Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘charity’

20sorkin1-jumbo

Photo: Desiree Rios for the New York Times
A community college employee shops at the campus food pantry. When folks get paid a living wage, they don’t need food pantries.

As much as I admire smart philanthropy, I recognize that helping individuals get by or even helping communities make lasting change can only go so far. Most of us know that when people can be self-sufficient, they feel happier — and the societal benefits last longer.

Opinion columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin writes about this at the New York Times.

“Real charity doesn’t come with a tax deduction. That’s what I told a gathering of generous Wall Street and business luminaries this month about the increasing paradox of even some of the most well-intentioned philanthropy.

“All too often, charitable gifts are used not only to help those who can’t help themselves but to make up for the failure of companies to pay people a living wage and treat their workers with dignity. …

“Countless C.E.O.s donate to worthy causes that, for example, help fund food banks and homeless shelters across the country. They should be applauded for their charity.

“But the real opportunity for generosity is more likely inside the workplace.

“Do you know who goes to the food banks that so many support? It is not just the homeless and unemployed. It is, many times, the people we all work with: The janitors and support staff who help offices run smoothly and keep them clean. The Uber drivers and people who work at the checkout counter and deliver groceries. The nannies and caregivers.

“According to Feeding America, 43 percent of people who visit a food bank have at least one family member who is working full time but still doesn’t earn enough to cover bills. A researcher for the Urban Institute estimated that a quarter of adults in homeless shelters work.

If business leaders genuinely care about eradicating poverty, paying people a living wage matters. …

“So here’s a challenge for chief executives and employees alike: When you go back to work after the holidays, ask your human resources department what the lowest pay is for any employee at the company. And, just as important, what is the lowest pay for any outside contractor that your company uses? What kind of benefits do they get? Do the outside firms your company contracts with provide benefits?

“Once you have answers to those questions, the real charity is to do something about it — whether you’re a decision maker or you can use your voice to influence the decision makers.

‘When I walk to work, I’m looking into the eyes of the homeless people. I can’t forget about them,’ Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, told me. ‘I mean, that’s the whole point — that’s why we’re here.’ …

“ ‘This is why I like being in business, because I can create change — that business must be the greatest platform for change. And if it isn’t, then what is?’ he said. …

“This past year, Brian Moynihan, the chief executive at Bank of America, raised the firm’s minimum wage to $20 an hour. Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, who lifted his company’s starting wage, has called on Congress to raise the federal minimum. Mark Bertolini, a former chief executive of Aetna, raised the minimum wage at his company to $16 an hour — in 2015. All three companies have benefited — and their stock went up. …

“At the gathering of business leaders that I spoke to — organized by the UJA Federation of New York, which supports the poor and elderly in New York and in Israel — I shared what I had learned about the idea of charity. I grew up thinking that the Hebrew word tzedakah means charity, which is its modern definition. But I later learned its original meaning was much more profound: It meant ‘justice’ and ‘fairness.’

“So when it comes to giving, the goal shouldn’t be to simply donate more money, as laudable as that is. The aim should be to create a society where we don’t need places like food banks in the first place. To put it in Wall Street terms, we should be trying to put the food banks out of business.”

More here.

Read Full Post »

dsc1405_2

Photo: Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee)
The nonprofit called Alight, which believes in “doing the doable” amid daunting challenges, knows how to make a huge difference with just a small gift. For this tea lady in Sudan, the gift was a few chairs for customers.

I love this nonprofit and want you to know about it. It used to be called American Refugee Committee. Today it is Alight, an organization that focuses on doing the doable for those in need, including refugees here or in camps around the world. I get Alight’s e-newsletter, and it’s always full of inspiring stories about places many people think of as hopelessly damaged. Here are some words of cheer from Sudan.

Alight’s “Changemakers 365 is all about doing the doable. It’s about opening our eyes to the opportunities to make an impact in a person’s life with relatively few resources – and making change each and every day of the year. …

“Tea ladies are a neighborhood institution in Khartoum. They provide the place – a piece of shade and a place to sit – for the community to meet, connect and share a cup of tea. They don’t earn much at all, but they really are the glue that holds together communities.

