Thursday, May 6, 2010
This is Mia K for the ILH Team writing to you.
Thank you so much for writing to I Live Here and offering to volunteer your time. We are blown away that you wrote to us and want to get involved. You are the reason why I Live Here is growing into a grassroots movement.
We never imagined that we would grow this large. We are a simple organization that doesn’t know NGO speak. We are learning. We are passionate. We do the work we do because we know it needs to get done and we know that our work is not done, but just beginning.
Right now, I Live Here is working to overhaul the Kachere Juvenile Prison, in order to give these kids a shot at a bright future. Run through our amazing team of local partners, we have a full time school, a permaculture program and prison garden, made a rammed earth kitchen made composting toilets and have a legal rights program. We run Kachere around the ideology of Permaculture.
Our next project is called, The I Live Here America Project. An online house for people to share stories of love, loneliness, the effects of the recession, living with a mental illness, being a single Mom, racisim, hope, being a new immigrant and not being able to speak the language, to being a soldier in the army abroad. There are endless possibilities here. Through the use of new media and social networking, our goal is to inspire activism through hearing stories that might have slipped through the cracks.
Here is why we are writing to you: We need your help.
We are hoping that you can join I Live Here in a pretty wild project- on June 27th 2010 wherever, whenever- connect to your community and tell them about I Live Here’s work. All over the world, people will work in solidarity with I Live Here, raising awareness, connecting to strangers, and fundraising to make beautiful dreams a reality. We urge you to come up with a cool idea that can raise money for I Live Here and get others involved in your work.
Here is the plan:
Before June 27th, create your own fundraisng plan where you have a set goal in mind. For example, if you get one hundred of your friends, co-workers, school mates to attend your event, charging twenty dollars for admission, you will have made $2,000.00 for I Live Here!! That’s pretty awesome.
Here are some ideas that we had for individual fundraisers:
-Private dinner/lunch party
- Sell home made foods
-Make cool neckalces
-Make home made-cards sets and letter kits
-Make bath salts/body srcubs
-Phone a thon.
-Teach a group of people a skill that they would like to learn – ie, yoga class, ballet class, painting class.
-Have a show with different muscians that you love.
Once you start planning, the fun will really begin.
All the money raised on this day will go to create the I Live Here America Project, in addition to continuing to grow our Kachere Prison program.
And: All donations are tax deductible
When you think about it, twenty dollars is the price of a movie and popcorn and a drink.
We will walk you through what I Live Here does and send you a little package about I Live Here. We will also have a training sessions and answer any questions that you might have about this effort. If done right, by the end of this day, we can begin the ILH America project and continue our work in Malawi. In return, your name will appear on the ILH America Site as a founding member. The top three people who raise the most money for ILH will receive a very special prize.
It’s a big dream. We know.
Many might think that this will never work.
We say it will.
That’s how we started I Live Here.
Mia and the ILH Team
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Sunday, December 13, 2009
While I was celebrating the 3rd night of Hanukkah tonight with family, I got to thinking, as I often do :), about I Live Here and how I got involved with ILH’s work. Incidentally, I found quite a few commonalities between the holiday of Hanukkah and I Live Here that I thought I might share with you.
As a woman, a writer, teacher and activist, I felt an affinity to the stories in the I Live Here Anthology when I first read it last October. And as a Jew, I was incredibly moved by Mia sharing about her family’s history; the theme of global suffering and recollection of Holocaust certainly resonated. Deuteronomy 4:9 states: "Take heed...lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and...teach them to your children and to your children's children." This little line in the Torah always stayed with me from the time I was very young- the notion of the importance of memory, of recalling what one has seen in order to teach it to future generations.
The holiday of Hanukkah is about this retelling of history. We are obligated to share the miracle of the Maccabbi’s triumph and commemorate the oil lasting 8 nights by lighting our own Menorah candles for 8 nights and having children play with dreidels marked with Hebrew letters "נ(Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham – "a great miracle happened there") . All of this is designed to remember and bear witness to what has befell us. Jews have survived through stories- generations to generations, passing on the traditions. Moreover, all great cultures and religions have their own stories as a means of sustaining their values.
