“I was waiting in the living room for my appointment with Shakuntala Devi, who was speaking with another visitor in the bedroom.”

Why is it that no matter how famous Indians get, they always want to ply their trade in a bedroom?

3 Unique Ways to Lend a Hand to A Syrian In Need

Jillian York,  who describes herself as a “writer and activist focused on the intersection of technology and policy” compiled a detailed and informative list of charities sending aid to Syrians caught in the crossfire of a civil war.

I found three ways to help that are interesting, and therefore more likely to be shared!

Mercy USA’s Mother & Child Health Clinic (4-star charity, 96.2% of expenses go toward aid)

Staffed by two doctors and two nurses, this clinic in an Aleppo hospital serves 750 patients a month, including expecting mothers, laboring women, newborn babies, and children in need of vaccinations.  In addition, food, baby formula, and hygiene items are given to patients, free of charge.  It is entirely funded by donors, and provides vital care to the most vulnerable.  Here’s how to help.

Hand in Hand for Syria – (not listed on, but featured in the news)

Here is one of the few organizations able to work inside Syria.  This does two things; first, this alleviates suffering for those Syrians living in the worst conditions of all: like their refugee counterparts, they lack sufficient food, medical equipment, and hygiene products, but in addition, they live in extreme danger.  Second, distributing aid within Syria makes conditions more bearable, which may help stem the tide of refugees.  This, in turn, means less pressure on host nations, and more resources per refugee.

They provide:

  • Emergency & routine medical care
  • Regular supplies of food to hungry families inside Syria, including rice, sugar, flour, bread & tinned foods,
  • Hygiene kits and water-purification support to people struggling to live in very difficult conditions.
  • Reading materials to children still developing reading skills
  • Aid to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan & Turkey
They even develop community empowerment  projects that “promote dignity and prevent the cycle of helplessness.”

Here’s how to help.

Small Projects Istanbul’s Scholarship Fund (not listed on, but featured in the news)

“Everyone wants to rebuild Syria, but without offering sufficient education in the camps, rebuilding will cost ten more years, just to train the necessary professionals.”  I was in the car, thinking about the teaching career I’ve planned when I heard a young Syrian man say this through an interpreter on the radio.  Enter Small Projects Istanbul’s scholarship program!  According to their website, they are “a group of volunteers who came together out of a desire to help refugees from Syria restart their lives in Istanbul.”  Although school in Turkey is free, there are still costs involved, just like public school in the US is free, but you still have to buy your own shoes to get there.

Here’s what they say about their progress so far: “The scholarship funding comes 100% from individual donations and thanks to our amazing supporters, 60 children have already been enrolled through this program.”  Here’s how to help.


International News

The phone vibrated slightly as the screen yawned to luminescent life. “9 dead in India bus crash,” the “alert” read.

It was both startling, and infuriating. If news alerts had forms, this one would be an intelligent but completely untrained eight-year-old boy, running up to me as I was having my tea and reflecting, knocking over a vase and easel, to breathlessly sputter out some grotesquely inappropriate thing he had seen by the creek. If news alerts had forms, I would have slapped this one with a wet sea bass.

Whoever published the alert is, hopefully, an adult. I am an adult. Why am I, a thousand miles away from India, being told this? What could I possibly do that would outweigh the efforts of the local townspeople? Do I speak Hindi? Do I know the mayor? Do I even know to whom I would address a letter of outrage over the bus company’s gross incompetence and dubious safety record?


I am from Trenton, New Jersey. I know the mayor, the governor, and the library director, and I want to be inundated with alerts every time they even so much as misaddress a postcard.

I want to know exactly who signs the checks for Trenton Central High School’s $100m “reconstruction.” I want to know Thomas Jefferson Elementary School’s test scores, pre and post-razing. I want an alert every time Charles McKenna says or does anything. I want to know what Mayor Eric Jackson is doing to wrest my city from the tentacles of tyranny and avarice – from the corner, to the courthouse. I want to know every comment Governor Christie makes about “that school” from his gold-domed office in ‘that’ city.

I want to be told every time President Barack Hussein Obama signs an executive order authorizing the killing of American citizens, on American soil. I want to know how many Americans were killed today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Planned Parenthood. I want to know how many Lakotas froze to death today in their own ancestral homeland. I want to know how many “enemies” we hated enough to kill by computer, but not enough to condemn in court. I want to know how many birth certificates were recorded today with only one adult name.

Every time I receive a news alert about something I cannot change, I lose sight of another thing I can.