Forsaken and Abandoned

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5

It’s heartbreaking to see how widows are treated in South Asia.  They don’t receive the care, love or support that widows in North America do.  Instead they are blamed for their husbands’ deaths and abandoned by their families.

A widow is stripped of her colorful clothing and forced to wear a white sari because her status has changed from married to widowed.  The glass bangles she wore to let the world know of her marital status are smashed into tiny pieces.  The privilege she once enjoyed as a married woman has been taken away from her simply because her husband died.

A widow is not in control of her own life.  Her eldest son is.  And she is one of the lucky ones if she gets to sleep in a tiny corner of his house.  Can you imagine, you raised your child–cared for him as best as you could with what you had and years later when you are a widow, that child controls your life and treats you like an animal?  I have seen dogs and cats treated better here in North America.  They get to sleep in warm beds.  Yet, we have widows in South Asia sleeping in corners.

Can you imagine your mother, sister, daughter or you being sent out of the family home and forced to work for a few cents a day at a temple or beg on the streets just to survive?  This is the sad reality for widows in South Asia.  They don’t have the skills or tools that would help them to earn a living so they are forced scrape by as prostitutes, beggars or daily laborers.  If they are mothers, their children are forced to work instead of going to school.  Those who wander while their mothers work are vulnerable to abuse.

Widows are shunned and degraded.  Their lives are filled with pain and struggle.  Poverty and hopelessness are burdens they carry everyday.  They need to know that there is a Savior who is willing and able to relieve them of these burdens.  They need to know that He loves them and wants to deliver them from their despair.  They need to hear the Good News.  They need hope.

Widows - Gospel for Asia

I encourage you to open your hearts to the struggles widows face everyday and to pray for them. Pray that they learn about the One who knows every detail of their lives and cares for them.  He doesn’t blame them for their husbands’ deaths.  He wants to provide for them.  He wants to change their circumstances so that they no longer have to beg or degrade themselves in order to feed themselves and their children.   Pray that they will be able to earn an honest living to support themselves and their children.   It would be especially good for the older widows to have their own small businesses.  Pray that their children will be safe and that they get to learn about Jesus’ love through Bridge of Hope centers, Sunday schools and vacation Bible schools.  Widows need to be in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable sharing their struggles, strengthen their faith and foster relationships with other believers.  They find this kind of environment in Women’s Fellowship groups.   Pray for these groups who reach out to widows by visiting them at their homes and inviting them to meetings.  Pray that God will provide them with more opportunities to encourage and share Jesus with these women who are forsaken and abandoned by their families. They have this promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day – 1 Timothy 5:5

Pray for Widows

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

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Clean Water: It Has So Many Benefits

Did you know that today 750 million people around the world have no access to clean water?

Just last night I gave my six year old son water to drink.  It was cold, clean water.  What a blessing and privilege it is to be able to drink clean water.  I cannot imagine what it would be like not to have access to clean water.  Yet, almost half the people in South Asia live with that sobering reality.   Mothers are forced to give their children dirty water to drink.  Can you believe that every minute a child dies from a water related disease?  And to make matters worse the people living in rural areas have to deal with open defecation and the lack of sanitation.  65% of them have no access to a toilet.  Yet, here in North America, the majority of us have access to more than one toilet in our homes.

We have clean water at our disposal to wash clothes, cook, bathe, etc.  I have seen images of women going to rivers to wash their clothes.  In rural India, women and girls are largely responsible for collecting the water and household sanitation so they spend most of their time fetching water, walking for hours.  This prevents many girls from going to school and exposes them to increased violence as they travel rural areas in search of water.  They are malnourished due to regular contact with contaminated water.

I grew up in Guyana so I know what it’s like not to have running water in the home and having to fetch water.  However, unlike the women and girls in India, my family and I didn’t have to walk for hours everyday.  We had a pipe in our yard and that’s where we drew our water from.  And not having running water in the home didn’t happen too often and didn’t prevent me from going to school.  Compared to the people of South Asia, I lived a privileged life even though I wasn’t convinced of that during those times when we had no electricity or running water for hours.

