Andrius and Wendi: Greatest Thanks for Your "Sisterhood":)!!/Everyone: My Includer Recommend (fyi abt its potential)
- Hello Dear Andrius, Wendi, and All,I've returned from a rather disheartening couple days cleaning up after a bad storm here (tail end of Hurricane Hannah) to find this lovely and uplifting letter/blog entry on "Sisterhood". Andrius, I can't thank you enough for what you have said about myself and my work (if emails could blush, this one would be red, haha!!), and for your focus on Wendi and Actwid Kongadzem, who so richly deserve the spotlight for their remarkable work on behalf of thousands of women, young people, and men in Cameroon.Wendi and all at AK, your letter was deeply moving to me too, and I am so happy that I could say something that speaks to your situation and goals, life experiences and challenges, and to who you are and what you are striving to accomplish. It is a great joy to me to be able to be of some assistance, and an honor to know you and work with you.Andrius, you have captured so well the connectedness of mind, heart, and spirit which is an essential aspect of the Includer project. That answers one of the most important questions we can ask: "why" strive to do a project like this in the first place!I thought I would append below my HASTAC recommendation of last fall, as an FYI for anyone interested, because it may give people some food for thought as to how the Includer can be helpful to members and to individuals and communities in Africa and other regions of the world.I was more focused at the time on what it could do for people at the grassroots in developing countries, especially related to income. Your letter extends this idea into multiple dimensions of use, relevance, and value--psychological, emotional, spiritual, political (re activism on women's issues, for example), international, interactive--and the importance of each and all of these is crucial both to its development and to its implementation, and ultimately to its effectiveness.Andrius, when you wrote this below, I have to admit I shed a tear! This is such a beautiful way to describe what I am trying to do (I almost didn't recognize "me" :)))). You have made a reference to what motivates me--besides that ever-essential component, love!--to do "inclusive" networking and projects: some of my own experiences with being or feeling "excluded", one of them involving health.Janet lavishes love on the weakest people with the smallest projects. This cant make sense in a world that optimizes resources, which is to say, acknowledged resources. Janet makes a new world. She values every
seed and every soil. Janet is an Includer.My health challenge--which stems from a weakened immune system (sometimes described as a "cousin" of HIV)--isolated me for many years from the mainstream of physical life (one reason I turned to the virtual world). I have experienced other exclusions too--related to gender, religion, sociopolitical views, and more--so I have some familiarity with how that feels.On the other hand, I also know what it feels like to be "included", as I have been included within the Minciu Sodas family. I want to bring others into that circle of inclusion and belonging, and it encourages and uplifts me as much as it hopefully does others, when I am able to draw upon my skills and experiences to be of help and service in this regard.This ultimately is what the Includer is about: sharing, growing, learning; developing ourselves as individuals and as members of groups, communities, and the "global village"; interacting and working together for the greater good; celebrating and supporting the independent thinker in us all; connecting, creating, and communicating; and forging in the process links of love that extend in all directions, both inwardly (to oneself) and outwardly, to loved ones, friends, family members, partners, colleagues, strangers, "enemies". And even farther, we hope, to the whole of humanity (and to many, many more besides :))).Greatest thanks again, Andrius, and immense admiration and appreciation for your dedication, caring, faith, hope, encouragement, love, and dreams of a "new world" of thinking, feeling, acting, and being! You yourself have done exactly what you describe about me, which is why you are a "knight" (as well as a prince of a fellow:) not just in news, but in shining a much-needed "light"!On that light-hearted note, I will close for now with love and infinite blessings, and look forward to spreading seeds in soils from the grassroots to the global, and from cyberspace to outer space (with stopovers to inner places and to see MS-member faces :))! Janet (aka Farmer Feldman)
October 14, 2007
6 Echo Drive
Barrington, Rhode Island 02806 USA
Letter of Recommendation for the HASTAC Proposal of Andrius Kulikauskas/Minciu Sodas Laboratory for Independent Thinkers: "Includer: A USB Flash Drive Editor for the Self-Education of Independent Thinkers"
It is with great pleasure and excitement that I write a letter of recommendation for the "Includer" proposal. My name is Janet Feldman, and I have been an active member of Minciu Sodas Laboratory for four years. I am now moderator of the eforum created within Minciu Sodas to address my own directed focus: "holistic helping".