“Fatima’s tea stand is right outside [Alight’s] front door. And that’s given us a great opportunity to get to know everyone who lives and works in the neighborhood.

“We wanted to thank Fatima for her service to the community, so we asked if there was anything she needed.

“ ‘Chairs,’ she said, immediately! Fatima’s stools weren’t very comfy and she wanted everyone to feel at ease as they discussed neighborhood happenings and the news of the day.

“It was an easy wish to grant. 30 minutes later we delivered a couple dozen chairs to an astonished Fatima.

“ ‘I’m the most happiest ever!’ ” Click here.

“Mayo is a large section of the city that is home to people who’ve relocated to Khartoum, mostly from western Sudan. And inside Mayo, there’s a neighborhood called Mandela that refugees from South Sudan now call home. Some came fleeing conflict near home, others were seeking the opportunity of the capital and the chance at a different future.

“For most the promise hasn’t lived up to reality. But there is a group of changemakers in Mayo determined to change that. Samira and Kemal lead the Green Hope Association for Peace and Development. They don’t have any regular funding. So, when they decide to do something new, they mostly just bootstrap it by gathering resources and talent from their own community.

“Green Hope offers adult education, skills training for women in carpentry, welding, food service, handicrafts, electrical repair and more. They even offer a food-for-work program for the vulnerable elderly in the neighborhood, providing food staples in exchange for seniors collecting trash in the community. But Green Hope’s primary mission is running a K-8 school for 200+ students.

South Sudanese and Sudanese students attend together in harmony. Teachers are college educated. There are no funds for teacher salaries, so they volunteer. And when the school day ends in the afternoon, they have to find some small jobs to make ends meet.

“Green Hope is abundant with hope, joy, possibility and a can-do spirit. But scarce in almost everything else. When we asked the students how we could help, their response was unanimous. Books! …

“So they gave us a list and we headed to the store to buy all the books that students from 5th to 8th grade would need to prepare for their high school entrance exams – Arabic, English, Mathematics, Geography, History, Science. The budget allowed for a notebook and pen for every single student in the school. And we received a donation of storybooks for the younger children – so everyone in Green Hope received at least one book. For many, their first ever book.

“ ‘We’re so happy, we want to dance,’ Samira told us. And they did.” More.

“Green Hope Founders Samira, Kemal and a group of women had built the center themselves some 15 years ago. At night!

‘We built at night, because construction work wasn’t really acceptable for women. AND we all had to work to make a living during the day,’ Samira told us.

“The school is compact, but there’s space for separate classrooms for all of the grade levels. What there wasn’t was a chair for every student. Some kindergarteners sat on the floor. Other kids shared chairs. We knew we could do something about that.

“We called up a local furniture maker and he got to work building wooden and metal chairs – small ones for the younger kids and big chairs that would work for older students and for the adults who come to Green Hope for adult education and skills training.

“The kids had also asked us for some exercise materials, so we grabbed some soccer balls and jump ropes. And we had enough left over to buy a small stock of crayons and JUMBO coloring books for the two, three and four-year olds who accompany their older siblings to school – and sit so nicely, by the way – because their mothers are at work.

‘You may think that what you have done here is small, but it will make a big difference for our children,’ said Kemal. ‘Thank you for coming back to us down this bad road.’

More.

If you’re feeling down, you can sign up for the doing the doable newsletter or follow Alight on Facebook or Twitter @We_Are_Alight . Alight has earned the top rating at Charity Navigator.

Read Full Post »

goats05_custom-5a5716255ef5364068168642d7658748751569c4-s600-c85

Photo: Christy Sommers
People who raise goats in India, Bangladesh, and elsewhere, think it’s obvious you’d put sweaters on your goats in cold weather. It takes an outsider to be surprised — and make a calendar.

Got your 2019 calendar yet? We have way too many at our house because my husband donates to so many nature organizations. I wish that nonprofits would forget about free gifts and just spend donations where the money is most needed.

