KHQ -NBC News Story

KHQ our local NBC affiliate did a nice story to help us raise awarenes on Darfur.

Animo Ralph Bunche Charter High School – May 18, 2010

Chino Hills High School – May 10, 2010

A DiFfErEnT International Perspective on Rwanda


Here it is!  I've been waiting quite a while for an article that focuses on what Rwanda has instead of what everyone else thinks it doesn't! After reading Michael Fairbanks article here, I'm going to have to go and read his books.  Please share your thoughts, short or long.  Thanks Carl



Nothing Good Comes Out of Africa

Michael Fairbanks has been an advisor to a number of heads-of-government in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia, and author of Harvard's landmark book on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty, "Plowing the Sea", and more recently, "In The River They Swim." 

I am a teacher, author and philanthropist, and I was a racist. Racism doesn't have to mean you hate those who are different than yourself. It can mean the subtle, pernicious accumulation of unconscious prejudices against those who see the world differently.

I was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania and attended Catholic and public schools all the way through college. My first notion of the poor in other countries was when the nuns, dressed imposingly in black tunics covered with pulverized chalk, prevailed upon us to put our milk money into an empty can of Crisco marked in crayon, "For Pagan Babies."

 I joined the Peace Corps and went to Kenya when I was twenty-one years old. I lived in a mud hut, learned Swahili, built a village school and returned to the USA to do my graduate degree in African Politics at Columbia University. I remain in touch with my fellow teachers and students from the village to this day. 

Still.The values and norms of the institutions in which we live and work wash over us. I went into the development industry with sound intentions, and worked extremely hard, but my results were meager. I worked in 35 nations at a very high level. I wrote books and lectured at the world's greatest universities. After a while, my successful script became stale, and my resume grew like a tall tree with leafy branches, though its core was hollowing with age. I had fallen under the spell of the development industry. I was prey to donor fashions, the whims of the Ivy League, Capitol Hill and Brussels, and the cynical detachment of over-educated, under-appreciated international journalists and aid bureaucrats. I believed that nothing good comes out of Africa.

Dusty, Poor Nations

Then, ten years ago, I went to work in Rwanda. Leaders of the World Bank introduced me to Paul Kagame who had been president for a few weeks. I had no reason to believe he was anyone special. I committed to work hard, but if I am being truthful, I had no reason to believe my advice would amount to anything more than it did in Bolivia in the early nineties, Uganda or Tatarstan in the late nineties, or any number of dusty, poor nations in between.

My first meeting with Kagame was forty hours long, spread over five consecutive days. My experience was that no head of government ever worked that hard, ever focused like that. Over the next few years, I was privileged to learn from Rwandan leaders and observe first-hand how they grew their nation. Rwanda's leaders, not just Kagame, but also its Prime Minister, cabinet and the remarkable women who serve in parliament, have given me hope and courage.

Rwanda is one of the few nations in the developing world that spends more on education than on the military. Though Kagame is from one ethnic group, his Prime Minister and 70 percent of his cabinet are from the other, and a world-leading 56 percent of parliament is now women. The country is secure and the World Bank's Doing Business report recognized Rwanda as the greatest reforming nation in the world last year.The economy has grown at an average of 8 percent since 2001. More important, wages in export sectors increased by up to 30 percent each of the last nine years.

Rwanda has a good neighbor policy. It played a key role in reducing recent tensions between Kenyans, vastly improved its relations with the Congo (the two presidents routinely share information), and was the first country to send peacekeepers to Darfur. Working side by side there, many of the Rwandan soldiers are children of both the perpetrators and victims of the genocide. The international press and sentimental filmmakers overlook these stories.

They prefer to speculate that Rwandan prosperity means they must be stealing minerals from Congo, that clean streets and rule of law mean suppression, that Kagame will not step down from power when his next term is up. They have seen the world like this for some time. I see it in their eyes, still.

A Tad Deeper, Please

In my view, one of those self-branded CNN shows focusing on what Bill Maher has called "Disaster Porn," spent way too much time asking Paul Kagame about a minor opposition candidate in the upcoming elections. The journalist didn't acknowledge that Victoire Ingabire had just taken a Rwandan passport, and arrived in January with close aide Joseph Ntawangundi. When allegations arose of his complicity in genocide, Ingabire persuaded diplomats, journalists, and NGOs that he was not only innocent, but that the charges against her aide were politically motivated.

There was international silence in March, when Ntawangundi confessed to using a pseudonym to reenter the country, to killing 8 people in the genocide, and to previously being sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Now, due to international and regional cooperation, there is evidence of wire transfers showing that Ingabire sent thousands of dollars to Congo to pay for arms and ammunition. There are phone logs, emails and co-conspirator confessions concerning her contacts and coordination with FDLR leaders, and attempts to create a violent splinter faction. Ingabire was indicted on April 21st and released on bail the following day.

