Now is a Good Time to Wake Up

Photo by Maddi Robinson

Photo by Maddi Robinson

Published on Dec 28th 2016 in the Santa Monica Daily Press   

Not long ago, a truck drove into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. It was all over the news. Then, on Christmas Day, an attack at a market in Cameroon, Africa killed 2 people. No one heard about it. So what makes an attack in Berlin more news worthy than an attack in Cameroon? I certainly don’t have the answer to that and you probably don’t either. But, it does make me think about the global poverty crisis; about the people suffering in the developing world who have fallen off the radar too.

Everyone knows that Carrie Fisher just had a heart-attack while traveling over the holidays. We even know how many times the D-list celebrities on the United flight next to her tweeted about the incident.  But how many people know about the global poverty crisis? How many people know that over 2.5 billion people, almost half the world’s population, currently live on less than $2.50 per day? How many people know that in Pakistan, only 17.8 per cent of the population can use the internet? Or that 3.5 million refugee children do not have the option to attend a school.

I used to care more about the “Carrie Fishers” of the world too– way more than about the 795 million people living without enough food. But then, I woke up.

I first learned about The Borgen Project when I applied to be an intern, a writer for their online magazine. But within weeks of starting my internship I became much more. I became a supporter. A few weeks later and I became even more than that. I became an advocate.

Now, I’m urging others to do the same. To acknowledge the terrifying statistics and make a commitment to help those in need.

The Borgen Project promotes innovations in poverty reduction by building awareness to the facts, and to some of the ways we’ve already seen succeed. Essentially, they are an ally for the world’s poor.

You see, there’s nothing too complicated about improving living conditions for the billions suffering world-wide. The Borgen Project understands this, and beyond spreading awareness, they work with U.S. Congress to foster more permanent change.

Listen, I love Star Wars too, and Princess Leia is super cool. But it’s sickening that 47,000 people take the time to re-tweet about Carrie Fisher’s health, and ignore the billions of people living in poverty in our world today.  Please help those suffering not get lost in the crowd. Cultivate some compassion and take the time to make a difference. Who knows, you might even make yourself stand out a little during the process.  At the very least, follow @borgenproject and @borgenmagazine and re-tweet their posts along with your essential celebrity news of the day. And while you’re at it, google “Cameroon Christmas Market,” and take a moment to remember the lives we lost there too.

Volunteers and Social Media Community Work Together in Hurricane Matthew Relief Efforts

As originally published on redcrosslatalks.org

With much of the East Coast under water, four Los Angeles based volunteers went above and beyond the call of duty, traveling 2400 miles to help those in need. Their digital community back home showed support, virtually accompanying them along the way.

On October 10, 2016, Sandy Hanagami, Angela De Rozario, Henry Mills and Pedro Orellena departed from the American Red Cross Los Angeles Regional Headquarters in Emergency Response Vehicles on a 5-day trip to the East Coast to assist with Hurricane Matthew Relief Efforts. Before they left, I exchanged numbers with the group, in hopes of getting a few photos from the volunteers to share the Red Cross mission in action with our social media community here in L.A. Within hours, photos and videos started coming in; and with every state line our volunteers crossed, those of us virtually joining the trip on social media began to feel more and more like we were also a part of the team. By the second day, our Twitter followers and Facebook users were completely engaged, giving advice on the best routes to take, where to stop for local cuisine, and “must-see” landmarks along the way. I did my best to keep up with the content, posting and tweeting updates as best I could in real-time. It wasn’t long before Red Cross chapters from other states began to take notice and follow their journey too, sending virtual shout-outs and waves as our volunteers passed by on freeways and interstates just a few miles away.

The dedication and commitment of our traveling volunteers was great, but the response from our social media community was just as awesome! Not only were people re-tweeting and sharing photos and videos from our volunteers’ trip; but, through the power of social media, our digital community was actually along for the ride, virtually enjoying the journey every step of the way.

By the time Sandy, Angela, Henry and Pedro reached the state of Georgia their deployment destinations were finalized and those of us following from Los Angeles were excited to see them begin assisting with Hurricane Matthew relief efforts and help those affected by the storm. Luckily for us, the photos and videos kept coming; and I kept posting, keeping our volunteers’ new and expanding Red Cross digital family informed and engaged throughout the rest of their 14-day deployment.

“Being out in the field and being able to help people during their greatest time of need is such a great feeling, but the response from social media and the support we received from our Los Angeles community was huge! We really felt like everyone was in our corner. The entire time we were assisting with Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, we knew everyone back home wanted us to succeed.”
– Angela De Rozario, Red Cross Volunteer

If you want to be a part of their journey too, check out this photo album on Facebook and watch this highlight video on YouTube.