Thursday, June 30, 2005

Use your cell phone.

I am not a frequent cell phone user. I kept my analog version for years after it was popular. My friends made fun of me and I was sore from carrying the gargantuan thing, but I kept it until it broke. Now that I finally have a digital one, it's often uncharged, and when it is I sometimes forget to turn the ringer on. Folks have learned that it's not even worth calling me on it. But I am definitely in the minority.

Text-messaging on cell phones is the fastest growing marketing medium ever (no thanks to me). The Mission Reach Foundation is taking advantage of the growth and using it for good. They offer organizations a unique opportunity through text messaging to assist their outreach programs in securing global donations. They allow the cell phone user to make donations to their favorite organization through their phone, and the billing goes directly on the cell phone bill. How fast and convenient! Ready to get involved?

* Learn more about how the program works.

* Become a partner so that your organization can begin text-message marketing and receiving donations.

* Become a donor and support your favorite organization. After sending a text message to a particular code, donors will receive a confirmation text message to initiate a daily contribution of 25 cents for 31 consecutive days. (I hear some folks spend more than that on just the text-messaging!) The donation will appear on your monthly bill.

Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for their story on The Mission Reach Foundation. Now that's telemarketing!

"The best way to teach a child restraint and generosity is to be a model of those qualities yourself. If your child sees that you want a particular item but refrain from buying it, either because it isn’t practical or because you can’t afford it, he will begin to understand restraint. Likewise, if you donate books or clothing to charity, take him with you to distribute the items to teach him about generosity." - Lawrence Balter (1989), psychologist and author.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

End slavery.

Less than two weeks ago, we celebrated Juneteenth. Unfortunately, June 19, 1865 was not the end of slavery in the US. Slavery continues in many forms throughout the US and the world. Nowadays it's often called 'human trafficking', but it's still slavery. And it is a betrayal of human rights. Here's what you can do to help end slavery once and for all:

* If you believe someone you know may be a trafficking victim (enslaved person), contact the Department of Health and Human Services' Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.
* Also report rafficking crimes or get help by calling the toll-free hotline 1-888-428-7581 (voice and TTY).
* Para registrar su queja o obtener ayuda, llame gratis a 1-888-428-7581 (linea directa y de TTY para personas con incapacidad auditiva).

* Learn how to identify enslaved people in our present society. Ask the following:
Is the person free to leave the work site?
Is the person physically, sexually or psychologically abused?
Does the person have a passport or valid I.D. card and is he/she in possession of such documents?
What is the pay and conditions of employment?
Does the person live at home or at/near the work site?
How did the individual arrive to this destination if the suspected victim is a foreign national?
Has the person or a family member of this person been threatened?
Does the person fear that something bad will happen to him or her, or to a family member, if he/she leaves the job?

* Understand the link between human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. "We estimate that of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked across country borders every year, almost 70% are forced into the commercial sex industry. Half of all victims are children. Many are forced to work in brothels, illegitimate massage parlors, as "escorts," or in pornography. When people support such industries they are fueling the demand for commercial sexual services that fuel the demand for trafficking victims."

* Support state laws against human trafficking and slavery. "It is helpful for states to pass laws of their own to further educate and involve local law enforcement officials.

"No slavery can be abolished without a double emancipation, and the master will benefit by freedom more than the freed-man." - Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95), British biologist and educator.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Participate in research.

I and several of my friends are participants in the Black Women's Health Study. Every two years or so, we answer questions on diet, environment, physical and mental health issues, exercise, and more. Together we are helping physicians and researchers understand and improve the health of black women in the US.

You too may be able to participate in a research trial. All kinds are available. Your local university's psychology department may be conducting behavior research. I have a friend who is participating in a HIV vaccine trial. And there are trials to test all kinds of drugs, devices, and other treatments for particular conditions. Get more information from these sources:

* Learn more about the purpose of clinical trials, who may participate, and important questions you should ask before you decide to participate.

* "provides regularly updated information about federally and privately supported clinical research in human volunteers. gives you information about a trial's purpose, who may participate, locations, and phone numbers for more details."

* provides information on NIH sponsored clinical trials.

If you are so inclined, this is an excellent way to contribute to medicine, science, and society.

"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and that they dwell therein." - Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960), novelist, short story writer, folklorist, playwright and anthropologist.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Assist US Sudanese refugees.

A few years ago, my friend, Nana, and I went to hear a presentation by four Sudanese men at my church. They, and certain other Sudanese refugees, are often referred to as "Lost Boys of Sudan". But as one of the men said, "We are neither 'lost' nor 'boys'".

The men spoke eloquently about their lives in Sudan as dark-skinned Africans and as Christians. They talked about their journey to the US and their lives in Clarkston, a town near my church and where I live. And they shared their their dreams for their own lives and for the future of Sudan.