My particular focus has developed during twenty years of engaging in professional and personal work related to sustainable development, where I have seen that solutions to addressing development challenges happen at both the individual and group levels, involve integrative approaches to subject areas (ie income-generation and health education, HIV/AIDS and food-security, group activism and individual evolution, community capacity-building and national growth), and work best when there is a balance between helping oneself and service to others.
I am the founder and executive director of KAIPPG (Kenya AIDS Intervention/Prevention Project Group) International, the global branch of an HIV/AIDS and development-related nonprofit located in rural Western Kenya (www.kaippg.org). KAIPPG addresses a broad range of concerns, from poverty mitigation to food-security for people with HIV/AIDS, and from basic education to provision of healthcare. Selp-help and community improvement are primary goals.
In twelve years of operation, we have been successful in helping the individuals and communities we serve, though big challenges remain. Lack of education and gender inequality mean that a majority of women in our programs have zero to low literacy, cannot inherit land (so farming is not a secure source of income), and do not have adequate job-training or access to credit.
Young women who are caregivers for ailing parents often have to leave school. Grandparents--often with little money and no support system-- are frequently guardians for their grandchildren, and youth lack opportunities for education and job training. Agriculture remains the primary source of income, and radio is the main source of news.
There is an immense perceived need for greater connectedness locally and inclusion globally, and ICTs are seen as a primary means for reaching those twin goals. Informal and non-traditional educational opportunities, and means of acquiring such an education, are imperative, especially in communities severely challenged by poverty, malnutrition, and diseases for which there is no access to medicines.
Our programs to span the digital divide include one focusing on health-related community radio, and another on "women, agriculture, and technology", this because so many women in our communities are farmers, and often the sole family breadwinners. A third--called GRASSUP NOW--is a distance-learning consortium developed in conjunction with four other nonprofits in Western Kenya , and an international partner, The Commonwealth of Learning (www.col.org).
KAIPPG's work in the ICTs field began five years ago, when we realized that information and technology devices and training would be invaluable for community and individual development. Because KAIPPG is located in a region where there is poor infrastructure, expensive electricity, and a high level of poverty, we have needed to design our programs with more emphasis on radio, mobile phones and "community phones" (larger devices for public use), video and photography, cassettes and recorders, and arts in various forms.
We have some computers installed in local community centers, but a kiosk system (more informal, self-help approach to learning), mobile-phone "trees" (connecting women and men in the communities we serve), and radio "listening groups" are the primary means by which people are in contact with one another and with the larger world, and a crucial component of learning and sharing.
While we have been able to achieve greater connectedness among individuals and communities locally, and to meet some of our educational and capacity-building goals, a device like the "Includer" could help to broaden our efforts immensely. More groups and individuals would be able to use and benefit from this technology, and communities could thereby achieve a greater level of development, as could the nation and the region.
This device could expand our ICTs repertoire, helping to provide basic education and training, marketing opportunities, information storage/retrieval and sharing, and community-organizing. The perceived and actual empowerment which will hopefully result is a bedrock element of progress towards sustainable development in these rural settings.
GRASSUP NOW--which stands for "Grassroots Socio-economic Underpinnings: Poverty-mitigation, Nutritional-improvements, ODL/ICTs, Women" (a title reflecting both the means and ends of our work)--is seeking to create both a model for cooperation and products in the form of learning modules, based on the expertise of each partner. The coalition is building a distance-learning program focusing on subject matter related to health, education, income-generation, nutrition/agriculture, and environmental education.
The "Includer" could serve to enhance distance-learning and sharing of expertise and information among the partners, and could expand our ability to serve our own communities, as well as to help partner communities and others in Kenya (and hopefully beyond). The "Includer" could greatly augment the capacities of individuals within our communities, allowing them a larger role in community development and also in nation-building.
