Laura Madden's Blog

Stories of change

Writing for The Rio Times

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Living in a foreign country, writing about the goings-on in that country and conducting interviews in Portuguese all make up the realization of a dream of mine.

I moved to Brazil in October after getting married and living in India for ten months. My husband, Ashraf, joined me here in late December when I began to write and shoot for The Rio Times.

Writing about travel on the beaches of Northeastern Brazil, the country’s oil boom, occasional pitfalls related thereto and a profile of the largest oil contractor in the world has been exciting and rewarding.

Stay tuned for more!

Written by Laura Madden

January 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

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Economic woes faced by LA-based Homeboy Industries

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Written by Laura Madden

November 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

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Uncle Frank Feeds the Hungry

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Most of the posts on my blog are about people I meet on my travels in India and China. Usually they’re folks who put themselves in the trenches of the war on poverty. This post is about my uncle who put himself in the trenches of that same war, only he’s just outside of Atlanta.

I know uncle Frank very little because he and my father just aren’t that close. But one day, uncle Frank’s name appeared in my inbox. Apparently he’d emailed my dad about a new project that he’s leading — he and some friends feed people who live on the street. Dad told him about my blog, which features articles and videos about people who change lives, so uncle Frank wanted the URL.

A self-billed “cradle Catholic,” uncle Frank left the church for 17 1/2 years. He came back to the faith around 2007, attending mass at St. Thomas the Apostle church in Smyrna, Ga. Sometime in the following year, he took a JustFaith course. Through workshops and programs, JustFaith Ministries helps participants expand their commitment to social ministry beyond the church. One of his fellow classmates told a story about when her family had lived in India.

“Her family … would go out on the weekends and bring food to the poor Catholics in the other villages,” recounts Uncle Frank. “I … was moved by the directness and simplicity of her family’s actions. Fast-forward 3 years. My wife was taking $100 from her pension to buy blankets on a monthly basis for the Open Door Community (ODC).”

John Cressler, Johanna Baldwin, Shirley D'Souza, uncle Frank, and Pauline Bullard Moore form the core group of JustFaith graduates who feed the hungry of Northwest Atlanta every Saturday. Absent from the photo is Amy Edwards.

As uncle Frank tells it, he and aunt Joyce were on their way home from dropping blankets off at the ODC. “Exiting I-285, we saw Cindy, a one-legged woman in a wheelchair who panhandles at the intersection of the exit ramp,” he recalls. “We chatted after giving her a few dollars, and found out there were seven homeless living under the bridge over the interstate.”

That was uncle Frank’s light bulb moment.

Wrangling some of his fellow JustFaith classmates, Uncle Frank told them of his plan: to feed the hungry people in the area. Before Feed the Hungry’s first outing, he did a location scout since some of his crew were nervous about unpredictable behavior – some of the folks in the area suffer from drug or alcohol addiction.

These days, they have their routine down pat. Every Saturday for the past six months – rain or shine – they load up the “ghetto sled” and groups of five go out to feed the hungry people of Northwest Atlanta. They are regularly commended by police, local residents and business-owners in the area for suiting up, showing up and shutting up each week.

“Our basic offerings of sandwiches and eggs, mainly for protein and nourishment, have been supplemented by volunteers adding fruits, chips, Nutra-Grain bars, packaged pastries, muffins and cookies,” says uncle Frank. “We started out handing out about 20 bags of sandwiches and eggs, and now hand out close to 60 -70 full bags.”

What a cool way to get to know my uncle.

Written by Laura Madden

September 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Rose Children’s Home

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MingHe video for HandReach

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My New Audience

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My family and friends know me for stints on award-winning documentaries and critically acclaimed reality TV shows. Among my colleagues, I’ve been endearingly nicknamed “Laura-f##ing-Madden” for my ability to make a sailor blush. Deeply. This summer, however, I wrote an article for the United Church of Christ about its commitment to help Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). “The Jesus crowd is your new audience?” I’ve been asked. “How’s that going?”

With years of Catholic school as my point of reference for the Christian community, I was thrilled to learn about the UCC’s practical approach to modern life. Not only do they believe in distributing condoms as an effective means to safe and healthy sex, but the UCC has affirmed since 1971 that “access to safe and legal abortion is consistent with a woman’s right to follow the dictates of her own faith and beliefs in determining when and if she should have children.” Also an open and affirming organization, in 1969 the UCC declared its opposition “to all laws which make private homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime and thus urges their repeal.”

And the war in Iraq? They’re against it, and have been since the beginning. In 2007, the UCC even called itself out for merely “bearing silent witness” to the war. Mobilizing its more than one million members, the UCC raised US$200,000 which was sent as aid for IDP camps in Iraq. Back in the US, church members started resettlement committees for Iraqi refugees, volunteering in the short and long term to help Iraqi refugees get on their feet fast.

Turns out the Jesus crowd is pretty inspiring. You can read more about it all here.

Portraits

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