to acquire minerals like tin and coltan to be able to satisfy the insatiable demand for these products in North America, Europe and Asia. It leads them to ask no questions about how the minerals end up in their hands.
Then there are innocent consumers like us — completely unaware that our purchases of cell phones, computers and other products are helping fuel a shockingly deadly war halfway around the world, not comprehending that our standard of living is in some ways based on the suffering of others.
The suffering of the people of the Congo is unnecessary. If there was a functioning government there, and the rule of law, the minerals could be mined in a legal and orderly way.
If there was a peace agreement involving the main armed groups, the use of sexual violence as a tool of war would end. If there was a cost for committing the kinds of atrocities that have become common in Congo, they would end.
There are many Congolese community leaders, churches, politicians, human rights activists, women’s organizations and others who are struggling to create a future Congo that is defined by peace and security. Around the world, we can play a major role in supporting these everyday heroes.
The Enough Project is launching a campaign called RAISE Hope for Congo, aiming to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the protection and empowerment of Congolese women and girls.
Women and girls have become primary targets in the war of attrition between the armed groups in eastern Congo. Congo’s transformation must begin with them.
Over a century ago, tens of thousands of people across the world joined together in what would be the 20th century’s first great international human rights movement to protest the bloody reign of Belgium’s King Leopold II over the Congo.
In a murderous effort to exploit the central African nation’s vast natural resources, half of the Congo’s population would be decimated by King Leopold’s personal rule — an estimated 8 million people. The resulting public outcry helped curb the worst abuses of that period. A century later, the people of the Congo need a new popular movement to end the atrocities once and for all.
So, the good news is there are answers to what is happening in Congo. A determined peace process can end the war. Support for Congolese institutions can help build the rule of law and economic opportunities. And a focus on crimes against women by the International Criminal Court could help introduce some accountability and justice to a place that has little.
But these things won’t happen unless voices are raised all over the world against the injustice occurring in the Congo. If we make enough noise, we can influence politicians to pay a little more attention to the deadliest war in the world. With a little attention and some effective action, that war could end, and the era of vampire rule in eastern Congo would come to an end.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Javier Bardem and John Prendergast

John Prendergast contacts rebel leaders

John Prendergast contacts rebel leaders

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Javier Bardem with Penelope Cruz & Salma Hayek

Javier Bardem with Penelope Cruz & Salma Hayek

TAKE A STAND

22 Oct

Great leaders, like Jane Goodall and Nelson Mandela, derive their power from taking a stand. They know the distinction between taking a position and taking a stand. Taking a position, or having a “point of view,” forces us to take sides and argue for or against. It gets us going, but rarely has a lasting influence. Taking a stand opens up new visions and possibilities, and adversarial feelings begin to dissolve. It is a way of living and being that strengthens our capacity to make a difference.”

“You don’t have to be a Gandhi to make a difference in your job, in your company, in other important places in your life. We all have a stand inside of us waiting to be expressed, and when we are in touch with that place, we become more fully ourselves & can truly change the world, ” are the very wise words of Lynne Twist.

On August 23 in Raleigh, North Carolina over 4,000 people (students, faculty, community leaders, businessmen & women) took a stand on global hunger and packaged over 1 million meals for Stop Hunger Now.  Take a look & get involved:

Thanks to Ray Buchanan, the founder of Stop Hunger Now; Rod Brooks, CEO of Stop Hunger Now; Chessney Barrick, Development Director of Stop Hunger Now; Jesse Metcalfe, Lisa Spackman, Danny Hewitt, Mike Debenham, Drew James and everyone else who has supported the Stop Hunger Now Interface Foundation initiative.

Food Distribution Day

22 Oct

I spend most of my days doing everything in my power to engage business leaders, celebrities, students, friends and family in the Interface philanthropic crusade.  Today I reached out to a few people (Sheila E, Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty, Evan Walker, Harriet Giles of Auburn Univerisity, Mary Fanaro of Omnipeace, Andrew Keegan, Jeff Sheets, Cynthia Garrett, Chris Stamos) whom I thought could influence our work for the better.  I sent an email to Mia Farrow.  Most know her as the American actress who has appeared in over 40 films.  However Ms.Farrow is also notable for her extensive humanitarian work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Her latest effort is www.miafarrow.org containing a guide on how to get involved with Darfur activism, along with her photos and blog entries from Darfur, Chad, and the Central African Republic. In 2008, she was selected by TIME Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. I was pleasantly surprised to get a kind email back from Ms. Farrow saying, “great work, Scott” & now I am looking forward to speaking with her to gain her insight into making Interface THE philanthropic movement to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  We are on the right path!!

