Archive for August, 2011

Missouri winters are bitter for me. The humidity intensifies the wind and lets the cold sink into your bones. But I’ve never had to worry about having enough clothes to combat the cold, even though sometimes I vainly complain about how a coat makes my body look. Operation Warm is a nonprofit providing coats to children in the U.S. whose parents end up making a choice between buying more food for their families or buying a coat for their ever-growing kids.

Operation Warm networks with existing community groups to distribute coats while educating the children about the environment by re-engineering their coats to be make of recyclable materials.

I share this video of this organization because of the resources they pull together: celebrity voice-over, community involvement and intimate footage of children in need that doesn’t come from being marginally concerned with this issue.


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As cleaning efforts continue in Joplin, many Columbia residents volunteered their Saturdays to travel to the southwest Missouri town to aid in the cleanup. Columbia For Joplin was organized by members of local rotary clubs to give Columbia residents a one-day opportunity to travel to Joplin as an organized group to help Americorps with debris cleanup. More than 700 Columbia residents rode busses and traveled separately this past Saturday.

In a release from Columbia For Joplin, Columbia Sunrise Southwest Rotary member and event organizer, Neil Riley said, “This is a way to connect. It’s one thing to write a check, it’s another thing to get involved personally.”

According to Americorps, over 50,000 people from all over the country have volunteered with them in Joplin since the May 22 tornado.

Vermont Residents Stepping Up To Aid In Irene Relief

Volunteers in Vermont are doing everything from cleaning up damaged homes, business and roadways to harvesting vegetables, according to an article from the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press. Because of floodwaters potentially contaminating crops, some crops had to be harvested earlier.

Also according to the article, farmers were using Twitter to ask for help for harvesting the crops. Many volunteers say requests for help on Twitter and responded to the requests.

The American Red Cross and Vermont Red Cross have deployed 250 volunteers so far. Americorps will most likely follow right along. Because of a new volunteer term, they have only sent five volunteers but according to the article, they plan on sending more than 100 more.

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A Greater Hope

Kit and Ream Carson with their two biological children Samuel and Joesph. Photo by Erica Simone.

“I was looking for direction in life,” is a term we as twenty-somethings involved in this start-up are very familiar with. There are so many opportunities, career paths and needs in the world available to us as young Americans to tackle; it can be intimidating.

But when I heard this quote come from Kit Carson, director one of the founders of A Greater Hope Orphanage in the Takeo province of Cambodia, I was naively surprised. Since my mind associated him with an established organization, family and life in Cambodia, that did not leave room for me to think of how he got to that point.

Leading up to his first trip to Cambodia in 1999, Kit was training to be a firefighter but had no passion for the job. He decided to go on a mission trip with his church in search of a different purpose.

“I came on the mission trip open and wanting to be used in whatever way God would use me,” Kit explained to me in a recent email.

He found a nation healing from the Khmer Rouge of the late 70s, but also vibrant people and culture.

“I fell in love with the Cambodian people. I loved the fact that I had very little to offer but that was more than enough to help people here,” Kit said.

In particular, Kit took notice to Ream, a Cambodian woman who worked as a translator and cultural liaison for NGOs in the area and whose father was a local pastor. As their relationship developed across the Pacific after Kit left, they both dreamt of ways to invest their lives in the future of Cambodia and the long cultural healing process Cambodia has gone and is going through. When they were married in America in 2003, they sought out ways to return to Cambodia long-term.

“Ream was a blessing and bonus to the trip. I do have to say that I was coming back to Cambodia for God not Ream. It was wonderful that God had prepared Ream for me, she is my partner and she keeps me going. Without Ream and her abilities here, I would not have been able to do this work,” Kit said. “So you might say the story is more about Ream and how I am able to help her do the work here.”

In 2006, they were able to return to Cambodia as directors of A Greater Hope Orphanage through Calvary Chapel Fallbrook, the same church Kit first went with to Cambodia. With 43 children at the orphanage now, there is room for expansion.

“We have a very difficult time with the public system here. There is a long and lengthy list to the problems we have with our kids going there.

“So here we are right now trying to open school for our 43 children to attend where teachers don’t smoke in class, or encourage the children to cheat, pay bribes or use them to work in their fields,” Kit said. “We want a school that is focused on God desires for our life, where they are encouraged to think and be creative.”

I asked Kit all this because I will be going with a team of seven MU students (not connected with this start-up) to help document their inspirational stories and get the word out about what they’re doing, the school they are building and recruit others to step up and find their part.

