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UN resolution looks to give “Mother Earth” same rights as humans April 20, 2011

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Steven Edwards, Postmedia News · Apr. 11, 2011 | Last Updated: Apr. 11, 2011 10:37 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS — Bolivia will this month table a draft United Nations treaty giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans — having just passed a domestic law that does the same for bugs, trees and all other natural things in the South American country.

The bid aims to have the UN recognize the Earth as a living entity that humans have sought to “dominate and exploit” — to the point that the “wellbeing and existence of many beings” is now threatened.

The wording may yet evolve, but the general structure is meant to mirror Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, which Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted in January.

That document speaks of the country’s natural resources as “blessings,” and grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities, and the right to be free from pollution. (more…)


Anne Thomas: Beauty amid destruction April 20, 2011

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I thought my last letter would be my final one until after my move. But some people have asked me to kindly keep up these epistles. So since I will be off line for about a month starting Sunday, I realized I should get one more out before then. And very fortunately a friend sent me an email, which expresses how many of us are feeling these days.

Steve and I used to work in the same university in Sendai. It was called Shokei. He hoped for full-time employment there, but the administration had other ideas. It was planning on eliminating the English Department completely, so not only would Steve not get a position, but I would soon lose my job there, too.

Steve knew he had to support his wife and child, so started to look elsewhere. That little family ended up in the UAE. Yuki, Steve’s wife, comes from Iwaki, an area severely devastated by the recent natural catastrophes. Her father is a fire fighter there. And when all the hard work began after the quake, he worked 24/7 and ate two rice balls a day. He continues his total commitment, without holding anything back whatsoever. This is what Steve said about him in an email of several weeks ago:

“I really really, super really, respect the father more than any living person right now. He is a hero – even with radiation his people are priority, even higher than family, but ‘for’ family. No attachment in the best possible way.” (more…)

After The Oil Spill: 11-Year-Old Draws Birds For Recovery Efforts April 20, 2011

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Olivia Bouler

Huffington Post  Lucas Kavner

“I just wanted to help out,” Olivia Bouler said. “So I came up with this idea.”

Olivia, an 11-year-old Long Island native, spent a lot of time near the Gulf growing up, watching birds near her grandparents’ home in Alabama. Although both of her parents share an interest in environmental issues — her dad works as a green architect — Olivia’s fascination with birds stems from within.

“I just always loved watching them,” Olivia said. Some of her favorites include the Great Blue Heron and the Red-tailed Hawk. “I also love Blue Jays and Cardinals, the birds I see near my house in Long Island.”

Olivia was devastated by the 2010 BP oil spill in the region. The circulating photos of the Brown Pelicans in the region and stories from her grandparents made her feel helpless. “I knew it was nesting season and birds wouldn’t leave their chicks no matter what,” Olivia said.

Immediately, Olivia wrote a letter to the Audobon society offering her humble services:

Dear Audubon Society:As you all are aware of, the oil spill in the Gulf is devistating (sic). My mom has already donated a lot of money to help, but I have an idea that may also help. I am a decent drawer, and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization.

Olivia decided she would draw 500 birds, and anyone who donated money to the wildlife recovery efforts in the Gulf would get an original drawing. To her amazement, the drawings sold out within three weeks. Soon, she had to switch to prints.

Media outlets began covering Olivia’s efforts and more donations started coming in. Soon, Olivia had raised over $150,000 for the recovery effort, contributed to a new wildlife center at Moss Point, and been named 2010’s Kid of the Year by the ASPCA.

Now she’s written a book, Olivia’s Birds, which she hopes inspires other young people to pay a bit more attention to her favorite flying species. It includes Olivia’s illustrations, and some bird facts and conservation tips she hopes people will pay attention to.

The book has sent her on a tour across America, and landed her a book signing at Cornell — the university she hopes to attend one day. “They have an amazing ornithology program,” Olivia said. “It’s all really exciting.”

Next month, on a grant from Disney, Olivia will head to Costa Rica to talk to schoolchildren about birds and, hopefully, see some for herself. Best of all, she’s inspiring her little brother, Jackson, who recently won an award of his own from his work with Project Puffin.

