Friday, July 8, 2011

Immaculée Ilibagiza, Author of Left To Tell

Wayne Dyer talks about this inspirational true story.
I have come to know Immaculée very, very well over the past year—in fact, we communicate on a daily basis. She’s traveled with me, speaking on the same stage and telling her story to audiences that number in the thousands. We’ve talked privately for hour after hour about her experiences in the holocaust and her ambitions today, and I’ve spent time with her and her family. I’ve spoken with her co-workers and even her fellow genocide survivors, and she’s spent a great deal of time with my own children. I’ve conversed with her during long plane and train rides between lecture stops, and I’ve seen her stand before audiences large and small. In fact, I've come to love and admire her so much that I’ve dedicated my latest book, Inspiration, to her.

Despite the hideous display of humans’ inhumanity to each other that was taking place only a decade or so ago in the country of Rwanda, this is truly a love story in the purest sense of the word—a story of the triumph of the human spirit, a story of one woman’s profound faith and determination to survive (against literally impossible odds) in order to tell her tale and to be an agent for ushering in a new spiritual consciousness, and a story of a love for God that was so strong that hatred and revenge were forced to dissolve in its presence.

(Wayne Dyer Video with Immaculée)
Subtitled in Spanish

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Truly Selfless Being - Beautifully Inspiring Video

Olivia’s Healing Letters To A Girl Who Was Being Bullied

By Pamela J. Wells
Published on 7-6-11

Olivia Gardner and her mother, Kathleen Gardner.
While in the 6th grade at Sinaloa Middle School in Novato, Olivia Gardner suffered an epileptic seizure in school one day. Upon seeing this, her classmates called her retard. From that day forward Olivia would suffer endless bullying from her classmates over a two year period and three different schools.

She was called names and was tormented while she walked in the hallways at school. When Olivia transferred to Hill Middle School, the bullying escalated with students going out of their way to torment her. They even created a web site on MySpace entitled “Olivia Haters.”

Olivia then transferred to a private school in Novato, Marin Christian Academy, and had been going well for close to a year; and then, Olivia and her mother, Kathleen Gardner, reached out to help one of Olivia’s classmates who told them that her parents were abusing her. An investigation was started by child protective services and then word got out about Olivia’s family being involved in reporting it.

Allegedly, the girl had changed her story, telling her classmates that Olivia was trying to break-up her family. That is when the rumors began to spread. Olivia began receiving numerous emails and phone calls with some students even showing their hatred for her by wearing plastic bracelets that said, “I Hate Olivia,” on them.

Olivia felt rejected by her peers wherever she went, no matter where she lived or what school she was in. She withdrew more and more with each incident. The cafeteria lady started letting her eat her lunch behind the counter and she would hide between classes in bathroom stalls, because she would get beat-up. She started having anxiety attacks. Her mother went to school officials, the children’s parents, and even the authorities, but got no help. Many of the parents of the bullies told her mother that, “they didn’t have time for it”; that “it was just typical middle school behavior.” No one seemed to care.

Her mother pulled her out of private school and started homeschooling her. Olivia contemplated committing suicide to end the pain and suffering that became the norm in her life. Fortunately, those thoughts and feeling all changed when in March 2007, complete strangers and sisters, Sarah (14 years old) and Emily Buder (17 years old), read her story in a local newspaper. The sisters felt the pain that she was going through and, feeling compassion for Olivia, they decided to take action.

Olivia Gardner (right), Sarah (center) and Emily Buder (left)
at the San Rafael Community Center. Chronicle photo by
Brant Ward. Credit: Brant Ward
They came up with “Olivia’s Letters,” a letter writing campaign in which they encouraged their peers to take a moment of their time to write letters to Olivia offering their support. They expressed their messages for hope, healing, and understanding; inspiring her and letting her “know that she was not alone and that she had reason to believe in herself again.” All letters were screened by the sisters before giving them to Olivia.

Olivia’s P.O. box began to overflow with letters from thousands of others from around the world offering their heartfelt support and encouragement; including others, from children to adults, who had experienced bullying firsthand. She found solace in those letters of hope and healing.

An expert and an author on issues that adolescents are affected by, Rosalind Wiseman, said that parents are not always aware that their child is being bullied and that children will not always confide in them when this is happening. Her advice is that the warning signs that parents need to watch for are: isolation, losing friends, the avoidance of social situations, changes in appetite, and making excuses in order “to avoid going to school.”