Thus, I Live Here’s motto “Stories can change the world” has a deep meaning that I believe in. And because of my heritage, the memory of the Holocaust and how the Jewish people were silenced in Europe, as well as my father’s account of fleeing Romania with his parents as a little boy because the Communist and Anti-Semitic government, I feel a particular kinship in hearing the words and experiences of the displaced, the oppressed, the forgotten. For all those who are silenced, I will raise my voice and do everything in my power to help others raise theirs.
I love what ILH stands for. I appreciate the concept of not calling a group of people victims. I love the ideology of giving people who tragically have so little control of their lives- because of disease, poverty, war, etc- the power to tell their stories. In Malawi, we are taking that ideology even further- giving the inmates of Kachere Juvenille prison power through legal rights, education, and permaculture.
The world is often a scary, unjust, miserable place…but there's beauty and there's hope and I think we all would like to be a part of something that makes the world the tiniest bit better, brighter and more humane. That’s what these stories do- they empower, they raise up, they inspire action.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a beautiful holiday season to all!
All My Best,
Director of Education
I Live Here
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Kachere juvenile prison, a rectangular sloped dustpan surrounded by a flimsy wire fence and somewhere - usually near the gate - a guard hangs out with a Uzi. With real bullets I’m told. Rows of vegetables look quite pretty from afar, with boys in sparkly white watering and weeding. It is hot out. Really blisteringly hot. The building bakes and falls apart too slow to see with the human eye, but the evidence is there in the cracks and holes.
How to interact with teenagers that have almost no interaction with strangers, nevermind, mzungu women (mzungu means ‘whitey’ – I often hear it from children, who love the oddity and will shout and come running for hugs and high fives, or in explanation to the littler ones that catch fright and start crying from the strange sight)? But the prisoners seem friendly, eager to communicate with the few English words they have. I don’t know what they are here for – some on remand for 3 years and counting for allegedly stealing a Nokia, some convicted of rape or assault.
Why I am here is simpler - to practice Permaculture at the prison. Mia wants to create a mini ecosystem inside the prison through education, art and permaculture. Her holistic approach inspired me. Not just a bleeding heart here to fix on some feel good factor, but willing to deal with basic nutrition and emergency hygienic issues. So nutrition is where the permaculture came in, but it ends up touching and incorporating all areas of the prison ecology.
The shortest definition of permaculture that I can give here is ‘a design method for creating sustainable human systems based on the relationships in nature’. Some genius some time ago worked out that if we need a more sustainable way of living we can look at existing systems that work (and nature works, could continue permanently, unlike our current set-ups) and take it from there.
The main focus of my job at Kachere involves diversifying the crops so that inmates can have a better diet to enable them to make use of the education that will be offered them, fight disease better, and hopefully take away some life skills in the balance. In a county where 70% of the population depends directly on the land, these skills can come in very handy. It has to be mentioned that the land is becoming increasingly denuded; erosion causes 25 metric tons of topsoil runs off per hectare per year (Landcare Practices of Malawi by Trent Bunderson – quoting a statistic from World Bank).
On closer inspection, the garden at Kachere is pest-ridden. The soil is degraded – leached and eroded. Wastewater festers in ditches. There is barely any diversity, and the compost pits are full of plastic waste and toxic looking stuff. In stead of just sticking more things in the ground, I will be looking at the entire prison site as an ecosystem that can be advanced into a healthy, diverse, resilient, and abundant one, and to do so will start only be facilitating the design process while the officers and possibly the inmates design a new system.
This is exciting, so much can be done here and so little is needed for big change!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I heard a quote the other day, which has stayed with me: “it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it.”
