NGO Spotlight: What If? Foundation

The What If? Foundation allows your compassion to cross borders, so you can make a direct and immediate impact on the lives of Haitian children and families.

uoubPoverty is nothing short of an epidemic in Haiti – it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the poorest in the world. Two out of three Haitians live on less than US $2 per day. 100,000 children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition. And at least 50% of Haitians age 15 and over are illiterate.

The situation is extreme. But it is not hopeless. Together with their Haitian partner, Na Rive, the What If? Foundation strives to assist Haitians with the resources they need to build change for themselves: food, education, and hope.

The What If? Foundation was created in 2000 by an American woman and a celebrated Haitian civil rights activist, Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Father Jeri, as he is known in the community, had a vision for creating a better future for Haiti: “First we feed the children, we keep them alive. Then we educate them.” They have been working with the Ti Plas Kazo community to fulfill Father Jeri’s vision ever since.

Thanks to the generosity of What If donors, Na Rive’s longstanding community food program addresses the persistent issue of food scarcity in Port-au-Prince. Every Monday through Friday, the local cooking team nourishes the community’s minds and bodies, providing as many as 3,000 hot, nutritious meal for children, parents, students, and teachers.

lkjpoiAfter many years of dreaming, planning, and persisting, construction on the Father Jeri School was completed in 2016. The school is designed to foster the next generation of Haitian leaders: children who are empowered, thoughtful, resilient, resourceful, proud of their heritage, and ready to work together for positive change. Every school day, children aged 3-19, who might otherwise have no path to an education, are engaged in a rigorous academic curriculum with teachings of respect, empathy, and civic duty. The school also houses a popular after-school program and six-week summer camp, providing children with a safe, supportive learning environment all day and all year long.

The programs What If supports have always been Haitian-led and Haitian-run: this is why they are so effective. They have witnessed the incredible resourcefulness and 

asdenduring spirit of the Ti Plas Kazo community as they create their own change, becoming a source of hope and pride for the entire country. They see a future where all Haitians can grow out of the cycle of poverty and hold the tools to create their own path. And they believe people from all backgrounds and places can come together in solidarity with Haiti, to create change one small step at a time.

To learn more about the What If? Foundation and discover opportunities to give back and volunteer to help children in Haiti, visit their website or explore UniversalGiving.

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NGO Spotlight: In Defense of Animals – Africa

In Cameroon, habitat destruction and the illegal commercial ape meat trade are pushing chimpanzees towards extinction.

image-1.doHaving spent her whole life committed to working with animals, veterinarian Dr. Sheri Speede founded In Defense of Animals – Africa (IDA-Africa) to make sure endangered chimpanzees are able to thrive in their natural habitat. IDA-Africa partners with Dr. Speede’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center and the government of Cameroon to rehabilitate orphaned chimpanzees and enact policy changes to protect these magnificent animals.

Within the Mbargue Forest of Cameroon, IDA-Africa houses chimpanzees that are victims of illegal trafficking and rehabilitates them to return to the wild and is working to bring eco-guards to protect chimpanzees from future abuse.

IDA-Africa also strives to create meaningful and lasting change through the promotion

image.doand support of law enforcement, habitat protection and education. They work closely with the locals of Cameroon to foster a healthy and connected community that benefits both the residents and the chimpanzees. IDA-Africa employs local residents, purchases local fruits and vegetables to support a village market economy and funds a sustainable agriculture project that improves the diet of both local children and chimpanzees. Additionally, they sponsor education programs for village farmers to learn about sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry and others for children to learn about chimpanzees and why they need protection.

To learn more about opportunities to partner with In Defense of Animals – Africa and adopt an orphaned chimpanzee, volunteer in a chimpanzee sanctuary or fund a youth education project, look for them on UniversalGiving.

 

NGO Spotlight: Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

Project Peru

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) is a global non-profit with a mission to provide access to medical care for underserved and underprivileged familiesaround the world. FIMRC implements innovative and self-sustainable health programs and partners with a network of outpatient clinics fora multidimensional strategy that reaches across clinical services, extensive community outreach efforts and health education programs. FIMRC’s mission is accomplished through:

Project Limón, Nicaragua

  • ACCESS: Providing access to primary care for families to improve their health
  • EDUCATION: Creating a foundation of knowledge for communities to make choices that will benefit their families’ health
  • PARTICIPATION: Incorporating the local community in decisions on key health issues to address, while also incorporating the global community in volunteering to increase our outreach capability

As a non-profit working in international development, FIMRC considered its first priority to be the communities with whom they work. FIMRC is involved in nine countries from Central America to Africa to Southeast Asia, and each communities’ needs are taken into consideration in site development. This is why each site is different in the particular programs that are implemented: each community has different needs and responds differently to programs.

