Adoptive Mom Helps ‘Give Birth’ to Families

Becky Fawcett considers her infertility a blessing. But it wasn’t always that way. Desperate to be a mother, Fawcett endured five rounds of in vitro fertilization and three miscarriages before she and her husband Kipp adopted their first child in 2005. Now, the proud mother of 5-year-old Jake and 18-month old Brooke, says that no matter how one becomes a mother, “it’s a miracle.”

But the costs for adopting in the United States can be steep. While foster care adoptions are often under $2,500, licensed private agency adoptions or independent adoptions can total more than $40,000. After Fawcett and her husband experienced those high costs firsthand, they dedicated themselves to alleviating some of the expenses for other adoptive parents. In 2005, the couple was sitting in their lawyer’s office going over the paperwork for Jake’s adoption, which cost about $40,000. It struck Fawcett that many loving and fit parents couldn’t adopt a child if they didn’t have a lump sum of cash at their disposal. “I sat there and thought if … I was told that I was not going to be a mother because I couldn’t afford adoption, I don’t even know what I would have done,” said Fawcett, 40. “I don’t know who I would have turned to for help. It just hit me. I knew how lucky we were.”

With their own savings and support from family and friends, Fawcett and her husband created Helpusadopt.org. Since 2007, the group has awarded more than $300,000 in financial assistance toward adoption expenses. Couples and individuals who submit applications to Helpusadopt.org come from all walks of life and are already in the process of adopting a child.

For Fawcett, it was important that her organization help all families regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or marital status. “Our applicants … are amazing. They are hardworking, educated Americans who just don’t have $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 sitting in the bank at the time they go to have children,” Fawcett said. “Some have graduate degrees. They have great jobs. They are in some cases fighting to protect our country. They are public school teachers. They are doing whatever it takes to pay for this adoption on their own, but they’re coming up short. And that’s where Helpusadopt.org comes in.”

Grants range from $500 up to $15,000 and help with costs related to domestic, international, foster care and special needs adoption. Those can include fees for a lawyer, social worker visits, travel, or legal and medical expenses for the birth mother. And in the cases of international adoptions, there can be orphanage and country fees involved. “We wanted to give sizeable grants that would be life-changing,” Fawcett said. “Building families — that’s what we do.”

The Fawcetts, along with a grant-selection committee comprised of five trusted friends and colleagues, sift through the applications to decide who will receive grants. They review applicants’ financials and the amount that they’re requesting, as well as applicants’ personal statements highlighting special considerations, adoption experiences or what inspired them to adopt. Grants are awarded two times per year. Fawcett and her group write the checks directly to the service providers, such as the lawyer or agency facilitating the adoption. Checks are never written directly to adoptive families.

In 2008, a couple from Nebraska, both working professionals with full time jobs, had saved up money for their first adoption. Then they learned that their adoption agency was raising its fees by roughly $7,000. “We had no idea where we were going to come up with the extra money,” they said. After learning about Helpusadopt.org online, the couple applied for a grant in April 2008. Five weeks later, the couple received a call from Fawcett — they had been chosen as one of the group’s first grant recipients. They were awarded a $7,500 grant to help cover their agency fees. In November 2008, they welcomed their daughter Delaney home. They credit Helpusadopt.org with making their family possible.

Fawcett runs the organization fulltime out of her New York City apartment. While she and her husband are the largest private donors, the group’s funding also comes from other donations, special events, and online bracelet sales. “I think about people becoming mothers every living, waking moment of my life. And no matter how you’re doing it, I’m always hoping for other people’s successes,” said Fawcett. “To those seeking adoption … there is a happy moment at the end of your story. It takes us all a long time to get there, but it’s worth the wait.”

Check out CNN’s video coverage and interview with Becky Fawcett @ http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/05/19/cnnheroes.becky.fawcett/index.html.

Want to get involved? Check out Helpusadopt.org’s website at www.helpusadopt.org and see how to help.

Source: http://www.cnn.com

Kenya’s Kibera School: A Place Where Girls Matter

When an American college student forms a friendship with a homegrown activist in one of Kenya’s largest slums, their work together brings much-needed help to a community of girls who faced danger daily. The Kibera School for Girls is providing little girls with the chance of their lives—a refuge from abuse and hunger.

