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Non profit living

Zena empowers women living in poverty in Uganda

OXFORD, UK – Zena, a non-profit organization with a deep and lasting impact on women living in poverty in Uganda, works in several parts of Uganda, including Kamuli, one of the most poor people of the country.

Women in Uganda

Due to pervasive gender inequality in Uganda, women are treated like second-class citizens. Women are marginalized in many ways, whether due to lack of access to education, political under-representation or the violation of harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and marriage. of children. Although overall poverty has declined over the years, the poverty rate is still high in Uganda, rising to 21.4% in 2016. Notably, high poverty rates have a disproportionate impact on women.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Loren Thomas and Caragh Bennet, co-founders of Zena, point out that the women they work with “are not beneficiaries but benefactors”. Entrepreneurship women are enrolled in The Zena Launchpad program, where they gain confidence, education and community, while simultaneously gaining a learning / employment opportunity to create jewelry for the community. Zena brand. This work allows women to save to start their own business and escape poverty.

Origin story

Thomas and Bennet met in Uganda while volunteering on a gap year after high school. After active discussions on best practices in aid, Thomas’ experience in developing a social enterprise program for women, and Bennet’s research thesis in Uganda, they agreed that “women entrepreneurs needed debt-free capital ”. From there was born the idea of ​​Zena.

Zena has two bodies that go together. One is the Zena Launchpad where the focus is on social impact. The other is the product line, The Zena Brand, which focuses on creating unique jewelry. The quality and style of Zena’s products make the brand popular, featured in Vogue Italia, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar.

Hybrid model

What makes Zena unique is that it is not a traditional charity. Zena is partly nonprofit because she works with donors who invest in women, wishing to have an impact rather than getting a capital reward. At the same time, Zena is a social enterprise as women gain access to stable employment and acquire skills and earned capital for their business ideas.

Thomas explains: “The hybrid model Zena Launchpad allows women to access start-up capital without loans and without handouts. This is extremely important in fostering a sense of agency, as it “allows them to start businesses from a real place of strength and trust, knowing that they have fully earned this opportunity themselves”.

The model in practice

The selection process is simple: the participants / potential members of the program are women living in poverty in Uganda with viable business ideas. Women are an eclectic mix of backgrounds, all “from a variety of religions, tribes and even different countries,” says Thomas. Some were once refugees, others were abused, but all women come into Zena and find not only a new livelihood, but a new community of support. Women end up becoming clients of each other and looking after each other’s children.

Once selected for the jewelry apprenticeship program, women receive education and training in business and literacy. Each member is assigned a unique contract based on their business idea and the amount they need to save to start the business. Zena supports achievable goals so that women graduate and the next cohort can then be enrolled.

But, Zena doesn’t stop there. Bennet and Thomas intentionally decided to use only recycled and locally sourced waste to make their products, believing in the power of the fashion industry to do good not only for workers but also for the environment.

Education

Education in Zena is extremely important. The program takes a holistic approach through three areas of learning: classroom instruction, work experience, and personal development through mentoring. Zena sees literacy as crucial in changing the lives of women living in poverty in Uganda alongside formal business education and leadership training. Women gain “project management experience and communication skills” while working and discussing important topics, such as violence, family planning and mental health in a supportive environment.

Bennet and Thomas are continually looking for a way to improve their program. They are now planning a course on social media and smartphones after noticing during the COVID-19 pandemic that a lack of computer literacy can be a barrier to success.

Combat gender inequalities

In Uganda, there is a significant gender disparity in human capital wealth, with women accounting for only 39%, while men accounting for 61%. What is more, girls and women of lower socioeconomic status are the most affected by gender inequality. Therefore, the Zena Launchpad program, active since 2016, deliberately focuses on creating future women entrepreneurs by empowering women living in poverty.

The Zena team believes that these women will then also become leaders in their communities, defending and supporting other women. Some of Zena’s graduates now only hire women at their startups, and a graduate called Susan is going one step further, focusing on hiring single mothers. Thomas says that another graduate, Eva, “is currently working to run for local government to better advocate for women in her community.”

The empowerment and social awareness gained through the model has a clear impact on the community, not just the women in the official program. This belief in solidarity is something Bennet and Thomas stand for, with weekly team bonding sessions mandatory for all Zena members, regardless of the role of the participant, from security personnel to board members. .

An exemplary model

In her first five years, Zena supported the development of 31 women entrepreneurs, with 19 graduating from her program. This impact means that 200 people are lifted out of poverty, 90 children receive an education and 17 women are literate.

Zena’s founders are now looking to expand their program to help more women living in poverty in Uganda, believing the success of their model is proof of its potential for replication around the world. Zena, a community power-driven nonprofit, is one to watch for the future and be inspired by today.

– Hope Browne
Photo: Courtesy of Zena


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Initially, surgeons attached a pig kidney to a human – and it worked

Surgeons in New York have successfully attached a kidney grown on a genetically engineered pig to a human patient and found the organ to be functioning normally, a scientific breakthrough that could one day produce a vast new supply of organs for them. critically ill patients.

Although many questions remain unanswered about the long-term consequences of the transplant, which involved a brain-dead patient followed for only 54 hours, experts in the field have said the procedure represents a milestone.

“We need to know more about organ longevity,” said Dr Dorry Segev, professor of transplant surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who was not involved in the research. Nonetheless, he said: “It’s a huge breakthrough. This is a big, big problem.

Researchers have long sought to grow organs in pigs suitable for transplantation into humans. A constant flow of organs – which could eventually include hearts, lungs and livers – would offer a lifeline to the more than 100,000 Americans currently on transplant waiting lists, including the 90,240 who need of a kidney. Twelve people on waiting lists die every day.

An even greater number of Americans with kidney failure – more than half a million – depend on grueling dialysis treatments to survive. Largely because of the scarcity of human organs, the vast majority of dialysis patients are not eligible for transplants, which are reserved for people most likely to thrive after the procedure.

