Biram Dah Abeid: Mauritania’s Antislavery Crusader

by Aiden McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International [1]

Biram Dah Abeid was just 8 when he became aware of slavery in his home country of Mauritania [locate in northwestern Africa below Morocco].  He saw a defenseless youth being beaten by a man–a common experience, his parents explained, for the thousands of Mauritanians still treated as chattels by their “masters.”  Biram himself was of slave descent; his grandmother was born into slavery.

Biram promised that day that he would resist.  And in 2008, he founded the initiative for the Resurgency of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA-Mauritania).  Alongside other Mauritanian antislavery organizations, such as SOS Enclaves, IRA-Mauritania has sought to break the official silence that enables slavery to persist by using nonviolent tactics: reporting and publicizing cases, assisting victims and holding sit-ins and demonstrations.

For this, Biram and his colleagues have been imprisoned on numerous occasions.  But those instances, coupled with Biram’s pledges to run for President of Mauritania, have only drawn more international attention to Mauritanian slavery and bolstered Biram’s reputation.  He is an inspiration.  He is an inspiration to thousands who continue to resist slavery in Mauritania and beyond.

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[1] First appeared in Time magazine

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More Playground Equipment in Sacred Valley, Peru

Recently, the Cardenas-Torres family installed additional pieces of playground equipment:  (1) two downsized combination soccer goal and basketball standard and (2) a tether ball pole using a sock in lieu of a tether ball.  They were installed at the Urco Primary School located near Calca in Sacred Valley, Peru.

Fabricating the Combination Soccer/Basketball Unit

Children at Urco Ready to Enjoy Their New Soccer/Basket Unit

Fabricators–David and John–Trying Out the Tether Ball Unit

This is the first time we have installed tether balls poles and combination soccer/basketball units.

A Downsized Combination Soccer Goal/Basketball Standard Was Recently Installed at a Primary School in Sacred Valley, Peru

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Rebuilding the Navajo Playground in Aneth UT

Years ago, the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation had a playground just north of their Chapterhouse.  The Aneth Chapter is located in the southeastern corner of Utah in the 4-Corners region.

The original playground had fallen into serious disrepair.  It was decided to start the rehab by installing playground equipment (Phase I).  The Chapter used its grader to level the area.

Preparing the Aneth Playground Area

Commercial-quality playground equipment was located on KSL-classified.  It was purchased and transported to the site by Navajo Santa (a SLC-based NGO).  The equipment included: a swing set, a spinner, a circular slide, and a monkey bar set.

Assembling the Monkey Bar Set at the New Aneth Playground

The equipment was installed by a crew hired by the Aneth Chapter.  The monkey bar set was in pieces with no assembly instructions, but the crew was able to figure out the complicated puzzle.  A backhoe was used to lift the playground equipment in place.

The Completed Phase I of the Aneth Playground

Phase I of the playground is now in place.  Future work includes developing the slope that leads down to the general playground area.  This new development will include slides, a climbing wall, fire pole, and terracing.

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LDS Church Donations

According to a recent Salt Lake Tribune article:

On behalf of the Mormon church, four female leaders donated $120,000 on Thursday to community centers in Utah to expand medical services for children who have been abused.

Also, according to a recent article in the Deseret News:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated a temple in Philadelphia, but Wednesday another building opened in Philadelphia that was built in part thanks to a donation [estimated at $2.5M] by the LDS Church.

While I applaud the former, I’m much less excited about the latter.  In fact, I wish the 2 had been reversed, with $2.5 million going for medical services to children around the world “who have been abused.”  After all, the LDS Church is a global church.

It would be worthwhile if the Church leadership set up a non-GA advisory council to make recommendations on potential charitable donations.  They could provide a valuable service by helping to establish priorities.

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Why Do Successful Organizations Do Stupid Things?

By Tom Harvey (sltrib.com, 24 Apr 2017)

“Why is it that companies at the top of their game do stupid things?” Ed Catmull, animation pioneer and co-founder of Pixar, wondered.

Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar

Even in his own company, things didn’t always go well — despite “Toy Story’s” phenomenal run after its 1995 release.

Catmull said he and other managers were shocked to find that they didn’t see divisions within the company during the making of “Toy Story.” Production managers felt marginalized and disrespected by the creative teams — and they were.

His dream of making the first feature-length animated movie realized, Catmull shifted his passion to understanding why companies made bad decisions after initial successes and trying to figure out how he could help nurture and sustain creativity at Pixar.

For him, it’s less about bosses managing creativity than getting out of the way.

That involves removing hierarchy from meetings and communication.

“It isn’t easy,” Catmull said. “You have to pay continual attention to it.”

“Ed’s story is clear,” Josh James [one Utah’s most successful tech entrepreneurs], said in an email. “While data and technology are important, success really comes down to the people in your organization. His story challenges you to think if you, as a leader, are creating the right environment to get the best out of all the people on your teams.”

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More Playground Equipment for Cesar Vallejo Preschool, Cusco Peru

Today, the Cardenas-Torres family installed some additional playground equipment at the Cesar Vallejo Preschool located in the hills above Cusco, Peru.

Two years ago, my daughter and her husband, my grandson, and I were in Cusco as   tourists.  It turned out that the brother of our guide was (is) a metal fabricator.  We ended up installing a 3-seat swing set at Cesar Vallejo Preschool.

Subsequent to that, we provided the preschool with a laptop and LED projector.  Last Fall, a different grandson and I, while in the Cusco area, provided Vallejo with an outdoor xylophone.

Over the weekend, the C-T family fabricated a climbing tower and monkey bars.  David and Willow installed the equipment today.

Installing Playground Equipment at Cesar Vallejo

Cesar Vallejo Preschool’s Playground with Cusco in the Background

Students and Teachers at Cesar Vallejo Preschool

For more information about the C-T family and the NGO they have organized click here.

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Good Works, but Little Faith

Since I find religious faith so difficult, I found the following quote from Jonathan Malesic on religiondispatches.org interesting:

Going back to Christianity’s origins, Paul taught that it was . . .  faith, not deeds, that made a Christian worthy of salvation.  The Protestant Reformation and, later, the growth of Evangelical churches reiterated this emphasis on belief as the core of Christianity and the prerequisite to belonging to the church.

The teaching that Christianity is first of all about belief was intended to open church membership to any person.  In a skeptical age, it may be the biggest impediment to greater Christian affiliation.

Younger Americans who have left Christianity are simply taking a longstanding Christian doctrine at its word.  The churches told them they had to believe in order to belong.  They don’t believe. So they left.  In doing so, they may well have left a vacuum in their lives and communities. But in an important sense, they may also have taken Christian teaching too seriously.

As a youth in Sunday School in the LDS Church, I often heard the expression:  “faith without works in dead.”  For me, for Christianity to leave works or “deeds” out of the equation is ridiculous, and a serious misreading of the teachings of Christ.

Since faith has become a problem for the younger generations (and the older), they are leaving organized religion, a trend that has also affected the LDS Church.

Since the death of Apostle John A. Widtsoe in 1952, the LDS Church has tried an unsuccessful rapprochement with the evangelical movement.  This has led to a de-emphasis of works and deeds.  This evolution, has serious harmed the Church.

Malesic states that individuals leaving churches may develop “a vacuum in their lives and communities.”  I don’t agree.  There are any number of organizations which can provide socializaion activities and togetherness.  But if the LDS Church were to put a greater emphasis on works and deeds, this would provide a mechanism for members to return, and in the process perhaps rekindle their ailing faith.

I suspect that there are many with ailing faith (like myself) who desire to do good works.  The Church would be a wonderful venue for supporting and organizing global good deeds.  Some argue that the LDS Church is already doing enough now.  I would argue they are not.  But that is for a separate post.

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