Day 6: Peace Corps #GIG2017

I will gratefully wave my flag for the chance to serve others near and far.
As a Peace Corps campus ambassador, I admittedly have not been the best at being an outspoken advocate. Sitting at tables in crowded common areas isn’t exactly my forte. 

However, through my new knowledge about the original volunteer-abroad opportunity and the growing number of other organizations promoting similar messages, I want to express my gratitude.

Ultimately, what matters most is service. If you can’t necessarily wrap your mind around leaving the country for two years, there’s always your local community that could use your helping hands. But I say if you have any curiosity or interest in Peace Corps, I say go for it.

I don’t tote my support and gratitude for the Peace Corps lightly. I truly believe in its mission to contribute trained people to countries needing support in areas like development and education. That in turn allows individuals to gain an immersive experience learning and living in a foreign culture surrounded by new people and ideas, as well as creating stronger bonds between global neighbors.

Gratitude can only go so far if we voice our thoughts and leave it at that. What should come next is applying gratitude, utilizing our blessings and abilities to help others. It’s an opportunity that is irreplaceable, regardless of how large or small of a difference you assume you’re making.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to fulfill my need to volunteer abroad. Once graduating, it might be expected to delve immediately into the workforce and climb the corporate ladder, but I’m fortunate enough to have the amazing support and resources to choose other options that better align with my goals and passions in life.

And if you peruse the Peace Corps website and think it doesn’t quite fit, be grateful that so many other amazing organizations now offer similar experiences to travel within or outside the United States to do humanitarian work. You can search by location, types of positions, lengths of time and more. I was certainly surprised in my own findings how many like-minded people out there have established different options to act and serve.

While I don’t intend to be a salesperson through today’s post, I do hope my gratitude might evoke your own call to volunteer. Peace Corps might not be the perfect fit for you at this moment, but you might find other ways to reach out, or see more room for personal growth in your future. Either way, I say reach out to those close to you for support and make use of the amazing information out there. And hey, I’m always here if you need that person for brainstorming and guidance. 

Gratitude makes your awareness known, but how can you put your gratitude into action today?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Day 2: Clean Water – #GIG2017

We can go to a fountain or faucet whenever we want, but so many around the world don’t have that access.

We would be nothing without water. Our bodies are composed mainly with water. We drink, bathe, and use water constantly. It’s a basic necessity. Something basic that we probably don’t think too much about on a daily basis beyond getting those eight glasses each day for optimal health.

Except for far too many people in this world, even in the United States, access to clean drinking water isn’t as convenient as stepping up to the sink. Safe drinking water is a problem for nearly 1 billion people. Many of these people are women and young girls in the developing world who must walk an average of 6 kilometers each day to collect often contaminated water for their families. And that number doesn’t take into account the 2.3 billion people who live without access to proper sanitation.

If you want another way of looking at those numbers, here’s the lowdown: 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water. 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. So where do our priorities lie, especially those of us who are fortunate enough to never even think too much about the quality of our water?

Access to water goes beyond just what we see and use in our day-to-day lives. The global water crisis drips into almost every issue our planet is facing right now, including climate change, human rights, education, hunger, economic stability, and more. Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.

Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment. Without proper water governance, there is likely to be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors. The ones who have the greatest access to water are the select few who are already on top. Those stuck in the cycle of poverty will remain without water and sanitation, limiting everyone’s ability to make progress and improve our world.

Not to mention the individual effects unsafe water has on people, with women and children being the most vulnerable since they’re the ones having to search out for sources of water for as long as six hours. This time takes away from women’s and children’s opportunities to simply take care of their families or go to school and work.

Globally, waterborne illnesses are a leading cause of death for children under five, killing nearly one thousand children every day. Poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.

What’s making the water so dangerous to consume? Well, synthetic pollutants (our own garbage) and natural pollutants (including human/animal excrement and rainwater runoff with chemical-laden fertilizers) all end up in fresh-water sources. The developed world has become fairly efficient in taking care of this (I say fairly because places like Flint, Michigan, are still struggling), but the developing world is left vulnerable to whatever waste we produce. In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the usable water supply. We promote poorer countries to rapidly grow their economies and begin industrializing, but we don’t equip them with the proper resources to control the effects of industrialization.

So while I am so grateful that I don’t have to think twice about taking a shower, washing my face, and drinking water available to me right at home, my gratitude wants to extend beyond myself and the developed world. An attitude of gratitude not only pushes me to look at my own life, but it also pushes me to ensure every single person and living organism on this planet has the opportunity to this resource. It shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be a basic right.