This story reflects Kyrsten’s journey of searching for direction and finding a seemingly huge and impossible task worth taking the risk for. Her vision to use powerful storytelling skills to inspire action and support existing efforts for good in the world is worth investing in. Keep an eye on this one, the potential is staggering!

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I dare you to NOT be inspired by Charity:Water‘s video below.



As stated in the title to this post, over the past 5 years, Charity:Water has drilled wells to bring clean water to over 2 million people, in 19 countries.

To raise this money, individuals like YOU ran marathons and lemonade stands, and gave up birthday gifts and hard-earned money. By doing so, these game-changers are counted among those who are more blessed because they gave rather than received. And actually, I would argue that these people who spent their time and treasure to support this cause received MORE than what a typical taker could ever even hope to imagine.

For more information on the water issues, click here for information from the United Nations.

Will you be a part of the EPIC story Charity:Water is participating in, by partnering with them this September?

There’s actually more in it for YOU than you can believe.

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“I think there’s a revolution going on – an economic one, a technical one and a social one. And the heart of it is that for the first time in 150 years, an individual has leverage. An individual can reach way outside what they used to think they could do.” – Seth Godin

Since my freshman or sophomore year in college (2006/2007), I’ve attended a leadership conference called the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. But because I’m busy developing this entrepreneurial venture through my master’s program at the Missouri School of Journalism, I was unable to make it this year. I did, however, come across an AWESOME pre-Summit interview.

The guy above with the cool glasses, wearing a men’s suit accompanied by socks made for 12-year-old girls (he explains this in the video) is Seth Godin — best selling author and “America’s Greatest Marketer,” according to American Way Magazine. One of his most popular books, is Purple Cow — a book about “remarkable products and services.” You might have heard of it. If not, go ahead and look it up.

The video above is a four-minute’ish clip of an interview with Seth just hours before he hops on the Summit stage for his half-hour talk, with 142 slides — all images, no text. You’ve gotta watch the clip, but here’s another stand-out quote from the marketing guru:

“It’s about you deciding what important, because if you’ve got the means of production – the laptop, the access to the world – and you wanna stand up and lead, you can. I guess my goal – my job – is to help people understand that they can pick themselves. They don’t need to wait to get picked.”  

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A few weeks ago in the heart of inner-city Denver, a Dwayne Dokes was driving home with his kids in the backseat when what he described as the Holy Spirit told him to turn left instead of right toward his house. A little bit down the road, he saw his friend Joe who he had been mentoring. Joe had a gun.

When Dwayne stopped to ask what Joe’s plans were for his gun, he said Joe explained that he was going to kill a man because he had disrespected him “in front of his woman.” Dwayne looked at him despite the deep cultural roots of self respect in the inner city and said, “it’s not worth it.”

Dwayne could see that Joe was not fully persuaded, but after talking about the potential consequences, he resumed his route home. Dwayne and his kids then began to pray that Joe would change his mind.

A couple of weeks later, Joe came to the “ministry house” the Dokes have set up during their six years in Denver, providing meals and a place to be safe amidst their violent neighborhood. A group from Santa Barbara was there that had traveled to Denver to help out with the seventh annual “Back2School Celebration” where over 1,000 backpacks were freely given to children in the neighborhood along with activities for the family during the event. In the middle of the BBQ and worship they were having to close out their time there, Joe said he had changed his mind since their conversation on the street and had been thinking about the direction his life was headed. Dwayne said it was then Joe decided to trust God and turn his life around.

I heard this story today when I talked with Dwayne and Aimee Dokes of U.R.B.A.N. (United to Reach and Bless Afflicted Neighborhoods) ministries as part of a volunteer writing position. I’ve been to Denver before and only scratched the surface in seeing the effects of gang violence and poverty. It seems that there is a difficult cycle of violence to escape when no one else will effectively care for anyone else. Even for the backpack event, all volunteers were required to wear white shirts to not disturb the red and blue gang territories.

This is one of many of the Dokes inspirational stories. That day, two lives were saved. Not only did Joe let the man that disrespected him live, he allowed himself to live a better life than pulling the trigger to satisfy self-esteem could ever produce. Words certainly can destroy lives, but thankfully, they can save them, too.

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So, I recently came across this article from Mental Floss — “Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix” — and found it pretty cool. It’s called “Whiz Kids” and outlines several of the most influential inventions from youngsters.

After developing the ear warming devices at age 15, Chester Greenwood got a patent for his "ear-mufflers" when he was just 18-years-old.

Not sure about you, but I had no clue that such widely-used inventions like earmuffs, braille and the currently in-development algae mobile were the inventions of teenagers. It cheesy to say, but it really does seem that you’re never too young to shape generations and change the world, for good.

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