October 23

Believe There Is Good

Chef José Andrés

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On Tuesday, October 17, celebrity chef and restauranteur José  Andrés reported that his NGO “World Central Kitchen” has now distributed one million ready-to-eat meals in Puerto Rico for the victims of Hurricane Maria.  And, he assured those continuing to struggle in the wake of the storm that WCK is there for the long haul.  They will keep feeding Puerto Ricans until local authorities can once again provide essential services.  “When we establish contact with a community,” Chef Andrés said, “We take care of that place until they can sustain themselves.”

José Andrés has been in Puerto Rico since September 25, when he immediately teamed with Chef José Enrique, a popular San Juan chef who was already preparing a Puerto Rican beef stew for evacuees.  In the first few days, they were preparing around 2,000 meals.  Within a week, they were cranking out 25,000 meals!   Chef Adrés attributes the success to WCK organization and having access to a large facilitiy.  He is currently working out of the massive kitchen in Coliseo de Puerto Rico, the San Juan sports complex and convention center, where they can prepare 60,000 meals a day.  It wasn’t long before he was coordinating efforts with Homeland Security.  The U.S. Government contracted WCK for 20,000 meals per day.  That number was quickly raised to 40,000. 

When Andrés indicated that he has the capability of preparing 120,000 meals per day, FEMAsaid an arrangement of that magnitude would exceed their grant authority without putting the contract out for bid – a process which could take months. “My question is …” Chef asks, “If we don’t do it … who will?  And, the meals are needed NOW!”   Andrés is fond of quoting a passage from John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.”  It’s the passage where Tom Joad says, “Where there’s a fight so hungry people can eat … I will be there.” We are inspired by Chef José Andrés and are grateful that he has joined the fight to help the ravaged island of Puerto Rico.       

 

October 15

Believe There is Good

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David Young

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The lower Ninth Ward was probably the hardest hit district in the City of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.   While it has never fully recovered, there are some amazing efforts underway that demonstrate triumph over adversity.   One such project is Capstone Community Gardens and its founder, David Young.   The volunteer organization has reclaimed thirty abandoned lots within the ward and provides free produce to its many low-income families.  Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, mustard greens, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes are regularly harvested to supplement the diets of what local officials often refer to as the “poorest of the poor.”   In addition to urban farming, David is a beekeeper providing an environmentally friendly home for unwanted bees.   Because of the dilapidated condition of many of the abandoned buildings in the area, bees have become a major problem.  But instead of calling an exterminator, David comes in with a low-suction vacuum and collects the bees.  He then transports them to hives that he tends throughout the ward.  The bees give back to the community by pollinating the gardens’ plants.  Honey is collected and processed to provide revenue for the organization.  Captsone is also home to goats, who earn their keep by “moving” the weeds.  Chickens also supply fresh eggs for the residents.  Each week volunteers pack bags of harvested food for area shut-ins.

David Young is affectionately known as “Santa” because of his full white beard, the twinkle in his eyes and his merry dimples.  His generosity, however, is not limited to one night … but throughout the entire year.  “If we all did our part…” he says, “If we all did what we could to help one another and our environment …. imagine how peaceful and wonderful the world would be.”

October 8

Garden School Amateur Radio Club

Garden School Amateur Radio Club

Garden School "Hams"

This week, we applaud the members of the Amateur Radio Club at the Garden School in Jackson Heights, Queens and its faculty advisor, John Hale. Last year, the charter school received “ham radio’ equipment from the New York Hall of Science and launched an extracurricular club for kids in the sixth through twelfth grade.  Twenty students are currently enrolled.

This summer, Mr. Hale received emergency messaging training - the sending and receiving of 25-word messages that are transmitted through the “national traffic system.”  If someone is available to accept the “traffic,” these messages are often posted on large boards in a disaster area.  Reply messages can be “trafficked” out of these areas, as well.

A number of residents of Jackson Heights and Queens have roots in Puerto Rico.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, communication with their loved ones and friends has been completely cut off.  And so, the members of this enterprising Amateur Radio Club (Station K2GS) quickly saw an opportunity to be of service to their community.  They have identified two dozen “hams” on the island and sent their first messages last Thursday.  With the Red Cross sending 50 additional ham radio operators to Puerto Rico, the students anticipate the possibility of expanding their “lifeline” to isolated towns and villages.  It may not be the most ideal form of communication, but amateur radio continues to work and can be an effective tool in crisis situations. As one club member said, “There is no better feeling than to be able to make someone smile when you tell them their loved ones are safe.”

October 2

Julie Church

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As a marine biologist, Julie Church led a conservation and development program for the Kiunga National Reserve in northern Kenya.  Julie organized “blue teams” who comb Kenya’s shoreline for refuse from the Indian Ocean.  The debris is then sorted:  glass, plastic, aluminum and flip flops.  Yes, flip flops!!  In fact, over 2,000 pounds of discarded flip flops are collected on Kenyan beaches every week.

As an environmentalist, Julie Church has made it her life’s passion to “flip the flop,” which is to say raise consciousness about ocean health and protecting the fragile African eco-system

In 2005, Julie left her position at the Kiunga reserve to help establish a company known as “Ocean Sole.”  They have developed a process known as “upcycling” that buys flip-flops in 2,000 kilo increments and then washes, blocks, cuts and sculpts the material, into an array of colorful products.  Sales began to soar when the World Wildlife Federation ordered 15,000 sea turtle key-rings.  Today, they produce large sculptures of elephants, whales, dolphins, giraffes, lions, rhinos - a veritable safari of African wildlife sculptures.  These works of art adorn schools, malls, museums, airports, government buildings and hotels.   

“It would be ideal,” Julie says,” If we would do everything we can to prevent pollution in the first place. Meanwhile, it is critical that we create sustainable micro economies that facilitate effective waste management that in the process protect ecosystems and wildlife.”

Maruda Studios: Nairobi, Kenya

Maruda Studios: Nairobi, Kenya

September 24

Sister Margaret Ann

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Sister Margaret Ann, Principal of the Archbishop Carroll High School in West Miami, became a media sensation after Hurricane Irma tore through southern Florida.  As residents waited impatiently for Miami-Dade work crews to clear downed trees blocking access roads to their neighborhood, Sister Margaret Ann took matters into her own hand.  Obtaining a chainsaw and reading the instruction manual on-line, Sister hit the streets to get the job done.  

When police officers cautioned Sister Margaret Ann that crews would be sent to take care of the dangerous work, she said, “Look, east and west access is completely blocked off.  This is a matter of public safety!" Onlookers stood agog.  Temperatures soared over 100 degrees.  “I was sweating in shorts and a t-shirt,” someone remarked, “She was wearing a full habit and veil!”  It wasn’t long before others began helping and together they created enough space to allow cars to get in and out of the neighborhood.

Once video footage surfaced on-line, T.V. crews descended onto the scene to interview their new celebrity.  Sister Margaret Ann shrugged off the attention.  “We had a dangerous situation on our hands and I wanted to help.   If you can do something, don’t wait for someone else to do it!"