Today I have a story about a charity calendar that is not a giveaway. You have to buy it. But I hereby make an exception to my grumpiness about charity calendars.

Danielle Preiss writes at National Public Radio (NPR), “When we came across pictures of ‘Sweateredgoats‘ on Instagram, we wanted to know more. …

“The caprine fashionistas are featured on a calendar, the sales of which have benefited local organizations in Varanasi, India, where most of the images were taken.

“Christy Sommers, who takes the photos, first noticed the cuteness that is clothed goats in 2010, while living in a village in northwestern Bangladesh as a Fulbright scholar studying rural primary education. …

” ‘It blends my love of cute things with India and this desire that I have for people to understand the rest of the world better,’ Sommers says.

“Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Sommers has spent much of the last five years working in northern India as an instructor and administrator for a high school and college travel abroad program called Where There Be Dragons. She started to notice goats, particularly in lower-income urban areas, decked out in winter gear. Varanasi doesn’t actually get too cold — typically not dropping below a January average of 60 degrees.

Sommers says when she asks families why the goats are clothed, they usually tell her it’s because they’re cold — and look surprised that she’s asking something so obvious.

“And it turns out to be a good idea. Jagdip Singh Sohal, assistant professor of microbiology and microbial genomics at Amity University in Jaipur and organizer of the Asian Regional Conference on Goats, confirmed that goats can get cold. …

“Extra insulation, whether from a sweater, a discarded track suit or a burlap sack, allows the goat to divert more energy to productive purposes, like getting meatier and birthing more kids. …

“[Sommers] gives about half the profits to Asha Deep, a school for underprivileged kids in Varanasi. (The rest of the money she views as compensation for her labor.) The $4,500 donation from 2018 calendar sales provided the funds the school needed to operate for one month. Asha Deep is a vetted charity on Global Giving, a U.S.-based nonprofit that crowd funds donations for local NGOs around the world. …

“Meanwhile, the goat owners aren’t that impressed. To them, dressing a goat in a sweater is no big deal. ‘They generally think I’m crazy,’ she says.”

More at NPR, here.

Read Full Post »

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking has ALS and has to talk using an electronic voice substitute. Recently, as part of a skit for the antipoverty charity Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day fundraiser, he pretended to audition a bunch of well-known actors to be his newest voice.

Erin Jensen reports at USA Today, “A new, highly sought after role might not win actors any Oscars or BAFTAs, but that’s not stopping Hollywood’s elite from auditioning.

“In the clip, Hawking, who has ALS and communicates with synthesized speech, reviewed tapes from the self-described ‘intelligent … kind of’ Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, who got a hard no from the physicist. Hawking also wasn’t persuaded by The Theory of Everything stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne or the ‘soothing, calming voice’ of Gordon Ramsay.

“Hawking wasn’t Taken with Liam Neeson’s voice either, despite the actor’s opinion that it possessed ‘a tinge of … physics.’ ” More.

For the true story behind Hawking’s voice, read this Wired article. Joao Medeiros details the many iterations of the technology underlying Hawking’s ability to communicate, but he notes Hawking likes his original “voice” and has stuck with it.

“His voice had been created in the early ’80s by MIT engineer Dennis Klatt, a pioneer of text-to-speech algorithms. He invented the DECtalk, one of the first devices to translate text into speech. He initially made three voices, from recordings of his wife, daughter and himself. The female’s voice was called ‘Beautiful Betty’ the child’s ‘Kit the Kid’, and the male voice, based on his own, “’Perfect Paul.’ Perfect Paul is Hawking’s voice.”

Photo: http://www.hawking.org.uk/

Read Full Post »

I love stories about young people who have an impulse to help people in need. And I like that they often have creative ideas about how to do so that an older person might never have considered.

At the Boston Globe, Astead W. Herndon recently covered a high school student, now at Tufts University, who got her creative idea in a rather unusual way — while watching reality television.

Herndon reports, “Before Hannah Steinberg had a day named in her honor and was recognized by a US senator, the Tufts junior was just another high school student watching reality television.

