Love, Fear, and Vocation

Quick link: A Love Stronger than Fear

Plough Quarterly published a condensed excerpt from Stronger than Death for their issue on vocation.

Did you know:

“A person being treated for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis typically swallows up to 14,600 pills & endures 240 painful injections. After all that, the chance of being cured is only 50%. Join our patients and doctors in asking for shorter, more tolerable treatments to be developed.”

Annalena Tonelli worked for decades to treat tuberculosis among Somali nomads and before that, treatment required even MORE pills and LONGER treatment times.

You can read a bit about her experience with TB and her struggle between feeling a call to care for the sick and a desire to be alone with God in this article.

Amid a volatile mix of disease, war, and religious extremism in the Horn of Africa, what difference could one woman make? Annalena Tonelli stayed anyway – and found a way to beat history’s deadliest disease.

Check out the full piece here.

 

Find the book at AmazonBarnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

 

Tools for Evaluating Aid Organizations

How can you evaluate the organizations who ask for donations? Or to whom you want to donate? Here are some practical questions to ask before donating, joining, promoting, or judging that I hope you’ll find helpful.

 

Are they a registered public 501(c)(3)?

Search the organization on Charity Navigator to see their ranking.

Search them on Google and explore their work, the ways they report and tell stories, the images they use.

Contact staff members if you would like to make a personal connection. Use the email addresses and phone numbers provided. Legitimate charities would love to hear from potential donors.

What are the organization’s goals?

Are they clearly stated? Could you repeat them to someone else?

Are they measurable, qualitatively and quantitatively?

What are their specific objectives?

How will they be implemented in reaching the goals?

What impact will they have on achieving the goals? Why are these specific objectives chosen?

Who or what is the organization targeting?

What need are they aiming to meet? Why?

Have they included the community in reaching their goals and objectives?

What has the organization accomplished historically?

Did they accurately measure their outcomes?

Were they transparent in reporting?

If they failed to meet a stated objective, have they adjusted their input and goals? Did they learn from previous mistakes? Have they identified potential obstacles and how to overcome them?

Who reported on these goals and outcomes in the past? Is it only staff members or do they have field reports from their targeted people?

Does the organization have sufficient capacity to reach their goals?

In terms of personnel, expertise, connections and networks, finances and gifts-in-kind?

Does the organization measure both outputs and outcomes?

Outputs are usually numerical. Numbers of books donated, numbers of children fed, numbers of wells built, number of people served in an addiction program.

Outcomes represent the actual benefit experienced by a community.

For example: an output is: 15 people went through the addiction recovery program. An outcome is: 9 people quit drinking after completing the addiction recovery program.

According to Shoshon Tamasweet, an NGO fundraiser and consultant, “Most NGOs measure inputs like, “We distributed 1,000 mosquito nets,” or activities, “We conducted 3 health camps.” They don’t measure outcomes, let alone impact. A simple way to think of it is from the perspective of the recipient: How did their life get better?  If all they got was a hand-out, there probably is not much impact.

He concludes with, “While cost/expense ratios are sort-of meaningful, (wasteful overhead, too much spent on administration and marketing), if an organization does not or cannot measure impacts, or at least outcomes, then they are not a good place to invest for change.”

 

 

General Tips:

Don’t be fooled by fancy marketing.

Don’t give in to pressure that you must hand over your credit card information NOW!

Do be proactive in following your passion. Find an organization doing work you believe in. This will help you feel more engaged and interested in their work.

Do follow-up with the organizations you donate to. Ask about their goals and progress, check-in with staff members you might know personally.

 

 

Sexual Harassment. Here We Go Again.

I was going to just put this on Instagram. But it got long.

Real talk about life in Djibouti.

Last night, while walking with a friend, we were assaulted not once, but TWICE, by boys. Using the word “assault” feels extreme, but what else do you call being followed, surrounded, insulted, and ass-pinched by 8-10 people?

I have developed the ability, out of sad and infuriating necessity, to shout and shame like you might not believe. I can turn it on and off, because I have to, on a regular basis. It doesn’t make a difference. I, and other women both local and foreign, continue to be assaulted.

It does not matter where we are, who are with, or what we are wearing. It has happened to me in all manner of scenarios. It has happened to me while with my husband.

I feel angry enough when this happens to me. But when it happens to one of my kids or to one of the people we have brought here to work, I rage.

Here is what I mean. If you’ve followed me long, you’ve heard it before:

Rock thrown and hit me in the head.
Rocks thrown and hit me in the back, legs, ankles, arms, scatter at my feet.
Cars and motorcycles and bikers swerve at me, intentionally.
Breast squeezed through an open car window.
Groped.
Blocked on my bicycle.
Butt punched by two man on a motorcycle. Hard.
Breast grazed by man on bicycle reaching out sideways.
Hair pulled by girls in market.
My daughter’s butt pinched.
My butt pinched. How many times? I’ve lost count.
Insulted with hand gestures, facial gestures, and words.
Words like: whore, slut, prostitute, sex, talk about my underwear and what movements various body parts are doing. I understand it. I wish I didn’t.
Bottle of liquid dumped on me at a stoplight.
Chased by men and boys.
Followed.
Attempted tripping.
Mocked.
Heard people tell other people to chase me.
Told my uterus would fall out.
Told I belonged in the kitchen.
Birthday presents snatched out of my daughter’s hands while walking literally around the corner from our house.
My daughter’s bike being pushed and chased and surrounded.

This is a partial list.

Many of these things have happened multiple times.