Some of the men and women of Sudan who live in the US may well want to return to Sudan to help create a stable and just society there. You can help ensure a good future for these people and for Sudan by supporting education, resettlement and other efforts for the 4000 Sudanese refugees who now live in 28 US states.

June 20th was World Refugee Day. You can help Sudanese and other refugees by choosing one of these organizations to support with your time, money or other resources:

International Rescue Committee
Sudanese Assistance Fund
Atlanta Resettlement Office.
Kensington Office Park, 4151 Memorial Drive
Suite 201C
Atlanta, Georgia 30032

US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, 2nd Fl,
Washington, DC 20036-2003
Phone (202)347-3507
Fax (202)347-3418

You can also contact your state refugee coordinator to ask how you can help. And don't forget about the other steps, including letter-writing, divestment, and education, you can take to help end the genocide in Sudan. We are not helpless. We can make a difference.

"No one can demand that you be neutral toward the crime of genocide. If … there is a judge in the whole world who can be neutral toward this crime, that judge is not fit to sit in judgment." - Gideon Hausner, while defending legality of trial of war criminal Adolf Eichmann

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Build a home.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes all over the world (including the US and Canada) for those who might not otherwise be able to afford a home of their own. Since 1976, Habitat has built over 125,000 "simple, decent, affordable houses in partnership with those who lack adequate shelter." Habitat volunteers have provided shelter for more than 1,000,000 people in over 100 countries worldwide. There's a Habitat house built every 26 minutes! Think of the difference that makes!
Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat houses. Habitat is not a giveaway program. In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor -- sweat equity -- into building their Habitat house and the houses of others.

Volunteering with Habitat is a great way to develop and refine construction and other skills, all while providing a wonderful service. Here are some of the many ways you can get involved:

* Apply for a home for yourself, or pass this information on to someone in need. Homeowners are chosen based on the applicants' level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program, and their ability to repay the no-profit, no-interest loan. Call 1-800-422-4828, ext. 2551 or 2552 for more information.

* Volunteer with Habitat on or off the construction site. There are international opportunities and opportunities in Americus, Georgia (the headquarters); short-term and long-term opportunities, and opportunities for students, seniors, women, prisoners, and everyone else.

* Donate to Habitat. Financial and in-kind donations are welcomed. Don't forget to ask if your employer will match your donation.

* Shop the Habitat store. Proceeds benefit Habitat's good works. And when you need items that aren't available from the Habitat store, find them by shopping with a purpose.

* Learn more about how Habitat works so that you can speak intelligently about it to others. Who knows, you just might encourage someone else to volunteer!

"All the average human being asks is something he can call a home; a family that is fed and warm; and now and then a little happiness; once in a long while an extravagance." - Mother Jones (1830–1930), U.S. labor organizer

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Spread the word!

Today is a special day: Not only it is the summer or winter solstice (depending on your hemisphere), but today's entry is the 200th post on "So what can I do!"

In just over nine months, I've published well over 200 suggestions you can use to make a positive difference in our world! We all know that it takes collective work (ujima) to make the kinds of substantive changes we're talking about: societal justice, peace, lived ethics, access to education, better mental, physical, and spiritual health, and more. Such changes are indeed possible, but no single person can do the job alone. So in honor of this 200th post, I make two requests:

* Spread the word about numerous ways each individual can make a difference. Tell someone about actions you've taken. Click the envelope below to forward a favorite post to a friend, relative or colleague. Post a link to your favorite post on your blog or website. Encourage others to consider and act upon the suggestion on this site. Given the variety of topics covered, I am certain you can find an item of interest. Let at least one person know about the small steps she or he can take to make our world a better place. "So what can I do" averages 81 visits per day. With 200 and more visitors per day (many of whom will take action), we'll be that much closer to enacting the progressive changes that will serve us all.

* Post a comment in response to one (or more) of the 200 posts. Feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions, or requests. Many of the post topics have come from reader comments, so please continue to contribute.

Thank you so much to all the regular readers and commenters. Thanks also to those of you who have written about or linked to "So what can I do." Your efforts to spread the word contribute directly to societal improvement efforts. Peace and blessings to you all.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Take someone with you.

Spring 1865, Southwest Arkansas (Hempstead County?)

Griffin Henry Belk wiped his brow as he looked up at the hot Arkansas sun. That stubborn mule he's driving (or trying to drive) simply refuses to pull the plow. Finally, the mule decided to move. "Good," Griffin thought. "Maybe I'll be able to finish up before sundown." Just then, a white man on horseback approached. The man slowed and Griffin stopped the mule. The stranger spoke, "You know, you don't have to plow like that." Griffin looked at the man with confusion. "You're free," he said, "All y'all are free!" Ahh. The words Griffin had always wanted to hear. As the white man rode off, Griffin unleashed the mule and told the mule, "You go your way, and I'll go mine". And with that, he and the mule went free.

