Walking through a life in the Dominican Republic

Posted July 17, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community

Tags: , ,

I’m always on the look-out for family events that are educational, free or low-cost, and nearby. I had never heard about The Compassion Experience before, but I was immediately drawn to the idea of showing people what it is like to live in poverty in another country.

 

When I told my family that I registered us for The Compassion Experience, they were skeptical. As we were walking through Chinatown in Honolulu, my husband told me, “We don’t need to go to the Experience. We can see poverty right here.”

 

Hawaii struggles with poverty and homelessness, but we also have strong social support programs and public assistance. I wanted to show my son what poverty could be like in developing countries. I told them it would take just 15 minutes of our time.

 

We pulled into the parking lot in mid-afternoon, immediately drawn to the large draped container emblazed with the logo. The tent was hot, even with a portable air conditioning unit running, and well-lit, with uniformed staff and volunteers. The tent walls featured information, photos, and maps of the Philippines and the Dominican Republic, where the two experiences take place.

 

As we waited, we learned that over 700 million people in developing countries live on less than $1.90 per day. In the Dominican Republic, 41% of people live in extreme poverty.

 

We checked in, received clean headphones and an iPod, and walked up the steps to through the curtain-draped opening to experience Jonathan’s Story of living in the Dominican Republic.

 

As we entered each room, which has a scene from his life, we listened to Jonathan’s words. He talked about selling fruit juice to earn money for himself and his mother (opening the small money box was one of the first things my son did), getting an education through Compassion International, pressure from local gangs to steal, and coping with his father’s anger and rejection. He highlighted the support of a special mentor who helped him turn his life around. We watched a video that showed Jonathan as an adult who has become a mentor himself.

 

The rooms re-create Jonathan’s childhood. There are worn shoes with cardboard soles, Dominican pesos in a money box, plates of beans and rice, posters in Spanish, and photographs. What really struck me was seeing hanging wall pockets filled – not with pencils or ID cards – but toothbrushes. It has some serious themes that may not be appropriate for young children.

 

I knew when I signed up that the Compassion Experience is a Christian organization with a child sponsorship program, but I was taken aback by how much Experience emphasizes God. I expected a stronger focus on poverty. The website tells us a little more – half of the country doesn’t have access to clean water or sanitary toilets. In rural areas, five out of ten children are school drop-outs. The poverty rate has been improving in recent years

 

As we left, I was a little uncomfortable by the push to sponsor a child. I think it would have been better to let the photos of children speak for themselves.

 

The Compassion Experience will be in Hawaii for the next few weeks. I think it’s a valuable way to teach children and remind ourselves that poverty is a global problem. We face the same struggles, have the same fears, and feel the same need to give and receive compassion. And with help, people can make their lives better.

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13 candidates, 3 hours, 1 night

Posted July 10, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Government

Tags: , ,

Election signs are popping up along sidewalks, sign wavers are standing along the road during the morning commute, and political debates are underway.

On July 2, 2018 Hawaii News Now broadcast a “Super Debate” with the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, senator, and governor. It was sponsored by Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).

I thought the Super Debate was a good idea at first – I could listen to candidates from the three major races. But I didn’t factor in fatigue; my attention span was around 120 minutes. By the time the gubernatorial debate was up, I was ready for a break.

That’s why I’m writing this post a week after the Super Debate – I needed some time to think about what the candidates said, and what I heard.

Notes about the lieutenant governor debate:

* What they said: Former state Senator Will Espero emphasized affordable housing and corrections reform (prisons). State Senator and Doctor Josh Green emphasized homelessness and the opioid epidemic (healthcare). Former school board member Kim Coco Iwamoto stressed government accountability. State Senator Jill Tokuda emphasized education. Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho was charming.

* What I heard is that all of the issues will require more spending and higher taxes. Only Iwamoto admitted that she supports higher taxes on corporations and nonresident homeowners.

* In the open forum, it was interesting to see which candidates jumped up to answer first.

* It was surprisingly civil, though candidates sometimes side-stepped the questions or spoke longer than their allotted time in the open forum.

