A month or so back, a friend of mine posted an article about Orphanage Tourism. In my mind I thought, what? Something like this really exists? But after looking into it more, I found that people looking to do good can easily be influenced in taking part in something so ridiculous.

Foreign arrivals in Cambodia have increased by 250% since 2005. In the same time, the number of orphanages have increased by 75%. To put this in perspective, the number of orphanages jumped from 153 to 269, with only 21 of those orphanages run by the state; the rest owned privately. The strangest thing about all these stats is that only 28% of the orphans living in these orphanages have lost both parents, the rest have at least one living parent.

So then what, if not the lack of parents, is causing an increase in these orphanages? It is the promise of a better future. This promise however, is often falsified.

It is not only important, but better for children to remain in family settings. It has also been shown that it is cheaper for children to live in a family setting rather than in an orphanage. A dollar given to the family rather than an orphanage helps out an entire community as it puts money into the community as a whole, through that family, rather than an institution. Children that live in orphanages and then leave them as young adults often face exploitation, homelessness, lost family connections and drug abuse.


With all these problems surfacing, one has to wonder why "orphanage tourism" is on a rise? The feeling of bringing change into another's life is a genuine intention of those who want to improve the lives of others. That's why tourist who want to give back while on their vacation feel as if donating their time and money to an orphanage is the best way to achieve that goal. The relationships they build with the kids and the money they invest into the orphanage is seen as giving back. But again, it is doing more damage than good. Constant severing and rebuilding of short-term relationships between these volunteers and children can be a cause of emotional loss within orphans.


So what can be done to avoid becoming part of orphanage tourism and actually help make a difference in the lives of these impoverished youth? "Good Intentions are not enough" is a blog and consultation service for those trying to provide impactful aid. For those who want more independence on their quest to bring change should do more research on where they decide to spend their time and money trying to help their children. Avoiding orphanages that openly solicit tourists to come in, working with orphanage staff instead of the children and avoiding volunteer organizations that don't ask for a resume are some of the many ways to ensure that your actions are producing the intended outcome.


It is easy to become prey to those who marginalize the poor for their own gains. Along with having a good intention, keeping a clear and informed head can help bring the change that is most necessary in these type of situations, potentially eradicating the system created by those out there for their selfish gains.
 
This is a picture taken from inside Kebun Binatang Surabaya (KBS), or Surabaya "Zoo of Death", one of the largest zoos in South East Asia, caging over 350 species. It has been widely condemned for mistreatment of animals, corruption and uncontrolled breading. The Sumatran tiger shown in the picture, along with other other animals face death due to negligent keepers who were stealing meat and animals from the zoo to sell to the black market. 

Malnutrition isn't the only problem. The animals suffer from preventable diseases, overcrowding and lack of exercise, creating chronic long term back and leg problems. With a low entry fee (approximating at $2) the zoo does not have enough money to provide for the uncontrolled breeding, leaving dim predictions of the survival of the animals. 

Amidst all of this, it isn't the only problem that animals South East Asia face. Due to widespread poverty in a region filled with exotic animals, the lucrative overseas market for these rare species creates a "commissioning" of hunting down these animals for their skins, bones, medicinal use, tonics, horns and other trophy parts. Trafficking tigers from South-East Asia and some parts of Africa is worth about $5 million per year. 

So what is to be done to prevent the extinction of these animals that could be gone with the coming of the next generation? Is the need of zoos more necessary than ever to, in a sense, protect these animals and stop poaching? Or do we need to regulate our forests and wild animals better and allow them to sustain their natural habitat? How can we do our part in trying to influence the next best outcome?

www.change.org provides a neat solution for not only getting the problem some attention, but also bringing our voices to those who can do something about the issue. The current problem facing the zoo of Indonesia is being brought to the attention of the President of Indonesia, Indonesian Embassy and Consulate-general of the Republic of Indonesia. Labelled as the world's petition platform, the website, with others like it, provides a voice to the globally linked community of the world wide web who want to bring about a change to a wrong doing they feel strongly connected to. 