In South Asia, living without clean water carries health and safety risks.  In story, Water From the Rocks, the villagers used water from a pond for their crops and their cattle and to wash their clothes.  They even used it to bathe but unfortunately this caused itching and swelling.  Seeing this motivated Pastor Dayal to ask his leaders if they would be able to drill a Jesus Well in Nirdhar’s village. Thanks to the generous donations toward Jesus Wells through Gospel for Asia, they could.

208e0741-0ef9-483e-b4b2-0959321e4007The villagers were incredulous, and one of them, could hardly believe that a well could be built in the hilly area where they lived.  He feared that there might be hindrances too but nothing is impossible for the mighty God whom they served.  God knew what they needed even before they prayed in faith, asking Him to provide the water they so desperately needed.

Despite their skepticism, the local team the pastor hired to drill the well, went ahead with the project until they finally hit water.  God had come through for the villagers.  They had their well.  That meant clean water for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing.  Today fresh water flows abundantly in the Jesus Well, relieving the itching and swelling the villagers had experienced from the water in the pond.

We never thought a well would be drilled in our village. But the true need of this village was met by Gospel for Asia. We are truly thankful for it – Nirdhar

Jesus delivered Nirdhar from evil spirits and an entire village from thirst and so much more.  We have a Lord and Savior who loves us and wants to provide for our basic needs. What affects us affects Him.  He takes a personal interest in our lives.  What a comforting thought.  Through Jesus Wells, Gospel for Asia can share the unfailing love of the One who gave His precious life for them.

On World Water Day and everyday, let us give thanks to God for the clean water we are blessed to have at our disposal and to purpose in our hearts to never take this essential source of life and sustenance for granted.  Think about the men, women and children who still don’t have clean water and how you can help them by donating to Jesus Wells.  You can find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water ministry here.

Clean water has so many benefits.  It means that a mother doesn’t have to worry about her child getting sick.  It means that a woman doesn’t have to travel for hours with her daughter to fetch contaminated water and it means that a girl doesn’t have to miss school.  Clean water means changed lives.
World Water Day 2015

Sources:  The Water Project; Gospel for Asia Canada

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the eldest of thirteen children.  She was born on October 9, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Her great-grandfather was Hans Schad, alias John Shadd, who served as Hessian soldier with the British army during the French and Indian War.  Her father, Abraham Doras Shadd was trained as a shoemaker and owned a shop in Wilmington and later in the nearby town of West Chester, Pennsylavania.  In these two places, he was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and involved in other civil rights activities.  He was an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and in 1833 he was named President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Colour.

It’s not surprising that the Shadd family moved to Pennyslavania when it became illegal to educate African American children in the the state of Delaware.  In Pennyslavania, Mary attended a Quaker school.  In 1840 Mary Ann returned to West Chester where she established a school for black children.  She taught in Norristown, Pennsylvania and New York City.  Three years later, Abraham was forced to move his family to Canada, settling in North Buxton, Ontario.  The reason of this move was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  The law threatened to return free northern blacks and escaped slaves into bondage.   In 1858, Abraham D. Shadd became the first black man to be elected to political office in Canada.

Mary Ann founded a racially integrated school in Windsor with the support of the American Missionary Association.  She ran The Provincial Freeman, an anti-slavery newspaper which made her the first female editor in North America.  Her brother, Isaac managed the business affairs of the newspaper and at his home he hosted meetings to plan the raid on Harper’s Ferry.

Mary Ann traveled around Canada and the United States, an advocate for full racial integration though education and self-reliance.  She promoted emigration to Canada amongst freemen.  In 1855 when she attempted to participate in the Philadelphia Colored Convention, the assembly debated whether or not to even allow her to sit as a delegate.  She was viewed as a controversial figure becuase of her advocacy for emigration.  By 15 votes she was admitted and according to Frederick Douglass’ Paper, although she gave a speech advocating for emigration, she was so well received that the delegates voted that she be given ten more minutes to speak.  Unfortunately, her presence at the Convention was omitted from the minutes most likely because she was a woman.  How sad.  Here we have blacks who know what it’s like to be discriminated because of color and yet they were discriminating against Mary Ann because she was a woman.  How difficult it was to be a black woman in those days.  She faced prejudice because of her color and prejudice because of her gender.

