Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: Celebrate the Beauty of Balance

I hope I believe in balance. And part of that is identifying and knowing your team members’ goals outside of work.

It’s important to have outside lives and interests.  You have to begin by recognizing those first for yourself.  Your team will see you modeling this balance and how it makes you a whole, fully giving person.

We try to encourage our team to have outside interests, and to share their goals. We know UniversalGiving can’t be everything for everyone (even me ). And so I love to hear about the other interests—how can we help further them? One person wants to be a writer. Another is interested in aerospace. If I know this, perhaps someday I can help them. I can watch out for a person or introduction that might be helpful. Or even in a small way, I can find a helpful article in my daily journey of reading.

We’re all here to help each other.  It can happen in so many ways.  Focus on encouraging a balanced life and sharing of one another’s goals.  Let’s see how much we can help each other.  It will amaze you how much it energizes your organization, and propels your vision forward.  But most importantly, it honors the other person holistically, just as you would want to be honored.

Perspective and Point of View Matter

By Pamela Hawley

One of the Top Things I Love About Our Interns: “I believe that perspective and point of view matter.”

Every intern at UniversalGiving as part of the hiring process, submits a writing sample.

That sounds simple, and yet it is so profound. Some interns post papers from school; I learn about a new international issue. Some submit creative writing.  Others provide a link to a blog.  Each writing sample I read thoroughly, and I learn from them and about them.

Below is one of my favorites from an intern this summer. This was a kind, good-hearted person who is already making a difference in her college. It’s heartfelt, true, real; encouraging. She believes everyone’s story is important. So let’s read her profound words below, and cherish what she has to offer. I think she’s courageous.    

I am an average women, Caucasian, blue eyes, blond hair, and of average height and weight. This is not the story simply where the story is contained. From the beginning my pen has been scratching at these never ending pages. Pages that have been stained with love, divorce, abuse, laughter, depression, anger, and kindness. 

My chapters have written of a fearless single mother who would do anything for her children, an estranged brother who over the years became a best friend, and a father who never knew how to be around. Some characters will stay through the end where others have made only guest appearances. The perfection of life is that our stories are not the same. 

Our skin, hair, or eyes may be similar. Some of my own words may have been written in your pages but it will never be the same entire novel, never the same chapters. I believe that this is what makes life, I believe that perspective and point of view matter. In life we must be comfortable in our own story so that we may accept others’ stories as real and true to them. 

My beliefs are my beliefs they may be similar to yours but they may not be. We were made for our own story not someone else’s. We were made to tell of our own heart, put into our lives and the lives of others for reasons we may never realize until we skim those words again. 

My book has been bruised and beaten sometimes put on pedestal, moved from place to place… Some have applauded it while others walked away from it.   My story would be nothing without the others who have taken the pen for a while, some of the words have been hateful and degrading while others spoke encouragement and love. 

In both moments I learned who I wanted to be and how I wanted to be with others. I learned who and what I wanted to fight for, I learned it was your story that was what I wanted most of all. I wanted your story to stand up and teach people about their own lives so even when it has faded with time it will never be gone for you inspired people to write their own. You made mistakes and you claimed them, you fell down but you always stood back up. Maybe yours has been a song, a poem, a short novel but realize that you have never stopped writing. 

Every moment inked into life, it is your story I believe in, it is your story that matters. 

Sustainability Spotlight: Kickstart International

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Have you traveled to Africa? When we hear this word, most of us think of the elephants and the giraffes of the savannah, the peaks of Kilimanjaro, or the beaches of Cote d’Ivoire. These amazing sights make it easy to lose track of the small-scale farmers that make up 80% of those living in poverty. These families often find that hard work is not enough to combat low rainfall and water shortages. How do you make use of the water you have? And how do you create sustainability? Kickstart International brings irrigation tools and techniques to Sub-Saharan Africa to rejuvenate these farmlands.

Kickstart International (Kickstart) began when founders Dr. Martin Fisher and Nick Moon started to question traditional techniques in addressing poverty. They wanted to combine new technology that would address the problem with marketplace sustainability. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of products that were made exclusively for poor, rural African farmers. These tools would increase the crop output, resulting in a more sustainable income for the farmers. However, these tools were not handouts – Fisher and Martin were determined to sell low-cost, high-quality irrigation pumps at an affordable price so that families and communities could raise themselves out of poverty.

For over 15 years, Kickstart has provided over 1 million people the opportunity to feed, clothe, and educate themselves while still having some money left over to save for the future. In total, they have sold over 287, 435 pumps. Kickstart is currently working in 16 countries in Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan. The organization focuses on these four areas: increasing incomes, enabling food security, empowering women, and increasing resilience to climate change.

The Time Is Now. Click Here to Watch Kickstart’s Video about Innovation and Action.

Kickstart International.jpgIf you would like to learn more about Kickstart International’s innovation, you can check out their page on the UniversalGiving website! 

Sustainability Spotlight: Maasai Community Development Project

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Listen. Empower. Provide the capital necessary to grow. These are critical keys to executing a sustainable development strategy. A philanthropic cause will only be as strong as its lasting effects, as strong as it’s ability to empower the people whom it is serving. It must put people in a position to continue to grow after the NGO has left.

To make this holistic change requires a multifaceted approach, one in which the community guides the service. The solutions must benefit the recipients, so the recipients need to be making the solutions. In doing so, the new practices will address the most pressing needs in ways geared towards long-term sustainability.

Greenheart Travel’s Maasai Community Development Project does exactly that. The organization works directly with the local Maasai people of Kenya, encouraging their volunteers to “learn about the fascinating Maasai way of life.” This respect for the people whom they are serving carries into their work. Volunteers’ constant interaction with locals leads to the innovative way in which they collectively address their challenges.maasai project

The project focuses on many avenues for empowering the Maasai people, including education. Volunteers construct and paint schools and work to acquire student supplies. Granting local youth education allows them to work at better jobs, improve their community, and understand their history. The benefits leave a lasting mark on the individual, the economy, and the other Maasai people.