“On that day about four years ago, Steinberg’s show of choice was ‘Extreme Couponing,’ the cable program that follows discount-obsessed shopaholics who go to supreme lengths to buy ultra-cheap items regardless of whether they need them.

“But as she watched the show’s stars proudly hoard their deeply discounted prizes, Steinberg said she had a thought: What if she could coupon with a conscience?

“These days, the 20-year-old Steinberg has a registered charity that has donated more than $100,000 worth of household items, canned goods, and electronics to homeless shelters and hospitals by using the couponing tricks she observed on the show. …

“Steinberg uses the example of a chocolate bar priced at $1.19. If she finds a buy one, get one free coupon, and pairs it with a buy two, get one free coupon and a $4 off any $10 purchase discount, Steinberg said she can purchase 30 chocolate bars for only $6.

“To fund her purchases, Steinberg solicits donations to Our Coupons Care, her federally recognized nonprofit charity. By mixing that money with her coupon magic, Steinberg said she can make “every dollar count for four to five dollars.” More here.

Although this seems like a lot of work, to me that’s not the point. Here’s a young woman who is transforming a consumerism that has run amok — until it is almost an illness — into something positive. And she is demonstrating that people with kind hearts and compassion continue to be born.

Photo: John Tlumacki/Globe
Tufts student Hannah Steinberg surrounded by the coupons she collects to buy goods to donate to charity.

Read Full Post »

When I think of Russia and the words “big brother” together, I don’t ordinarily picture the charitable organization that partners adults with kids who need role models. Roman Sklotskiy has altered my mental model.

Last month, Diana Kultchitskaya interviewed Sklotskiy for the Christian Science Monitor.

“Roman Sklotskiy, a former businessman and a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, didn’t dream of having a career in charity. In the early 2000s he was a pioneer in the telecommunications industry, testing applications for mobile networks.

“But then he was invited by a friend to be the administrator of a theater for deaf actors – a charity project launched by a group of professional actors and directors. He was so inspired by the experience that he decided to pursue charitable work.

“In 2007 he learned of a nonprofit group trying to bring a United States-based mentoring program to Russia. Big Brothers Big Sisters International is a volunteer program that helps orphans and children from troubled families find mentors who provide them with a role model and help them build a healthy relationship with an adult.

“In Russia this kind of volunteering was a new idea. Mr. Sklotskiy decided to join the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Russia team and became its director, spending six years developing it. …

“The selection process for people who would like to participate in Russia’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program is strict. … Those who are selected receive training. Psychologists work with them and explain the unique demands of communicating with an orphan. …

“Alexandr Gezalov, an expert on child adoption and orphanages, says that the project is very successful.

“ ‘I’ve never seen a more effective format for communicating with an orphaned child,’ Mr. Gezalov says. The success of Big Brothers Big Sisters should be shared with other organizations, he says.

“Today Sklotskiy serves as director of charitable programs at the RVVZ Foundation. But he’s stayed involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters as chairman of the board. And he thinks it still has great potential to grow and help even more children. Currently Big Brothers Big Sisters is operating in Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

More here.

Photo: Svetlana Balashova for the Christian Science Monitor
Roman Sklotskiy longed to do charitable work, and he found his calling in developing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Russia.

Read Full Post »

Heifer Project is a charity founded by Dan West, “a farmer from the American Midwest and member of the Church of the Brethren who went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief, but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day was not enough. And then he had a thought: What if they had not a cup, but a cow?”

Recipients of Heifer Project’s cows, chickens, pigs, and other assistance commit to giving the offspring of the donated animals to others in need. That way the giving grows and spreads.

Recently, Heifer Project has been helping poor farmers in Guatemala make enough from their cardamon crops to live on.

Editor Jason Woods, has the story in the nonprofit’s magazine, World Ark.

“Miguel Xo Pop farms his own plot of land. Everyone in the Sierra de las Minas depends on two crops, cardamom and coffee, to survive. Xo and his family are no different. Traditionally, the cloud forest’s climate helps the two plants thrive, but in the past few years a pair of plagues cut cardamom prices in half and reduced coffee income to nothing.

