Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oxfam America: Unwrapped!

What would the holiday season be without its requisite onslaught of holiday gift ideas? Well, here's one that is fantastic and fits any price range: Oxfam America's Unwrapped. For only $40, you can donate a dozen chicks to a family in need; for $25 you can provide a child with school supplies for a year, for $125 you can buy a camel; or for $30 you can plant 50 trees and help a community while also protecting the environment by capturing carbon!

Another climate-friendly idea come by way of the One Day campaign where A Brighter Planet offsets your emissions for a day - check it out!

Whatever you end up doing, have a safe and happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oxfam America Hunger Banquet: What Now?

This blog post goes out to all of you who attended our Oxfam America Hunger Banquet this past Saturday and are in search of some meaningful ways to be involved in the cause of advocating for climate equity. I share only a few ideas -- there are MANY ways to make a difference -- and invite you to reply with other ideas!

First of all, thank you so much for your participation. Hopefully, the stories shared Saturday evening have sparked an interest in you to get involved or have re-fed your existing drive to make a difference. Wherever you stand, I'd like to offer up some ideas for where to channel that energy.

1. Join the Vermont Oxfam Action Corps!
As you can tell from browsing the blog, we are a group of grassroots volunteers who meet once a month to decide how we can make the most impact in educating, raising awareness, and advocating on behalf of climate justice. We consist of professionals, students, business people, religious leaders, non-profit leaders, and regular ol' Vermonters. We decide as a group what the most effective use of our time and energy is and are continually striving to build a community of concerned citizens who will mobilize when the time is right to call up our Senators and Representative in support of just legislation.

Our next community-wide event will be a screening of Sisters on the Planet -- a
film which highlights the story of four women from Uganda, Brazil, Bangladesh,
and the US Gulf Coast -- on International Women's Day (March 1st) at
Burlington's Main Street Landing. Mark your calendars!

If you would like to participate in planning this event, please join us for our
next monthly meeting on Monday, January 12th at 6pm, at the Skinny Pancake.

2. Be a part of the work being done by any of the organizations presented during the Hunger Banquet or other local groups.
Our Oxfam America Hunger Banquet guest speakers and performers are each involved in amazing causes of their own. Climate Justice is just one piece of the struggle to alleviate world hunger and poverty, so if this doesn't float your boat, please follow your passion and get involved in organization that most attracts YOU! Below is a small list of some of our allies in this struggle. Please visit their websites for more information on their campaigns and how to get involved:
  • Association of Africans Living in Vermont. Alex Pial inspired us with his story of a lifelong journey from war-torn Sudan to his current activism on behalf of the friends and family he left behind.
  • NeighborKeepers. Dr. Hal Colston shed light on solutions that strengthen communities, one family at a time, through his anti-poverty non-profit, NeighborKeepers.
  • African Djolie lifted our spirits with music and dance of West Africa. Much of the money they raise goes to feeding and supporting poor communities in Guinea.
  • Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger. Although Joanne Heidkamp was not able to be with us on Saturday night, her work at the VCECH does a lot to reverse inequity that exists right here in Vermont.
  • Vermont Interfaith Power and Light. Betsy Hardy is an ally to the climate equity campaign and works on her own part to mobilize spiritual communities to do their part to Eco-teams, energy audits, and a local conference.
  • The Legacy Project. This "Vision for a Sustainable Burlington" promotes 4 E's: Environmental Protection, Social Equity, Education, and Economic Development.
  • The Peace & Justice Center. Is there really any way to talk about social justice initiatives in Burlington without mentioning the PJC? Go here to educate yourself on the issues and be a part of a larger community working towards the interconnected issues of economic and racial justice, peace, and human rights through education, advocacy, training, nonviolent activism and community organizing.
3. Educate those closest to you on the issue.
At some point in our lives, each of us has to stop and reflect on the limits of our abilities. During the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, Lee H. Gross, a graduate fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont shared a story regarding the "power of one" and his group of close friends who host an annual "Uganda-thon" to raise money for a community in need. All of the time, and energy put into these events, and all of the money raised and projects completed as a result of the events, can be directly linked back to the energy of a single person.

Strive to be that stone which causes the ripple effect. You have the power to make a difference, if only through educating those closest to you and making throughtful personal and consumer choices.

4. Visit with, call, email, or write a letter to your elected official
When I started getting involved in this work, I was the tiniest bit put off by the lack of "sexiness" to this work. Although I have marched in both Burlington and the Bronx, raising awareness about climate equity, the most impactful work consists of communicating this message to the folks in power to make a difference. Figuring out way to engage our elected officials, Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch, is how we'll be able to move forward on this issue.

You have profound power simply in your ability to vote. Look into the track record of these three men and I'm sure you'll be proud of who we have representing us on Capitol Hill. They are open to constituent input and will respond to your requests. However, the more people get involved in advocating for the climate equity, the more likely it is that the matter will be prioritized among our politicians.

5. Write a letter to the editor or otherwise publish your thoughts on climate equity in a local publication.
The power of a written statement is incredible! Think about how many people read the paper in the morning and about how many of us browse the internet for our news. By getting published, through an article or a letter to the editor, climate equity will be brought to the forefront of the public mind. A nicely timed can be even more effective.

6. Donate your time, energy, or money to the cause.
The Vermont Oxfam Action Corps is not a fund raising entity. We are volunteer-run and are happy to stay that way, but it is all too obvious that, as individuals, we vote with our dollar. When purchasing, consider the ways in which you may be perpetuating hunger and poverty around the world and adjust your actions whenever possible. Buy fair trade goods or buy local when you can afford it.

Similarly, there are many organizations doing amazing work, Oxfam America being one of them! If you're still in the middle of your holiday shopping, consider stopping at the Oxfam America UnWrapped website where you can buy a goat or a desk or a water filter or dozen chickens for a poor community in the name of a beloved.

Several charity rating guides exist which help you determine which organizations will do the most with the money ou are able to send and donations are always tax-deductible. However, if you don't have money to give, consider investing your most vaulable resource -- your time.