I thought you might enjoy an entry Mia shared with us regarding a Food Distribution Day at a camp for Darfuri refugees.  Please share this with everyone you know…

Thank you Mia for being a voice for the millions who do not have one.

Voices from the refugee camps
Today was ‘Food Distribution Day at Oure Cassoni camp for Darfuri refugees.
Food rations have been cut. What used to feed a family of four now must be stretched to sustain 6 people.
Listed below are  the rations given out today at Oure Casssoni — to each person. They must make their supply last for one month. They will also share their rations with newly arrived, unregistered  refugees.  The camp quota cannot exceed 27,000 people. The aid agencies do not have the capacity to sustain more.   
Each person receives;  
2.65 oz of cooking oil
1.59 oz  of sugar
0.55 oz’s of salt (for the first time in months salt has been available)
3.3 pounds of lentils
22 lbs cereal
3.3 lbs sorghum
 soap—but none has been available for months
 
The goal is to give each refugee 2100 calories.   But for months they have been receiving 1800 calories-less than the minimum requirement. Suggested calorie consumption in the US is about 2500 calories a day. Conservatively.
I have heard that Chadians, the 250,000 also displaced by Janjaweed attacks, receive 40% of what the Darfuri refugees are given, but I have not yet been able to  confirm this.
The World Food Programme representative here told me that “US dollars cannot buy what they could before. “ The WFP is running out of money. As you know, food rations to the more than 2. 5 million people in the camps of Darfur have been halved (as of last May) Insecurity on the ground has forced food to be delivered by air. This is unsustainably expensive yet we cannot let people starve. It is the children under five who die first. Anyone wishing to help should donate to the WFP.
The cost of grain has risen dramatically. And the cost of transportation is, as we all know, sky high.  The people here have been asking for new jerry-cans, the plastic containers they need to carry water from the water-point to their dwellings.  But the cost of getting  the containers to the camp now exceeds the cost of manufacturing and purchasing them. All supplies come here by road through Libya and Cameroon. When the roads are impassible-which is OFTEN in the rainy reason,  supplies cannot get through. It is a precarious situation.  

Mia Farrow at the Djabai Refugee Camp

Mia Farrow at the Djabai Refugee Camp

Poverty's Answer : LOVE

15 Oct

For one minute I want you to stop and think about the word poverty.  What comes to your mind as you say the word out loud?  What comes to mind as you close your eyes and think about poverty?

Today, October 15th, bloggers everywhere will publish posts that discuss poverty in some way, www.blogactionday.org.  By all posting on the same day,we aim to change the conversation today–to raise awareness, to start a global discussion and to add momentum to an important cause.

Last night I went through my phone and sent a simple text to several friends.  Those friends included businessmen, actors, actresses, rappers, beauty pageant winners, fashion designers, childhood friends and reality television stars.  My question to each of them was “When I say the word poverty, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Using just a few words, can you text me back your thoughts.” 

Here are a few of the responses:

Destitution & despair

Lack of education

Pain and sadness and desperation” 

Absolute despair. Unlivable conditions. Hopelessness.”

The SAG Strike” (I am glad I have friends in Hollywood)

I think of a family living in a home made of adobe or straw–fighting each day to buy bread on the street, to keep clean, to stay healthy, and using water stored in buckets.”

I think of the winner of Survivor: Micronesia.” (The winner’s first name was Parvati)

I think of scanty shacks in Peru and people I have seen living under tarps on sidewalks in India

Poverty – a mindset, a thought pattern of lack & limitation

A struggle to find food to eat and clothes to wear

We all laugh; we all cry; we all love; we all need.  We all need the basics of life, we need friends and we need each other.  Today, if nothing more, let us all focus on one thing we all have regardless of econmonic standing, location, language, belief or ethnicity: LOVE.  For love is the only real answer to poverty.

“To love abundantly is to live abundantly”, were the wise words of the poet, Henry Drummond.

