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Former refugee boats give cruisers a tour of Amsterdam through the eyes of migrants

Photo Credits: UNHCR

Once upon a time, ‘Meneer Vrijdag’ and ‘Klein Boot’ were boats that were previously used to smuggle asylum seekers across the Mediterranean in search for a better life.

Now, the vessels are traversing much calmer waters: they’ve been taken in by Lampedusa Cruises, a tour company in Amsterdam that invites residents and tourists alike to take in the city’s history, much of which has been shaped by refugees and migrants.

The skippers, from countries including Eritrea, Libya and Syria, all have one thing in common – they themselves were refugees who came to Amsterdam on a boat not unlike the vessel they now sit at the helm of.

“Our guides tell you the hidden history of Amsterdam through the eyes of its immigrants and outsiders, including their personal migration story,” the company’s website reads.

The company takes its name from the island of Lampedusa, which is a symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis due to it being a popular destination for refugees sailing from Africa. What the cruises hope to do is to provide an alternative, less traditional insight into Amsterdam that isn’t necessarily what first comes to mind when one thinks about the city.

“The beauty of this project is that while Amsterdam is so shiny, we dive into some issues that aren’t so clean,” said Sahand, a tour guide. “Most tour companies talk about the Golden Age of the Netherlands and point out the old buildings. We talk about the immigrants who built them.”

Second Chances

Janet here owns her own floristry business and sells a beautiful array of flowers. Little would anyone guess that, as a side fact, Janet is an ex-offender.

Janet’s flower shop stemmed from an interest which then later blossomed into a career, mind the puns, with the help of “Startup”. Based in the UK, the charity Startup offers what very few public systems do - a belief that prisoners, too, have great potential and can thrive as entrepreneurs in their own right. The work that Startup had done have significantly reduced recidivism by having ex-offenders turn towards entrepreneurialism as opposed to back towards a criminal system.

In an interview with the BBC, Juliet Hope, the founder of Startup, says “They [the prisoners] have faced that, come out, and want to turn their lives around.”  Juliet believes everyone deserves a second chance - we couldn’t agree more.

This concept isn’t limited to the UK, or Startup’s work. The LEAP (Ladies Empowerment Action Program) (Instagram handle: @leapforladies) in the US also works for a similar cause. Entrepreneurial skills are shared with prisoners, especially women, to encourage them to pursue their dreams - not just with the right tools but the right support.

We should never judge anyone based only on their past or background, as Juliet says, everyone deserves a chance and has potential to achieve. More on their work on their site

Image Credits: BBC

NYC personal trainer empowers the disabled through strength

Tom Clement goes to the gym twice a week for an hour each time. He works primarily on upper body strength, emerging from the gym stronger with every session.

But Clement is not your average gym goer. To begin with, he’s well into his sixties; he’s also been in a wheelchair for most of his life since falling off a roof and severing his spinal cord. For the past 15 years, Clement has been a regular at Ned Norton’s Warriors on Wheels gym, a training facility catered to the most marginalized of communities in the world of fitness: people living with disabilities.

Named one of the CNN Top Heroes in 2014, Norton, 58, has been running non-profit organization Warriors on Wheels for over 20 years. Formerly a competitive power lifter, a three-time finisher of the NYC Marathon and a fitness trainer with 35 years of professional experience, Norton has found passion in bringing what he loves most ­– fitness – to the lives of those who otherwise never get to experience beating a personal best.

“I never worry about what they can’t do,” said Norton. “I worry about what they can do, and make them as independent and capable as possible.”

 

It all started when Norton was managing a gym and training athletes back in 1988. A football player he was training expressed concern for a friend who had been left paraplegic after an accident. He asked Norton if he could train him at the gym and help him recover not just physically, but also psychologically. Tailoring a program for his friend with the help of his doctor, Norton began training him and saw rapid progress in him within six months.

Now, Norton trains more than 120 people every week. His clients are affected by a wide range of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and vision impairment. The gym is located in Albany, New York, on the fourth floor of a public housing project high rise. The Albany Housing Authority donates the space to him so he doesn’t pay rent, and Norton’s side jobs, support from private donors as well as regularly held fundraising events help keep the project going. Some of the money goes towards the state’s transport authority, which provides STAR, or Special Transportation at Request, to arrange buses that bring people with disabilities to and from the Warriors on Wheels gym.

Norton charges a rate of $10 for 10 visits, but many of his clients subsist on welfare and disability payments, making the fee difficult to afford. In fact, just over 30 percent are able to pay. But Norton is happy to waive this fee, believing that everyone should have access to his training regardless of financial ability.

“If they can pay, fine, but I don’t really keep track of those who don’t,” Norton said. “Most of the people I work with are on very limited incomes.”