Rwanda's genocide denial laws have been characterized as "unique, vague, and overbroad." Rwanda has also been accused of using these laws to stifle free speech and government opposition.But over a dozen European nations have specific laws criminalizing genocide denial and related speech. In fact, all EU Member States are now legally obligated to criminalize genocide denial when it is carried out to incite violence. The Rwandans have proposed an international conference where prosecutors compare genocide denial and hate speech laws and develop best practices for their use.

The Government of Rwanda has been accused of cracking down on so-called opposition newspapers. On April 13, 2010, the government issued six-month suspensions to two Kinyarwanda-language newspapers, Umuvugizi and Umuseso, for publishing language such as the following:

"He who refuses a peaceful political revolution makes a bloody revolution necessary… The queue of those who want change in the governance of this country, (and not a peaceful one since all avenues for peaceful revolution can no longer work) is growing by the day. This is leading Rwanda into total darkness. (Umuseso)

Their words became reality on February 19th and March 4th of this year when terrorists threw grenades into public establishments in Kigali and killed innocent civilians. Rwanda knows a lot about freedom of speech and the role of the press. After all, in 1994, it was the press that ignited the genocide.

I called the Communications Director for the President and formally requested the list of news outlets that work in the country that have not been banned. The office provided the list to me in a few hours, and I was told that no one else has ever made that request. It is a varied list of world-class organizations functioning well.

Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AP, AFP, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, CBS, CNN, NBC, CBC, Guardian, Times of London, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Economist, Al Jazeera, NHK, East Africa TV, SABC, ETV, France 24, TV5, FR3, TF1, RFI, Canal+, Jeune Afrique, Der Spiegel, Arte TV, VPRO

Also, during the time of the genocide, there was one radio station, Radio Rwanda. Today Rwanda has thirteen independent radio stations.

There are other illustrations, some of which are funny: the Rwandan general who recently ran from the country and claimed he was a political refugee. A senior military official informed me that the general was actually sleeping with the wife of another general who was away on duty, and was about to be indicted under military law. The general ran away and convinced the international press that he was a heroic figure standing up to oppression and asked for asylum. I bet he needs it, too, from the irate husband.

Or the Human Rights Watch employee who claims that Rwanda is preventing her from working there: She was given a work permit within three days– until it was found out her papers were fraudulently signed by her organization to expedite the process. Still, her office remains open.

A fair-minded person might inquire: Why is it all right for Germany to outlaw (Nazi) hate speech, but not so for the Rwandans? Why did journalists crusade for Victoire, but not subsequently report on her connections to aggressive splinter groups? Why hasn't anyone contrasted the activities of the three-dozen press organizations that thrive in Rwanda versus the two that were banned for six months? And, if working papers were rescinded in the USA when an international organization tried to take short cuts, Why would that not make the international news?

I believed for too long that not a lot of good comes out of Africa. The Rwandans held up a mirror to my face. I could see that my way of doing things wasn't helping, and I began to add value when I became willing to be guided by their vision.

I still tend to parentalize the poor, though I no longer believe the American conceptualizations of democracy and human rights are superior to all other peoples, or that the world should progress at the rate I determine. But one good thing about having been a racist, I can spot others a mile away

(the link to this article on the internet:

Leonard J Tyl Middle School – Apr 28

Great Neck North Middle School – Apr 27, 2010

Earth Day – Apr 22

International High School – Apr 14

Homeless Hero Bleeds To Death


A homeless man named Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax interfered with an attempted robbery by defending a woman on the street. The would-be robber stabbed Tale-Yax and ran. A bleeding Tale-Yax stumbled and fell onto the sidewalk. The New York Post got the tape from a nearby surveillance camera; its time-lapse video is beyond disheartening. Over the course of more than an hour, almost 25 people walked right past Tale-Yax on the sidewalk without doing anything to make sure he was alright. When firefighters arrived an hour and 20 minutes after the stabbing, Tale-Yax, just 31-years-old, was dead. (by JosieRaymond)   READ MORE

Below are a few thoughts, please share yours:

Thank you so much Josie for sharing this story of "the absent Samaritan"… it is horrible, it cuts deep… I'm thinking back on times I choose not to get  involved… even times I read stories like this and did not even do the minimum – write back in response…

After reading this Heri came to mind almost immediately, he is one of my hero's from the Rwandan genocide  who said "…it was harder to leave than to stay and help.".  Something I will never forget. He had been the night watchman at a small orphanage with 30 kids age 5 and under who lived 3 house down from  us in Kigali.  The couple in charge of the orphanage fled with the other foreigners when the genocide exploded but Heri stepped up, took the reins, and with incredible courage and diplomacy along with 2 or 3 other ladies  masterfully cared for those 30 little ones during the 88 days of slaughter.

