More Media: Exceptional Excerpts

Congo: Midwives Transform Trash Into Hope by Georgianne Nienaber (Huffington Post) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/georgianne-nienaber/grassroots-news-from-cong_b_273213.html "Thanks to the efforts of Emmanuel De Merode, director of Virunga National Park, there is now hope and opportunity for the Association pour la Promotion de la Sage Femme (APROSAF) midwives. 118 wise women (‘sage femme' means ‘wise woman') form the backbone of APROSAF, which was created in the wake of the 2002 Nyiragongo eruption in order to help families made homeless by the devastating lava flow that buried Goma. These traditional midwives of APROSAF are considered community leaders. The respect they garner results from selfless Image: Gathering of midwives in January 2009 to assess dedication as they transport pregnant women and needs© Nienaber. Reprinted with permission rape victims, sometimes by carrying them on their backs, to get help. They do this without pay and subject themselves to rape and shootings along the way.
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APROSAF is community organizing in the best sense of the word. The midwives deserve attention and a drumbeat of support from the United States. How rewarding it would be to see immediate results on the ground in the form of babies suckling from breasts rich with milk, their mothers safe from the rapist, and cradled gently in the strong arms of the wise women midwives. " The midwives need the means to accomplish their noble goal of saving women through direct intervention, HIV/AIDS counseling, and nutrition. This is truly a grass-roots effort with a humble beginning that literally transforms grass and roots into life-supporting energy. Their work is simple and it is profound. The APROSAF midwives risk their own lives to bring new life into the world. An advisor to the Red Cross told us about them. Their lives are spent in service to the ancient rhythms of creation—assisting the newborn and mothers. 45,000 people a month are dying from war-related caused in Congo, yet life refuses to capitulate to the war, and the midwives hold firmly to a banner of promise and hope. But they have nothing to work with. Their needs are simple by American standards of health care. Some textbooks, basic medical kits, which include surgical gloves, and a small clinic building for transfer cases and HIV counseling. Estimates are that they could save up to seven lives per day. The relatively paltry sum of $100,000 will accomplish this, but so far there have been no American foundations or individuals willing to entertain this life-saving project. Read more about the Congolese midwives: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/georgianne-nienaber/congolese-midwives-strugg_b_163086.html " Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think by Alison Gopnik in a New York Times editorial, 9/15/09 "Three recent experiments show that even the youngest children have sophisticated and powerful learning abilities. Last year, Fei Xu and Vashti Garcia at the University of British Columbia proved that babies could understand probabilities. Eight-month-old babies were shown a box full of mixed-up Ping-Pong balls: mostly white but with some red ones mixed in. The babies were more surprised, and looked longer and more intently at the experi- menter, when four red balls and one white ball were taken out of the box — a possible, yet improbable outcome — than when four white balls and a red one were produced.
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Sadly, some parents are likely to take the wrong lessons from these experiments and conclude that they need programs and products that will make their babies even smarter. Many think that babies, like adults, should learn in a focused, planned way. So parents put their young children in academic-enrichment classes or use flashcards to get them to recognize the alphabet. Government programs like No Child Left Behind urge preschools to be more like schools, with instruction in specific skills. The learning that babies and young children do on their own, when they carefully watch an unexpected outcome and draw new conclusions from it, ceaselessly manipulate a new toy or imagine different ways that the world might be, is very different from schoolwork. Babies and young children can learn about the world around them through all sorts of real-world objects and safe replicas, from dolls to cardboard boxes to mixing bowls, and even toy cell phones and computers. Babies can learn a great deal just by exploring the ways bowls fit together or by imitating a parent talking on the phone. (Imagine how much money we can save on "enriching" toys and DVDs!) But what children observe most closely, explore most obsessively and imagine most vividly are the people around them. There are no perfect toys; there is no magic formula. Parents and other caregivers teach young children by paying attention and interacting with them naturally and, most of all, by just allowing them to play. " [Gopnick is a UC Berkeley researcher and author of the new book The Philosophical Baby... and a new hero of this editor! Read it all at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/opinion/16gopnik.html?pagewanted=2]