By ALEXIS HAUK
NEW BEDFORD — Last AHA! night, you might have seen Khepe-ra Maat-Het-Heru, 34, in the downtown parade as "Mother Earth 2010." A fitting crown for the co-director of the Green Jobs Green Economy Initiative at the Marion Institute and the ESHU (Education Should Help Us) Squared Collective, both of which run POWER (People Organizing for Wealth and Ecological Restoration), an energy efficiency program.
Maat grew up in Greater New Bedford as Heather Ribeiro. She changed her name during a period of fasting and meditating with an African-Centric Kemetic (Egyptian orthodoxy) community in Brooklyn, N.Y. Translated from ancient Egyptian, the whole name means "one who is trying to transform in the principals of divine love and balance."
A way in which she's held true to that name is through her work on Spiritual Warrior Park, a free, multi-use "sacred green space" available to anyone in the community, built using $6,500 in grants from Community Foundation's SEEAL and United Way's mini-grant foundation, plus donations from local contracting companies, the city of New Bedford, local businesses and anonymous community members.
Q: How was this park built? A: It was me, a whole bunch of little kids, some teenagers and some elders. My father actually owns this property (and donated it to ESHU). There were city lots that we could have asked for. But we felt like there are so many people who own private land that they're not doing anything with, we're actually hoping that this will send a ripple effect out into the community.
Q: So you're hoping to start more spaces like this?
A: I'd like to do a whole mess of them throughout the city that are more than just gardens.
Q: How does it work if someone wants to use this space?
A: You can just come any time you want, you can read books, some people have lunch here. Call the number if you want to have a cookout, a family event — somebody was talking about using this and having a fashion show as a fundraiser. You just call our office, and we say "great."
Q: I like what you said about it being your business to help people but it's not a business. ... At the same time, there is a concern for money and being able to fund these projects. Have you found a good way of balancing that?
A: Not yet. But I actually want to say that I think a lot of people waste a lot of the resources. Like a lot of the money that goes to charities goes to staffing and whatever. I think people need to understand that it's not about "you need to have an organization." Everything we're doing right now, we're doing out of my house. It's a one-bedroom apartment.
Q: So people have the wrong expectations?
A: Yeah, people can do a lot more than they think if they just open their door, come out of their house and look around and see what they can do. People totally believed that because of where it is and the history of this place that (the park) was going to get vandalized. In two years, no one has even remotely come close to doing anything disrespectful here.
Q: What makes your partnership with (Green Jobs Green Economy Initiative co-director) Kalia Lydgate work?
A: A big part of Kalia's and my partnership is about doing deep racial reconciliation work. ... Part of what we're trying to do specifically in this community is build up leadership. The environmental movement in this city is predominantly white, and that's crazy. So we want to build up a cadre of young and old people of color. We have to build those bridges between black, white, brown, yellow, red. And that's hard work.
Spiritual Warrior Park is on Kempton Street between Chancery and Emerson. Call (508) 990-1425 or just drop by.
To view the article on the Standard Times website please visit http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110428/NEWS/104280361/-1/NEWSMAP
We are Nature
an interview with Desa Van Laarhoven
" ...one the biggest oportunities we have, and one of the biggest assets that we have is that we are a diverse nation, and I feel that one truly start to embrace that - the diversity that we have here - , then we'll start to build our nation again....and putting love first, and really cherishing that, and understanding that once we have everybody sitting around the table, that we can really solve more problems...and creating a more equal based place in which to live, and a society in which to grow...so I feel the Marion Institute definitely is on the cutting-edge of doing that work...we have this "walk-your-talk" mentality here, all of my teammates do. And we also look at each other, and we challenge each other in a love-filled way, on how can we walk our talk even more... and how we can build a better life four ourselves and our communities..."
Desa Van Laarhoven joined the Marion Institute in 2006 after volunteering to organize the first Connecting for Change: A Bioneers by the Bay conference.
She has been the Executive Director since 2007, and works assiduously to oversee and develop the programs and Serendipity projects of the Marion Institute. Desa has her B.A. in Biology with a minor in Environmental Science from Stonehill College. Before her work at the Marion Institute, Desa spent time volunteering for both the Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC*) where she was awarded the total commitment award from the southeast campus and the California Conservation Corps (where she lived in the woods for a few months bathing in a stream— seriously;). She firmly believes in the work she does, this passion was recognized in 2009 when she was awarded the Massachusetts SouthCoast Woman of the Year along side the late Senator Edward Kennedy. In addition, Desa spends a few weeks every year in Costa Rica at Rancho Mastatal, a sustainable education center, working to empower the community to live in a more restorative manner.
