Hello friends, I realize I have not shared my thoughts with you in some time. I will be sharing more through my blog on The Forgotten International's website. I look forward to seeing your comments and discussions there. www.theforgottenintl.org/blog/
REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014
THOMAS A. NAZARIO
Author of Living on A Dollar A Day, The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor and Founder of The Forgotten International 07/17/2014 | Comments by mary_editor My new interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014 includes experts in technology, the arts, well-being and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.
I am extremely pleased to include Thomas A. Nazario, an attorney and advocate for the world’s poor and forgotten, particularly women and children.
Profile: Thomas A. Nazario is a professor of Law at the University of San Francisco and the president and founder of The Forgotten International, a non-profit organization that provides poverty alleviation throughout the globe. Nazario’s expertise in children’s rights has led him all over the world documenting children’s rights violations.
Thomas Nazario is the author of Living on A Dollar A Day, The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, the first genuinely comprehensive portrait of unimaginable poverty and suffering that also bears witness to the human spirit. His book will surely change your life from the minute you turn the first page. I can say that your compassion and resolve will change completely.
He writes about often overlooked communities around the world and helps us discover how we are far more alike than different. Living on a Dollar a Day is about our shared human condition, and Nazario reminds us that we must all continually pull together and care about one another, regardless of whether we seemingly inhabit different worlds.”
Mary Olson: How have your views changed as you look back on your experience?
Thomas A. Nazario: When I was young, I thought it was easy for people to grow and change, but as I have grown older and looked back on the people I have met and the experiences I have had, I have come to realize that people don’t change that much, at least in their character and in the way they approach life. I once told a friend this, and after she objected vehemently, I conceded that maybe people change up to 40%., but not much more than that, unless an epiphany comes their way, and that doesn’t happen too often because most of us lead quite sheltered lives.
I have often thought that it would be great to change people over the course of their life. To make good people out of bad, generous people out of the stingy, and peaceful loving people out of the hateful and violent, but somehow, either at birth or shortly thereafter, possibly through experiences that people have when they are young, too many of us get stuck in our ways. Of course that is fine if you are born to be a sweet and loving person. I have run into children who seem to have been born angels, and as I watched them grow, they usually remain so, and I think the same can be said about children who are quite difficult and mean spirited.
That isn’t to say that nothing can be done to help us all be better people. In fact, I spend quite a bit of my time trying to encourage people to be the best they can be, I am just suggesting that it is by no means an easy task, and I have yet to find the key that will open the hearts of so many of us to the love and compassion this world desperately needs.
MO: How do you see the way the world is emerging?
TN: Although I spend a lot of my time thinking about the problems confronting the world today and those we will face in the near future, I am actually optimistic. I am optimistic despite the fact that I am constantly hearing about wars in the Middle East, starvation and disease in Africa, poverty and exploitation in Asia, and of course, global warming affecting all of us. On top of this, I am very worried about the fact that the young people, who are likely going to be inheriting many of these woes, seem to be spending too much time on their Facebook or playing video games or texting friends or shopping. Nevertheless, the 20th Century was filled with great wars, millions upon millions of deaths, and poverty that was even worse than the poverty that exists today. So when comparing these two centuries, so far it looks like we are doing better, and as long as we continue to teach our children well, make medical and scientific advances, limit population growth, and try to put aside our differences to focus on the challenges before us, this world stands a chance. For now I will put my money on that.
MO: What are your thoughts as you look forward?
TN: Let me answer this question in a personal way. I have just turned 65, and although some people think about retiring at this age, I am simply not ready for that yet. The truth is that there is too much work to do, and at least with regards to the work I do, it has all been quite rewarding. I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life playing golf or traveling to scenic places around the world, and not continuing to do more to make the world a better place. I believe such work enriches people’s lives and brings meaning to a life well lived. My foundation, The Forgotten International, encompasses much of the work I do these days. The foundation works to alleviate poverty in several countries around the world, and in that regard also helps to relieve suffering, particularly that experienced by women and children (www.theforgottenintl.org). For me there could be no greater effort. So I will continue to do this work until I cannot do it any longer. Please feel free to visit us on the web and contact me. Also please consider exploring a book we just published about the world’s poor. It’s called Living on a Dollar a Day. It is intended to introduce many of us to people who have long been forgotten and are in need of help. So if you are considering some mission for yourself in life, please give some thought to at least spending a portion of your time helping those around the world who have so little and suffer so much. You will find that you will receive far more than you give in return.
This originally appeared on Devin Thorpe's blog "Your Mark on the World" on July 14th, but I wanted to share it here as well.
