Tag Archives: Scott Lazerson

A HAITI SUCCESS STORY

22 Feb

I am beyond happy that this past Friday, Feb 19th we got the final paperwork into U.S. Immigration to have Menelick & Nesty (who are in Haiti) reunited with their political refugee father Ernst Montfleury living here in Orem, Utah!!

This reuniting is going to be *AMAZING*!!

Thank you Ken Murdock, Kristen Murdock, Monica Ord, & Eric Klein and Lorraine Clark!!

Expanding Your Philanthropic Toolbox

14 Nov

IMG00223-20091029-1540On October 29-30, Scott had the awesome opportunity to speak at the 6th Annual Conference on International Giving.  On a panel with Kat Woerner and Sharon Schneider, he was able to address the idea that philanthropy is more than money.  Much MUCH more.

Your philanthropic toolbox needs to include more than a check book.  Money is the first thing that often jumps into one’s mind when one commits to doing charity and philanthropic work.  But have you considered other things, such as your social network?  Do you have friends with special skills who can donate time and talent to charity?   What about your own personal skills?  Are you an educator?  Teach people how to make a difference.

There are so many ways to donate beyond cold, hard cash, and you can visit http://thephilanthropicfamily.com/ for a more in depth look on just how to do that.

Also present at the conference, was Paul Rusesabagina, of the Hotel Rwanda foundation.  Scott spent 2 days with this amazing man, the hero who helped save the lives of 1,268 people during the Rwandan genocide.  His foundation works to raise awareness and understanding about the preconditions of genocide.  His foundation also seeks to educate on the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.  Genocide directly affects several of the MGD’s, and his Foundation is crucial to our cause.

Scott also was able to meet with Cheryl Musch, the Director of International Development at SERRV.  SERRV is an amazing non-profit fair trade and development organization that works with developing countries.  With the holidays approaching, now is a perfect time to do a little philanthropic gift giving.  Visit http://www.serrv.org and browse through all of the amazing, hand crafted items.  Make a purchase, knowing that your money is helping someone in a developing country to raise his or her standard of living.  No sweatshop garbage from exploited people on this site.  Completely guilt free gifting.

Scott also had the opportunity to meet with Judd Holzman from Link Community Development.  LCD works tirelessly to promote high quality education for children in Sub-Saharan Africa.  By promoting MGD #2 (achieving universal primary education) LCD’s work is also directly affecting completion of other MGD’s, as education is a crucial foundation.

To find out more about LCD, visit http://www.lcdinternational.org.

Here at Interface we are working tirelessly to expand our own philanthropic toolbox, by interacting with other charities.  All of the aforementioned charities are integral players in completing the MGD’s, and we are proud to be working with them.  Now, see what YOU can do.

6th Annual Conference on International Giving

26 Oct

This week, on October 29-30, Scott will be attending the 6th Annual Conference on International Giving, located in Chicago.  As much as aid is needed here at home in our own United States, the need for help abroad is so much the greater.

Since Interface has been involved with charities all over the globe, Scott has a great first hand perspective on the importance of international giving, and the way to go about it effectively.

Visit the Chicago Global Donor’s Network to find out more about ways you can help internationally.  http://www.chicagoglobaldonors.org/index.php

World Food Day

15 Oct

worldfooddayWith 1 billion hungry people in the world, every day should be World Food Day.  This Friday is the REAL World Food Day, which exists to raise awareness that although the task is daunting, you CAN make a difference.

The key to winning this battle–and it certainly can be won–is to tell your friends, family, associates, enemies, strangers, in-laws, co-workers, and EVERYBODY that hunger is not impossible to conquer.  That individuals absolutely CAN make a difference.  When a child can be fed for 25 pennies a day, anybody can make a significant contribution.

If you happen to be in the Phoenix area, Stop Hunger Now, Food for the Hungry, and Phoenix Rescue Mission are bringing Operation Sharehouse to Phoenix.  We invite you to join with them and hundreds of volunteers who will be packaging 100,000 meals for hungry children in developing countries and collecting food for local families in need.

With 16,000 children dying every day due to hunger related causes, 100,000 meals will make a difference.

If you aren’t in the Phoenix area, you can visit http://www.wfp.org/stories/10-things-you-can-do-world-food-day for ideas of things you can do on World Food Day.

How about spending an hour at freerice.com?  Invite your significant other to watch you define obscure words like ambuscade and legerdemain.  He or she will be wholly impressed with your genius intellect, and your vocabulary will grow while you feed the hungry.  I spent about 20 minutes today and donated 900 grains of rice, and now I’m feeling pre-tty darn replete with refulgence.  Don’t be a curmudgeon should your vocab prove indigent–soon enough you’ll be able to bloviate with even the most supercilious of folks.

