Tag Archives: World Summit on Sustainable Development

JAM: Help Africa Help Itself!

One child dies every eight seconds.

One of the reasons we traveled to South Africa this summer: to survey potential organizations where my youngest daughter might possibly serve orphans who’ve lost their parents to AIDs. She’s completing her grad degree in Counseling, with a specialty in Play Therapy.

Joint Aid Management, JAM — South Africa’s best kept secret — was our first appointment. Our taxicab driver had trouble finding JAM, but once we did, WOW. Their complex is amazing.

Reception office at JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg.

Reception office at JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg.

What is JAM?

During our meeting, we learned about JAM’s history and how they’ve morphed into the humanitarian organization they are today. We walked the property and watched two movies about their work that brought us to tears.

We learned about JAM’s founder, Peter Pretorius (seen in the portrait above, who “saw the light” after he was abandoned in a refugee camp for ten days. He lived the plight of the refugees, with no food and no care. He watched people around him die EVERY day, and helped bury the bodies. What he saw during that ten days broke his heart. He returned home wanting to help feed the starving people where the need was the greatest.

"Informal Settlement" or squatter park not far from JAM HQ

"Informal Settlement" or squatter park not far from JAM HQ

JAM’s website describes them as follows:

“Joint Aid Management is a South African founded, registered non-profit Christian humanitarian relief and development organisation, with 25 years experience in sustainable development.”

The organization helps almost half a million children in need each year. They focus on the community as a resource to support the children through:

  • school food programs to offer on nutritional meal each day,
  • drilling for clean water convenient to the community,
  • help with proper sanitation,
  • assisting vulnerable children and orphans,
  • programs to combat HIV/AIDS,
  • community training and skills development,
  • agricultural training,
  • assisting projects to bring income into the community.

JAM’s little red plastic bowl (visible in the portrait above) is their signature. Each bowl holds what may be the only meal the child gets each day — a porridge-like nutritionally-fortified food ration made of corn, soy beans, sugar, and micronutrients.

JAM’s little red bowl provides 75% of each child’s recommended daily allowance (RDA), by UNICEF‘s standards.

Right now, JAM is actively fighting back against starvation and human suffering through the schools in several African countries:

  • 237,000 children fed each school day in Mozambique;
  • 202,000 in Angola;
  • 2,200 in Sudan, with plans to increase support to 15,000;
  • 24,000 in Zimbabwe, in partnership with World Vision;
  • 4,948 in an informal settlement in Orange County, South Africa.
JAM Headquarters Offices

JAM Headquarters Building

We learned in our meeting at JAM that feeding children in South Africa has been traditionally lower on the priority scale because needs, until recently, hadn’t been as desperate as in other African nations. With the influx of poverty-stricken immigrants from neighboring countries, the situation has changed.

JAM plans to feed 100,000 children in South Africa within the next five years.

We toured JAM’s headquarters, a complex with an extensive logistics network that includes food storage, vehicle maintenance, housing units for employees, multimedia lab, and office space. JAM employs 700 full time employees, with over 3,000 volunteers. They make every attempt to employ locals in the communities they serve, offering job training and income support to help self-sustain the effort as time goes by.

JAM's Vehicle Depot

JAM's Vehicle Depot

JAM operates a fleet of 170 vehicles, many purchased at auctions and rebuilt for their rugged logistics requirements. These trucks travel over rough terrain where roads may or may not exist. Believe me, after driving in Zambia, I completely understand what wear and tear is expected of JAM’s fleet.

Partnering with JAM, you can “help Africa help itself.”

You can donate online to feed a child for a year. Or fund water drilling, HIV/AIDs support, or emergency relief. The choice is yours. As we move into the giving season, consider giving friends and family the gift of life for a child.

Save yourself a trip to the shopping mall. Give a donation in honor of your loved ones. What better gift can you give?

JAM has a US presence in downtown DC and one in Alexandria, Virginia. You can start here:

900 19th Street, NW, Suite 400; Washington DC, 20006



Filed under Africa, humanitarian aid, poverty

One Drop of Water for Space Acrobat, One Giant Bite Out of Poverty?

