It’s Sunday again, the second Sunday in September, which means that here at Beyond Romance, it is Charity Sunday.
Let me explain how this works, in case you are new to my blog. One Sunday a month, I feature a particular charity that is important to me personally. I’ll tell you a bit about what they do and give you links so you can find out more. Then I’ll share an excerpt from one of my stories (just to keep things entertaining) and ask for your opinion in a comment.
For every comment I receive, I will donate $1 to the month’s charity.
Thanks to everyone who commented last month. I rounded up the number of comments and donated $20 to Oxfam. At that time, an anonymous donor was matching all contributions, so thanks to you, mine was doubled to $40. That might not seem like much, but if every one of us gave that much, we could eradicate hunger.
In any case, my selected charity this month is Amnesty International, a worldwide organization that has been working for human rights for more than fifty years. You may be familiar with Amnesty’s grass-roots letter writing campaigns to free prisoners of conscience—individuals who are imprisoned solely because of their political or religious beliefs. Unfortunately, there are thousands of such people around the world. The organization also works to eradicate torture and capital punishment, and advocates for the rights of women and minorities.
Given the natural disasters currently afflicting the globe (hurricanes in the Atlantic, earthquakes in Mexico, devastating floods in India and Nepal, and so on) you may wonder why I am not focusing on some relief charity like the Red Cross. To be honest, I believe that worldwide, crises in human rights are more serious, and ultimately affect everyone, not just people in vulnerable locations. In many countries (and not just in the so-called “third world”), we can see a disturbing trend towards totalitarianism, a lack of accountability and a total disregard for fundamental human rights. Human rights abuse in one country, if allowed to persist, encourages other governments or groups to follow suit. This phenomenon is insidious and dangerous, but much less flashy and obvious than smashed houses or submerged hospitals. Amnesty International shines the light of conscience on the inhumane practices that are all too common these days.
Anyway, if you believe that it is important to treat human beings—all human beings— with compassion, respect and dignity, I hope you’ll leave a comment below. As it happens, Amnesty also has a donor matching contributions during the month of September, so every comment means $2 for human rights.
For this month’s excerpt, I’ve gone back to my short story “Refuge”, which is clearly relevant to my charity. This story is available in the altruistic anthology Coming Together: At Last (V1), which as it happens also supports Amnesty International. So if you buy a copy, you’re contributing twice!
The story is a romance between a woman from an ethnic minority in Myanmar, who is living in a refugee camp on the Thai border, and a Thai soldier assigned to the camp.
Here’s a (non-erotic) snippet. Please do leave me a comment and do a bit for human rights.
She raised her eyes. I was startled to see that they were dark blue, like dusk behind the mountains. Also they were glistening with tears. “I need to ask your help again. Something much more serious.”
On impulse, I grasped her hands, gently releasing her tense grip. Her nails were bitten down to the quick. The creases in her palms were embedded with grime. Nevertheless, her skin was deliciously soft. Sympathetic tears pricked at my eyes. “What is it? How can I help you?”
“It’s Su. One of the children. She’s very sick. Diarrhea and a high fever.”
“Did you bring her to the infirmary?”
“They said it was probably just some bad fish. That they couldn’t do anything. I think she needs to go to the hospital. She’s burning up.”
“The hospital? In Mae Sot? That’s more than two hours away!”
“I went to ask the commander for permission to take her. He wouldn’t even let me into his office.” She tried to kneel before me. I stopped her, terribly embarrassed, not to mention worried that someone would see her. “Please, Khun Nu. She’s much worse today than she was last night. She doesn’t even know who I am.”
What can I do? I started to answer. I can’t do anything. I’m practically a prisoner here myself. But the desperation and hope I saw mingled in her face stopped my voice.
“We would need a jeep...” I remembered when the commander sent Kai and me to town, a month ago, to pick up mail and supplies. Maybe I could convince him that we needed to make another run. “Let me see what I can do and I’ll let you know. Where can I find you?”
“If you can get a jeep, tie this around one of the supports on the water tower.” She held out the shoelace that had been securing her ponytail. It has once been red. Her jet locks flowed over her shoulders in a shimmering cascade. A lump gathered in my chest as I gazed at her, so small and vulnerable, so brave. “I’ll meet you at the turn off for Baan Huay Bua, half a kilometer along the road. Around noon.”
She smiled. “There are exits. Gaps in the barbed wire. Places where it’s rusted away. We all know them.”
“Then why don’t you leave?” I imagined her, free, dressed in bright, clean clothing, laughing with friends. Teaching in an actual school.
“Where would I go? My village across the border? It’s gone, burned to the ground by the generals’ thugs. My parents were murdered. My sisters were raped. I have no idea where they are now. Without an identity card, I couldn’t get a decent job. Oh, maybe I could make it to Bangkok or Phuket and work in a bar. Flirt in exchange for drinks. Have sex with tourists. Would that really be any less of a prison than here?”
Remember: every comment is $2 for human rights!