Health Care

Support Education and Medical Care in Bella Vista, Bolivia

I’m raising money to send to missionaries in Bolivia who provide free medical care and house children so that they can go to school. To donate and receive some prints of my awesome Bella Vista photos as a token of thanks, click here.

This year, I spent a month in Bella Vista, Bolivia with the Missionaries of the Holy Sacrament and Virgin Mary, teaching English and chess to children. The missionaries run a medical clinic, preschool and boarding house for about 25 students, aged four to 16, who attend school in Bella Vista. Each of the programs makes a big difference in the lives of people in this rural, agricultural region of Bolivia, and they do so with meager resources. I’m raising funds to send them so they can make some much-needed purchases to improve the quality of life for the people they serve.

The clinic offers its services free of charge, and even houses patients who have come from other towns. The preschool helps low-income families prepare their children for school and allows mothers extra free time to earn an income for their family. And the boarding house, in addition to giving children from rural communities a chance to go to school, has also provided refuge for children at risk of domestic violence or indentured child labor.

Your donation will be used by the missionaries in one of the following ways:

  • Purchasing medical supplies such as medicines or latex gloves, which are currently scarce.
  • Buying children’s literature, English books, clothes, and games for the boarding house, which currently doesn’t have a large supply of these materials.
  • Repairs to the preschool building, which has accumulated mold and structural damage from heavy jungle rains. Also replacing the wood stove kitchen, which is near classrooms and emits a lot of smoke that the children then breathe.
  • Reserves for basic goods. With global climate change, food prices in the fragile Amazonian ecosystem are unstable. For instance, flooding in eastern Bolivia destroyed most of the rice and sugar harvest this year, raising the cost of food at the boarding house.

Unfortunately, there is no registered 501c3 in the US supporting the missionaries’ work. I will gather the funds and then wire them to Bella Vista. The missionaries will compile a report of how the money is spent, which will then be sent to donors. Thank you so much for your support!

More photos of Bella Vista here.
Photos from my South America series here.

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit, MI. 2010.

Are Unions Better Than College?

Stupid question, smart (hopefully) answer. I reported on a new study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

The authors found that a 25 percent boost in college graduates (from 34.9 to 43.6 percent) would result in a 2.8 percent bump in the number of Americans with good jobs (from 24.1 to 26.9 percent).

Not bad, right? But also far from ideal.

A comparable increase in unionization would be even better, raising the proportion of good jobs to 30.8 percent.

The other policies also fare better than education. Universal health care would lift 4.8 percent of us into good jobs, and universal retirement plans would boost the figure by 9.6 percent. The two would be even stronger if combined, increasing the good job rate by 20.9 percentage points. Gender pay equity would bring 5.6 percent of female workers over the good job threshold.

The whole thing is at Campus Progress.

For Freelancers Without Benefits, This Might Be The Solution


Freelancers Union members rally in Albany, NY. They don’t have any picket lines, but a motley crew of 200,000 contingent workers have banded together for solidarity and health insurance. Their vulnerability, like their existence, is a recent invention.

Are you a temp worker, freelance writer, “independent contractor” for 40 hours a week, perpetual intern, aspiring entrepreneur, artist waiting for your big break, or otherwise precariously employed? There’s a union for that.

One union for all of that, in fact: the Freelancers Union and its founder Sara Horowitz were profiled in Sunday’s New York Times. The 200,000-strong group is not a union in the conventional sense—it doesn’t bargain collectively and members don’t pay dues—but the group provides affordable health insurance and a sense of camaraderie for a population that often needs both.

What’s more, that population is growing wildly. “In 1963, the total number of temps employed per year was 400,000. By 1980 that number was the total employed per day,” said journalist Bryce Covert, whose recent report “We’re All Women Workers Now” chronicled the rise of the American temp worker.

In 2005, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 2 to 4 percent of workers are contingently employed, including a disproportionate amount of young Americans. Other estimates of the total are far higher.

Like many recent travails of American workers, it wasn’t always this way. As the Times put it, “the post-New Deal model of employers providing health insurance, pensions and other benefits is breaking down.”

But why?

The rise of temp work coincided with the conservative counterrevolution against union power and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. As we’ve reported, the backlash—beginning in the 1970s—has meant sputtering job prospects for most Americans and huge gains for the richest. The era also marked a philosophical shift for many employers.

“We have shifted to a business model where companies aren’t thinking of employees as things that they invest in and keep long-term,” Covert told Campus Progress. “They are thinking of them as assets that they either bring on or let go depending on what they need and how the economy is doing.”

According to Covert, this new model has its roots in a temp industry that thrived on gendered conceptions of labor. Beginning in the 1960s, temp agencies “were able to skirt a lot of the protections in place for blue collar workers by branding themselves as offering work to women in particular—young single women who hadn’t married yet or housewives working for pin money,” she said.

Due to wariness about women in the workplace, these jobs were billed as temporary side gigs for women, not careers. But after the recessions of the 1970s, temp agencies changed their tune and the model spread throughout the whole economy.

That’s where the Freelancers Union comes in. The group may not be well-equipped to force employers to hire more full-time workers, but Horowitz “is trying to address what the new economy looks like,” Covert said, “and figure out: If most of the workers are temp workers or freelancers or part-time workers, how do you help them get the kinds of benefits that used to come with a full-time job?”

Posted at Campus Progress. Photo: Flickr / Freelancers Union.

Why ‘Strike Debt’ Is Sorta Like Oprah—But Better

Medical bills account for 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies. Strike Debt is trying to change that.

Have you recently lived in or visited Kentucky or Indiana? Did you go to an emergency room while you were there? Do you still have unpaid debt from the medical care you received? If so, keep an eye your mailbox. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

The Rolling Jubilee, a project of Occupy-affiliated Strike Debt, announced last week that they have bought about $1 million in medical debt incurred in the Louisville area. Instead of trying to collect, they are letting everyone off the hook.

About 1,000 folks will be receiving a letter explaining that “we abolished their debt and there are no strings attached,” according to Ann Larson, an organizer with Strike Debt. The debt averaged around $900 per person and most of it was about two or three years old. ($900 may understate the burden lifted, though, because now the relieved debtors won’t have to worry about growing interest or damage to their credit score.)

Strike Debt spent almost $21,000 on the effort, paying pennies on the dollar because they used the same secondary market purchase process as collection agencies. The money came from donors, including 20 bucks from the author of this post.

But the Rolling Jubilee is about way more than kindness to strangers. For Strike Debt organizers, the purchases are a vehicle for their broader vision: a society free from onerous debt.

“Nobody should [have to] go into debt because they get sick,” Larson said.

“There’s a myth that we’re in debt because we overspent on luxury items, and that’s just false,” she said. “One in seven Americans is being pursued by a debt collector, and in many cases those people are in debt for basic needs.”

Health care is a perfect example. According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, medical bills cause 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies.

Young Americans have higher rates of medical debt because they are more likely to work low-wage jobs and less likely to have insurance, according to Larson.

Here’s some more good news: the Louisville buy is just the tip of the iceberg. Strike Debt has $560,000 in cash on hand, and they will continue to negotiate and bid on similar debt packages.

“There will be new announcements regularly for the next few months,” Larson said. If they can keep buying at the same rate, Strike Debt will be able to take over $25 million in debt off Americans’ shoulders.

Published at Campus Progress. Photo: Flickr / Chealion.