Project Cavite, Philippines

What makes FIMRC different from other development non-profits is that they incorporate volunteers directly into their model of intentional giving through participation. Their volunteers help on site staff in providing the incredible education programs and medical service provided to the communities. Volunteers see the direct impact FIMRC has while on site, and understand first-hand how they accomplish their mission.

FIMRC also understands that not everyone has time to travel and therefore has many other opportunities for people to get involved. They have an Adopt-a-Project program that gives 100% of the funds raised directly to the project site for a direct impact or make a general donation to FIMRC. Additionally, anyone can start an FIMRC Chapter at high schools, colleges or within any community!

Project La Merced, Peru

To learn more about opportunities to volunteer with FIMRC in Peru, India or a host of other countries, search for them on the UniversalGiving website!

Saturdays are for Service

The age-old, yet notably profound, saying of “practice what you preach” is one that often stumps many nonprofit organizations and do-gooders alike. In the efforts of day-to-day life or ensuring that a company runs, this mentality can often get lost amongst the errands, paperwork, and email chains.

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At UniversalGiving, that is why the vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life” is not just a parroted goal, but an integral part of the company culture. This past weekend in particular, members of the team made their way to serve at the Northridge CommUNITY Garden in the Bayview. The garden itself is a part of the Northridge Cooperative Homes, an organization that seeks to provide safe and affordable housing to those looking to improve their quality of life. Two times per month, individuals from this community work in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and its volunteers for a ‘Park Beautification’ project.

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“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we showed up on Saturday, but working for Habitat for Humanity ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences so far this summer,” remarks CSR Intern Sheridan Wilbur about her day at Northridge. “Everyone was a stranger at first, but by the end of the shift, I had exchanged phone numbers with the coordinator, Laurel, listened to the program leader’s upcoming adventures in Yosemite, and heard about how one woman got herself out of alcohol addiction and now is following her passion in tech and sports. I left inspired and felt more connected to the San Francisco community.” Team member Angel Sun agrees, exclaiming that she “…[feels] connected and energized when serving the community and making our city better!”

During the day, volunteers completed tasks such as weeding, transplanting roses, removing debris, spreading mulch, and harvesting fruit from the community’s orchard. The shift concluded with a group lunch, where participants were able to talk to their experiences over rice, salad, and even some harvested plums. “Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite things to do — I get to be outside, work hard, and contribute to an important project,” says Mindy Bush, manager of UniversalGiving’s Corporate Client Services. “Most impactful for me, however, is the spirit of community that I feel. I loved having the time outside of work with [other team members] Katie, Sheridan and Angel and getting to know them all better. At the end of our shift, I felt inspired by all of the individuals who chose to be a part of the work that day!”

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The program is a part of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s Neighborhood Revitalization’ campaign, which strives to bring the organization’s work into neighborhoods where its houses have been built. With additional projects focused on improving the health and well-being of the Bayview and East Palo Alto areas — such as home repair and school renovation — the organization seeks to make the Bay Area a more comfortable and community-based place. Now that is the epitome of “practice what you preach.”

From the Bay Area? Want to learn more about volunteering with Habitat projects like the one mentioned in this article? Head to www.habitatgsf.org for Neighborhood Revitalization opportunities and more.

Could the Americorps Be the Answer to Escaping College Loans?

Today’s post is from guest blogger Maria Rainier.

This is the story of how one of my best friends found a way to make college more affordable by enrolling in the Americorps. I’m taking this opportunity to say I have no affiliation with the Americorps whatsoever; I’m solely sharing his story to demonstrate how volunteering can be the gateway to earning a higher education. To learn how you can pursue your diploma with help from the Americorps or another nationally recognized volunteering organization such as the PeaceCorps, continue reading below.

As early as 6-years-old, Matthew Daniels knew that earning a college education was something that he needed to pursue. He never worried about finances that much—that is until he got older and began to realize that his single working mother barely made enough to make ends meet. Scholarships and grants would be the route he knew he was going to have to take—loans were not an option. As a freshman in high school, Matthew made sure he enrolled in advanced classes and all of the extracurricular activities he could so that he would impress not only college admission officers, but scholarship and grant awarders too. In 2004, Matthew won a full academic scholarship to the University of Texas in Austin.

Two weeks before graduation, Matthew began to question what he was going to do with the rest of his life. Sure, he would earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, but he just wasn’t sure if that was his true passion. He needed some time to “think” perhaps even travel before he went off into the real world. Because Matthew was always a philanthropist, he decided that until he really knew what he wanted to do career-wise, he’d volunteer his time and labor to the Americorps.

