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Thursday Apr 15 2010
I recently came across a website called The Beauty of Aging. Besides the fact that I love the title, I was impressed by film producer Laurie Schur’s commitment to find role models who demonstrate that aging is a beautiful process. Her 35-minute documentary, Greedy for Life, captures the stories of two dynamic women over 80 who embrace life—despite its challenges—with energy and enthusiasm. Shirley Windward, an 88-year-old free spirit, has recovered from being in a coma and near death in 1990 to live life fully: creating ceramics, writing poetry, dancing and sharing music and laughter with her husband and friends. Lavada Campbell, an 83-year old dynamo, has “still got things I want to do”. She flamboyantly exudes energy and warmth in all her activities. Proceeds from sales of Greedy for Life go towards production costs for The Beauty of Aging, a one-hour documentary about the optimism, fearlessness and sense of purpose of five vital American women of diverse ethnic backgrounds in their 80s, 90,s and 100s.
© 2010 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Tuesday Mar 16 2010
The New York Times reported
on March 5th that the U.S. is helping the Somali government prepare to take back Mogadishu. As part of a counterterrorism
strategy, this American support may make the country, steeped in anarchy
for 20 years, less hospitable for Al Quaeda and Al Shahab and its
allies. Young Somali men who have been training for the past few months
in neighboring Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan are now
reinforcing the 6,000 to 10,000 troops, freshly armed and equipped, that
will be led by General Gelle. What this means for the Somali people
waits to be seen, but in all probability, it will involve more forced
displacements and refugees seeking asylum.
forces in Somalia get ready to regain control in the capital, Djibouti
is steeling itself. According to Ann Encontre, UNHCR representative in
Djibouti, southern Somalia and Mogadishu have been relying on local food
supplies since WFP withdrew its food aid program in January this year.
Local UN staff in Somalia have been distributing non-food items, such
buckets, pots and pans, and UNICEF have been providing vaccinations.
Other agencies on the ground have been catering to people’s needs where
they have access outside of Mogadishu. But by April, Somali’s reserves
from its 2009 bumper crop might run out. It is expected that hundreds or
thousands more of its 1.5 million uprooted citizens will desperately
try to cross the 36-mile long border with Djibouti, avoiding Kenya’s
closed borders and Ethiopia’s numerous roadblocks, to find refuge and
Djibouti is supportive of the Somali government.
This tiny coastal nation, with its scant rainfall and rising
unemployment, already imports most of the food for its 600,000 citizens.
Considering Djibouti now shelters 13,000 registered refugees in Ali
Addeh camp and 1,000 Somali and non-Somali asylum seekers in urban areas
(many of whom have been here since civil war broke out two decades ago
in Somalia), the gap between what the government can provide and what
the people need will continue to grow larger. Currently, Djibouti
government staff and UNHCR staff screen incoming refugees at the border
at Loyada to verify they are legitimately coming from the troubled zones
of Somalia (and not peaceful areas like Somaliland) before granting
them prima facie status. Once they are registered, fingerprinted and
photographed, legitimate refugees are taken by truck to Ali Addeh, the
closest camp in the district of Ali Sabieh, which shelters 12,000
All refugees here face two possible solutions: local
integration or resettlement. Recently the U.S. government started a
resettlement plan for people at risk, taking in approximately 400 of the
most vulnerable women, household heads and some of the longest-staying
refugees in the camp. Meanwhile, brilliant university students, young
men who left Ethiopia in 2005 along with others who fled Mogadishu and
Eritrea, find life in the camp untenable: they have no future there.
Education facilities and resources only are available up to grade 8 for
2,000 of the 3,000 camp children. Resources are needed to build a
secondary school to accommodate the 1,000 adolescents who are receiving
no secondary or higher education, especially the young male adolescents
who, like the ex-Mogadishu university students, are all potential
targets for recruitment by Al Quaeda and Al Shahab. UNHCR is discussing
the possibility of establishing resettlement programs with Canada,
Australia and Nordic countries to ensure opportunities exist for those
who are willing and able to create a new life elsewhere.
those who remain in the camp—and that is the vast majority—life focuses
on the essentials: shelter, food, water, healthcare.
It is an
ongoing struggle to meet the needs of new arrivals. There are never
enough tents to provide shelter, and in the extreme heat and
strong winds of the region, families are left to fend for themselves.
Soon after arriving, many women, unable to make ends meet, are forced
into domestic service to feed themselves and their children. “Girls are
exposed to sexual violence at all times,” shares Ms. Encontre. “We see
them being forced to work as domestics as young as 8 years old, and very
often they come back to the camp pregnant after having been raped by
the men of the household.”