She also said that parents should have open conversations with their children about the way that other people treat them; that they should always feel safe and never feel threatened by or uncomfortable around anyone.

Olivia now says that, “there are a hundred good people out there for every bad person.”

If you would like to show your support for Olivia, you can write to her at:

Olivia’s Letters
c/o Janet Buder
293 Corte Madera Ave.
Mill Valley, California 94941

Copyright © 2011 Pamela J. Wells. All Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Iqbal’s Spirit Did Not Die. It Found Its Way Through the Children That He Inspired

By Pamela J. Wells
Published on 7-4-11

“We have a slogan at school when children are freed. We all together say we are free. And I request you to join me today in raising that slogan here. I will say, “We are,” and you will say, “Free.”


Iqbal Masih was born in Muridke, Pakistan. He lived his young life, unfortunately as a child laborer, which began when he was just 4 years old. He lived in Pakistan with his family who needed money to pay for their eldest son’s wedding, so they borrowed 600 rupees (around $12) from a carpet factory owner who was rich and influential in their community. They exchanged their son, Iqbal, for the money.

The factory owner would not release Iqbal until the debt was paid; unfortunately the family could not afford to buy back their son. The owner always had the option to sell the boy or any of the other children to another factory owner if he so desired.

Iqbal and several other children were forced to squat before loom and weave carpet in the factory. These special carpets were sold on the world market for high prices. He worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He could not make mistakes or else the owner would add fines to the sum of what his parents owed. There was always the threat of the children getting a beating, or being hung by their legs for punishment in a back room. Many of them had visible scars on their hands and their feet from being whipped or struck with sharp metal tools or sticks because they had fallen asleep while at the loom. 

Many times, the children would accidentally cut themselves with the carpet knives and, to stop the bleeding, their wounds were dipped in hot oil, or matchstick powder would be put in their cuts by the foreman who lit them up so that the blood and skin would quickly bond together. Their main concern was getting the children back to work quickly.


At the age of 10, Iqbal knew he would remain indebted and enslaved to the carpet owner forever seeing that he would never have the money needed to pay off his family’s debt. The sum of the debt had reached 13,000 rupees, which had increased due to the charges for his lunch that he ate each day, a bowl of rice, and also fines for mistakes.

A human rights organization, Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), helped him “to escape and go to school.” He completed 6 years of school within 2 years. He joined BLLF, campaigned against child labor, and “became a world-renowned child rights activist.”

In 1994, at 12 years old, he traveled as a spokesperson for the BLLF throughout Europe and the U.S. speaking to children, who were the same age as him, about what he had went through as a child slave. He called for a boycott of the carpet industry in Pakistan and an end to child labor. 

One of the schools he had visited just before receiving his human rights award was Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, MA. After he had told his story, they asked him, “Why are you going to go home when you know you are in danger?” And, he said, “I need to finish what I started.”

In 1994, Iqbal attended a press conference in Stockholm, which the Swedish Industrial Union had organized. He told the reporters, “Now I am not scared of the factory owner. He is scared of me!” 

Later, that same year, he received the Reebok Human Rights Youth In Action Award in Boston. He had a carpet tool in one hand and a pencil in the other, standing in front of the audience, he began to speak of child labor and the horrors of it.

The audience rose to their feet as he told them, “We have a slogan at school. When children get free, we all together say, ‘We Are Free! We Are Free!’”

“We are…..,” he said, filling the room with his voice,
“Free!” the crowd shouted.
“We are…..,” he said again,
“Free!” the audience shouted again in-kind.

Iqbal helped thousands of children that were in bonded labor get released, which caused the Pakistani carpet industry to begin to wane. They had lost a lot of money from him speaking out. On April 16, 1995, on Easter Sunday, Iqbal was murdered in his native village while riding a bicycle. He was only 12-years old. 

Iqbal’s story had made such an impression on the students at Broad Meadows Middle School that they decided to take the anger over his murder and turn it into positive action, so they decided to raise money to build a school in Pakistan because they said that, that was his dream. Amanda Loo, a 13-year old student there, co-founded, with her classmates, “A School for Iqbal,” and in 1996, they eventually raised $150,000 and built a 5-room schoolhouse that would also be used as a community health center in Kasur, Pakistan, near Iqbal’s hometown. 

10 years after his death, “A School for Iqbal” raised enough money to build 8 schools around the world. Another program was also launched by the children’s organization that provides Pakistani women with loans “to buy back their children from slavery.”