A friend shared with me this story that illustrates this point perfectly, ” Love has been an easy thing to notice during our travels.  One of my favorite memories was in a small village called Tokabangou, in Burkina Faso, West Africa.  Every late afternoon just before sunset, I saw a girl carrying a dinner of millet on a big plate to her grandfather, who was living outside the village.  She stayed and talked with her grandfather until he finished supper.  The scene was heartwarming and filled with love and devotion between two generations.”

Even though the meal shared was scanty according to the standards of the first world, the love present provided the feeling of abundance. Poverty is the lack of material needs or comfort; love is the antithesis of poverty. Love fulfills–it warms, it nurtures, it gives energy and life, it sustains. Love gives one the impetus to rise above one’s station in life. Without love, there is no desire to be better, to do better, to help others. Love is really the only way to achieve sustainability.

Love yourself, love your family, love your friends and then we can begin to lift those throughout the world out of poverty with love.  Love is the answer.

“And I say to you, I have also decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go”, said Martin Luther King Jr. 

Let me know what you have done today to alleviate poverty… and remember “love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”

Rising Above Poverty in Haiti with Love

Rising Above Poverty in Haiti with Love

Keeping My Father’s Tradition Alive

12 Oct

When you learn, teach.  When you get, give.”  That is one of my favorite quotes from the poet & best-selling author Maya Angelou.  It was as a child I heard time & time again that what you give comes back to you.  My father spent many hours volunteering at the local food kitchen in Washington D.C., Martha’s Table.  It was here that I got my first taste of service.  It was his example of selfless service that made me see that life is an energy exchange of giving and receiving, and the way to have what you want is to give what you need. 

As a friend recently said, “If your intention is clear, and you are giving for the true joy of it then your generosity will be returned to you.  It most likely won’t come from the person you gave to, but from some unimagined source.  No matter what, though, it will come back to you.”

I love to give!!  I love to serve!!  Today call the local food kitchen & volunteer or leave a bushel of apples on your next door neighbor’s front porch with a note or track down the teacher who had the most influence in your life & send them a note!!  Just do it & I promise you you will taste the greatest joy known to mankind  — the joy of selfless service.

When you learn, teach.  When you get, give.

Heidi, Zoe, & Tsering making sandwiches

Heidi, Zoe, & Tsering making sandwiches

 

Where My Life of Service Began

Where My Life of Service Began

The Power of Philanthropic Boldness

10 Oct

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! / Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,:” is one of Goethe’s couplets for which I have deep respect.  I have the strongest desire to connect humanity with humanity on all levels & often times I have no idea quite how to do it, but I just “begin it” with crazy amounts of “boldness“!!

Here is the perfect example:

The Interface Foundation supports global philanthropic leaders changing the world, my heroes if you will.  Several months ago I had the great opportunity to meet Rod Brooks, CEO & Chessney Barrick, Director of Development of Stop Hunger Now (SHN).  Stop Hunger Now (www.stophungernow.org) provides food & lifesaving aid to the world’s most destitute and hungry in the most efficient, effective and sustainable manner!!  The work of SHN is AMAZING!!!!  I was inspired to see how I could, in some way, support their lifesaving work.

I started to help immediately.  After text messaging several of my friends in Hollywood to tell them 850 million people suffer from the tragedy of hunger and that 25,000 people die EVERYDAY from hunger-related causes over 28 friends showed up on 2 days to shoot a series of 6 Public Service Announcements for Stop Hunger Now.  I didn’t know how I would do this, but I took the first step by talking to SHN then contacting my friends.  The outcome was impactful!! 

Take a look:

I made the decision to use my network for good, I moved forward and the world is seeing the magic!! 

Thanks to Felisha Terrell, Jeremy Piven, MIchael Moloney, Christian Audigier, VIctoria Recano of Entertainment Tonight, SImon Rex, the band Atreyu, Lance Bass, Laura Harring, Rachel Smith, Jesse Metcalfe, Cindy Landon, Dee Murthy, Mary Mary, Tom Higginson, Jeremy Petty, Andrew Keegan, Cynthia Garrett, Lucia Micarelli, Jennifer Landon, Vanessa Williams, Andrea Donsky, Cassandra Hepburn, Harvey Mason Jr., Tamera Mowry, and Meredith Brunsman.

