The “Each One — Teach One” Model

There is an incredible place in the United States, where some people are able to leave the depths of their despair, which has become the cyclic norm in their lives. These are murderers, thieves, people who sell their children for a fix, those whose lives consist of bouncing in and out of prison for ten or twenty years — or maybe for life. If they are some of the lucky few of the roughly 2.4 million people incarcerated in America, they’ve heard of a place where people can change, live a life of prosperity, and join the ranks of what might be construed as a “normal society.” This idea is only a fantasy to some of them — an unknown place over the rainbow because their version of normal is only what they’ve known their lives to be thus far.

This special place is called Delancey Street, “Where Hitting the Bottom, Begins the Climb to New Heights.” Mimi Silbert, CEO, president and founder, is a powerhouse of positive energy that she shares with everyone she meets. She has helped over 18,000 people overcome poverty, crime and substance abuse addiction through her working business model. There is no paid staff at this two- to four-year program for the underprivileged, and it is considered the most successful rehabilitation program in America.

Silbert came up with the idea when she worked as a prison therapist. One of the appreciative inmates stopped her on her way out the door one day and said that her advice was so helpful. Silbert’s philosophy is simple: she believes that there aren’t any bad people and there aren’t any good people — people are a mix of both. It is that positive belief that all people can pull themselves up, learn family values, learn cooperation, respect, and the skills needed to work within a society, that makes her model successful. They learn how to be positive team players. As soon as they walk through the door, they are told to leave their past behind because they are now working toward their future and their success.

The Delancey Street Foundation has a 91 percent success rate with six campuses across the U.S. To achieve this rate of success in a place with no help from the government and no paid staff, Silbert starts her program by teaching the basic skills: reading, writing, arithmetic, social interaction, and most important self-respect. She says, “It takes about two years for someone to stop judging and hating themselves, and believe they have actually earned who they have become.” They have to get through high school exams, learn three marketable skills, and it takes about four years to go through the whole program. Many of the graduates ask to stay on.

The question might arise, how does someone train more than 18,000 people without paid employees? Silbert started her project in 1971 with just four people in an apartment, a 1,000 loan and an idea based on cooperative family-type principles. People who held jobs outside the home would contribute money to the business. They carried that idea further; if someone could cook, they would run the kitchen; if someone knew construction, they would be in charge of building and fixing things, and so on. As they brought in more people, those who were established in the program would teach the newcomers. Those people would teach the next group that came in.  Within two years, they were able to buy their first building in the poshest neighborhood, Pacific Heights, and had 80 residents all living together and helping each other. Because of their locale, there was a problem with the neighbors who weren’t so keen on having criminals living next door. Silbert solved the problem by starting a neighborhood watch and volunteering the services of the residents living there — crime levels dropped. The building was remodeled by the construction crew to keep property values current or better. To raise funds for the reconstruction, the group sold raffle tickets in the neighborhood promising they would “not move next door to you.” Almost 20 years later, when they finally moved to their newly self-built housing on the waterfront, their humor and good neighbor attitudes had won everyone over, and the Pacific Heights neighbors were now sorry to see them leave.

Silbert’s model works because she focuses on what people “can do” not what they’ve been through, how they were raised, or where they’ve resided in the past for whatever crimes they may have committed. All that is left at the door when they step through the portal to this new world that they have only heard about or have seen on TV. They learn that they can change, they can trust people, and they can be responsible, which in turn builds self-respect and self-esteem based on whom they have become.

The Delancey Street project has grown through businesses run by these people who once felt they had nothing to contribute. The cornerstone business was a fine dining establishment. The community has grown to include a café – bookstore, catering, private corporate car service, digital printing, specialty advertising, handicrafts, landscaping, a moving and trucking company, a paratransit service, a movie screening room, and selling Christmas trees and a decoration service.

Foundation is the perfect classification for this business. How many lives have been changed by the strong foundation that Mimi Silbert has provided for these individuals?  How many more of the 2.4 million people, struggling in a life that seems devoid of hope, could be changed by her model project?

