social welfare

Yesterday after the service, the West Tisbury Congregational Church hosted their first “Good Cause Coffee House” to inaugurate the use of Equal Exchange Fair Trade coffee instead of the cheap brands bought at big box stores as had been our New England frugal practice in the past. The purpose was to explain the reasons that ethical consumers might want to purchase fair trade products.

To further illustrate the real cost of our regular coffee brands, Len and Georgia Morris showed a 15 minute clip from their film “Stolen Childhood”. They managed to get hidden cameras into a coffee plantation in Kenya and film the children working long hours for paltry wages. Dinner might be a piece of sugar cane. School is out of the question. White pesticide powder coats the coffee bushes and the hands and arms of the children causing who-knows-what health damage.

Interviews of local Kenyan adults made it clear that they valued education for children above all else, and in one case were stretching their meager resources to actually build a school, one room at a time. We were all moved by what we saw and sobered by the inequity and corruption that place these children in poisonous coffee fields.

I went to Len and Georgia’s website, “Media Voices For Children”, An Internet News Agency For Children’s Rights (, and discovered a visual compendium of video’s documenting the exploitation of children all over the globe, as well as useful articles from many sources on what can be done about it.

Let’s help them support children’s rights as described in the Convention on the Rights of the Childdrafted twenty years ago, and only now being considered for ratification by the U.S. Congress. I quote from their website:

“The CRC  is a United Nations treaty  signed by 193 nations, excepting the United States and Somalia, that establishes a legal foundation for the human rights of children all over the world. It asserts that the life of every child is of equal value, without regard to race, color, sex, language, political opinion or nationality.”

Come on, my country tis of thee, let’s wake up and smell the coffee.

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No Opportunities For Education

by Marsha Winsryg

no educational opportunities

Tenant farming family in Zambia

In mid-January  I traveled one hour south of Lusaka to visit the family of Anastasia Mwamba who lives with her three children and husband as tenant farmers on a large cattle producing farm. Her sixteen year-old daughter recently died of malaria, primarily because of lack of transport to medical services.

The other children do not attend school also for lack of transport. They live far away from the nearest school and have no way to get there. This family is living in dismal conditions in a tiny cement and metal quonset hut with no plumbing, electricity or ventilation.

Last Fall we provided funds for seed, fertilizer and help in cultivating a corn and pumpkin crop large enough to feed the family all year. This had been accomplished. I was shocked to learn that these two crops were the only ones they were allowed to grow – the plantation owners forbid them to have a kitchen garden to provide tomatoes, potatoes, onions and kale, which all grow easily in this region.

This family earns barely enough to get them through the month, and often they end up owing the plantation. Does this sound familiar?

Isn’t this a human rights violation?

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Deluge in Paradise

by Marsha Winsryg

Clan village needs assistance replanting a year's worth of food

Before the Flood

It had been raining for two days , but the people who lived in the little traditional village of Jack Mwanapapa were not unduly concerned. It was, after all, the rainy season.

The Nasanzu river alongside which they had lived for several centuries had never flooded, at least in not in the memory of anyone living. But in the predawn hours of March 4th the rising waters could no longer be contained and surged through the village and the surrounding grasslands.

In a few moment they lost their water pump, three houses, most of the farming equipment, 13 goats and 32 chickens. Worst of all, an entire year’s crop of maize was swept away, as well as all the other crops that this community depended upon for survival.

That no lives were lost is a miracle and a blessing. But starting over will be an enormous challenge.