Notes about the congressional debate:

* What they said: Former Congressmember Ed Case emphasized his experience and willingness to compromise. Lieutenant Governor and former Attorney General Doug Chin supports a single-payer healthcare system. State Representative Beth Fukumoto focused on free college, federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, and Medicare for all. State Representative Kaniela Ing emphasized free college, an anti-corporation stance, federal jobs for all, and Medicare for all. State Senator Donna Mercado Kim emphasized her experience. Councilmember Ernie Martin impressed me by stating that people should earn a free college education.

* What I heard is that many of the candidates support debt-free college and Medicare for all (a single-payer healthcare system), which means raising taxes.

* One of the candidates raised the issue of the Medicare and Social Security crisis. No one mentioned that this is a crisis that was created by government. Both public assistance programs were designed as pay-it-forward programs, in which younger generations support older generations.

* This was arguably the most exciting debate, with two verbal sparring matches: Ing vs. Fukumoto and Case vs. Kim.

Notes about the gubernatorial debate:

* What I heard: nothing really surprising. Congressmember Colleen Hanabusa asked about the false missile alert, challenging Governor David Ige’s leadership skills and aptitude; he answered that he was leaving the house for an event, and he turned around and went back inside to make phone calls. Governor David Ige asked about the Ko Olina tax credit, challenging Congressmember Colleen Hanabusa’s integrity; she answered by saying that the tax credit showed that Waianae is business-friendly, and the developer only used a small portion of the tax credit.

Some of the commercials were refreshing and positive, like messages from the Hawaii Community Foundation (giving to nonprofits), Legacy of Life Hawaii (organ donation), Hawaii Fido Service Dogs, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, and Catholic Charities; but I wish they had excluded all the political commercials.

What is your opinion of a three-hour Super Debate format? Which candidates surprised you or gained your support?

“The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey

Posted July 7, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

Tags: , ,

With so many distractions in life, we could probably be a little more productive.

Author and productivity blogger Chris Bailey embarked on “A Year of Productivity” (AYOP), 12 months of intense research, interviews, and experimentation, so that we can be more productive about being productive. Delegating tasks is Bailey’s productivity hack #14, so we’ve already become a little more efficient just by reading his book, “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy” (2016).

The productivity tactics in this book can “help you accomplish everything you have to do in less time, so you can carve out more time for what’s actually important and meaningful in your life.” Each chapter begins with a takeaway and estimated reading time. There are 25 productivity hacks and productivity challenges so that you can see which ones work best for you.

Bailey redefines productivity as how much you accomplish – not how efficiently you work. That means managing your time, energy, and attention so that finish everything you intended to do. He reminds us that busyness is not productivity, even though you’re working hard!

Bailey’s writing is conversational and humorous (“This is the kind of stuff that goes on in my head all day long. Please send help.”). The chapters are short and bite-sized, so I could read a bit and then go back to work, or stop and do a productivity challenge.

If you want to take small steps to increase your productivity, I recommend these three productivity hacks: First, disconnect from the Internet when working on high-impact tasks. Next, limit attention-hog tasks like checking email and making phone calls. And finally, schedule a “maintenance day” to do all your routine chores and errands, such as laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Make these routine tasks a necessary part of your productivity.

There were three productivity challenges I stopped reading to do. They didn’t take a lot of time, and I felt a sense of control at organizing my tasks.

* The Values Challenge, which asks what you would do if you had two more hours in a day. I immediately thought of three things: reading more, writing more, and doing more art projects.

* The Impact Challenge, which asks you to write down all of your job responsibilities, big and small, and highlight the ones that have the most value.

* The Capture Challenge (the brain dump), which asks you to write down all of the things that you have to do, the things you are waiting for, and the things you are worrying about. This was

The most insightful productivity hack is to treat your “future self” with as much care as yourself today, being careful of your future self’s time and money.

As Bailey reminds us, “People are the reason for productivity.”

How do you keep on-task every day? What are your most effective productivity tips?