On this, the 19th of June, I remember, among others, Griffin Henry Belk, my great-great-granddaddy. This day is Juneteenth, my favorite holiday. Juneteenth started in Galveston, Texas in 1865, and is the African American Emancipation Day, commemorating the end of legalized enslavement in the US. My grandmother, Fanilla Suttles Cobb (Griffin's granddaughter) told this story often, but my father, Olly Neal, pointed out an important fact: not only did Griffin Belk free himself, he freed the mule! He went above the call of duty and took someone (albeit a mule) with him on his road to freedom. On this Juneteenth consider the ways you can take someone with you as you work to improve your life.

Today is an excellent day to consider the ways you can improve your life and help others:

* Be a volunteer.
* Live ethically.
* Work for economic justice.

Celebrate Juneteenth and the end of enslavement in this country. And as you rise, don't forget to take someone with you. Happy Juneteenth!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Divest from Sudan.

Over the last few months, "So what can I do" has given readers several ways to help end the crisis in Sudan. You can do any of the following:

* Educate yourself so that you understand the situation and can help others do the same.
* Write letters of concern to government and media to ask for more attention (financial and temporal) to the genocide in Sudan.
* Fund relief organizations working in Sudan.

Here's one more thing you can do to end the suffering: divest from Sudan. It worked in South Africa in the fight to end apartheid, and it may well work in Sudan. Consider where your money goes, how it is used. Redirect it as necessary. will show you how.

It's your money. Make sure your use of it reflects your values.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Do a self-exam.

There are lots of ways we can monitor our own bodies to detect potential problems. Here are just a few:

* Breast self-exam should be performed once monthly, about a week after your period ends. If you no longer have a period just chose a day of the month that is easy to remember. Regular examination may detect breast cancer, so that you can begin treatment early.
* Testicular self-exam should be performed once monthly, starting at about age 15. Regular examination may detect testicular cancer which is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35.
* Skin self-exam may detect melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
* Oral self-exam should be performed if certain changes are noticed in the oral cavity. These changes may indicate a oral cancer.

Here's to your health!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Click twice to feed the hungry.

Many companies make donations to charitable donations regularly. It's good advertising and good PR. This summer Dannon is making donations to America's Second Harvest. For each click they receive, they'll donate $1 to Second Harvest. "For every dollar donated, America's Second Harvest secures and distributes 20 pounds of food and grocery products such as cereal, soap, fruit, bath soap and diapers. According to the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, an average meal is 1.28 pounds of food."

So visit Dannon and make a quick donation. And while you're at it, click here to make another quick donation to give food to the hungry. Yet another fast and easy way to make a difference in someone's life. Don't forget to spread the word!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Take the test, take control.

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. But in addition to HIV, there are numerous sexually transmitted diseases for which you can be tested and treated. Consider this:

> - Taking the test takes away the anxiety of not knowing.
> - STDs can cause serious health problems, particularly when left untreated.
> - Early diagnosis and treatment will help you and your intimate partner get and stay healthy.
> - The tests for HIV and other STDs don't take much time, and at some clinics they are free or can be paid for on a sliding scale, based on income.

So what are you going to do?

* To find an STD testing facility near you, click here or here.

* Call the CDC National STD Hotline at 1 (800) 227-8922 or 1 (800) 342-2437. For information en Espanol, call 1 (800) 344-7432. For TTY call 1 (800) 243-7889. Health communication specialists will provide information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV/genital warts, herpes, and HIV/AIDS. They can also recommend testing facilities near you.

* Click here for information from the CDC on various STDs including Bacterial Vaginosis, Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis (viral), HIV/AIDS & STDs, Human Papillomavirus Infection, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis.

Be responsible. Get tested. You can use the information to protect yourself and those you love. Take the tests and take control.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Donate platelets.

Regular readers know that I do a post on donating blood every two months. That's because most folks are eligible to donate blood every 56 days. It only takes an hour, it's only a pint and it may be the simplest way to save a life.

Last time I donated, I sat next to a woman who was donating platelets for the first time. Platelets are required for blood clotting and are used in surgeries, transplants, and during cancer therapy, for example. According to the Red Cross:
A single apheresis donation of platelets can provide as many platelets as 5 whole blood donations. In addition, a platelet transfusion from a single donor greatly reduces the chances of an immune system reaction to the transfusion. Bone marrow transplant, cancer and leukemia patients whose immune systems are already compromised, benefit particularly from single donor platelet transfusions.

