10 in 10 Challenge

FBB is turning 10! Let's celebrate. For 10 months in 2019, FBB is challenging 10 humanists to become monthly givers. Help make the world a better place and help FBB grow for 10 more years!

GIVE NOW
  • Highlights 4 carefully vetted charities per quarter in the areas of Poverty and Health, Education, Human Rights, and Natural World.

  • Sign up here to be considered for our next volunteer deployment.

  • Service Corps volunteers save lives and fight for gender equality by supporting local human rights organizations in Ghana’s Northern Region.

  • Our Beyond Belief Network is a collective of organizations putting compassionate humanism into action through community volunteering and charitable fundraising. 

  • The hosts of our official podcast travel the country telling stories of life-changing events, expanding our horizons and our compassion.

We are Humanism at Work

Foundation Beyond Belief is a humanist charity that promotes secular volunteering and responsible charitable giving. Guided by the principles of secular humanism, our mission is to:

  • Unite the humanist community in volunteering and charitable efforts.

  • Advocate for compassionate action throughout the world.

We forward our mission through our programs: Grants, Disaster Recovery, Service Corps, and Volunteer Network.

Inside FBB: Latest News

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APOPO is a global non-profit with Belgian roots, that researches, develops, and implements scent detection technology to solve global humanitarian issues. For over 20 years APOPO’s scent detection rats, nicknamed HeroRATs, have been detecting landmines and tuberculosis in affected countries around the world. The rats are trained through clicker/reward methods, receiving tasty food treats when they identify the smell of explosives or tuberculosis. They are never harmed because they are too light to actually set off any landmines and are cared for under strict animal welfare guidelines.


The organization has programs in Angola and Cambodia that clear minefields and is preparing operations in Zimbabwe and Colombia. APOPO also detects tuberculosis in Tanzania, Mozambique and most recently Ethiopia. APOPO’s operational headquarters, training and R&D center is based in Tanzania.

The global landmine and ERW problem


Leftover landmines and explosives currently threaten almost a third of the world’s countries. They remain active and dangerous long after hostilities end; causing accidents, inflicting terror, and hampering the development of vulnerable communities. In 2017, landmines and explosive remnants of war caused 7,239 casualties, of which 87% were civilians and almost half of those children.


Landmines and ERW also hamper economic recovery and development in war damaged areas. Villages are cut off from basic necessities such as water supplies, essential travel routes and are prevented from using fertile land for the cultivation of crops, grazing livestock, or development.

APOPO’s Solution


APOPO’s landmine detection rats are very quick at finding landmines, making them a perfect tool to speed up detection and clearance. When integrated into conventional mine clearance methods, such as survey, brush cutting machines, and human deminers with metal detectors, the HeroRATs are proven to significantly speed up landmine detection, helping return safe land to vulnerable communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.


The people APOPO helps

Picture: Luisa ManualMeet Luisa Manual, a 65 year old widowed grandmother and smallholder farmer in Angola. She remembers how terrifying life was during the war. 

“So much violence, and hatred. We fled for our lives. After the conflict ended in 2002, all we wanted was to go back home to our normal lives. Instead when we returned, we found landmines everywhere, initially buried by the Angolan Armed Forces to defend the village of Quitexe. You’d think the war was painful enough, yet we continued living in fear of injury and death until APOPO came to our village to remove the landmines that had been planted to protect us.” 

Initially Luisa was very puzzled when she saw APOPO’s HeroRATs as they were different rats than the ones she knew. Also, they were on leashes and walking back and forth in boxes on the minefield scratching at the surface when they found a landmine. 

How?

Areas suspected of landmines have often not been touched for decades, they are often overgrown and inaccessible. Ground preparation machines improve mine clearance by softening the soil, neutralizing tripwires and clearing small trees, bush, shrubs and grass. Then manual deminers go and create safe lanes to provide access to minefields. They are a meter wide and are prepared by deminers with metal detectors. Enter the HeroRATs. 

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Because they only detect the scent of explosives and ignore scrap metal - one HeroRAT can search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes - this could take a manual deminer with a metal detector up to four days (depending on the levels of scrap metal present). When a HeroRAT indicates the presence of explosives, a deminer with a metal detector arrives to carefully excavate the marked position and confirm if a landmine is present. It is then safely removed and demolished at a later time.

After the landmines and other explosives are cleared, APOPO returns safe land to communities to use productively and without further fear of injury or death.

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“I only knew rats as destructive pests and when they ate our crops or dug into food reserves this made me angry. I had never imagined rats could save our lives!” said Luisa.