The operation, performed at NYU Langone Health, was first reported by USA Today on Tuesday. The research has not yet been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal.

The transplanted kidney was obtained from a pig genetically engineered to grow an organ unlikely to be rejected by the human body. In a close approximation of an actual transplant procedure, the kidney was attached to a person who had suffered brain death and was kept on a ventilator.

The kidney, attached to the blood vessels in the upper leg outside the abdomen, began to function normally, producing urine and creatinine waste “almost immediately,” according to Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, which performed the procedure in September.

Although the organ has not been implanted in the body, problems with so-called xenotransplants – from animals like primates and pigs – usually occur at the interface of the human blood supply and organ, where human blood circulates through porcine vessels, the experts said.

The fact that the organ is working outside the body is a strong indication that it will work in the body, said Dr Montgomery.

“It was better than we expected, I think,” he said. “It looked like any transplant I have ever done from a living donor. Many kidneys of people who have died do not work right away and take days or weeks to start. It worked immediately.

Last year, 39,717 residents of the United States received organ transplants, the majority of them – 23,401 – receiving kidneys, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that coordinates the country’s organ procurement efforts.

Genetically modified pigs “could potentially be a sustainable and renewable source of organs – the sun and the wind of organ availability,” said Dr Montgomery.

Reactions to the news among transplant experts ranged from cautious optimism to wild outpouring, though all agreed that the procedure represented a sea change. The prospect of raising pigs to harvest their organs for humans is sure to raise questions about animal welfare and exploitation, although around 100 million pigs are already killed in the United States each. year to feed.

While some surgeons have speculated that it may be a few months before kidneys from genetically modified pigs are transplanted into living humans, others have said there is still a lot of work to be done. .

“This is truly a leading edge translational surgery and transplant that is on the verge of being able to be done in living humans,” said Dr Amy Friedman, former transplant surgeon and chief medical officer of LiveOnNY, the organ procurement organization for the greater New York City area.

The group was involved in the selection and identification of the brain dead patient receiving the experimental procedure. The patient was a registered organ donor, and because the organs were not suitable for transplantation, the patient’s family agreed to allow research to test the experimental transplant procedure.

Dr Friedman said she is also considering using hearts, livers and other organs grown in pigs. “It’s really mind-boggling to think of how many transplants we could offer,” she said, adding: “You have to raise the pigs, of course.”

Other experts were more reserved, saying they wanted to see if the results were reproducible and review the data collected by NYU Langone.

“There is no doubt that this is a feat, in that it is difficult to do and you have to overcome a lot of obstacles,” said Dr. Jay A. Fishman, Associate Director from the Massachusetts General Hospital Transplant Center.

“Whether this particular study advances the field will depend on what data they’ve collected and shared, or whether it’s a step just to show they can do it,” said Dr. Fishman. He urged humility “about what we know”.

There are still many hurdles to overcome before organs from genetically modified pigs can be used on living humans, said Dr David Klassen, chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

While he called the surgery a “watershed moment,” he warned that long-term organ rejection occurs even when the donor’s kidney is well adapted and “even when you are not trying to cross the barriers of the organs. species “.

The kidney has functions in addition to removing toxins from the blood. And there are concerns about pig viruses infecting recipients, said Dr Klassen: “It’s a complicated area, and to imagine that we know all the things that are going to happen and all the problems that are going to arise is naive.

Xenotransplantation, the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between different species, has a long history. Efforts to use animal blood and skin in humans date back hundreds of years.

In the 1960s, kidneys from chimpanzees were transplanted into a small number of human patients. Most died soon after; the longest lifespan of a patient was nine months. In 1983, a baboon heart was transplanted into a baby girl known as Baby Faye. She died 20 days later.

Pigs offered advantages over primates for organ harvesting: they are easier to rear, mature faster, and reach adult human size in six months. Pig heart valves are commonly transplanted into humans and some diabetic patients have received pig pancreas cells. Pig skin has also been used as a temporary graft for burn patients.

The combination of two new technologies – gene editing and cloning – has produced genetically modified pork organs. Pig hearts and kidneys have been successfully transplanted into monkeys and baboons, but safety concerns have prevented their use in humans.

“So far, the field has been stuck at the preclinical primate stage, as moving from a primate to a living human is seen as a big leap,” Dr. Montgomery said.

The kidney used in the new procedure was obtained by removing a pig gene that encodes a sugar molecule that elicits an aggressive human rejection response. Pork has been genetically modified by Revivicor and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a source of human therapy.

Dr Montgomery and his team also transplanted the pig’s thymus, a gland involved in the immune system, in an attempt to prevent immune reactions to the kidney.

After attaching the kidney to the blood vessels in the upper leg, surgeons covered it with a protective shield so that they could observe it and take tissue samples during the 54-hour study period. . Urine and creatinine levels were normal, Dr Montgomery and colleagues found, and no sign of rejection was detected for more than two days of observation.

“There did not appear to be any incompatibility between the pig kidney and the human that would render it inoperative,” said Dr Montgomery. “There was no immediate rejection of the kidney.”

Long-term prospects are still unknown, he admitted. But “it allowed us to answer a very important question: is there something going to happen when we go from a primate to a human that is going to be disastrous? “


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Nonprofit Organization Denies Jamie Lynn Spears’ Donation From Book Proceeds | Culture & Leisure

This Is My Brave declined Jamie Lynn Spears’ offer for a donation from the proceeds of his upcoming book.

The nonprofit – which aims to raise awareness about mental health issues – reacted to the backlash against the 30-year-old star’s memoir and confirmed it would not accept “proceeds from the book sale. “.

Speaking to Instagram, This Is My Brave said, “We hear you.

“This Is My Brave was recently recommended as a benefit organization for Jamie Lynn Spears’ upcoming book.

“We have made the decision to decline the offer to receive the proceeds from the book sale.”

This was shared with another statement, which read, “We have heard you. We are taking action. We are deeply sorry for all whom we have offended.