Dreams are a luxury few can afford in Kenya’s largest slum. That is, until you turn the corner, walk down a small alleyway and arrive at a bright pink and blue makeshift building. Little girls in bright red sweaters and bright blue skirts are running around, giggling and playing, indoors and out. And when you look at the mud on their shoes, or the tin houses that surround the school, you come to realize that 60 little girls are getting the chance of their lives and they know it. This is the Kibera School for Girls – a refuge from abuse and hunger.  (http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/projects/ksg/

Girls in Kibera generally don’t have a lot of reason to sing or play. Like most young girls in extreme poverty all over the world, they have little value in their communities. They mostly can’t afford school and are highly vulnerable to sexual crime and HIV. (http://www.girlup.org/) If they are lucky enough to have access to a school, and to stay there, girls have less risk for exposure to HIV, are less likely to get married early or get pregnant, and are more likely to fight for their own rights, raise healthy children of their own and enter the workforce. This very concept has been highlighted in a compelling campaign by the NIKE foundation. (http://www.girleffect.org/video) “The Girl Effect” campaign argues that girls can be game changers in the economic development of a country if they get help them bypassing the extreme challenges they face from birth. It’s also what many other organizations including CARE, are focused on entirely. (http://www.care.org/)

In many communities where resources are already stretched to the breaking point, girls are generally last in line. But simple interventions can have profound impacts. The school featured in NBC’s Making a Difference report has taught the community to invest in the education of their girls. The families invest in their girls’ education, and contribute time to the school and, by doing so, the entire family receives health care, access to clean water and even clean toilets they don’t have to pay to use.

One of the co founders of the Kibera school for girls, Kennedy Odede reported: “People see hope and people are really surprised. And most are overwhelmed, because it’s unbelievable. There’s no way an organization in the slum can be able to do this amazing thing, you know. There’s no way our girls could get an education. No way to get a health clinic. What I really love is that I kind of show a hope to those who are hopeless, who never went to school. There’s a better life for you.”

He should know.  He’s from there.  He grew up watching the young girls around him sell sex for food. And that’s why the school is one of the most remarkable places I have ever visited.  The founders not only continue to teach the community that girls have value but they have also given these little girls a safe place to dream.  As Kennedy said,” They have passed through horrors. I am welcoming them back to a world they never lived in, to a world where they are important.”

To find out more visit: http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/projects/ksg/

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com

Photos of the Day

Source: http://www.ciracar.com

Aspiring 7-Year-Old Astronaut Wins Doodle 4 Google Contest

Matteo Lopez’s doodling talent won him the fourth annual Doodle 4 Google contest, along with a $15,000 scholarship for college and a $25,000 technology grant for his school. The competition, which is open to kids aged K-12, celebrates the creativity and artistic talent of children around the country and this year asked kids to answer the question, “What I’d like to do someday…” Since Matteo is an aspiring astronaut, it’s only natural that his doodle would feature a trip to space, aliens, a meteor and an astronaut on the moon.

Matteo’s entry was selected from 107,000 total submissions and was featured on Google’s home page last Friday. The entries were judged on artistic merit, creativity, how well the theme was expressed and its adherence to the supporting statement. Judges included Whoopi Goldberg, “Garfield” creator Jim Davis, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, and others.

Matteo and 39 other finalists were flown to New York City for the awards ceremony and winner announcement. In an interview with the TODAY Show, Matteo said, “I drew with color pencils and drew it for three weeks and threw out lots of paper until I got it perfect.” The doodles of the 40 finalists are on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art until June 16 and also at SFMOMA until July 19.

Source: http://www.parenting.com

Movie Effects Crew Designs Mermaid Suit for Double Leg Amputee

The movie effects team at Weta (a multi-award winning conceptual design and physical manufacturing facility servicing the world’s entertainment and creative industries) have recently completed work on a rather unusual project – creating a fully functional Mermaid tail for Auckland woman named Nadya Vessey, who is a double leg amputee. Weta has donated staff time and expertise into making the tail, and Vessey has been able to cover the costs of the materials from a grant that she received from the Kerr-Taylor Foundation Trust.

The unique articulated construction of the tail will allow Vessey to propel herself through the water with an undulating movement as if she was a mermaid. Every aspect of the tail has been custom made to Vessey’s body using a blend of 3D modeling and milling technology, combined with Vi Vac vacforming, and a poly carbonate spine and tail fin. The skin of the tail has been made from a layer of neoprene and a lycra outer-layer digitally printed with a stunning ‘scale’ pattern that was designed by one of the concept artists.