Is this another fruitless method of trying to get the attention of those in power? Or could this be the new power of the people that politicians will have to reckon with?
 
Being a muslim immigrant from Pakistan, who has had the privilege to live in America, I’ve always wondered why immigrants such as myself, muslim, are perceived to be conspirators against democracy, an ideology that people back home in Pakistan would love to see practiced more.  

On numerous occasions while flipping through the news channels, I’ve seen reports of growing Islamic fundamentalists overseas that hate America for their freedom, for their way of life. Due to this promoted perception, many Muslims in America become target of hate crime, considered to be a threat to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Americans believe in and hold on to so strongly. Little do they know that the same rights and freedoms they believe should be upheld by everyone are not being upheld for others abroad.

America has been instrumental in violating both international and national law by conducting drone attacks on foreign grounds and using them as tools of surveillance within U.S. soil. Not only are these drones being used to target “militants”, but they are also being used against the people the government has intended to protect. 

Since 2002, America has been using drones to attack Al-Qaeda and other militants that are a threat to national security. Total casualties by drone strikes in Pakistan alone counts for over 3000 killed, over 800 of which were innocent civilians. Yemen and Somalia have faced over 800 casualties with over 200 being innocent civilians. 

The argument made by the U.S. is that there are no geographical constraints in the war on terror. Citing Article 51 of the UN Charter, the American government says that the ensuing “war on terror” follows alleged terrorists wherever they may be found and that the war has no temporal limitations. Even still, the use of lethal force has rules and requires proof when being carried out. Yet these drone attacks are presuming those targeted as guilty without any proof, making them reasonable targets by their status rather than action. 

Following the guise that Article 51 provides, the U.S. has gained notoriety in establishing “black sites” around the world. This is an initiative facilitated by the CIA that establishes secret prisons in countries involved in the program to detain enemy combatants who may pose as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. Reason that the American public hears little of these establishments in their media is so that the U.S. government can manipulate and break code of ethics on how to deal with prisoners detained in these prisons.

All the while this is going on, hate crimes against Muslims are starting to erupt. Muslims are being attacked in mosques and in places they have been working for years for their livelihood. In addition to this, the stereotypical image of muslims that the media has created has put people of other religions in the crossfire of these hate crimes. This probably makes one wonder, why are Muslim’s being attacked on the outside and the inside? The answer is a simple one, media censorship. Flagship news publications over time have blatantly admitted to have formed partnerships at the federal level to withhold information from the public on such topics as the drone-assassination program, secret prisons, torture and unlawful surveillance of the U.S. public. 

In 2011, America tried carrying out one of the most daring operations, against one of its own citizens. It was a planned killing of American citizen Anwar Awlaki, alleged recruiter of terrorists. Both him and his 16-year-old son were killed without arrests, trials or presumptions of innocence being made. No news channel in America reported of this maneuver.

While the rest of the world continues to watch casualties and deaths being produced by U.S. drone strikes, the American citizens are left in the dark, unknowing of the dangers being brewed by their government. Their media outlets pour an onslaught of images of "radical" muslims from around the world, feeding their citizens an image of anger, resentment and threat towards U.S. sovereignty. Muslims that have been affected by drone strikes or other crimes perpetrated by U.S government become easy recruits for the actual radically minded, Al-Qaida.  The U.S. citizens have no idea where the anger and resentment is coming from and hence associate Islam to be this way. It would be wrong for me to assume that all U.S. citizen's operate within this mind-frame, but I can easily see why one would fall into this trap of misguidedness. It is important for transparency to be attached with all actions of the government so that people can remain informed and chose sides carefully because continuing on to the current path of an eye for an eye is surely to turn the whole world blind creating more and more misinformed and misguided individuals.

 
My first post on this blog was about competition vs. collaboration. For those who didn't get a chance to read it, I was basically arguing the importance of organization to convert from a competition based mindset to a collaborative model as it would allow for more things to be achieved with less being left out. With climate change becoming a visible reality and the world showing no signs of slowing down their consumption patterns, it is refreshing to see some institutions adopt the mind set that I was discussing. 