Broad Meadows Middle School students testified before the Congressional Roundtable on Youth Activism in Washington, D.C. At the microphone is Meagan Donoghue, 8th grade. From left are USAID administrator Brian Atwood; Democratic Congressman William Delahunt, of Maryland; Katie Sault, 7th grade, and Elizabeth Bloomer, 7th grade.

Amanda and other classmates testified before Congress shortly before the schoolhouse was finished about what she had learned of child laborers. Amanda also joined an international cause, Global March Against Child Labour, and was flown by the garment-workers union, UNITE, to Geneva Switzerland, where she gave a speech against child labor.

Amanda said, “Once you meet kids who’ve been through this, you can’t just talk about it. You have to go out and do something.”

Copyright © 2011 Pamela J. Wells. All Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Indian Girls Given An Opportunity to Rise Above the Status Quo

By Pamela J. Wells
Published on 7-3-11

Sana Azmi wants to become a lawyer and Meena aspires to be a computer engineer. Both girls have high ambitions despite their socioeconomic status. They both live in the slums of New Delhi.

Sana has dreamed of becoming a lawyer for a longtime now, but a decision was made by her father, who is unemployed, to withdraw her from school when she turns 16. Her family could not afford to provide her an education. Also, her father’s focus was on getting her married soon, so he felt that too much education would interfere with her finding a “groom in their socioeconomic community.” Sana pleaded with her father to find a way to pay for her education, telling him that not having a “higher education she would be like an empty room.”

16 year old Meena has dreams of building “her own big business,” perhaps a Google someday. With hard work and determination she plans on completing and earning her computer engineering degree. Meena’s father is a day laborer. Half of his income was being spent on alcohol and he would always come home drunk at night. Meena was unable to do her homework, because he would be making so much noise. Meena was considered a liability to her father. He did not see any value in her education.

In India, the role of men in the family is that they are the primary economic earner, which results in them receiving more opportunities than women in education and skilled training. The role of women in the household is that of homemakers and caregivers. The opportunities that men are given, they are denied. A young girl is considered a burden. Fulfilling her destiny in her marital home as a homemaker is what is expected of her. The focus of her parents is in getting her married, so investing in a girl’s development and growth is seen as a waste of the family’s resources that could be more efficiently used elsewhere. The outcome of this is the restricted access of young girls to an education, mobility, and the outside world. A girl’s self-esteem is negatively impacted leaving, her with low self-confidence.

Despite these and the many other challenges that young girls face in India, there is hope, which has come forth by way of Saima Hasan, the founder of the Roshni Academy, a non-profit organization that identifies brilliant girls, such as Sana and Meena, who are living in socioeconomically underprivileged communities and trains and mentors them. Saima founded the organization while she was enrolled in Stanford in 2007 as a junior. In 7 districts of Delhi, as of June 2010, over 500 underprivileged girls lives had been transformed through the Roshni Academy.

The formula that Roshni uses is simple:
Empower smart girls with self-confidence, critical thinking skills, basic social skills, and life skills—and make them realize that they can succeed by working hard and taking risks. 

All of the girls at Roshni live below the poverty line; however, they undergo intensive educational studies over a period of six months with three training modules to maintain their top academic standing. There are 25 subjects in the curriculum, which ranges from conflict management to public speaking to hygiene. Additionally, students learn computer and internet basics. When the students have completed the training course, 60 of the top-performing students at Roshni are granted scholarships to pursue their secondary and college education, which is funded by the “Nurul Hasan Foundation.”
In India, the conditions that the poor live in are dire; but, there are also other parts of the world where people are living in poverty, under the same conditions, and where you will also find disfranchised youth, unfortunately; such as in certain parts of the U.S.: Durham, NC, or Harlem, NY, and in Silicon Valley, there is Oakland and East Palo Alto. In East Palo Alto, while tutoring students there, Saima Hasan came up with the idea for the Roshni Program. Next year, she hopes to start and develop an American version of the program in this area.

Sana’s parents stopped looking for potential grooms for her. Now, they support her and encourage her to finish high school and to continue her education at a university once she has received her degree. Meena’s father no longer drinks and is saving up money, working long hours, to pay for her education. He is proud of her and has hopes that someday she will be able to help lift them out of poverty.

                 In the photo on the right is Sana and the 
                 photo below is Meena on the computer 
                 with fellow students. Both girls are in the 
                 Highly Inspirational documentary video’s 

Copyright © 2011 Pamela J. Wells. All Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.