Tag Archives: Global philanthropy

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


Javier Bardem with Penelope Cruz & Salma Hayek

Javier Bardem with Penelope Cruz & Salma Hayek

Staying the Course : Philanthropy, A Way of Life — The Beginning

7 Oct
The Lazerson Family in Mallorca

The Lazerson Family in Mallorca

I am overcome with emotion as my Rwandian guide leads me to the grave sight of some 42,000 people, slaughtered only years before.  Every where I look, death abounds–and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for those still clinging to life in the villages around this desolate place.  I visit a so-called hospital, more of a makeshift dog kennel, where the conditions are only the best that can be, and yet so inhumane.  I feel myself about to lose it, lose all hope, when suddenly my eyes come to rest on a mother, in a bed with three children, and two of the children are dying.  Her eyes flicker to life and she makes contact with me.  I stand there in a pool of hopelessness as we connect, but then I almost involuntarily allow myself to smile.  The smile grows across my face and becomes real and genuine, and she breaks into a grin, and I see the whiteness of her teeth against the background of her beautiful dark skin.  It seems like that smile lasts an eternity and knows no boundaries–no boundaries of language, of skin color, of economic standing–just a simple smile, and yet, we both felt it radiate warmth into our souls.  And there was that hope, returned to me anew!  This is why I came to Rwanda, to connect to their humanity, to find the hope in all of this destruction.  That smile filled my soul and I carry it with me to this day, and it fuels me on to serve humanity in whatever way that I can.

I became awakened to the idea of serving humanity as a young boy of twelve, who was admonished by his father to follow him to Martha’s Table, a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C.  At first I may have only gone there to please my father, but the act of service I was rendering made an imprint on my mind and I knew that someday I would make a difference to the less fortunate.  I came to realize that this was my calling in life.

After spending several years as a young entrepreneur, I felt my heart strings tugging at me to go in another direction.  The philanthropic spirit was newly awakened in me when I was asked by a friend to join the Board of Directors of the American Indian Services, where I worked to assist Native Americans in their education endeavors.  As my career was in a state of flux, I was then able to take on a position with the Larry King Cardiac Foundation as Executive Director.  This enabled me to make use of the celebrity contacts that I had, and also gave me experience in organizing inspiring charity events and celebrity galas.

Following my service with that organization, I joined forces with the Rose Foundation, which builds schools in developing countries for disadvantaged children.  I have never forgotten the day I visited the Guatemala City Dump.  Piles and miles of trash had been carved out into homes, and children and adults alike were rifling through the stinking waste, searching for survival.  I saw a young girl, the same age as my little girl, sitting in an old tire.  I was horrified as she lifted a bottle of completely curdled milk to her lips and gulped it as vultures circled overhead!  This is where my vow to make a difference was set in stone.  Through my years of service in Central America, I came to love the people and to love philanthropy.

James M. Barrie has said, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves.”  I can attest to the truthfulness of this statement.  As I spent a year battling cancer, my family and I were served and loved by so many charitable souls, and we felt the sunshine of their love.  I have also felt the sun on my face as I watched the ecstatic children of Guatemala emerge from their life circumstances, and put on clean uniforms and come to school–they will change the world they come from and make their world a sunnier place, a safer place, a more productive place.

Today my platform is the Interface Foundation.  Our mission is to leverage the power of business and celebrity for the benefit of high impact charities trying to achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2000. My admonition to the world is:  Let’s spread our heart’s desire to do some good in this world.  Humanity can serve humanity.  Our voices can lend life to the voices that go unheard!  We are that voice, we are the heart, we are the hands, and we can change this world through generating awareness, through love, and through service.

Feel the Smile of Rwanda.  It is there to teach us how to love.  It starts simple and then it grows, and it will expand if we all come together.