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Two years ago, Myanmar’s military launched a violent crackdown against the Muslim Rohingya population.

Last week, local regulators compounded the Rohingya's sense of isolation by ordering a halt to all cellphone service in the area of their camps.

Imagine that your own government has burned your villages into the ground, attempted to kill you, and forced 750,000 of your people to flee for their lives. Imagine the country you fled to trying to send you back. Imagine the tension and dread you would feel with your phone service cut off, with no way to contact those important to you. This is the experience of the Rohingya refugee population currently languishing in Bangladesh.

Our contact in Bangladesh has reported that the blackout is stoking worry as relatives are not able contact one another between camps, in Myanmar, or abroad.

"The Rohingya are now a people of nowhere," the Washington Post recently wrote. "They shouldn’t be abandoned."

As human beings, we're predisposed to care most about people closer to home, who look most like us and whose plight we can most easily imagine.

Unfortunately, this means that while we've seen an exciting response to our fundraisers for disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the US immigration crisis, our fundraising goals for Rohingya aid have been much more difficult to reach. We now face the unpleasant reality that Rohingya needs have taken a back seat to U.S.-based appeals.

We will not give up on the Rohingya. Despite the challenges, we will continue to support the refugees through this appeal. However, our ability to do so depends on the response of humanists in the next few weeks.

2019-sept-rohingya-busOur beneficiary for this crisis is ActionAid USA, chosen for their ability to respond to monsoon-related floods in the Bangladesh camps. The monsoons may be over, but the refugees there still face immense challenges from the disaster, including a devastated water and sewer infrastructure. ActionAid's work also includes workshops intended to curb abuse and exploitation of Rohingya women, to make them less vulnerable during the next emergency.

We hope you will not abandon the Rohingya either. If you are able, please help us keep this fundraiser open, and give the Rohingya the resources they need to rebuild.

Count me in.
Thank you for helping build a more compassionate, equitable, and inclusive world.


*The Humanist Disaster Recovery program is sustained through a partnership between Foundation Beyond Belief and the American Humanist Association (AHA). We thank AHA for their generous support of our efforts.

Photos courtesty of Ro Yassin Abdumonab

By FBB

August BBN roundup

17 Sep 2019

At the end of summer, our teams are still bringing the heat! Let’s see what they’ve been up to!

First, we have a new team this month, Houston Freethought Oasis! Welcome to BBN!

houston-oasis-logoCentral Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) participated in several events with the Adaptive Sports Connection, which helps Central Ohio veterans, children, and adults who need adaptive equipment or instruction to participate in various sports. This month’s events included kayaking and cycling! COUNT members also volunteered as housewarmers with Ronald McDonald House Columbus. Housewarmers work with guests to provide a home-like environment— greeting, assisting with family needs, answering phones, giving tours, assisting with check-in and check-out, preparing guest rooms, cleaning, helping with laundry, restocking supplies and staffing the front desk. 

COUNT and Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) paired up again, volunteering as servers at the Community Shelter Board (CSB) facility on Van Buren Drive in Columbus, Ohio. Some volunteers served dinners while others washed dishes, mopped floors, and cleaned tables. After volunteering, both teams joined the Omnipresent Atheists meetup in progress for dinner, drinks and conversation. HCCO has also adopted a local highway in Columbus, and seven team members spent an afternoon picking up trash at the 270 East/Cleveland Avenue exit ramp. The Ohio Department of Transportation has a sign in the area notifying drivers of HCCO’s adoption of this stretch of highway.

The Central Florida Freethought Community in Oviedo, Florida cleaned up local parks this month, the West Chapin Trail and Kewannee Park. They had a great turnout and picked up a lot of trash from the parks and accompanying areas! 2019-aug_bbn_central-florida-freethought-community-cffc-park-cleanup-kewannee-aug-4th-001 Our new team from last month, the Atheist Community of Polk County, in Polk County, Florida held two cleanup events for their adopted two-mile stretch of highway in cooperation with Keep Polk County Beautiful. One resident has complained that the county allowed an atheist organization to adopt the highway and put up a sign advertising this fact, but most folks walking by stopped to thank them, and passing drivers honk and wave in thanks as well. It sounds like a success! Keep it up! 

