Tag Archive: modern practice

Maidan: The Ukrainian Revolution

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Eastern Europe Tags: , ,

By Marta Masnyi

After seven long, challenging, and cold months, the people of Ukraine finally achieved what they began protesting for – closer ties to Europe and a new president. It all started off on November 21, 2013. After hearing that the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, wanted to suspend preparations for signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, Ukrainians became unsatisfied. To show their disagreement with the chosen decision, people with the help of social networks began to organize themselves in the independence square in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. It started off with one person, and in a couple hours there were thousands. A week after the protests began, riot police were sent to beat students out of the square in the middle of the night. The next morning, tens of thousands of people came out to show their rage of the beating of innocent students and that is when Maidan started.

After the beating of the students, people were determined to stay in the independence square to the very end. There was a new purpose for the protests and that was to find democracy and dignity in Ukraine. Yanukovych did not want to lose his place as leader of a country, so every time he felt weak, he would send in riot police against the peaceful protesters in attempt to disperse them. First, the dispersing was a little more about pushing people around.Sure enough, slowly but surely the police became more violent each time. But the violence was not the only thing that grew, the unity of people had also expanded drastically. People of different cultures, nationalities, languages and religions gathered in the square for one reason. It was something unbelievable, that has never happened before. It was amazing how people organized themselves to work with others. If that had not happened, there would never be a success to this revolution.

Many of the people that came from different cities or countries did not have enough money to live in a hotel so they brought tents and set them up in the middle of the square. Soon, a tent city was in the process of development as millions of people gathered. In this city there were numerous tents, big and small, people, and a stage. Some of the examples of the tents were food and tea tents , health and church tents.

The food and tea tents always had people working in them. Surprisingly, these people came to volunteer from all over the country. The people working in here were mostly women, since the men signed up for battalions to protect their families, and their beloved nation from the riot police and corrupt government. The women gave up their free time to work in a kitchen and serve the people who lived at Maidan.These women made sandwiches, boiled large buckets of soup, and walked around the square with tea and biscuits, to help others stay warm. All sorts of women worked here, rich and poor. In a time of crisis, social status does not matter. One of the women who worked at the food tent is a pageant queen who won Miss Universe. Women who worked day to day jobs sometimes took a day off work and stayed an extra long weekend to help distribute food for everyone who roamed the square. One of my aunts had worked in the food tent many times. She said that it was an interesting job, but exhausting by the end of the day.

The Battalions of men began to start building up when the attacks of the riot police became more violent. Each battalion was built out of one hundred men. These men were aged from 18-70. Everyone who was in the hundreds signed up voluntarily. These men were not trained before hand and no one had any weapons. The fellows who signed up were aware that their life could end today. What kept these men and encouraged them to join was knowing that when this whole fiasco ends they would be the reason the Maidan survived this horrific battle.To make this clear, none of these men were paid. The only gain for them was in the end, when Yanukovych fled the country.

The church tents were man handled by priests, also from all across the country. People could go pray here for peace and to successfully battle against the corruption. The medical tents first started off with a few volunteers who were trained with first aid, but as events escalated to more violence, the number of volunteers increased exponentially. Several doctors from different regions willingly gave up their time to treat people who became sick or were beaten viciously. During the bloodiest week of the fight for democracy, women ran around no-man’s land and tried to save lives of people who were extremely close to dieing.

Soon enough, a new tent was being set up. This tent held the donations that were being collected from all over the country and the world. Some examples of items donated included: warm clothes (coats, shirts, pants, socks, shoes) since it was winter, food for people to not starve, medical supplies (pills, needles, Celox) to treat people, helmets for safety, blow-up mattresses to sleep on, etc. The most helpful factor, other than the amount of people who demonstrated, was money. This money was used to buy material for the battalions to protect themselves from the weapons the riot police used. It was also used to buy treatment that was available in Ukraine for a cheaper price.

The people in the country connected like never before! Everybody did everything they could, even sacrifice themselves in hope of a better future for their beloved nation. People who visited Maidan for the weekends brought many donations. As soon as Ukrainians over the world saw that their country was in desperate need of help, they began to fundraise as much money as possible, to help their brothers and sisters. When this became a world problem, it was remarkable to see people around the entire world begin to support the brave Ukrainians.