Desa speaks with Joanna about her commitment to the environment through her work as executive director of The Marion Institute, a member based non-profit that acts as an incubator, dedicated to identifying, promoting programs and serendipity projects that seek to find a solution for the root cause of an issue, both on a global and local level, in the realms of sustainability and social justice.
By James Cannon Boyce
According to the National Retail Foundation, Mother's Day is big business and it looks like this year, total spend could top $15,000,000,000.
Besides this making me feel that the chocolates and card I give my mother every year is dragging the average down a touch, it makes me hopeful that this is a good year to ask everyone to consider donating $4 for a brick to not only honor their mother, but help a mother out in Costa Rica.
While here in the United States, we are starting to think about what restaurant to take Mom to or trying to remember what we got her last year, in Costa Rica, the mothers of one small village have much simpler things on their minds. Working with the amazing folks at the Mastate Charitable Foundation, these mothers are trying to build a small community center for their children to gather and play in.
So, we're trying to help them, one brick at a time.
For the sum of four dollars, which pales next to the close to BILLION DOLLARS that will be spent on spa packages for mothers here this year, you can donate a brick to the Community Center (we need three thousand more bricks to finish the center).
Now, I am not suggesting that a brick be the only present you give this Mother's Day, and of course, if you are a mother, maybe you'll relate to the mothers in Costa Rica whose wish is for a better life for their children.
But I am hoping with the billions and billions spent this year, we can together donate $20,000 to help build this community center. After all with the great foundation in life your mother gave you, it would be nice to help another mother do the same.
To learn more or to donate a brick, please click here.
What happens to billions of drink packages, plastic bottles cookie wraps and similar consumer goods in the world? Despite all campaigns to reduce, reuse and recycle, the amount of municipal solid waste continues to rise. At the moment, the only option to control the growth of garbage mountains in a way that creates revenues seems to be burning for generation of energy.
However it is a pity to see that objects which have caused so much effort in design, materials and assembling, have such a short lifetime. Tom Szaky must have thought in a similar way when he started to collect garbage at American schools in order to produce new things out of them. Packages for cookies or fruit juice now become bags, purses or fashion goods. The peculiarity is that this kind of upcycling affects not only the materials, but also the original brand of the item: the proucer of the chips bags or sweets wraps. While before the companies have rather aimed to hide their name on the waste, now they do not bother that the upcycled products are sold next to the originals at the supermarket.
Tom's company TerraCycle pays a fixed amount for every piece of waste collected to the schools or non-profit organization which provide the raw material for his business. By this payment he finances non-profit projects and makes people aware of the true value of waste.
For more information, please visit www.blueeconomoy.de
By Desa Van Laarhoven
Sitting here in the United States, with Mother’s Day approaching, we all ponder what’s the perfect gift for our mothers. But in many places around the world, Mother's Day is just another early Spring Sunday, another day where mothers are more worried about the life they can provide for their children rather than their children even considering what present to shop for.
I recently returned from Mastatal, Costa Rica, home to the Mastate Charitable Foundation (MCF), a Marion Institute serendipity project close to my heart. In this small rural town, MCF has been working tirelessly on building a Community Learning and Sharing Center (CLSC), which aims to serve as a social center, library, trading post, continuing education for women, meeting place for the community and much more. So here’s where your beautiful gift of a brick comes into play. The CLSC building in Mastatal will encompass renovating an old vacant building with an additional naturally built portion using local labor and resources. In honor of Mother's Day, MCF is selling daub bricks that will be used in the construction of this building that will help so many families. One brick, for just a donation of $4, added to another brick and then hopefully another one, will help finish that Community Center. Last Mother's Day, we were able to get to a little under 2,000 bricks donated and this year, we are hoping for more.
So this Mother's Day, I am asking you to add a brick to your list of things to get for your mother. The mothers in Mastatal are trying to give their community and their children the best opportunities they possibly can. Your mother gave you a great foundation for you to live your life. What better way to honor her than help another mother do the same?
For more information, please visit http://www.marioninstitute.org/store/give-brick-mothers-day
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