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Posts Tagged ‘charity’

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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.

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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/

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

 

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