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Archive for July, 2011

As students of the Missouri School of Journalism (or students at Missouri with close ties to the J-School) and being a part of a startup news platform, we are constantly scouring the Internet for articles that are interesting, inspiring and relate to what we are doing now. These are a few topics that have caught our eyes recently.

 

  • This New York Times article compares what the founders of EBay and Progressive are doing as philanthropists. Albeit, differing personalities, both of these founders and philanthropists are handing out business advice with the money they are giving nonprofits. Specifically, human resources advice. Do you think large companies giving money to nonprofits should stop there or try to force their proven successful business practices on the nonprofits.
  • In case you haven’t already come across this, there is a series on The Guardian’s blog about the process of creating a new startup media news/entertainment website. These former journalists left the traditional world of journalism where they felt their creativity being squelched to start anew. Very interesting stuff!
  • This is a story that has been making headlines and touching the hearts of many all week. As a nine-year-old, Rachel Beckwith displayed a since of maturity and selflessness that many, including this 24-year-old lack. If you have missed this story, please follow the link and read it. Truly inspiring.
  • Since we are on the topic of it, this article is technically a few weeks old but is very pertinent to Rachel Beckwith’s story. Actor, Matt Damon is the co-founder of Water.org and is doing some great things to help bring clean water to countries in Africa.

Hopefully you find these stories as informing and interesting as we did. Have a great start of the week!

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Every 45 seconds a child dies from Malaria, according to Malaria No More. Malaria No More is a nonprofit organization based in New York with the mission to end Malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. Even though 91% of Malaria deaths happen in Africa, Malaria No More just became a little more local for Americans and specifically, Missourians.

NASCAR driver, Carl Edwards announced this week that he is teaming up with Malaria No More with his “Ride along with Carl” campaign where individuals can donate $10 for a mosquito net. Edwards has already donated money and was featured in a PSA for Malaria No More. In addition, Edwards will be spending the rest of this racing season visiting Africa and learning more about the deadly but preventable disease.

Malaria no more plans on implementing mosquito nets and educational campaigns to raise awareness of how to prevent and treat Malaria in Africa.

As a fellow Missourian and Columbia resident it makes me proud to see Edwards use his time and resources to raise awareness about a serious and preventable sickness that kills nearly 800,000 individuals each year, 85% of those being children under the age of five (again, stats are from Malaria No More).

For more information about Malaria and the partnership between Edwards and Malaria No More, please visit the Malaria No More website.

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As I have explored the sea of non-profits in Columbia, I’ve run into what some call the summer lull: donations are low, volunteers and employees are on out of town, yet the need is still the same. Inspirational news has been hard to find.

Extreme Home Makeover

Then I came across Boone County Council on Aging (BCCA) and Fairview Road Church of Christ’s home makeover project for a local woman, Hildred Henderson and her son, Robert Williams. This is the third annual volunteer effort for a low-income, elderly member of the community who needs extensive repair on their home. For Hildred and Robert, this will mean new flooring to replace the tilted and bumpy carpet, more cabinet and counter space, pumping out water from the flooded crawl space, power-washing outside, landscaping, new sinks and many other improvements. Fairview Road Church of Christ volunteers, young and old, home repair experienced and the inexperienced, will complete renovations over four days.

What really has amazed me since the project started Wednesday is the above-and-beyond approach that BCCA and Fairview Road Church of Christ has taken in this effort. Church members made curtains, built a shed and BCCA’s volunteer photographer bought blinds with their own money outside of the funding from the community development block grant they have been using from the city.

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Boone County Council on Aging

Ten days before the makeover began, Hildred, known as “my dear” by her children, had a near heart attack. She was able to recover, but it was a sobering reality check for projects like these with BCCA. These clients are vulnerable to more health problems, especially heat-related during the summer, so any time devoted to improving their quality of living and building relationships goes a long way.

Boone County Council on Aging is different than area agencies on aging that are federally funded. This non-profit started in the 70s to bridge the gap of need for the younger members of the community to care for the older members. They arrange home visits, grocery runs and other around-the-house tasks that help keep their clients living independent and satisfying lives.

If you know of a non-profit organization in Columbia that is inspiring the community into action, let us know by commenting below!

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2009 Missourian article about Extreme Home Makeover Fairview Road Edition

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As I sat this morning eating breakfast and pondering what I was supposed to write as my first entry in the blog, I realized one very critical thing. I am NOT a writer. I can’t say I have attended Journalism school or really ever been taught how to write properly (with the exception of senior school English Language class). Aside of a small moment of wonder and a flash of realization, what also dawned on me was the beauty of this enterprise we are undertaking. Not in the endeavor itself that, forgive me if I am perhaps mildly biased, is noble and worthy in itself but also in the way it has come together.

What do I mean by how it has come together? Well, we are all people in different backgrounds flying under the same flag and most importantly we all came together in completely different ways. Whether through a friend, a professor, for credit or simply because we “believe” in the project we are all now marching in one direction in unison.

This led me to think about this posts name “Same, Same but Different” I know Kyrsten explained the meaning of it and the provenance of it in the first post, but today I have come to look at it in a different light. This may be through pure coincidence or folly, but reading it backwards it reads: “Different, but Same Same” The way serendipity will have it, I think that really comes to define well every person working on this. We all have different goals and aspirations and we all have different backgrounds. However, we are all now in this together and striving towards the same goals. We are all different, but in a way we are also the same.

