EDIE LYNCH – POTTERS ONE – MARCH 24, 2011
The world would be a much more agreeable place if there were a more just distribution of the world’s resources. Throughout the world there is an abundance of homelessness and poverty, hunger and emotional pain. It is becoming more impossible and at the same time more important than ever to talk meaningfully of a human being’s rights because rights are interpreted and carried out through individual and judicial processes in radically different ways in all corners of the globe causing countless people to have a poor quality of life much of their lives.
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for instance, it is a common known fact that thousands of homeless children are daily hunted and murdered by death squads each year. Some of these death squads – human rights agencies have found out are orchestrated by police and others are carried out by neighborhood residents who claim they just want to rid their streets from the elements of crime so that all the neighbors and businesses can remain safe. But is anyone safe when children are killed? Can anyone feel safe when society accepts that it is okay to rid itself of unwanted persons or obligations because it is too much trouble to fix the underlying reasons causing the annoying problems.
Aryeh Neier says that “the purpose of the democratic process is essentially to deal with two questions, public safety and the development and allocation of a society’s resources.”1 One has only to look around to understand that all over the world societies are failing miserably at taking care of its own people. Aryeh Neier believes that the critical social issues ought to be debated by everyone in the democratic process with the legislature representing the public and with the public influencing the legislature in turn. We all know that is the way things are supposed to work but that is not what is happening. Society isn’t doing its job.
There are individuals though that have been hugely successful in working out sensitive societal problems and one in particular comes to mind, Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian, who was the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations. Sadly, this beautiful human being was killed in the bombing of the Baghdad Embassy in Iraq in 2003. I had always hoped that Sergio would find his way back to Rio to help the homeless children there. Sergio was skilled working with people in all walks of life, from the common worker that he knew intimately to Kings and Presidents that he frequently visited. He knew how to see past all the problems and grasp the larger picture of achieving optimum results even with enormous obstacles – and he engaged himself, hands-on, on all the necessary tasks to accomplish the desired goals. Whether working on resolving civil wars in Mozambique or resettling residents in the repatriation of East Timor or Cambodia, Sergio was always about doing what was best for the people he represented. He was a man of high principles and he fought hard for his victories.
There is a story that one of his colleagues tells, Carolina Larriera, who worked with him in East Timor helping to reunite and resettle the residents after bitter, savage struggles. Sergio had just finished many long months of duties and had brilliantly accomplished the much wanted peace. He had bid farewell to all who had come to see him off at the airport and had climbed into his seat on the plane. As he pressed his face to the window as his comrades waved goodbye, Sergio burst into uncontrollable tears. His sobbing was real. He had fought so hard, and he had won. Truly won something wonderful for the East Timor people he represented – peace and freedom to live a decent life again. I love this story. It inspires me to do more than just think about the homeless people in the world. I want to help plant seeds that will help the homeless I encounter to have a more fruitful means of life.
I’ve thought long and hard about the role I can play about the injustice of homelessness and how I can help to make things different for some of the homeless. Perhaps in some small way I can begin to foster a movement that others will join -and together we can help move forward the idea that POTTERS ONE people (PEOPLE OF TENDER THOUGHTS EARNESTLY RENDERING SERVICE) can work in villages and in towns, and begin to be actually effective in cities around the world to help homeless people find mentors – to help them grow out of their homelessness.
The simple task of stopping to talk to a homeless individual, asking that person’s permission to photograph them with a flower and putting that photograph on a POTTERS ONE WEBSITE and asking the community of POTTERS ONE VIEWERS to help find that person a caring MENTOR can be an action we can all choose to take. Such a simple step helps to provide hope for the homeless individual and it is a step forward to putting them on the right path to succeed. This concept can really work.
Yasmine Omar, a psychotherapist who has thirty years of working with the public in New York City in both the public service environment and with private clients says, “There are four factors that are key to creating a healthy and successful life: (1) a sense of competence; being able to do something well (2) a sense of usefulness; having something to contribute (3) a sense of belonging; being part of a community and having relationships with caring adults and (4) a sense of power; having control over one’s future.
