James Orbinski and humanitarianism

James OrbinskiI first met Dr. James Orbinski in 2004, at a special screening of Hotel Rwanda, sponsored by Massey College. All I knew is that he had been president of Medecins sans Frontières (Doctors without borders) and had been in Rwanda when the genocide happened. When stood in front of the movie theatre after the screening, I remember being shocked at how young he looked for someone who had done so much and then deeply moved by his honesty, candour, and outrage of the crimes he witnessed. And he has witnessed many.

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Little things that can make a difference

A few months ago, I discovered Kiva through the Wandering Woman’s blog. Based on the principles of microfinance, Kiva allows you to loan money to entrepreneurs in the developing world, helping them get out of poverty. I wrote about it here a little while ago. Earlier this week, WW wrote another really nice post about the institution, as well as her work as a volunteer translator for Kiva. Since I couldn’t put it in better words, here’s the plug from WW’s blog:

If you have the ability to translate from a language of the developing world to English, stop by the Kiva volunteer page to see if you can help out. The site lists Spanish, French, Khmer, Russian and Ukranian as the languages most needed at the moment. You’ll find non-translating volunteer opportunities posted, as well.

I led Ann to Kiva, and Alex, too, as I recall, and Laura, all by simply yapping here and pasting a banner in the sidebar. You’ll also find banners, email footers, links to Kiva groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and all kinds of neat ways you can help out just by spreading the word at the Kiva Get Involved

I promise you’ll be helping motivated, hard working people change their lives for the better. That’s a good thing, but I tell you, you’ll also taste this magic rush Ann and I share – this simple but rockin’ rush at knowing you stopped simply caring, and did something to make a tangible difference.

I’ll definitely stop by the Kiva site and see if I can help with translation work.

We need more people like Jaume

Yesterday I read on the newspaper here the story of Jaume Sanllorente, a Catalan guy from Barcelona who worked as a journalist for a financial magazine. One day he walked into a travel agency wanting to book a vacation trip somewhere, he was open to suggestions. The travel agents suggested India. What looked like a vacation trip, changed his life and that of many others forever. In India, Jaume was shocked to the see the situation of the hundreds of thousands of children who lived in the streets, abandoned by their families. Unable to take care of them because of poverty, many families abandoned their children or worse still amputated a leg or an arm off the child so he/she can beg for a living. Many sold them to brothels. Local mafias took children and amputated a limb or two to exploit them as beggars or took girls to local brothels. During his trip Jaume visited an orphanage in Bombay. The place was falling apart and in danger of closing leaving all the children on the streets. Jaume noticed a black jeep parked in front; they were men from a local mafia waiting to get the kids.

Jaume went back to Barcelona, got together all his savings, sold everything he had, borrowed from friends and family, collected favours, went back to Indian and bought the orphanage. He opened an NGO called Sonrisas de Bombay to collect money to finance both the orphanage and a school for abandoned children. The children at the orphanage are placed either with local families or bungalows in the care of a couple of tutors so they can grow in a family atmosphere.

In the interview Jaume says he couldn’t be happier with choice in life. He says he’ll never live Bombay and will care for the children till the day he dies. Jaume has received many death threats from the local mafias but says he’s not worried. If they kill him, he says, no pasa nada, he’s set everything up that the orphanage will be able to continue without him.

We need more people like him in the world.