In 1856 Mary Ann married a Toronto barber named Thomas F. Cary who was involved with the Provincial Freeman.  They had a daughter and a son.  After Thomas died in 1860, Mary Ann and their children returned to the United States.

During the Civil War, at the request of abolitionist, Martin Delany, she served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army in the state of Indiana.  After the Civil War, she went back to teaching.  She taught in the black schools in Wilmington before she moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught in public schools and attended Howard University School of Law.  In 1883, at the age of 60, she graducated as a lawyer, becoming the second black woman in the United States to earn a law degree.  Age didn’t slow this remarkable woman down.  Not only was she writing for newspapers such as National Era and The People’s Advocate but she organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise.  She joined the National Woman Suffrage Association where she worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage.  They testified before the Judiciary Committee of the House of the Representatives.

Mary Ann Shadd died in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 1893.  She was interred at Columbian Harmony Cemetery.  She left behind her a great legacy.  Her former residence in the U Street Corridor was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.  In 1987 the National Women’s History Project designated her a Women’s History Month Honoree and Canada honored her by designating her a Person of National Historic Significance.

Like her father, Mary Ann was an advocate for civil rights –the right to freedom and education among blacks.  She was an anti-slavery activist, journalist, teacher and lawyer.  She was a wife and mother.  She was a wonderful example to her children.  She taught them that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  No one should have their freedom and right to education taken away from them.

Notes to Women salute this amazing woman who showed us that the things we sometimes take for granted are to be cherished.  Freedom and education are two things we should fiercely guard.  There are some countries in the world where human rights are violated.  Women are treated as second class citizens or worse, girls are denied education and Christians are denied the freedom to worship.  Be thankful for the freedoms you currently have.

“Self-reliance Is the Fine Road to Independence.”

 

220px-Mary_Ann_Shadd

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ann_Shadd;

http://www.womeninhistoryohio.com/mary-ann-shadd-cary.html

Violence Against Women in Guyana

I saw on the news on Friday, November 23, 2012 that Chris Brown had to cancel his concert in Guyana because of women’s rights groups and opposition lawmakers who said Brown would not be welcome in Guyana three years after his assault of Barbadian superstar Rihanna.

Growing up in Guyana I was never knew that there was such a thing as domestic violence or violence against women.  I didn’t know a lot of things until I came to North America.  Perhaps these things existed in the little South American country I called home for fifteen years but it was kept quiet.  People did not talk about their problems publicly like here in North America where people talk so freely about very personal things on television on talk shows.  When  I was in Guyana, we didn’t have television but we had the radio and the movie theaters to entertain us.   I saw movies where women were brutally raped and sometimes killed.

Domestic violence in Guyana is widespread.  The NGOs report a widespread perception that some police officers and magistrates could be bribed to make cases of domestic violence “go away.” The government also does not prosecute cases in which the alleged victim or victim’s family agreed to drop the case in exchange for a monetary payment out of court. NGOs assert the need for a specialized Family Court.

Domestic violence is a problem in all regions of the country. Enforcement of the domestic violence laws is especially weak in the interior, where police do not have as strong a presence and courts meet only once a quarter.    Fortunately, there is help and shelter for victims of domestic violence.  Help and Shelter was founded in 1995 to work against all types of violence, especially domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.  Since its inception it has become a recognised leader in the fight against violence in Guyana, particularly in the areas of domestic, sexual and child abuse.  On their website they make the following statements:

  • Studies of domestic violence in Guyana estimate that between 1 and 2 in every 3 women are victims. We also know that domestic violence against children, against the disabled and against the elderly is endemic
  • Help and Shelter’s mission is to is to work towards the elimination of violence in all its forms by helping to create a society where attitudes to use of violence and practices of violence have been transformed
  • In a client base of over 8,000 persons, 85% are female and 80% victims of spousal abuse

A June 2012 article published in Stabroek News stated that  the 2000 study, which was carried out with the support of the University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies, found that Guyana had one of the highest rates of domestic violence among the Common wealth Caribbean, and that nearly 40 percent of women had experienced domestic abuse (17 June 2012).  A 2010 UN Development Programme (UNDP) survey on citizen security, in which over 11,000 male and female adults in 7 Caribbean countries were interviewed, found that approximately 17 percent of respondents in Guyana had been subject to punching, kicking, of other physical violence by an adult household member, in comparison to the region-wide average of 10.9 percent (UN 2012, 11, 29).