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The Practice of Zakat in Sudan

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in North Africa Tags: ,

By Mayuri Thiageshwaran

Zakat, a compulsory practice for Muslims, is mandated by Allah for all adult able-bodied and well-off Muslims to donate 2.5 percent of their income annually to those who face challenges in regards to living in poverty or in relatively poor communities. Zakat is included as part of one of the five pillars in Islam, and its importance is readily emphasized. This practice symbolizes gratitude by refraining individuals from using their wealth in an unjust manner or for sinful actions. As Zakat Advisor (2014) states, “the word “Zakat” means purification because it helps to purify, since one would be setting aside money to help others and also helps to keep Muslims who are wealthy from sin” (p.1). Furthermore, Muslims are taught and encouraged through the Qur’an to donate voluntarily, as it is called Sadaqah (Charity) (Ummah Welfare Trust, 2014).

In the country of Sudan, the practice of Zakat was implemented in their law in 1990 as it plays a key importance in social unity and social security (Bryon, 2013). In addition the custom of Zakat is also practiced in countries such as Malaysia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan (Bryon, 2013). The practice of Zakat is not only to contribute to those in underprivileged communities but also to fight poverty and aid in merging social safety nets in regions that it is increasingly essential for. As Zakat Advisor (2014) states, “Sudan is considered to be one of the most impoverished countries in Africa, due to drought and decades of war that has ravaged much of the country” (p.1). Sudan is a foundered home to refugee populations, where it houses over 300,000 refugees on the border of Sudan who agonize from malnourishment, poverty, exploitation and human trafficking (Zakat Advisor, 2014).

Due to the practice and donations contributed to Zakat, Sudan has increasingly done well as a country to help those who are labeled as disabled individuals, refugees, poor students, individuals who face homelessness, orphans, mentally ill individuals, individuals who struggle with health conditions and the severely poor (Bryon, 2013). The government has also granted individuals of these groups with free health insurance (Bryon, 2013). Through the total collection of Zakat, the government of Sudan has set aside 32 million of Sudan’s Zakat to aid in natural disasters, along with donating funds to those who struggle with starvation of being unable to grow crops and agriculture due to living in desertification (Bryon, 2013). To those who earn a income of more than 1,500 per month, the 2 percent of Zakat is involuntarily withdrawn. Between 2011-2012 700 million Sudanese pounds was collected through the practice of Zakat (Bryon, 2013).

In conclusion, the practice of Zakat brings forth the unity of a country as seen in Sudan, who are helping those in need. The teaching of charity is evident as it instills the concepts of giving back to those who are in need. Islam is one of the religions where the act of charity is considered one of the highest merits as it exemplifies a person’s generosity to donate through their own benevolence and maintain the harmony within a community.

Works Cited

Bryon, A. (2013, December). Zakat ensures social cohesion. Retrieved from http://www.worldfolio.co.uk/region/africa/sudan/zakat-the-islamic-practice-sudan-n2603

Ummah Welfare Trust. (2014). What is Zakah? Retrieved from http://www.uwt.org/site/article.asp?id=172

ZakatAdvisor. (2014). What is Zakat. Retrieved from http://www.zakatadvisor.com/#!whatiszakat/cjg9

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The Bayanihan Spirit after Typhoon Haiyan

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in South East Asia Tags: ,

By Donna Webb

In the Philippines, the idea of Bayanihan, working together towards a common goal for the benefit of the whole community, shapes the country’s core values. According to the World Giving Index 2012, the Philippines is the second most charitable country in Southeast Asia. In 2012, the Philippines’ giving behaviour in terms of volunteering time increased to 44 per cent, up from 41 per cent in 2011.

The Filipino tradition of volunteering can best be illustrated by the outpouring of compassion for victims following the devastating typhoon 11 months ago. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. United Nations agencies reported that the storm killed 6,340 people and left 4.1 million people homeless.