Don’t let this World Food Day sneak by unnoticed.  Let’s make a difference and raise awareness–even if the you just mostly become aware that your vocabulary wasn’t quite as vast as you once thought.

If in Phoenix:

WHAT:    Operation Sharehouse Phoenix Launch Event

WHEN:    Friday, October 16th 2009, 9:30 to 12:00 p.m. OR 1:00 to 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: 4015 Milky Way, Chandler, AZ 85226 (Off the 202 and McClintock, near Stellar Air Park)

Second Annual Summit on Global Hunger in Washington, DC

1 Oct

We are living in a world rife with disaster and conflict.  Every single day there is something; major flooding in the Philippines, a tsunami in American Samoa, constant and ever present fighting throughout Africa, Afghanistan, and a plethora of other areas throughout the world.

But you know this.

We are living in a country that has been at war, yet every single day we are dwelling in relative peace and safety.  Where having “nothing to eat” in the house probably means one can not find anything but Ramen, bread, and peanut butter.  When natural disasters occur on our own soil, we have the means to help each other out.

You know this.

For a large part of the world, war and natural disaster exacerbate the already dismal hunger problem.

Conflict feeds hunger.

The World Food Program is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger.  Since 1962, the WFP has been working tirelessly to to feed the more than 1 billion people suffering from hunger world wide.

Friends of the WFP is a U.S.-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses on building support in the United States for the World Food Program.

On October 5-6, Friends of the WFP will be hosting the second annual Summit on Global Hunger in Washington, DC.  I will be attending the  summit to participate in two days of in-depth workshops and presentations on global hunger, meetings with members of Congress to discuss hunger policy, panel discussions with leaders from the private sector to discuss best practices in corporate social responsibility, and strategic planning sessions to further develop and expand the WFP program.

This will be a phenomenal opportunity to work firsthand with the WFP, and see how we can plug Interface into the equation.

World hunger is not unconquerable.  Working with high impact charities like the WFP and Friends of the WFP, we can bring an end to hunger.

We know this.

Djimon Hounsou on Climate Change

22 Sep

A Larry King exclusive by Djimon Hounsou, the only professional actor involved in the Summit on Climate Change.

djimon-hounsou-for-web1

I have always been vocal on poverty issues and have championed humanitarian causes, but I never really considered myself an environmentalist. Sure I try to consume less and recycle more, but it wasn’t until I began to witness the truly cataclysmic effects of climate change on the poorest amongst us that I felt obligated to speak up.

For years, I’ve been advocating for the struggling farmers in my home country of Benin and in Mali in West Africa, where agriculture is more than a job. It is a way of life. Their very survival depends upon what they can grow, and unlike the economic crisis that we’re facing now where many people live paycheck to paycheck, these struggling farmers fight and scrape by on a meager existence from season to season. All across Africa, southern Asia, and other third world countries, farming is the only means of employment and survival, which is greatly affected by the climate changes taking place — droughts, flooding, and erratic seasons. Through my work with the international humanitarian group Oxfam, I have learned that a changing climate has the potential to dramatically impact them.

In 2005, when I visited a remote village outside of Bamako in Mali, I saw how dependent people’s lives were on rainfall. If the rain had not come in time, a whole season of planting would be wasted. Luckily, some rain did fall but not enough for most farmers to even turn a profit.

Because climate change will make seasons much less predictable, storms more frequent and conditions more difficult to manage, the poorest farmers around the world, such as the cotton farmers in Benin, are likely to suffer the most, despite their lack of negative impact to the crisis.

Lacking the information or resources necessary to understand, prepare for, and respond to the dire affects of climate change, many of the world’s poorest communities will experience unprecedented stress.

Without adequate support to adapt to the changing climate, the effect is a downward spiral into deeper poverty and increased vulnerability.

This could mean that millions would go without food, pull their children out of school, sell off cattle to pay for mounting debt, or migrate to other regions. Such dramatic consequences are not just a terrible tragedy; they can also threaten to undermine global stability and security.

I know all of this first hand. Growing up in Benin in West Africa, and having worked and traveled to many parts of the world, I know how important farming is to the livelihood of so many people.