Vessey was born with a condition that meant her legs would never develop properly, but began swimming after she had her first leg amputated at seven. Despite having her other leg amputated at 16, she swam competitively in high school and now swims as often as she can. Vessey says she is thinking of using the tail to help her complete the swimming section of a triathlon. “I thought rather than just having it as a plaything, I would take it further.” Vessey, who is in her 50s, was inspired to get a tail a few summers ago after an encounter at the beach. “A little boy came up and started asking all the `why’ questions about my legs (she was removing her prosthetic legs),” she says. Rather than having to go through the logistics of amputation with a four-year-old, Vessey said: “Do you know about the Little Mermaid? “He said he did, so I told him: `Well I’m a mermaid’.”

Source: http://www.wetanz.com

Starting Life Again at 80, Old Friends Ride Motorcycles Cross-country One Last Time

With more than three million hits on YouTube, an advertising company for a bank in Japan produced a mini-documentary about elderly men who revive their broken lives by taking a cross-country trip on motorcycles.

Remarkable Rainbow Cloud Towers Over Mount Everest

Hovering in the sky, a rainbow cloud over Mount Everest took an astonished astronomer by surprise. Oleg Bartunov, a fellow at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute in Moscow, caught the spectacle on camera during a Himalayas expedition in Nepal. His two images show almost the whole spectrum of the rainbow in a natural event rarely recorded at Mount Everest.

The phenomenon is caused by light reflecting off tiny ice crystals inside the body of the cloud’s water vapor. “I only took a couple of shots as I was overwhelmed with feelings and wanted to see everything with my eyes and prolong the moment,” Mr. Bartunov said.

When he witnessed the event he could hardly believe his eyes, so he asked others nearby to confirm that it really was a rainbow cloud. “There was a group of elderly English women there. I told them to look at the clouds and they started to moan and sigh and started to photograph the clouds with their small photo cameras. Later I asked many local people who were there if they saw these clouds,” he added. “Not many had seen them before either, so it must be a very rare event. If this was the 60s I could have sworn it was some kind of album by The Beatles.”

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Amazing Time Lapse Video of Milky Way

Terje Sorgjerd, the photographer behind the viral video The Aurora, has done it again. Here, Sogjerd captures the Milky Way over El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain. Filmed between April 4 and April 11, 2011, the individual frames were shot using a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 17mm TSE, Canon 16-35mm II, Canon 24/1.4II, and Sigma 12-24mm.

Women Who Were Best Friends for 16 Years Discover They are Long-Lost Sisters

Best friends for 16 years, two women discover that they are half-sisters after Alison, right, tracked down her birth mother.

Best friends for 16 years, two women discover that they are half-sisters after Alison, right, tracked down her birth mother.

Two best friends who have known each other 16 years have made an amazing discovery: they are sisters. Alison Slavin, 41, and Sam Davies, 43, found they share the same father after adopted child Alison tracked down her biological mother.

The pair from Bristol, UK never suspected they were related despite living remarkably similar lives – they look alike, have similar taste in clothes, both work as nannies, have two children and live less than a mile apart. Alison made the discovery when a friend helped her trace her birth mother, who revealed her natural father was called Terry Cox. She immediately recognized it as the name of Sam’s father and DNA tests later confirmed the pair are half sisters.

Alison, who was a bridesmaid at Sam’s wedding, said: “We had joked in the past we were sisters as people used to always ask us if we were, saying we looked alike. But I was shocked to find out we were actually half sisters. I could not get hold of Sam by phone so I texted her the words: Hello Sis!”

The pair met in 1993 through a mutual friend and soon became best friends. Having had a happy upbringing with her adoptive parents, Alison felt no need to trace her birth family. “I was adopted from birth and never looked into my natural parents because I had a lovely and fantastic childhood so I didn’t feel the need,” Alison said. That was until she got talking to a friend in February this year who said she may know how to trace her birth mother. A few weeks later the friend supplied a phone number. Alison said she nervously met her mother after getting in touch by telephone, but never expected this second twist in the tale. “She told me she was 19 when she put me up for adoption and gave me the news that my biological father was Terry Cox.” Alison recognized the name instantly as being the same as Sam’s father’s. “I felt the color drain from my face: that was Sam’s biological father’s name. What were the chances of this being the same chap as Sam’s father, but he was.”

Alison explained everything and I just thought, “Wow,” Sam said. “I had always wanted a sister, and what better sister could I have than my best friend? Two weeks ago we had DNA tests back which confirmed we are related. Both of us have had happy childhoods so I suppose this is just the icing on the cake. Second to getting married and giving birth to my children, it was the most exciting thing I have ever been told.”