For Luisa, the future she dreams of is simple: Angola to be cleared of landmines. This can only become a reality with support and funding to ensure APOPO and the HeroRATs can continue making life safer for the people of Angola and Cambodia, one day at a time.

By APOPO, FBB guest

Chances are, you read a lot about Hurricane Harvey when it transformed Houston, TX into a disaster zone in 2017. 68 people were directly killed from Harvey's devastation, 30,000 displaced, and 1,000 homes completely destroyed.

This spring, disasters of even greater magnitude laid waste to Eastern Africa. In March, tropical Cyclone Idai— one of the worst on record to affect the Southern Hemisphere— slammed Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. It destroyed the port city of Beira, submerged entire villages and 700,000 hectares of crops. It killed more than 1,000 people, misplacing thousands more.  

This devastation was immediately followed last week by Cyclone Kenneth, striking the Comoros and Northern Mozambique. Over 160,000 additional people have been displaced by Kenneth, 30,000 houses destroyed, and 24,000 people estimated to need shelter. 38 are confirmed killed.

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Despite the significantly higher human cost of the past two month's disasters, chances are that those of us in the U.S. heard non-stop about Harvey while it happened, and have so far heard comparatively little of the cyclones. Why is this?

Researchers have found that in American media, a high death count does not necessarily translate into more intensive journalistic attention. This is unfortunate, as the the success of humanitarian responses to these disasters— including philanthropic campaigns like ours— is often swayed heavily by media perception.

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What informs these decisions?

Current research and expert opinion propose a few factors:

  • Proximity: the event’s geographic proximity to the reader.

  • Local protagonists: is there a local person involved in the disaster which can simplify the crisis for an audience?

  • Is there a human antagonist? The presence of a human threat— like a shooter or terrorist— may trigger a biologically higher state of alert in an audience than a natural disaster. It also inflicts a heightened desire to memorialize the victims.

  • Children: the presence of children can often bridge psychological gulfs between audiences and victims typically created by distance, class, race, and nationality.

  • "Newsworthiness”: journalists impose their subjective analysis of how well a story will perform, taking into account factors like the victims' notoriety or the story's novelty.

  • Societal commentary: A human killer, for example, may cause us to reflect on the societal causes of his tragedy. A natural disaster, however, may simply be regarded as an "act of God."

  • "Collapse of compassion": high death tolls numb audiences to important stories. Humans naturally tend to feel less compassion for groups than for individuals.

The bottom line: when it comes to human beings, the path to empathy runs naturally through our filter of whether we can personalize a story.

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This makes emotional sympathy a problematic moral tool: it urges us to care most about those with whom we most easily empathize. Evidence shows this is often the people who look most like us, whom we find most attractive and least threatening. We are not naturally predisposed to care most about the people who most deserve it.

FBB as a philanthropic organization often struggles with these factors. In addition, human beings are inclined to want concrete evidence of the impact of their altruism.

"For example," says FBB Programs Director Wendy Webber, "adopting a child to pay their school fees and books are often successful and campaigns. In reality, we know that it's more effective to implement programs that have a larger impact on the entire school community. However, it's a hard sell for donors because the impacts of those programs are largely long-term and seen in statistics."

The good news is that humans aren’t just emotional animals; we have the unique ability to reason. We can use empathy to spark us into action, and temper it with reason and personal practice to generate the more useful psychological tool of compassion.

IDAI Aftermath - People carry their personal effects through a f

While it’s inevitable that our hearts will respond more strongly to a disaster nearer to us, we  have the ability to still our minds and react to humanitarian crises according to their actual need.

As we engage in supporting secular disaster recovery efforts in Mozambique (alongside our partners with All Hands and Hearts), we call on our followers to reflect on our shared responsibility: expanding our sense of compassion beyond our immediate emotional reactions, and getting into action, whether we're serving those next door or half a world away.

 

By Eric Zaklukiewicz, FBB Staff

Are you put off by the commercialism of Mother’s Day? You're in good company. The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, died institutionalized and broke decrying the commercialization of the very day she created.

To have Mother's Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other holidays have become, is not our pleasure. If the American people are not willing to protect Mother's Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a mother's day.  - Anna Jarvis

Jarvis campaigned for the foundation of a National Mother's Day inspired by her own mom, Ann Reeves Jarvis. The elder Jarvis was a champion of humanistic service work; she organized service clubs to lower infant mortality rates via improved sanitary conditions, cared for wounded Civil War soldiers on both sides, and started a Mother’s Friendship Day to unite families divided by the Civil War.

After originally being ridiculed, a 1914 proclamation designated Anna Jarvis' Mother’s Day a national holiday. Its intent was to promote intimate family celebrations of motherhood, symbolized by the carnation— Ann Reeves Jarvis' favorite flower. The idea was quickly exploited and commercialized by florists, card companies, and retailers.