And it’s not just the people in West Africa who feel the impact of climate change; it’s happening all over the world. Cities and villages that line the coasts are under threat from ever intensifying hurricanes, floods, and storms. Here in the States we have witnessed our eastern seaboard and gulf coast ravaged by hurricanes, while my home state of California continues to fight wildfires that grow out of control. The large river basins of the Niger River, the Senegal River, and Lake Chad have experienced a total water decrease between 40 and 60 percent.

The number of people affected by climate change will only increase; Oxfam estimates that it will affect 275 million people by 2015. That’s more than the entire population of the United States.

With this type of projected impact, it is no surprise that this global crisis, and its drastic effects on poor people around the world, will at last take center stage and get the attention it deserves. Heads of state from around the world are planning to come together in Copenhagen in December to work towards an agreement to tackle climate change. If global leaders want these negotiations to be a success, the agreement has to allow for both reducing global warming pollution and for investing in the resiliency of defenseless communities around the world. This assistance can help them to prepare for and respond to the impact of climate change.

Helping vulnerable communities means providing funding for those who are living in the most extreme poverty to adapt to climate change and prepare for the future. This funding can support innovations such as drought-resistant seeds or provide essentials like assembling food banks for times of shortage. Even coastal tree barriers and raised homes for floods and hurricanes can help. The bottom line is that the world’s wealthiest nations can and should help the neediest to plan ahead for the future, to avoid the humanitarian disasters that we have seen ravage these communities.

As an African, I have a responsibility to share the impact of climate change on Africa with the global community; but as citizen of the world I have a responsibility to speak out and do my part for all of humanity. The clock is ticking – now. World leaders have the chance to stop the clock. Let’s hope that in New York and in Copenhagen they take the lead to lift millions of people out of poverty. We don’t have the luxury to debate the issues, or question ourselves. We must stop second-guessing our duties. It is unequivocally our inherent responsibility to one another as humans to assist and find solutions for the poorest in our communities and around the globe.

Filed under: Global Warming • LKL Web Exclusive • Larry King Live

Follow Interface on Twitter

20 May

With social media being all the rage you can now follow our work at www.twitter.com/scottlazerson & www.twitter.com/interfaceorg.  From dinner with 14 of the First Ladies of Africa to talking global philanthropy with Paris Hilton at her house to trekking up mountains in Guatemala to deliver meals & toothbrushes into school lunch feeding programs you can now know exactly what we are doing by adding us on your Twitter!

Actor Simon Rex teaching chilldren in Guatemala how to brush their teeth

Actor Simon Rex teaching children in Guatemala how to brush their teeth

A Night To Make A Difference

24 Feb

Last night the world watched Hollywood as they honored their finest and I had the chance to join Leeza Gibbon’s 2009 Oscar Night “party with a purpose”.  This was a first-of-its-kind event that brought together stars from film, TV, music, sports and fashion to celebrate the worlds of celebrity and charity.

There was a live telecast direct from the iconic Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills with celebrity contributors serving as “Ambassadors of Change” — they included Larry King, Jessica Beil, Tony Hawk, Slash & Perla Hudson to name a few.  These stars lead by example and use their “celebrity” for the greater good.

 The Interface Foundation joined Leeza Gibbons & her Leeza Gibbon’s Memory foundation to take the global stage of Oscar Night & used it to put the focus on advocacy, philanthropy and volunteerism with the first ever A Night to Make a Difference.

Thanks to Brooke Burns, Cheryl Burke, Chevy Chase, Academy Award® Nominee Danny Boyle, David Foster, Academy Award® Winner Forest Whitaker,  Hilary Duff, Jessica Beil, Mel B, Paris Hilton, Olivia Newton John, Slash & Perla Hudson, J Ambrozic, Teri Hatcher, Thelma Huston, Tony Hawk for using your voice for the good of humanity!!!

 

 

Feeling the Effects of Genocide

3 Dec

It was my summer 2007 trip to Nyamata, Rwanda that brought me face to face with the effects of genocide. 

Our Rwandan guide led us to the grave site of some 42,000 people who had been slaughtered only years before.  My mind could not comprehend such evil acts let alone absorb the fact that I was standing IN a grave surrounded by the skulls & bones of thousands who paid an ultimate price for what? 