For my first example, i introduce to you the ingenuity of the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC), who teamed up with ad agency Mayo DraftFCB looking for a way to promote their application period of 2013. Mayo DraftFCB focused their marketing expertise on the expertise of UTEC and together, they made a billboard. 

Now this isn't just any ordinary billboard. Dropped along the Pan-American Highway near the city of Lima, the billboard hopes to capitalize on Lima's highly humid environment by using an inverse osmosis filtration system to produce a commodity that residents of the desert city seriously require; water. For those who don't know, Lima is one of the most humid and driest city in Peru and one of the driest in the world. With 1.2 million residents of Lima lacking running water, they have to rely on private-companies to deliver water that ends up costing 20 times more than what the wealthy pay for their tap water.

In three months, the billboard has been able to produce 2,500 gallons of water, quenching the thirst of hundreds of families per month. 

The only down side I saw to this project, was its inability of being self-sufficient. Requiring electricity, it is troublesome to think of how long electricity will be provided for the billboard by UTEC. Once the campaign for enrolment is over, will the billboard go along with it, or will the people at UTEC seriously adopt this as an initiative to further salvage the issue of scarce water?

Guess we will just have to wait and see.

The second example of collaborative innovation I want to bring to attention is Google's newest project, Loon. Much like the name suggests, Google is teaming up with Raven Aerostar balloons on a crazy conquest to bring wireless internet access to the most remote parts of the world. Using helium balloons, solar panels and wireless antennas, a coverage area of 1250 square km can be provided to those who want/need access to the internet, all you'll need is a special antenna fitted to your house. 

The main issue with this project is the demographic that is being reached out to. Targeting remote areas of the world that don't have internet is a pretty good indicator of the level of technical aptitude in those areas as well. Flight time is another issue, as the balloons have a maximum flight time of 55 days, meaning that they'll either have to be replaced or refuelled. Critics of this endeavour suggest that such top-down hardware distribution techniques, historically, are prone to failure and focusing on what is available in the areas being targeted would be a more viable solution.

Regardless of the flaws associated with the project, I think Google's initiative is a commendable one and helps bring the world a little closer. Can you think of alternative solutions to the posed problems? Is trying to get everyone on the internet a feasible initiative? Does everyone need to be on the internet? I don't have the answers to all of these questions, but I do know having a vast amount of knowledge at the tip of your finger and being aware of it is a future that can help tackle problems more efficiently than we are able to today.

 
Apologies for not making regular posts in the last little while. Getting in the habit of writing consistent and meaningful blog posts is something I'll have to work on more. But for now, some thoughts on an issue that has been bothering me after my travels to Makkah (Mecca), Saudia Arabia.

Being a muslim from birth, I've been brought up with values that resonate with the teachings of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Often times, in the media, these teachings are misconstrued to be thought of as extreme ideologies, when in reality the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) draw parallels with the teachings of the Prophet Isa (PBUH), better known as Jesus (PBUH). 

With that being said, I expected the values that I had been taught to be exemplified in the country that hosts the holiest of sites for Muslims. 

I was disappointed upon arrival. 

Arriving in Jeddah's airport, I saw a line dedicated to Sudanese and other African muslim's trying to get into the country, and then I saw a line for "everyone else". Needless to say, our waiting time was much shorter than theirs.

On our way to Makkah, Saudia Arabia, I saw countless poor and homeless people on the street, mainly of African decent. In Makkah itself, people of South Asian decent held low-skilled position with the consistent theme of poor and homeless African population. 

I didn't want what I saw to be the lasting impression I had of a place that is tied to my spiritual beliefs, so I decided to do a bit of research, only to be further disappointed. The Human Rights Watch has condemned the middle east on numerous accounts of domestic worker abuse that the immigrant population faces. Maid's are driven to the point of insanity due to this abuse, resulting in deaths of their employers by their hands and consequently, their own deaths by the government once they are convicted for murder. These behaviours are the result of exploitation of migrant workers by employers who behave as sponsors of the immigrants at first but end up exerting power, resulting in the workers being unable to change jobs, leave the country or having to work with no pay for years.