Sources indicate that domestic violence incidents in Guyana are becoming more violent (Stabroek News 17 June 2012) and the number of deaths as a result of domestic violence was increasing in both 2009 (ibid. 17 Feb. 2009) and in 2012 (Help and Shelter 27 Sept. 2012).  According to staff members at Help and Shelter, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury in Guyana for women between the ages of 15 and 44 (Stabroek News 20 Feb. 2011).  Yet, according to the article from UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, there are problems with the Government, the police and the judicial system.  The police receive training in domestic violence, there is concern that despite the training, the police are still “not very effective” in handling cases of domestic violence.  Women’s rights organizations complain that the police response to domestic violence cases is “unsatisfactory”.

Similarly, the courts’ response to victims of domestic violence is deemed as “unsatisfactory”.  The Guyana Chronicle reports on the sentences meted to perpetrators of domestic violence, including: a sentence of six-weeks imprisonment to a man who threatened to stab the mother of his child in the abdomen (1 July 2012); a sentence of seven-days imprisonment to a man who threatened his reputed wife (20 Apr. 2012); and a fine of $15,000 Guyanese dollars [C$72.61 (XE 3Oct. 2012)], with the alternative option of 10 days imprisonment, to a perpetrator who assaulted the mother of his children (26 June 2012).  Courts were faulted for allowing many of the perpetrators who killed their partners as a result of domestic violence to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter instead of being charged with murder (Stabroek News 15 Apr. 2009).  There were instances where magistrates applied “inadequate sentences after conviction” (US 24 May 2012, 13).

According to a representative of Red Thread, some lawyers were “inhumane” towards victims, and some magistrates do not believe that the Domestic Violence Act is part of Guyanese law (Stabroek News 2 Apr. 2012). The Minister of Human Services reportedly included magistrates among those in need of greater sensitivity towards domestic violence and gender equality (Stabroek News 23 May 2010).

The treatment of violence against women sounds all too familiar.   In India, the government is in-effective when it comes to preventing violence against women.  New Delhi is known as the “rape capital”.  The people of India are rising up now in the wake of the tragic death of the 23 year old woman who was gang raped on the bus by six drunk men.  India’s response in the fight against violence against women has inspired many others, says US playwright-activist, Eve Ensler.  She was in India to address a press conference for her One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign and said after the brutal incident, the “good men around” have also realised that they need to stand with women to fight for the issue because it is not only a women’s issue.  Read more 

It’s time to take action.  Tell the government of Guyana to do something!  Women should not be afraid to report rapes because of fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence.  It’s time to start punishing those guilty of rape and domestic violence.  It’s time to protect women.  A life free of violence is everyone’s right.  It’s time for the government, law enforcement and the courts to take off the band-aid and address this problem.

We can do something to help.  We can educate ourselves and help to raise awareness.  Here are some brochures that you can download and share with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  Get the word out–enough is enough.  We want to end violence against women not just in Guyana and India but everywhere.

We can all take responsibility for helping to bring about change, and keeping our friends and colleagues safe from domestic violence”
— Charles Clarke

“For most of recorded history, parental violence against children and men’s violence against wives was explicitly or implicitly condoned. Those who had the power to prevent and/or punish this violence through religion, law, or custom, openly or tacitly approved it. …..The reason violence against women and children is finally out in the open is that activists have brought it to global attention.”
— Riane Eisler

“It’s not enough for women to speak out on the issue – for the message to be strong and consistent, women’s voices must be backed up by men’s.”
–Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Michigan

2006_domestic_violence

Sources:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/11/23/chris-brown-guyana.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence_in_Guyana; http://www.hands.org.gy/; http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/50aa28bf2.html; http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca:8080/RIR_RDI/RIR_RDI.aspx?id=454212&l=e; http://www.demerarawaves.com/index.php/201205253877/Latest/rape-domestic-violence-largely-unchecked-in-guyana-us-report.html

Let’s Talk

Mental illness is something that not many people feel comfortable talking about–at least from where I came from.  I didn’t know that people suffered from depression or bi-polar disorder.  In Guyana we used to see people walking around, dishevelled, shaking their fists and shouting and we stayed clear of them.  They were simply called mad people.  Now I realize that these people could have been suffering from mental illness and were not getting the care they needed. 