 

Clients at Warriors on Wheels use adaptive equipment that has been specially designed by Norton and his team to facilitate improvements in strength and conditioning. Traditional machines like the shoulder press and bench press have been modified, and the seats are cut off from multi-stations, which includes a pec deck, lat pull down cable and preacher curl, so that those in wheelchairs can use them too.

Jamal Burgess is autistic and has been coming to the Warriors on Wheels gym for over 15 years.

“The repetitive motion is good for him,” Norton said of his swift punches as his laced up boxing gloves hit the heavy bag.

“I love it here. I like to work out with Ned,” said Burgess.

Working out at Warriors on Wheels have led clients to see more than just an improvement in their physical health. Norton says many have gone on to find employment, drive again and pursue their interests without allowing their disabilities to get in the way.

 

Clement thanks Norton for helping him live a full life and increasing his ability to maintain the stamina of everyday work.

"The physical benefits are obvious. People have an easier time getting in and out of wheelchairs or opening heavy doors,” said Norton. “The psychological benefits are even more significant. There's a feeling of accomplishment, of self-confidence. The program makes people more independent."

Photos: CNN

 

 

Inmates find puppy love in women’s prison

Ellen Dennett’s life as an inmate at Fraser Valley Institution for Women at Abbottsford, British Columbia isn’t what you imagine being behind bars to be like: she spends a couple of hours each day taking care of dogs while their owners are away at work.

Dennett is part of the Doghouse program, a collaboration between the prison and Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS). Through Doghouse, inmates who are recognized for their good behavior work together to run a dog daycare. More than 150 women have benefitted from the Doghouse program.

"All day long, from 7 in the morning until 9 at night, these women are feeding, exercising, scooping poop, washing muddy paws. And they work really, really hard," program manager Alicia Santella says.

Through Doghouse the women are able to learn work ethic skills that would be valuable in any job. Many of the women who have left this program look for jobs specifically in this industry, finding that working with dogs gives them solace.

"They don't look at you as an inmate," says Dennett, who was convicted for second-degree murder. "They don't know the horrible crime I did. They love you just the way you are. The good stuff, the bad stuff, they don't care."

A program like Doghouse that entrusts responsibilities to inmates that feel they have been shut off from society. This is important in empowering them, giving hope that everyone has it in them to engage with the communities around them.

For Dennett, working with dogs has put her on a path for a kinder, calmer life after prison.

"I know we're not supposed to have a good time, that we're not supposed to laugh with the dogs, but that's why this is here — to help us cope with what we've done and to get back on track, and to move on with whatever life I have left."

Penny & Roo: a story of an unlikely friendship between a rescued Chihuahua and Chicken

Who can resist these two cute balls of fur? Meet Penny, the chicken and Roo the Chihuahua  - defying any animal kingdom preconceptions us humans might have.

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Abandoned in a ditch and previously rescued from a testing facility respectively, (flashbacks from Legally Blond 2 anyone?) these two have since become the best of friends. Not only do they enjoy each other’s company but a happy mother and new home.

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This story was first highlighted by @DodoImpact, a place in their words, that exists "For animal people who want to make a difference.” For more incredible content on the beautiful animals we share this world with, check out @DodoImpact. Share their stories, enjoy their videos, and next time you see a dog and a chicken - have a second thought before separating them, they might be friends.

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Any readers out there thinking of getting a pet, maybe consider adopting -you could be rewriting the stories of precious animals like Penny and Roo here. Any adopters out there who have stories to share - we’d love to hear them! Tag @givoglobal, PM us, or contact us at our website www.givo.global and we might just feature you.

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Photo credits to @rooandpennychicken

Video credits to @DodoImpact 

For the love of food!

A post on France's conversation with food waste and what we can all learn from it.

France is home to more than just the language of love and the Eiffel Tower; the country passed a law earlier on this year that requires major supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities. Since then, supermarkets with retail space of more than 400 square meters have signed contracts with charities to donate food that is approaching its best-before date.

The law passed unanimously after a similar but looser law a year ago failed to see the results the country wanted to achieve. Now, supermarkets caught throwing away food instead of donating it will receive a fine of up to 75,000 euros or two years in prison.

This is a welcome addition to the world’s fight against food waste and poverty. Sell-by dates are merely an estimate of when the food passes its peak taste and best appearance, and most food is perfectly safe to eat after this date. Reducing food waste means we can cut down on food manufacturing as a whole, a move that will also help curb climate change.

In a world where growing food waste raises alarm about climate change and millions go hungry everyday, it doesn’t seem right that France is the only country with a law like this. The good news is that Italy is in the process of passing a similar regulation, and hopefully this law in France – which began as a local grassroots campaign – will inspire the rest of the world to follow suit.

Image credits to @shawnyeo  , founder of @seedandsoilsg  - filled with beautiful reminders to mindfully appreciate what we take in from the earth and what we give back.

#France #FoodWaste #ClimateChange #GreenMonday