“Recently, Xo joined a Heifer International Guatemala project that will help him keep the pests away from his cardamom while adding more crops to his farm, but the project is still in its initial stages, gaining momentum. So for now, Xo spends a quarter of a year away from his wife and five kids to earn money.”

More on the lives of the farm families, here.

The reporter also describes how an altruistic businessman moved to a “double bottom line,” one that includes charity.

“A couple of years ago, McKinley Thomason was searching for a way to use his Nashville-based spice business to make a positive impact. After hearing about Heifer International’s burgeoning work with cardamom, he knew he had found his organization.

“Shortly after contacting Heifer, Thomason’s company, The Doug Jeffords Co., started donating 10 cents to Heifer Guatemala for every seasoning blend sold from their J.M. Thomason line. But Thomason’s passion for Heifer’s work in Guatemala moved him to do even more.

“Thomason has been acting as a project adviser to Guatemalan farmers, sharing his market knowledge and technical expertise in the world of cardamom. He is also making connections and introducing Heifer Guatemala to other like-minded spice companies that could support this or other projects.”

More at Heifer Project, here.

Photo: Dave Anderson

Read Full Post »

A husband and wife who run a restaurant in Norfolk, Mass., have opened their hearts to worthy causes, offering to assist through sales of a Brazilian dough boy.

Bella English writes at the Boston Globe, ” ‘We know the stresses of running a restaurant,” says Jennifer [Lima], 37. ‘But we promised each other we would also use it to do some good.’ …

“They donate bread weekly to the Wrentham Food Pantry. Their first Easter brunch, they donated much of the sales to the local fire department. They’re constantly giving gift cards to this or that raffle.

“When a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, struggling to work while raising her son and undergoing treatment, they donated a percentage of their earnings to Project Princess, which a friend organized on the woman’s behalf.

“And when the family of a young Marine just back from Afghanistan wanted to book a welcome home party, the Limas told them no problem. In late December, a peak holiday time, they closed the restaurant and donated the entire party. They hung signs and strung red, white, and blue lights around the bar.

“ ‘Who else closes on a busy Saturday night?’ asks Lauren Eliopoulos, the Marine’s sister. ‘They would not take anything in return. It touched my entire family.’ …

“Rolling in the Dough, [is] the couple’s latest endeavor. Their ‘Doughboy,’ take my word for it, is the best piece of fried dough you’ll ever eat. … The box notes that 100 percent of the proceeds from Doughboy sales will go to a person, family, or cause in need. ‘Do you know a deserving cause? E-mail lima@novatosgrill.com.’ ”

Read more here.

Photo: Bella English

Read Full Post »

I liked this story at TreeHugger on protecting trees and fighting poverty at the same time — especially the part about the importance of women in the effort.

Sami Grover writes, “The old trope that we can either have economic development or environmental protection has been pretty much blown out of the water by this point. …

“Nowhere is this more true than the dry lands of Africa, where desertification, resource depletion, climate disruption and political unrest have all taken their toll on communities’ ability to survive and thrive. There is, however, plenty to be hopeful about too. …

Tree Aid, a charity which works with villagers living in the drylands of Africa, has long been at the forefront of this fight. By working cooperatively with villagers and on-the-ground non-profit partners in Africa, the charity doesn’t just plant trees, but rather increases villagers’ capacity to protect, nurture and utilize trees to protect their soils, increase agricultural yields, and provide a buffer against the drought, floods and failed crops that are predicted to get ever more common with the advance of climate change.

