Friday, December 11, 2009

War Time Holiday Gift Guide

If you're wondering what to get the person on your holiday gift list who seemingly has everything, I have the solution.

It came by way of a Facebook post from my old friend and former co-worker Mimi Chen. She posted an email she received from her nephew, a US Marine:

-----Original Message-----
From: Scully Capt Devin T
Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 19:02

Dear family,

If you were wondering "what does Devin want for Christmas??," please follow
the below link and choose from a number of great products:

Do not worry, I have done thorough research on the organization and it is
legitimate. Also, a close friend from high school used to work with them and
can vouch. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) was founded in 1933 at
the request of the head of the International Relief Association (IRA),
Albert Einstein, in order to assist Germans suffering under Hitler
(sean-hope I have your attention). Since then the IRC has provided aid to
Refugees fleeing from conflicts in Vietnam, Zaire, East Pakistan, Uganda,
Chile, Soviet Union, Lebanon, El Salvador, Poland, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Iraq,
and most recently Afghanistan. For over 75 years, the International Rescue
Committee has been a leader in humanitarian relief. They mobilize quickly,
bringing sustained support to regions devastated by violence and
deprivation. The most important aspect of their mission, in my mind, is that
they provide hope to extremely vulnerable populations. I will explain what
that means in a minute.

First, I'm sure you're asking at this point.. "uh.. is he serious? Isn't he a
Marine? Has he gone soft? Is this spam??.." Nope, just hang with me.
Providing support to a population who have become refugees as a result of
armed conflict benefits more than just those individuals. It benefits you,
your family, and your MARINES fighting abroad. How you ask?

I shall explain:

As I'm sure you can imagine, refugee camps are a terrible place. They are
filled with displaced individuals who are jobless, moneyless,
education-less, hungry, and angry because they were forced from their
home/family (directly or indirectly) and moved to a trash heap in a country
that doesn't want them.

The depression that results from this environment breeds something called
"hopelessness," especially in youths. Back in my F&M days while studying the
Hopelessness Theory of Depression I learned that experiences in such negative
environments can lead to the formation of dysfunctional beliefs, which in turn
lead to negative self views, which in turn leads to depression, followed by
desperation. THIS is why you have a "vulnerable population" within these refugee
camps. Desperate people are easily exploited. Many terrorist organizations
or extremist groups recognize this and are taking advantage of the social and
psychological dysfunction within these camps to breed dysfunctional beliefs
(Radical Islamic Extremism) and recruit suicide bombers.

You often wonder, "how can someone walk into a crowded square and blow
themselves up?" Research refugee camps on the border of conflict ridden regions
and I'm sure you will understand how easy it would be for an al-Qaida operative
to recruit individuals using promises of hope, meaning to life, and a guaranteed
spot in heaven. A large majority of the suicide bombers who are killing our troops in Afghanistan are not Taliban. They are extremists who grew up in refugee camps
bordering Pakistan. Look deeply into conflicts in Somalia and the Congo, you will find
similar backgrounds in the majority of the extremists, guerrillas, or
terrorists involved.

SO, by getting me my Christmas present you can save a life and disrupt the
proliferation of terrorism by providing these underprivileged individuals
with an alternative form of hope. Give them education to fight extremist
views, food and medicine to maintain their desire to live, and HOPE that
they can create a better life for themselves and their families. Help fight
the long war.

If you can find a present like this in a store at the mall.. Let me
know..I'll buy stock

Thanks for taking the time to consider my Christmas list. There are many
organizations to give to during the holidays and this is certainly not the
only one you should look into. I look forward to seeing/hearing from you all
this Christmas. Take care, Miss you!!

If that doesn't move you, I don't know what would. It inspired me to reach out to the IRC - the International Rescue Committee. Their website is And if you follow the link Devin gave,, you'll see the "products" he mentioned are not gifts for him at all, but for the selfless.

They include blankets, coats, farming tools and more for refugees; mosquito nets, first aid training, safe birthing kits, maternity care and more medical services; school supplies, classrooms, teaching supplies and more educational tools; water tanks, family survival kits and more emergency supplies. And yes, the IRC will send you a gift card to share with your friends and loved ones for each gift you purchase.

Tonight, I'll speak with Janet Harris, VP of Development for the IRC, who'll tell us a bit more about the organization and their From Harm to Home gift giving program. This is what holiday gift giving should be.