Friday, June 22, 2007

Heroes from a Small Planet

I remember that when I was in 2nd grade, I wanted to become a teacher. Now, that I know what I know, I wish I could have become a social entrepreneur. Maybe I still can. It is my hope that I still have time to hatch my next business endeavor, and that it will surely contribute positively to social change.

Meanwhile, I am hoping to catch the
Heroes from a Small Planet Film Fest
--stories about individuals whose ideas leap beyond charity to find systemic solutions to poverty, education, health and social justice.

Check out volunteer doctors of project HOPE--providing medical services on board a boat that coasts the far-flung areas in Ecuador; the Play Pump in Africa--where inventor Trevor Field came up a children's merry-go-round that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time the children start to spin. Read about Dr. Sugata Mitra from India. He set up an experiment to provide poor children with free, unlimited access to computers and the Internet. And of course, Room to Read, libraries and literacy education programs (started in Nepal and has spread "faster than Starbucks" to South East Asia) by ex-Microsoft biggie, John Woods, who has committed himself and his corporate know-how to his non-profit.

How can we change our world today?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fair Trade Products

I have been quite fascinated with the concept of Fair Trade--a business framework with a social conscience. In a nutshell, in order to trade your goods fairly, a fair local wage must be paid (versus sweatshop rates), provide equal opportunities to all people, particularly the disadvantaged (women, seniors, handicapped), engage in environmentally sustainable practices, and prioritize the upliftment of the workers' financial lives.

According to a recent article in Muncie, Indiana's Star Press, "the National Retail Federation expects the average consumer to spend $791.10 this holiday season, up from $738.11 last year."

Surely, Fair Trade gifts can use some of that spending.

Many websites have dedicated themselves to selling Fair Trade products. Check out Africa's Global Crafts.Org. There is also World of Good.Com.

One of my favorite sites is the more Asian-oriented
Ten Thousand Villages.Com
, featuring artisans from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, among others.

I am glad to have seen the recycled Philippine products around. The doy pack bags are popular but so are the rolled paper crafts--frames, coasters, trivets. My cousins and I saw them at Baskeesh at Napa. We were so proud.

Global Girlfriend is an online fair trade store that sells handmade gifts made by women's non-profit programs and cooperatives. I bought my friend C, a bracelet from Peru for her birthday. She was elated and I have never been prouder of my small gift.

Worthy of mention is, the hip and colorful candy wrapper bags that are catching fashion editors' eyes. Ecoist promises to plant a tree for every bag sold, too.

Today, there was a business article in the newspaper that spoke directly to me. the article was about Escama--and the story of the San Francisco man who set up Brazilian women co-ops to gather soda can push tops to create eco-friendly bags using crochet and recycled aluminum pop tops.

This kind of business plan appeals to me. And maybe one day, I will be blessed with the time and courage to explore it.

Should you need gift ideas, do something nice for more people by trying Fair Trade Products. They have a varied price range and an even bigger product selection.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Malou and Minotte--2nd generation

This is Malou--my oldest friend (literally in age) and also because we have been friends since 5th Grade.

We have shared so many adventures and misadventures. Maybe I should share only the adventures. My first ever USA trip was with her and her mom, and Angel, the third angle in our trio. My first ever and only principal's call came because of Malou's Grade 7 antics. We were put on probation, with our bright classmate, Milen, and were never classmates again.

Though my mom disapproved of Malou at first ("She's too advanced for you."--and she was right!), our friendship stood the test of time--through many arguments, many shared triumphs and lows. That we did not speak to each other for many years because of a Joe Sample record, may well be the secret of our success because Malou gets bored easily and she tends to look for new adventures. She introduced me to Ricky and is godmother to my son, as I am to her daughter. It is a known fact that Malou is not an easy character to get along with but she has her strengths: she is extremely street-smart, shrewd, and self-confident. (Strengths ba iyon?) In her clear moments, she actually makes sense. Otherwise, she belong to a level all to her own.

My cousin asked me how I got along with Malou without competition or comparison. Now I know it is because there was none--Malou and I respected our differences when we were young and now that we are mid-lifing, we just let each other be. Her unwavering sense of self, albeit a bit twisted, kept us in our proper places. And I say all these in a good way, just like it is.

The best thing I like about Malou is that, with her, I can be myself. I am almost always crabby and curt around her. And it is so okay with her. I can tell her off, specially when she is going overboard and she actually backs off. She is a personality that can take what she dishes out.

Thirty-two years (and 32 pounds a piece) later since Grade 5, we have our own daughters--Beatriz, 4, her one-and-only child and reason for living, and Monica, 3, my youngest and my boss. My mom said it was funny how Malou and I are ruled by our kids--and we concede because we are old mothers for toddlers like them and thus, have no more stamina for petty discipline.

Bea and Monica had a chance to spend time together. Malou noticed some competition and jealousy for attention. We spent our reunion mediating fights and calming the cry babies. I found myself protective over Monica, remembering how Malou used to put one over me. Bea has a strong personality just like her mom. I am glad, though, that Monica actually stood her ground. Bea and Monica actually were able to play with each other with no further incident.

Here we are, the geriatric mamas to young toddlers. How uncanny that here we go again.