I came from a society where people kept things to themselves.  No one liked to talk about private matters.  So I was stunned when I came to North America and watched talk shows where people talked freely about very personal things.  They spoke about their relationships, sometimes giving very intimate details.  They spoke openly mental illness, addictions, abuse, etc.  It was therapeutic for them.  They could finally face up to what they had and deal with it.  I never knew that a few members of my family suffered from mental illness until years later.  I didn’t see any signs.  People were good at hiding things.

Mental illness is not to be feared or dismissed or swept under the rug.  It is something that we need to talk and educate ourselves about.  We need to understand what it’s all about so that we can offer better support to our loved ones and friends who have had to live with the stigma all their lives.  Bi-polar disorder is something I have become very familiar with.  People close to me have it and I have seen what happens when they come off of their medication.  It is very upsetting and unsettling.  They are not the same people.  They do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  They dress differently.  They are either manic or depressed.  They spend money on things they can’t afford.  They become paranoid.  They believe that someone is out to hurt them.  They seem to have a beef with certain people.  They might get themselves in trouble with the law.  They end up in hospital where they stay for a while.  Sometimes they are discharged before they should be.  The more often they come off of their medication, the longer it takes for them to get back on track. 

It’s a vicious cycle.  Their families get tired of it.  They wonder why their loved ones don’t stay on their medication so that they don’t wind up in the psychiatric ward.  That part of the hospital is depressing.  I can’t imagine that it’s conducive for the patients.

February 8, 2012 is Bell Let’s Talk Day. Canadians are invited to join Bell in the conversation about mental health by talking, calling, texting or retweeting.  For every text message and long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers on this day, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health programs.  Bell also launched this year’s Let’s Talk Community Fund.  This community fund is part of the Bell Mental Health Initiative, a $50 million multi-year national program in support of mental health.  Through the Community Fund, Bell will provide grants of $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations, hospitals and agencies focused on improving access to mental health care and making a positive impact in their communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

The Let’s Talk campaign is a testimony to Bell’s commitment to fight the stigma of around mental illness.  The spokesperson is Clara Hughes, the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in Winter and Summer Olympics.

Every time I saw Clara Hughes, she had a huge smile on her face.  I never imagined that behind that smile was a dark and lonely place for the six-time Olympic medallist.  For two years she battled depression.  She is proud to be the spokesperson for Let’s Talk.  She speaks openly about her own struggles with depression which began after she won two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Olympics.  Read about her story.  The struggle is still there for her as it is for others with mental illness.  The good thing is that it’s out in the open.   It is not a battle that they are facing alone.  Hughes’ goal  is “open up the dialogue” for Canadians struggling with mental illness.  On February 8 she will be joined by singer-songwriter Stefie Shock and actor-comedian Michel Mpambara who share their own stories of struggle and recovery. 

Hughes is making a huge difference in this campaign.  Last year Canadians responded to her call with a total of over 66 million messages and long distance calls.  This year marks the second annual Let’s Talk Day.  The goal is to beat last year’s total. 

On Wednesday, February 8, take action–talk, call, text messages.  Watch the new documentary Darkness and Hope:  Depression, Sports and Me hosted by TSN personality and ‘Off The Record’ host Michael Landsberg airing on CTV at 7 p.m. ET and CTV Mobile.  Help to support this campaign that will make mental illness visible and remove its stigma. 

If you are interested in being a part of Let’s Talk Day or need more information, visit Bell’s website

A lot of people don’t realize that depression is an illness. I don’t wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it.
Jonathan Davis
 
For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness under the carpet… and hoped that they would go away.
Richard J. Codey
 
I have suffered from depression for most of my life. It is an illness.
Adam Ant
 

Sources:  http://www.clara-hughes.com/; http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/story/2011/02/06/sp-hughes-q-a.html; http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/story/2011/02/06/sp-hughes-q-a.html; Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20100921/bell-mental-health-00921/#ixzz1lNRfQCMF