Lt.Gen. Romeo Dallaire puts it best, “Rwanda–“It’s a story of betrayal, failure, naivete, indifference, hatred, genocide, war, inhumanity and evil. In just one hundred days over 800,000 innocent Rwanda men, women, and children were brutally murdered while the developed world, impassive and apparently unperturbed, sat back and watched the unfolding apocalypse or simply changed channels. Almost fifty years to the day my that father and father-in-law helped to liberate Europe–when the extermination camps were uncovered and when, one voice, humanity said, ‘Never again’–we once again sat back and permitted this unspeakable horror to occur. We could not find the political will nor the resources to stop it. Since then, much has been written, discussed, debated, argued and filmed on the subject of Rwanda, yet it is my feeling that this recent catastrophe is being forgotten and its lessons submerged in ignorance and apathy. The genocide in Rwanda was a failure of humanity that could easily happen again.”

The Grave of  42,000 in Nyamata, Rwanda

The Grave of 42,000 in Nyamata, Rwanda

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour will be presenting a two hour special called, Scream Bloody Murder tomorrow, December 4 at 9pm EST.

(CNN) — They share a deep sorrow: an idealistic American who tried to protect the Kurds of Iraq, a Canadian general who refused to follow orders in Rwanda, a French priest who fought for the soul of Cambodia.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for "Scream Bloody Murder."

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for “Scream Bloody Murder.”

Each one tried to focus the world’s attention on the world’s most heinous crime: genocide. Each time, they were shunned, ignored or told it was someone else’s problem.

To understand why, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for a two-hour documentary, “Scream Bloody Murder.”

Having reported on mass atrocities around the world, this time Amanpour traced the personal accounts of those who tried to stop the slaughter.

The yearlong CNN investigation found that instead of using a U.N. treaty outlawing genocide as a springboard to action, political leaders have invoked reason after reason to make intervention seem unnecessary, pointless and even counter-productive.

December marks the 60th anniversary of the U.N.’s Genocide Convention, when — in the aftermath of the Holocaust — the nations of the world pledged to prevent and punish future attempts to eliminate ethnic, religious and national groups.

“The Genocide Convention should have stopped genocide, but it didn’t,” said Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Intervention is a daunting challenge, he believes, because of a tendency to minimize accounts from refugees and victims. “It’s better not to believe, because if you believe, you don’t sleep nights. And how can you eat? How can you drink a glass of wine when you know?

1970s: Cambodia

Father François Ponchaud was a Catholic missionary in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge guerillas — communist revolutionaries — seized power in 1975. They expelled all foreigners from the country.

But working from France, Ponchaud gathered refugee accounts and monitored radio broadcasts to document the slave labor, torture and executions the Khmer Rouge were using to kill one-fourth of Cambodia’s population.

He published his findings in a major French newspaper and wrote a book, “Year Zero.” But even so, Ponchaud tells Amanpour, “No one believed us.”

1980s: Iraq

CNN found that intervention is often weighed against political and economic costs.

Declassified U.S. government documents show that while Saddam Hussein was gassing Iraqi Kurds, the U.S. opposed punishing Iraq with a trade embargo because it was cultivating Iraq as an ally against Iran and as a market for U.S. farm exports.

According to Peter Galbraith, then an idealistic Senate staffer determined to stop Hussein from committing genocide, the Reagan administration “got carried away with their own propaganda. They began to believe that Saddam Hussein could be a reliable partner.”

1990s: Bosnia

Even extensive news coverage may not lead to intervention.

During the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the media reported on the Bosnian Serbs’ ethnic cleansing of Muslims: the siege of Sarajevo, the concentration camps, the use of rape as a weapon of war.

It was like watching “a color remake of the black-and-white scenes we’d seen in World War II,” said U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose Jewish grandfather fled Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power.

Holbrooke was an early advocate for a U.S.-led military operation against the Bosnian Serbs.

“I took a stand that I believed was correct,” he told Amanpour. “I didn’t think it was so controversial.”

But it would take three years — and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica  — for Holbrooke to make his case within the Clinton administration.

1994: Rwanda

In Rwanda, where Hutu soldiers and militias massacred their Tutsi countrymen, the Clinton administration tried to avoid characterizing the ethnic slaughter as genocide.

According to an internal memo, the State Department worried that under the 1948 Genocide Convention, using the term “genocide” could force the U.S. “to actually ‘do something.'”

The head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, begged for additional troops. Instead of reinforcements, Dallaire got an order to withdraw completely. He would not leave Rwanda.

“I refused a legal order,” he told Amanpour, “but it was immoral.” His tiny U.N. force was not enough to stop the slaughter of more than 800,000 people.

2003: Darfur

Some human rights advocates consider Darfur, the western region of Sudan, to be the scene of the first genocide of the 21st century.

The atrocities in Darfur grow out of a civil war between rebels from Sudan’s African tribes and the country’s Arab-led government.