In the aftermath of the storm, local doctors were stirred to take collective action. Dr. Evangeline Cua, a surgeon from the Western city of Iloilo sent out an urgent message on Facebook appealing for donations to dispatch a medical team to hard-hit Tacloban City. Donations poured in and within 24 hours, she had received enough funds to dispatch a team of nine volunteers with medical supplies.

The Church played a major role in providing relief and recovery. Not only did the Filipino community turn to the church for spiritual comfort, but the church also served as a physical shelter for the sick, wounded and displaced. Dr. Cua and her team set up a makeshift medical bay in the Church of the Redeemer where they treated people with infected wounds, respiratory and GI infections, and skin lesions.

What accounts for the Catholic Church’s social influence in the Philippines? The answer lies in the country’s colonial history. In 1565, the Spanish landed in the Philippines, established settlements and quickly converted the majority of the Filipino population to Christianity. The Catholic Church’s role was not limited to providing spiritual guidance; it also provided access to social services such as education and health care.

While the Church offered hope after the storm, the Bayanihan spirit drove local people to band together, support the victims, and rebuild the community. It explains why Dr. Cua reached out to the community and the world via Facebook. It explains why a doctor who was accustomed to the safe confines of a private hospital would brave debris-strewn roads and expect nothing in return. It explains why she decided to go, even after her sister pleaded with her to stay because of security issues.

“How could I go on with my life when I know that people are suffering and I could actually do something to help and not go there? I thought, at that time, that it’s our moral obligation as a human being to extend help,” she said.

Works Cited

The Bayanihan Spirit: Dead or Alive – Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 7:91-105 (1979)


World Giving Index 2012


History of the Philippines


Philippines Aid begins at home: Social Media helps local people prevent spread of illness following Typhoon Haiyan (The Independent)


Typhoon Haiyan After Action Report: Local Physicians Give First-hand Findings (Emergency Physicians International)


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Beit Al – Yateem, a Druze Orphanage

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Dida Raouda

Since the beginning of time people have used religion to help guide them through life. There are many different religions out there with different religious paths that all eventually lead up to the same end result, which is a higher power that we look up to (in most cases). Some religions are more common than others and are very well established around the world such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In 1017 the Druze faith branched off the Islamic faith and was established. (Wikipedia, 2014) The Druze faith is a relatively small Middle Eastern religious sect characterized by its close-knit identity and distinctive faith. They are a monotheistic religious and social community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan and account for approximately 2,000,000 of the world’s population. (Wikipedia, 2014) The Druze beliefs incorporate elements from Abrahamic religions as well as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism and other philosophies creating a distinct theology known to highlight the role of the mind and truthfulness. (Britannica, 2014)

Conversion into this religion is not permitted, so due to the smaller extent of the people in this faith it is important that they have a strong support system for one another in order to maintain strength and posterity. One of the many things the Druze do for their community is support and fundraise for an orphanage with has now become a non – profit Druze organization with a social philanthropic institution for public services called Beit Al – Yateem.
This facility was established by Arif Al – Nakadi who had a great deal of passion for assisting those in need. With little support from the Lebanese social welfare service at first, Mr. Nakadi received the majority of the funds as a loan from the bank, and collateral of his personal properties. (Druze, 2014)

This project was financially very unsteady for Mr. Nakadi, but over the past thirty years the Druze Orphanage with the assistance of private and corporate donors the Orphanage now owns the main building along with the new administration and schooling buildings. The orphanage provides boys and girls who have no family or come from broken homes with housing, nourishment, clothing and schooling. The Orphanage now owns seven buildings in which 900 children are cared for. (Druze, 2014)

The Druze community is very supportive of their own people and has provided much assistance in maintaining the foundation for the Orphanage. I am of Druze faith and we host many events at our community center along with many Druze people in different cities or communities. This Orphanage has always been a focus of ours along with many other Druze foundations. During our events much of our proceeds are donated to the Orphanage, along with clothing drives which take place in hopes to provide these children with bright futures and the tools for great opportunities. (Druze, 2014) This summer I had the opportunity to visit this Orphanage with my family and it was such a blessing to see how strong of a community and belief system we have in order to work together and give these children the opportunities and care they have, otherwise who knows where they could have ended up based on their circumstances.