“He’s obsessed with puffins, and he wears suits to school,” Olivia said. “He’s a really cool kid.”

Rónán MacDubhghaill: Shaken Faith April 19, 2011

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Rónán MacDubhghaill is a writer and research consultant with Eranos, Paris, and is currently based in Sendai. Published in Le Monde

Anywhere else on earth, a 7.4 earthquake on the Richter scale would be a big one. In Sendai, it’s just an aftershock that wipes out a month of clearing up When another earthquake hit northeastern Japan last week, it revived all the fears of people still struggling to get over the catastrophe of March 11. Since then, daily aftershocks – often substantial – have hampered relief efforts in areas worst hit by the earthquake and tsunami. None of them was as bad as this last one, which was a 7.4 on the Richter scale. Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tireless in their efforts to prevent full meltdown, had to retreat to a reinforced bunker because another tsunami was feared. Along the coast, tsunami warnings blared and residents fled again to the high ground.

The gods were not that angry, and there was no tsunami. But in the morning , we could see more damage. Many roads, walls and buildings badly shaken on March 11 were no longer able to take the punishment. The building I work in had to be abandoned as unsafe: from the second floor right up to the sky, through three storeys, there was a rupture, and cracks all over showed the steel supports just about managing to hold it together. And this in the part of Sendai least affected by the disasters.

For the last four weeks, people put on a brave face and dealt with the situation. Volunteers and workers arrived from across Japan to restore essential services in solidarity. Last night’s quake has undone much of their good work.

If you try to step away from the situation, you notice something interesting, even disturbing. The earthquake did more than shatter buildings and infrastructure. To borrow the concept of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan about the Phantasy and the Real, the disasters fundamentally disrupted the symbolic ‘phantasies’ or fictions which sustain our reality. This brutal intrusion of the Real on March 11 killed perhaps 30,000 people (we still don’t know the total) and took away our reality. Lacan was right to say that it is ‘impossible to experience what is truly the Real’ because it is too much.

Not until after, and in quiet moments, do you really experience it – but in so doing, you are already fictionalising it, to be able to comprehend it without a breakdown. Yet in experiencing it, you do not truly experience it – shock takes over. Even after the initial quake, the cracks in our reality were evident. Electricity or running water, or a steady supply of food in the shops could not be taken for granted any more, and we had to worry about when the next aftershock would hit, and how strong it would be. We had to worry about the air we were breathing: did it carry a potentially lethal dose of radiation?

Reality – well, the familiar Phantasy, anyway – crept back slowly. Rubble was cleared away, shops reopened, with sporadic hours and little on the shelves, normality was cautiously reasserting itself. Last night’s earthquake brought it crashing down again, disrupting water, electricity and gas, and sending people out to clear shop shelves of what food there was.

The Richter scale plots earthquakes in terms of distance, depth and the energy released. The Japanese system is much more descriptive. This last quake was ‘only’ 7.4 on the Richter scale, which, being exponentially measured is hundreds of times less powerful than the 9.0 of March 11. The Shindo scale is more accurate, more human in that it describes the earthquake as it was experienced, the perception of its affect on people and their physical environment. It goes only to 7. The March 11 earthquake was a full 7; last night’s was an upper 6. For me, it felt much the same as the ‘big one’, only it was much shorter. We were lucky to have been spared another tsunami, and so this morning, despite the damage and the shock, the main feeling was relief.

Sendai, indeed Japan, again turns to rebuilding, recovering. This will go on for months, years. In a very ‘real’ sense, buildings and roads may be rebuilt, but for many, the recovery will never be complete – it is impossible to bring your family back to life. The international media have lost interest by now which is not a bad thing; poor journalism and false reporting caused much unnecessary worry for those involved. The true cost of this trauma (not merely some crass economic calculation) will never be known.

Lowe’s employees save lives as tornado hits April 18, 2011

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by MICHELLE BOUDIN / NewsChannel 36


SANFORD, N.C. — Everyone inside a Lowe’s store when the tornadoes hit on Saturday made it out okay thanks to some quick-thinking workers.

