Clean Air: There Are No Do Overs For Little Lungs

This post is made possible by support from Clean Air Moms Action. All opinions are, of course, my own.

Before I wrote this post, I printed out a few pages of material from Clean Air Moms Action to refer to while writing the post. I laid them on my bed so they wouldn’t get lost in the sea of papers near my laptop.

Little did I know that while I was on a lengthy phone call for work, my father-in-law had left our back door open (again) and the cats had taken advantage of the opportunity for fresh air (again).

I got the cats back into the house and went about my day. It was not until later that I found my Clean Air Moms Action materials, covered with the stomach-turning, grassy results of the cat’s adventure outside (I’ll spare you a picture … it was disgusting). The irony was not lost on me. The cat’s adventure in the fresh air ended up introducing contaminants that destroyed my “clean air” materials, something that didn’t impact that cat’s feelings at all. I had to start over.

Our Children Only Get One Childhood

The principle of “you only get one opportunity” is especially true when it comes to our children’s environment. Whereas I wrote recently about a multitude of issues, such as fair wages, the fight for paid sick days, and immigration reform after I participated in the We Won’t Wait 2016 conference, there is another set of issues I want to share: that of the threat to our children’s health from harmful pollution, climate change, and toxic chemicals.

We Can’t Take Clean Air for Granted

While I wrote in a previous blog post about the frustrated tears I shed the day my child was sent home for a third day in a row because the school nurse did not deem her hair lice free yet, that was nothing compared to the challenges children with asthma (and their families) face.

Over the almost 20 years I worked for Healthy Kids, conversations with asthma were among the most frequent. There is a reason:

Approximately 1 in 10 children in Florida have current asthma. For African-American children, the risk is higher (approximately 1 in 6). 

In a Scientific American series on the interconnections between asthma, poverty, and living in the inner city, author Crystal Gammon wrote:

Incinerators, metal producers, power plants, chemical manufacturers and other industries ring the city [East St. Louis]. Exhaust from cars and trucks on nearby highways blankets the area, as well.

The Florida Asthma Coalition describes other factors necessary to create a healthier environment for children, including promotion of influenza and pneumonia vaccinations; indoor air quality improvements including smoke-free air laws and policies; healthy homes, schools and workplaces, and improvements in outdoor air quality.

I’ve heard of teachers who were resistant to the additional work involved in implementing asthma-friendly measures until they were forced to breathe through a straw to understand their students’ struggles. I’ve heard of a school which worked hard to become a Florida Asthma Friendly School after losing a classmate to asthma. Asthma can sound abstract until it’s your child.

These initiatives are anything but abstract when it is your child struggling to breathe, your income or job on the line because your employer doesn’t provide paid sick leave, your heart breaking because you can’t protect the most important person in the world to you, your child, from the pollutants in the air they have to breathe to stay alive.

At Healthy Kids, I heard the desperation in parents’ voices as they sought an affordable health care solution that would give a child with asthma access to a medical home, critical supplies and medications, and an asthma management plan.

I have heard my friends struggle to find affordable housing that has hardwood instead of rugs (to reduce allergens). I have seen them sacrifice financially to purchase allergy-free bedding and make other accommodations to help their child cope with the effects of pollution on their lungs..

Our Votes Impact The Air Our Children Breathe

Mayor Christine Berg, of Lafayette, CO, is researching candidates because as the parent of a young daughter who is preparing for the birth of her second baby, she believes, as I do, that the stakes couldn’t be higher.

When evaluating your candidates for the presidency, state offices, and local offices, please consider the candidates’ positions on issues like clean air, climate change, and toxic chemicals.

I’ve Promised to Vote and I Encourage You to do the Same

Anyone who knows me or follows my social media knows I’ve promised to vote. But I’m not just asking you to promise to vote November 8. I’m also asking you to promise to vote for the city or county commissioner who recognizes, for example, that obesity is a factor in asthma and supports playgrounds. For the gubernatorial candidate who prioritizes cleanup of waste sites and contaminated water. For the senatorial candidate who supports the Clean Air Act.

An easy way for us to be accountable to one another (and most importantly to our children) is to take the Clean Air Moms Action Pledge from Clean Air Moms, which is working to build bipartisan support to protect our children from the health impacts of air pollution. Click the graphic below to take the pledge:

Clean Air

Learn more at the Clean Air Moms Action website by clicking here.

Follow Clean Air Moms Action on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow Clean Air Moms Action on Twitter at @momsaction.