Austin Humanists at Work (ATXHAW) in Austin, Texas held their largest kit-making event to date! Four board members, two regular volunteers, and 60 first-time volunteers made 1,500 menstrual kits, 1,600 wet wipe packets, 1,076 first aid kits, 500 cotton swab packets, and 2,000 floss pick packets. This will keep their monthly giveaways well stocked for years! 2019-aug_bbn_austin-humanists-at-work-kit-making-volunteer-event-aug-14th-008 The team also held the regular monthly meeting of their knitting/crocheting guild. This month a volunteer from the big kit-making event showed up to learn how to crochet! He was so proud of himself!  2019-aug_bbn_atxhaw-gettin-knotty-august-2019-001This month, the ATXHAW Monthly Giveaway had 37 volunteers serving 232 clients. They had a very exciting donation of 40 pop-up tents! Their clients were very excited and thankful for the tents, which went fast! This month went really well, as the team has been working hard to create some new processes and procedures to make giveaways run more efficiently from setup to tear-down. 2019-aug_bbn_austin-humanists-at-work-monthly-giveaway-aug-18th-001BE Orlando in Orlando, Florida joined other volunteer teams at Second Harvest Food Bank to sort 9,744 pounds of produce and an additional 2,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. Volunteers sorted through fruits and vegetables and removed items that were unable to be re-purposed, packaging the usable produce for delivery to pantry sites around Central Florida. 2019-aug_bbn_be-orlando-food-donation-sorting-aug-23rd Volunteers from Humanists Doing Good in Grand Junction, Colorado, harvested plenty of cucumbers and watermelons in collaboration with the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief and the Western Colorado Research Center at Orchard Mesa. The produce was later donated to help people in need in the Grand Valley of Colorado. A writer from Colorado State University also interviewed many of the volunteers for an upcoming piece in one of the university's publications. 2019-aug_bbn_humanists-doing-good-harvesting-watermelons-and-cucumbers-aug-18th-004 Later in the month, the team helped serve dinner at Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley. The two hours they spent serving meals flew by quickly. Everyone was extremely friendly and and plenty of smiles were served up in all directions. 2019-aug_bbn_humanists-doing-good-serving-dinner-at-homeward-bound-of-the-grand-valley-aug-26th-002 Pikes Peak Atheists & Pikes Peak Atheist Families in Colorado Springs, Colorado held a trash cleanup event for their adopted section of creek this month. It was a hot day but they still managed to get some of the trash picked up, and will get more done in October when they have a big cleanup for Creek Week. The team also had a sponsor’s table at the Colorado Secular Conference, where they collected donations for TESSA, a local charity supporting domestic violence victims.

Congratulations on a great wrap-up to the summer months for our teams!

By FBB

A belated congratulations to Tri-State Freethinkers in Kentucky, which recently became the first Beyond Belief Network (BBN) team to hit "confetti" status by organizing over 10 service events in a year!

2019-Sept-Tri-State Freethinkers - freestore9

Apparently, 10 events in a year is a drop in the bucket for this very active group. Here's a little bit of information about the group from its organizers:

Tri-State Freethinkers was founded in Dec 2012 by Jim and Chrissy Helton, with the mission of serving our communities and fighting for equality and the seperation of church and state. We advocate for the LGBTQ, women's care and women's rights. We fight for proper sex education in our school systems. Our community service is amazing— we do over 50 community service projects each year. When equality is under attack The Tri-State Freethinkers show up! We love and are very proud to be an associate for the BBN Network!

We're very proud as well. Way to go and thank you so much for your service to the community this year!

Check out a brief gallery of these compassionate freethinkers hard at work:

shelter shelter2 the-giving-fields3 pp-ban pet ohio-lifeelle
Visit Tri-State Freethinkers on their website at www.tristatefreethinkers.com, on Facebook here.

They also have recorded many fascinating lectures, protests, and educational presentations on their Youtube account here!

By FBB

This article is part of a series written by FBB volunteers detailing their experiences in the Humanist Service Corps. The opinions expressed in this article may not necessarily express those of Foundation Beyond Belief as a whole, its staff, or donors. 

August 2019. 