How can you stay true to the original Mom's Day spirit?

"Old School" Mother's Day:

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Jarvis intended families to honor mothers with an intimate celebration and hand-made card or letter thanking her for all that she has done. Think about getting back to basics with a simple act like this. Get creative: you can spend some time on personalized arts, crafts, or even a song.

Have a screen-free family game night, or go adventuring. Try hiking, rock climbing, or boating for example. Forget the carnations. Instead of shelling out for a short-lived bouquet, plant some seeds in the garden and watch them grow throughout the year.

Mother's Day— Ann Reeves Jarvis-style:

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Bring the spirit of humanist service into the occasion. Substitute evergreens for carnations and plant some trees to combat climate change. Form a Mother's Day service squad to volunteer serving homeless families. Help an organization fighting against family separation at the border. (Some ideas can be found here.)

Make a Donation to a (thoroughly-vetted) Charity

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Technically, Anna Jarvis was bitter about charities who fundraised off Mother's Day, mainly because the (largely religious) foundations of the time had little transparency and were prone to corruption. However, times have changed, and today's online resources can help you vet charities for profiteering, discrimination, and religious bias.

Make a sincere, informed contribution to a non-profit like FBB, or to organizations like NationalBailOut.org's #FreeBlackMamas campaign. (This initiative works to bail African American mothers out of jail and draw attention to problems with the cash bail system.)

Let us know if you come up with other ideas, and how your day turns out. We hope you're able to warm your mother's heart this weekend in a way you can both be proud of.

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By Eric Zaklukiewicz, FBB Staff

May the 4th be with the our real-life Jedis in the Humanist Service Corps, Beyond Belief Network, and Humanist Disaster Recovery!

As far as pop culture role models go, Star Wars’ Jedi have a nice bit of humanist wisdom to offer. Space mysticism aside, Yoda and company espouse an ethical code similar to that which we as humanists largely vaunt. Jedi philosophy respects the sanctity of all sentient beings and a society governed by even-headed compassion... not blind obedience, desire, or runaway emotion. They encourage their students to look beyond the tricks our eyes and feelings play on us, and cultivate a more useful equilibrium to serve our fellows.

Not convinced? We've compiled a list of our favorite, most humanist Star Wars quotes for the day.

In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way. 

-Yoda, Episode II

classroom

Humanists seek to create citizens able to speak and write clearly and articulately, capable of engaging in the civic life of their communities and persuading others into ethical action.

We do our part in this arena by supporting our Humanist Service Corps' education programs, and by giving grants to organizations like Inkululeko.

"Wars not make one great."

-Yoda, Episode V

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Photo: Steve Baker, 2015

Believing this life is the only one we have makes humanists think very carefully before supporting any war, both because of the loss of life involved and because of the potential impact on the survivors. (This is why we give grants to organizations like Apopo, which helps communities recover from certain ravages of war.)

"Your eyes can deceive you; don't trust them." / "Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin. They will betray you."

- Obi Wan Kenobi, Episodes IV and II

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Our  unexamined perception of the world can be a problematic moral tool. For example, our unfettered feelings urge us to care most about those who look most like us and who we find least threatening... not those who most deserve it. Humanism calls on us to examine how our minds work, and overcome our animal reactions to the world. Having done so, we put our compassion to work in areas of the world that have the greatest real need. (Hence our work in Ghana and Mozambique, for example.)

"Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi's life. So you might say that we are encouraged to love."

-Anakin Skywalker, Episode II

(Photo: Keith Trice, 2011.)

We’ll let this one speak for itself.

"Sometimes we must let go of our pride and do what is requested of us."

-Padme, Episode II

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This is the essence of humanist service. Most people don't have an immediate desire to pick up trash on a highway, or to fly thousands of miles away to rebuild a storm-ravaged community.  But we are often called upon to set aside our egos and be an active part of our local and global communities. It’s up to us to heed the light side of the call to civic service, or the dark side of self-serving.

Even in the galaxy far, far away, there was no supernatural power capable of doing our heroes' work for them. It’s up to human (or humanoid) gumption every time.

On that note…

"Do or do not. There is no try."

-Yoda, Episode V

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May the 4th be with all of you.

If the Force is urging you to support the “light side” of humanity today, please consider volunteering or becoming a 10th Anniversary donor at…

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By FBB Staff

The Podcast

Listen to and support The Humanist Experience.

By following two humanists living radical experiences, this unique podcast expands our worldview and enlarges our capacity for compassion.

 

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