Follow Clean Air Moms Action on Instagram by clicking here.

We will all breathe easier once we make our voices heard with the candidates running for office.

Especially our kids.

Clean Air

Currently Thinking About Josue

If you have read my blog for a while, you may know that my involvement with Unbound originated with my in-laws. More than a decade ago, they decided to sponsor Silvia, a young girl in Guatemala. They chose Silvia because she was around the same age as my daughter, Tenley, my niece, Elizabeth, and several other of their grandchildren. My mother-in-law, Barb, and I held many conversations over the years about Silvia, putting together birthday and Christmas packages, reading her letters, and preparing letters back to her. One of the high points of our sponsorship journey was Tenley’s and my meeting Silvia and her mother in 2011!

Josue’s Story

When Unbound asked me to share the story of a child on my blog as part of an effort to find him a sponsor, I felt like Barb, who passed away in 2013, was looking over my shoulder as I read this line about Josue’s father: “There’s a software JAWS (Job Access With Speech) that tells you what’s on the screen.” Jose, the father, who is blind, works in local radio for a small town. The software and access to a computer is essential for him to try to make a living for himself, Josue’s mother Daysi, Josue, and his two other children.

I’ve shared profiles of other children hoping for Unbound sponsorship before. Because I am intrigued with the “currently” prompt which I saw on Simply Elle, I’m going to try to blend a little creative writing with a LOT of factual data to share a profile of Josue’s family with you!

CURRENTLY: Jose and His Familia

Currently Thinking About Josue

READING

From Josue (he prefers to be called Toñito): I am 5 years old, so I am not reading yet. I like to draw and I like coloring books. My parents pray that I will get an education so that I can read and have more potential for work as I grow up.

EATING

From Daysi (Josue’s mom): Jose gives me four dollars a day to get food for the five people in our family. Because he is blind and his job options are limited, the income from his radio announcing in this small town is not consistent. Even four dollars a day is often difficult to come up with.

THINKING ABOUT

From Jose: I am thinking about my dreams for Toñito and my other children. I dream for them to be good people, but the situation here in El Salvador is difficult. As a parent, I do my best to educate them to be good people who will grow up to make good decisions. I would like for my children to get an education and go to college.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

From Jose: I am looking forward to my children growing up and having more options than I have. When Toñito was born, Daysi was only 27 weeks pregnant. He stayed in the hospital for three months as the doctors worked on his heart problem and repaired a hernia. Now that such a difficult start is behind him, I am looking forward to a healthy future.

LEARNING

From Jose: The more I can learn about computers, the better. Before I had access to a computer, I had to work under the hot sun, selling items in the market. I have also worked as a shoe maker, sold newspapers, made crafts for sale, and made furniture. I did anything I could to try to move forward.

LOVING

From Jose: My family. The joy I feel inside my heart. Trying to motivate others! My wife Daysi’s humility and fighting spirit.

WORKING ON

From Jose: I continue to learn all I can about computers, because that helps me have other wage-earning possibilities. JAWS (the software) tells you what is on the screen, but I only have a PC and keyboard, so that limits how much JAWS can help me.

LISTENING TO

From Jose and Daysi: In a household with three kids, there’s always noise! I hear the sounds of our town’s animals, and love it when the local musicians are playing.

LAUGHING AT

From the whole family: The local street dogs do funny antics!

WISHING

From Jose: As a parent, I feel like I am a drowning man anxiously holding an arm out of the water for someone to throw me a rope! This request for sponsorship is not for me: it is for my child. All three of my kids are growing up and they need to be prepared for a world threatened by climate change yet enhanced by advanced technology. Where we live, there are no job opportunities; if you don’t have an education it is almost impossible, and I am very worried for them.

If someone decides to sponsor my son, to say “Here I am, I’m next to you,” I will be endlessly grateful. I would send so many blessings to that person because, honestly, I would not have words to express how I would feel.

Notes from Paula

I hope this “currently” exercise gave you a glimpse into the life of Toñito and his family, and the reasons why sponsorship can make such a huge difference!

A little more about the family’s living situation: They live in a humble adobe home. Jose says, “I know there are many repairs that need to be made in my house, but my biggest concern is having money to buy food for my wife and children.” They do not have running water; they have a community well. They do have electricity, but it was very hard to obtain.

Although four of Jose’s clients pay monthly, most of them are seasonal, which leads to variability in income. He also teaches Braille four days a month to supplement the family income. The family net income is around $100 a month (remember they spend about $4 a day to eat, and last time I checked $100 minus $120 did not lead to a positive balance).

