Banking in His Underwear

March 16, 2011

A pair of speedos clung to his bum. Chest hair proudly erect in the air conditioning. Gaze nonchalant.

The Brazilian man in front of me was inside the bank using his debit card to take out some cash. And he was naked save the unfortunate garment choice of speedo. And no one but me thought anything of it.

Brazilians are an informal people and it’s not just exemplified in the way they dress. Total strangers will reach out and touch your children’s feet and hair, cooing about how cute they are (At least I think that’s what they’re saying. I hear something like the Portuguese word for beautiful, “lindo,” but for all I know the stranger could be offering to sell us umbrellas.).

Brazilians are warm and friendly, which somehow scares the shit out of me. Must be all my time in New York. I asked directions of a stranger and she escorted me by the hand for 10 minutes, making sure I got correct change from my metro ticket and ensuring I found my way to the subway. Upon boarding me, she kissed me and said, “In Brazil, we kiss both cheeks.” I smiled and thanked her, but I couldn’t quite shut out an evil voice, which whispered in my head, “In New York, we tell strangers to kiss our ass.”

I hope that the longer I stay away from New York, the more I will adopt this Brazilian attitude. Maybe my cynicism will fade away in inverse proportion to the tan I am slowly cultivating.

What it looks like here

May 11, 2010

Today I went to the townships. The children there live in shanties and almost all of them have at least one person in their household with HIV/AIDS. Unemployment is more than 50% in their area.

The Amy Biehl Foundation provides after school programs to teach these kids computer skills, HIV/AIDS prevention, music, art, dance, and more.

Oliver Keune, a talented volunteer for the foundation made this video:

It gives a window into what the kids see.

South Africa first! The Amy Biehl Foundation.

April 17, 2010


We’ll be leaving in about 2 weeks for our first destination, Cape Town, South Africa!

We’ve found an amazing organization to volunteer with — The Amy Biehl Foundation: http://www.amybiehl.org/. Here’s a little bit about their history:

Amy Biehl was a gifted and dynamic young woman committed to making a difference. After extensive work and service throughout the continent, she chose to dedicate her 1993 Fulbright Scholarship to the establishment of a multiracial democracy in South Africa. Amy worked tirelessly with members of the ANC at the UWC Community Law Centre and helped register voters for the country’s first free elections.

On August 25th, 1993, Amy Biehl’s life was tragically cut short in an act of political mob violence in the Guguletu Township outside of Cape Town. Four young men were convicted and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for her murder. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, the young men applied for amnesty. Determined to honour Amy’s love of South Africa and her belief in the truth and reconciliation process, Amy’s parents participated in the Commission’s hearings and supported amnesty for the youths; the four were granted amnesty and released from prison in 1998.

In 1997 the Amy Biehl Foundation in South Africa was born. Over the years the Foundation has flourished in its mission to ‘Weave a Barrier Against Violence’ by emphasizing social, cultural and economic empowerment through its programmes. Currently, two of the young men who were convicted of Amy’s murder and granted amnesty work for the Foundation to make these programmes a success. They are a living embodiment of the values, such as forgiveness, reconciliation and tolerance, which we strive to teach the youth of Cape Town through our work.

While we must never forget Amy Biehl and the life lessons that her and her parents have taught us, our focus needs to be on helping the children of South Africa. The Foundation is not only about a tragic story, but about programmes and schools, and restoring hope in disadvantaged communities so that a bright future can be had by all.

The Foundation’s mission is to prevent youth violence through a holistic approach to community development in socio-economically disadvantaged communities in and around Cape Town. The Foundation works to empower youth by providing opportunities through education. It is our belief that empowered youths are not likely to commit violent acts which rob others of their human rights.

Around the world with us: volunteering across the globe with our two kids

March 5, 2010

The Grand Plan:

to take our 1 and 3 year old with us around the world for a year. We’ll hit 13 countries, volunteering for charities/NGOs in each, and living in real neighborhoods rather than in hostels. We’re looking to be truly productive with our time; during the day we will work on causes that we passionately believe in, and in the evenings we will enjoy exploring our surroundings and being together as a family. We hope to get a taste of 13 different cultures and to avoid being just tourists. We want our babies to begin their lives in this environment in the hopes that the exposure will instill a passion for social justice and a love and understanding of people.

Where We’re Going:

  1. Peru
  2. Brazil
  3. Sierra Leone
  4. South Africa
  5. Romania
  6. Israel
  7. India
  8. Bhutan
  9. Myanmar
  10. Thailand
  11. Cambodia
  12. Vietnam
  13. Laos

Work In Progress

Right now, we are looking to affiliate ourselves with charities and NGOs that work in the above countries. We already have plans for just a few countries. For example, in Israel we will aid Yad Sarah, the largest voluntary organization in the country. They provide a spectrum of free or nominal cost services designed to make life easier for sick, disabled, and elderly people and their families, enabling them to stay in their homes and out of hospitals and institutions as long as possible (www.yadsarah.org).

Your Help and Advice

The rest of the locations are still open and we’d love your help and advice in choosing exemplary organizations and projects. We are most passionate about helping people. Our backgrounds are in finance and grant writing. We are also pretty competent caring for young children. Our family would need to be able to rent a place near the location we’d be working at. Please write us or leave a comment below with your ideas. We would especially appreciate you including the names of charities or NGOs that you have experience with. If you are part of the organization doing the volunteer hiring, please let us know in what capacity we would be working.