Those who are eligible to donate blood are usually able to donate platelets. And get this: you can donate platelets every three days! What a way to make a difference! It takes about 2.5 hours, and you must make and appointment. It's a great way to serve.

To make an appointment to donate platelets, call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543) or visit By donating platelets, you donate life.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


For many years, my mother has had a compost bin in her backyard. She saves eggshells, yard clippings, produce waste and more and uses it to amend her soil. My grandmother loved to contribute the clippings from when she shelled peas or cleaned greens or canned fruit or vegetables.

Composting is the a natural method of recycling that transforms "organic material (plant matter) through decomposition into a soil-like material called compost. Invertebrates (insects and earthworms), and microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) help in transforming the material into compost." It doesn't take much space and it's a great way to reduce waste and to create nutrient-rich soil. This is important because food and yard waste make up 30% of the waste in the US.

Here's how to get started:

* Here is a list of the the materials you can compost.
* Click here for information on the materials you'll need to compost.
* Visit here here for tips on composting techniques.
* You'll find composting information in French and English here.

Now is a great time to start your own compost pile. Have fun!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Donate produce.

Several weeks ago, I encouraged gardeners to plant a row for the hungry. With 70 million gardeners in the US and 25 million Americans who are chronically hungry, this is an important request. By now, some of those early spring crops are maturing. Even those of us who aren't gardeners may have something to donate. If you have fruit or nut trees, consider donating some of the excess to those who could really use it.

So on this National Hunger Awareness Day, consider donating some of your produce to local food banks and community service agencies. Click here to find a food bank or food rescue organization near you.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Feed hungry children.

This just in from America's Second Harvest:

"You can help hungry children in America this Summer.

More than 16 million children count on school lunch programs for at least one wholesome meal every school day. But when school ends in just a few weeks, these children will no longer have access to nutritious meals each day.

Our goal is to raise $23,000 this week to help meet the increased need of families this summer.  This Tuesday (June 7) is National Hunger Awareness Day and your help today will get us to our goal.

It only costs $1.34 to provide enough groceries to feed a hungry child three meals a day for a whole week. That means you can give a gift of less than $50 and feed three children for an entire summer.

Will you give a generous gift today? Your help will go a long way. Join us in the fight against hunger this week."

Give what you can to feed the hungry. It doesn't take much to make a difference to a hungry child because every dollar you give secures 20 pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste. If you don't have money to spare, click here to give a free donation through The Hunger Site.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Make an easy donation.

For some folks, it's not enough to click to make a free donation, donating to charity needs to be even easier. Well, is the place to be. They collect various ways that you can make a free donation to charity by doing "what you normally do and just by choosing the right way to do it." Check it out:

* Choose your search engine wisely, and you'll donate to OxFam, World Wildlife Fund, or Greenpeace.

* Choose web-based e-mail with and you'll donate to Nature Conservancy and other conservation organizations just by using your e-mail.

* Donate your computer's idle computing power to support biological research on AIDS, cancer, smallpox, and anthrax. Just download the software and forget about it. Distributed computing projects at Scripps and do the rest. Now everyone with a computer can contribute to science!

* Shop with a purpose for the things you'd buy anyway and make a donation to your favorite charity at the same time!

* Choose Working assets for your phone and credit card services. They donate part of their profits to several nonprofit organizations.

Each of us probably uses one of these services or goods. By choosing wisely, you can get the information, goods or services that you need and make a positive difference in our world at the same time. It couldn't be any easier!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Decide to care.

On the train this morning, I read an editorial by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He responded to a reader's question about why we should care about the genocide in Sudan.
I could make several points to argue that it's in our own interest to help Darfur. Turmoil there is already destabilizing all of Sudan and neighboring Chad as well, both oil-exporting countries. And failed states nurture terrorists like Osama bin Laden and diseases like polio, while exporting refugees and hijackers. But there's an even better argument: Magboula, a woman I met at the Kalma camp in Nyala, Sudan.
Kristof goes on to document his conversations with Magboula and describe the suffering she and her family continue to endure. Do you care? If you could end the violence in Sudan with an email or phone call, would you send it? Would you make the call? So what are you waiting for? Try it. It won't hurt and, in combination with mine and others, it may very well end the suffering.

* Call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 and leave a message for President Bush or send an email to and ask that he provide logistical support for African Union's peacekeeping efforts in Sudan.

* Tell one person about what you did and encourage them to do the same.

Thankfully, there's more you can do to end the genocide in Sudan.

> Learn more about the situation in Sudan.
> Contact your elected officials or local media to express your concern about policy or (lack of) coverage of events in Sudan.
> Support organizations that are working in Sudan to end the suffering of the people there. People like Magboula.

When, in 10 years, someone asks what you did to stop the suffering in Sudan, make sure you have something positive to tell them. Write now. Right now.