A contribution of $36 per month can help Toñito have his basic needs met so that he can grow, get an education, and thrive.

More About Unbound

Unbound’s website is accessible by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Facebook by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Twitter by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Instagram by clicking here.

Read selections of my previous writing about Unbound here, here, here, here, and here.

Again, to sponsor Toñito, click here. If you are not in a position to sponsor now, please consider sharing this with someone who may be. Prayers are ALWAYS accepted and appreciated!

Currently Thinking About Josue

UPDATE: Josue has been sponsored! What a blessing! I am so grateful to my friend who decided to sponsor him!!! There are many more children, youth, and aging awaiting sponsorship in 22 countries around the world! For more information, please click here

 

unbound one

 

The Sahel – Why It Matters

When I read audiobooks, sometimes a passage goes by and I find myself driving along, thinking “did I really hear what I think I heard?” That was the case in a passage of Dreams of Joy by Lisa See when the protagonists are traveling from Shanghai into the countryside, to rescue a family member from starvation during the Great Chinese Famine. As Pearl drives along, she and her companion discover a field where people are in holes. The people are alive, but they can’t get out of the holes (they have been left to die). At first Pearl sees just one person, and she is starting to think of how she can rescue the person. Then she sees that the field is filled with others in the same situation. She is resigned to the fact that she can help no one as her companion Z.G. reminds her that they are on their way to rescue their own flesh and blood.


Like Pearl, when I learned from OxFam America of the desperate situation in the Sahel, and the need to put this situation back in the minds of people, I wondered what I could say or do that would make a difference to even one person in the Sahel. The difference between Pearl’s situation and mine is that she existed in a work of fiction (although the famine was very real); the people of the Sahel are at the epicenter of a crisis and their situation is very, very “non fiction” and we do not have to leave them behind to die.


Photo credit: Oxfam International
First, the basic facts:
The Sahel is a region of West Africa, spanning the southern border of the Sahara Desert, where drought and rising food prices have put an estimated 18 million people at risk of hunger. This number is very likely to increase in coming weeks.
Harvests were poor last year, and drought this year threatens to exacerbate a situation that is already dire. People forage for wild food and search anthills for bits of grain.
 “The situation is difficult here. There’s a problem of rain. It’s been irregular,” said Founé Danfakha, a 60-year-old grandmother of four from Bembou, Senegal, who grows rice, maize, and groundnuts to feed her entire household. “If there’s not enough rain, there won’t be a harvest. And if there is no seed, there’ll be no harvest.”

1 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition.  Parents are forced to sell essential tools and livestock in order to feed their families.What can you and I do to help any of these 18 million people? There are several things.

Donate online via this link. Oxfam America always aims to use your gift to help build lasting solutions to poverty (as opposed to short term fixes).
Spread the word about this issue. Even if you can’t donate right now, you can raise awareness; that can make a difference too. This infographic presents the facts really well. These facts speak for themselves; they go beyond numbers and stats about this crisis; they speak to my heart and emotions.
Support community development When I tweeted on Friday about my plans to blog about the Sahel this weekend, @martinpenner suggested this:

I must admit, I have a lot to learn about what can be done to increase community resiliency. It is mentioned in this informative and compelling article by Nathalie Bonvin as a key strategy to impacting this problem. Gotta say, Martin, learning more is on my to-do list!

Teach your children. Those of you who know me personally know that I am a big believer in “showing” children the issues that exist in our world rather than only “telling” them. I have only been able to travel internationally to see poverty (and the most incredible people) first hand, but that week taught my teenager (and me) more than any book ever could. Show your children what you can; encourage them to care. Few of us can travel; everyone can watch a YouTube video:
 
Spread the word. In our age of social media connectedness, it is easy to forget that the old fashioned method (conversing) works just as well. That was the case for me yesterday when I was telling people about preparing for this blog. Face to face — mom to mom — friend to friend — sometimes the most elegant way to ignite interest is to invite someone to learn along with you by saying, “I’m learning about the Sahel – have you or your child heard of it?”
There are several graphics here that can be shared via Facebook and Twitter.
Speaking of spreading the word, celebrities are investing their time and fame to help remediate the funding lag that exists. These celebrities include Kristin Davisand Djimon Hounsou.
I agree with Hounsou: “To some of us, this problem is a world away and is easy to ignore, but I implore you to pay attention.”
 Visit Djimon Hounsou’s personal fundraising/awareness page here.