Update From Hurricane-Devastated Nicaragua

Dear Global Fund staff,

I write to you today concerned and devastated over the situation we are living through on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua--home to the Center for Indigenous Peoples Autonomy and Development, Casa Museo Miss Judith and the Wangky Tangni Women’s Center. Projects that we have spend over a decade building from zero.  ALL are now in serious jeopardy.
The city of Puerto Cabezas/Bilwi is home to around 40,000 people, and 80 percent of them have been effected.  Most of the houses have lost their roofs which were made primarily from zinc; the walls are mostly built of pine wood (one layer) and a lot of them have crumbled;  the rain continues to fall-it has been more than 30 hours. The women, children, the elderly and my family are all experiencing the lashes of Felix throughout Bilwi.

Last night the main regional hospital was evacuated to a public school shortly before both of its buildings collapsed; and most of the 60 designated “shelters” established by the regional and central government authorities collapsed as well, leaving those seeking shelter with nowhere to go. It is critical to note that people had no warning system and that the route of the hurricane was kept undefined until the last hours when night had fallen upon us.  This did not allow for most people living in the coastal communities to move fast enough out of the danger zones.  In Sandy Bay, a community of more than 1000 houses, only four were left standing, and the personal stories are heart breaking to hear. Children are traumatized and the elderly too.  I see the eyes of my father looking deep inside his heart as he sits there crying and mourning the losses of decades of hard work.
As I made my first visit through the town I was able to once again see the impact of environmental degradation and climate change and its direct impact on the lives of women and families.  We have so much work to do in order to be prepared and in order to build awareness amongst our leadership of the importance of establishing an early warning system. Today, I write with deep sadness over the losses and sorrow and over the pitiful lack of recognition of the impact of environmental disasters in our lives.  But we need to be able to continue to work and to maintain our spirit, our hope, and our steadfastness knowing that our people are worthy of a secure life today and in the future. We set out to realize our dream a few decades ago - the transformation of our communities.  And we worked every single day with the support of friends like you from all over the world.
In the United States, MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, is supporting our efforts. At this moment we need a coordinated effort that will be directed from their offices. They will do all the record keeping for us as we must devote ourselves to rebuilding.
Please let me know if you can help us at this moment. We are putting together a packet of information and will be issuing updates so you can know how we are doing. I hope I can count on you today as I have in the past.  Know that I am grateful for your warm wishes and your past support.  I thank you for thinking of us.  Please be as generous as you can.  The people of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua need you today.
Once again, I write to appeal to you and your network of partners, donors and friends to support the rebuilding of our dream, the rebuilding of our communities. Below is the contact information for MADRE.  Support can be sent by mail, phone, or online. You can use a credit card or send a check.
Deeply grateful,
Myrna Cunningham
Bilwi, Nicaragua
Please send donations to:
Vivian Stromberg, Exec. Dir.
121 West 27th Street #301
New York, NY 10001
Myrna Cunningham is member of the Global Fund for Women's Board of Directors

Blog From A Long Time Volunteer

I would like to thank Design Within Reach in Palo Alto for hosting the event for the Global Fund for Women and In Her Shoes. Lauren, who works at Design Within Reach on University Ave, discovered In Her Shoes around the corner at 644 Emerson Street,  and was told about how all the profits from In Her Shoes were going to the Global Fund.

She thought the cause was so fantastic that she decided to have a speaker and trunk show at Design Within Reach on August 9th.  I was the speaker for this wonderful event and spoke about the Global Fund and In Her Shoes. I must have given out about 50 cards for In Her Shoes and numerous GFW donor envelopes. Just by chance some friends attended and one wrote a check to the GFW right there. I had my donor travel books from both India and Vietnam and quite a few people spent time looking at them. So if you go to Design Within Reach please thank them, too and if you haven’t been to In Her Shoes do get there ASAP. I volunteer there once a week usually on Wednesdays.

Tostan Wins The Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Tostan-Senegal photo by Beryl GoldbergWe are thrilled to congratulate  Tostan, a leading Senegalese organization working to end female circumcision in Africa, for winning the world's largest humanitarian prize awarded by the Los Angeles-based Hilton Foundation.

An early Global Fund grantee, Tostan's model and campaigns have been feted for being sustainable and innovative by the likes of  UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Tostan, means "Breakthrough," in the West African language of Wolof, and was established by its founder Molly Melching, to reduce the high rates of illiteracy in Senegal, through education and literacy programs involving village women's groups.

Its focus today continues in rural regions in West and East Africa providing basic education and increasing community engagement in programs related to health , child welfare, human rights and democracy, the environment, and economic development.

Since 1991, Tostan has implemented its programs in over 2,600 communities in nine countries in Africa.Using traditional song, poetry, theatre and dance to educate people in West African villages about the dangers of FGM, Tostan's outreach has now expanded into five other countries consisting of diverse ethnic groups in West and East Africa, including , Guinea, The Gambia, Mauritania, Somalia, and Djibouti. Its grassroots approach to dealing sensitively with the issue of FGM has been widely acclaimed as a highly successful model for reducing the practice.


Peruvian grantees' update on the earthquake

We have been receiving information from some of our grantees in Peru about the damages of the 7.9 –magnitude earthquake that struck the Peruvian coast on Thursday. The death toll stands at 510 and is expected to rise. Hundreds have been injured and more that 80,000 have been forced to abandon their homes. According to our grantee Centro para el Desarrollo Urbano y Rural, the worst damage occurred in the provinces of Cañete, Pisco, Chincha and Ica, where most of the population is rural, indigenous and Afro-descendent.

Communication systems have been disrupted, and major highways have been damaged, hindering rescue and response efforts.   We have sent solidarity letters to our grantees and network of formal and informal advisors in the country,  expressing our concern and outlining our grantmaking abilities. Some of our current grantees in the affected areas have been encouraged to use their grants for activities  and relief efforts that are most critical at this time. We have also received  a request for additional support from VIDA, a Global Fund grantee, as its shelters for lesbians survivors of violence have been severely damaged. We are sharing information and referring our grantees to other partners and funders.

Logon to the Global Fund blog for more updates on this crisis through our grantees.


An Inspiring "Sweet 16" Birthday Party!

On May 21st, I celebrated my 16th birthday and wanted to have a "Sweet 16" party and invite a lot of friends. My parents and I discussed the party and we all decided that my birthday party would also find a way to make a contribution back to our community, either locally or globally. My idea was to ask all of my guests not to bring birthday gifts for me, but instead make a donation to a charity of my choice. I choose to have my friends and their families donate money to the Global Fund for Women. erin_piper

I chose the Global Fund as a result of having attended a fundraising breakfast earlier this year, at my middle school. One of the honorary speakers was Kavita Ramdas, who spoke about her work at the Global Fund for Women. I liked the stories she told, the passion she showed for her work. Afterwards, I wondered what I could do to make a difference in the world.

I had 116 of my friends attend my party on June second, and together we raised a total of $2,480 for the Global Fund for Women! People contributed through checks, cash and online donations. My mother and I were very surprised when we counted all the donations and realized how much money had been collected! It is a testament to how inspired local teenagers and their families were by this opportunity. My birthday and the party were a lot of fun, but I feel even better when I think that all of us together have helped to make a difference in the world for women's rights, for human rights and for greater global compassion. This was one of the best things I have ever done and I am really proud of how well it all turned out.

Erin Piper will be entering her junior year at Gunn High School in Palo Alto this Fall.

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