“We’ve been seeing an alarming
number of refugees coming into the camp from south and central Somalia
who are severely undernourished, anemic and sickly,” adds Ms. Encontre.
Last year, the UN started a nutrition project with donations from
a French company that provide robust proteins, vitamin A and iron in
the form of enriched peanut butter. UNHCR supplements this with liver,
sardines and vegetables. Currently, one medical doctor from the
Asian Medical Doctors Association bears responsibility for the health of
all 12,000 people in the camp. This one doctor cannot possibly meet the
growing needs of the camp’s population.
Cooking has its
challenges in terms of energy resources. The French Army brings in
20,000 litres of kerosene to the camp each month and every family
receives an allotment. However, without the benefit of energy-saving
stoves, the women must resort to scouring the desert for sticks,
trees and charcoal. Not only do they destroy the environment in doing
so, but they also put themselves at risk. Young girls and women now have
to travel 5 to 10 kms to find firewood and water: a number have been
assaulted and raped by men from the camp and the surrounding areas and
districts. Lighting some key areas around the camp with solar panels may
provide some limited protection, but cannot address the underlying
issues: lack of sufficient fuel and lack of respect for women.
is even more essential than food and energy in this very arid desert.
Providing 20 litres of safe drinking water per day to each refugee in
the camp poses enormous problems. The area has received its first rains
in 6 years, but the sheer number of refugees has pushed the area’s
natural supply to its limit. Each week, money goes to pay for a rented
truck that brings in water from the closest well, which adolescents
from the camp help distribute. The relatively inexperienced refugees
are responsible for chlorinating their own water with pellets, a
critical task with latrines still located downstream and upstream from
In January, the team of Djibouti’s French-speaking
water experts who were to be working on setting up a proper water
filtration and preservation system for the camp were sent to Haiti
to help with relief efforts there. Meanwhile, the camp, on standby for
another team to be identified, hopes to find assistance to buy their own
water truck. Discussions are being held between UNHCR, UNICEF, and the
Government focusing on the possibility of digging another bore hole in
the camp or of opening a second camp in an area where the water supply
is more plentiful. Wells in any location require permits and the help
of outside experts for at least a year to supervise the necessary
The cries for help are many.
empower the Somalis caught in this situation focus on providing them
with essential skills and opportunities to contribute to their refugee
community. Adults and young children alike clamor for lessons in
English. Every afternoon, parents sit in on their children’s lessons in
the camp school for an hour or two to learn what they can. The camp’s
university students and adolescents all speak English as their common
language, and crave to learn more. Local Catholic and Protestant
churches have housed volunteers teaching here in their accommodations,
which are a 45-minute drive away. UNHCR’s guest house is available near
the camp as well; however, volunteers tend to stay for only three to six
months before moving on. The need for volunteers to teach English
has not yet met the demand. At the same time, opportunities for French
language courses are also very welcome by refugees to help them
integrate locally into this Francophone country.
October, the UN began running several pilot projects to keep refugees
busy, provide additional food and give them some income. Those involved
in income-generating projects (involving activities like sewing,
baking bread, providing tea and cool drinks in cafes and selling goats,
meat and vegetables) receive a certain amount of money to run their own
small ‘business’. They must account for their expenses and report their
profits every week. Refugees use their earnings to buy clothes and
shoes. The initiative, funded by several thousand dollars saved through
restructuring done at UNHCR’s headquarters in Geneva, is a beginning.
you or your organization are interested in contributing time or
resources to the process of empowering the Somali refugees living in
Djibouti, please visit www.givethemshelter.org and join UNHCR’s campaign
to send them 2,600 much needed tents. To find out more about the living
conditions and the situation of Somali refugees, join a live Twitter
feed organized directly from Djibouti with Kathryn Mahoney, UNHCR public
information officer, on March 23.
12 am EST
© 2010 Shae
Hadden with Jim Selman. All rights reserved.
Friday Jan 08 2010
By Shae Hadden
In every moment, all possibilities are happening:
And so on....
Opposing forces are constantly in dynamic motion, striving for balance and harmony.
When 99.99% of human beings all desire the same things (to live peacefully, feed their families and enjoy life's abundance), it is no longer enough for us to simply strive for peace.
In these challenging times, we need to transform the entire dance of creation and destruction.
More later on why peace may not be enough....
© 2010 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Friday Dec 04 2009
Perhaps as a reaction to the annual peak of consumerism (the pre and post-Christmas holiday season sales), I’m thinking these days of ways of alternative non-material gifts for my friends. What comes to mind are the types of things we, in our technology-driven world, may be taking for granted as everyday conveniences. Yet, in many parts of the world, these are considered luxuries.