Religion has often been viewed as a tool of development, as it has the ability to reach communities like no other groups. This can be viewed in two ways, faith-based aid (Christian Children's Fund or Islamic Development Bank) or moral-based development. Since my issue has nothing to do with need of monetary involvement  we can leave faith-based aid alone for this conversation. My point of moral-based development is this; religion, where ever originated, stemmed from a void that needed to be fulfilled. Moses (PBUH) and the Pharoah, Jesus (PBUH) and the Romans, Muhammad (PBUH) and the Quraish. All of these stories told a tale of oppression,  victimization, senseless violence and a carnal lifestyle that plagued the people of their time, with the Prophet's (PBUT) acting as a beacon of guidance to resurrect morality and humanity where it least seamed possible. 

The message it seems, at least in the Muslim world, has once again been lost in the sands of time. Instead of spending money to feed the poor, more money is being spent to glamourize places of worship that only need glorification through spiritual devoutness, not gold and silver. People are not being treated as equals, but as a means to an end to benefit those who already lead a life of comfort, belittling their rights as human beings. Women are once again seeing the oppressive nature of man that Islam sought out to erase from its very inception. 


Religion isn't a set of rules, but an underlying theme of peace and love that has been repeated throughout history. If we digress from the true meaning of Islam, we are left with the current situation in Saudi Arabia and much of the middle-east. The message can be easily used to not only improve the lives of others, but ones own life as well. Kindness, charity and compassion are a few examples of the many good deeds that one can perform to improve ones utility of life. Something as little as smiling at another person can improve ones day instantly, so imagine what would happen if you took the extra step and fed a hungry stomach. 

I pray that in this month of Ramadan, more Muslims are brought closer to the true meaning of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) message and our societies can once again flourish with equality and justice. 

And with that, I leave you with a verse from the Holy Qur'an:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” Al- Quran 49:13




 
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If music be the food of love, play on. There's only a few reasons that justify one's recollection of a line from a Shakespearean play.  Mine comes from the deep rooted connection portrayed between love and music in that statement. For me, love is music. A large portion of my adolescent life was spent listening to and performing music, which is why I connect to it so well. Although I appreciate all forms of music, my favourite genres are Rap/Hip-hop, R&B, and Jazz. 

For a lot of people (mainly the baby boomers and generation X) Rap/Hip-hop is both revolting and offensive. The content, nor the message is appealing to this group and this subjects the genre to stigmas revolving around violence, drugs and prostitution. I understand the concerns of these people and understand how their thought process developed, but to generalize about all of rap that way is not only unfair, but also extremely arrogant. Rap/Hip-Hop came from the slums of Bronx, and grew to become a force to be reckoned with internationally. Its intricate word play over a beat pattern has revolutionized the music industry and continues to affect music genres today. The hostility and the anger that resonates in Rap/Hip-Hop music simply projects the hardships and the struggles faced by its originators. Music is a reflection of life and your surroundings, and for African-Americans to have lived in a land filled with hostility, overcoming challenges of racism and prejudice and still affect the world on a global scale with their art and music is a testament of how powerful and deeply connected the message of Rap/Hip-Hop is with people all around the world.

But all of this isn't what makes Rap/Hip-Hop special to me. The link between me and the music, comes from the passion of poetry. In the words of the legendary Big Daddy Kane "If you can rhyme hat with cat, you can be considered a rapper" and thats exactly what I felt like when I first heard rap and connected my poems with the art itself. 

I never knew I could perform poetry in such a way until I heard Eminem's soundtrack from his movie "8 Mile." "Lose Yourself" became an anthem for me throughout my childhood and gave me inspiration to not only continue to write poetry, but also learn how to use syllables to my advantage to produce bars (lyrics) in a melodious way. I used these lessons and was able to write for spoken word events and even make myself a couple of songs (yeah, I try). 

