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An antidote for cynicism

September 8, 2009

As some of you may vouch for, I’m often working out my personal duality, bouncing back and forth between hands-in-the-air cynicism and body-clenched optimism about, oh, the world. And every once in awhile, I post pieces here that I’m using to help keep myself, if not centered, at least from boinging around like a cue ball.

This time, I wrote some, in a recent Christian Science Monitor Magazine cover story about “extreme do-gooders.” Inspired by a conversation with Josh Ruxin in Rwanda, the piece looks at five people — all Americans, as it turns out, though it was more functional than intentional — working hard not just to make a change in the world, but to whole-scale change the structures or systems responsible for the problems they first noticed. From gang violence in LA to homelessness in New York City, from poverty in Rwanda to education for the impoverished in Harlem — and with some great asylum work thrown in — here are five fascinating people.

And here, for good measure, are some of my earlier stories about “extreme do-gooders:” Mark Hanis and his team at the Genocide Intervention Network (and a shorter piece on their colleague Stephanie Nyombayire); Taylor Krauss and his project to record the testimony of Rwandan genocide survivors; Jacques Verduin and his project to heal the men of San Quentin; Patrick Ball and his work using statistics for human rights and transitional justice; and John Caulker and his grassroots reconciliation project in Sierra Leone.

UPDATE: My companion piece, on how social entrepreneurs are using new media to do cool things, just went live.

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