But one day after who knows how many sleepless nights, after being robbed over and over (the killers stole the kids food and even clothing) and after having his and the kids lives threatened constantly, Heri started to walk away…. who could blame him? 

Thats when he said, “With every step I took away from the orphanage I began to realize that it was harder to leave than to stay and help. I turned around and went back”

So I think if Heri were writing  in response to this tragedy, he might say something like, “Hey,  it's harder to walk by than to help, turn around go back.”

We have cell phones that make it so easy, we have Good Samaritan laws that encourage doing the right thing, do we have the heart?  

 Thank you  Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax….oh…… Thank you for your courage, for risking and then losing your life for a stranger… maybe you thought of her as a sister… maybe it was just your 'way of life'. She woke up this morning because of you, and we step out today, strengthened because of you.  To family and friends of Hugo, we're sorry we weren't there…  we're so sorry that those of us who were there turned away… please forgive us…

Thank you Josie for what you are doing.  Carl and Teresa

Planet Home- April 22


Valuing People and Earth

We took off last September with this crazy idea to pedal the USA speaking with school and faith groups along the way. We can end the genocide in Darfur, we've got to challenge the "us and them" thinking plaguing our minds and our communities, that's our message!

So far we have pedaled the west coast, and our country is amazing, our people amazing, and we have a new sense of pride and understanding of our home! We're also now hooked on recumbent bikes. I can't describe the bonding with our land that this pedaling over 1600 miles (not bragging, it was spread over 7 months) did for us.

Starting in the wheat fields of eastern Washington, cruising over the Cascade Mountains, gliding through the redwood lined "Avenue of the Giants", we eventually rolled out onto the beaches of California where incredibly, dolphins were showing off in the sunset. Yes there were dolphins in the sunset! 

Not sure if you caught my point, but having enjoyed only 14 nights in our own bed during the last 200 +/- days we feel like we really can claim this planet as our home! Then there is the generosity and hospitality that families have lavished on us while staying in their homes. We've been wowed, humbled and deeply moved and we have turned into serious experts in finding the silverware drawer first pull in a strange kitchen.

Many of our conversations on this journey are about courageous Rwandans who under the threat of machete and club stood up 16 years ago for others. These arepeople who refused to accept the "us and them" lies that so many others were buying into in that tiny country in central Africa! Our stories we're hoping are inspiring and equipping people to give it a try, living like we believe that we are 'our brother's keeper'. 

Yet this pedaling, this mixing of human rights and bonding with our land, reminds us with each gorgeous passing mile we sail through that we're not only 'our sisters keeper', but we're the keeper of each other's home, our fabulous planet earth.

Both in human rights and environmental rights, and I'm a real beginner in both, but over and over both bring us face to face with the invitation to consider 'the other' before ourselves. "Come on" they challenge, "sacrifice in some way for the benefit of 'the other'". And funny enough, in sacrificing it happens, we find ourselves gaining in such unexpected ways, that which money can't buy. Ask either one of us and we'll tell you, "2 panniers and a backpack on the back of our bike is more than enough! Less is definitely more!" And with less clutter in our lives it's much easier to try on the shoes of 'the other', AND sometimes it's a flat out necessity!

So hey, what about celebrating this Earth Day by thinking of 2 or 3 ways you could test out the principal that 'less is more' and perhaps a little sacrifice for 'the other'?  Might ride the old bike to work once a week, or finally start recycling, or unplug and that extra fridge in the garage this Sunday. Some are no doubt far ahead of this, but the point is – start simple – start now!

Been saved from myself again and again by 2 simple principals that speak volumes to these and other movements:

1. Count and give thanks for what I have, and don't

squander myself on what I don't have. 

2. Whatever I want, want it more for the other.

Then there was that day in March when 25 miles north of Santa Barbara a family of 5 comes down the road towards us. That's 5 on ONE BIKE , Dad, 5 year old daughter, 3 year old daughter, mom, and lastly 7 year old daughter with a trailer in tow – all pedaling except the 3 year old… The Pedouins, 7,000 miles, you'll want to check them out. 

Anything is possible, we just have to decide and make our move!

Don't forget, start smallstart now

How about clicking on the'The Story of Stuff ' next? Guaranteed you'll want to send it to a bunch of friends, and if you've seen it, they have a couple more great film clips there as well.  Don't forget to grab a reusable water bottle and shopping bag on the way out.

Charter School of Wilmington, DE – Apr 12