Remarks by Michael Freund, April 22, 2012 – FFI Benefit at the Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA

Good evening and Happy Earth Day: My name if Michael Freund and I am the Director for Friends Foundation International.

Tonight, we celebrate 20 years of projects that have benefitted the environment around the world. Tonight, we are also here to celebrate our many friendships.

The mission of Friends Foundation (FF) has always remained the same – to identify important projects in need that will produce concrete environmental results. We continue to operate without any paid employees or overhead. All of the money we raise is directed to our projects.

Over the past 3 decades, FF has provided grants to more than 30 projects in 21 countries.

The founding Board members met as students in 1975 in an environmental studies class at UC Santa Cruz. We formed our foundation in 1991 to solidify our friendship and to make a difference in the world. Grateful for the amazing education and friends we developed, it was fitting to give back to the university. Thus, our first projects had direct connections to benefitting the campus environment and other students. First, we protected the habitat of the threatened red legged frog on the campus. Next, we provided the seed money to start the Dick Cooley Endowment, named after one of our amazing environmental studies professors who had passed away. The Endowment has funded student environmental projects in many countries.

I would like to summarize a handful of our projects for you.

Some of them have involved funding legal advocacy groups and their attorneys in bringing the first environmental cases to Court in their countries.

For example, in Tanzania, we supported the Lawyers Environmental Action Team, fighting to protect the rights of the Masai people whose lands have been exploited and confiscated. In another Tanzanian project, the Lawyers obtained an injunction stopping the destruction of 25,000 acres of mangrove forest from development.

In Nepal, we continue to fund Pro Public. This amazing organization has brought successful lawsuits to protect the air quality of the Kathmandu Valley, the groundwater from toxic chemicals, and to protect the one-horned Rhino at Chitwan National Park from poachers and many others. Our collaboration led to the establishment of the Friends Foundation Pro Public Scholarship Fund to send needy female students from the lowest caste in Nepali society, the untouchable class, to obtain higher education.

In Panama, FF provided the funding to purchase and plant 1,500 trees. We then collaborated with the Kansha Foundation, by providing the funding to construct a tree nursery to counteract the degradation of the jungle from agricultural activities and cattle.

In Ecuador, we have supported CORDAVI, who works directly with the indigenous peoples of the Amazon River Basin to protect their lands against mining and oil exploitation by obtaining land title for them.

In Columbia, FF has for many years supported the U’wa tribe in their fight against oil companies seeking to exploit indigenous lands. We have funded Mujer’ U’wa to empower the women to have a greater role in decision making. We have funded the first U’wa to go to law school in Columbia. Think of the difference she will make to her community upon obtaining her law degree. We welcome Ana Maria Murillo here today who has been our contact person with the U’wa.

In Uganda, we sent funds to install solar system to refrigerate the vaccines at a rural HIV/AIDS clinic. We also supported a project to improve drinking water quality in Uganda.

In Kanpur, India, FF supports Eco Friends, whose mission is to protect the Ganges River from chemical discharges and other forms of pollution. Our friend, Rakesh Jaiswal, Director of Eco Friends was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his commitment and passion to protect the environment.

It is shocking to know that many young children throughout the world attend schools with no restrooms or drinking water facilities. In Sikkim, India we provided the funding to construct a boys and girls bathroom and a drinking water fountain for a rural elementary school.

In Indonesia, we are providing 100% of the funding to create renewable and non polluting electricity from the flow of water for a small remote village in northern Bali.

Finally, during the last 2 years, we sent money to Vietnam to buy warm clothes for the young school children of the Black Hmong tribe living in a mountainous region near the Chinese border. We have received the cutest pictures of these little kids with their huge winter coats and you can see them on our website.

Now, I would like to acknowledge everyone who has helped create this amazing event tonight.

First, we need to applaud the Freight & Salvage and Steve Baker who runs this great music venue, Bob who has helped with the music production and the entire staff at the Freight who has worked with us to make this benefit happen.

I want to thank Michael McNamer who brainstormed the idea of the Benefit and inspired most of the musicians to appear here tonight.

I want to acknowledge and express our gratitude to the musicians, many who have come from as far away as La Cruz, Mexico, who have donated their time and talent to make this a memorable night. I want to thank Jason Freskos who has housed these musicians this week.

Thank you Yvonne Glasgow for creating the beautiful poster and invitations for tonight’s event and Likewise Media for printing these items for free.

Thank you Sally Leveille for organizing the silent auction.

I would like to express appreciation for the Alper Foundation who has provided funding to us over the years.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the Board of FFI.

Our original Board members who attended UCSC -Dean Alper, David Paul, Glen Price, & Skye Leone.

Our newer Board members and friends Bob Hoffman, Denise Hoffman, Pamela Price and John Steere.

I want to thank my wife for putting up with me.

Thank you so much for coming out tonight to support us. Thank you for your friendship.