The home improvement store is headquartered in Mooresville. On Monday, the executives in Mooresville spent the day trying to help the workers who helped the customers.

The images have been everywhere. Pictures of the flattened Lowe’s store tell the larger story of how truly crushing this tornado was.

“We could actually feel the wind as we reached the back of the building,” said Gery Hendricks. Hendricks was checking out when he saw the funnel cloud barreling towards the store.

There were about 100 employees and customers inside at the time.

“I turned around and looked at the cashier and said is that a tornado?”

As the funnel cloud headed straight for their Sanford store, the manager and assistant manager had barely more than a minute to herd everyone to a break room in the back — as far from the windows as possible. They made it there with just seconds to spare.

“The training became instinct at that point. Yeah, you review training, but you can’t train for something like this, not for that kind of reaction time and until you go through it, it’s just phenomenal,” said Assistant Manager Bobby Gibson.

Gibson and Hendricks described the ordeal on the Today Show Monday morning. They said the store ended up in pieces around them, but not a single life was lost.

“The Lowe’s employees saved everyone by their quick action and we’re here for that reason. They need to get the just deserves!”

“It is amazing everyone walked away, there were no serious injuries, and that really our thoughts  now are on how to get them back to their normal life,” Lowe’s Vice President of Benefits Kyle Wendt said. “It was very emotional because when you look at that Lowe’s store you see your stuff and you’re a part of that and you do start thinking about the employees and the customers.”

Lowe’s is already working to make sure each of the 190 people who worked there will still collect a paycheck and trying to find them jobs at other Sanford area stores.

“It was everybody working together…not one or two people, everybody just instinct kicking in and people taking care of people.”

The company also has what’s called an employee relief fund. It’s something almost everyone contributes to on a regular basis. The Lowe’s workers in Sanford are now being encouraged to take advantage of it.

Free health clinic aids hundreds in need April 18, 2011

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By the time the free health clinic at the Oakland Coliseum opened Saturday at dawn, some 800 tickets had been handed out to people who waited in the cold all night for the chance to have a tooth extracted, get new glasses or to finally get prescription medications for arthritis or other painful conditions.

Geneva Clay, 51, of San Leandro worked as a project manager and had health benefits before she was laid off in 2009. She had been waiting in line since 11 p.m. Friday and was number 282.

“We are the middle class. We are in need of health care because of the lack of jobs,” she said, trying to keep warm until her number was called. “In this country, we shouldn’t have to fight for medical coverage, we shouldn’t have to fight to see a doctor. We can send money all over the world, but we can’t take care of our own.”

Clay was one of about 1,000 people expected to be seen on the first day of the huge, four-day health clinic organized by Remote Area Medical. RAM, a volunteer medical corps based in Tennessee, has been providing health clinics in underserved areas around the world since 1985 and has been offering them in this country since the mid-’90s.

The Oakland event, RAM’s 640th free clinic, is part of the group’s first visit to Northern California and follows a stop at Sacramento last weekend, where nearly 3,600 people were seen at Cal Expo over four days. The group visited Southern California in 2009 and 2010.

RAM, which has no corporate sponsors or state financing and is funded through donations, relies on a battalion of 500 to 600 medical and general volunteers. The California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons sponsored the Oakland and Sacramento events with support from the Tzu Chi Foundation.

Huge medical team

Saturday’s medical staff, which is primarily local because of state licensing restrictions, included about 50 dentists, 15 oral surgeons, 25 hygienists, 50 registered nurses, a dozen medical doctors, more than 10 optometrists as well as opticians, optical technicians, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other health professionals.

The group’s founder, Stan Brock, said the vast majority of people come to the clinic for dental and vision services.

“They’re so preoccupied with the pain from not being to see a dentist in years they’re not worried about whether they have diabetes,” Brock said. “Persuading them to see the medical doctors is an effort.”

The crowd included the newly and long-term unemployed, students and people who were homeless. Some of those who had recently lost their jobs had been given the opportunity to stay on their former employers’ coverage out of their own pocket, but couldn’t afford it.

But many of the people seeking care had full- or part-time jobs that either did not come with health benefits or required them to contribute so much that they were priced out of coverage. Some had health care, but no dental or vision insurance. Those people typically earned too much to qualify for government health programs.

“We need universal health care. People shouldn’t have to stand out here all night,” said Sharice Gastile, 28, of Oakland, a full-time college student and single mother who was 17th in line. She is one of many Californians who lost adult Medi-Cal dental benefits when the program was cut in 2009.

Bill Manley of Hayward took BART to the Coliseum and was waiting in line by 8:30 p.m. with his wife and sister-in-law. “I’d like to get this thing out of the way,” he said, wiggling a loose front tooth he knew needed to be pulled.

But Manley, 46, who said he hadn’t seen a dentist in more than two decades, learned later in the oral surgeon’s chair that he needed to get all of his teeth extracted because multiple abscess infections affecting his teeth, gums and jaw could cause serious medical problems.

“That’s what I get for neglecting them so long,” said Manley, who was disappointed but stoic as he waited for the numbing medication to take effect. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Many chronic ailments

The medical volunteers, all motivated by a desire to help people in need, were stunned by the size and scope of the event. More than 80 portable dental chairs filled the dental area inside the Coliseum, across from 14 vision-exam stations. Patients seeking general medical care could be seen in one of 16 makeshift exam rooms.

“You don’t have to go to a foreign country,” said Dr. Norman Burg, an Oakland native with a dental practice in Rockridge. “You can do this here and offer some benefit.”

Dr. Seema Sangwan, an internist at Cisco Systems’ health center in San Jose, said she expected to see more colds and flus and was surprised by the number of chronic and potentially serious ailments. “People are coming in saying ‘I have high blood pressure, and I haven’t seen a doctor in years,’ ” she said.

Sandi Lloyd, 45, of Oakland, who works two part-time jobs but doesn’t have insurance, said she was grateful for the opportunity to get care. She had just visited the dental area, where she had three teeth extracted.

“The guy who ripped my teeth out of my head, I hugged him. He was so nice,” she said, with a mouth full of cotton swabs as she waited to get her eyes examined.

Remote Area Medical Free Clinic

What it is: Free dental, vision and medical services for the uninsured, underinsured, underemployed and unemployed, and those who cannot afford to pay. There are no eligibility requirements.

Where: Oakland Coliseum, Parking Lot A

When: The clinic will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Tuesday. Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis. To be assured a spot, it’s best to arrive by midnight when the parking lot opens. Numbers will be issued beginning at 3:30 a.m., and the first people in line will begin registering at 5:15 a.m.

Services: Dental services include cleaning, fillings and extractions. Complete dilated eye exams, glaucoma testing, diabetic retinopathy screenings and prescription glasses will be available. Expect to wait two to four hours for glasses to be completed. Medical services include physicals, breast exams (no mammography), flu shots, diabetes screening, acupuncture and chiropractic care.

What to know: Bring warm clothing, food and water. Only one ticket will be issued per person; those waiting in line for someone else will not receive a ticket for themselves. Those who waited but could not be seen may receive a ticket for the next day.

How to volunteer: Register online at www.ramcaliforniavolunteers.org.

E-mail Victoria Colliver at vcolliver@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page A – 1of the San Francisco Chronicle

MR Original — Re-Creating Revolutionary Communities April 18, 2011

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MEDIA ROOTS- The revolution starts in your own backyard.

Cindy Sheehan, along with over 160 other leading peace advocates held a conference call on February 6th, 2011 to strategize for a new collaborative effort of localization called “Re-creating Revolutionary Communities”, or RevComs.

The plan is to put words into action. Cindy’s book, Myth America: the Twenty Greatest Myths of the Robber Class , breaks apart the societal and cultural myths that keep the oppressed dependent on their oppressors, and lays out the case for communities to revolutionize their environment, economy and society.

RevComs intends to overwhelm and permanently overcome the corporate controlled political and economic system that perpetuates exploitation and destruction by providing resources and guidance to local communities as they connect and build outside the grid. It is a truly grassroots effort that requires people to get active and to work collectively and creatively with their neighbors.

In the conference call, Cindy described the vision of how citizens can re-claim the resources in their environment and communities:

“We can do this by appropriating for ourselves what should already be under our control: community banking, community farming, supporting farmer’s markets, electing progressive revolutionaries to local school boards and city councils, having a barter/trade economy and creating cooperatives for every system we can””

Cindy also emphasizes the necessity for people to look outside of the “use and throw away” paradigm of the current consumerist, capitalist institutions. Citizens who want to create a self-functioning community need to re-evaluate the way they consume and must focus on waste reduction: re-using what we already have and recycling that which we already use.

RevComs aims to be the umbrella organization that helps to guide and connect community initiatives happening across the nation and eventually the world. There are already hundreds of projects happening all over the country– the first step is to discover what they are, followed by getting involved and helping to strengthen them. If your community lacks this foundation, Cindy stresses the need to get creative with entrepreneurial endeavors and new collaborative projects in the community.

Re-creating Revolutionary Communities believe that the answer to globalization is localization. People need to see the fruits of their labor and the benefits of community involvement. Waiting for federal change every four years keeps people disempowered and disillusioned with actions that struggle to affect visible change. Undoubtedly, there will be people who dismiss the potential of RevComs to help emancipate citizens from the ties of multi-national corporations or corrupted policies, and still others who disregard the movement as “doomed to fail’. Cindy responds to the naysayers:

“With this we cannot fail, because we will be touching people’s lives in a positive way” when Yoko [Ono] was on my show she said we have to drop the pebble in the pond and the ripples will go to infinity” Everybody that went before us that tried to make positive change did make positive change. They did not fail. I shudder to think where our society would be today if we didn’t have people like Martin Luther King Jr” I know that many of those people” were thinking the same way that we thought. They were thinking that they failed, they were thinking that they didn’t change society. But they changed it in a very profound way. The only way we are guaranteed failure is if we don’t do anything. That is the beautiful, wonderful miraculous thing about this project: that we will have a 100% success rate.”

RevComs will begin putting this plan into action during the first round of community gatherings slated for the first week in March 2011. The meetings are going to start locally, with anticipation of then going regional, and eventually national.

The seeds of revolution are already being sewn, now it’s up to you to join in.

To learn information, gather resources or to get involved with Re-creating Revolutionary Communities, please visit their website at http://cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com/2011/01/re-creating-revolutionary-communities.html or become a part of their facebook community here.

Writing and art by Abby Martin, check out more art at http://www.AbbyMartin.org

Check out an exclusive Media Roots interview with Cindy Sheehan.


A cure for Nature-Deficient Disorder April 18, 2011

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The new film Echoes of Creation is an orgiastic nature experience from award-winning film director Jan Nickman. It’s currently being aired on public television as a pledge drive program across the nation – check your local listings – and is also available on DVD. Presented by Seattle’s PBS member station, the one-hour film features rare breathtaking soaring footage from the Pacific Northwest including Sequoia, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks along with a beautiful poetic spoken word libretto.

Scored with music from composer David Arkenstone, the jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and ancient Sequoias leave viewers breathless. The cinematic tour-de-force inspires deeper thought about conservation, water and land use, urban growth and especially how the natural world coexists alongside humanity.

In our nature deficient society, and for many who may not experience nature on a regular basis, Echoes of Creation has never before been so relevant. Meant for repeated viewing, the film allows viewers to confront their deepest feelings about earth stewardship and some viewers associate the film with stress reduction, improved wellness and feelings of natural euphoria.

Director Jan Nickman is an acclaimed Emmy Award-winning producer known for iconoclast films that fuse spectacular natural world cinematography with extraordinary music scores. His films typically use sparse, narrative poetry to punctuate nature’s wisdom. “Filmmakers have a tremendous opportunity to inspire health and wellness for our planet and all who live upon it,” says Nickman, whose goal is to connect viewers in new and deeply meaningful ways to the natural world. “Nature is a profound source of truth and healing.”

