Extraordinary Ordinary People Helping to Repair this Broken World

First published July 24, 2020

By Thea Halo

Apparently, you don’t have to be a billionaire to help repair this broken world. We all know there are a multitude of medical workers, and those who work in the medical industry behind the scenes, who potentially sacrifice their own health to heal strangers. However, there are many other extraordinary ordinary people around the world who save lives, simply because they see a problem, and take it upon themselves to do what they can to help. 

Take Lou Xiaoying, who lived in poverty in China. Yet, when Lou Xiaoying found an abandoned baby on a garbage heap in 1972—one of the unwanted girl babies of China’s one child policy—she took the baby home, nursed her back to health, and raised her. Lou Xiaoying would go on to save and raise 30 Children and was still at it even at the ripe old age of 82, when she and her husband saved and raised their last child.1 

You’ll also find “Gino Strada, an Italian surgeon and humanitarian who left a lucrative career in medicine to serve as a war surgeon with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). Treating civilians and soldiers around the world, many in some of the most war-torn and remote places, Strada spent the last two decades performing surgeries in addition to setting up hospitals in a wide range of countries that include Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1994, Strada co-founded an organization called EMERGENCY, that now runs over 60 hospitals, clinics and first aid posts, all of which offer free medical and surgical assistance to victims of war, landmines and poverty. Strada has personally performed over 30,000 life-saving surgeries to people who would not otherwise have access to medical care.”2 

Then there are numerous others, such as barbers who have taken it upon themselves to give free hair cuts to the homeless and others in need, to help them regain a sense of self. Cory Gilmour, aka ‘Happy’ Gilmour, whose barbershop is in Downtown Santa Ana, and other barbers “open their arms to homeless people and any other needy folks who’d like a free haircut.…The first 100 to arrive also will get a free burger and a drink from Monster Energy, which is helping to sponsor the event.3 Brennon Jones, a Chester native who now lives in West Philadelphia, has given haircuts to more than 1,000 people who are homeless, and Steve Powell are among numerous others. Powell “knew there was more to life than floating… Powell said he had a dream in which hoards of angry, disheveled people approached a building. They were hopeless and battered when they walked in. But when they walked out, their spirits were lifted — and they had new haircuts.” Although Powell was not a barber, he decided to buy a mobile barbershop, which “provides free haircuts and cosmetic services to homeless people, students, veterans, senior citizens and low-income families in the Jacksonville area.”4 There are many others not mentioned here. Unfortunately, Juan Carlos de Orca’s story, among others, is an example of how government sometimes thwarts such selfless acts.5

Then there is Gregory Kloehn, who has “built some 50 tiny houses and distributed them to homeless people in West Oakland,” in what some call “acts of guerrilla philanthropy.”6

And of course, there were so many people who risked their own lives to save Jews in Nazi Germany and elsewhere. And there are those who now risk their careers and reputations to speak out for the human rights of the Palestinians. There were also people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the recently deceased Senator John Lewis, who fought for equal rights and got beaten and jailed for their efforts, but it didn’t stop them. Only death stopped Martin Luther King, Jr. We also have the longtime deceased, but not forgotten, Harriet Tubman, who was “Born into slavery in Maryland, … escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become the most famous ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of family members and other slaves from the plantation system to freedom on this elaborate secret network of safe houses.”7 Tubman needn’t have continued after saving herself and her family, but she chose to continue to save so many more lives.

Yes, humans are sometimes the worse of Nature’s creations. But humans are also sometimes the best of Nature’s creations. Humans have the power and ability to make choices, and to prove there is something greater than one’s own selfish needs, as those listed above and so many others have proven. In fact, they have proven that the Christian proverb that ‘it is more blessed to give than receive,” not only helps the other, but it immeasurably helps the giver by making him or her an example, or a beacon of hope for all of humanity. It demonstrates that humans are capable of defying the more base instincts of nature to sit among the gods… to become immortal, in fact, because their names, and their deeds, will live on long past their physical form. Just check the internet and you’ll find the names and stories of those listed above, and so many other names and stories of otherwise ordinary people, who took the time to help repair this broken world. In other words, these extraordinary, ordinary people, might write on their tombstones:

I helped repair a broken world. 
Therefore I am, and always will be. 

  1. The Denver7 Team: https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/ordinary-people-who-stepped-up-to-help-others-and-became-extraordinary-heroes
  2. The Right Livlihood Foundation, Gino Strada Emergency, 2015 Italy. https://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/gino-strada-emergency/
  3. Theresa Walker, Barber reopens in Santa Ana, will give free haircuts for homeless people, The Orange County Register, May 29, 2020. 
  4. Paige Cushman, Little Rock (KATV), September 25th 2019.
  5. Ed Fuelner, The cosmetology cops, The Washington Times, Monday, January 15, 2018. Also see: Brittany Hunter, Haircuts for the Homeless: The Latest Public Menace. Foundation for Economic Education, Thursday, February 16, 2017. https://fee.org/articles/haircuts-for-the-homeless-the-latest-public-menace/
  6. Paul Lewis, Tiny houses: salvation for the homeless or a dead end?, The Guardian, March 23, 2017.
  7. Harriet Tubman Biography (c. 1820–1913) Biography, Jun 5, 2020. https://www.biography.com/activist/harriet-tubman

Can We Help Fix This Broken World?