This brings me to the main part of the post, which is one of my most memorable spoken word performances. In my second year of university  I was invited to perform at the WaTSA (Waterloo Tamil Students Association) "Maveerar Naal." "Maveerar Naal" is the Tamil tradition of Remembrance Day. The event is to mourn the lost soldiers of Tamil Eelam, a "rebel group" fighting for the freedoms of Sri Lankan Tamils from a perceived unfair Singhalese society. Not knowing the group, nor the events at hand, it was imperative for me to connect with the audience to some degree. Partnering up with one of my closest friends Sendu Bhakthakumaran (who is a part of the Tamil community), we joined poetic forces to write a spoken word relaying our thoughts on atrocities and display of inhumanity around the world. In the end, I ended up performing a piece that was titled "B.A.M.N." [By Any Means Necessary]. 

Here it is for your reading pleasure, please comment and subscribe!

B.A.M.N

B.A.M.N , B.A.M.N

By any means necessary

B.A.M.N , B.A.M.N

By any means necessary

Malcolm X’s thoughts became hereditary

To survive you needed it, it was necessary

They made revolutions out there in February 

Cold storms, wind blowing, it got very scary

Dusting the ground with bombs; our beliefs are contrary

Stemming from the need of the word clarity

Importance of courage is not to just stand alone

But to work your voice to promote some clones

Of a fight for freedom that softens its own definition

Soothes the fricative sense to erase aggression

Seek attention? No no, we seek repentance

Crimes against lives of those who leave mid sentence

Thoughts cut off, their dreams snatched away

Refugee camps and they ain’t even packed for days

The fight that we plight to, is it all for gains?

Mediocre lives, changing mediocre lanes

Rich get richer but the poor stay the same

Killing over our differences, is it my blood that’s to be blamed?

If I bleed and you bleed and we bleed a river

Will you see and differentiate whose blood is thicker?

Whose blood is richer? Whose blood is more worthy?

Your aims flying high, but your platform ain’t sturdy

In a court room being judged by sinners

Nobody’s perfect so nobody’s a winner

But inhumanity, is insanity

Agree with that argument and you support vanity

Because nobody recognizes the truth anymore

You aren’t respected if you aren’t in a suit anymore

Kids with potential, but can they be what they plan to be?

War torn, broken hearted, some of them have no feet

Mines put in the earth that we are free to walk in

Holding on to hope as if it were tied to lockets

Holding on to throats, these vultures dying for profits

Holding on to babies, mothers crying for doctors

Holding on to something, or else God will mock us

Turn the other cheek, that what Ghandi taught us

But oppression is blind, carried out by the will of monsters

Take examples by the death in Gaza

Almost a million people displaced with no food or water

Take examples by the deaths in Mullivaikal

40,000 deaths and they got nothing to account for

Lets bring change to rearrange the tides of the future

Where kids don’t have to tread the same side walks as shooters

Where mothers don’t have to put a fight up against looters

Where mother earth herself doesn’t have to bear the burdens of rulers

The older I get... my footprints, larger they seem

Let me die knowing that I have stitched the seams

of love..

So it does not meet greed and that my children will grow

In a society where seeds meet no inferno

Well nurtured given nothing but unconditional,

We'll turn dreams to reality, we determine fictional

Because Hope and dreams have strayed the collective,

Self-inspired gain was brought a new elective

 
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I'm a huge football fan. I don't watch Premier League or Serie A football, nor can I play the sport very well, yet I was able to develop a love for the game through FIFA games for Xbox 360 and Play Station 3. This is not something strange or extraordinary, because people around the world have fallen in love with the sport one way or another. It has a way of drawing crowds and connecting them, regardless of background, ethnicity or faith. And it is because of these qualities that football, or soccer as it is known in the Western world, has become a go to solution when dealing with development issues. 

The European Commission and FIFA created a partnership in 2006,  addressing development issues through football and its positive impact on developing countries. They hope to progress towards the Millennium Development Goals through this effort and educate the youth on development issues. 

Fambul Tok - "Family Talk" in Krio - uses football as an attraction in its program to help pacify relations between communities affected by the civil war in Sierra Leone. 

Kanouté Foundation in Mali, founded by Beijing Guoan forward and former player for the Mali international team Freddie Kanouté, who initiated the project to help orphaned and vulnerable children improve their welfare and education. In his efforts to improve lives and reduce poverty, Kanouté's foundation has founded Sakina Children's Village, a programme which shelters children by providing housing complexes, a health centre and a school. In the middle of the children's village, of course, sits a football field, which apart from being used for football, is also used as operating grounds for volunteer programs, foreign medics, teachers and psychologists to help and educate residents of Sakina and surrounding villages.

The Street Child World Cup campaign is a testament to why the sport is just more than a game. As the only street child organization in the world, the campaign connects NGO's from around the world to raise awareness about the issues that Street Children face, help these children get a voice and push for growth and development opportunities for the children as they are generally denied privileges that every kid should be entitled to. In 2010, the campaign was able to hold its first Street Child World Cup in South Africa, where the FIFA world cup was taking place. India came out on top after beating Tanzania in the final!

The examples mentioned above, are some of many opportunities that organizations have capitalized on to help bring communities together and empower them. With 100 million children living and working in the streets, football has emerged as an effective way to help this demographic. In other scenarios, the power of competition has helped change perceptions and bring together communities that once were at war amongst one another. 

The world of football itself is combating racism as we speak. When thousands flock to see world famous players play on the same ground, amidst the battle on the field, there is a battle amongst races on the bleachers. On many occasions, disrespectful slandering has reached points of forcing players to stop playing football matches and engage in shouting matches against crowds of people. This should not be taken as a discouraging series of events because based on other successful ventures, this provides opportunity for football to tackle another issue that has plagued the world for thousands of years. With initiatives such as Kick it Out and Football Against Racism in Europe the sky is the limit with what football can achieve while tackling racism. If its anything that can help cure us of this disease, its football. With a following of over a billion people, I hope the most beautiful sport in the world becomes a means to an end for a world that is much need of unity and solidarity.

 
Is this the future of money? The idea doesn't seem too far fetched as it employs internet, the number one medium for exchanging information in todays economy, to become the number medium for exchanging value. With low transaction fees and a following of freethinkers that want to revolutionize todays world, Bitcoin has found itself in the right surroundings. We have yet to see implications and repercussion of this type of thinking, as it will bring about many opportunities and opposition.

There is already opposition against Bitcoins simply because it has the potential to strike out big financial institutions that control currency and make money off of charging transaction fees. However there is also the argument that Bitcoins is helping advocate untraceable drug trade as sites over the internet have started openly selling drugs using Bitcoins.

Some of the questions that come to my mind are, how  can development organizations benefit from using Bitcoins? Will virtual currency eventually dominate paper currency? Will people try to monopolize the world of virtual currency as they have with paper currency through banking and government institutions? Is Bitcoin a step towards or a step against approaching a better world?

I would love to get some insight, so please comment with your thoughts below.
 
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Change. Something that the world recognizes it needs this very moment. Some may disagree with that statement, but the disagreement would come from a bunch that are living a life too sheltered.  With billions living below respectable conditions, to say the least, and thousands facing death under the regime of politics and civil unrest, one has to ask, when will change truly come?

For many, the answer was Obama. Not only was he an icon for the Americans, but he was also an inspiration and a ray of hope for many around the world. Not only did he promise to bring change, but he also defined it. The president of the strongest, or at least the most influential, country in the world, was finally looking like a good thing... for everyone. 

But just like George Bush's war on Iraq, Obama's campaign of change was based on artificial manifestos. Where thousands wanted an end to the Afghanistan war, Obama increased war efforts in Afghanistan, increasing money spent on the war and thus increasing America's debt. 

Drone attacks have increased since George Bush left, and one has to think at this point, if the prior president of the United States made a claim to shame, following in his footsteps would surely be a mistake. Not only is Obama surpassing his predecessor in his act, but he completely changed the mantra he had once preached to gain presidency. Transparency and the voice of the people is muffled behind secret prerogatives and war has spread from Afghanistan to Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The presence of special U.S. forces has expanded from 60 to 75 countries, and all this is behind the banner of fighting terrorist organizations that are a threat to the American freedom.  The continuous violence propagated in the name of protecting civilians, has resulted in countless innocent deaths outside the  U.S. border.

But all of this is not the reason for my rant.  My frustration with Obama being perceived as a doer of good has come from his recent visit to Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. With Israel advancing its efforts to set up illegal settlements in Palestinian land, which has been recognized as an independent state by the U.N., Obama continues to act as a mediator that has the best interest of both parties in mind, when this is clearly not the case. In a recent article on CNN, Obama came forth with a bold statement in support of Palestinian rights and freedom. He urged young Israeli's to demand change from their government so that peace between the two countries could be achieved. But then in the same visit, he advised Palestinians to drop the precondition of having the settlements stop completely before any peace talks could begin. He stated, "If the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there is no point for negotiations." 

Why not? If America can use 9/11 as the main reason for its campaign against terrorism and take extreme measures to ensure its safety, then why can't the Palestinians who have been oppressed for 40 years, demand that their land, or what's left of it, be left alone? What is acceptable for one country, is not acceptable for another? Why do we continue to live in a social paradigm that reflects the mistakes of the past? Continuing to appease a group at the expense of another.. sounds familiar? Without outright change and adherence to responsibility, the President of the U.S. will continue to face criticism from me and others who see beyond the facade. Without fulfilling the promise of change, none will come on its own. 

Please feel free to add your thoughts of what Obama is doing right or wrong. I would love to hear both sides. 



 
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As an individual with a very competitive nature, regardless of whether I’m on or off the basketball court, I understand the importance of competition and its role in pushing one to perform in their optimal mode, pushing for excellence in others or simply inspire thoughts that are creative and stray away from the norm. 

The Conquistadors of the 16th century, the industrial revolution, the atomic bomb, the nuclear bomb, democratic elections, almost every business model and even the evolutions of the human intelligence, is based on the need of learning how to master and gain a competitive advantage over other members of the species. 

But what has this mindset gotten us so far? Aside from positive innovation, we have been left with a world that is constantly in conflict, a world in which to trump another is to obtain success in any setting (academia, business etc.) and a world in which scarcity has resulted in nations hoarding resources and creating an unbalanced consumption. These resources, if equally distributed and efficiently used, could help build global sustainability and tend to the three billion in need of basic necessities, nourishing their longstanding stunted development.

At such point, we should realize that competition can have detrimental consequences and at such a point is where the act of collaboration finds its place. Thanks to the Internet, we have been able to see the power of collaborative effort and witnessed a brighter side of humanity, providing new opportunities and empowering individuals to develop communities dedicated towards solving real problems while being anywhere in the world. This is not to say that humanity did not exist before the Internet, but thanks to the influence of cyber-culture, there is certainly a shift in the way boundaries are perceived by today’s generation. Many more people are informed today, leaving little room for discrimination and injustice to go on without being noticed. People are realizing the socioeconomic differences that exist in today’s world and humanity is starting to see the plight of its fellow humans in a picture far clearer than ever before. And the best part about it, people are starting to get bothered. Bothered by the continuous marginalization and exploitation of the third world countries. Bothered by the west’s privileged living made possible at the expense of third world’s cheap labor and bendable governing system. Revolutions are happening with the help of social media and unity, for the first time, extending far beyond the ideals of patriotism and nationalism. 

If there was ever a time that it has become easier to collaborate than ever before, it is now. Hospitals should find ways to contribute to other hospitals rather than compete with each other. Non-profit organizations fighting for the same cause should not fight one another, but group together what each organization has to offer to tackle the issues at hand that are larger than the both of them. The strengths of humans must not be used in relevance to reward, rather they should be used and shared among a common species for equal prosperity.

    Zain

    As an avid listener of instincts and humanity, I strive to do things that put me out of my comfort zone. Cherishing the growth that comes along with this habit and all the beauty that life has to offer, I'd like to share my experiences with you. 

    All posts and opinions expressed are mine and completely independent of the University of Waterloo and the International Development program.

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