Works Cited

Druze Orphanage. (2014). Retrieved September 19, 2014, from:


The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2014).Druze. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/172195/Druze
Wikipedia. (2014). Druze. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druze

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Prerna Residential School for Girls

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in India Tags: , ,

By Louise Malhota

In India, a recent charitable act by one single nun is helping to change the lives of many of the countries’ most unfortunate girls who were born into the Dalit (or “untouchables”) caste.
The caste social system originated in an ancient Hindu text, called the Laws of Manu (circa 200 BC) that divided society into 4 main social classes or “castes”. These were Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants) and the lowest ranking caste, Shudras (servants). The Dalits were the lowest sub-category of the Shudras, and historically they were treated poorly, had little to no health care or education, and were segregated from other castes except for their “jobs” as cleaners of latrines and waste.

India’s new constitution in 1950 banned caste discrimination, and modernization and a more mobile society has greatly diminished the caste-based societal structure in today’s India. Intercaste marriages take place, and Dalits do hold prominent positions in modern society. However, caste discrimination is still quite rampant in more impoverished rural areas that make up 70% of India’s population . Furthermore, women are even more disadvantaged as they are seen as inferior to males. Rural Dalit girls are given few opportunities for education and are frequently married off young (typically around ages 12-14).

Into this societal context, a Catholic nun named Sudha Varghese opened the Prerna School for Girls in 2006 in the impoverished Mushahar (“rat eaters”, the lowest sub-sect of Dalits) area of Bihar state. Prerna means inspiration in Hindi. A second school opened in 2012. The schools now house 225 girls. The schools provide a safe place for education, as well as shelter, food, clothes and lessons in hygiene and health for the Dalit girls.
These remarkable schools exist mainly due to Sudha’s exemplary philanthropic efforts. Indeed, she gave up her family home and dedicated her life to her Prerna mission, becoming a nun as it was the sole occupation that allowed her to live as single independent woman alone in the community she wanted to help. She immersed herself in the Mushahar culture for 25 years, gaining their trust, and targeting the mothers with her educational message as they were key in allowing their girls to be educated versus married off young. Finally, in terms of funding, Sudha was instrumental in attaining the money to open, and continue operating, her schools.

According to the Globe and Mail’s Stephanie Nolen, the budget is “totally random. She asks government for the operating budget of the schools and they give it. Then sometimes random other money comes from European charities, from benefactors, now from Globe Readers. The make up of those donations is never consistent or predictable….and varies constantly” . Ms. Nolen goes on to explain that Sudha must harass the government for the funding, whom Sudha believes have a huge obligation to focus on Dalit education, particularly with India’s focus on becoming a global super-economy and eradicating any international perception as a culture with lingering gender and caste biases. For voluntary donations, initially Sudha singlehandedly sought out financial and labour support from her community, and her family (who helped despite their feelings her project was “crazy” ). Now, she just accepts gratefully for voluntary donations that come in due to the awareness and success of her venture, but they are not well organized or planned. And more troubling, a website opened by one of Sudha’s friends in the USA “narigunjan.org” now seems to be run by someone “sketchy” and the money never goes to Sudha, according to Ms. Nolen.

The future of the Prerna Schools is bright but uncertain. Some students have now graduated and broken the cycle of poverty in their families. But with a funding base dependent on an unreliable state government, and unpredictable voluntary donations, Ms. Nolen believes it is crucial for SOMEONE to help Sudha develop a strategy for long-term success. Given what Sudha has accomplished virtually on her own, it is inspiring and hopeful to think that with more philanthropic strategy and support, not only will the lives of many Dalit girls be changed for the better, but also the societal beliefs about caste and gender discrimination may be eradicated for good.

Works cited

Phone interview with Ashok Malhotra, father-in-law, Sept 21/2014.

Nolen, Stephanie. Breaking Caste – Globe and Mail series, December 2, 2011 (“Remarkable School Gives Girls From The Bottom Of India’s Caste System New Hope”)

Email exchange with Stephanie Nolen, South America Bureau Chief, Globe and Mail, Sept 22/2014.

