May 16, 2011

Our world and families in the days ahead

Today in America you have a 50% chance of living beyond 100 years. Those who are aging and living well make this mark with survival stories of resiliency by allowing the power of hopefulness to help them with setbacks in life, they overcome stress with success.  Another  key is having a network of care and love from families, friends and supportive communities. We need our families and beloved communities for long and healthy lives.
The United Nations set May 15, 2011 for the observance of the International Day of Families with a theme of "Confronting Family Poverty and Social Exclusion." It’s a call to recognize that families around the world are vulnerable especially given the persistence of violence, poverty and the uprising of natural disasters in an already unstable and unbalanced climate.  From my view convening a global or national dialogue on family requires a look beyond strategies of war, approaches to economic market stability or business as usual in search of policies and practices that mobilize resources to value, connect, unify and empower communities and families who are interconnected by blood lines across generations and living together, in close proximity through relationships and/or sharing physical location.  What’s the challenge?

“Social exclusion is often at the root of the problem. Discrimination and unequal access to social services deprive families of the opportunity to plan a better future for their children. Certain types of families are at particular risk, including large families, single-parent families, families where the main breadwinners are unemployed or suffer from illness or disability, families with members who suffer discrimination based on sexual orientation, and families living in urban slums or rural areas. Indigenous and migrant families, as well as those living through conflict or unrest, are also on the front lines of marginalization and deprivation.”  
Secretary-General's Message for 2011

The aftermath of earthquakes in Haiti and Japan show people struggling to find their children and other family members.  In Haiti the rising levels of cholera puts families and communities at risk for illness that without access to clean drinking water, nutrition and health care increases preventable deaths. In a technology meets volunteerism equals innovation, crisis mapping has helped bring response teams with resources to critical areas of the world.  A website and portal helps users “call for help” using mobile devices via email, sms and tweets to map locations of distress based.  Many countries like Hait don't have a 911 response system. Volunteers around the world have helped to develop the sophisticated system using Facebook, Twitter and Google maps with people on the ground to reconnect some children and families when geography seemed to be an impossible barrier. A vivid example showing the power and possibility of connection, for families around the world.

The recent devastation of tornadoes and floods in southern and mid-western parts of the United States have left many families homeless, disconnected and grieving the loss of loved ones.  Who will help them heal?  In her book, The Warmth of Other Suns” author Isabell Wilkerson tells the migration stories and now more so the return of African American families to their southern roots, which perhaps still remains tied to the search for relief from discrimination and racism. Yet, remarkable and significant progress has led to stunning diversity in America visible in neighborhoods, schools and the workplace, but also shows clear evidence of inequity at the cost of lives, comprising health and society. Here we have to continue the dialogue to realize for better outcomes for the future.

What can we do to strengthen our families?  We can take on acts of empathy, compassion and love without delay.

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