Need in the News, Vol. III-Issue 3

At the end of every month, I summarize local, national and international “stories of need” from news sites, blogs, press releases and editorials. The following are some of March’s most need-in-the-news-worthy stories:

SOUTH SUDAN — According to one U.N. official, the world’s newest nation is on the verge of imploding. Largely forgotten in the midst of this crisis are people from other countries who are caught in the midst of South Sudan’s civil strife.

SRI LANKA — Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recently wrote a letter to the United Nations, calling for an official inquiry in Sri Lanka as it attempts to overcome the effects of its civil war. The war ended in 2009.

CAMBODIA — The three-decade-long rule of prime minister Hun Sen is being challenged by such “freedom fighters” as radio broadcaster Mam Sonando, who runs Beehive Radio.

NIGERIA — Since 2008 when gold began to once again be mined in their area, the people of tiny Bagega and surrounding villages in Northern Nigeria, have been the victims of what Human Rights Watch calls the worst incident of lead poisoning in modern history. Still, farmers there told The Guardian they would rather die of lead poisoning than of poverty.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC — The United Nations Development Programme estimates that half of the C.A.R.’s 2.2 million people are facing food shortages and need humanitarian aid. Sectarian violence has displaced nearly 1 million people.

SYRIA — The Syrian conflict entered its fourth year this month.

WORLDWIDE — The United Nations just released a report on climate change and risks to our environment. Countries such as Bangladesh contribute little to harmful emissions, but could be most affected by human-influenced changes in climate. Photographer Chris Jordan recently published a separate but related photo essay on consumer society.

At times, what gets lost in the concern and clamor over major local, national and international events and issues, are the ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. Here are a few I’ve heard about recently:

OSO & DARRINGTON (Washington) — After a hillside gave way and buried an entire neighborhood on March 22, residents of two Washington towns didn’t wait for federal agencies to arrive in order to help their neighbors.

TORONTO (Canada) — After Audrey Buth beat breast cancer she founded a nonprofit called Nanny Angel Network that provides free in-home childcare for mothers who have cancer. Since 2008, her organization has helped more than 300 moms in and around Toronto.

BOSTON (Massachusetts) — Journalist Linda Matchan recently wrote about her first-hand experience of receiving long-term support from her community after her husband David was diagnosed with the terminal illness ALS. Her “ecosystem of caregiving” included meal-bearing friends from the Temple Beth Avodah synagogue, as well as strangers, via the social media organizer Lotsa Helping Hands.

REYHANLI (Turkey) — This border town is home to the Free Syrian University, a makeshift institution for Syrian refugees, founded and largely funded by Musab Al-Jamal, a former law professor from Damascus University. By some estimates, 100,000 Syrian university students have been forced to abandon their studies due to the civil war in their nation.

LYONS (Colorado) — With the help of a teacher and a local photographer, high school students from this small, flood-marred town published a book of photos and stories called “Our Town, Our Story: The Lyons Flood of 2013.”

LIBERIA — Seren Fryatt of Muncie, Ind., founded a faith-based, non-profit called Life and Change Experienced Thru Sport (LACES) in 2007. Now LACES is helping children scarred by Liberia’s civil war to heal and to learn life lessons through soccer.

HOUSTON (Texas) — Firefighters rescued construction supervisor Curtis Leissig and others from a five-alarm fire at an unfinished apartment complex.

DENVER (Colorado) — Nearly 2,000 people gathered at St. Cajetan Church in Denver to pay their respects to the popular priest, Fr. Tomás Fraile. Fraile was a Spanish-born priest who served West Denver’s Hispanic community for 41 years.

ALLENTOWN (Pennsylvania) — Katheryn Deprill was only hours old when she was abandoned in an Allentown, Pa., Burger King, 27 years ago. Recently, Deprill sent out a successful plea to find and meet her birth mother.

SAN BENITO (Texas) — A group of nuns at the La Posada Providencia shelter on the Mexican border offers a refuge for asylum seekers, including an Ethiopian woman named Saraa Zewedi Yilma. Many of the people who find their way to La Posada Providencia are from far-away, troubled countries.

GRAND JUNCTION (Colorado) — Third-grader Kamryn Renfro shaved her head last month in support of her friend Delaney Clements, who has been fighting childhood cancer since she was 7. Renfro has been in the news, however, because she was suspended by her charter school for violating its dress code. The school reversed its decision after Renfro’s mother posted a message about the incident on Facebook.

Stories worth reflection:

A 12-step program site in Portland, Ore., from 2013. (Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons)
A 12-step program site in Portland, Ore., from 2013. (Visitor7 --- own work --- via Wikimedia Commons)

VALIDITY OF 12-STEP TREATMENT? — Psychiatrist Lance Dodes is taking on the 12 Steps, but not as a participant. He recently wrote a book challenging the accepted wisdom of 12-Step methods and success rates.

ALBUQUERQUE PROTESTS — Hundreds of people marched in New Mexico’s largest city to protest police involvement in recent shootings, including the March 16 shooting of a homeless man.

CESAR CHAVEZ — The late Cesar Chavez helped inspire a series of movements to protect farm workers and advocate for civil rights. A new biopic about his life opens this Friday.

DEPORTEES TRY AGAIN AND AGAIN AND… — Mexicali, Mexico, like other cities on the border of the United States and Mexico, is a waystation of sorts for people trying to enter or re-enter the United States in order to work or reunite with family members.

AFFORDABLE CARE DEADLINE —  Today is the last day of health insurance open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, the main website many states are using for enrollments once again experienced technical delays today.

NOAH — Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky wrote about his new film on the biblical flood story.

ON MILITARY SUICIDES…OF FAMILY MEMBERS — Much has been said about the suicide rate among military veterans. Little has been said, however, about the number of family members of military members who take their own lives.

VIOLENCE & POVERTY — Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission (IJM) published The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. He spoke with U.S. News & World Report about his book and his contention that poverty and violence are intertwined.

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