Looking back on sixth grade

Posted July 3, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Education

Tags: ,

My son finished sixth grade in May. Summer is half over, and I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on our sixth grade experience.

I knew that sixth grade would be a time of big changes for my son – and for us. He would be testing his independence and challenging us even more. It’s a year earlier than when I went to school, when sixth grade was still considered elementary school.

Here are some thoughts about our sixth grade experience:

More complicated schedules. My son’s schedule was different every day, with six different schedules A-F. At first, he didn’t like it and had a hard time adjusting. About five weeks into the school year, the schedule started to click. Ultimately, the six-day schedule let him participate in more classes than in a regular Monday to Friday week.

Earlier wake-up time. Since we had to drive farther to get to school and had to deal with more traffic, we both had to get up earlier than when he was in elementary school. Sometimes he used the time to go over vocabulary words. Sometimes he took naps on the way to school in the morning and on the way home in the afternoon. The earlier wake-up time really conflicted with his…

Changing sleeping habits. He stayed up later to do homework, study, and relax, and he had a harder time waking up in the morning. I read recently that if we want to improve educational results for teenagers, we should start the school day later. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “later sleep and wake patterns among adolescents are biologically determined; the natural tendency for teenagers is to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning.”

More homework, less sleep. It seemed that he had a lot more homework than in fifth grade. Other students told him that his teacher was one of the stricter teachers in sixth grade (which should make seventh grade less stressful). He spent less time using his planner, which meant more last-minute work. He spent more time with his humanities and social studies work, which made his performance in math and science falter a little. We asked him to write a plan for improving next year.

First time away from home, alone. I’m sure it was more traumatic for us, than for him. The house was so quiet when he was gone. Even our yellow lab was more subdued. He wasn’t excited to go to camp, but he came back full of enthusiasm. He had a great group of camp counselors who made him feel welcome.

Chapel. He attended chapel every two weeks, but the focus was more on building character and promoting understanding. The highlight was a skit that each class had to perform. The class had only a limited time to learn songs and choreography, and then they performed in front of the rest of the sixth graders (and some curious parents).

In his words. “There were a lot [of] downsides to this year as I experienced inappropriate, enraging, and intriguing behavior and students. I have also been more exposed to kids’ nature and their games, such as Fortnite, learning about drama between both teenagers and other students such as ‘shipping’ [real people or fictional characters in a romantic relationship] … There were some awesome experiences I had! Camp was probably the best thing I can think of for this year, since I got to meet so many new people and make new friends.”

What do you remember about your sixth grade? If you have middle school children, how are expectations about student learning different from when you were in middle school?

Growing up ALICE in Hawaii

Posted June 26, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Economy, Family

Tags: , , , ,

Aloha United Way recently released the ALICE Report for Hawai‘i to raise awareness about the economic challenges faced by hardworking Hawai‘i families and individuals. ALICE households – an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – are employed, but can’t afford the cost of living in Hawaii, and lack a safety net for emergencies. Their income may be higher than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but their income falls short of basic necessities.

In Hawai‘i, 49% of households are ALICE or live below the poverty level. They are in every community, women and men, young and old, all races and ethnicities. They could be our neighbors. They could be us.

I grew up ALICE, but I didn’t know it.

We were three generations living in a house in Hawai’i, with three-and-a-half incomes contributing to the household – and me. And a scrappy dog.

We had four adults contributing to the household, and one child who didn’t know that there was anything unusual about it. For financial reasons, for childcare, for convenience, it made sense to live together, ALICE.

We were lucky that we inherited a home from my great-grandmother, so we just had to worry about property taxes and maintenance. We added security bars after our house was burglarized, and one year we all got together to paint the outside of the house, but we couldn’t afford major upgrades.

We didn’t go to farmer’s markets, but we had fruit trees in the yard. We didn’t buy organic food, but we stocked up on canned goods (and toilet paper). We didn’t go to a lot of restaurants, concerts, or plays, but we saved money to splurge on vacations a few times when I got older.

