Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Share the joy of reading.

I am a big proponent of reading and literacy, and so was pleased to see a flyer for Better World Books on campus today. Better World Books is a business that operates to support worldwide literacy projects. From the very beginning, 100% of after-cost profits are always donated to charity. There are seven ways to work with Better World Books:

* Donate books which will be either sold to raise money for Room to Read or Books for Africa (see below) or donated to Books for Africa. Better World Books will even pay the postage for your donation!

* Campus organizations can organize a drive to collect textbooks and other books at the end of the semester. They'll raise money for their organization and help fund world literacy projects too! This is a great project for a civic, service, or Greek letter organization.

* Libraries can donate unwanted books and generate money in the process.

* The Thrift Store Program allows thrift stored to get rid of unneeded books and raise money at the same time.

* In the Bookstore Program, Better World Books will pick up unwanted books so that they don't have to be destroyed, recycled or tossed into a landfill.

* Buy used books from Better World Books knowing that they profits will be used to support world literacy efforts. There are books on all subjects, so you're sure to find something you like. There's even a money back guarantee!

* Donate money directly to the Better World Books' partner organizations: Room to Read and Books for Africa. "Room to Read seeks to intervene early in the lives of children and help provide them with an education and the lifelong gift of literacy." To that end, they work in Asia to build schools, fund scholarships, establish libraries, publish local language children's books, donate English language children's books and more. Books for Africa is the largest shipper of donated school books to the African continent, over 1.4 million last year alone. They collect, sort, ship and distribute books to children in 28 countries. Your donations are needed to pay for the costs of shipping (~$.38 per book).

So search through your bookshelves (and your wallets) to see if how you can support Better World Books, Books for Africa, and Room to Read. As Room to Read says "World change starts with educated children."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Communicate freely.

2005 has been declared the Year of Languages. I have a long list of languages I'd like to learn, including Twi, French and Spanish. Once I'm out of school, this is going to be a real priority. I miss out on way too much by only speaking English. In the meantime, here are some sites I use to communicate more freely:

* Use or Google language tools to translate a block of text or a webpage. The languages translated are Chinese, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

* Learn a word a day your choice of over 80 languages. If you already have some foundation in grammar, this can be a useful way to increase your vocabulary with an email each day.

* Communicate more effectively in English by increasing your vocabulary with a new word each day from or Each service sends an email each day with a new word, its definition and usage and sometimes some commentary.

* Write more effectively by using's dictionary and thesaurus to be sure that you are spelling and using words correctly. I have these bookmarked. They also have a translator.

As Marcel Proust said, "In a language known to us, we have substituted the opacity of the sounds with the transparence of the ideas." Make 2005 your year of languages!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Celebrate March 25th.

Here are some folks who share my birthday today. Help us celebrate by supporting some of this great work:

* Honor singers Aretha Franklin and Elton John by supporting music education organizations. The list includes the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and more.

* Honor Dazon Dixon Diallo by supporting her organization, Sisterlove, a Georgia-based organization that focuses "specifically upon the needs of women, particularly African American women and those of African descent, who are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections."

* Honor writers Toni Cade Bambara and Flannery O'Connor by promoting literacy. You can teach someone to read or donate books to children for free.

* Honor athletes Sheryl Swoops and Debi Thomas by making physical activity a regular part of your life.

* Honor Star Trek astronaut Pavel Chekov by supporting science education.

* Honor feminist Gloria Steinem by honoring women.

Happy birthday to everyone born on March 25th, and a good day to everyone else!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Give HOPE.

You don't have to be a long-time reader of "So what can I do" to guess that I'm not in favor of the mass production of HUMMERs for the public. But if folks insist on driving these awful vehicles, here's something useful they can do with them. The HUMMER Club has teamed with the Red Cross to start HUMMER Owners Prepared for Emergencies (HOPE).

HOPE "will certify qualifying members as Red Cross volunteers who can be deployed by the local chapters of Red Cross to drive supplies and Red Cross personnel into disaster areas where other vehicles might not be able to reach." Now that's what the vehicles were made for!

Contact the Red Cross or the Hummer Club for information on how you can give HOPE during hurricanes, floods and other disasters.

Do what 'WE DO.'

The Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) is "an international organization that advocates for women’s equality in global policy. It seeks to empower women as decision makers to achieve economic, social and gender justice, a healthy, peaceful planet and human rights for all." They focus on four main program areas:

* " The Gender and Governance Program works for women's full and equal access in public life, working towards women’s equal participation and representation, especially in governmental decision-making positions."