Tiny Homes for the Homeless

Brian Reynold's Photo for Kloehn

Photo Credit: Brian Reynolds

There is an estimated 1,750,000 people with no place to live as of June of 2013 in the U.S. Think of how their lives would change if they had a little house to come home to every night—a place of shelter from the weather, protection from thugs on the street, and some place they could call their own. This is the dream of artist-architect Gregory Kloehn.  He builds little tiny homes for the homeless. Featured on Rachel Ray, Inside Edition and Huffinton Post, Kloehn got the idea from his own challenge to renovate a dumpster to live in. The adorable dumpster is fully functional with a kitchen, bed, potty, shower, a deck up top complete with umbrella, and an awning.

Building the dumpster kindled the joy he had as a child building his creations.  Kloehn writes,

There is a spontaneity and playfulness in making small homes that traditional houses do not offer.  It reminds me of making forts as a kid, no city planners, no architects, no crews, no bank loans, just my ideas and my hands.” His love of helping people was naturally the next step in this passion of his. He started building tiny homes for homeless people in his neighborhood.

Tiny houses are not a new concept in our culture. With real estate far out of the reach for the average person now, people are looking for alternative housing ideas. What sets this idea apart from an average tiny house is that they are given away for free to the people in our country who need the most help. Here are some thoughts from Kloehn on why he is so excited.

Tiny houses are striking a number of cords in our society. They are not just homes but fast becoming a lifestyle option. They are, usually, (but not always)  cheaper than regular homes, giving more people the opportunity of ownership. By skipping the traditional 30-year mortgage, perhaps the tiny home movement could even reshape the way we think about work and what we want to accomplish with our lives.

The tiny home movement is also embracing and mixing all forms of new and old technologies, making them hotbeds of ingenuity, creativity, and environmentalism. Small spaces means that it’s easier to power an entire house with the sun or wind, and water can be collected, used, used again and reused with simple catch and filtration systems. Even black waste can be turned into methane and/or composite for food production. From the loner in a simple tipi, to the high-tech self-contained living pod, the tiny homes have something for everyone.

Many of the tiny homes are on wheels or small enough to be moved with relative ease. I think this degree of mobility is one of the most revolutionary aspects of the tiny home movement; what if you bought or built the home you wanted, then rented the land. Your customized home could follow you wherever you needed to be. If you built a home that followed you throughout your life, I bet you would be a bit more thoughtful in your choices.

With these little houses for the homeless, portability is essential because the city will make a homeless person move every few weeks. You can see the wheels in the photo (above) from photographer Brian Reynolds.

Another perk to this tiny home project is that Kloehn is cleaning up his neighborhood by working almost exclusively with recycled materials. He uses abandon wood, bed frames, futon frames, solid doors, auto glass … anything that might work to build up a tiny house. Most of the items are found. Some of them are donated by businesses. For the parts that can’t be found through recycling, Kloehn is relying on donations from the public. He’s hoping the idea catches on so that other people will build homes for the homeless. With this idea in mind, he is willing to travel to teach workshops on how to build these for anyone who wants to help. They only take a little more than a week to construct.

It might not be a perfect solution, but one thing is certain, social entrepreneurs like Kloehn are going to have some of the answers for the problems that have been plaguing our society. It is these creative minds with a strong educational background who are going to bring back the hopes and dreams that seem to have slipped away for a great deal of people in our country. Wouldn’t it be great if Landesa could find some micro-acreage for tiny homes, and if HandUp could help with supplies, and if Kloehn’s tiny houses could be established then … maybe, just by having a place to put their heads at night,  a place to keep warm on a cold winter’s day, a little place they could call home—these forgotten people in our country wouldn’t feel so homeless anymore.