First published July 13, 2020

A belated Earth Day Message, Part 4
by Thea Halo

Leaving an Eternal Legacy:

Many of us have heard the proposition of French philosopher, René Descartes: “I think therefore I am.” Descartes never intended thinking to become a mere dalliance, however. Descartes’s first maxim provided guides or touchstones that would lead to the performance of morally good actions. Socrates posited that there were two roads to immortality. One is through procreation. The other through performing great works. So, how would this epithet look on one’s tombstone, or on a plaque next to one’s name at the UN? 

I helped repair a broken world, 
therefore I am, and always will be.

There is no logical reason why people living on this abundant earth should be starving, or deprived of clean water to drink and to clean themselves. There is no reason why people can’t depend on getting proper health care when the need arises. And there is no reason why children around the world can’t get a proper education. Actually, there is one reason: lack of sufficient interest to solve these problems by those who have it in their power to do so. Or perhaps it has been a simple lack of vision by otherwise willing participants.

Let’s concentrate on the more broken communities of the world… broken in the sense that too many in small villages around the world don’t even have the bare essentials that most people take for granted.

Suggested Plan of Action:

The following suggestions are for the first phase of a project to repair the world. These projects would also give much needed training and employment to members of the communities helped, by putting local villagers to work on the projects:

  1. Drilling communal wells in each village around the world where there is no clean water available for miles, as the first stage to eventually pipe water into homes; 
  2. Constructing sewer systems in each village, and constructing communal toilets and showers as the first stage to eventually supplying homes with indoor plumbing;
  3. Constructing roads from village to village… even rudimentary roads for a start, so that villagers can transport their produce or other wares more efficiently in order to sell or trade; 
  4. Building schools in villages around the world, supplying them with teachers and books, and inspiring students to think outside the box to help their own communities: See the film: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019); https://www.netflix.com/TITLE/80200047
  5. 1.2 billion people worldwide don’t have access to electricity. Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser, who worked with MyShelter,1 devised a simple, yet effective device that brought light to homes that had no windows. He used plastic water bottles filled with water and bleach. By slipping a test tube with a small LED lightbulb into the bottle, which in turn is hooked up to a mini-solar panel, the bottle can still refract outside light during the day, then also used as a lightbulb at night.2
  6. Installing solar panels to bring electricity to rural villages, i.e. street lighting for a start, and later bringing electricity into homes;
  7. Constructing health facilities in villages that rural doctors can visit; 
  8. Set up a program for medical doctors to train gifted villagers in the rudimentary practice of medicine, where there is no resident medical doctor on site; 
  9. Helping villagers set up victory gardens, and supplying them with seeds and fencing to keep out predators. Perhaps a goat can also be given to each family for milk; 
  10. Teach and implement sustainable organic farming, irrigation techniques, and pest control;
  11. Supply free birth control and other indispensable medicines.
  12. Encourage wireless companies to supply free wifi and/or cell service;

Tens of Thousands of Villages Could be Helped.

According to one website, the cost to build a septic system in Africa, for example, varies widely from as little as $1,500 to upward of $4,000.3 Water Wells For Africa (WWFA)4 claims the average well in Malawi and Mozambique, for instance, would cost $8,000. Combined, that would mean each village would need only $12,000 for those two vital services if they were communal. Doubling that amount for two wells and two septic systems for a slightly larger village, and we still only need $24,000. If each village was allocated $100,000, which would also pay for a solar system, a schoolhouse, a health center, and other basics, almost 21,000 villages could be served. If only $50,000 is needed to accomplish these rudimentary improvements in each village, 42,000 villages could be served.

Who would pay for these projects? 

According to Forbes, after the Coronavirus outbreak, there were still around 2,095 billionaires in the world — their (known) total net worth exceeds $8 trillion dollars as of 3/18/2020. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that each billionaire pledged to give a measly 1/10 % of one billion dollars to a project that would help bring the poorest villages around the world the bare minimum of services that most of the world takes for granted, such as wells for clean water, sewer systems, schools, health centers, solar power, victory gardens, and rural roads from village to village. If each of those billionaires contributed just 1/10% of one billion dollars, i.e. one million dollars, the total would amount to a staggering $2,095,000,000. 

Are we our brothers’ keepers? 

All of the major religions preach generosity for one’s fellow humans. Yet without fail, except for the relative few, those who practice those religions fall far short of the message, or they believe the message only applies to their own ethnic or religious communities.

Christianity’s Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Judaism: The Obligation of Tzedakah: Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism, a duty that cannot be forsaken even by those who are themselves in need. Some sages have said that tzedakah is the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined, and that a person who does not perform tzedakah is equivalent to an idol worshipper. 

Islam: One of the five pillars of Islam, is the obligatory charity known as Zakaat. 

Hinduism: Dana (giving) is an important part of one’s dharma (religious duty).

Buddhism: Generosity (dàna or càga) is a glad willingness to share what one has with others. Generosity is the proactive (carita) aspect of the second precept to abstain from taking what belongs to others. In Buddhism, generosity is seen as a strategy to weaken greed, a way of helping others and a means of lessening the eic disparities in society. 

Perhaps it’s time for our world’s billionaires to take these religious precepts to heart and head to the bank.

  1. MyShelter was founder Illac Diaz, a Filipino native. 
  2. Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, These Plastic Bottles Full Of Water And Bleach Light Up Homes Without Electricity. Huffington Post, July 19,1917. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/plastic-bottles-electricity_n_596e64f4e4b0000eb1968bb5
  3. Bonface, What is the best sewerage strategy for Africa? Construction Review Online: by Africa for Africa, Feb 4, 2016. https://constructionreviewonline.com/water/top-3-wastewater-treatment-methods/
  4. http://www.waterwellsforafrica.org/projects/