* "The Sustainable Development Program fosters development that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just and works to strengthen alliances between the women's and environmental movements."

* "The Economic and Social Justice Program promotes a gender perspective as necessary to advancing the economic and social rights of women and all people by focusing on poverty eradication, international trade, debt cancellation, and resource allocation."

* "The US Global Policy Program focuses on the unprecedented influence of the U.S. government on world affairs and its impact on women’s daily lives and works to counter the negative impact of U.S. unilateralism on women living in the U.S. and around the world."

Visit the WEDO website to sign up for their e-newsletter, browse through and learn from their library and get involved in campaigns that promote worldwide social justice. This is another of the organizations I learned about from Life and Debt and is especially appropriate to discuss during this women's history month. I love their acronym: WE DO!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Value water.

Today, March 22, 2005, is World Water Day. Many of us take clean, accessible water for granted. But we shouldn't. Here's why:

According to the UN, more than 1.1 billion people around the world lack safe water and 2.4 billion have no access to sanitation. This contributes to over 3 million deaths every year. The Environmental Protection Agency says that risks to the US water supply "include difficult and controversial regulatory problems such as pollutant runoff from agricultural lands and stormwater flows from cities, seepage into ground water from nonpoint sources, and the loss of habitats such as wetlands. Though fisheries have come back, we cannot always eat what we catch because fish flesh is contaminated by the remaining discharges and sources of toxic substances. Microbial contamination of drinking water still presents problems in many communities."

"So what can I do?" Here are five suggestions:

* Skip a beef meal. 18 percent of all water consumption is used to produce feed for livestock. Poultry, hog, and beef factory farms produce large amounts of agricultural waste runoff, which is a major source of water pollution.

* If you live alone or with cooperative housemates, follow this rule: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." This rule, moderately applied, can reduce household water use by 25% alone. And that means a cheaper bill. Thanks to Whitney for that one!

* Don't waste water. Keep a container handy to collect water that would go down the drain and use it to water plants or pets.

* Recycle motor oil. Motor oil doesn't get wear out, it just gets dirty. Recycled oil can be reprocessed in to other types of fuel. Also, recycling prevents the waste that pollutes ground and drinking water, lakes, rivers, streams and the ocean, and it protects wildlife. (Remember those poor birds after the Exxon Valdez spill?) Click here to find a recycling center near you.

* Reduce, reuse, recycle paper, in that order. Paper production is one of the top five water consuming industries, so even small efforts make a big difference.

So on this World Water Day, and on every day, take small steps (or big ones if you like) to conserve and protect our drinkable and usable water supply. We should all value water; we need it to survive.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Get a living will.

The recent and continuing controversy over Terri Schiavo's medical condition has caused many of us to consider having a living will. This legal document makes clear your wishes about certain aspects of your own end-of-life care. I read the following on the American Journal of Bioethics blog:

"You Need a Living Will

This is the location to find information about a living will - which after the Schiavo case you may really want to consider having. An advance directive aimed at ensuring that your doctors and significant others know what treatments you would, or would not, want has suddenly become the most important tool one could have in the event that there is any difference between your views and your family's views about end of life care. Country simple: if you would want a feeding tube removed were you in persistent vegetative state, and you think that it is enough that you told your family as much, think again and get a living will. Your state's information is above.

Warning: not guaranteed to protect you against the combined legislative force of a majority of congress."

No matter what you think about Terri Schiavo's medical care, no one wants to put their loved ones through the kind of turmoil and anguish Terri Schiavo's family is enduring right now. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, or have children, a spouse, or family. Get a living will. Discuss it with your family and friends. Make what would undoubtedly be a very difficult decision, just a little bit easier.

And remember, you can click the white envelope to forward this post to to others.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Start over.

On this, the first day of Spring, take a moment to evaluate your life. Now is as good a time as any to stop a bad habit or start a good one. Take the next step and make your life the one you truely want to live. Develop a plan to be the person you want to be. Every day is a new opportunity to redefine your life. What's truely important to you? Why? Does your lifestyle reflect your values? As Mahatma Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Celebrate the vernal equinox by celebrating you! Happy Spring!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Listen to women's voices.

Every now and again I happen upon the commercial TV news. I don't watch it regularly because most of the newscasts promote a culture of fear, don't often tell the whole story, and don't cover much of the news I care about. I prefer independent non-corporate media.