 

Solving Poverty? Give them a HandUp!

rose_bobby

Rose and Bobby – Photo Credit: https://handup.org/

On Martin Luther King Day, January 20th, 2014, the federal government organized its volunteers for the National Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness.  With an estimated 1,750,000 people with no place to live as of June of 2013, this is a momentous and difficult task. How do you count someone who has no place to go for resources, shelter, or food on a regular basis? According to the Web site Statistic Brain, homeless people have an income averaging $345 a month, 44 percent were working, 28 percent did not have enough to eat on a daily basis, 30 percent were homeless for two years, and 38 percent were families with children. How can these folks be helped when there are so many?

People do want to help. There’s just so much fear involved when passing a homeless person on the street. If you give money, is that going to drugs or alcohol? If you do give them cash will they try to follow you home, hurt you, or stalk you? There is such a stigma of safety involved plus effort, time, and bother it will cause that people just give up.

One day in winter, Rose Broome was walking past a homeless woman lying on the street. Her heart went out to the woman. Wanting to do something, she helplessly looked at her phone and wondered why there wasn’t someone she could call to give this woman shelter or some warmth. She went back home and brainstormed with her friend Zac Witte, a tech guru, about what they could do about it.

Together they formed HandUp—a safe online environment where people who do want to help and make a difference can. … On the site, each person is profiled with style and dignity in a short bio and picture with a short list of what they need to make their life better. Sometimes this need is as simple as a coat, food, or money for transportation to get to the doctor’s. Others need assistance with medical, dental or glasses. The donor can scroll through all the pictures on the front page or members’ section to decide whom they want to help. Click on their picture, there’s a section which shows donations plus any updates in their situation from the contributions they’ve received. HandUp works directly with local community action organizations, which provides the items requested from the donations on the HandUp site. Cash is never given directly to the individuals.

This system works because it is safe, you can see who is in need, the giving is transparent, the results are posted through updates, and the person helping gets the gratification of knowing that the money donated really did produce positive results. Donations range from $5 to $1,000 or more. Recently, they have added Bitcoins to the options for donating.

With 100 percent of the donations going to the members, I asked Sammie Rayner, in business development at Handup, how are they staying in business and how are they going to expand? Her answer:

We’re committed to having 100% of donations go directly to HandUp members, so we don’t take a cut. Our nonprofit partners also can use the service free of charge. So there are no subscription fees or charges to the member, nonprofit partner, or donor.

But we offer donors the option to tip to cover HandUp’s operations costs, and about 90% of our donors do so. This results in about 8% of all incoming donations going to the company. For funds coming from our corporate partnerships, 10% is automatically designated for support. And since we are a tech platform with a partnership model, we are in a unique position to have and continue to maintain very low overhead and operational costs as we scale.
Profiled in Forbes, CNN, NPR, and other major media sites, this company is going places. Education is a strong point when running a business. Broome’s solid educational background helped in getting this social entrepreneurship model off the ground. She previously worked at Stanford State University as a grad-student teacher, and in research as assistant to a department head at Stanford. Witte’s tech background was essential in the professional, clean design and functioning of the site. Starting this venture, HandUp joined Tumml—a seed-company accelerator—to get them off the ground. It’s their dream that the company expands to help people in need all across the country.

NOTE: Congratulations, HandUp!  In 2015 they reached $1 million in donations!

Check it out!  http://blog.handup.org/posts/looking-back-reaching-1-million-donations-in-2015

Penny Necklace by Kathrine Grey

Penny Necklace Cover

Oooh!  This was just like fine candy.  I so needed a break, a rest, a nice long train trip.  Clickity-clack. Clickity-clack.  The train runs down the track. . . .

I tried hard to parcel out this story.  You know . . . take a little time to enjoy and savor.  I did pretty well, too, until I got to the middle of the book.  Then, I couldn’t stop.  It was too much fun!  I had to eat up the rest of the whole story all at once.

This was a romance with a dream; a dream a 15-year old girl would have when she met a boy that drove her to distraction.  He was an older boy–just passing through town—decided to stay a while and woo a pretty young girl.  It was that summer that Aisley Sullivan fell in love with a boy who wouldn’t tell her his name; he just said, “Call me David.”  Little did she know she would be dreaming of that summer for most of her young adult life.