These are things that happen on regular days, while I do regular things. I refuse to cower in my house, that’s not a life. So I refuse to be kept down by this. But also? It sucks.

Assault and harassment feel like shame to women. It makes us feel ashamed and gross and vulnerable. But you know what? No.

Shame on the assaulters, the harassers. Shame on the people who see it or hear it and do nothing. Shame on the educators and parents and elders and friends who don’t model or teach better behavior.

I mostly enjoy living in Djibouti. When people hear how long we’ve been here, they say, “Oh! You must really love it.” And I do, most of the time. But this is a long list and it wears on a person. We actually moved out of our last house because I had developed so much anxiety about simply going outside the front door.

At that time, we involved our landlord, the police, the school director of the school across the street. Nothing changed.

Look, I know worse things happen. Bad shit does not make this stuff less bad. One bad thing does not erase another bad thing. I know it isn’t everyone. I know it happens in other countries too. Great. Fine. Still. Whatever. All of it needs to stop. I know rape and violent assault happen. I don’t hear people talk about it here, but we live in the world. And the world is violent toward women.

So maybe raising a stink about the bad stuff that happens to me will someday encourage someone to raise a stink about the worse stuff happening to them.

If someone says, “This list is nothing compared to the rapes that occur,” then I will respond with, “Oh really? Let’s talk about the rapes, then.” And the conversation will start.

Enough. I’m not asking for anything radical. I’m asking to be treated like a human. I’m asking to be freaking left alone.

Enough.

Writing about it feels satisfying and dissatisfying. My little angry posts aren’t going to make someone say, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t reach for that breast.” I don’t expect this to change a thing. I even get told to shut up when I talk about this, so the opposite of what I would hope.

I’m taking it up a notch. Next time? I’ll snap a photo and go to the nearest police officer. I am going to report. Report. Report. Maybe no one else does. Maybe no one else talks about it. Well, I will. Probably, the reports will lead to nothing. Fine. I’ll still report it and maybe, after years, there will be some action.

Yeah, I’m angry. I should be.

 

Here are my other public posts about this. I also wrote one exclusive essay in a past newsletter about the most violent incident that happened to me. Maybe I will make that one public later this week.

The Story Women Need to Tell

What Happens Every Time I Write about Sexual Harassment

This is My Body. Thou Shalt Not Break It.

Talking to Third Culture Kids about Sexual Harassment

Going Crazy

Going Crazy and Jesus

Stronger than Death Book Trailer

Annalena Tonelli spent 34 years living and working in the Horn of Africa. Somalis loved her, and still talk about her with great affection, still carry on her legacy, still continue her work.

But someone killed her. Why?

Why did she stay so long as a foreigner, in the face of massacres, famine, tuberculosis, terror, and war? How did she build a strong local community across religious and racial boundaries, boundaries that today often divide communities?

This is not the story of a white savior, or is it? It isn’t the story of a saint either, or is it? Annalena was far from perfect but her example challenges us all to be a little braver. A little more loving. A little more willing to reach out to someone with empathy, faith, and action.

       

Available from Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.

Thanks to Matt Erickson for providing video clips and photographs and to the Plough Publishing video team!

Stronger than Death Endorsements

Here is what some early readers are saying about Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa.

I am blown away by the generosity and kindness of these people who agreed to endorse the book. They are people I respect, admire, am inspired by, and have learned so much from.


Rachel Pieh Jones has given us the unforgettable story of a servant of the sick and poor who demonstrated, to an almost incomprehensible degree, what it means to love the least of these. Few of us will ever come close to Annalena Tonelli’s devotion and bravery. But thanks to this remarkable book, we can be acquainted with one of history’s great and unheralded exemplars, and inspired to give more of ourselves to those without. Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today columnist, author of Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower

A fascinating, powerful and extremely moving true story that needs to be shared with the rest of the world.–Jordan Wylie, author of Citadel and Running For My Life

My life has been shaped by the examples of faith heroes: Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. In this book, Rachel Pieh Jones introduces me to one more – Annalena Tonelli. Her example of immersive, selfless service combined with learning from different traditions should inspire us all.–Eboo Patel, author of Acts of Faith, founder and president, Interfaith Youth Core

A stunning meditation on love and service, this book has given me a new hero: Annalena Tonelli, a woman of faith who crashed through boundaries and dodged bullets in her mission to heal the sick. Author Rachel Pieh Jones has done justice to an extraordinary person, crafting a story every bit as vivid, relentless, and surprising as her subject. Jason Fagone, national best-selling author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes

A meticulously detailed and empathetic work on a woman whose life should not be forgotten.–Mary Harper, BBC World Service, author Getting Somalia Wrong?

As well as telling a compelling story with great skill, this absorbing and clear-eyed examination of the work of one of East Africa’s greatest humanitarians, based on her letters and interviews with her closest associates, also highlights the cultural challenges faced by even the most dedicated worker. Rachel Pieh Jones raises questions about motive and consequence, as well as perception and jealousy, that resonate well beyond the fascinating life she describes.–Richard Barrett, director of the Global Strategy Network and former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6

Annalena Tonelli’s story challenges readers to believe in themselves and reminds us that we can choose acts of kindness and love even during difficult circumstances. Her courage inspires us to challenge evil: everyone can make a difference.–Mariam Mohamed, former First Lady of Somalia

“Jones explores the life of Italian aid worker Annalena Tonelli in this gripping biography... …Tonelli’s example of humility, asceticism, and loving with abandon will be a revelation…” –Publisher’s Weekly 

 

You can preorder your own copy here. Publication date is October 1, less than one month away!

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