In honor of Women's History Month (March), consider a women's alternative media source. The Women's International Newsgathering Service ( "raises women's voices through radio worldwide." Visit their site to hear radio interviews with women newsmakers from all over the world. WINGS can be heard on several independent and community radio stations. I listen on WRFG in Atlanta. Here are just a few of the topics they covered recently:

* Women in North Korea
* South Africa: Women, Land and AIDS
* Iraq Democracy -- Naomi Klein
* Miria Matembe of Uganda
* Being the Future of El Salvador
* Australia at Peak: Environmental Downfall

No matter which news service you choose, engage media whenever possible. Enjoy WINGS and celebrate women!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Create a second harvest.

Here's another opportunity to get more bang for your buck. This just in from America's Second Harvest:

"We've received a generous gift that will allow us to double any gift you give to America's Second Harvest up to $10,000.

This is a special opportunity because it is a web-only matching grant. You won't get this in the mail.

What's more, because of the relationships we have with food manufacturers and distributors, it means for every $1 you give we can secure and distribute $60 worth of groceries and put them in the hands of hungry families across America.

It's one of the most effective gifts you can give to fight hunger.

Please help us provide food to those in our country who need it most. One in every ten people living here, the wealthiest nation on earth, struggles to get enough to eat.

Thank you in advance for your generosity."

For more on Second Harvest, see the January 24th post. Donate online here. Won't you share some of what you have to spare?

Donate your miles.

Do you have extra frequent flyer miles for an airline you never use? Do you wonder if you'll ever get enough miles for an upgrade or free trip? Are your miles just sitting there doing nothing? Why not consider donating your frequent flyer miles to charity. You can choose to use your miles to:

- Fly children to a hospital for medical treatment.
- Fly aid workers (from CARE, Red Cross, etc.) to southeast Asia to serve in the aftermath of the Tsunami and other disasters.
- Fly military personnel home to visit family.
- Fly families to visit hospitalized military personnel.

Here are four programs I found, though I'm sure there are more:

* Delta Skywish
* Northwest AirCares
* US Air Dividend Miles
* Continental OnePass

So find out if your favorite airline has a miles donation program. It's a great way to help someone in need.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Take the Birmingham Pledge.

This is the Birmingham Pledge:

I believe that every person has worth as an individual.
I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.
I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity.
I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.

Sound like something you can agree to? If so, visit to sign the pledge, and spread the word.

It may seem like a small thing, but it is often useful to consciously recommit yourself to your goals. I am particularly moved by "I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others." When we realize that our own prejudice negatively affects us as well as the person we discriminate against, and when we realize that discrimination against others (even if we did not initiate it) cheapens our own lives, we all will be highly motivated to end prejudice. And we will do so, because we know doing so will improve all of our lives regardless of our ethnicity, religion, color, class, sexual orientation or disability status.

Note that you can read and sign the Pledge in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and German. Also, check out the Birmingham Pledge website to find teaching tools, curricula, information on starting a pledge drive, newsletters and more. And for more ways in increase tolerance, see the February 24th post.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Send a care package for the mind.

Regardless of how you feel about the current war, US soldiers can use your support. Books for Soldiers is "a soldier support site that ships books, DVDs and supplies to deployed soldiers and soldiers in VA hospitals, via our large volunteer network." On

* a servicewomen or man can request specific books through Books for Soldiers.
* the public can send books to a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine.
* the public can volunteer, donate money or donate other needed items.

Perhaps you have relatives who've been called to active duty (I do). Or friends. Or coworkers. Or neighbors. Consider sending those you know (or those you don't) a care package for the mind.

Friday, March 11, 2005

End poverty.

The current issue of Time magazine focuses on strategies to end poverty. That's because 1 billion people are so poor that their lives are in danger. Jeffrey D. Sachs argues in his article and in his book, "The End of Poverty", that this kind of poverty can be and should be permanently eliminated. The article gives nine ways to make this happen. One of them is to support sustainable development. Here's your chance to do just that and make double the difference. This just in from Heifer Project International:

"We've got a million reasons to smile at Heifer!

That's because we've just learned that we're the beneficiary of a $1 Million Matching Gift Challenge — meaning that every donation we receive between now and April 25 will be matched dollar for dollar!

The bottom line is this: We need you to help us take full advantage of this $1 Million Matching Gift Challenge. It's an amazing opportunity for you to double your gift; and for us to double the livestock and training we provide to hungry families in urgent need.

P.S. Don't want to wait for the mailman? Give online now."

For more on Heifer, see the November 30th post on sustainable development. Won't you consider donating to Heifer, if you can, by April 25th? It's a small, but meaningful step you can take to help end poverty. Just ask Beatrice.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Be 'Outward Bound.'