Many of the local entrepreneurs–particularly women– do not have the resources to grow their business. Greenheart Travel helps women’s groups find new markets for their crafts. They also lead workshops on economic sustainability and entrepreneurship opportunities. This empowerment grows local business, which carries sustainable benefits for the individual, their family, and their community.

Volunteers work with Maasai people to improve agricultural practices. Volunteers run training workshops on new farming techniques and help the locals build irrigation systems. These practices and tools stay with the Maasai people, leading to economic and environmental sustainability. This improves the locals’ self-sufficiency.

The project works with the Maasai tribe to implement many other community-guided sustainable solutions. At UniversalGiving, we value organizations with this type of commitment to values-based service and sustainable development. You can learn more about the Maasai Community Development Project here.

Giving through Gleaning

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By Caity Varian

When I first started at Whitman College, I was anxious about leaving home and nervous about meeting new people. But most of all I was excited for new opportunities, eager to learn and ready to grow. I hoped to learn about myself, what I was passionate about and how I would go about pursuing these newfound passions.

When I arrived in Walla Walla, Washington, the small town where Whitman is located, I was surprised to learn how agriculturally productive the landscape is. Flying over Walla Walla, all I could see for miles and miles were fields of yellow, green and brown. Soon after arriving on campus I learned that these were wheat fields and that local farms and fields surrounded the area. 

During my first week, I attended the Student Activities Fair, an event where student clubs and organizations set up booths to inform students about ways to get involved on campus and in the community. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is where I would find my passion for giving and service. 

I can still picture my nervous freshman self making my way across the open field, scanning the lines of tables full of enthusiastic “Whitties” holding signs promoting their various clubs and groups. They were blasting music, handing out stickers and flyers, and trying to entice new students to sign up to join their activity, interest or cause. It was overwhelming to say the least!

I passed by all of the fraternities and sororities, the club and intramural sports teams, the Outdoor Program and many other notable groups, unsure of who to talk to or where I belonged. Bombarded with images of new faces and club logos, my eyes gravitated toward a handwritten sign that didn’t seem to belong to a club or a booth that read GLEANING.

A smiling student caught my gaze and asked, “Do you want to learn about gleaning?” This one word, “gleaning” would inspire me to take action to address issues of food security, food waste, and food production.  

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Food security is a condition related to the supply of food and individuals’ access to it. The USDA defines food security as, “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

Determining food security comes down to questions of availability, access, stability and utilization. Is there a reliable and consistent source of quality food? Do people have sufficient resources to produce and/or purchase food? Does access to food remain stable and sustained over time?  Do people have the knowledge and basic sanitary conditions to choose, prepare, and distribute food in a way that results in good nutrition?

Then there’s the issues of food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global food waste amounts to $750 billion every year and the United States wastes food at a higher rate than any other country in the world.

Production losses are greatest for fresh produce. About half of all fruits and vegetables grown are wasted in the food production process. At the farm level, food loss falls into two categories: food that is never harvested and food that is lost between harvest and sale.

Why does fresh produce go to waste? There are a variety of reasons. First of all, it is difficult for farmers to grow exactly the amount that will match demand. Additionally, produce may be damaged due to pests, disease, and/or weather and quality standards and aesthetics prevent these damaged or bruised fruits and veggies from being sold. Finally, market prices may be too low to create financial returns or profits from harvesting and selling produce.

This wasted food represents a lost opportunity to provide necessary food and nutrition to those who don’t have access.

Food security is about ensuring that people know where their next meal is coming from, but it is also about closing the gaping holes in our food system. One way to close these gaps is through gleaning. What is gleaning you may ask?

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Gleaning can also include the collection of fresh produce from community gardens, supermarkets, farmers’ markets or restaurants that would otherwise be thrown away.

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When it comes down to it, gleaning is any form of food rescue and the benefits are significant. Gleaning reduces food waste, rescuing fresh produce that would otherwise be left in the field. Gleaning also provides nutritious foods to low-income populations who are often unable to buy healthy, local foods due to cost or availability. Additionally, gleaning fosters strong local community food systems, engaging farmers, gardeners and community members. 

Need another reason to get onboard with gleaning? The act of gleaning reduces the environmental impact of food production by making the most of agricultural inputs.

So let’s go back to that sign that said “GLEANING.” What was that all about?

That sign was held by one passionate student who had an idea to form a group of Whitman students that would go out and glean at nearby farms in Walla Walla. His name was Sam. He was not associated with an established club. He didn’t have any flyers or stickers to give me but he had a passion for gleaning and a passion for giving that would soon inspire hundreds of students, including me.

Within my first weeks at Whitman, I had gone on my first “glean” and later that semester joined Sam in helping to create a gleaning presence on campus. Today, the Whitman Glean Team is an existing group of passionate and motivated students who organize student and community volunteers to go out to local farms to harvest food that would otherwise go to waste. This food is donated to the Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank, which then distributes tha11071502_874608759288597_6630829669472955755_nt food to the four main food pantries around Walla Walla County.

In just the past year, the Whitman Glean Team has collected over 371 donations in Walla Walla and the surrounding area, with over 300 students and community members involved, donating over 60,000 pounds of fresh produce to Blue Mountain Action Council.

Gleaning gets me outside with friends who are also passionate about localizing and diversifying food security. Together we get our hands dirty, while also working to make a difference in our local community!

If you share my passion for food security and sustainable agriculture, consider giving the gift of fresh fruits and vegetables to a family for a year and learn more about gleaning and ways to get involved in your local community.