Click here to watch the trailer and see and hear for yourself.

Photo by Minette Layne via Flickr.

Anne Thomas: Learning to cope with the unpredictable April 16, 2011

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Last night Izumi came home and told us frogs were all over the road below her mother’s house. They usually appear in the heat of summer and croak they joyous songs all night. But there they were in mid-April and on a rather cool night at that. “The world is all confused now,” said Izumi. “I think another big quake will soon come. I remember seeing snakes come out of their holes when I was a child and soon after we had a big quake. Maybe the animals know sooner than we do.”

She also told me that tori gates, which mark the start of steps up to Shinto shrines, were originally placed at the limit of tsunami waves. People knew that they should build their lives about that highly significant level. In times past folks said, “There are four things to be afraid of: earthquakes (and tsunami), lightning, fire, and grandfathers. And always remember that earthquakes come first on that list.” But it is human nature to forget. And with the advances in technology, people have progressively felt superior to the forces of nature. But this current ongoing upheaval is a poignant lesson in humility. So are the damaged houses marked with big red letters “OK.” That means rescue workers have checked that particular building and cleared it of any dead bodies, if any were found.

Most of us still sleep in our clothes even now. Not because we are in shelters and have no choice. Rather it is because of the ongoing daily quakes, some very strong. Better to run out of the house fully dressed than in pajamas, especially if the building falls down. I sense that one of the hard parts when this is over will be to gracefully give up living with such constant intensity. It becomes a way of being and later it might be challenging to shed that acute, ongoing, emergency level of alertness.


Military Teenager Creates Safe Haven For Children of Deployed Parents April 16, 2011

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By Lucas Kavner published on the Huffington Post

Moranda Hern was 15 years old when her father, Lietenant Colonel Rick Hern, was deployed to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. In the months that followed, she found herself feeling increasingly more isolated and lonely.

“My friends don’t have parents in the military for the most part, so they didn’t really understand what I was going through,” Moranda said. “I thought I was the only one who was experiencing these feelings.”

Moranda had long hoped to follow in her father’s military footsteps. At 12, she began attending camps and events with the National Guard and California Army, and during a National Guard Youth Symposium in Missouri in 2007, she met another girl, Kaylei Deakin, with whom she had an immediate connection. “Meeting Kaylei was kind of this ‘aha’ moment for me. I learned I wasn’t the only one going through these things.”

She and Kaylei wanted to turn their own feelings of confusion over their fathers’ deployment into a movement — one that brings military children across California together.

“Military kids get each other,” Moranda said. “There’s a real understanding there.”

Together, they attended The Women’s Conference in California in 2008, which laid the groundwork for The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs — itself a play on the popular teen novel and Army-slang for battle dress uniforms.

Moranda and Kaylei began organizing their first conference for the organization right away, all the while finishing up high school classes and applying for colleges. “I was still, like, trying to get my driver’s license,” Moranda remembers.

With help from mentors like Major General Mary Kight of the California National Guard and grants and training, they scheduled speakers, workshops, and a semi-formal “Purple Carpet” event. Soon the girls raised enough money so that all conference participants could attend for free.

It took a lot of work, but seeing these hundreds of girls coming together and supporting each validated Kaylei and Moranda’s mission.

“The last night of the conference we had an Open Mic, and every girl stood up and spoke about their own experiences,” Moranda said. “They thought their fathers had deployed because they didn’t love them; they talked about eating disorders and self-esteem issues. They cried and laughed and all these things. But they left the conference knowing that someone was fighting for them.”

Moranda’s goal is to expand the program nationwide, aiming for at least three more states to take on Sisterhood conferences in the coming months. But she’ll have a lot on her plate, considering she’s now a freshman at the Air Force Academy. Kaylei is pursuing a life in the military, as well, currently training with the Marines in Fort Leonard Wood.

“I’m also a diver and we travel around to compete,” Moranda adds. “So yeah. I’m really busy.”

Support the Sisterhood or learn more by going to their website.