For the last three years, I've been a camp counselor at Camp AIM High, a summer program of Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers. For five days, we enjoy the great outdoors and work on personal development, education and life skills. It's a great time! Last year, there was a new piece of programming. Folks from Outward Bound came to work with the kids. I'd heard of Outward Bound before but had never seen them in action. The kids really enjoyed the exercises and understood how the games and activities held lessons for their lives.

Outward Bound is a non-profit, educational organization that "delivers adventure in the wilderness, urban settings, workrooms, and classrooms to help students achieve their possibilities and to inspire them to serve other and care for the world around them." If you like the outdoors, this may be just the organization for you. Their programs stress five core values:

* Challenge and Adventure
* Compassion and Service
* Social and Environmental Responsibility
* Character Development
* Learning Through Experience

They teach these values through five types of programming:

* Wilderness expeditions - Outward Bound offers over 750 wilderness courses that serve adults, teens and youth. These include dogsledding, rock climbing, sea kayaking, sailing, and more.

* Partnerships with schools - Outward Bound works with students all over the country to help them build confidence and achieve academic mastery.

* Professional programs - Outward Bound teaches teamwork, communication, leadership and trust to corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

* Urban and community - Outward Bound offers urban programming in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta to "help individuals discover their personal potential and the possibilities for the communities in which they reside."

* Outreach programs - "Outward Bound Outreach programs use the wilderness and expeditions to help transform the lives of adjudicated and pre-adjudicated youth who have a history of truancy, running away or ungovernable behavior, or may have committed low-level juvenile offenses."

Perhaps you know of an organization that might like to work with Outward Bound. Or maybe you want to enjoy the outdoors and serve as a volunteer with Outward Bound. Or maybe you just want to support their work financially. In any case, be "Outward Bound!"

For information on Outward Bound outside the US, visit

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Eliminate e-waste.

I've written before about e-waste: the tons of waste from electronic tools and gadgets that poison the environment, poison people and animals, and help fund civil war. By now you know, that you can and should recycle rechargeable batteries from cell phones, cordless phones, power tools, computers and the like. You know that the recycled materials will be refurbished or used to make new batteries. But did you know that you can get paid to recycle these materials?

The mission of Cell for Cash is "to help consumers and businesses capture the value of their unused cellphones." All you do is enter your cell phone manufacturer and model. They'll tell you how much you'll get. (I could have gotten $8 for the phone I recycled a few months ago.) Enter your address to request a free postage paid box to send your phone. When it arrives, mail off your phone, then sit back and wait for your check!

There are over 100 million unused cellphones in the hands of U.S. consumers and businesses. This is a great way to get rid of them! Now you can eliminate e-waste in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, while you do something useful for the humanity and the environment, and GET PAID! How much better could it be?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Cherish a woman.

I am pleased to report that "So what can I do" has been selected Blog of the Day ( by the folks at CitrusMoon. This is especially nice because today is International Women's Day. Thanks CitrusMoon!

This year's theme is "Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future." Consider these facts from CARE:

> Of the more than 1 billion people in the developing world who live on less than $1 a day, 70 percent are women.

> Two-thirds of the world's 876 million illiterate adults are women.

> Women produce half the world's food, but own only one percent of its farmland.

There's a lot to be done, but we can start with small steps:

* Send one suit and help a low-income women dress for success at her job interview.

* Voice your opinion about how women are represented in music videos.

* End domestic violence.

* Fight breast cancer.

* Learn more about activities for International Women's Day in your neck of the woods

Most importantly, celebrate today by caring for, loving, supporting, helping, cherishing a woman. Send a card just to say hi, call her up and chat a while, lend a helping hand. Consider all the women you know: your mother, sister, aunt, cousin, wife, fiancee, neighbor, friend, colleague, the sister on the street, the bus, in the car next to you. We're every woman and today is our day! Show us some love!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Work for economic justice.

Last night, some friends and I watched Life and Debt. It's such a great film, an excellent critique of how the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are destroying Jamaica's economy in ways that simultaneously support, stabilize and encourage economic growth in countries like the US. Unfortunately, the economic situation in Jamaica is similar to that of many other countries, so Life and Debt serves as an modern economic biography not only of Jamaica, but of many of the countries in the global South and elsewhere.

I posted about this documentary once before, but at the time, I'd only seen the first third of the film and was frustrated because I didn't know how to resist or subvert these world financial organizations that only seem to exaggerate economic disparities and counteract efforts at social justice. I did not have an answer to the question this blog poses, "So what can I do?" But, thankfully, in the months since, I've come up with lots of ideas. Here are just a few:

* Buy local food and goods. Not only do you support your local economy, but you get fresher and better food.