HIV/AIDS prevention and education are crucial in these settings, in part because there is little access to medicines and healthcare, and in part because the primary source of income--from agriculture--is labor-intensive. People who are affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS are often not able to work, at least not to full capacity, and the entire spectrum of life in rural communities is being challenged to the breaking point. The "Includer" could expand health education and activism, and could provide a source of financial support which could benefit both individuals and communities as a whole.
The arts have been one way that HIV/AIDS prevention and education messages have been conveyed to audiences, especially those with little to no literacy.
While it is hoped that ICTs will increase literacy, it will be some time before those effects will become widespread. Via the 'Includer", artists and nonprofits who use arts for edutainment purposes could link up and learn from each other what practices are most effective, and could share that information with others locally and globally. In addition, individualized learning can take place, as it does now with mobile phones, which are being used in Kenya and elsewhere to convey HIV/AIDS-related education messages, particularly to youth.
As founder and director of an international arts coalition called ActALIVE (Arts for Creative Transformation: Activism, Lifeline, Inspiration, Vision, Education")--whose members in 30+ countries use arts, media, and ICTs to address HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)--I believe the "Includer" will also be very helpful to our work.
Many of our members are located in rural areas, and/or in developing countries. We have a number of young members, and members who work for youth-serving organizations (www.actalive.org). Some of our members are pioneering the use of ICTs in their countries and/or locales, yet all express frustration with the slow pace of digital inclusion. The "Includer" could greatly enhance our individual and collaborative work, and could make it possible for more members--who cannot now regularly participate online--to do so.
The same is true for many youth in the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (www.youthaidscoalition.org), of which I am a co-founder, as an adult-ally. The GYCA's 3000+ membership in all parts of the world is digitally-enabled to one degree or another, but one of our major upcoming challenges will be how to do outreach to the millions of youth who need HIV/AIDS education and prevention information, yet do not have access to the Internet, computers, or other ICTs devices, in part due to lack of financial means and in part to lack of infrastructure in their communities. The "Includer" could literally be a life-saver for them.
Within Minciu Sodas there are many members in developing countries who are equally challenged in this way, though we have found methods to include them in our communal work, and are hoping to develop the "Includer" to increase their ability to interact internationally, while also sharing and working with others regionally, nationally, and locally.
In Kenya, the Udogo Youth Development nonprofit; Deaf Impact Ministry, an organization serving the deaf population in the western region of Kenya; Nafsi Acrobats Afrika in Nairobi, and CAWD-Kenya (Charity for African Welfare and Development)--with its "Teachers Talking" project--will all benefit from such a device, especially because it will be manufactured and repaired locally, making it more affordable and serviceable, and thus easier to acquire than a computer.
The income-generation potential is a crucial aspect of the success of this device, and the sustainability of such a project. Another important aspect is its convenience as a tool for peer learning, and as a method for apprenticeships, which are essential in settings where tertiery and even secondary education can be lacking, and job training is scarce. Teachers and learners can live anywhere, and can often be one and the same person. Knowledge gained can easily be passed along to others.
Actwid Kongadzem, a 4000-member nonprofit in rural Cameroon , has long struggled to acquire computers and Internet access for the women and youth who are its main focus. The important work this organization is doing in education, healthcare, and nutrition/agriculture could be greatly enhanced by use of the "Includer".
For example, its members are growing artemisia and using it to treat the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Not only would they be able to coordinate more closely on the planting, harvesting, marketing, and selling of the product, but their work and findings could be conveyed to a global audience, and income-generation from sales of the plant would help their members to have an enhanced quality of life.
Trainings of all kinds, capacity-building, income-generation, personal development and interpersonal connections, learning and sharing, local and global community-building, empowerment for rural areas and those who are disenfranchised: the "Includer" can help to address all of these concerns and challenges.
It can enable new types and contribute to new models of learning, and should augment collaboration and access to non-formal education. It should also help to increase networking capacity, enhance dialogue across and among diverse communities, span generations, and be affordable, attainable, and a source of both knowledge and income.