As you can see from our last update about Kachere, we are now building a school for the boys. It’s terribly exciting to be part of something so special. I can’t wait to show you all the drawings of this school. We view this as a chance to make a sustainable model, using recycled materials and local innovative design techniques.
Since we remain grassroots, your help remains central to why we are here today. As we try to imagine what our ideal school would look like, one of the first things that we think about is the importance of books that had an impact on us growing up. Since many of the kids speak English and will be learning English, I hope all of you will consider donating some of your favorite books and help us in building a library in Kachere. Additionally, we are looking for art supplies for roughly 100 children to use.
Here is a basic list of what we are looking for:
colored construction paper, tape, glue, paintbrushes, paint, and pencils.
If anything else comes to mind, please feel free to send these to us. If you wish to send a message to the boys that we can hang in the classroom, I know that they would appreciate this very much. If you decide to donate, please make sure I have the materials before the 11th of December. I will take these donations with me when I leave for Malawi on the 13th of December.
I look forward to hearing your suggestions and seeing what we all can come up with before I leave.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and consider donating.
The address to send supplies:
Mia Kirshner and the ILH Team c/o Monica Guzman
1990 Bundy Drive #200
Los Angeles, CA 90025
My Very Best,
Mia and the ILH Team
Thursday, November 26, 2009
As the holidays are upon us, we realize that this is an important time to thank you deeply for your support. Thank you for buying the book, for joining our facebook pages and to those that donated, thank you for making our projects possible.
We launched our first project in Malawi on September 11, 2009. A date very important to me because of how it changed the way in which I see the world. September 11, 2009 marked the start of a long, but important process of transforming Kachere Juvenile Prison into a miniature eco-system. Our program is founded on the principal of permaculture – systems of agriculture designed to be self-sustainable. In practice, this means, building a community teaching garden using local seeds and compost. This garden is is intended to provide additional nutrition for the children of Kachere and intended to give them farming skills upon release. Permaculture makes you realize that you don’t need to reply on big seed companies to have a farm that flourishes. Most importantly, you don’t need to spend a lot to do a lot. We have a wonderful team of permaculturalists who are passing on the extremely valuable skills to the children and the officers of Kachere. When you are in presence of the permaculture teachers, it makes you realize that there are so many easy ways in which you can grow your own garden.
I am terribly excited about the humanure toilets that we are using. They are simple wooden boxes. After being used, the waste is covered with dirt, which kills the pathogens. This waste will then be composted and eventually used as a fertilizer. Additionally, we have installed clean drinking water stations in each cell, in addition to hand washing stations. I am told that the kids love them and find them easy to use. It’s a small but important milestone for us.
We work with a local group called PASI, whose job is to examine the case of each child in the prison and make sure that their legal and human rights are upheld. Additionally, twice a week, PASI will teach legal rights education.
Finally, the most difficult decision that we faced is where to put our school. After much deliberation, we have decided that we will build a very basic school on the grounds of the prison. This appears to be the best way to create an environment of stable learning.
The school will follow the Malawian Government curriculum and teach standards from 1-8. Our goal for this classroom is to emulate the school most of the children wanted to have when growing up. Warm, inviting, nurturing and creative. We want these kids to have dreams and see them through. Our goal is for as many of these kids as possible to attend University.
I am leaving for Malawi on Dec 13th to oversee the start of the building of the school. I am going to take very basic school supplies with me.
I hope so much you will consider donating to help us buy these school supplies and books. There has never been a juvenile prison with a school such as ours and we hope you will join us in the creation of this groundbreaking project.
We will be sending you a list of what is needed for the school and keep you updated on the progress of our work.
I look forward to sending you pictures and stories of what is to come. I know its not going to be easy and we will see many bumps along the way. That said, looking back at where we were and were we stand now, these bumps have made us stronger, better and more determined.
Please send us comments, questions and your thoughts..your support means so much!
Have a beautiful holiday.
Mia and Erica & Judy