On June 27th, I left Salt Lake City with three suitcases and a backpack, as ready as I was going to be. Earlier in the year, I had applied for and been accepted into the Humanist Service Corps (HSC). My first stop was in Houston where I would meet the FBB team, and prepare to live for a year in Cape Coast, Ghana. We would be a small team: myself, one other American, and our team leader from Ghana. 2019-sept-unpacking-by-judit-kleinMy previous travel experience was limited to the western United States and a very “touristy” trip to Cancún. The longest flight I had ever taken was fewer than 5 hours, and I had never lived outside of Utah. My adult life consisted of moving from one side of Salt Lake City to another, mostly working office jobs in hospitality and tourism without having much of the tourism experience. When I saw the call for HSC applications and was subsequently called for an interview, I thought “there's no way they would pick me.” And then they did.

The reactions I got when I told people I was moving to Ghana were very mixed, but a lot of people seemed to think it was equally as absurd as announcing I was moving to Mars. “You're going where??” “You are going to go without internet for a year?!” “But... diseases!” The reality is that Cape Coast is a gorgeous, lush beach town where people still spend way too much time on social media—myself included. The issue of getting devices to work on the local networks turned into a little bit of a headache, and internet may not be as fast as the Google fiber I left behind, but it's just fine. Yes, I had to get extra vaccinations to come here; and yes, I take an antimalarial pill every day; but there was also a case of West Nile virus in SLC this summer, so maybe people shouldn't try to scare others out of travelling to Africa by saying “diseases" like the boogeymonster. 

The trip here took us from Houston to DC, and then DC to Accra. It was my first time flying over the Atlantic Ocean, my first time getting served full meals on a plane, my first overnight flight in the biggest plane in which I’ve ever flown, the first time I left North America, and my first real move. The mixture of stress and excitement meant that I didn't really sleep; instead, I drank free wine and watched movies while we travelled through the dark. I got up several times to do stretches in the airplane bathroom.

2019-july-ghana-volunteer-training-day-4The trip here took us from Houston to DC, and then DC to Accra. It was my first time flying over the Atlantic Ocean, my first time getting served full meals on a plane, my first overnight flight in the biggest plane in which I’ve ever flown, the first time I left North America, and my first real move. The mixture of stress and excitement meant that I didn't really sleep; instead, I drank free wine and watched movies while we travelled through the dark. I got up several times to do stretches in the airplane bathroom. 

When we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the smell of the ocean. Coming from a landlocked state, I missed this salty-sweet scent, and it reminded me of vacations to the beach. We went through airport customs with ease and got all our bags, and were happily greeted by Yvonne, our new boss, who was much shorter than I thought she’d be based on our video chats, but every bit as friendly and excited to have us here. She explained we would be taking a taxi to a shuttle bus, then another taxi after the 3-hour bus ride. I was completely overwhelmed by my new surroundings. I was certain we were about to die in that first cab ride, but I soon realized driving here was an entirely different world, and I would just have to get used to it. I wanted to see everything possible on the way to Cape Coast, to take in all of the colors and animals and shops and vendors, but once we were out of the main city, the rocking bus ride put me to sleep. 

Our first weeks  in Cape Coast were full of more exciting firsts. We set up our apartment, which is significantly larger and nicer than the one I left I in Salt Lake, although harder to keep clean. We met with our partners at SAPID (Services and Advocacy for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities), and began to plan out our projects. We had a full week of orientation to get us adjusted to life here: things like how to use the transportation options, how to get cooking gas, which stores are good for different groceries, and the history of Ghana including a visit to both the Cape Coast and Elmina castles. We started learning Twi, one of the more universally used languages here, but we have not made a ton of progress, since everyone in Cape Coast speaks English. A good problem to have, I suppose. 

2019-sept-ghana-beachWe also spent time going to the beach, watching the US National Women's team win the World Cup, and celebrating both Yvonne’s birthday and mine. It was my first birthday away from home and I was mostly missing some of my favorite places to eat, but that night I got to eat pizza by the ocean and slid into age 30 as happy as a clam. 

Now that we've been here for a little while, the newness and excitement has waned some, and there are certainly times when I feel homesick and/or frustrated. Doing laundry here is an exhausting event, whether you are lucky enough to do it in an electric washing machine or do it by hand. Frequently, the clean clothes get soaked in the rain while on the dry line, and I'm still paranoid that my underwear will fly away into the neighbors’ yard or something equally embarrassing. I was significantly more prepared for times without power than I was for times without water. I have backup chargers, and plenty of entertainment that does not require electricity, but I don't have solutions for when the water is off for days at a time. I really hate to say it, but I do miss hot showers, even in the peak of summer. I don't think I will ever take running water for granted again, and the next time I see a functioning washer and dryer I might give them a hug. A dishwasher might make me cry. Like I said, it's really nice where I get to live, but much harder to keep things clean. 