When I was four years old, and on my way to have Thanksgiving dinner with my parents and brother, in what is now called Spanish Harlem, I noticed a woman and her small child going through a garbage can in the hopes of finding something for dinner. I had seen this before, even at four years of age, but something felt different that day, for after all it was Thanksgiving. You see, Thanksgiving was the only day of the year that my family went out to dinner, and I thought it was the day that everyone was supposed to eat a nice meal and give thanks for their blessings in life. It struck me that if this was how this lady and her child were going to celebrate Thanksgiving, that there must be something wrong in the world.
Fast forward some 60 years, today I find myself teaching law at a university, running a small foundation and flipping through the pages of a book I just wrote called Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor. I created this book largely with the help of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist because I never forgot that lady and her child, and in the same way that I never forgot them, I don’t want the world to forget the world’s poor. In short, I believe we spend too much time focusing on the lives of the rich and famous and nowhere near enough time trying to relieve the suffering of one sixth of the world’s people who, in fact, live on less than a dollar a day.
While the reasons for poverty may be different across geographic regions and political circumstances, the results are much the same everywhere: poverty robs people of options in life. While the poor often work very hard at jobs many of us would not even consider doing, they earn close to nothing. Not having access to basic health care and education keeps them at the bottom of the economic ladder, usually for generations.
Living on a Dollar a Day shares the personal stories of some of the poorest of the poor in our global community and encourages compassionate action on the part of those who care to help. The stories and photographs in the book offer a glimpse into the everyday realities of individuals and families facing extreme poverty. These profiles give voice to their experience and their struggles, while honoring their lives and their human dignity. The accompanying text provides accessible information on the root causes of global poverty and offers suggestions on how each of us can get involved to help the world’s poor.
I am neither a billionaire nor millionaire, but simply an individual who is trying to encourage others like me to do a little good in this world. The truth is that most of us have the capacity to help a child, a family, a school, or an orphanage, that but for the help and kindness of others, would not have the tools to escape extreme poverty. (See: http://theforgottenintl.org/documentary.html)
My foundation, The Forgotten International, was built on the premise that we all have the ability to leave this world better than how we found it. I created our “Twelve Simple Beliefs” as a guide to how we approach our work. While we focus on helping impoverished women and children around the world, there are so many other ways of doing good. In fact, one doesn’t have to go around the world to find those in need; the truth is that we can simply go around the block.
I believe it is important to keep thoughts of giving and caring in mind as we move through life if we wish to create a life that is fulfilling and meaningful. These are important lessons to teach our children as well, for often too much time these days is spent playing video games, trying to look a certain way, or simply getting way too enthralled in consumption and / or taking, rather than giving.
I should point out that giving is not a totally selfless act, for in helping others, we often feel better about ourselves and feel a sense of unity with others in our world. Volunteering one’s time to serve those in need can be done with friends and colleagues, and parents can introduce the idea of service to their children, and giving can become a family tradition. It brings added meaning to our lives, and it is a valuable use of our time and energy. It is truly a blessing to be in a position to help.
I do hope you that you will consider the needs of others in your everyday life, whether you are a person of great wealth or someone who occasionally has to give up a nice dinner out for yourself in order to donate a simple meal to others. I also hope you will take the time to learn more about the world’s poor, either through your direct service to others or by picking up a copy of Living on a Dollar a Day.
One of the things we try to do at The Forgotten International is to search for people around the world who unselfishly decide to give of themselves to others, who are truly honest, hardworking and committed to a mission that is not only sustainable in practice but also sustains them through life. Miguel Rodriguez, who runs La Comunidad de Niños Sagrada Familia in Lima, Peru, is just that kind of individual, and all who have met him have said that he is truly a saint. We interviewed him for a profile in our book Living on a Dollar a Day. He said:
"In all of us exists the hope of creating a new world. It's been 21 years since I came to believe in that world, to believe in humanity, to believe in God. But before - I did not. Before, I believed in me. It was me first, me second, me third, me always.... Then my son died...I believe in a new world now - a different world."
The son that Miguel speaks of died when he was still a little boy, and it was at that difficult time of his son’s death that Miguel realized that although he could not save his son, there were so many other children that he could save who were worth saving. So it was with that in mind that he created an orphanage for abandoned, orphaned and wayward children. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy to wake people up about what is important in shaping their lives. Miguel decided that what was important in his life was others, and that is why I wanted to take a moment to honor him as a father and as a man. His profile is featured in the chapter called “Hope” and it is people like him that give all of us some hope and strength.