W.H. Murray says, “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.  All sorts of thing occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

This is the magic of Interface…

The Interface Foundation — My Life's Work

8 Oct

As a child I always saw myself helping countless people.  Serving is truly the essence of who I am & for most of my life this has been a double-edged sword.  The words of Henry Van Dyke in his short story The Mansion resonate in my soul daily, ” What could I have done better?  What is it that counts?  ‘Only that which is truly given,” answered the voice.  Only that good which is done for the love of doing it.  Only those plans in which the welfare of others is the master thought.  Only those labors in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward.  Only those gifts in which the giver forgets himself.”  So this double-edged sword of my souls ultimate desire to serve has finally become my ultimate blessing & my life’s work.  For years I would bang my head against the wall as I was not born with a trust fund, I was not educated at an Ivy league school, I was not blessed with “fame” however these supposed “hurdles” in my life are my actual blessings.  My unquenchable desire to be a force for good is a flame that will never be extinguished because I don’t have a trust fund, I didn’t go to an Ivy League school & because I can’t carry a tune & didn’t win American Idol & end up touring the world.  It is that simple!  What I do have is the ultimate desire to serve humanity and after 12 years of working professionally in the non-profit world the Interface Foundation was born.

As most of you know last year Interface came to life.  The Interface Foundation is a 501(c)3 private foundation whose mission is to leverage the power of business and celebrity to bring attention to high impact organizations working to accomplish one of the eight Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2000.

There is no greater peace than knowing your life’s mission!  With Interface I work 24/7 in doing all in my power to get humanity to help humanity!  Each and everyone of us can contribute in some way & I am here to guide the philanthropic ship of Interface to the ultimate destinations where high impact philanthropic initiatives will change countless lives.  Eradicating extreme poverty & hunger (850 million people suffer fromt the tragedy of hunger).  Allowing every child in the world to receive primary education (presently 125 million children don’t go to primary school).  Promoting gender equality & empowering women.  Reducing child mortality.  Improving maternal health.  Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases.  Ensuring environmental sustainability.

In a very short time we have seen hundreds, thousands of people come together to learn about Interface partner organizations, we have seen donations of time, money & products, and equally as big we have seen people spread the Interface mission!  It is a testament to the power of Interface.  Choose your goal & we will help you support it!!!

I have to give huge thanks to the business community and it’s true philanthropic leaders like Steve Luczo from Seagate, Brent Bishop, Josh James of Omniture, the famed music video director Hype Williams, Randy Blosil of Xango, Alex Hoffmann of Nu Skin, Brandon Fugal of Coldwell Utah, Bernadette Turner of QVC, Darren Dixon, Charlie Walk President of Epic Records, Brent Bolthouse of SBE, Bryan Ferre of Cultivate Ideas, Andrea Donsky, Jim Evans of Xactware,  Jason Deere, Maggie Biggar of Fortis Films, Lisa Spackman, Joel Sybrowski, Jeron Paul of V Spring, Bernadette Hill, Lisette Sand-Freedman of Shadow PR, Jessica Weitz, Dee Murthy of Five Four Clothing, famed music producer Harvey Mason JR, Lisa Nelson of ICAP, Joe “3H” Weinberger, Cynthia Garrett, Kirk Lee of Intuit. 

And I have to set the record straight here after being asked a million times if celebrities are truly engaged in causes because of their own heart or is it a PR move?  Well after being involved with some of the biggest names in the world, I have to say regardless of the celebrity’s initial reason for getting involved I have text message, emails, voice messages, & hand-written thank you notes that show they can’t wait for the next opportunity to serve humanity.  With that I want to thank a few now by giving them a “shout out” — Jeremy Piven of Entourage, Vanessa Williams, Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty, Jesse Metcalfe, Lance Bass,  Sheila E,  Sandra Bullock, Shannon Elizabeth, Tom Higginson of the Plain White T’s, Terri Seymour of Extra, Edison Chen, Paul Wall, Paris Hilton, Marla Maples, Patrick Muldoon, Blake Lewis from American Idol, Michael Moloney from Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, Laura Harring, artist Paul Rusconi, Miss USA Rachel Smith, and Billy Bush from Access Hollywood to name a few.

Paris Hilton Using Her Voice For Philanthropic Good

Paris Hilton Using Her Voice For Philanthropic Good

Let’s continue to come together to change the world.  The goals are simple.  The mission is pure.  Remember what the poet June Jordan taught us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.