Everyone needs nurturing and, of course, talking to an individual for a few minutes takes time – and that time can literally be the life giving seeds that will spark growth. We are only talking about helping one person at a time, and nurturing with seeds of kindness and encouragement, seeds that can really take root.
For instance, I’ve asked Karen Zebulon the owner of a popular children’s boutique in Brooklyn, GUMBO, located at 493 Atlantic Avenue if she will accept one homeless woman as a regular student in one of her weekly sewing or jewelry classes. She has said YES. I am extremely encouraged by this as GUMBO is a comforting and welcoming place that hosts a multitude of classes including music, dance, crafts, infant CPR and safety, nutrition, and various Mom and Family Groups – all good things for a person needing a sense of belonging.
I am excited to report that I have found a church member and retired school teacher, Ruth Battle, who has agreed to sponsor a homeless woman for the sewing or jewelry classes at GUMBO. I will photograph Karen Zebulon with a flower and will post her picture saying she is A Potter’s One Friend And Mentor. I will do the same with Ruth Battle. And, of course, I will ask permission to photograph the woman, and post her story and picture with a flower to the first POTTERS ONE WEBSITE –saying, “I found my mentor and friend through Potters One.” I will be visiting the New York City Shelters to talk to women who are appropriate candidates for the classes at Gumbo and I have already been referred to interview several women who daily visit a Senior Citizens home in Brooklyn for lunch who I am told would be excellent candidates.
Just imagine what kind of life this little homeless boy in Rio can have if I can find him a caring mentor. Surely there is someone out there that will be a friend to this child.
I was inspired to do this project by witnessing a homeless woman on the subway (Michelle, who allowed me to take her picture. Note the first photo.) This grown woman was playing with dolls as a means of escaping the dread she felt of where she would sleep next. In speaking with her and hearing her story of being afraid of the public shelters because of the violence that occurs in them at night when darkness closes in, I could fully appreciate the need for an organization like POTTERS ONE.
The woman told me she had a Church where she could go for some hours on certain days but she was mostly without help or friends. I was unable to get this woman out of my mind after calling the Church the woman went to on occasion and finding that they did not have any mentoring or work programs other than a prayer line.
It sounds so simple – a mentoring program – but it could actually work, one person, one story at a time. It is important to get in touch with Women’s Groups internationally to do important networking. The U.S. State Department has a Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership3 where they connect emerging women leaders from all over the world with members of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders for a month-long internship program that convenes in Washington, D.C. I am currently contacting them so that I can be one of the mentees that meet with women leaders in government, business, academic, civil society and the media.
It is my understanding that participants are then paired with women leaders from major companies across the United States. Imagine the good that can come from thousands of women in Corporate America who agree to be a mentor to a homeless individual. I have met with Priti Radhakrishnan and Tahir Amin, noted Harvard Graduates who started their own Global Aids Foundation, I-MAK,4 to advocate for fair and accessible healthcare and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. I have spoken with them about my work with the homeless kids in Rio de Janeiro and my interest in continuing to work with the homeless in Brazil and in the States. They have encouraged me and have agreed to stay in touch and to let me know of potential interested contacts.
I have met with Celina, a Human Rights Activist working both in Rio and New York City with a Human Rights Organization and I will continue to meet with her to flush out my ideas and to illicit her help.
I will continue to talk to the homeless in New York City and to potential mentors in New York City to hook up interested people and I will naturally keep working to find mentors for the many homeless children I know and work with in Rio. The young homeless teen, below, could benefit from a friend and mentor. She spends her nights under a dirty and ugly viaduct – trying desperately to capture a few moments of tranquility. She said flowers help her to imagine that she will find beauty some day. Perhaps Potters One can help that day come sooner.
Ultimately, I envision caring individuals across the globe jumping on board to share their stories and networking on POTTERS ONE.
1 International Human Rights, Law, Politics Morals, 3rd Edition, Oxford Press, P. 284
3 U.S. Department of State, Bureau Of Educational And Cultural Affairs
Women’s Mentoring Partnership
4 I-MAK, Initiative For Medicines, Access & Knowledge