It's that time of year again when young people are graduating and going out into the "real" world. For what it's worth, I want to offer some thoughts. Some time ago, I was asked to give a talk to a group of undergraduates on "How to Create a Meaningful Life." The talk itself went on for about an hour, too long to encapsulate here, nevertheless below are the key points I tried to make to the students:
In honor of Earth Day, I want to bring attention to item #9 on The Forgotten International's "12 Simple Beliefs."
"That nothing cares for the world's people as much as the earth itself, and it is for that reason that the earth must be cared for in the same way that she cares for all of us. We are dependent on each other. It is a reciprocal relationship."
Go to TFI's website to read the complete list of our
"12 Simple Beliefs" which guide our work.
I just wanted to thank MotherJones.com for pubishing this interview and photo series with Renee C. Byer's incredible images from "Living on a Dollar a Day." If you have not seen it, here's the link:
I am presently in India visiting the people and the programs The Forgotten International tries to help. As I travel through this country and see the vast disparities of wealth, I am reminded of a radio story out of Mumbai I heard on National Public Radio some time ago:
“Adjacent to a huge home that was being built for one of India's new rich, in the city of Mumbai lived a cobbler on the street. On both sides of his “shop” he stacked a wall of bricks and it was between these bricks where he sat all day hoping someone would want his shoes shined or fixed. He has been there for years and on a good day he might make a dollar. The reporter asked him what he does on a bad day, he said he just turns over, sleeps on the street and prays for a better day the next day. When the reporter asked what if there is no better day the next day, what do you eat? He said, that when he earns no money, he eats the leaves off the tree across the street. Finally, the reporter asked had he ever dreamt about living in a real home, maybe even like the huge home that was being built right next to his make-shift shoe repair shop. The old man simply said, not in this lifetime, but maybe the next.”
So goes the life of all those around the world who have so little yet seldom ask for help and just do the best they can living on about a dollar a day.
I often tell this story when I talk about the work of The Forgotten International as it has served to be an inspiration to me over the years. I recently told it again at a private signing event for my book, Living on a Dollar a Day, and because one of the guests had arrived late and missed my presentation, the host asked me to retell it just to him. He thought it was important for all the guests to go home with this message:
About a dozen years ago, I was allowed to sit in the corner of a room in the home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, a room where day after day he opens his home to receive guests from all over the world. On this particular day, I observed His Holiness welcome a wealthy Indian gentleman and his family from Bombay. After forty five minutes had passed and all had talked and laughed about, both the little and big questions of life, the patriarch of this well-dressed family asked the Dalai Lama if he would be so kind as to bless him and his family before they went on their way. To my surprise, His Holiness put off the request. He said, "Who am I to bless you? I am the same as you, no better, no worse. And you are the same as I, a human being with many of the same wants and needs, just two simple friends who seek happiness and some answers to the mysteries of life. If, however, you wish to feel blessed, please return to Bombay and when you arrive, work with all those around you who have so little and suffer so much. In doing so, you will feel blessed in return."
Many of you who have followed TFI in our work have been waiting for the release of our book Living on a Dollar a Day. Thank you for your patience. The book will be in book stores in April 2014. On the inside flap of the dust jacket, these are the words that appear. We wish we had the space to say more, but it should give you a pretty good sense of the body of the work:
Slightly over one billion people on the planet live on a dollar a day. While the reasons for their poverty may be different across geographic regions and political circumstances, the results are much the same. Extreme poverty robs people of options in life, and the cycle is nearly impossible to break without help. While the poor often work very hard at jobs many of us would not even consider doing, not having access to basic health care and education keeps them at the bottom of the economic ladder, usually for generations.
Living on a Dollar a Day shares the personal stories of some of the poorest of the poor, honoring their lives, their struggles, and encouraging action in those who can help. In making this beautiful and moving book a team traveled to four continents, took thousands of photographs, conducted numerous interviews, and researched information on the agencies around the world that strive to help the destitute. The resulting stories and photographs offer a heartrending glimpse into the everyday realities of individuals and families facing extreme poverty. Personal profiles give voice to their experience, and research about the root causes of global poverty is shared along with information on how those in more fortunate circumstances can get involved.
Living on a Dollar a Day gives the largely invisible poor a face and a voice. In a world that grows more and more connected and interdependent, the issues that affect one person eventually affect us all. This important book is a powerful call to action for anyone who wishes to help alleviate human suffering.
Also, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in his tribute to the book, wrote on the back cover of the dust jacket:
“Too often those of us who live comfortable lives miss the entire spectrum of humanity who share our planet in lives of desperate poverty. This book brings all of us closer.” – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
From time to time, I will share a story about someone I have recently met or comment on something from current events. All has some relevance to the giving to and the caring of others.