This week’s announcement by Space Adventures that Guy Laliberté will be Canada’s first private citizen in space really captivated my imagination.

Fire-breathing, stilt-walking Guy Laliberté is the founder of Cirque du Soleil. Repeat after me: CIRQUE du SOLEIL! No really. CIRQUE du SOLEIL!!! Incredibly talented individuals performing amazingly awe-inspiring feats that defy the imagination. (Hmmm. Does that sound like NASA?)

So here’s the deal:

For years, I’ve tried — unsuccessfully – to connect with folks at Cirque du Soleil to collaborate on a “Space-themed” traveling show. I can only imagine what a Cirque du Soleil Space Show might look like, but it could be no less than FABulous. NASA content shaped by wildly inventive interpretations? Oh, I’d buy a ticket. Wouldn’t you?

How ironic. While I’ve been dreaming of a traveling “Space on Earth” Cirque du Soleil show, their founder has been dreaming of traveling from Earth to space. So much so, he purchased a seat with the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, to ride a Russian Soyuz up to the International Space Station.  I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised. He’s accustomed to defying gravity here on Earth on his stilts. Why not extend his reach? (And Guy, no FIRE-BREATHING on Station, PLEASE!)

Now here’s another cool fact that excites me. His 12-day visit to Station is billed as the first social/humanitarian mission in space. His cause: clean water through his foundation, One Drop.

“Guy Laliberté’s POETIC SOCIAL MISSION in Space is a unique opportunity to share information about water-related issues with the world. His messages will spread ONE DROP’s dream of “Water for all, all for water.”

Some of you may wonder why we should care about water. After all, 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Easy access to drinkable water, that’s the issue.

Here’s a quick overview: Less than 5% of the Earth’s water supply is freshwater and 1.7 billion people have no direct access to that 5%, according to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. In addition, fresh water is polluted in many developing countries. Guy’s One Drop website states: “90% of sewage is dumped into the water untreated.” The World Bank links water and poverty. Their 2006 report points out that inaccessibility to safe water traps developing countries in a cycle of poverty. People in 40% of the world in 80 countries suffer from extreme water shortages, hitting women the hardest. UNICEF estimates an average woman in rural areas can spend “one-quarter to one-third of her time fetching water” which leaves little time for school.  

Sobering. Shocking. Humbling.

And here I have a choice every day for my fill of tap, bottled, or sparking water, depending on how much I’m willing to pay. Now, let’s be clear, I’m absolutely unequivocally UNqualified to weigh in on this subject. I can, however, offer this thought:

Water is crucial for life ON and OFF this planet.

At NASA, we’ve been working water issues for decades. Traveling long distances in space means we can’t rely on re-supply. We have to carry or generate our own water. Exciting news! NASA recently reached a major milestone on Station: COMPLETE waste-water reclamation (including the dreaded liquid…urine). We have a spiffy new system to process six gallons of crew urine in six hours.

Distasteful, yes. But not bad-tasting. Really!

Expedition 20 astronaut Mike Barratt reports that Station’s new recycled water tastes like what you would expect in store-bought bottled water. Here’s how it works. Our technology onboard Station collects crew urine from the US toilet, boils off the water (to separate it from the briny nasty stuff we don’t keep), captures the vapor and mixes it with air condensation collections, and filters any impurities. Clean, purified water ready for drinking. Yum.

And who knows, our recycled water technology could be coming to a home or office near you! We bring you space technology, you apply it on Earth. Could be as common as your average water heater in the next decade, or sooner.

I’m excited about the world’s newest private citizen in space. Maybe, just maybe, we can make progress toward a cool “Cirque du Soleil-Orbital High,” based on Guy’s personal experience in space. Even more important, perhaps we can leverage NASA technology and know-how to help One Drop meet it’s goal,

Water for all, all for water.

Hey! It can happen. We’re NASA. We make the impossible possible!


Filed under NASA, space