Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Bouquet of Good People

The best thing about being a writer is the chance to meet good and proactive people to write about. These evolved souls have surely uplifted my thinking and my spirit.

I have met moms who miss their sons in the troops. They group together to send their sons video DVD's, music CD's,food--candy and chips, socks, pillows and other comfort things. They hold garage sales to raise funds for their group.

I have met a mom who, with the help of her 2 best friends, mounted a community party fundraiser for Alissa, her 2-year old with terminal brain cancer. Since the little girl has only months to live, and their home nears foreclosure, they raised funds to give the little girl the comforts of home. Hundreds of people showed up at the party to eat and play, with donations in tow.

I have met a mom who lost her child to stillbirth. She now heads a petition that demands a Certificate of Death Resulting in Stillborn versus just a Certificate of Death--to acknowlege the viable life of that child, instead of just its death.

I have met women who walked to help out breast cancer causes, or people who walked to ease hunger. I have talked to a man who launched the local Random Acts of Kindness chapter here--looking for people who do acts of kindness without recognition or funfare (wow, I like his job, too!)

I have met a woman who collects crocheted squares from volunteers. She puts them together into blankets for the needy. There was a senior group who knits preemie caps and blankets given out to premature babies in the hospitals.

I have met a man who single-handedly mounted the first local filmfest in our area, setting up his backyard with a big projector screen for viewing under the stars--just because he felt there were many filmakers in need of more venues.

I have met Julie and Marisa, avid keepers of the soil, using worm compost and harvesting most of their vegetables, and teaching the community and their children how to plant.

Today, I met Shelly McMahon who lives in a farm that she tends with her husband and sons. On her Brentwood farm, she has lettuce, chard, tomatoes, arugula, radishes, and most of the salad greens we know of. But impressive are her herbs--basil, oregano, chamomille, mint, cinnamon-basil, lavender, scented geraniums, lemon verbena--that she dries into tea leaves. She gifted me with a bunch of these flowering herbs. (like the pic?) I am a coffee drinker but I may very well shift to tea just because of this beautiful bunch. The smell of all these fresh herbs reminded me of the bouquet of many good things I have been blessed with.

On her farm I also spied a real tree house, a pool, and all the space you need to raise 100 chickens, mules, and kids. She goes out on a tractor to till her soil and sow her seeds.

I feel like I stepped into a dreamland of peace and quiet, where she grows most of her food, eats in season, and enjoys an abundance of the earth's gifts.

I am smelling a lavender twig as I write this and I resolve to one day live among vegetables and flowers. Hey, maybe I already am!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Micro-credit bank founder wins Nobel Peace PriZe

When the beggar woman asked Muhammad Yunus for money, he lent her $27. "Charity is not the answer to poverty," Yunnus wrote. "It only helps poverty to continue."

The woman and her friends used the money to start a furniture making business, escaped the bonds of poverty, and paid back the loan in full.

Cheers to my idol, economist with the biggest heart, Muhammad Yunus--founder of the Bangladesh Grameen Bank in 1983, inventing and implementing the concept of micro-finance and micro-loans that has lifted millions of the poor towards self-sufficiency, with no-collateral loans from $20 to $200.

Grameen Foundation's mission is to empower the world's poorest people to lift themselves out of poverty with dignity through access to financial services and to information. With tiny loans, financial services and technology, they help the poor, mostly women (97%), start self-sustaining businesses to escape poverty. Yunus' model has been successfully replicated around the world--including East Asia, South Asia, Africa, Middle East, even in United States. (Check out the Philippines' Grameen Bank locations).

Only the stong culture of sense and shame in Bangladesh women (in Philippines, we call that "kahiyaan") served as collateral and on that, Grameen Bank boasts of a 98.5% loan repayment. Much lower than a regular bank's rate repayment of 57%.

Yunnus and his Grameen Bank has shown that even the poorest of the poor can bring about their own development.

Click on Grameen Foundation and of course, my favorite site The New Heroes to find out more about Yunnus and his inovative Nobel Peace Prize project--now with 2,226 branches in 71,371 villages, 18,795 employees, with $5.7 billion in total loans disbursed. In 2005, Grameen boasted a $15.2 million profit--transferred to the Rehab fund to help with disaster situations.

Definitely, huge profits from that initial $27 investment!

And to Mr. Yunus, may you live long and have many heirs that will take care of our people for generations on end.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Last Call for Summer Harvest

Summer is gone, declares the nippy cold wind that embraced our picnic.

I am almost ready to say good-bye to my summer harvest of tomatoes, melons, squash, zucchini, okra, and leeks. Look at my bell peppers!! Bata pa, productive na. I feel like a proud mama showing off my children.

It was a good harvest. We didn't have to buy vegetables in the summer. With the ripe tomatoes, we made a glorious pasta dish with anchovies, basil and garlic, that we ate thrice a week--and never tired of it. My husband was successful in creating penne with sausage and , what else? bell peppers--from our garden, no less, so it's been quite special.

If only I could get the right recipe for something with fried green tomatoes. Otherwise, I will have to wait until they ripen so we can store them as tomato sauce.

We have used okra with squash and zucchini for a jazzed up pinakbet, sometimes, we did okra tempura. And the pepper's leaves, we have tried with tinolang manok. We rose to the challenge of using all the harvest and came up with cream of squash and zucchini soup, which is ironic because we need those soups for winter. None of the produce ever went to waste. We were popular neighbors because we gave some vegetables away.

It has been a wonderful summer harvest. Vegetables were easy to grow and there was lots of sunlight.

My garden reminds me of the many cycles of life, the coming and going, the farewells and the renewals.

This fall, I look forward to carrots, beans, sugar peas, black-eyed peas, spinach, and lettuce, and more herbs, like basil(I failed twice), dill, and fennel. I don't look forward to the overcast sky, early sunsets, and the dark mornings. .

My rosemary and oregano have graced many a pizza and many casseroles, too. And for my friend, BN, I will send you recipe links for your rosemary bush in Tags.