Source: /www.dailymail.co.uk

Little Things You Can Do to Make the World a Lot Nicer

A few years ago, Debbie Tenzer was feeling overwhelmed by all the crises in the news. But rather than give in to despair, she thought, maybe I can’t solve our big problems, but I know I can do something. She realized that helping doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive or time-consuming. You can help simply by doing one nice thing. So that’s what she vowed to do, one day a week. Not every day – she says she’s not that nice – but once a week was a promise she could keep.

So she started a website, DoOneNiceThing.com, and each week she posted an easy way to help people around town or across the globe (check out each week’s idea @ http://www.doonenicething.com/d1nt-ideas.php). Good news traveled fast, and now Debbie is the leader of a worldwide kindness movement in more than ninety countries. By working together, Do One Nice Thing members’ accomplishments have included:

• Mailing more than 100 tons of school supplies to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who give them to local children so they can study.

• Sending countless books to schools, libraries, and hospitals.

• Contributing numerous gifts for foster children, whose birthdays are often forgotten.

Debbie’s book, Do One Nice Thing, has over 100 new, easy ideas for small deeds that anyone can do (and includes explicit information on how exactly to execute the ideas). There’s even a chapter of nice things you can do in minutes without leaving your desk. (www.doonenicething.com/d1nt-book) “We mail school supplies, food, and books, but what we really send is hope,” Tenzer says. “And when you give someone hope, it makes you hopeful too.”

Source: http://www.happynews.com

Breath Test ‘Can Detect Cancer’

An “electronic nose” has been developed that can sniff out cancer in patients’ breath. The device can distinguish between people with the disease and healthy individuals. Scientists believe it may be especially useful for identifying patients with head and neck cancers which are often diagnosed late.

The Israeli researchers collected breath samples from 82 people who either had head-and-neck cancer, lung cancer, or were cancer-free. The Nano Artificial NOSE (NA-NOSE) device was able to tell apart breath molecules from head and neck cancer patients and healthy individuals. It also distinguished between lung cancer patients and healthy participants, and between head-and-neck cancer and lung cancer patients.

Lead researcher Professor Hossam Haick, from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, said: “There’s an urgent need to develop new ways to detect head and neck cancer because diagnosis of the disease is complicated, requiring specialist examinations.”We’ve shown that a simple ‘breath test’ can spot the patterns of molecules which are found in head and neck patients in a small, early study. “We now need to test these results in larger studies to find if this could lead to a potential screening method for the disease.” The study is published in the Journal of Cancer Research, owned by Cancer Research UK.

Source: http://www.news.ninemsn.com

Experiment Confirms Space-Time Vortex Around Earth

In the early 1900s, Albert Einstein postulated a theory of gravitation he called Relativity. In it, he said a bunch of seemingly crazy things about light bending, objects with mass dragging space and time along with them, and how the universe is hurtling away from itself–an expansion occurring at the speed of light. According to NASA, another facet of his theory has now been verified.

Gravity Probe B has returned from its seven year adventure in orbit, and it has brought some rather mind-blowing news: A space-time vortex exists around the Earth, just like Einstein theorized. A culmination of 47 years of scientific research, Gravity Probe B has not disappointed us in this discovery; NASA is calling it nothing short of “epic.”

In order to test Einstein’s theory, scientists sent a spinning gyroscope to orbit around the Earth. Space and time are melded together into something like a four-dimensional quilt, aptly called space-time. The Earth applies weight to this quilt, causing an indentation “much like a heavy person sitting in the middle of a trampoline.” Gravity, then, is the path an object takes following the curve of that indentation.

Einstein theorized that the Earth’s rotation then causes that indentation to twist into a four dimensional swirl. With the axis of the gyroscope’s spin pointed at a fixed object (like a star), the Theory of Relativity indicates that without that swirl (or its “frame-dragging effect”) it would remain that way indefinitely, but with it the axis should drift out of alignment over time. The Gravity Probe B showed that Einstein was right, as the axis did in fact stray.

NASA didn’t just use one gyroscope; they used four, and they needed to be nearly perfect spheres in order to minimize any wobbling. NASA says these were the most perfect made to-date, never varying from a perfect sphere by more than 40 atomic layers.

The experiment resulted in calculations exactly as Einstein predicted. The Gravity Probe B Mission will go down in history as one of the greatest physics experiments of all time. Clifford Will, who chairs an independent panel of the National Research Council tasked with monitoring and reviewing the results of the Gravity Probe B Mission said, “this will be written up in textbooks as one of the classic experiments in the history of physics.”