“We are refusing the donation of Jamie Lynn Spears’ next book.”

The ‘Zoey 101’ actress sparked a backlash in July when it was announced that she was planning to release an autobiography titled ‘I Must Confess’ – which is a word from her older sister, Britney Spears’ single. … Baby One More Time ‘- but she later revealed it’s titled’ Things I Should Have Said ‘.

The book’s original subtitle, “Family, Fame and Figuring It Out,” also appeared to have been deleted.

And she recently revealed her intention to donate to This Is My Brave by praising the organization’s “amazing work”.

She said: “I know I still have a LOT to learn, but I feel like finishing this book has brought this chapter of my ’30 year’ life to a close and hopefully. , to help anyone who has forgotten their worth, lost their voice or is trying to break an unhealthy cycle in their life.

“That’s why, I’m so happy to announce that a portion of the proceeds from my book will go to @thisismybrave, because I know how scary it can be to share personal struggles, especially if you don’t feel like you have the support or a safe space to do it, and they do an amazing job of supporting and encouraging people as they courageously share their experiences. (sic) “


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I am a fashion editor and am blown away by these eco-friendly heels

This fancy shoe brand is committed to saving the planet and our feet from the throbbing pain

Rachel richardson

As for the heels, we have a lot options, but it’s actually very rare to find a fancy shoe brand that boldly makes lots of promises up front – and actually delivers. Well, that’s precisely what Ma’am Shoes did, and I’m so here for it. The new Los Angeles-based brand made its debut by declaring that women no longer have to choose between style and comfort, and went one step further by using sustainable materials to source locally and produce their very cute and colorful line of quality sandals, heels and ankle boots (coming soon).

Jennifer chan

Jennifer chan

Courtesy

madam shoes

madam shoes

Courtesy

Buy now: $ 300; maamshoes.com

My interest immediately piqued when I browsed the site for more details and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ma’am was more than just cute suede shoes. The eco-conscious line makes it known that they are created by women for women, and their mission is to make the world a better place. Understandably, there are strong feelings of empowerment and equality for women on their minimalist packaging, and upon closer inspection, I found that Ma’am even partnered with nonprofits. like United States of Women and I Am a Voter to give back and make an impact where it matters. If there was a shoe election in the fashion world, I would definitely vote for Ma’am Shoes.

So when the brand offered to send me a pair of their cute Ruth heels, I took them out for a walk to see how they performed. I wore them for brunch followed by a walk around town afterwards, and I felt cool, confident, and totally at ease. The (very) manageable heel height made for an enjoyable day without any complaints, and it turned out that the Ma’am team tested different heel heights, widths, insoles, outsoles and fabrications for finding the perfect equation to keep consumers comfortable on their feet to “walk the walk”. I like this.

Jennifer chan

Jennifer chan

Courtesy

“At Ma’am, we reject the idea that the bigger the better and that women need throbbing feet to be powerful,” the website proclaims. Music to my ears. The older I get, the more I realize that more reasonable heel heights are better for my joints (did I really just say that?) On your precious feet.

Jennifer chan

Jennifer chan

Courtesy

This particular style comes in four fun colors, and the soft petal pink hue I chose was a good start from the typical beige and neutral hues I usually gravitate towards in the fall. At $ 300, these shoes don’t come cheap, but the quality and brand history are well worth it, if you ask me.

madam shoes

madam shoes

Courtesy

Buy now: $ 300; maamshoes.com

And later this month, Ma’am is expanding its line to offer ankle boots in a rich ink indigo hue with a cool cylindrical heel. As if they weren’t tempting enough, for every pair of Shirley Boots sold, $ 10 will be donated to Baby2Baby, a non-profit organization that provides diapers, clothing and more to children living in poverty.

madam shoes

madam shoes

Courtesy

Buy now: $ 350; maamshoes.com

In short, Ma’am Shoes makes the difference in more than one way.


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Spokane teenager helps found refugee outreach program Youth Brining Immigrants Together

When immigrants and refugees arrive in Spokane, they often struggle to make connections in their new community. This can be especially true for young people, who find themselves in a school system that they do not understand, speaking a language that is foreign to them.

Neharika Sharma, junior at Gonzaga Prep, and a group of teens around the world hope to ease this struggle by connecting recent immigrants with local residents through a new nonprofit they have founded called Youth Bringing Immigrants Together (YBIT).

Students from the United States and Ukraine have been invited to participate in a training camp organized by Global Youth Entrepreneurs. There, Sharma teamed up with Larry Huang, a Taiwanese immigrant living in Vancouver, Washington, Daria Malevka from France and Barbara Potochevska from Ukraine.

Soon they realized that they all had something in common: a family experience with immigration. This inspired them to create a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting local residents with immigrants and refugees to ease their transition.

YBIT has been selected as the winner of the non-profit Global Youth Entrepreneur competition. This competition attracts hundreds of applicants from all over the world.

Students in the United States and Ukraine were matched in groups of four to compete for a $ 1,000 grant and the opportunity to receive financial advice from Nike CFO Mehran Nikko and former Microsoft vice president Dan’l Lewin.

This is how Sharma, Huang, Malevka and Potochevska connected. Using their shared family experience with immigration, they introduced a non-profit organization that matches locals with immigrants and refugees to ease their transition.

“We had to create business presentations, financial and business plans within a week, and it was overwhelming with the jet lag,” because two of the founders lived in Ukraine, Sharma said.

“Some of us didn’t have enough time to sleep because the competition was going on,” Potochevska added.

Sharma said the group didn’t know the financial side of doing business, so when they got $ 1,000 they didn’t know how to use it. As a result, Nike’s CFO and Microsoft’s vice president told YBIT how to set up a non-profit organization, register it with the government, and distribute the funds properly.

Shortly after YBIT won the grant, COVID-19 took the world by storm. However, this roadblock benefited the building of their non-profit organization. This saved the group a lot of money as they have built a positive reputation through social media.

Sharma’s parents immigrated from India to Spokane. She is a junior at Gonzaga Prep and enjoys participating in musical theater and Indian classical dance. She said the process took her family about 13 years to immigrate to the United States. Understanding how difficult and trying this process is for so many people, Sharma sought to make this transition easier, especially for families.

When she first started working with YBIT, Sharma was surprised to find that unlike her, most immigrants quickly abandon their culture to assimilate into American life.

“If I had left my culture behind,” she said, “half of my life would have been gone.

She said she tries to prevent this assimilation by posting topics on Instagram that mentees can discuss with their mentors. One week, she asked mentees to share a recipe from their culture with their mentors. With this program, Sharma hopes to encourage teens to embrace their uniqueness.

Huang immigrated to Vancouver from Taiwan at the age of 3. Huang said that because his family spoke Mandarin Chinese, he struggled to overcome the language barrier. His school enrolled him in ESL, which made it difficult for him to adapt to an unfamiliar environment.

“Coping with the language barrier was difficult for me. So I signed up for this innovation boot camp (Global Youth Enterprises) and met the YBIT team and from there I discovered this common story in this field, ”said Huang.

The team decided that the nonprofit would target teens desperate to find a home in the community.

“With the stress and responsibilities that adults have to take on, it’s easy for teens to feel lost in the equation,” Huang said.

Afghan families who fled their homes continue to arrive in Spokane as the Taliban gain traction following the US withdrawal. Sharma said YBIT is “absolutely” looking for opportunities to help Afghan refugees.

When an immigrant family files their documents, they learn about resources designed to facilitate their transition. YBIT presents documents from immigration agencies as a resource for young people. This advertisement is the reason YBIT hosts operations in over 55 countries.

“The language barrier is the most difficult barrier facing immigrants and refugees,” said Jackson Lino, director of youth programs at World Relief.

The four co-founders echoed Lino’s statement, saying easing the language barrier is YBIT’s top priority. Meeting a mentor each week allows mentees to learn the language of their new home and provides teens with a unique opportunity to experience phrases, slang and nuances of the language they are learning.

Ahmed Hassan participated in the YBIT Refugee Mentor / Mentor Program. Hassan recently moved from Saudi Arabia to Ukraine to study at university and is no stranger to moving countries. He was born in Germany and has also lived in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

He said the YBIT team had it set up with a friend and they instantly hooked up.

“We shared a lot of cultural knowledge and acquired a good amount of new things,” Hassan said. “We both knew different languages ​​as well, so we also practiced this together. “

In this mentorship, Hassan said he found a place to share his experience and realized that the YBIT participants “were one family with the same goals.”

After completing his mentorship, Hassan was invited to remain a volunteer.

“We do our best to give young people all the support they need and to help them get involved in any new environment they find themselves in,” he said.

In order to facilitate communication, mentors must be at least bilingual. Huang is the leader of the Chinese language, Sharma the Hindi leader, Malevka the French and Potochevska the Ukrainian.

In addition to language proficiency, YBIT is looking for likeable, kind and enthusiastic teens about learning about another culture.

Potochevska lives in central Ukraine and plans to study at Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv in the fall. She understands the challenges of immigration because she saw her brother immigrate to Australia. She said the process was “really stressful” for everyone involved.

“For migrants, it’s a big cultural difference,” she said. “For me alone, communicating with Americans is sometimes difficult for me, and sometimes I just don’t understand (their) mentality.

YBIT is delighted to welcome a new group of mentees and mentors for the 2021-22 school year. Their mentee application form is open to refugee and immigrant youth. Applications to become a mentor are closed, but teens are encouraged to contact YBIT to find out how they can be of assistance. Visit YBIT online at ybitinternational.wixsite.com/ybit.


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La Palma volcano, live updates today: eruption, tsunami warning and breaking news | the Canary Islands

A group of celebrity chefs feed the hungry people of La Palma

Working near the glowing lava flowing from a volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, rescuers eagerly await their lunch break – and while any food will do, it tastes better when it comes from a famous chef’s kitchen.

Chef Jose Andres ‘nonprofit World Central Kitchen (WCK) has delivered hot meals, sandwiches and water to thousands of evacuees as well as rescue workers overseeing residents’ safety .

“Although there are so many of us, it seems there is a lack of staff… including those who come down to give us a sandwich! It sounds silly but after eight hours on the ground it’s fundamental, ”said Guardia Civil police captain Diego Ortiz.

Arriving in one of the emptied neighborhoods in a van, WCK volunteer Pablo Pais told Reuters: “The lava is very close. Until the day before yesterday, there were still people in these houses.”

The association started preparing 200 meals a day at the start of the eruption – which began on September 19 – and now has 1,400, with a daily increase, said Olivier de Belleroche, a 45-year-old chef from Madrid who works for WCK.

After the manager of a local hotel suggested using all of the hotel’s food stocks as creeping lava threatening to cut power lines, WCK and its partners organized a large convoy of food for the military, rescue workers and evacuees, he said.

“It’s very moving, this feeling of being constantly on the alert, so many people lose their homes,” said Belleroche to himself after taking out of the oven a tray filled with dozens of hot dishes sealed in a lively kitchen. sold by a supermarket chain.

You get more and more involved with people – I’ve been doing this for four weeks now,“he added, explaining that initially he had only come for a few days.

WCK chef Andres is known for his innovative cuisine and credited with popularizing tapas in America in the 1990s.

He recently partnered with the Archewell charity of British Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle to set up a series of community relief centers in disaster areas around the world.


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KFOR INQUIRY: Oklahoma DHS abruptly ends relationship with nonprofit providing free service to place children

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – At this time, 7,200 Oklahoma children are in state care.

These children cannot live with their biological parents.

Some may possibly be reunited with a biological parent. Hundreds are available for worship.

Some will grow old because of a system that has failed to find them a forever home.

An Oklahoma-based nonprofit founded to find homes for these children has been told their help is unwanted.

The Oklahoma Heart Gallery is a network of child advocates who maintain a database of photos and videos of children available for adoption.

Several times a year for the past 19 years, photographers have donated their time and resources to take beautiful images of children held by DHS.

According to Oklahoma Heart Gallery (OHG) board chair, Mary Beth Ede, this is a $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 a year business.

Their mission is to connect potential adoptive families with an available child.

“For me, it’s really humanizing for these kids who are in the care of DHS,” Ede said.

Deangelo Coberly, 18, was first presented by the Oklahoma Heart Gallery at the age of 13.

“A lot of these kids. they can’t wait to be on this website for some hope, ”Deangelo recalls.

He had been detained by DHS most of his life.

In 2018, Deangelo was living at the Tulsa Boys Group Home; its 27th foster home.

That same year, the Coberly family found Deangelo on the Oklahoma Heart Gallery website.

“She found his picture and said, ‘Look at him. Look at this kid! ‘ She kept talking about her dimples. Deangelo’s adoptive father, John Coberly, said. “Honestly, without the Heart Gallery, we wouldn’t have found Deangelo. We have gone through so many DHS profiles.

The Heart Gallery has provided this service to DHS for 19 years.

Almost two decades of photos, videos, website maintenance, and daily phone calls from potential adoptive parents.

The founder, Gay Larsen, adopted two teenagers from DHS years ago.

The children of Oklahoma need a home.

Larsen and members of the Oklahoma Heart Gallery board of directors received a letter from DHS earlier this year, informing them that DHS would not “renew” the relationship.

“After all this time and money and all this work that we have done, it was mind blowing,” said Larsen.

The notification from DHS Child Protection Services provided little explanation.

According to the letter, Director Deborah Shropshire wrote: “Over the past few years our understanding and approach to fostering foster care has evolved… Our work with the Oklahoma Heart Gallery just doesn’t align as well as it does. the past. , and for this reason, I want to inform you that we will not be renewing the Memorandum of Understanding between the Oklahoma Human Services and the Oklahoma Heart Gallery. Additionally, the effort to develop a system for photographing children in need of foster care will not be a strategy that we are going to advance further.

“The tone was a bit rude and contemptuous,” Ede said. “Just for someone to say, ‘Oh. Thank you. We don’t need you. It really is. It was a punch in the guts.

Keep in mind that this was a free service for finding homes for children.

Every expense was paid for by the Oklahoma Heart Gallery, including a brand new custom website portal created by the Oklahoma Heart Gallery at the request of DHS.

Today, the Heart Gallery and DHS are embroiled in a legal battle over who owns the rights to the images and videos produced by OHG volunteers.

The database is made up of thousands of images produced over 19 years of effort to help.

“We would have appreciated at least a minimum of respect for the time, effort, energy and money we have put into it over the years. It’s no small effort, ”Ede said.

KFOR has requested an interview with DHS. We asked for a legitimate reason why the state would refuse free assistance in finding homes for the children.

The agency offered this vague statement:

“We are eternally grateful to the organizations and volunteers who use their time and talent to reach out to people who improve the lives of children and families. OK-DHS aims to reduce or eliminate the amount of trauma suffered by children and youth, to heal and strengthen families and communities and to create alternative supports for the safety and well-being of children. . We continue to refine and evolve our strategies, approach and partnerships to achieve this goal based on evidence-based best practices. “

News 4 also requested twelve months of internal communications between DHS administrators and adoption services in Oklahoma. We were hoping to find out more about what was wrong with DHS and the Oklahoma Heart Gallery.

Ali Meyer of KFOR made the request in July, and we have been waiting three months for DHS to comply with the Open Records Act and release these public documents.

Regarding the request, a DHS spokesperson emailed this update in September:

“We are processing your request under the Open Records Act. Due to the volume of your request, we anticipate that the response will likely take months, as to date it has returned over 50,000 pages for review. We expect there will be even more records at the end of our search. As many of our records are confidential under state law, we will need to review all of these records for possible drafting before sharing them with your station. We intend to respond in a reasonable manner and appreciate your patience.


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Green Sudan: the crossroads of well-being

It’s a Friday morning in September and Sudan Green is driving one of his three younger brothers to school.

“See you, man,” he says as his brother gets out of the car. “Be careful.”

Be careful? I ask. Is this your farewell note to everyone? Just him? For some special reason?

He stops ; on the phone, I hear him turn on his flashing light. “When people close to you have been taken away,” he said, the signal fading, “you have some caution about those you hold nearby. “

Seeing Green, like most of the people he has known his entire life growing up in Philly, is no stranger to loss. One of his earliest memories as a toddler? See someone shot in West Philly, near 47th and Kingsessing, where his family lived at the time.

“Having mentors around me and people who change my life is probably the reason I didn’t go looking for a gun or drugs,” says Green.

It would be years later, at the end of 2018, when he would experience one of the most painful tragedies of his life: the murder of his best friend, Nantambu, in Germantown, where Green had grown up.

But Green is no stranger to the role of Big Brother, either. It is a badge of honor that he has worn for as long as he can remember. Older son of poet / musician / goddess Ursula Rucker – he also has an older half-brother – Green grew up leading his pack of siblings. Tayyib Smith, who produced two of Rucker’s albums, remembers Green as a little boy hanging out at Larry Gold’s music studio while mom worked.

“Sudan has always been placed in a leadership position, like it or not,” says Smith. “I remember he and his brother had the code for a particular door in the studio, and it was like an adult honor for them, because they could move around the studio without the help of an adult. And I remember seeing that they were taking Pride in there.

A loss, then a different path

Moving through the artistic and creative circles forged by his mother, Green was exposed early on to the power of community, the glitz of entertainment, the sheer force of music, language and words. He attended the private progressive school in Philadelphia for a while, which he says was life changing, breaking out of the toxic masculinity that often permeated his neighborhood.

He didn’t realize it yet, but these worlds showed him the full gamut of masculinity, of humanity.

“The fact that I had mentors around me and people who changed my life was probably the reason why I didn’t go looking for a gun or drugs and didn’t have unhealthy relationships with these people. things, ”he said. “Because I’ve seen a lot of these things in front of me, like most people of all races, but it’s about what you do with it.” “

Of course, he was also a kid who wanted the same things that so many Philly kids did: work at Ubiq on Walnut Street, with his cool sneakers and streetwear. To hang out with his friends, even when it meant getting involved in the shadows, violence, or “jumping people,” immature activities that Green says he grew up on.

I just believe in being strong in your morals and going back to your standards on a daily basis, ”Green said. “You wonder who are you presenting yourself for and why? “

He grew up and started making his own music; he lived in New York for a few years, tapping into the yoga community through the now defunct, paid studio Yoga For The People; he further broadened his view of the world. He attended Smith’s Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship.

Then, in 2018, Nantambu was assassinated.

“I fell into a depression. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. It was crazy, ”he said, his voice starting to break. To cope, he turned to music, writing a song called “Spirits Up!”

The earth continued to revolve around the sun and, lo and behold, it was 2020, with all its turmoil, the tensions that had always been part of Green’s Philadelphia rising to the surface of the nation. The Whites – not enough, but more – have started to pay attention.

Green leaned into the protests, of course, but he also listened intently to what they were revealing about the pain, a pain he recognized in his bones; he decided to do something about it.

This something? It encompasses the influences that have shaped Green his entire life: music, community, love. He organized Spirits Up !, a nonprofit movement that invites blacks and brunettes to come together through free community yoga, mindfulness and wellness events.

RELATED: Free Yoga Series for Black Philadelphians After George Floyd Protests

During the past 18 months, Spirits Up! organized nearly 50 events that touched the lives of over a thousand people. At one point on June 17, 2020, over 400 people, mostly people of color, were doing yoga at Malcolm X Park.

“Having the foresight, wisdom and maturity to bring people together in a space that is centered, welcoming and safe for black people, it’s revolutionary, ”says Smith. “I think Sudan is a brilliant man with enormous potential. And I think the Spirits Up! addresses are a priority for everyone who talks about the health and well-being of the city.

Because let’s be honest: seeing a group of white women or suburban children doing yoga, talking about wellness or sharing the names of their therapists? It’s important, but it’s not revolutionary. But among black and brown men, the stigma surrounding mental health issues and barriers to seeking care persists: just 26.4% of black and Hispanic men aged 18 to 44 who experienced daily feelings of loss. anxiety or depression were likely to have used mental health services, compared with 45.4 percent of non-Hispanic white men having the same feelings. What when black men ask for help and would prefer a provider of the same race? Well, they only make up about 4% (albeit rising) of the psychology workforce at the doctoral level.

“You go to white wellness areas, and they’re super nice. They have a lot of support, and that’s my goal. I don’t wanna do it if it’s not gonna be really nice. We have to take people out of the ordinary. You can’t just do the recreation center all the time, ”says Green.

And so bring well-being to light and bring people of color to to kiss this? It’s revolutionary. This is what makes Green the natural fit for Generation Change Philly, The Citizen’s new series in partnership with Keepers of the Commons to shine a light on and support the next generation of Philly change agents.

Since the launch of Spirits Up !, Green has also achieved her certification as a yoga teacher and the group has received fiscal sponsorship from BlackStar, the non-profit organization that produces the BlackStar Film Festival and serves as a platform for them. artists and designers of color. He was approached by sneaker brand Allbirds and LuLuLemon as a brand ambassador, worked with Ars Nova and artist Hank Willis Thomas on events.

Look ahead

Despite everything he has accomplished in the past 18 months, Green’s work has only just begun: he is committed to opening up a physical space, a cool recreation area for yoga, mindfulness, meditation. and workshops, ideally in Germantown and West Philly. But he doesn’t want to rush; he wants it to be nice. Truly attractive.

“You go to white wellness areas, and they’re super nice. They have a lot of support, and that’s my goal. I don’t wanna do it if it’s not gonna be really nice. We have to take people out of the ordinary. You can’t just do the recreation center all the time. It is also moving forward with its plan to offer a virtual platform. “I want to be able to reach everyone. “

Smith admires the path Green has taken and recognizes the pitfalls that abound.

“A lot of times the people most connected to the community are supposed to do everything from a sweat equity space and then jump through a blank stare to qualify for a nonprofit system that isn’t really about invest in you, but the tax benefits make it see like they’ve invested in you, ”he says. “I think this is the fight that Sudan and its advisers must wage. And that’s a challenge. I mean, as far as I read on Build Back Better money… I don’t see a lot of capital, energy or empathy flowing to organizations like the one in Sudan, or a host of people who bring innovation and passion to space. “

Sudan Green | By Sabina Louise Pierce

Green knows this, is not naive. And he’s mature enough to understand the difference between being exploited and being supported on his journey: Oh he Fortunately working with Penn, with IBX, with Comcast, doing the work to bring his work to more people.

He wants to do the job in an inclusive way, for black men (and all people), including those who want to embrace wellness while being part of pop culture, if they so choose; in other words, you can practice yoga and healing while still loving beautiful things. You don’t have to be, say, a bearded ascetic: it doesn’t have to be a choice, because wellness runs deeper than the clothes or sneakers you wear.

Morale! home page, there is a text that describes the mission of the group as “To work collectively to heal the black community through yoga and meditation.” By any means necessary. “

just reread The autobiography of Malcolm X, I ask Green about this last sentence, famous adaptation of Fanon and Sartre. Green says that as much as this quote inspires him, he is even more motivated by another quote widely attributed to the revolutionary leader.

“A man who represents nothing will fall in love with everything. “

“I just believe in being strong in your morale and going back to your standards on a daily basis,” Green said. “You wonder who are you presenting yourself for and why? “

To show up. Perhaps this is what Green does most significantly: he presents himself on behalf of the community that raised him; the brothers who admire him; the best friend he lost; and the city that needs him more than ever.

This is the logo of Generation Change Philly, a joint project between The Philadelphia Citizen and Keepers of the Commons that shines a light on the change makers in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Citizen partners with the nonprofit Guardians of the commons on the “Generation Change Philly” series to provide educational and networking opportunities for the city’s most dynamic change makers.

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African penguins at Denver Zoo live their best lives as they get a major habitat upgrade

Seventeen African penguins trembled and twisted, as if they were part of a single organism, out of the 65-degree water of their new enclosure at the Denver Zoo and on the hot deck above the week last.

Impressively, they never lost their tight training, squeezed shoulder to shoulder as they were like an elevator full of commuters with stiff arms and tuxedo clad (albeit incredibly cute).

“They will start to expand and make more use of the main area as they acclimatize,” said John Azua, curator of birds at the Denver Zoo, watching the zoo’s tiny human visitors crush their cheeks against a clear acrylic divider to catch the eye. -eye with the compact creatures. “For now, they are still grouped.”

You can’t blame them: At the time of this visit, the African penguins had barely been in the public eye for 24 hours, after zoo workers removed the wall separating their exhibit from the rest of the 84-acre campus , just north of City Park, home to around 3,000 other animals.

Located in the former Benson Predator Ridge, the $ 1.75 million African Penguin Habitat, which opened on September 30, draws visitors right inside the main entrance. The zoo painted and repaired the fake brown (now gray) rocks of the Ridge instead of tearing them down, while closing their perimeter to create this state-of-the-art 2,400-square-foot home for its endangered penguins, which are native to the area. ‘South Africa.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Children visit the new African penguin habitat at the Denver Zoo on Thursday, September 30, 2021.

“Their new pool is about four to five times the size of their swimming area at Bird World,” said Jake Kubié, communications director for the Denver Zoological Foundation, which operates the nonprofit Denver Zoo.

“The long, linear nature of it also allows them to display natural behaviors, such as porpoising (i.e. what dolphins do), which they weren’t able to do before. Azua added of the 40 foot long pool. “Their old exhibit was what we call in the industry a ‘dump and fill’, so no filtration, no circulation and a lot of wasted water.”

Pinnacle African Penguin Point, as it is officially called, solves these problems through technology. The new 10,000 square foot water tank is temperature controlled and filtered every 15 minutes, allowing caretakers to reuse the water instead of emptying it once or twice a week to prevent algae blooms summer events that hit the Bird World exhibit.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

A group of African penguins gather in their new habitat at the Denver Zoo on Thursday, September 30, 2021.

There are also heaters under parts of the deck that will allow the penguins to easily access the water, even in freezing weather, although once it hits 20 degrees or below they are still gathered at inside. The multiple burrows and nesting boxes, as well as various natural and landscaped substrates, effectively mimic their origins in the Cape of Good Hope, Kubié said.

It is specifically inspired by Boulder Beach in South Africa, where experts at the Denver Zoo have brought their Colorado knowledge to help rehabilitate and save African penguins for much of the past two decades. Animal care experts are also returning from these overseas trips with new practices that improve the care of captive animals at the Denver Zoo, Azua said.

Vertix Builders, the company behind the exhibit, has a lot of adaptation experience, having recently completed a major update for the ever-popular Space Odyssey at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

“Unlike a traditional commercial building, the exhibits are uniquely unique and the designers, contractors and zoo staff had to work closely together to develop a vision and then execute it to bring it to life,” said Ted Laszlo, vice-president of Vertix, in a press statement.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Left to right, Holly Samson, 2, and her sister Juniper, 3, of Denver have their photos taken in the new African penguin habitat at the Denver Zoo on opening day, Thursday, September 30, 2021.

Vertix had to balance the water and sand areas (the latter, where the keepers’ discussions and daily meals will soon begin), with spaces in which the penguins could both exercise and cool off, including including 600 feet of interior space. They also installed a rope and pulley system that zoo visitors can use to create “their own playful waves that the penguins can splash in”.

Of course, that would require these still-acclimatized penguins to loosen ranks, and luckily – for visitors and penguins alike – they’re on the right track.

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San Francisco housing complex gives victims of domestic violence a fresh start

Tucked away on her Chesterfield sofa, her power wheelchair close at hand, Rosemary Dyer examined the glittering peacock figures she had purchased on her first solo trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown after her release from prison, and admired the bright tablecloth with silk flowers in her new living room.

Dyer, an effervescent woman with a mischievous sense of humor, brought these and other prized possessions to Home Free, a new transitional apartment complex in San Francisco. It was designed for women who have been jailed for killing their abusive partner or being at a crime scene coerced by an abusive spouse or boyfriend. Dyer was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole in 1988 for the shooting death in 1985 of her eight-year-old husband, who abused and tortured her, at a time when expert testimony related to domestic violence and its effects were not permitted. in court in most states.

The insidious villainy that defined her life included being repeatedly beaten and sodomized with a loaded handgun. Her husband had dug a grave in the backyard, saying he intended to bury her alive.

Home Free – where Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 Dyer’s Switch is proudly hung on the wall – was created by Five Keys Schools and Programs, a statewide nonprofit that provides education, training professional, therapeutic programs and housing for inmates and new releases. The five-bedroom, two-bedroom apartment complex is the result of years of advocacy by survivors of intimate partner violence and the organizations that work with them. Their efforts have enabled women like Dyer to secure their release by pardon or by retroactively presenting evidence of their abuse to the state parole board or the courts.

“The fact that women who have suffered unspeakable violence against them have not been allowed to provide evidence of the abuse is the epitome of injustice,” said Sunny Schwartz, founder of Five Keys. “We are committed to creating a vibrant, dignified and safe home, a place that says ‘you are worth it.’ “

Previous transitional housing options for women were largely limited to those dealing with substance abuse. Home Free, on Treasure Island, a former naval base in the San Francisco Bay area, was forged during the pandemic last year with a tight start-up budget of $ 750,000, including staff. The once grimy apartments have been renovated with the help of nearly 100 volunteers – architects and landscapers, flooring and cabinet installers, plumbers, transporters, electricians and urban construction apprentices. They all gathered on this somewhat bizarre island originally built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exhibition.

Interior design students at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco dedicated a semester to the project, joining mini-charettes on Zoom with Irving A. Gonzales of G7 Architects. They also reflected with the women, whose desires included full-length mirrors (they had been denied in prison to monitor their form for years).

“We wanted color! said Dyer, who visited the construction site while still in temporary accommodation. She and others had a particular aversion to gray, a shade associated with bunks and metal prison lockers.

A 69-year-old cancer survivor with congestive heart failure, Dyer has been using a wheelchair since she injured her hip in prison. A huge pirate flag – a nod to the Treasure Island theme – greets visitors as they arrive. Her accessible apartment adjoins a patio where she grows pots of tomatoes and radishes.

The landscape itself was designed by Hyunch Sung of the Mithun firm, who chose 10 different tree species. (Because the soil on Treasure Island is contaminated with industrial chemicals, the trees are planted in brightly colored containers.) Sung said she approached her work there as if designing for high-end clients. . “The idea of ​​beauty is underestimated for disadvantaged communities,” she said.

Nilda Palacios, 38, who lives upstairs, said it was “emotionally moving” to join the resort. She grew up with a history of abuse: she was assaulted as a child by an uncle and a stepfather, then raped at the age of 15 by a high school teacher. The teacher’s stressful ordeal made her dependent on drugs and alcohol (“I was trying to sleep my life,” she says). Palacios became distraught and suicidal. When a beggar cornered her one day, she said, she thought he was planning to attack her and “went on a rampage”, strangling her. She was convicted of second degree murder. Incarcerated for 17 years, she benefited from therapists in prison who helped her understand “how the depth of my crime relates to my story,” she said. “I confused someone who was not a threat for someone who was.”

Palacios was paroled. She benefited from a broader vision for Home Free, which now welcomes women like her, whose crimes were directly linked to their abuse.

Upon moving in, she was “shocked” at the prospect of a private room after years of sharing an 8 x 10 foot cell and cramming all her things into a six cubic foot box, with, as one inmate put it, current. , “your panties against noodles and peanut butter.”

“No way, is this my room?” Palacios recalled. “It felt like a real house to me.”

The idea for Home Free arose during a conversation between Schwartz, its founder, and the state treasurer of California, Fiona Ma, then the deputy of the state. Ma’s legislation, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012, allowed women who had experienced domestic violence and been convicted of violent crimes related to their abuse the opportunity to have their cases heard again using Women’s Syndrome. beaten (as it was called then) as a defense. The law also gave them the right to present evidence of abuse by intimate partners during the parole process. It applied to persons convicted before August 1996.

The number of Rosemary Dyers still behind bars is unknown. About 12,000 women are currently incarcerated for homicide nationwide, said Debbie Mukamal, executive director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School and director of the Regilla Project, a three-year effort to study the frequency with which women in the United States are jailed for killing their attackers. Small studies, including one in Canada, suggest that 65% of women serving a life sentence for the murder of their intimate partner had been assaulted by them before the offense. The link between abuse and violent crime was highlighted by grim statistics in a 1999 US Department of Justice report showing that a quarter to a third of incarcerated women had been abused as minors and only a quarter to almost a half in adulthood.

Despite increased public awareness, “there are still a large number of criminal lawyers who do not understand how intimate partner violence creates the context for a crime,” said Leigh Goodmark, director of the gender-based violence clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law.

In New York State, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, enacted in 2019, was put to the test in the high-profile case of Nicole Addimando, a young mother of two in Poughkeepsie who shot and killed her baby friend and his father. children in 2017 after years of heartbreaking abuse (the case is dramatically captured in the documentary film “And So I Stayed.”)

Sentenced to 19 years in life for second degree murder, Addimando was entitled to a subsequent hearing under the law, where her allegations of abuse could be factored into a reduced sentence. The county court judge dismissed the allegations, saying she “had been given the opportunity to leave her attacker safely.” In July, the appeals division of the state Supreme Court overturned the decision, reducing the length of Ms. Addimando’s detention to 7.5 years.

For Kate Mogulescu, associate professor at Brooklyn Law School and director of its Survivors Justice Project, the case illustrates “the impossible burdens we place on survivors to prove their victimization.” Women are scrutinized by the courts in a very different way than men, she added. “With women, they are a bad mother, or promiscuous. The tropes are trotted on women and the punishments reflect this. However, so far 16 women have been punished in New York.

By far the most common reason that women who have been abused by intimate partners end up in prison are accomplice laws, in which a victim is forced to be at the scene of an abuser’s violence, like driving the getaway car, said Colby Lenz, co-founder of Survived and Punished, a national rights organization.

This was the case with Tammy Cooper Garvin, a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 14 and jailed for 28 years for being in the car while her pimp murdered a client. Her sentence was commuted and she was hired by Home Free as a residential coordinator.

Another advocate – and a guiding force behind the founding of Home Free – is another survivor named Brenda Clubine, who started a weekly support group at the California Institution for Women. Some 72 women quickly joined. Dyer was one of the original members, but until Clubine encouraged her, she was so terrified of life that she could barely speak.

Clubine herself had suffered years of abuse, including broken bones and stab wounds, by her husband, a former police detective. She hit her head with a bottle of wine and he died of blunt trauma. She served 26 years of a 16 life sentence. Her fierce retelling of the stories of the women in the prison group – which she sent to state lawmakers and governors – led to public hearings and the 2009 documentary “Sin by Silence,” which in turn inspired California laws.

Clubine’s close friendship with Dyer continued and is essential to Dyer’s rebounding confidence. At Home Free, Dyer now delights in making homemade noodles with chicken from his grandmother’s recipe. Clubine, his BFF, found that a safe and strengthening place for his “sisters” was long overdue. “I can’t say how full my heart feels that he’s available to them now,” she said.


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