|Introduction to the 2002 Spring Plenty Bulletin
by Peter Schweitzer
March 23, 2002
Dear Plenty Friends,
On September 8, 2000, after what was described in a press release as the "largest- ever gathering of world leaders," the United Nations General Assembly adopted the "UN Millennium Declaration," chock full of the usual laudatory pronouncements. After declaring their passionate commitment to world peace and universal freedom, justice and saving the environment, the world leaders set out some very specific, worthy goals:
- To halve by 2015, the proportion of the worlds people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and, by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water. [Something like one billion people fall into these categories.]
- By the same date, to have reduced maternal mortality by three quarters, and under-five child mortality by two thirds, of their current rates.
Ever since the UN vowed in 1982 to make potable running water available to every person in the world by 1992, weve been a little skeptical, and the UN has tried to be more realistic (now talking in terms of halving the proportion of people who dont have clean drinking water over a fifteen year period.) At Plenty we see one of our jobs as a non-governmental organization to be helping to implement these lofty goals, because lofty as they may be, they certainly arent unrealistic. Recently the UN called for an increase of $50 billion/year in monies provided by wealthy countries to achieve the goal of halving world poverty by 2015. Shortly thereafter, the US administration requested a one year $50 billion increase in defense spending. Earlier this year, over five days, 3,000 participants at the World Economic Forum spent $100 million on themselves in New York City (according to the NYC tourism board) while discussing ways to reduce poverty.
A steady diet of this kind of information would be very discouraging, but down in the trenches of the war on poverty we see hundreds of little victories achieved by inspired individuals in villages, governments, NGOs, businesses and UN agencies cooperating to fulfill the wonderful promises that issue forth like confetti from these expensive international summits and conferences. The Spring Bulletin has some of these stories.
For example, Plenty volunteer midwives have been working in cooperation with the Belize Ministry of Healths medical staff in Punta Gorda, with funding from UNICEF, to train men and women from the villages of the Toledo District who want to be Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in a region of Belize with high infant and maternal mortality rates. Twenty-three TBAs have graduated and have already helped to deliver over 45 babies, and handled several emergencies saving the lives of mothers and babies in remote villages. Last year, a group of Unitarian Church women in Indiana raised money for water projects "to benefit women and children." Using their funds, a Plenty volunteer is helping to install potable running water for schools in Toledo District villages. It is stories like these that give us hope.
After 9/11/01 many charities saw their donations drop off drastically. Donations to Plenty actually increased. This too gives us hope.
This Bulletin is dedicated to our Treasurer and friend, Karen Sharkey Flaherty, who embodied everything Plenty is about. All of us feel the same way: she was the most generous person we ever knew. Thank you Karen, for everything. Generosity is a trait that we see in abundance in this family of Plenty. We want you to know how grateful we are.
With love and appreciation,