As if proving one of Einstein’s theories wasn’t enough, it’s interesting to note that this study was taken up by hundreds of young scientists across the US, including some high school students. It’s exciting to see such involvement in the next generation of great minds. It speaks volumes for impressive things still to come from science.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com

To Mothers with Love on Mother’s Day

A sweet new video by ChildFund International in honor of Mother’s Day features kids from around the world in Sri Lanka, India, Zambia, Ecuador and other countries saying “I love you, Mom” in their native languages.

Man Sells Possessions to Feed Kids in Africa

There are universal truths about humanity and the planet behind the smiling eyes of George Namkung. They are lessons learned during a life that has seen civil war in China, his Korean grandparents joining their government-in-exile in Shanghai, discrimination in post-World War II Japan and more than a bit of Irish luck.

Namkung reveals his simplest and most accessible truth early in his interview. He sweeps his hand past the marble floors, the spacious hallway and the English garden around his home in Newport Coast’s Pelican Hill. It’s a gesture that says, “None of this matters.”

Dismissing wealth might seem easy for a guy with an ocean view in one of Orange County’s most exclusive communities. But study Namkung’s face for a moment and you realize he doesn’t just mean what he says. He feels it. Deeply. At a certain point, things are only that — things.

That’s why Namkung is downsizing. He’s selling the house and retiring from Namkung Promotions Inc., the marketing business he spent most of his life building. Instead, Namkung, 68, will focus on his passion: Raising money to feed children who live in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. Namkung’s commitment to helping kids was born six years ago, in a dirt-floor school house.

Namkung was born in 1942, in Shanghai, in war-torn China. His father was a doctor and his parents kept a large bucket of rice near the front door to help feed the starving. It’s something Namkung never forgot. The civil war ended in 1949, when Namkung was 7, and the violence turned into chaos. The Namkungs fled on for Hong Kong. But after three years, Namkung’s father feared the Chinese would invade the British colony. So the Namkungs hopped a freighter to Japan and, during the trip, a huge typhoon nearly sank the ship. The family lost everything.

Coming of age as an English-speaking Korean in post-World War II Japan was tough. But there also was excitement in the air, as Japan rebuilt itself as a modern country. Namkung was admitted to the prestigious International Christian University in Tokyo. It meant he would need to learn to read and write Japanese. On the wooded campus of ICU, Namkung worked day and night. He mastered Japanese, aced his classes and started a school to prepare Japanese businessmen for working overseas.

After living through a civil war, nearly drowning at sea and surviving roughnecks, Namkung thought he could do anything. The entrepreneur offers perhaps his most significant bit of wisdom: “We all have more potential than we realize.”

To fulfill his potential, Namkung moved to the United States. In San Francisco, Namkung tapped into his entrepreneurial expertise and turned Namkung Promotions Inc. into a leading maker of so-called in-pak toys, the kinds of toys you find in cereal boxes and, of late, in the “Cool Kids Combo” sold at Carl’s Jr. But even as the business grew, he never forgot what he learned while handing out rice from his front door in Shanghai. Give back. He became a Big Brother and, later, a volunteer instructor in Junior Achievement.

Namkung and his wife Joanne raised two daughters, Chelsea and Victoria, and eventually moved to Pelican Hill. As his 60th birthday approached, in 2002, Namkung was in the best health of his life, playing tennis, working out and kick boxing. That’s when he learned that the snows of Kilimanjaro are melting. He decided to climb the mountain and see the African glaciers before they disappeared.

After the climb, Namkung visited local schools. On his last day, he stood in front of a class and saw kids in tattered clothes. They couldn’t afford lunch, but they greeted Namkung with smiles. Namkung had never seen a group of children so eager to learn, not in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, San Francisco or Orange County. Namkung wondered if he could help.

Then a girl said her goodbyes. “May you live a long and healthy life so we may have the opportunity to meet again.” Namkung had no choice. Since then, Namkung, along with his wife and daughters, has built Kids of Kilimanjaro into a foundation that spends $300,000 a year to feed lunch five days a week to 15,000 children. Much of the effort has been funded by business. Recently, GNLD, an international nutrition company, came aboard as the founding corporate sponsor. One of Namkung’s final comments seems to echo off the walls. “I have lots of hungry kids waiting for me.”

Source: www. articles.ocregister.com