I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity and sometimes feel like I might wake up from this dream and be back in my boring office lady life in Utah. But then I hear all the chickens and goats around me, feel my hair frizzed from the humidity, and I remember that I am home in this strange but beautiful place.

2019-sept-ghana-chicken-conference-by-g-lish-foundation

By Chiemi Maloy, HSC Volunteer

This article is part of a series written by FBB volunteers detailing their experiences in the Humanist Service Corps. The opinions expressed in this article may not necessarily express those of Foundation Beyond Belief as a whole, its staff, or donors. 


The 2019 HSC volunteers arrive in Ghana

August 2019. 

How do I sum up my last three weeks? Well, for starters, I will say that this has been an experience unlike any I’ve been a part of before! My time in Ghana has been a weird mix of invigorating, yet sobering; stressful, yet laid back. It’s given me new perspectives on a country far from home, and at the same time has helped me to better understand my own corner of the globe. 

I was initially attracted to joining the Humanist Service Corps because they understand that we shouldn’t take the forefront in someone else’s story. We support local organizations on the ground that are already making a difference, and we try to do it in the most ethical way of which we can think. 

2019-july-ghana-volunteer-training-day-5One such partner organization is SAPID, or Services and Advocacy for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. Our mission is to help them become self-sustaining so they can continue their mission. Personally rewarding is the random assortment of skills I have collected while being of use to SAPID, such as computer repair, grant writing, and website design. Part of helping them continue to be self-sustaining is showing them how we do whatever we do. Some of the teachers have asked me to give them classes in computer repair after watching me fix a few of their computers. It was unexpected, but I’m thrilled. 

I have always believed in giving back, but after work for the day is done, frequent trips to the beach remind me that service need not be a sacrifice. Since Ghana is close to the equator, at different times of the year we can see both the constellations in the northern hemisphere and the southern, and the beach is the perfect location to do so. At the beach and at the school during P.E., I have played soccer against the kids in a friendly match. It's mind-blowing how talented the youth are at soccer here.

Part of the orientation process was to get us familiar with Ghanian culture, but that didn’t mean we wouldn’t continue learning or wouldn’t experience culture shock. Ghana, in recent history, was once the most religious countries in the world. Even though we were told this, discovering just how religious Ghana is was shocking. It is not something as simple as how many people believe in a religion or how many churches there are. Religion is invoked in the names of many, if not most of the stores, and on almost all of the taxis’ stickers inside the cars or on their rears. Almost every few feet in town there is a poster of a religious leader. Living in the Bible Belt and Utah didn’t prepare me for just how visible religion is here. However, I thoroughly enjoy learning about the traditional religion and the lesser gods that are part of it. I just found out there is a lesser god supposedly near where I live. It is supposed to be a dog god, which is why dogs aren’t allowed in my area.


Driving is another culture shock. I used to live in South Korea where I thought I saw the most extreme version of driving, but the drivers in Ghana easily take the cake. Spurning traditional rules of the road and local laws to instead form a driving culture, I am quite impressed with how skilled the drivers are here. I honestly consider them the best in the world. 

Another aspect of learning the culture here is learning the language. There are more than a dozen languages spoken in Ghana, but the most prominent one where I am—outside of English— is Twi. I try to speak the language every chance I get, even when the conversation would flow better in English, just so I’ll remember what I learned and can grow in pronunciation. Twi is harder than languages that are more familiar to me like Spanish, but easier than Korean and Japanese. The locals seem to enjoy hearing me speak it. It has helped me haggle prices down on many occasions, as well as give direction to drivers. 


As an African-American, coming to Ghana at this time also has additional significance. The year 2019 is dedicated as The Year of Return, a call to the African diaspora to return to Ghana. It was 400 years ago that the first enslaved African was taken to Jamestown, Virginia. Years ago, I did an ancestry test by 23andme, which confirmed I had ancestors in Ghana. In the last two weeks, I have been to Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle. Both of the castles were used as holding places for slaves prior to their leaving the shores of Africa forever. Outside of that, this week I have been watching the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival also known as Panafest. Speaking of which, I’ll end this blog here, so I don’t miss anything.


By Elroy Leday, HSC Volunteer

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