Jun 02

Showing the Internet to a Burmese Refugee Who’d Never Seen it Before

Yesterday I went to Elaine Allan’s house to buy a couple of computer cords for the machines I’m giving to Burmese refugees. A lady named MuMu was over there. MuMu is a Burmese refugee who currently watches children for other Burmese people here in town. She speaks a little English, but is far from fluent. She has never used a computer in her life.

MuMu and other refugees like her are very interested in what has happened to Burma. MuMu didn’t know where her only sister was even before the cyclone due to the oppressive nature of the government. She’d heard about the storm from Elaine, but didn’t know the details.

I sat at a computer and showed her Google. I explained that this was a resource greater than all of the libraries she could imagine. There was a wealth of information at her fingertips, and she like anyone else could publish her story and connect with others.

She had seen a computer, but she had never in her life truly recognized the internet.

In seconds, I pulled up Google news and typed in “Burma cyclone”. I showed her pictures. Elaine and I explained headlines. She looked in amazement and a certain quiet sadness. I cannot imagine what was going on in her heart at that moment.

I messaged my friend in California and explained that this person was over 1000 miles away and could instantly communicate with me. I sent out a message of what we were doing to over 300 people on Twitter. All of this was new to MuMu. All of this could help her get better employment, educate herself and her children, or bring assistance to her family back home. None of it is at her disposal.

Social media is power. Believe it.

Apr 21

Be a Superhero (even without having sixpack abs)

You had the action figures. You watched the cartoons. You even had (or even still have?) superhero underoos. When you were four, being a superhero was the obvious career path for you. You never understood why adults like your parents somehow chose NOT to be superheroes.

Sigh. After a not-too-successful stint as the invisible man and a failed attempt to fly off the roof, you’ve conceded that your image will never be powerful enough to grace the underwear of little boys everywhere.

Not to worry. Here are a few projects you can tackle that do not require you to have superhuman physical strength or x-ray vision:

1.) Trish Forant started a campaign that allows civilians to stay in contact with a member of the armed services at emailourmilitary.com. Currently, if you sign up to start emailing a service member, you have to print a form and mail it to Trish. She is interested in having an online form put on this site. This would require some form of payment processor and SSL as there is a $2 registration fee. If you would like to help with this, please contact Trish here.

If you are technologically inept and/or lazy like me, you can still help by signing up keep in touch with a service member by filling out a form on Trish’s website. There are a host of other great projects on this site to help support our troops.

2.) I am helping collect computers and other items for Burmese refugees currently living in town. These people have suffered greatly at the expense of a ruthless and unjust military regime. They did not get a choice in where they lived and came to the United States with nothing. Here is a list of what they need:
* jobs that offer a decent wage
* English tutors, especially for the ones who can’t get out
* computers (kids know how to use them, but can’t use the school ones before or after school because they ride the bus)
* calculators for the older kids
* telephones & phone cards (MOST DO NOT HAVE PHONES)
* shoes — tennis shoes & sturdy work shoes
* diapers
* ricecookers
* non-perishable foods
* Wal-Mart, H-E-B, etc. gift cards

Since you cannot break out a can of whoopass and single handedly fly over to Burma to defeat the military regime, you can email Elaine at borntohelp(at)earthlink.net if you’d like to offer any assistance to these new Austinites.

You will indeed be defeating evil by helping out in these projects. I wouldn’t count on your image being immortalized as a tiny figurine wrapped in plastic and 100 twist ties though.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which Superhero are You? If you can’t decide, feel free to take this super old Superhero quiz to find out.