Thursday, April 23, 2009

Online Campaigns to End Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the largest illegal money makers in the world mostly affecting women & children. The sad reality is that you can make more money off exploiting one person or child than selling one illegal gun or drugs, because  you can sell the human being over and over and over again. According to the F.B.I., in the United States alone, 300,000 children are being trafficked for sex each year. The numbers reported by UNICEF are 1.2 million children worldwide. The numbers and the stories are horrifying.  

Thankfully, there are amazing organizations working to end modern day slavery through spreading awareness, education, case management, rehabilitation, & rescue. In addition, several have instituted clever campaigns to raise funding to support their work. Born 2 Fly used the $10 x 10k Campaign encouraging donors to contribute just $10 to provide educational materials to at-risk children worldwide. While the campaign was running, donations could be made through the website or mailed. You can still make a donation through their website. Recently Transitions Global launched a new campaign to support their goal of building housing for victims of human trafficking. The effort is called the Buck Up Campaign and asks people to make a minimum donation of $1 to change 1 life.

If you have a dollar to spare, you can't give it to a more worthy cause than ending human trafficking and exploitation.  Check out the sites for yourself and if you work for a non-profit, consider an online campaign for your own organization.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Kiva Community

I received my first re-payment back from Azerbaijan today. For Christmas this year my husband, daughters and I decided to make a loan to a member of Kiva. We chose to support a woman from Azerbaijan who operates a small farm with her husband and three children. The entire loan was $1200 to purchase more cattle to increase her earnings and her family's quality of life. Forty-one individual donations were made from strangers all across the world to achieve the total loan amount for this entrepreneur. All the money will be repaid within 15 months.

Kiva is something different. It allows individuals to lend money to other individuals in developing countries for a wide range of projects leading to empowerment and alleviating poverty. It feels like you are really making a difference and I guess part of it is because you can, to use lending terms, track your "return on investment" as you read accounts of the person's activities and progress and watch the loan repayment. You can reinvest your money after repayment of the loan by supporting a new person with a new project, or of course, you can put the money back in your pocket. Microlending is just a new way of looking at giving.

Joining the Kiva community provides a close connection between lender and entrepreneur. Kiva posts profiles of each entrepreneur that describes them and their project. Being part of Kiva feels like a group effort-it is. Kiva does a really great job of creating a community of lenders. You can even join a lending group and journals are posted from entrepreneurs who give personal accounts of how they are using your money.

Non-profits can learn something when considering their next campaign to raise money; take a look at Kiva. Use the idea of creating an online community effort to bring people together to support a cause. I've seen the model work for fundraisers & special events much like the lending program-donors just don't get their money back-but seeing & hearing about results of their support may encourage future participation. Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc. has used this strategy with a Facebook campaign NoFood4You by inviting people to participate in their hunger awareness campaign. More people working together gets results faster. The more the merrier!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Outside the Box Studio

This week I wanted to highlight a great organization located in Naples, Florida that is offering opportunities to partner with the community and non-profit organizations on unique programming for children. This organization is Outside the Box Studio. Outside the Box provides unique classes using art, drama, music, language, culture, & movement to educate, entertain, and heal. The holistic style of educating comes from a diverse group of teachers lead by the Founder and Director Maria Luisa Carter. Maria Luisa or Lulu as she is known has twenty years of experience as an artist, business woman, educator, and therapist. She has used these skills during her travels throughout the world in both private and public organizations with children, families and educators from a variety of backgrounds.

Walking into Outside the Box is like walking into a wonderland. This is far from being a cookie cutter operation. The arts & individual well being are integrated with respect for the environment and the health of our global community. The general theme of teaching sustainable living in all classes is present. The curriculum addresses the mental, physical and spiritual needs of children and programs are tailored to the individual needs of each child or particular group. Although the programming is therapeutic, the main focus of Outside the Box is prevention by increasing awareness and education. Classes include music, yoga, Spanish, Portuguese, theater, photography, art, film, science and more. In addition, the studio offers specialized birthday parties, workshops, teacher training, & family education travel.

Lulu has a particular interest in providing services to children with different abilities and special needs. The style and environment at Outside the Box has proven to be a place where children with different abilities thrive. Life with Autism is a partner program and Outside the Box is committed to creatively working together with all children and families to achieve a place of success.

There is so much to learn about this organization that I cannot begin to touch on all the amazing opportunities for children and adults alike. Luckily, you can experience it firsthand this weekend on Saturday April 11! In preparation for Earth Day, the studio is partnering with Whole Foods in Naples at 9101 Strada Place for a FREE Art for the Earth Workshop from 1:00-3:00pm. Bring something clean & reusable & create a unique piece of recyled art.
Can't make it this weekend? Visit the website at or better yet, call Lulu at 239.272.6152 to make an appointment to visit the studio in person at 1610 Trade Center Way Suite #4. Great opportunities for summer programs, weekly classes, or a one time event! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Yin & Yang of It

Some days I feel like I need a better sense of humor. Who knew issues like homelessness and human trafficking would give me one. I mean these issues are unbelievably serious and if you can't find something to laugh at during the day while dealing with these things, you can get in trouble. I am one of those not very funny people who always forgets the punchline when telling a joke, but now I make sure to always have a couple one-liners that really rock my world. I am a seeker of funny. Since I do watch the news...I also must watch my fave comedy "The Office". Like EVERYTHING, it is all about balance. You cry, you laugh, you don't hit the tipping point this way. 

I have recently discovered a fantastic blog by Diana Scimone about the current state of human trafficking in the United States. The great thing about what she writes is that she offers ideas about how one person can make a difference. She brings you the cold hard horrible facts but balances it with some practical ways people are fighting back and how you can join in. Yes, these issues are despicable but don't ignore them with apathy, do a little something. Buy that birthday gift for your mom at The Emancipation Network's store that sells gorgeous, handcrafted products made by survivors of slavery with the proceeds going to provide help and hope to others rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking is hosting their first Gala Dinner fundraiser to honor 5 years of serving human trafficking victims on May 22 in Bonita Springs, Florida. Survivors of slavery will be honored for their success in their new lives as will exceptional, caring service providers. I encourage all non-profits to honor the successes in ways like this and remember all the positive work being accomplished every single day.