* Volunteer your time and skills with an organization that works toward economic and social justice.

* Engage the media and hold them accountable for the stories they choose to present and the ways in which they present them.

* Pay off your debts so you'll have more money to support the causes that really matter and the organizations that make a difference.

* Shop with a purpose for the things you need and support your favorite non-profit organization at the same time.

* Invest responsibly so that your money is not used to increase economic disparities but instead is used to acheive economic justice.

* Buy fair trade food and goods from companies that pay their workers a living wage and do not rely on sweatshops.

* Live ethically and do the right thing even when it's unpopular, uncommon, unexpected or inconvenient; make sure your lifestyle reflects your values.

In the coming weeks, I will discuss some of the many organizations that are listed as resources in the Life and Debt DVD liner notes. These groups work for social justice and will give us numerous ways to get involved and make a difference. Learn more about free trade and fair trade, debt and development, globalization and democratization, and more. Sign up for free electronic newsletters and action alerts that will periodically remind you of the work that needs to be done and tell you how to do it. Engage in letter-writing, boycotts, and other campaigns to change economic policy in the US and elsewhere. Most importantly, take the small steps that everyone can do to decrease economic disparities and work for social and economic justice in your community and in your world.

Many thanks to Nana, Eron, Mawunyo and Kwadjo for an excellent discussion (and a fantastic dinner!). Y'all keep me on my toes, and I am grateful for your friendship.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Insist on fair housing practices.

In 1968, the US government passed the Fair Housing Act, which, along with its amendments, "prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents of legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability)." These laws help prevent "financial redlining" and other discriminatory practices.

For more on fair housing, consult these Housing and Urban Development (HUD) resources:

* Suggestions on when and how to report fraud, waste, or abuse of HUD programs.

* Forms and instructions on filing a fair housing complaint.

* Instructions on how to report a bad landlord, one who fails "to provide safe and decent housing for the poor, while enriching themselves on taxpayer-funded subsidies."

* An index of laws and executive orders regulating fair housing and equal opportunity.

Everyone deserves a decent place to live. Fair housing laws help make that possible.

March forth!

A few years ago, a friend of my mother's told her that hers is the only birthday that is also a command: March 'Forth!' So in honor of my mother's birthday today, I'm asking the readers of 'So what can I do' to march forth out of the shadows, sort of a delurking day. If you would, please leave a comment and let me know you're out there. Today is also World Day of Prayer. So feel free to use the comment space to talk about what you'll pray for, make a suggestion for 'So what can I do', send a shout out to a friend, or even wish my mother, Janet, a happy birthday. Thanks for reading! I hope to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Plant a row for the hungry."

There are over 70 million gardeners in the US and about 25 million people who are chronically hungry (including 9.9 million children). Plant a Row for the Hungry encourages gardeners to plant an extra row, and donate the produce to local food banks and community service agencies. It's not much work to till, sow and garden one more row, so consider doing so and donating some of your produce to combat hunger in your community.

It's time to play in the dirt!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Send One Suit: Dress for Success.

March 6-12th has been declared "Send One Suit" week by Dress for Success. "Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organization that helps low-income women make tailored transitions into the workforce. Each Dress for Success client receives one suit when she has a job interview and a second suit when she gets the job. The Dress for Success Professional Women's Group program then provides ongoing support to help the client build a successful career." They accept new or nearly-new and cleaned:

- Coordinated, contemporary, interview-appropriate skirt and pant suits
- Beautiful, crisp blouses
- Gorgeous blazers and jackets
- Professional shoes
- There is a particular need for larger-size suits

Here are some other ways you can support Dress for Success:

* Send one new or nearly new interview suit to Dressbarn during the week of March 6-12th and help a low-income woman enter the workforce. Click here to find a Dressbarn in your area.

* Donate money to Dress for Success worldwide or to a local affiliate.

* Volunteer at Dress for Success and do office work, fundraising, sorting and even personal shopping. Click here to find a Dress for Success affiliate near you.

* Organize a suit drive through your company, church, sorority, weight-loss group, bookclub or other organization. Together, you will make a bigger difference.

This is a great way to celebrate Women's History Month, which begins today. You've got a week to get ready. So take a look in your closet and find a suit you can spare. A woman in need is preparing for a job interview and she will greatly appreciate it.

For more ways to reuse other clothing items, see the January 31st post.