What can we do then? Luckily, many world organizations like UNICEF, the World Wildlife Foundation, and WHO are all working toward reducing the clean water crisis. P&G collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a technology that people can use in their home to purify water, improving the quality of household stored water and greatly reducing the risk of illness and death.

Water.org offers further approaches that go beyond providing water and building wells. Their programs focus on affordable financing that breaks the barrier between poverty and clean water. WaterCredit uses microfinancing to bring small, easily repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing and resources to make household water and sanitation solutions a reality. This, accompanied by global engagement to start the conversation and encourage greater support for clean water, sheds light on this major issue and hopefully inspires citizens like you and me to do our part in promoting these organizations, using clean water wisely, and reducing the amount of pollution we produce.

Gratitude is the first step toward a better, more mindful world. From there, we can act.

What can you do today to appreciate your access to clean water and sanitation? Is that helping others to gain access and reduce the crisis?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Think Before You Pink

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Wearing pink for breast cancer has become automatic and expected, but how much support are we providing to find a cure?

Although the month is coming to a close, every year you’re bound to see an endless array of color, not just from the changing leaves.

Pink merchandise and pink-related everything has become commonplace in October, all going toward the good cause of breast cancer. But have we ever really slowed down to really consider where this breast cancer awareness campaign originated? Or how it has spread to every inch of the public domain?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our immediate reaction then is to put our time and resources toward research, prevention, and treatment.

First off, when we think of all the pink surrounding us, we need to realize that for a majority of these “supporting” companies and products, pink designates awareness rather than research and treatment. Since the disease is so common, that means any contributions to public awareness are essentially pointless. When it comes to cancer, we don’t need to spend more time recognizing it’s there: we need proactive efforts to decrease the number and severity of cancer cases.

At the heart of it all, breast cancer awareness is marketing, and extremely successful marketing at that. Wearing or using pink products is an indicator for altruism, support for philanthropic causes, maybe personal ties to hardship. However, your pink doesn’t necessarily take into consideration if you’re actively contributing to breast cancer programs and what portion of proceeds you are. Any company can put a pink ribbon on its products since it’s not regulated by any agency. Some products sport pink ribbons to try to communicate that they are “healthy” and don’t contribute to breast cancer. Other products have a pink ribbon saying the company supports breast cancer programs even if the company’s contributions aren’t tied to the purchases of the specific product bearing the ribbon. Still other companies give a portion of an item’s cost to a breast cancer organization, but consumers might have to jump through some hoops for a donation to be realized.

Even if a product and company do tell people that a certain percentage of profit will fund breast cancer support, do they say which charities money is going to? As much as donating to charity sounds great, it can too often be manipulated to fund the charity and its employees only. Before making a purchase, ask questions. If money goes to “services,” are they reaching the people who need them most? How do screening programs ensure that women can get treatment? And how do breast cancer awareness programs address the fact that we already know that breast cancer is a problem and that action is needed in order to end the epidemic? Does the money go to truly addressing the root causes of the epidemic, like social inequities that lead to women of color and poor women dying more often of breast cancer, or environmental toxins that are contributing to high rates of breast cancer? I guess depending on how much you trust big business, you can take your chances, but I’d rather not. My personal values take priority, and if I’m voting with my dollar, it better be going to true support.

Some of the top-rated charities for breast cancer include the Breast Cancer Research FoundationNational Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. A big name for breast cancer donations is Susan G. Komen, but there have been mixed reviews over recent years for what some deemed excessive executive compensation and for “pinkwashing,” cause marketing with pink ribbons that allow companies to exploit the disease for profit. Despite the fact that it defines its mission as finding a cure for breast cancer, the organization spent $75 million on research in 2011, which is just 17 percent of its revenue, on finding a cure. Again, weigh things out for yourself so you can make the best decision possible.

My best advice, knowing all of this information, is to devote less energy toward pink products, allowing a middle-man to use your money without your complete awareness, and donate directly to top-rated organizations. Do your research. You’d think that if National Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985, we’d have a cure by now. This may be due in part by corrupt spending and false marketing. Our individual intentions are good, but we also need knowledge in our back pockets before pulling out our wallets, whether the cause is breast cancer or anything else. If companies and organizations won’t be completely honest and up-front about their practices, that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the truth, regardless of what color it sports.

Are you a pink supporter in October? Are these questions ones you have considered when buying things and participating in events?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie