Jessica Cox pilots her own course
2012-08-23, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
She can put on contact lenses, drive a car and sign her name - all with her feet - but Jessica Cox's biggest accomplishment may be up in the air. The 29-year-old Arizona native and Tucson resident was born without arms as a result of a rare birth defect, yet she got her pilot's license in 2008 and made the 2011 Guinness World Records for being the world's first licensed armless pilot. "It was tough being different growing up. For me it was a challenge to go to public school and always be stared at," Cox said. "I had a choice to embrace that part of my life or avoid it." So she chose to not hide behind long-sleeve sweaters and instead took up surfing, scuba diving and tae kwon do (she is a black belt), and conquered her biggest fear - flying. Like other tasks, she pilots with her feet. Cox is the subject of a documentary being filmed about her life and accomplishments, titled "Rightfooted." A trailer for the film can be seen at rightfooted.com/movie. In the trailer, Cox is seen as a girl with prosthetic arms as she explains that she was called "hook" and "robot girl" growing up. She is later seen wearing her favorite flying shirt, which reads, "Look Ma, no hands!" "I remember that as a child I always wanted to fly like Superwoman over my playground because I was so angry about how limited I was," she says during the trailer. "With the documentary, I will be able to reach millions of people to say it's OK to be different," Cox said in an interview.
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
USDA: Number of Farmers Markets up Due to Demand
2012-08-03, ABC News/Associated Press
As demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables has increased, so too has the number of urban farmers markets sprouting up across the nation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced ... that the number of direct-sales markets has increased 9.6 percent in the past year, with California and New York leading the way. After 18 years of steady increases, the number of farmers markets across the country now registered with the USDA is 7,864. In 1994, there were 1,744. Organizations such as Slow Food, founded in 1989 to counter fast-food, junk-food lifestyles, first ignited consumer demand for fresh, local produce. Some markets are so popular that there are wait lists for farmers to sell there, including one of the largest and most diverse of all, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. Farmers from across the region travel there three days a week to sell fruits, vegetables and artisan breads and cheeses to thousands of shoppers, including top chefs from the food-centric city. Operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the iconic market on the San Francisco Bay is celebrating its 20th birthday. "When we started there were only three markets in the city, and now there are 29," said Liz Hunt, a center spokeswoman.
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
Natural, organic items grab bigger share in supermarkets
2012-07-07, USA Today
In recent years, the grocery industry has seen sales of natural and organic food double in supermarkets such as Kroger ..., one of the largest mainstream grocers in the nation. "Used to be this was all very faddish," said Gregg Proctor, who heads up natural foods for Kroger's central division, which includes Indiana. "Not anymore. We're adding new items constantly because if we don't get it when it comes out, our competition will." There seems to be a race to pure foods among the nation's largest supermarkets as they ramp up their offerings, even launch their own brands of organics and naturals, and then heavily advertise the healthy choice. It all makes sense, considering sales of this segment of groceries are outpacing traditional grocery sales. Nationwide, natural and organic food sales grew 8 percent in 2010 versus the less than 1 percent growth in the $630 billion total U.S. food market, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. It grew at about a 5 percent rate each year from 2005 to 2009. With that growth and popularity comes a definite consumer advantage: Slowly but surely, the price of natural foods is falling. Inside more than 1,300 of Kroger's 2,500 stores are Nature's Markets, a store within the store that is devoted solely to natural foods. Natural foods are not regulated, which leaves the meaning of that term largely up to the grocers that sell them.
Bras liberate women from sex slavery
2012-02-22, CNN blog
Staring down a mountain of bras in her basement, Kimba Langas knew things had gotten out of hand.
The stay-at-home-mom started collecting unwanted bras as a way to help women on the other side of the world. It started small through word of mouth, and then a Facebook page. But the bras quickly overran her home in suburban Denver, Colorado. They were in her basement, in her garage, in her car. They were in bags, in boxes, in envelopes. Her husband, Jeff, tried to navigate his way around them, but it wasn't easy. Langas collects unwanted bras for a charity called "Free the Girls" which gives them to young women coming out of sex trafficking in Mozambique - not to wear, but to sell in used clothing markets where bras are a luxury item and command top dollar. The girls can make three times the average wage, more than enough to support themselves and not be trafficked again. It was the pastor of her church who came up with the idea for Free the Girls. He was planning on moving to Mozambique for missionary work, and called Langas to see if she would run the project with him. She thought it sounded like fun. Shortly after launching the Facebook page, the bras started coming. The response was much bigger than she expected. "There was a drive in Arizona and the women collected 8,000 bras. There's a church in Tennessee that collected 3,000 bras. There's a group ... in Denver that collected 1,250 bras. It's just one of those things that caught on and spread."
Note: For lots more inspiring news, click here.
'Mother Robin' delivers for poor women in Indonesia
Two women ... waited all night for a chance to see their newborn babies, whom the hospital is holding until the medical bills are paid in full. "Holding babies until payment is common in Indonesia," said Robin Lim, a midwife who founded birthing clinics in Aceh and the island of Bali. "Mother Robin," or "Ibu Robin" as she is called by the locals, is working to change that with her Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) health clinics. These birthing sanctuaries offer free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to anyone who needs it. And the needs are vast in Indonesia. The average family earns the equivalent of $8 a day, according to the International Monetary Fund, but a normal hospital delivery without complications costs around $70. Working as a midwife in Indonesia was not something Lim, a U.S. citizen and author of many books related to infant and maternal health, planned for her life. But after several personal tragedies, her life shifted in a new direction. "In the span of a year, I lost my best friend and one of the midwives who delivered my child," said Lim, who has eight children. "My sister also died as a complication of her third pregnancy, and so did her baby. I was crushed, just crushed. But I decided not to get angry. I decided to become part of the solution. If I could help even one family prevent the loss of a mother or a child, I would do that. I would dedicate my life to it."
Note: Check out the Bumi Sehat Foundation website at www.bumisehatbali.org and see how to help.
Japanese mothers rise up against nuclear power
2011-12-22, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Japan's nuclear power industry, which once ignored opposition, now finds its existence threatened by women angered by official [secrecy] on radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. More than 100 anti-nuclear demonstrators, most of them women, met with officials of the Nuclear Safety Commission this week and handed over a statement calling for a transparent investigation into the accident and a permanent shutdown of all nuclear power plants. Groups of women, braving a cold winter, have been setting up tents since last week preparing for a new sit-in campaign in front of the ministry of economic affairs. The women have pledged to continue their demonstration for 10 months and 10 days, traditionally reckoned in Japan as a full term that covers a pregnancy.
"Our protests are aimed at achieving a rebirth in Japanese society," said Chieko Shina, a participant, and a grandmother from Fukushima. "The ongoing demonstrations symbolise the determination of ordinary people who do not want nuclear power because it is dangerous. There is also the bigger message that we do not trust the government any more," said Takanobu Kobayashi, who manages the Matsudo network of citizens' movements. Distrust stems primarily from the fact that the meltdown of the Fukushima reactors was not reported to the public immediately, causing huge health risks to the local population from radiation leaks.
Note: For lots more on corporate and government corruption from reliable sources, click here and here.
Professor Ian Stevenson
2007-02-12, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Professor Ian Stevenson, who died on February 8 aged 88, was the world's foremost scientific authority on the study of reincarnation. The founder and director of the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia, Stevenson spent more than 40 years travelling the world, accumulating more than 3,000 cases of children who appeared to have memories of previous lives. Stevenson's studies were informed by an encyclopaedic knowledge of history, philosophy and the natural sciences but characterised above all by an empirical rigour. He would travel vast distances to interview the children and their current and "previous" families, meticulously noting corroborative and conflicting statements in their accounts, and cross-checking official records, and police and autopsy reports. In 1960 he published his first paper on the subject ... which caught the attention of Chester Carlson, the inventor of the Xerox machine. In 1963 Carlson collapsed in a cinema and died. When his will was read, Stevenson was astonished to learn that Carlson had left $1 million to endow a chair at the University of Virginia, and a further $1 million for Stevenson himself to continue his researches into reincarnation. Carlson's bequest enabled Stevenson to set up the Division of Personality Studies, the only academic department in the world dedicated to the study of previous life memories, near-death experiences and other paranormal phenomena.
Note: For great video clips by Fox and ABC News of the amazing case of a young boy who remembered not only his past life as a WWII pilot, but also the name of his aircraft carrier and shipmates, all clearly verfied later, click here. For more inspiring information on life after death, click here.
Give Something Back plans to give even more
2011-02-14, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Give Something Back is celebrating 20 years in business by seeking to triple its size within five years (from $28 million in sales to $100 million) and expand into new categories such as break-room supplies (coffee and snacks), managed print services (toner, paper, repairs and networking), office furniture and janitorial and sanitation products. In most respects, Give Something Back, which says it is the largest privately owned office supply firm on the West Coast, is a regular company. But its underlying premise sets it apart. Inspired by the example of Newman's Own food products, Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx started Give Something Back in Hannigan's living room in 1991 to "use the marketplace to create wealth on behalf of the community," as Hannigan put it. "I loved the idea of being able to combine what I do for work with improving the quality of life in the world I live in," said Marx. Since inception, Give Something Back has donated more than $5 million to a diverse array of nonprofits. Last year, for the first time, its annual donations topped $500,000. It helped pioneer the concept of B (for beneficial) corporations, companies that incorporate social or environmental missions into their charters. About 371 companies nationwide have signed up as B corporations.
His mission is giving away money
2006-11-12, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
It was a chance meeting with a Tibetan refugee that gave Marc Gold the idea that changed his life.
Like most Americans he was shocked by the poverty he saw on his first wide-eyed trip to Asia in 1989. He loved India's temples, elephants and spicy food, but what really got his attention was the grinding misery. It left him feeling demoralized and hopeless. Then he met Tsering Gyatso, the wife of a friend he'd made in the Himalayas. Her family was too poor to consult a doctor about the painful, and life-threatening, ear infection that she had endured for months. Gold was able to put that right in an afternoon with antibiotics costing less than the price of a latte back home in California. A further $30 purchased a hearing aid, and she was able to work again. It was a life-changing moment for both of them. "I thought, wow, this philanthropy stuff is great!" Marc said, He knew plenty of his friends back home would like to help if they could. And that gave him a simple idea. Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues for money -- then give it away, as wisely as possible. His quest has taken him to slums, war zones and refugee camps. He's helped rescue teenage sex slaves in Cambodia, paid for medical treatment for families in the bombed-out ruins of Kabul, Afghanistan, and rebuilt the homes of Thai friends that washed away in the 2004 tsunami. He always looks for people who have slipped through the cracks, those who have received no help from governments or big aid agencies.
Marian Diamond - anatomy professor a YouTube hit
2010-12-05, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Each fall, Marian Diamond walks into UC Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium holding a round hatbox. What happens next has been watched nearly a half-million times on the university's YouTube channel, where Diamond's introductory anatomy lecture is the most viewed video. Diamond's discoveries in neuroscience have captured international attention and revolutionized how scientists view the brain's potential to develop at any age. Diamond became one of only a few researchers to analyze slices of Einstein's cortex. She found that Einstein had twice as many glial cells as normal males, a 1985 discovery that caused an international sensation. Scientists previously believed neurons were responsible for thinking and glial cells were support cells. Researchers now believe that glial cells play a critical role in brain development, learning, memory, aging and disease. Diamond has spent decades in the laboratory researching how environmental factors can alter the anatomy of the brain. She found that rats living in cages with stimulating objects and challenging activities developed dramatically thicker cerebral cortices than rats living without such stimulation. "I think scientifically she is one of the key people who opened up the field of thought that the brain is malleable in response to environmental exposure," said Dr. Robert Knight, director of UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. "Now that work is all the rage." Diamond found another secret to successful aging a decade ago when she established a link between the brain and the immune system.
Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theatre
2010-08-30, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Five leading Israeli theatres were facing a mounting political row yesterday after a pledge by 60 of the country's most prominent actors, writers and directors to boycott the companies' planned performances in a Jewish West Bank settlement. The companies triggered the protest by planning a programme of performances to mark the opening of a new £6.4m cultural centre in the West Bank settlement of Ariel later this year. The protest ... includes Yousef Sweid and Rami Heuberger, two of Israel's best known actors, as well as its most venerated living playwright, Joshua Sobol, whose Holocaust work "Ghetto" won the Evening Standard Play of the Year award when Nicolas Hytner directed it at London's National Theatre in 1989. Their petition, sent to Israel's ... Culture Minister, Limor Livnat, expressed "dismay" at the theatres' decision to perform in the settlement's new auditorium and served notice that the artists will refuse to perform in any settlements. Calling on Israeli theatres to "pursue their prolific activity" within the "green line" that marked its border until the 1967 Six Day War, it says that to do otherwise would "strengthen the settlement enterprise."
Can Positive Thoughts Help Heal Another Person?
Ninety percent of Americans say they pray — for their health, or their love life or their final exams. But does prayer do any good? For decades, scientists have tried to test the power of prayer and positive thinking, with mixed results. Now some scientists are fording new — and controversial — territory. When I first meet Sheri Kaplan, she is perched on a plastic chair at a Miami clinic, holding out her arm as a researcher draws several vials of blood. "I'm quite excited about my blood work this time," she says. "I've got no stress and I'm proud of it." Kaplan is tanned and freckled, with wavy red hair and a cocky laugh. She is defiantly healthy for a person who has lived with HIV for the past 15 years. "God didn't want me to die or even get sick," she asserts. "I've never had any opportunistic infections, because I had no time to be down." Kaplan's faith is unorthodox, but it's central to her life. She was raised Jewish, and although she claims no formal religion now, she prays and meditates every day. She believes God is keeping the virus at bay and that her faith is the reason she's alive today. "Everything starts from a thought, and then the thought creates a reaction," she says. "And I have the power to control my mind, before it gets to a physical level or an emotional level." Kaplan has never taken medicine, yet the disease has not progressed to AIDS (and she is not part of the population that has a mutation in the CCR5 gene that prevents progression of HIV to AIDS).
Honest taxi driver reaps rewards
2009-05-07, BBC News
Hundreds of Argentines have been donating to a taxi driver who found a bag with $32,500 (£21,600) in cash in his taxi and returned it to its owners. The donations started after a website was set up in his honour calling for gestures of gratitude for what is seen as an extraordinary act of honesty. So far the equivalent of $14,580 has been donated, according to the site. Santiago Gori, a taxi driver in the coastal city of La Plata, found the money after driving an elderly couple. They only went a short distance but when he dropped them off, they left a bag in the back of his taxi. A few days later he managed to locate his passengers again and he returned the bag. For Argentines used to corruption at all levels of society, this was an extraordinary story. Two young advertising agency employees decided to set up a website to thank Mr Gori further for his exemplary behaviour. Now thousands of people have accessed the site and have left hundreds of rewards and messages for Mr Gori. One visitor offered to produce in his studio a song chosen by Mr Gori to kick-start a potential artistic career. Another offered a snow-boarding lesson in Argentina's ski resort of Bariloche, while an Argentine abroad promised to bring back a second-hand GPS satellite receiver for his taxi on his return. "Thank you", say many of the messages and one said it all: "I wish more people were like you." For his part, Mr Gori seems a bit bemused. He said he only did what had to be done - and that he does not quite know what to do with all the things he has been offered.
On Elephant Sanctuary, Unlikely Friends
2009-01-02, CBS News
When elephants retire, many head for the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn. They arrive one by one, but they tend to live out their lives two-by-two. "Every elephant that comes here searches out someone that she then spends most all of her time with," says sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley. It's like having a best girlfriend, Buckley says - "Somebody they can relate to, they have something in common with."
Debbie has Ronnie. Misty can't live without Dulary. Those are pachyderm-pachyderm pairs. But perhaps the closest friends of all are Tarra and Bella. That would be Tarra the 8,700 pound Asian elephant. And Bella. The dog. "This is her friend," Buckley says. "Her friend just happens to be a dog and not an elephant. Bella knows she's not an elephant. Tarra knows she's not a dog. But that's not a problem for them." Bella is one of more than a dozen stray dogs that have found a home at the sanctuary. Most want nothing to do with the elephants and vice versa. But not this odd couple. "When it's time to eat they both eat together. They drink together. They sleep together. They play together," Buckley says. Bella even lets Tarra pet her tummy - with the bottom of her enormous foot. They harbor no fears, no secrets, no prejudices. Just two living creatures who somehow managed to look past their immense differences. Take good look at this couple, America. Take a good look world. If they can do it - what's our excuse?
Note: Don't miss the inspiring, four-minute video of these two available here.
Author's adventures with rats build schools
2008-12-07, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Stefan Lyon has many titles: Author, humanitarian, international philanthropist. And seventh-grader. Stefan has just finished his third book about his San Francisco adventures with his pet rats. As with his first two books, all proceeds go to build schools in Africa. "I want to help the less fortunate," said Stefan, 13, at a recent book signing at a law firm in a downtown high-rise. "There are a lot of AIDS orphans in Africa." For $5,000, he financed the conversion of an abandoned cowshed in Kakamega, Kenya, into a two-room school. He's now halfway through construction of an eight-room school for 100 children ... in the neighboring village of Bungoma. Stefan is on a book promotion tour for the holidays, hoping to raise the last $30,000 to finish the school. Stefan, who has his own nonprofit, the Stefan Lyon Foundation, knows that he's not a typical 13-year-old, but he also doesn't know what all the fuss is about. Stefan was always a compassionate child.
"He'd sit with the kids who got bullied at school until they felt better," [his mother] said. By elementary school, Stefan passed out cookies and blankets to the homeless at the Civic Center from his red wagon. He'd insert notes in the cookie bags: "I'm thinking of you." "God loves you." In the third grade at St. Brendan School, he was inspired by his teacher, Renée McHugh, who gave a lesson on Africa and explained how little money was needed to build schools for orphans. He wanted to sell cookies from his wagon to finance an African school. A supermarket gave him free cookie dough, and he got to work.
Woman Risks Her Life for the Wolf Man She Loves
2008-10-08, ABC News
There is hunger in the forest at night. It is the witching hour of stealth and surprise, when wolf packs hunt their prey. Using a natural calculus of speed and distance, wolves drive their quarry deep into the snow. The chases end with an assault of teeth and snarls. Learning what's beyond the menace is not for the faint of heart. But Shaun Ellis and his girlfriend Helen Jeffs are willing to risk their lives and leave behind the last remnants of a human existence to survive in the world of the wolf. "It's almost like the wolf brings out a subconscious in you, a way of dealing with the world," Ellis said. But to do so, Ellis and Jeffs have to become wolves themselves. "Lose your human, think wolf," Ellis said to Jeffs. It is a skill he has honed in the last few decades. He has done what many scientists thought impossible and has become an accepted member of a captive wolf pack. "This is the way that you need to study these animals. Get close to their world. And then they will share their secrets," he said. As a man living among wolves, Ellis bade farewell to the comforts of human society and took his place on the ground to learn the ways of a canine hierarchy. He created his own sanctuary to study captive wolf behavior at the Coombe Martin Wildlife Park, on England's southwest coast. His goal is to find ways for wolves to peacefully co-exist with ranchers whose cattle are susceptible to attack. At a nearby pub one night, he met a woman who discovered she was fascinated both by the wolves and the man living among them. Jeffs became Ellis' assistant. And later on, something more.
Note: Don't miss the amazing and touching five-minute video of this love affair at the link above.
For This Generation, Vocations of Service
2008-10-14, Washington Post
Drew Chafetz, 25, a graduate of the private Maret School with a degree in economics from the University of Colorado, makes no money. He lives with his parents in Northwest Washington, sleeping in the same poster-filled basement room of his teenage years. But Chafetz, despite failure-to-launch appearances, is no slacker. He is actually on an alternative achievement track popular with his generation: social entrepreneurship. Using cheap Internet phone service and free coffee-shop wireless, Chafetz works full time on a project he founded called love.fútbol. The nonprofit organization helps build low-maintenance soccer fields in Guatemalan communities where children often have no place to play except garbage-strewn lots or hard-to-reach fields. Social entrepreneurship, the movement in which people launch nonprofit or business ventures to address systemic problems in impoverished areas, emerged nearly three decades ago and is growing in appeal among young adults who want to help vulnerable people. Rather than working their way up at a government agency or large nonprofit, Chafetz and others in their 20s or early 30s are leveraging business partnerships, grants and donations for their own initiatives to do good in the world. Every generation has its altruists. But many Millennials, born in the late 1970s or early '80s, are displaying a notable urgency to make social change. UCLA's national poll of college freshmen has found that ... about 70 percent of incoming freshmen in 2007 said it's "essential or very important" to help others in difficulty, the highest that figure has been in 36 years.
Note: For lots more inspiring stories from major media sources, click here.
Dolphin rescues stranded whales
2008-03-12, CNN/Associated Press
A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said. The actions of the bottlenose dolphin -- named Moko by residents who said it spends much of its time swimming playfully with humans at the beach -- amazed would-be rescuers and an expert who said they were evidence of the species' friendly nature. The two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, were found stranded on Mahia Beach, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the capital of Wellington, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith. Rescuers worked for more than one hour to get the whales back into the water, only to see them strand themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea. It looked likely the whales would have to be euthanized to prevent them suffering a prolonged death, Smith said. "They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea." Along came Moko, who approached the whales and led them 200 meters (yards) along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea. "Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the whales," Juanita Symes, another rescuer, told The Associated Press. "She got them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing experience. The best day of my life." Smith speculated that Moko responded after hearing the whales' distress calls. "They had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her."
Note: To watch a video featuring Moko's rescue of the whales, click here.
Dolphins save surfer from becoming shark’s bait
Surfer Todd Endris needed a miracle. The shark ... had hit him three times, peeling the skin off his back and mauling his right leg to the bone. That’s when a pod of bottlenose dolphins intervened, forming a protective ring around Endris, allowing him to get to shore, where quick first aid provided by a friend saved his life. The attack occurred ... at Marina State Park off Monterey, Calif. “Truly a miracle,” Endris [said]. “[It] came out of nowhere. Maybe I saw him a quarter second before it hit me. But no warning. It was just a giant shark.” The shark, estimated at 12 to 15 feet long, hit him first as Endris was sitting on his surfboard, but couldn’t get its monster jaws around both surfer and surfboard. “The second time, he came down and clamped on my torso — sandwiched my board and my torso in his mouth,” Endris said. That attack shredded his back, literally peeling the skin back, he said, “like a banana peel.” But because Endris’ stomach was pressed to the surfboard, his intestines and internal organs were protected. The third time, the shark tried to swallow Endris’ right leg, and he said that was actually a good thing, because the shark’s grip anchored him while he kicked the beast in the head and snout with his left leg until it let go. The dolphins, which had been cavorting in the surf all along, showed up then. They circled him, keeping the shark at bay, and enabled Endris to get back on his board and catch a wave to the shore. No one knows why dolphins protect humans, but stories of the marine mammals rescuing humans go back to ancient Greece, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. The shark went on its way, protected inside the waters of the park, which is a marine wildlife refuge. Endris wouldn’t want it any other way. “I wouldn’t want to go after the shark anyway,” he said. “We’re in his realm, not the other way around.”
Note: For dozens of other inspiring news stories, see our engaging collection available here.
Savings program helps India's street kids bank on change
2007-08-19, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Kanaiya Kumar handed his day's wages of 20 rupees, or about 50 cents, to the stone-faced bank teller, who scribbled the transaction into a ledger before raising his head to attend the next fidgety customer. It could have been any weekday evening at any Indian bank, except for a few exceptions. Every customer and employee was under age 18. And they were all street kids, hustling to earn a buck shining shoes, picking rags and selling tea along the mobbed streets of Delhi's crumbling old city. They are among a growing number of children flocking to the Children's Development Bank, a unique program started by a children's advocacy group six years ago that has become a crucial resource for many of Delhi's estimated 45,000 street kids. Begun from a bright yellow booth in the corner of a boys' night shelter in Old Delhi, the bank now has 14 branches throughout the city, giving the children a safe place to stash their money, earn interest and even borrow to start a business. "When I used to work in the tea stall, there was no place to sleep, there was no security, people would steal my money," said Mohammad Azad, a spindly 14-year-old boy with luminous brown eyes. "Now, no one will steal my money. It's safe and I can use it in the future." The bank gives this underground workforce - nearly all boys whose average daily wage is 60 cents - more than a place to manage money. In India, where more than three-quarters of the population lives on less than 50 cents a day according to a recent government report, the bank could be [a] way out of the grinding poverty that has defined their lives. Most bank members are runaways from impoverished villages throughout North India, whose parents have taken them out of school to help the family economically.
Note: For inspiring related stories on microlending and microcredit which are powerfully pulling the poor out of poverty around the world, click here.