It’s easy enough now to share images and videos of ourselves with either the world at large or a select group of friends and colleagues using sites like Flickr, Vimeo, Blip.tv, Facebook and YouTube. When it comes to gifts for loved ones, creative items like online photo galleries, calendars, books, photographic prints, and ‘home-made’ videos made with images you’ve taken are one-of-a-kind presents that say “I took the time to create this for you…instead of spending 5 minutes at a store buying something made in a factory.”
And you don’t have to rely on your ability to shoot extraordinary photos or video. As prices for consumer-level photography and video electronics drop, more and more ‘amateurs’ are able to play with these media and share their creative work online. When they apply Creative Commons Licences to the materials they publish, they are, essentially, giving away their rights to their online digital media. Depending on the type of licence they’ve applied to the image or video, anyone can republish it, edit (or in the case of video, annotate) it or link to it with or without attribution. This has impacted both the photography and video industries in that prices for ‘stock’ footage have dropped: there is just too much quality content available now through user-generated online sources. Which again, makes it easier for consumers to find exactly the right images to create high-quality creative gifts.
For some people, getting cited or mentioned on Wikipedia is on their ‘wish list’. It’s easy to give them their wish. Anyone can become a contributor to this free global encyclopedia. To contribute, just create an account and log in. There are currently over 11 million ‘users’ (contributors). Wikipedia content is also under a Creative Commons Share Attribution Licence…so you could even capture an entry you create or modify and then turn it into a poster or other brochure to share as ‘the gift’ (just include an attribution).
If you know of other ways to give holiday gifts that are essentially ‘free’ and environmentally friendly, please share them with us by submitting a comment.
© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Friday Nov 13 2009
According to Dr. David Suzuki, “it is not progress to use up the rightful legacy of our children and grandchildren.” He opened the first Elders and the Environment Forum on Monday in Vancouver, Canada with a keynote address that focused on the role of elders in the environmental movement and how we can make a difference:
© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Tuesday Nov 10 2009
By Shae Hadden
I attended the David Suzuki Foundation's first Elders for the Environment Forum today in Vancouver, Canada. The event drew 200+ people, including Elder representatives from several First Nations and concerned 'older' citizens from Canada and the U.S. Following are some of the highlights from an inspiring talk given by Miles Richardson, former Grand Chief of the Haida Nation and a member of the board of directors of the David Suzuki Foundation.
Friday Oct 16 2009
My habits of reducing and reusing come from a tradition I inherited from my family, a tradition that firmly believed in the value of sharing and stewardship. My father used to tell me of Depression days when his mother would wash the tea bags and dry them for reuse, and when he, being a ‘middle’ son in a family of 13, could always count on wearing ‘hand-me-downs’. Considering the environmental and economic crises we face, it’s no surprise that the principles of communal sharing, stewardship and ‘gifting’ are feeding the move to reduce, reuse and recycle. People of all ages are looking at ways to keep ‘stuff’ out of landfill sites.
In the 1960s the hippies of Haight-Ashbury opened ‘free shops’ to swap clothes, shoes and personal items. In the US today, ‘giveaway shops’ have evolved into ‘swap sheds’ in rural towns (where people leave things that are usable but unwanted for anyone to take) and ‘free stores’ or ‘free bins’ on college campuses (stocked with donations or items that students have sorted from trash). Official give-away stores with retail storefronts have existed in Amherst, Massachusetts and in several locations in the Detroit area. And The Free Store operated in NYC until March 2009.
An online version of this concept has emerged. There’s a free national website where you can search for items by zip code: Take Me I’m Free. The global player in this scene, the Freecycle Network™, comes out of Tucson, AZ. This online network of 4,836 groups with 6,601,000 members is moderated by volunteers. Of course, there’s always the FREE listings on Craigslist as well.
An ‘offline’ development is the Really Really Free Market (RRFM) movement. Collectives of people commit to creating community around sharing resources and caring for each other: they gather in community spaces to share goods and services, clean up afterwards and take home what they are unable to give away. The first RRFM was organized in protest of the G8 Summit during the anti-globalization protests of 2004 against the Free Trade Area of the Americas. RRFMs have emerged across the U.S., and the first Canadian one was started in Toronto earlier this year.
Next up… how ‘gifting’ influences our lives online.
© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Friday Oct 02 2009
I’ve been glancing in shop windows recently as I wander my new neighborhood. There seem to be more sales and discounts now at the retail outlets than ever before, as if lowering a ticketed price will lure consumers in to buy when the prevailing mood is one of restraint and caution. Experts argue over whether our market economy is going to limp along in its current form or be remade or redefined. Scarcity thinking seems to predominate consumer behavior. Meanwhile, what I don’t want us to lose sight of are the barter and gift economies that co-exist (and continue to evolve) alongside the regular buying and selling of goods.
A ‘gift economy’ is one in which people give away products and services without any expectation of compensation. In a way, bartering is a reciprocal form of ‘gifting’, in which two parties exchange what they need with each other and eliminate the transfer of money. In a gift economy, simultaneous giving to others (and not just a back and forth between two people) is looked on favorably, as it circulates and more widely redistributes resources within a community. In some societies, the person who ‘gifts’ is seen as being altruistic and is accorded some social status for being the ‘giver’. In others, gifting is simply seen as an expression of a genuine concern for others.
Thinking of the world in terms of limited resources and little time left to save the planet can easily lead us into thinking along the lines of “There’s not going to be enough…”. Conversely, the gift economy rests on a belief in ‘abundance’. In early human societies (before the existence of currency), the sharing of food and other perishables ensured the continuity of the group and the ‘abundant living’ of all. Native American potlatches allowed leaders to strengthen the community by sharing their accumulated wealth with their followers. In Tonga, Samoa and some of the outer Cook Islands, reciprocal gifting is still part of their culture today.
In North America, we still practice this at the family level (when we share our time, money, food, shelter and wisdom with relatives). What I find interesting is that the concept of ‘gifting’ has expanded to include things like:
I see a connection between this movement and Eldering: a common commitment to sustainability and a shared future for all. And I'm reminded of the wisdom of my grandparents and my parents in dealing with troubled times in their lives. I’ll be writing more about these and other ways in which the gift economy is showing up in our lives today in the coming weeks.
© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.
Friday Sep 18 2009
was in an interesting conversation recently about how we can interact
with people who hold different beliefs than ours. The question posed
was, “How can one be with someone whose beliefs are the antithesis of
our own?” An important inquiry to engage in, considering that a clash
of beliefs is at the heart of most conflict and strife between people.
Wednesday Aug 19 2009
and family have been stressing the importance of taking vacations with
me for years. I have somewhat deliberately avoided the conversation as
much as possible until now. End result: a lifetime of little travel,
lots of work and limited 'fun'. All work and no play makes for a dull
life. I've been beginning to wonder if perhaps I am afraid of taking
vacations...for every time I think about it, my concerns about all the
things that are remaining 'undone' while I'm away 'at play' loom larger
and larger. Yet I watch people around me taking time off throughout the
year (anywhere from a few days to several weeks to months at a time) to
go on pilgrimages, to make sandcastles at the beach, to idle away time
doing nothing in particular, and they don't seem to be suffering at
all. In fact, they seem to prosper for taking time off to rejuvenate.
So I'm going to break my mule-like habit of grinding on through the summer and take next week off. That means idle time away with no work-oriented mindset. I've scheduled a couple of posts to go live on this blog during the week...and will return in September. My intention: to follow all that good advice and rejuvenate myself before summer disappears.
© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.[Read More]
Wednesday Jul 01 2009
What we do with our time seems to be an ongoing topic of interest for many. Popular belief says we need to balance time for 'work' and 'life'. Innumerable authors and experts have invented tools and techniques for us to 'manage' our time. Common sense says that procrastination occurs when we 'waste' time doing nothing or doing things other than what we say we're going to do. More experts have written about how we can get motivated, stop procrastinating and get down to business. Then why is it that many still struggle with trying to stay focused on what they really want to do?[Read More]
Monday Jun 29 2009
I was talking with a friend recently about our parents, about what we're observing in their health as they grow older and what we think is possible for them in terms of living arrangements. I think a lot of Boomers are in this same conversation these days. A few things we discussed got me wondering about how 'true' any of our thinking about health issues in later life really is for our parents. I began to ask myself whether we are fully present and mindful about this..[Read More]
Friday Jun 05 2009
By Shae Hadden | Bio
I’m sitting at my desk, watching the sun set behind the mountains, listening to the city winding down at the end of a long, hot summer day. My big move is now complete: all boxes unpacked, everything put away (at least somewhere, for now), cupboards stocked, and fresh linens on the bed. Three months ago, when I chose to relocate, I had no idea it would be such a circuitous route to my new ‘home’. But now that I’m here, I’m glad for everything that showed up in my journey and for everything I had to let go of in order to arrive at this most perfect place for the next phase of my life.[Read More]
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