Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Interview with Don Sawatzky from Under The Same Sun

                It’s been over a decade since Lynne and I first decided to write this story, but to us it’s more than just a book. We know the plight of albinos isn't fiction. There are people who live in fear every day because of superstitions. We’ve had a number of readers ask what they can do to help these people, so Lisa recently reached out to a non-profit that works with albinos in Tanzania, Under The Same Sun.

                Peter Ash, the Founder and CEO of this non-profit, says. “I have a dream that one day people with albinism will take their rightful place throughout every level of society, and that the days of discrimination against persons with albinism will be a faint memory.

                The goal of Under the Same Sun (UTSS) is to work to change attitudes and behaviors toward people with albinism, beginning in Tanzania. They do this through education, teaching people with albinism their rights and how to take care of health issues, and ensuring they have access to education.

                Don Sawatzky, Director of Operations with Under The Same Sun recently spoke with us about this work. Here’s what he had to say.

                LISA: Thanks so much for talking with us today, Don. Can you give us a brief overview of what Under the Same Sun is involved in and why it exists?

                DON: Under The Same Sun helps people with albinism overcome often deadly discrimination through education and advocacy. Our Education Program provides people with albinism in Tanzania a high quality education in a safe, inclusive environment where their low-vision, health needs and other needs are also met. Our Advocacy and Public Awareness program educates people on the truths about albinism and fights for the inclusive human rights of people with albinism in Tanzania, at the UN and in many other countries. We have offices in Vancouver, Canada and Dar es Salaam , Tanzania.

                LISA: How long have you been involved in Under the Same Sun and what was your motivation to become a part of this organization.

               DON: I was the first full time employee at UTSS and have travelled with Peter Ash to Tanzania and beyond since our first trip in October of 2008. Peter Ash is a person with albinism and my personal friend and so I understand albinism at a personal level. I have also worked with human suffering all my adult life and care about how PWA have suffered at the hands of those living close to them.

                LISA: The plight of the African albino weighs heavily upon our hearts. While we have tried to raise awareness, what do you find is the most effective method?

                DON: We believe that advocacy and education are most effective and have made them our mandate; the more up close and personal the message, the more powerful the effect. “Education is our greatest 'weapon' against discrimination and our most powerful source of advocating a culture towards change.” An educated person with albinism taking their rightful place in society is by far the most persuasive message of all.

                LISA: What are the greatest needs of albinos?

                DON: To break all the mythology and misunderstanding that surrounds them and simply be accepted as a normal every day human being just like everyone else. They are not more special or more cursed than anyone else. They are not ghosts and they are not gods; they’re just people who happen to have a genetic condition. This is why we use the term PERSON with albinism or PWA instead of albino. They are a person first, not a genetic condition first.

                LISA: Can you share with us a personal example of how your organization is making a difference?    

                DON: UTSS cares for disadvantaged students with albinism in Tanzania, placing them in select boarding schools, where they are protected, integrated, and provided with the tools they need to learn. People with albinism, with the help of our donors, can complete any level of schooling from primary school to PhD. We've helped over 400 students in our education program since 2010 with over 85 graduates. After grad we offer vocational training and ensure career placement. We have a dream that one day people with albinism will take their rightful place throughout every level of society, and that the days of discrimination against persons with albinism will be a faint memory.

LISA: Thank you so much, Don, for taking the time to talk with us. For those of you reading this interview, if you want to learn more about this amazing non-profit, please visit their website for an overview of not only what they are involved in, but photos and extensive information on the difficult issues facing albinos.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Born Too White

Over ten years ago, Lynne ran across an article in a newspaper that talked about albinos being killed for the magic in their skin.

It was a story that she couldn't forget.

As she started looking further into this, she came across a powerful video by JuJu Chan. Here is another, more current video, put out by the BBC, that tells the story of being born too white.

Lisa & Lynne

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Organ Trafficking

While the hunting of albinos is an intricate part of the story of Ghost Heart, there's another issue that comes into play as well, and that is organ trafficking. This issue--which is tied to human trafficking--has become a huge international blackmarket business, mainly because the demand is so much greater than the supply.

According to the Washington Post, "As of early 2016, 100,791 people were waiting for lifesaving kidney transplants in the United States. Yet in 2014, only 17,107 kidney transplants took place there. That year, 4,761 Americans died while waiting for a kidney transplant. 

The World Health Organization, says that more than 10,000 black market operations take place around the world every year. That is more than one every hour. You can watch a short National Geographic video here about a man struggling to find a kidney here.

While I was busy with all the last minute book release things a few weeks ago, I stumbled across this new movie that is just coming out. While I haven't seen the movie (I definitely plan to) I was intrigued by the similarities to Ghost Heart. This movie is based on a true story.

Have any of you seen this movie yet? To find out more you can visit their website. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

What is happening to stop the murder of albinos in Africa?

Superstition still has a strong hold in Africa. It is a widely held belief that the body parts of an albino can bring healing to the sick, fertility to the infertile, and wealth to those who possess a charm made from albinos. According to Amnesty International, the macabre trade is also fueled by a belief that bones of people with albinism contain gold and that sex with a person with albinism can cure HIV. 

For years the attacks against these people have been met with social indifference and are seldom followed up by investigation or prosecution. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, international and regional human rights mechanisms have only “sporadically addressed the needs of persons with albinism. Since June 2013, because of the recrudescence of attacks against them these bodies have given more attention to persons with albinism.”

For those interested in exploring more about what is happening to albinos, where can they start?

There are a number of non-profits that are working to make people aware of what is happening and trying to stop it like Under the Same Sun who recently partnered with National Geographic to tell the story of the Perils of the Pale.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Happy Release Day of Ghost Heart!

We are so excited to announce the official release day of Ghost Heart! As many of you know, this story has been long in coming, which makes its release even more exciting for us. In case you missed the trailer, here it is again along with links to several on line distributors.

Get your copy today!

Amazon     Barnes & Noble      Itunes

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Hunted

In 2008, Lynne saw an article on how albinos were being hunted for the magic in their skin. She knew it couldn't possibly be true. And yet we quickly found out that it was. 

Here's an haunting article from 2017 titled The Hunted

"Those who aren’t abducted or killed face discrimination and live in fear."

There are efforts being put into place like public information campaigns trying to bring to light this superstition. The police are aware of the situation and work with the governments and small civil-society groups, but more needs to be done.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Here is a stunning slide show we found by Jacquelyn Martin who is a photo journalist. It's called a Tribe of Ghosts.