I believe that Minciu Sodas is well-qualified to undertake such a venture, in particular because we have among our members grassroots organizations in Africa, India , and elsewhere, and also experts and specialists in hardware assembly (now located in Italy , but who will be training African members for local assembly of the Includer).
We have members in developed countries ( Italy , England ,Lithuania ) who are prepared to fund--and donate resources in kind to--segments of these activities, from trainings to manufacturing, and from implementation at specific points to wider distribution across larger areas, including across borders. And members in developing countries who are already implementing ICTs-related projects, or have relevant experience in project design and development.
We have successfully completed projects before which, while not on this scale or with this amount of funding, have shown to members and proven to partners that we can carry out the commitments we undertake. The MyFoodStory Project (http://www.myfoodstory.info/) and the Chocolate Project--both of which our members worked on for a client, who paid us to find and organize information--are two such examples.
Members are highly motivated and passionate about their work, and cover among us a wide range of skills, education, backgrounds, geographic locations, professions, and interests, which will be an asset to any such endeavor. What we have in common is caring for one another, and a deep desire to contribute to human well-being and the betterment of the planet. This, too, will be an asset to any project we embrace as a collective.
I hope that I have adequately outlined the myriad uses for the "Includer", and conveyed my enthusiasm and support for its development and application to a wide range of development challenges. If there is anything further I can answer or convey, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With deepest thanks for your time and consideration of this application and project, and the very best of wishes,
ActALIVE Arts Coalition
I'm writing my Includer blog at http://www.includer.org I am waiting to
hear regarding the Knight Foundation Contract and I hope all goes well and
I can start posting at the PBS website. Meanwhile here is my second post.
I'm writing my blogs so they might be a novel. I appreciate our thoughts
and comments. Andrius Kulikauskas
Episode 1: Sisterhood
The Includer cant work simply as a device. We can write, but whose heart
will leap to respond? How do we encourage such response? Wendi Losha
Bernadette of the womens organization Actwid Kongadzem in Cameroon
We all wish to thank Janet for her wonderful contribution written out
on our behalf which first read exactly as if she was writing from our
minds eyes. It is wonderful that you could read our minds directly as
if you were here with us. We all read through your letter and that of
Andrius and others but we were really moved from the bottom of our
hearts that you understood our problems and have the know-how and an
inside into our NGOs works here with all its challenges.
Janet Feldman is a social networker of contagious empathy. A respiratory
ailment ended her career in the US State Department. As she cares for her
own life, she cares for others, as the founder of Kenya AIDS Intervention
Prevention Project Group, and the international arts coalition ActALIVE.
At home, in Rhode Island, she cares for her father.
I would like to learn how to balance caregiving for an aging parent
with time spent on my own work.
The Includer is about feeling the presence of another, their mind, soul,
heart, so vividly so that we grow strong to respond. Wendi:
I have my lifes dreams that I started nursing from childhood as I was
growing and witnessing my mother and her eight mates all suffering in
my fathers house as we are from a polygamous home. I am the first
child and being a girl, I was discriminated upon not to go to school
but to grow up quickly and get married. So from that time I developed
a likeness for education of a girl child as well as education of rural
women. I saw education now as a means to get rid of a forceful
marriage, and making a choice of a husband etc for myself.
In 2005, Janet agreed to lead our Minciu Sodas working group Holistic
Helping, which is her deepest value in life. (Join us!) She monitors sixty
discussion groups and she ever wonders whether she has time for this. She
How can I help those individuals who are coming to me, while also
taking care myself, and generate a ripple effect into a wider
I ever argue that her group Holistic Helping, working openly, allows
others to jump in and learn to help each other by her example. Janet:
I believe that creativity and all forms of communication will truly
help to save the world, one painting or radio program or email at a
Janet lavishes love on the weakest people with the smallest projects.
This cant make sense in a world that optimizes resources, which is to
say, acknowledged resources. Janet makes a new world. She values every
seed and every soil. Janet is an Includer.
Please note our rule: Each letter sent to the Holistic Helping group enters the PUBLIC DOMAIN unless it explicitly states otherwise. Thank you! http://www.ethicalpublicdomain.org
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