In 2003, when the rebels attacked government outposts in Darfur, a U.N. human rights monitor warned that in the “escalating conflict,” Sudan’s government may be “engaged in … ethnic cleansing aimed at eliminating African tribes from Darfur.”

At the time, world attention was on Iraq, where the United States was fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The early warning on Darfur “disappeared into a big hole,” according to Mukesh Kapila, then the U.N.’s top official in Sudan.

Even when the U.N. Security Council put Darfur on its agenda, it took more than three years to authorize a robust peacekeeping force.

“There was no lack of information,” says activist Eric Reeves. “There was a lack of will to stop genocide.”

In July, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court accused Sudan’s president of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, charges Sudan denies.

How will history judge the world’s response to Darfur?

“It will applaud the young people … who believe in solidarity,” says Wiesel. “It will certainly criticize the leaders of the world.”

And the next time somebody screams bloody murder to stop a genocide, will anyone listen?

Human Rights

2 Dec

I have now been home from South Africa for a few days and think the extraordinary events of my time there are finally sinking in.  I am still in awe that my newest hero Bishop Paul Verryn invited me to visit him at the downtown Johannesburg Central Methodist Mission which is considered “home” for over 1,600 Zimbabwean refugees.  Bishop Verryn  has tirelessly given his love and compassion to find justice for the over 4,000 who have found refugee at one point or another at his Church.  Presently over 3 million Zimbabweans have come to South Africa to seek political asylum.  Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, former United States president Jimmy Carter, and Graca Machel, an advocate for the rights of women & children, and also wife of Nelson Mandela spent over an hour and a half withsome of the Zimbabwean refugees & Bishop Paul.  I had the great honor of being present during their visit. As I was reading CNN.com this morning, the following commentary from former President Jimmy Carter became quite personal as I spent time with him last Sunday evening.

Bishop Paul Verryn & Zimbabwean refugees with Graca Machel, Jimmy Carter & Kofi Annan

Bishop Paul Verryn& Zimbabwean refugees with Graca Machel, Jimmy Carter & Kofi Annan

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN)— It has been heartening to witness the outpouring of worldwide enthusiasm over the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, a transformational moment for our country.

Our incoming president has huge challenges ahead of him, and he will undoubtedly reach out to other world leaders to help address the most difficult problems. A high priority will be the restoration of human rights, which have been badly eroded in recent years.

President-elect Obama has reiterated his decision to close Guantánamo Bay detention center and end U.S.-sponsored torture. Also under discussion is the establishment by the U.S. government of an independent commission to examine the actions that led to these shameful policies and practices.

Together, these steps would signal a renewed commitment to the cause of universal human rights long championed by the United States. As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the reassertion of these fundamental rights is necessary.

While the U.S. government has much work to do in this regard, there will have to be a concerted international effort to achieve meaningful protection of human rights, even as the issue of security continues to demand our attention.

The American people and our courts have rejected the proposition that some people’s rights can be suspended arbitrarily; to do so violates the very core of our democracy. Hopefully, those working to establish democratic practices and institutions worldwide will seize upon this development and convince their own fellow citizens that democracy and human rights are worth the struggle.

The international community, including a newly energized United States, should move swiftly and decisively to support the local heroes who risk much to advance this cause.

Human rights defenders from throughout the world are participating in our annual conference at The Carter Center this week to share the challenges they face, and to decide how the international community can best support their efforts.

For years, these activists have told us that when the United States engaged in torture and indefinite detention, their decades of struggle for rights began to erode. Dictators who had felt pressure from the United States to improve rights were suddenly off the hook. With new leadership in Washington, a clear and principled message on the centrality of human rights can help set a new tone.

Too often, the international community has failed to respond to emerging crises, partly because voices of the oppressed are missing in policy discussions. Had the international community heeded the warning of human rights defenders in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, more robust and coordinated diplomacy and even limited intervention may have averted these crises.

Catastrophic conditions exist in Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and elsewhere and will require unprecedented cooperation to resolve. It is time to embrace the idea that when human beings are systematically abused, international peace and security are inherently threatened.

In such situations, the global community should spare no effort to help societies in distress. Crises like these can be assuaged before they escalate if there is determined global leadership and cooperation.

Human rights defenders are on the frontlines of this battle, and we must protect them when they face danger because of their work. We must do a better job of listening to their diagnoses of issues and be receptive to their proposed solutions.

And we must strengthen their voices and help to protect them in a collective, undeniable commitment to create the world of peace and freedom that many of us enjoy and we all desire.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jimmy Carter.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Farrell of the AP