Every day I’m lucky enough to learn something related to a field I know little about, and to add to that I am lucky enough to learn it from people who are passionate and skilled at what they do. I cannot say where the voyage is taking me exactly, but I can’t wait to get there.

Hopefully we can share it with everyone!

Borja

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AmeriCorps provided lunch everyday for volunteers in the Joplin High School parking lot. (Photo by Melissa Hatfield.)

This is how many of the homes surrounding Joplin High School look like. (Photo by Melissa Hatfield.)

 

Many know that on May 22, 2011 the town of Joplin, Mo. was rocked by an EF5 tornado. The violent storm was on the ground for about 22 miles and ripped a path of destruction up to a mile wide through the center of Joplin.

The purpose of this blog post is not to regurgitate what has been seen and read by millions on the news but to shed light on the stories of hope and recovery in the wake of a truly unfortunate event.

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to travel with a group from First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo. to Joplin. We spent the week working on debris cleanup, tree removal and organizing and stocking donations in the warehouses and donation centers around town.

The debris teams were guided by the leadership of AmeriCorps and the Minnesota Conservation Corps. During my two days working in the neighborhoods surrounding what is left of Joplin High School I talked with volunteers from 33 different states. From the two men I talked to who had driven themselves from Maine and Seattle to the student from Missouri Southern State University who quit his summer job after a week to volunteer for the rest of the summer, I talked with people representing all walks of life.

There are many inspiring stories rising from the cleanup and rebuilding process of Joplin. Restore Joplin has created merchandise that people can purchase for their donations to Joplin. Rebuild Joplin is an organization created to connect affected individuals with donors and volunteers. Mission Joplin has a garage full of organized donations available for free for survivors. Songs for Joplin is giving indie artists a platform to promote their music while supporting the rebuilding effort.

Nevertheless, after spending a week observing, working and talking with locals I am convinced what Joplin needs the most is to be remembered. When the news finds something else to focus on Joplin will still be in need of money, donations and help cleaning and rebuilding. It will take years to rebuild. Continue to remember and talk about Joplin.

Local Company Using Social Media for Fund Raising
Brent Beshore, president of Pure Marketing and AdVentures in Columbia is a native of Joplin and within hours after the tornado created the Facebook page, “Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery.” After four days donations made through the site surpassed $1 million. The Columbia Business Times has an in-depth article about Brent and mentions other Columbia organizations supporting the relief efforts.

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“Same, Same. But different.”

This phrase permeated the sea of tourist tee shirts surrounding me in Thailand.

“Same, same. But different” was a sarcastic comment, based on the street vendors who tried to sell ignorant tourists fake Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and other high-end designer bags, shoes, jewelry and clothes. They’d hold up a magazine cut-out of the original on the catwalk, alongside their fabulous – or not-so-fabulous – fake and say, “Same, same,” pointing back and forth between the two. And let’s be honest, if you ever heard stories about developing country street vendors, you knew the items probably different. Hence, the tee shirt’s phrase, “Same, same. But different” – with “Same, Same” on the front and “But different,” on the back.

Little did I know, this phrase would mean more to me than any of the fake – or real – designer goods that would ever be available to purchase.

Why?

Well, it’s all because one afternoon in 2006, I – a nineteen-year-old American girl doing tsunami relief work in Thailand – accidentally ordered a prostitute to my hotel room.

This is our volunteer team taking a short rest from construction work in Ban Nam Kem, Thailand.

I’m going to share the details of this story in a later post – how exactly this actually happened, how the situation unfolded, and the results of that simple mistake. But for now, I will say that what I got from the woman I apparently bought for one hour was a fully-clothed Thai massage – and an entirely new perspective on people. That is, that people are people everywhere; that although we’re different on the surface, at our core, we are the same – “Same, same. But different.”

So since then, I decided that through journalism, I would tell stories that showcase our similarities and achievements rather than our differences and failures. The latter already pervades the mainstream news media and in some ways, rightly so. But I believe there is a better, equally – if not more – viable alternative to communicate the world’s happenings and – who knows – maybe actually join with those already sparking and spreading positive change.

Based on my research, I have found there is both a void of – and a demand for – inspiring news stories. And I’m not simply talking about cheesy, feel-good, positive news, but rather, creative multimedia stories that convey the reality of human life in such a way that people are captivated and inspired, rather than disengaged and depressed.

These inspiring stories are ones that I want to tell. And what’s more, I want to make them actionable. Basically, this means that each story is coupled with several easy-to-execute action steps; tangible ways for the average person to act on their inspiration, right from their couch, kitchen, favorite coffee shop, city sidewalk or elevator at work. Whenever. Wherever. (I’ll get into the details of this more later, as well.)

So what’s happening with this idea right now? Well, I’m currently in my final semester in the graduate program at the Missouri School of Journalism, getting my master’s in “entrepreneurial journalism” – a focus-area that I sort of made up.

My friend Annabel from London took this photo of our friend Jeff who lives in Ban Nam Kem, Thailand. He is carving "Tsunami 2004" into a sand pile.

My goal? To start a communication organization that does what I’ve just described.

The goal of this blog? To share the heartbeat behind the vision.

From posting on other awesome things happening in the world, to linking to great multimedia stories and giving a behind-the-scenes peek at what it looks and feels like to be a 24-year-old entrepreneur with an ever-developing vision, an awesome team and tons of passion – we’re hoping this blog communicates what this organization is all about and adds an extra kick to your daily routine.

This will be fun.

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