“A new free report from the charity, entitled Building Resilience to Climate Shocks, the charity is seeking to spread the word about how trees can be used to both alleviate poverty and protect the environment at the same time. …

“Previous tree planting efforts in the drylands have often failed because they’ve either focused on the wrong species of trees, or they have failed to take into account the needs, resources and skills of the local population. …

“Unless short-term needs are met, long-term needs are compromised. … Tree Aid has worked with villagers to develop alternatives to ecologically damaging land management practices:

TREE AID provides training for villagers to plan ways to make money in the short-term as well as the long. For example by producing honey from the bees which live on unburnt land and using fallen trees for fuelwood. This gives them enough income to sustain and invest in their futures and environments, as well as preparing themselves for weather extremes. …

“One of the strategies the charity uses to build climate resilience is to establish ‘Tree Banks’ within a community. These banks are essentially mixed-species tree plantings that can provide for a range of needs from fuel wood to animal fodder to fruit or other products. Each community establishes rules and management practices for when and how a Tree Bank may be used. …

“Any successful strategy for regreening these regions must work within those cultures to empower and educate women as caretakers of the environment: When women take part in decision-making there is a long-term positive impact on trees. They become important forest caretakers.”

More at Tree Aid, here ,and at Treehugger, here.

Photo: Tree Aid

 

Read Full Post »

The mother of the cofounder of Meaningful Wins is not big on gambling, but as John reminds her, she is the one who took him to Suffolk Downs once when he was 12 and let him bet on a horse, so she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

In any case, she is proud that John and his college friend Thad Levine (Texas
Rangers) have successfully worked with nonprofits and baseball players, among others, to provide a way that people who play fantasy football can donate their winnings directly to charity.

Peace Players International writes, “Ellis and Levine recently founded Meaningful Wins which allows fantasy football players to compete in leagues for the charity of their choice. Leagues are first set up on commercial platforms such as NFL.com, ESPN.com, and Yahoo.com just as usual. After doing so, they can then register on MeaningfulWins.com. Each league player then receives an email asking them to register, pay their entry fees, and then choose a charity to play for, upon which completing this information they will receive a tax-deduction receipt. At the end of the fantasy season, the winning player’s charity receives the money!”

See John interviewed, here, at New England Cable News. Read about Meaningful Wins at the Nonprofit Times, here.

Photo: Doctors without Borders, now partnering with Meaningful Wins to receive donations from fantasy-football players.

 

Read Full Post »

I need to ponder a bit before deciding how I feel about publishing books that don’t earn anything for the author and that cost the “buyer” only an unenforceable promise to make a donation to a charity.

I was discussing this with Asakiyume by e-mail this morning. She self-published the delightful Pen Pal and has often said she is more interested in getting people to read the book than in making a lot of money off it. But neither us feels that artists should be expected routinely to give away the fruits of their labors. (If they really want to, there are worthy groups like Artists for a Cause that can make it happen.)

Kathleen Burge describes the new publishing concept in today’s Globe. “When the Concord Free Press was just a radical idea with a one-title book list, founder Stona Fitch nervously pitched Wesley Brown, hoping to persuade the acclaimed author to let him publish Brown’s latest novel.

“ ‘You want me to give you this novel I’ve been writing for years,’ he recalls Brown saying. ‘You’re not going to pay me. And you’re going to give it away for free and hope that readers donate money to something else.’

“ ‘I said, “Wes, yeah, that’s pretty much it.” There’s this long pause and I’m waiting for something bad to happen. And he said, “I’m in.” ’ …

“Readers agree to give away money, in any amount: to a charity, a stranger on the street, or someone who needs it. Donations since 2008 total $409,250 — and that is just those reported back to the publisher. Readers are also asked to pass along the book once they are finished, so donations continue to multiply. …

Gregory Maguire , who wrote Wicked, the wildly popular novel that became a Broadway musical, saw a chance to free himself from his reputation as only a fantasy writer — the way he is promoted by his publisher, HarperCollins — and try a new kind of novel.

“After the book, a tragic farce titled The Next Queen of Heaven, debuted with the Concord press, his publisher paid him a very welcome advance to issue a second — much larger — edition of the work.”

More here.

I can see how this rather Utopian approach could work for an established writer who wants to try a new genre. But the big hurdle for new writers is publicity. They can’t generate their own very well. How do they get into the right hands once they are published?

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
The Concord Free Press gives away books for free to readers who will donate to a charity or person in need.