Nolen, Stephanie. Breaking Caste – Globe and Mail series, December 2, 2011 (“Remarkable School Gives Girls From The Bottom Of India’s Caste System New Hope”)

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The Smile Foundation: Giving the Gift of a Smile

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Africa Tags: , ,

by: Giuseppina Marchese

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” – Denis Waitley

South Africa is a nation with a rich history of philanthropy. Many charities in South Africa are based around the idea of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a word used to describe the notion that a person cannot exist without the help of their community; “I am; because of you” (May). Although the concept of Ubuntu has been around for centuries, it was introduced to the Western world in the 1990’s through the writings of Cape Town archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela was asked to define Ubuntu in a 2006 interview where he described it as being a traveler passing through a village and not having to ask for food or water because, just by stopping in a village, the villagers would give him the nourishment that he needed (May). Ubuntu reminds me of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” in the sense that if a child is to grow and mature they will need the help of family and friends, teachers and principals, doctors and many other members of their community. The child will be because of the help of these people, Ubuntu.

The Smile Foundation is one of many South African charities that are based on the concept of Ubuntu. Started in 2000 as the Smile Fund, it came about when a parent wrote many letters to Nelson Mandela asking for his help to send their child overseas for Facial Reanimation surgery to correct the child’s facial paralysis (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The Lubner family became involved and saw a potential for growth in the South African medical community. They brought the doctors who were performing these surgeries to South Africa to train South African doctors so that other children could benefit from the cosmetic procedure (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The non-profit organization was renamed in 2013 as the Smile Foundation. Working with many South African doctors and nurses, the Smile Foundation literally puts smiles on the faces of children (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). They are allowing these children the gift to enjoy their childhood without being teased and tormented for their physical appearance. Because of this, I believe the Smile Foundation embodies the idea of Ubuntu. In a world that puts so much emphasis on physical beauty, these children would probably not be able to blossom to their full potential if not for the work of this foundation. They are saving the children from a lifetime of being teased and bullied, therefore helping them build their self-esteem and one day growing up to be successful adults.
Ubuntu has helped to make South Africa a better place. This concept of philanthropy was the basis to the Smile Foundation and who knows how many other South African charities. All nations should adopt the concept of Ubuntu: “I am; because of you.” People would be more inclined to give if they saw their donation as a thank you for all the work the community has done for them.

Works Cited
How smile foundation began. (2014). The Smile Foundation. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.smilefoundationsa.org/about-us/how-smile-foundation-began/
May, K.T. (2013, December 9). I am, because of you: Further reading on Ubuntu. Tedblog. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from http://blog.ted.com/2013/12/09/further-reading-on-ubuntu/

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Armenian Philanthropy

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in Diaspora communities Tags: , ,

By Araxi Arslanian

Armenia adopted Christianity as it’s faith in the 4th Century (Payaslian, 2007), and thus boasts the longest tradition of structured Christian philanthropy. Today the Armenian spirit of giving is alive and well (Libaridian, 2004). Armenia is a created state, like Israel. The Diaspora maintain their identity not only through their faith and language, but through their philanthropy (Dobuzinskis, 2005).. Read the rest of this entry >>

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Symbolic Gift of Food, and Muslim Inspiration

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Linda Innes

The Muslim tradition of sharing sacrificial meat with relatives and friends, and the poor and the needy, occurs during the religious celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the “Greater Eid” or “Festival of Sacrifice”, which is observed annually from the 10th to the 12th of the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Read the rest of this entry >>

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Ramadan in Somalia

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in West Africa Tags: , ,

By: Marian Ali

How many times have you walked right passed a homeless person on the street? By being busy with our lives and always heading somewhere, we most often become un-intentionally desensitized to seeing people starve.

The Islamic religion allows a space for Muslims around the world to remember and empathize with those less fortunate than them. Read the rest of this entry >>

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Philanthropy in Russia

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in Western Europe Tags: , ,

By Nadia Ahee

Only recently did the concept of charity emerge in Russian culture. According to Gazetta (2011), as little as 20 years ago, charity did not need to exist because the Soviet government took care of its “less-fortunate” citizens. As a consequence of this, the more fortunate citizens did not feel the need to interfere with these social services.

It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the majority of social services were shut down and there became an absolute need for charity. Read the rest of this entry >>

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