…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

please send goat pics

I’m getting a new sister!

I’ve always wanted a sister, assuming, perhaps falsely, that I might have gotten along better with my sister-in-potentia than I did with my brother-in-corporea. But after I was born my father had a vasectomy—no offense intended, I’m sure—consigning me to a childhood of loneliness and terror in my older brother’s shadow.

My new sister may well be older than I, but intuition tells me she’ll be younger, and I’m hoping she’ll be Rwandan, not because I have anything against Kosovars or Congolese but because it was a Rwandan who this morning served as my sisterhood catalyst.

Listening to NPR on my way to work I heard this story. The specifics of the Rwandan’s experiences were sadly not unique to her: She had been raped at age 9 by militia during the 1994 genocide, contracting HIV as a result, and now cares for children orphaned in the attacks. Her parents still grieve for the two sons they lost in ’94, but their daughter's rape remains a taboo subject—for them, anyway.

In 2003 she joined a neighborhood organization of women similarly brutalized, and in coming to terms with her past she's thrown off any shame she once felt. She supports reconciliation efforts and offers forgiveness to her attackers. She currently receives HIV meds through a charitable organization and was also gifted with a goat, which she bred. Now she has six goats.

I thought, Golly, I’d like to give someone a goat. I wonder how much goats cost.

My head spins at the mounting poverty and horror at home and abroad. The world seems so overwhelmingly bleak right now, with my own government acting not as part of the solution but very much as part of the problem. There are a thousand holes that need plugging and it sometimes seems that all I can do is idly stare at my 10 fingers in despair.

I admit that I harbor crippling levels of news fatigue. Sometimes I just can’t listen to any more details about Iraqi insurgents or Sudanese warlords or American abuses at Guantánamo, so I tune out. I pop in a CD I’ve heard a hundred times rather than listen to a news story that only seems like the hundred that came before. Occasionally I even wonder whether it’s part of the Republican strategy to numb the American public so thoroughly with demoralizing news that we stop paying attention. It certainly sounds Karl Rovian to me.

I recently received a 4% raise, which kicks in with my next paycheck. I don’t make a pile of money, and 104% of not much is still not much. Nevertheless, I had been thinking about increasing my 401(k) contribution to sponge up the raise before I even see it reflected in my paycheck; out of sight, out of mind and all. But this morning it struck me that 4% of my salary would represent a fortune to some, and I wondered how I could go about getting one of those Rwandan goats.

I have a bit of an obsessive personality, so I could have spent weeks or even months deciding where to donate my tiny sum, but it seemed important to pull the trigger today. Through Charity Navigator, an online database that rates charities by criteria including fundraising efficiency, administrative overhead, executive compensation, and so forth, I found an ideal fit: Women for Women International was founded by an Iraqi woman named Zainab Salbi, who in 1993 decided with her husband of six months to forego a honeymoon and instead spend the money traveling to Croatia to help survivors of rape and concentration camps. Taking her cues from what many of her first beneficiaries said they needed the most, Salbi parlayed her $2,000 honeymoon purse into a nonprofit organization to help women in war-torn countries regain stability and self-sufficiency—or perhaps realize those goals for the first time. Charity Navigator gives her group four out of four stars.

WFWI matches Western donors with women in need. My 27 bucks a month—which, at the yearly rate of $324 still costs less than subscribing to my local NPR superstation KCRW at the "angel" level—will directly benefit my new “sister” in providing basic needs as well as job training and rights-awareness education. WFWI also encourages sisters to exchange photos and letters, providing translation services to enable us to communicate. The model is similar to the Christian Children’s Fund—which, by the way, earns only three stars from Charity Navigator—the group Sally Struthers did all those crazy late-night commercials for. CCF infomercials have always struck me as shrill, and I’ve often wondered whether those kids feel put upon for having to take time away from their daily struggles to write letters to their sponsors.

My pledge contract says it’ll take about 12 weeks to match me with a sister. I stated my first area of preference as Rwanda—in honor of my radio friend—and my second and third choices as “wherever the greatest need.” I’m pretty excited to meet my new sis, and I already know what to say in my first letter:

Dear Sister—

I’m so pleased that we have this opportunity to be in each other’s lives, and I look forward to sharing bits of my silly American life with you. But you must promise me, if you find yourself pressed for time and ever feel obligated to write me a letter, please feel free to go milk the goat instead.




Blogger treecup said...

You're a good gal Scout. I wish I had a sister like you.

5:54 PM  
Blogger sporksforall said...

What and fantastic thing, HRB. Can I share your sister (by helping to pay and picking out goat accesories) or should I just get one of my own?

7:05 AM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Good for you, Scout! Now if we could only get a government that's as civic-minded as you are, you wouldn't have to sacrifice as much of your own salary, if at all . . .

8:14 AM  

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