Read Full Post »

At work we have partnered with an urban high school for 35 years. Tomorrow a group of 15-year-olds from the school will come into the office for Job Shadow Day.

The students fill out a form in advance to let their assigned mentor know something about them — favorite subject, least favorite, hobbies, career ambitions.

My student has an unusual ambition for a 15-year-old. She wants to be a philanthropist.

Perhaps I will tell her what I read recently about how many of today’s top philanthropists are active in their causes. They don’t just give money.

“The global face of philanthropy is changing,” writes the Christian Science Monitor. “Donors no longer just open their wallets. They’re actively involved in causes, use savvy business practices, and leverage what they give to achieve more good.”

One such philanthropist is F.K. Day. Read how his work has benefited people in Zambia and beyond.

“Life in rural Zambia has improved dramatically for dairy farmer Cecil Hankambe. He has doubled his milk sales, purchased a farm, and earned enough money to send his children to school. He still milks the same cow and travels the same rugged roads to the local dairy co-op. The only difference now: Instead of lugging a heavy jug on foot, he pedals a bicycle.

“Mr. Hankambe rides a Buffalo, a bike so sturdy and basic that its steel frame can carry up to 220 pounds and be repaired with a rock. Instead of delivering only seven to 10 liters of milk a day, Hankambe can now transport 15 to 20 liters to a chilling station before it spoils, boosting his profit.

” ‘A reliable bike can create reliability in a dairy farmer’s income,’ says F.K. Day, founder of World Bicycle Relief, a foundation based in Chicago that produces the Buffalo and provides two-wheeled aid to people in developing nations. ‘You forget how important transportation is.’ ”

Day started young, as young as the girl who will visit me at work tomorrow.

“As a teenager, he flew – on his own initiative – from Chicago to Brazil to knock on the door of Irish priests who were building schools in São Paulo‘s poorest neighborhoods. They hadn’t responded to his letters. But when he showed up on their doorstep, they had no choice but to put him to work.

“That experience laid the groundwork for what followed three decades later. On Dec. 26, 2004, horrific images of tsunami-swept Southeast Asia flickered on TV screens in the United States. Day, now a successful cofounder of SRAM, an elite bicycle-parts manufacturer, wanted to do more than just fund relief efforts. …

“So he and his wife, Leah, boarded a plane to Sri Lanka. Within weeks, Day had partnered with World Vision; he eventually oversaw the distribution of 24,000 bicycles that gave thousands of people affected by the tsunami the ability to reach their jobs, schools, and health-care centers.” His bikes are now in many countries were transportation needs are great.

” ‘If you can enter something new, open and honestly with beginner’s eyes, something good is bound to happen,’ says Day.”

How does one come by that core impulse to help? Probably it shows itself at a very young age. Even at 15.

Read about seven additional innovative philanthropists in the Monitor.

Photograph: Leah Missbach Day
F.K. Day, President of World Bicycle Relief & Executive Vice President of SRAM Corporation, pictured in downtown Chicago.

other innovative philanthropists

Read Full Post »

For years, I’ve been a fan of Bikes Not Bombs, a local bike repair and training outfit that got its start providing donated bikes to poor people in Central America.

Now I find out that an architecture charity also likes Bikes Not Bombs — enough to donate time to renovate the shop.

The Christian Science Monitor and Cathryn J. Prince have the story.

“Inside the sleek steel and cement workshop of Bikes Not Bombs in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, at-risk youths recondition bicycles before sending them on for use in developing countries.

“Halfway across the country at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, a ‘showcase suite’ shows how a child’s hospital room can be made less intimidating and more comfortable.

“The ‘1 percent’ built the bike-repair workshop. The ‘1 percent’ also built the hospital room.”

The 1% program of Public Architecture, based in San Francisco, “connects nonprofit groups in need of design assistance with architecture or design firms. The name for the group comes from the idea that if firms across the country donate just 1 percent of their time each year to charitable work it would equal 5 million hours. …

” ‘In a moment of ambitious insanity, I decided to start a nonprofit,’ says John Peterson, the founder and president of The 1%. …

“Most architecture and design firms, he found, were unfamiliar with the idea of doing pro bono work. Initially, holding design competitions was the only way to get firms to participate.