Because Matthew minored in Spanish and spoke the language fluently, and because he wanted to help families in need of financial assistance (something he could easily relate to), he was immediately accepted into the Americorps VISTA program, a domestic version of the PeaceCorps. For two years, Matthew traveled the U.S. restoring and building homes, helped the homeless get back on their feet, and mentored impoverished children.

While his daily tasks were rewarding emotionally, the job didn’t pay much. In fact, he barely had enough money to live on—Matthew and his team members would pool their stipends together just to be able to afford groceries. It was by no means a “glitzy job.”  But in the end, Matthew was given an education credit valued at $5,500. His experience as a volunteer made him see that he was destined for a career greater than finance and so he decided to put his education credit towards earning a master’ degree in public policy just a few short years later. He wanted to be able to influence policy making so that he didn’t have to see as many people suffering in poverty as he did during his two years with the program.

The education credit may not be enough to help you pay for your entire education, but at a time where students are facing the highest loan debt in history, anything will help.  For more information how you or your child can benefit from volunteering, make sure to check out Americorps.gov.

Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.

Volunteering and Mindfulness

Wanderlust is a mindfulness triathlon. It includes yoga, meditation, and running. Angel Sun represented UniversalGiving and volunteered at Wanderlust’s 5K on Sunday. Here is Angel’s take on the experience.
“It was cold and windy.  I was preparing the water station at the halfway mark for the runners.
It felt great to have morning air and light exercise️ And I was moved by the runners’ spirit. Getting up early in the morning and run the marathon together. Definitely, want to do it again in the future!”
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; They have the heart”
-Elizabeth Andrew
Volunteering is a great way to practice mindfulness. Working for a cause alongside others helps keep us in the moment. It is psychologically shown that when we focus our attention outward and remain present we are much happier. Volunteering is a great way to clear our minds and simultaneously practice compassion and awareness.

Finding Peace in India

By Janet Oh* 

“Ear clean?  Rickshaw?  Guesthouse?  Boat ride?”  After travelling in India for a week, I needed a break from being a tourist.  The constant offers for services and subsequent haggling was exhausting.  I soon developed a habit of avoiding eye contact, looking down, and just shaking my head “no.”  In trying to develop some street smarts, I had also lost my sense of humor.

On a flight from Udaipur to Varanasi I met another traveler, Tanya, from Switzerland.  Tanya caught my attention immediately.  She was smiling, laughing, and just generally having a great time.  She was the traveler I wanted to be.  My husband and I struck up a conversation with her and sure enough she loved everything about India.  “It’s so beautiful!” she said again and again.  She had been traveling in India for seven weeks.  What was her secret?

Tanya said the highlight of her trip was volunteering for a week in an orphanage.  She and a friend taught math classes and tutored kids.  She was clearly moved by the experience.  Unknowingly, she had planted a seed.

48 hours later I emailed Rashmi, the Director of the one orphanage I knew in India.  My husband and I ended up there two days later.  For the first time on our trip, we were out of a tourist area.  Even our rickshaw driver wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood and had to stop for directions multiple times.  It was on that village road that I started to feel more like myself – happy, carefree, curious, and open.

Janet pushing Arpeeta on the swing, in Haridwar, India

When we finally found Sri Ram Ashram, it felt like we had entered an idyllic paradise.  The orphanage was on 17 acres with its own wheat fields, dairy cows, and vegetable garden.  Immediately, the girls took my hand and the boys gave Graham a tour.  It was as if they were expecting us.  “Push me on the swing, didi!”  “Watch me hang from this tree!”

For three more days that’s basically what I did.  I got to know the kids, pushed the little ones on the swing, and learned the Indian version of hopscotch.  To say I was volunteering would definitely be a stretch since the kids had really taken me under their wings, welcoming me with total warmth, showering me with attention, and teaching me the ropes.  Not only did they seem happy and well-loved, but they were kind, generous, and playful.  They all asked me the same question, “How long are you staying and when are you coming back?”

Just as it was for Tanya, my visit to the orphanage was a highlight of my three week journey in India.  While there are many selfless reasons to volunteer abroad, there are also selfish ones.  My time at the orphanage was definitely the most authentic of all my interactions in India – a time when I could take a break from being a tourist, laugh, be open, and connect with others.

Explore volunteer opportunities abroad!

*Janet Oh volunteered with us at UniversalGiving in 2012. Looking to work for us? Keep an eye on our job opportunities here.