And, what was so good about this book, what it had that captured me–is that it was all believable.  It wasn’t the mushy, sappy type of romance that makes you either swoon or puke.  It was more nostalgic; the kind of story that brings sweet remembrances of a time long ago when your emotions are so strong and alive and everything is brilliant like the sun.  It kept reminding me of the risky things I did at that age, like having a boy/girl slumber party and everyone told their parents that they would be at their “friend’s” house for a sleep over.  It was dangerous and exciting—well, exciting back then . . . but all we did was play music, kiss, and everyone kept their clothes on.  We thought it was dangerous and exciting, though.

Somehow Katherine Grey knew what I did when I was a young girl of 15.  She knew how I felt, and how powerful a brand new love can be at that age. She’s managed to take me back there tonight and has put a smile on my face with her simple sweet story.

Thank you Katherine Grey and Review the Book for this complimentary copy of Penny Necklace. It was so nice to get away for a little bit. . . .

PENNY NECKLACE

  • File Size: 453 KB
  • Print Length: 215 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1477655123
  • Publisher: Kathrine Grey (June 24, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008EKVRTQ

♥-♥ ♥ About Kathrine Grey ♥-♥ ♥

Kathrine Grey holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. All of her story titles are contrived from R.E.M. lyrics (ever more avowed since their disbandment). When she is not writing, she manages a popular Italian restaurant near Lake Michigan. She is graciously allowed to live in Mishawaka with her husband and their kitten by the two adorable bunnies who rule the house.

Facebook.com/PennyNecklaceNovel

https://twitter.com/KathrineGrey

Full Circle by Brenda Barrett

Full Cirle Book Cover A funny, romantic, suspenseful, mystery–that won’t disappoint.

This book is addictive. The author is witty, smart, and cunning in how she draws you in. And even though you think you know what is going to happen throughout the book, is that “really” what is going to happen? I haven’t been able to put it down, and I’m really eager to find out the answer. Here is a brief beginning to the story.

Is it ever enough to grow up in a loving, financially stable home when you know your birth mother gave you away? You remember her. She was very pretty and wore her hair in a long braid. You remember five of your brothers and sisters; the other two were gone by the time you were born. Even though there was never enough food or money, there was love there; and that is truly the place you remember as home–your beginning.

Diana Boyd’s grandmother told her not to go back to Jamaica. She warned her! She said she would only get hurt digging all that mess back up. Twenty-four year old Diana waved her off explaining her need to find her own history–her own story. So she went.

At the airport, intent on her mission, fate intervened–the most handsome, tall man with gorgeous green eyes approached her. Oh why now . . . she thought. This is no time for a romance; I’ve got to find out about my family. But, as intent as she was she could not shake him, or even the thought of him. She’d never felt like this before about anyone she’d met. He was so good looking and those eyes of his were so penetrating her energy just drained out her toes and was replaced with a delicious, warm sense of well-being. She just melted when she thought of him and the reasons why she shouldn’t just faded away.

Little did she know that Robert Cassidy was so close in Negril, Jamaica. Little did she know what this two month vacation was going to bring to both of them. The passion, the romance, the unanswered questions of Diana’s family and home all bring to life a story full of love, fun, fear, and mystery.

Sit back, grab a snack, and get ready for a trip to Jamaica.

*Full Circle” was a complimentary gift from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Full Circle

  • File Size: 609 KB
  • Print Length: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Jamaica Treasures (December 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0062CGNF6

The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

The River Witch—Thoroughly Enjoyable!

The River Witch is a love story. . . .
The River Witch

Not a love story in the conventional sense; but it’s the story about the love of lost things, new things, things not known, and things learned. It’s a love story of life, living and, of a young girl and her family on an island off the coast of Georgia. It’s the story of a learned renewal of spirit when a dancer loses everything she has known and counted on in life. It’s a story you will want to read. . . .Not a love story in the conventional sense; but, it’s a story you will want to read. . . .

Roslyn Byrne, after an accident, secludes herself on an island off the coast of Georgia to heal from not only her physical wounds, but her emotional ones as well. She will never dance again. She will never star in a famous dance company. She will never be able to count on the one thing she knows best–ballet. Or will she?

Damascus is a ten-year-old who has lived more than a young life should have at her age. She runs wild most of the time on the island. Her father doesn’t know what to do with her since the loss of his wife; and he too, is trying to figure out for himself the whys and reasons that come with a deep, despairing grief. That leaves little time to be there for a young girl who reminds him so much of the thing he is grieving most.

The River Witch is a novel flavored with bits of voodoo, alligators that tell tales, and magical summer days that teach what it means to be alive and how to live and love again. Why not join them in their quest . . . ?

 

THE RIVER WITCH 

  • File Size: 493 KB
  • Print Length: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Bell Bridge Books (April 6, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007W5B8NY

Landesa – Fighting Poverty Acre by Acre

 

Half of the world’s population — 2.8 billion — lives on less than $2 a day. And 70 percent of those live in rural areas where agriculture is the only means to survive. For
those that own land, life is good. Land ownership can provide housing, warmth, comfort, food, good health, stable conditions to bring up a family, access to credit and a place of status within a community. For those that don’t own land, it is a day-to-daylandesa struggle just to stay alive. If people are fortunate enough to find work in agriculture, they are working for someone else to gain the profits of their labor, leaving them with a lot of time and effort for someone else’s benefit. The land situation is worse for women. Women hold less status than men do in many of these places. They are not allowed to own land, even if it is passed down through inheritance within the family.

This is where president and CEO Tim Hanstad of Landesa enters into the picture. Hanstad, following in the footsteps of Landesa’s founder Roy Prosterman, tackles this problem at the government level. He establishes a working relationship with various world governments, trying to change the laws that inhibit women and men from obtaining land or keeping the land they have. Field surveys are taken in rural districts of China, Africa and India to find out exactly what the situation is with the poor who are living there, and if they have or have ever had access to owning their own land. Then, time is spent researching the current laws in those areas to see where changes could be made to improve the lives of those who are so desperately in need. In doing so, it is possible to help whole communities of people rather than working with each individual at a time.

The idea is simple. In just one tenth of an acre of land, a family can have a home and enough space left over to grow fruits and vegetables for the family to eat year-round. Any excess could be sold at market. This small parcel would be cheap enough for governments to secure enough micro-acreage to give to many of the poorest people in their nation. So far, Landesa has helped 100 million families secure land and escape poverty. Their main focus is for women to secure or keep land and in the inheritance rights of girls.

According to the Schwab Foundation, since, Hanstad joined Landesa in the 1980s, the company “has grown 100-fold, opened eight new offices in Asia and Africa and has generated tens of millions of dollars of earned income.” Hanstad has been recognized as “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Schwab Foundation and in 2012 by the Skoll Foundation.

Urban Life and the New Buzz!

Team Bybi

Team Bybi

by Diane Walters

Everyone knows the plight of the honeybee. They are dying off at an alarming rate. The New York Times has a running news feed on their Science page of the articles they have published about the decline of bees. The latest news is that, recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing almost 3 million dollars to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan to aid farmers to grow cover crops to feed the bees. Scientists from those states will study the bees to see if the theory holds true that a healthy diet can boost their immune system.

It is suspected that colony collapse disorder is the culprit in killing the bees. Commercial crops have replaced much of the wild flowers that honeybees have thrived on in the past. Without healthy vegetation, bees are then forced into areas sprayed with insecticides and fungicides for their regular diet. Add to that, a virus found on tobacco and soy plants that the bees carry back to the colonies, infecting the malnourished/poisoned bees leaving them with little chance to survive.

The Huffington Post reports that honeybees are a $30 billion industry in the U.S. not to mention the crops we are losing from the plight. In 1947, there were an estimated 6 million colonies, 3 million in 1990, and 2.5 million in 2013. This is important to us in our food chain … honeybees pollinate more than 130 fruits and vegetables.

While America works on resourcing farmland for the bees and studying the effects, social entrepreneur, Oliver Maxwell has come up with a honey of an idea—the urban pollinator. Adding bees to city life makes so much sense. The beehives are contained on rooftops, high above the heavily trafficked areas, and they supply the parks, rooftop gardens, and city landscapes with pollination for flowers, seeds, herbs and vegetables, and trees. Beekeepers are hired to take care of the hives and aid in the health of the colonies. Maxwell states, “We make sure that the beekeepers and honey producers come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Plus, the bee-flower-honey relationship is about the best metaphor for sustainable growth there is.” There is a sense of pride that shines through in Maxwell’s writing as he explains the new life of a, once homeless, beekeeper. “When a formerly homeless person stands on the roof of Bella Center with a smoker and veil, teaches kids about pollination or sells honey to biochemists in Lundbeck’s canteen he feels in his own words “a part of society.” Businessmen and women, homeless and children meet on a level plane.”

Maxwell’s bee project is set up in Copenhagen. Five businesses offered space for the hives, backing for the project, in 2011, and offered to buy the honey when it was produced. The city chipped in offering production space, a vehicle, and assistants to aid in the startup venture. This year, up to 40 employees have been hired and trained with backgrounds from homeless people, to Red Cross refugees, and to people from a deprived housing estate. He has also hired “honeypushers” to sell the honey to local businesses and residents. The honeypushers are people who need experience to get into the job marketplace. While working, they gather much needed experience, pay taxes, and prove a solid working background for their future ventures.

Maxwell’s company Bybi, also teaches schoolchildren about bee culture, honey making, the important relationship between man and nature, and how an Eco-business can run and succeed—working hand in hand—giving back to society at the same time. In essence, he is training the youth of Copenhagen how to be social entrepreneurs.

The company, established in 2011, won the “Danish Social Enterprise Award 2013,” and 10 other nominations and prizes. It appears Maxwell and his award winning company is no fly-by-night operation; they are here stay. That is a good thing for people here in the U.S., Europe, and the world, knowing that there are sustainable options to keep the bees alive and healthy, even in an urban environment.

To sum up Maxwell’s philosophy . . . “There is no really good excuse for wringing our hands and continuing the way things are. Good change starts with what you do. It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting, and I hope that Bybi is a small step in the right direction.”

As you can see, little ideas can make a big change in the world—for man, for the plants, for the animals, and even for a little tiny bee.

Don’t Waste Another Drop

BASE #2 CYBER-RAIN PHOTO 2

Cyber Rain

Water is creeping up the worry-ladder of environmental problems that need to be dealt with around the world. In drier climates, here in the US, water is a precious resource. California is a state that best knows about water shortages with water piped in from Northern California and the Colorado River. When the average household uses about 300 gallons of water a day—and much more for the drier, hotter climate —this is a serious concern, especially, when we know that only 1 percent of the world’s water can be used for our needs. The rest of the 99 percent is frozen in glaciers or is salt water in the oceans. Some might argue that the rain and snow replenishes the earth’s watershed, but there is no guarantee where or when that water will fall, leaving us with floods or droughts throughout the year.

The EPA shows us that 37 percent of that precious 1 percent goes to irrigation. It was that 37 percent that concerned, California epa-cyber rainresident, Reza Pourzia as he drove through his neighborhood in the mornings. Every day, those beautiful, lush green lawns, and gardens were being watered by automatic sprinkler systems—come rain or shine. It really bothered him that in a place that was so desperate for fresh water that people’s yards were being drowned, well past the point of saturation, until the overflow was running down the street, filling it with fertilizers and pesticides.

Driving past people’s homes with those automatic watering systems, ready to spring to action the very second that timer hit its mark, drove him to distraction. There had to be a way around the problem, but even he realized what a pain in the neck it was to reset those timers. This, of course, would prove to be an impossible task unless you knew when the weather would change. People had jobs, kids needed to be chauffeured to here and there, errands … they couldn’t sit home to wait to see what the daily weather changes were. This nagged and niggled around in the back of his mind each day. And, this was the defining period that Reza Pourzia became a social entrepreneur.

All that thought paid off as soon as wireless technology came into play. Pourzia realized that if he hooked up the sprinkler system to a computer program that the whole wasted water problem would be solved directly from the weather stations. The benefits from this idea were thrilling—lower water bills for the homeowner, less water being wasted in the environment, and less money spent on fertilizers and pesticides that had been washed away down the street gutters. The latter, of course, is also much better for everyone’s health and the environment. And finally, there would be no need to reset timers. It was such an exciting idea that Pourzia quit his consulting job and went to work putting his plan into action. Thus, in 2005, Cyber Rain was born.

The controller that Pourzia developed, to control the flow of water being used daily, is simple to use. The module plugs into your home wireless network. The old sprinkler timer is replaced with this new one. The device connects to the weather service and water use can be adjusted to the amount of humidity or rain on any given day, and it can even be adjusted for slopes or hills.  The software alerts you when a sprinkler head breaks, and can even tell you when it’s time to fertilize your lawn again. The Cyber Rain Cloud allows you to operate the system from anywhere, even your iPhone.

It’s estimated that Cyber Rain will save between 40 to 60 percent of household water usage per year. It is a perfect idea for commercial use as well for schools, parks, municipalities, golf courses. They are the first smart-irrigation product to be certified by the EPA’s Watersense. They have also passed the SWAT certification by the Center of Irrigation Technology. Many states are offering rebates of up to $1,000 to get people to conserve water with this new technology.

Creating Treasures Out of Trash

All it takes is a dream to accomplish great things in life. That dream started in Lorna Rutto when as a young girl in Kenya, the piles of plastic litter everywhere annoyed and disgusted her. She wanted to find a way to clean it up. Experimenting with melting the plastic brought two things to light: she saw that it was possible for plastic to take another shape—a smaller, more condensed form; she also was able to bring in a small amount of money from the jewelry she made from the fun, new shapes she created.

At graduation, life’s responsibilities took the forefront in Rutto’s visions for her future, and she decided on a career in banking. This brought stability to her new life as a young adult, but she was kept from the things she loved: people, creativity and environmental science. In 2009, Rutto quit her job and with business partner Charles Kalama started EcoPost—a company that makes plastic posts and poles by simple injection molding.

Positive energy is contagious in this social entrepreneur. She has enhanced her community by providing jobs for hundreds of people. These people are needed to collect the 40 tons of plastic waste that EcoPost uses every month. This is a vitally important service to the women of Nairobi and at-risk youth, who normally would not have a reasonable means to make money. Many of these freelance employees have started their own waste collection businesses, hiring other people to collect these plastics, thus, creating more jobs.

The business already has more contracts than it can keep up with from ranches and game reserves. Plastic fence posts are more popular than timber because they are stable, won’t deteriorate, and there is a much less likely chance of them being stolen for sale on the black market. Available timber is dwindling in Africa from deforestation, and this is one of Rutto’s prime goals in her eco-dream—to stop logging before there are no more trees. Expansion across Kenya is the next step for this growing company, as well as plans for other products that could be used in place of timber, such as support beams, roofing trusses and floor tiles.

Forbes named this superstar in their “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, 2012.”  In addition, she has won numerous awards for her innovative company and dedication to cleaning up the environment. One of these included the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, in 2011. This included business mentorship for a year and $20,000. The money bought a much-needed company truck, and several waste collection sites were established in her community to facilitate the rapid growth of EcoPost.

A simple dream that started from a girl who had no job, no investment money—nothing, but a pile of trash and her desire to save trees and clean up her community. Lorna Rutto is a perfect example of how to be a social entrepreneur. Like Lorna, everyone has dreams. Everyone has potential to make an important change in the world, to make our world a better place.