“ ‘But competition [projects] rarely get built,’ says Amy Ress, project manager for The 1% program. ‘We wanted to do projects that would get built.’

“Mr. Peterson launched The 1% in 2001. More than 10 years later, more than 1,000 architecture and design firms (between 3 percent and 5 percent of all American architectural firms) and 600 nonprofit organizations are participating. About 18 new firms join each month, he says.

“One of the earliest design ideas was The Station, which would serve as a gathering point for day laborers. Day laborers normally must hang out at spaces meant for other uses, such as gas stations and parking lots. Today a handful of official Day Labor centers exist across the country.”

More.

Photograph of John Peterson: The 1% program of Public Architecture

Read Full Post »

Suzanne knows what sorts of stories would be good for this blog. I love one that she passed along at Thanksgiving.

It’s by Elizabeth Rau at East Side Monthly, and it’s about a charitable effort to help refugees acclimate to a new life while working.

“The holidays are upon us. What to do?” asks Rau. “You can drop a ten-spot on useless things … or you can buy a bag of granola made here in Little Rhody.

“This wholesome, mostly organic granola is irresistible: It tastes good and is lovingly whipped up by refugees trying to start over in a country that can be intimidating and tough to figure out.

“The Providence Granola Project was founded by Keith Cooper and Geoff Gordon during a deep talk one night about how to help people who come to America with nothing more than a suitcase.

“Keith, a Yale graduate and former campus minister who lives with his family on the East Side, had one of those aha moments. He’d been making granola for years in his kitchen. Why not turn his hobby into a business and mobilize refugees too? The two friends shook hands. A company was born.

“That was five years ago, and Providence Granola is still going strong. In rented space at the Amos House soup kitchen in South Providence, the company makes 1,000 pounds of granola a month.  …

“For years, Keith worked at the International Institute of Rhode Island, settling refugees here. … Keith was moved by what he saw at the institute — dignified and hard working men and women who want to succeed. With so many obstacles in their way — no money, language barriers, a different culture — you’d expect them to give up. But they don’t.”

Granola has given many of these people a new start. Read more here. And here. Read especially about Zaid Wadia, a 35-year-old Iraqi refugee, determinedly upbeat and grateful despite a very tough past life.

Photograph: image by Ryan T. Conaty

Read Full Post »

The Friday NY Times Giving section addressed innovative approaches — large and small — that nonprofits are developing to improve the world. Reporter Ken Belson described one organization that makes a practically indestructible soccer ball for kids who are stuck with playing on rough terrain.

Tim Jahnigen has always followed his heart. whether as a carpenter, a chef, a lyricist or now as an entrepreneur. So in 2006, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it.

“The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. …

“ ‘The only thing that sustained these kids is play,’ said Mr. Jahnigen of Berkeley, Calif. ‘Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours.’

“During the next two years, Mr. Jahnigen, who was also working to develop an infrared medical technology, searched for something that could be made into a ball but never wear out, go flat or need a pump. Many engineers he spoke to were dubious of his project. But Mr. Jahnigen eventually discovered PopFoam, a type of hard foam made of ethylene-vinyl acetate, a class of material similar to that used in Crocs, the popular and durable sandals.

“ ‘It’s changed my life,’ he said.

“Figuring out how to shape PopFoam into a sphere, though, might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and Mr. Jahnigen’s money was tied up in his other business.

“Then he happened to be having breakfast with Sting, a friend from his days in the music business. Mr. Jahnigen told him how soccer helped the children in Darfur cope with their troubles and his efforts to find an indestructible ball. Sting urged Mr. Jahnigen to drop everything and make the ball. Mr. Jahnigen said that developing the ball might cost as much as $300,000. Sting said he would pay for it.” More.

Today the One World Futbol is making a positive difference in the lives of many children.

Photograph:  Nicholas Hammond
The One World Futbol stays inflated, even when used on concrete in El Salvador.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: