Chocolate lovers all over the world are certainly going to want to sit down before they hear this news. It is a lot to take in! As someone who needs to have a chocolate stash in their home at all times, this news hit me in my feel zone. The chocolate industry is not immune to bad news, though. There are all sorts of reports that are designed to make us feel bad about our consumption.
It takes a heartless person to hear about the role of child labor in chocolate production and not think twice about chowing down on a candy bar. Fair trade chocolates need to be purchased whenever possible. Otherwise, you could be spending your money on items that have been produced under adverse circumstances. West African parks are currently being destroyed to make room for more cruelty based farms.
This does not sit well with us and it should not sit well with you, either. However, the nation of Brazil made a recent announcement that should have everyone applauding. Chocolate lovers everywhere, rejoice! The cattle ranchers of Brazil are coming together to make life easier for chocolate consumers everywhere. They are going to utilize their additional land to help the cause. Chocolate forests are being created as we speak and we are overjoyed.
Instead of letting their used up pastures fall by the wayside, this land is now going to be utilized. These ranchers are finally taking a more responsible approach. This is a fantastic piece of news. These are the ranchers who have caused so much deforestation already. The trees in this rainforest are responsible for the production of much of the world’s oxygen.
20 percent of the oxygen that is consumed on this planet is derived from this rainforest. The deforestation that is taking place is frightening. Environmental regulations have been passed, in hopes of keeping these farmers from being able to continue their hurtful tactics. We are glad that someone is finally stepping up to the plate to put a stop to these actions.
If no one is willing to protect the environment, the entire human race can be placed in jeopardy. The cows who consume the grass on these farmlands are also responsible for environmental depletion. Their needs certainly have to be considered as well. That’s why the ranchers of this region have decided that it is time to move in a more positive direction going forward.
Any move towards chocolate is a positive one, to be quite honest. This is a credo to live by. When lands are used in a manner that allows for greenery to grow, this is highly beneficial to the greater good. As a society, we need to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to keep forests from being cut down to make room for more inhumane production of human resources.
It is our responsibility to make sure that we are preserving the Earth for our children and their children. These chocolate forests are a great way to ensure the health of the planet, while steering the world of chocolate production away from the usage of child labor. The Amazon Fund is also offering financial incentives to farmers who are willing to plant their own chocolate forests.
Over $5 million in grants has been offered already and we hope that there is more to come. This is also good news for the farmers who are making the switch. The production of cocoa is far more profitable. This allows farmers to cease their practices, while remaining financially solvent. It is not often that we get to help the environment and our bottom line. Please be sure to pass this good news along to the choco-holics in your life!
Batman’s Newest Battle: Cheering Up Refugee Children
Life in refugee camps can be terribly boring. For many refugees coming from war-torn and disaster-stricken areas, boredom can actually be a relief. Still, boredom is boredom and the days can drag by even if basic security and shelter are secured in the camp. Fortunately for refugees in one Lebanese camp, a new hero is on the job, cheering people up: Batman!
The Caped Crusader recently went viral on Reddit and other social media platforms after photos and videos emerged of his efforts inside a refugee camp. The legendary superhero was spotted playing with children and otherwise cheering the camp residents up. Batman’s best friend at the camp was a young boy by the name of Kadar.
The Caped Crusader has earned a reputation for being a tough-as-nails superhero who always gives his all. That’s true both in Gotham and refugee camps. Batman put in a lot more effort than smiles and handshakes. Clips of Batman giving Kadar a ride on his shoulders and playing soccer with children have emerged. And no offense to the man in black, while he might be good at fighting crime, he needs to brush up on his soccer skills.
Another clip emerged of Batman losing an arm-wrestling match to Kadar. Let’s assume he tossed the match or Gotham might be in trouble the next time the Joker makes an appearance. If Batman’s so out of shape that a child can overpower him, that bodes ill for future battles between good and evil. Still, no one will doubt that Batman brought a lot of joy to the kids in the camp.
Batman also showed off some surprising skills. Did you know he’s one heck of a guitar player and a good singer to boot? Campfire clips of the Caped Crusader strumming away made their rounds. As for taking to the skies, Batman left the Batcopter home but he did manage to fly some kites.
Of course, Batman is a character of fiction, but real-world heroes will rise up none-the-less. In this case, the Caped Crusader was actually Kadar’s dad. The family has been struggling with conditions in the refugee camp and upheaval in their lives, so dad decided to cheer his son up. And at the end of the day, a real-world hero is worth far more than a fictional one.
The story also highlights the struggle that refugees go through. It is estimated that some 250 million children will grow up in conflict-torn areas. Many of them will struggle to secure an education or otherwise live a normal life. All of these children need heroes, both real and fictional.
Every day, families are being torn apart and forced to flee their homes. The United Nations estimates that in Syria alone that some 6.5 million people have been displaced. Over a million refugees from Syria have fled to Lebanon, itself a war-stricken country where millions struggle just to get buy. With an on-going civil war in Yemen, instability in Iraq, and countless other geopolitical issues, the Middle East and North Africa have seen millions of people displaced.
While a lucky few refugees will be resettled in the United States, Europe, and other highly developed areas, many will be trapped in refugee camps. Their only hope of returning home is often the end of the war. Yet modern wars can drag on for decades, seeming to never end. For Kadar and his dad, the years ahead might be tough. Hopefully, however, they can create some good memories along the way.
When the Lesson Is Kindness
As parents, we always worry about how well we are preparing our children for the world. Sometimes we are overly strict because we worry that if we’re not, our children won’t be able to deal with disappointment and responsibility as adults. As parents, we worry a lot about whether we are doing the right thing and making the right decisions for our children.
Brea Schmidt was at the carnival with her children one night. She already had her hands full, with her children being aged 5, 3 and 1, and she also works as a writer and photographer.
That night her daughter was trying desperately to win a doll. She tried and tried, asking sweetly and politely for another dollar every time she lost. Finally, Brea said that they had to stop. She wasn’t trying to hurt her daughter’s feelings, but it was an exercise in frustration. She knew that you don’t always get what you want, and she was planning on discussing that with her poor child.
The Kindness of a Stranger
The 5-year-old girl was not being a gracious loser. Instead, she was sobbing, Probably already tired from her day having fun at the carnival, she couldn’t hide how sad she was that she hadn’t been able to win the cute little pink Princess Poppy doll.
A stranger intervened at that point, wanting to help. Even though she couldn’t control the game of chance, she offered to make one more try to help the little girl win her prize. The lady told the little girl that she had a dollar and she was going to try to win for her.
She paid her dollar for the three tickets and sure enough opened a winning ticket. Immediately, she gave the child the prize. Even though she was exhausted, the child was elated from being able to have the doll she so treasured.
We Are A Community
Many people would object to having someone come up and interfere with a private moment, especially one so fraught with emotion. Brea Schmidt knew that some people might feel that way, but she looked at the lady’s gesture as an even better kind of lesson.
The lesson was simple kindness, and Brea’s daughter learned that night that she and her family weren’t alone in the world. When she was having a bad time, a total stranger came up and tried to make things better for her. She gave her own money just to make a stranger happy. And she was obviously glad to do it.
When children are very young, they have trouble learning to share. Even those with brothers and sisters often feel threatened by the others, wanting their parents and playthings to themselves. Babies try to get all the attention and become more able to be generous as they get older.
Teaching our children to be so open and generous with their hearts is one of the hardest lessons. Brea’s little girl will never forget the kind stranger who gave her a lesson in kindness that night.
Turkey & Dressing With A Side of Hope and Happiness
Do You Smell Pumpkin Pie?
If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island and happen to catch a whiff of holiday cheer while passing a slightly weathered station wagon, you’ve just encountered Ty and Vicky Shen.
This father and daughter team have become local heroes, especially around the holidays, since they began delivering hot, healthy meals across the state in 2001. They love the open road, but the real joy is in the reaction they receive from those they serve.
They’re not in this alone. The Shens are only one of the teams regularly volunteering with Community Servings, a Massachusetts non-profit food program which specializes in modified meals for families and individuals with specific medical restrictions or other needs, often due to severe or chronic illnesses. That means the Shens and other volunteers reach households often unserved by similar programs because their needs are so specific.
Of course, neither the Shens nor Community Services forget about the families and caregivers involved. Every spouse, in-law, nurse, and child receives their own hot holiday meal.
The extra time and effort is more than worth it, they assure us.
“Those who can help, should,” says Ty. “Regardless if it’s time or other resources, helping our fellow man is our responsibility.” Vicky seems to agree.
“Volunteering with my dad is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I get to spend time with him, and the people at Community Servings are so wonderful. Most importantly, it feels great to do something on a daily basis helps people’s lives be a little bit better.”
Bringing It Together
Food is more than an essential requirement for life. It often means security, and comfort. Sometimes it represents plenty, but even in humble circumstances it can facilitate a sense unity and thanks.
“One of the most important elements of the holidays this time of year is togetherness,” says a representative from Community Services. “Sharing a meal has been a demonstration of trust, intimacy, and togetherness over the centuries and across cultures.”
That togetherness doesn’t just start when meals are delivered; it’s part of the process from the very beginning. Community Services volunteers prepare each dish on site, paying careful attention to the different restrictions and dietary needs they’ll be serving that day. Teams like the Shens spend most of their time delivering, but they’re no strangers to peeling potatoes or chopping cabbage or even – in a pinch – stuffing a bird or two.
It’s an enormous undertaking each and every time, but what determines whether or not it’s enjoyable work is the people involved, and the mindset they bring to the task. And most of the time, that makes Community Services as much of a family as those they serve during the holidays and throughout the year.
“Each year, our volunteers give more than 55,000 hours of service, which is the equivalent to almost 30 full time employees,” says David Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “There’s no way we could do any of this without their passion and their commitment.”
That passion and commitment are quickly driving Community Services towards their eight millionth meal. That’s right – eight with six zeroes after it! But the Shens, like most of those involved, don’t think of it in terms of the millions, or even the thousands of meals prepared and delivered each day.
To them, it’s always about the next door opened. The next family served. The next face smiling in recognition and appreciation. It’s always about the one at a time.
And as long as it’s up to the Shens, it always will be.
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