ALICE households are not new in Hawai‘i. What’s new is the spotlight we are shining on them. We’re acknowledging that we sometimes can’t live comfortably on a single or even dual income. We’re acknowledging that as childhood extends into the late teens (or early twenties), and people live longer, multi-generational families are a better solution than living and struggling alone.

In 2016, 8% of all family households in Hawaii were multi-generational (three or more generations), according to the US Census Bureau 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

The ALICE Report reminds us that it’s hard to thrive on our own.

Growing up, did you live in an ALICE household? Do you live in an ALICE household today, or do you have friends and family who live ALICE?

Learning decisiveness in a no-merge area

Posted June 19, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community

Tags: , ,

Does this sound familiar: You take the most direct route and keep to the lane you need to be in, even if it’s slower. You get anxious when you need to cross multiple lanes of traffic or make a left-turn against on-coming traffic. You try to plan your route before you leave, because you need to know where you’re going.

That’s a description of my driving style. I’m a fairly cautious driver, and I usually take the same route to work every day. Because of the commute, I’ve become a lot more laid-back about waiting in traffic than I used to be.

Then one day I decided to take a different freeway onramp. And then I saw a worrying traffic sign: “No Merge Area.”

This caused me a small amount of panic. I watched the cars in front of me get stuck in traffic limbo, and nervously waited for my turn. But I wasn’t in a hurry, and rush hour was just getting started. I waited for a gap in traffic. And waited.  And waited. Only when I thought the “gap” between oncoming cars was safe enough did I step on the gas.

It was really stressful to accelerate to highway speed. I forgot that I was driving in “eco” mode, and felt the drag of the car as I accelerated. I kept looking in my rearview mirror, expecting to see the bumper of the car behind me. But I merged safely into traffic and everything was fine.

And because I was so anxious about it, and because my anxiety bothered me, I decided to take that onramp the next day. And the next, until I felt more comfortable with the onramp.

That “no-merge area” taught me a few things.

I learned to be patient, waiting for the cars ahead of me to safely enter the freeway, and waiting for an opening when it was my turn.

I learned to commit when I saw a safe opening, because merging too slowly is dangerous.

I learned that we can be decisive drivers and drive with aloha too.

Sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself to do things that make you nervous. I could have decided to never take that onramp again. But I kept going, and that onramp has helped me be a little more decisive in other ways.

Do you avoid any freeway onramps or offramps? Do you ignore any uncomfortable situations? How have you tried to challenge those uncomfortable situations?

Fishing and the art of compromise

Posted June 12, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Family

Tags: ,

My husband loves fishing (and poke), and he really looks forward to sharing his love of fishing with our now 11-year old son. They leave early in the morning, before sunrise, and return in the early evening. I am happy that they can spend time together – and I can have a relaxing day.

My son doesn’t love fishing. During spring break, when my son was facing another fishing trip, he came to me and asked me to intercede.

Instead of being a mediator, I thought this was a good opportunity for my son to practice his negotiation skills.

“Suggest a compromise,” I advised him.

I helped him come up with a series of compromises to convince my husband to put off a fishing trip (my husband was going fishing, with or without him). Then I gave him a few tips, like “speak calmly” and “don’t whine,” and I sent him to negotiate.

Here are the compromises my son proposed:

First, he offered to go fishing on another day without complaining. I wasn’t encouraging my son to procrastinate, because this solution would benefit both of them. My son would stay at home today, and my husband would not have to deal with a sullen fishing buddy. Offer: declined.

Then, he offered to limit his “screen time” on the iPad and not watch YouTube all day. I know that we shouldn’t have to bribe our son to turn off the computer and TV, but this reinforced the idea that limiting screen time is important to us. Offer: declined.

Finally, he offered to go fishing on another day without complaining, limit his “screen time” and YouTube, and help unload any fish that my husband catches without complaining. This was a big concession, because my son doesn’t enjoy carrying fish from cooler to fish bag. Offer: accepted.

I think the compromise worked out well – my son stayed home, he practiced his negotiation skills, and my husband will appreciate an uncomplaining fishing buddy the next time.

What kinds of “deals” did you make with your parents? Do you negotiate with your children – and what kinds of compromises worked best?