Hello from the New Kid on the Blog

What I’ve learned in the short time I have been associated with the people here at WAFA is that they have a clear vision for a bright future.  They bring with them care, compassion, altruism, and heart.  Everyone here has a big, big heart. They share a need to see change in the world, to learn about people who can make that change, and to celebrate them.

Everyone inmyself 1987-Facebook 1volved in WAFA is a volunteer—there are no paid positions.  It’s a small international group of people brought together by a common ideal. An enormous amount of time and effort and money has been spent by all in brainstorming, organizing, building a stunning Web site, collaborating with many people from around the world to set up the awards show, the entertainment, the presentations, all for the cause of the common good, and to make better lives for those people who are struggling day-to-day for the simple things in life that we take for granted: healthy food, breathable air, and clean water.

In my blog, I hope to bring to you the exciting news for the 2016 . . . (read full article).

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The Pig Idea

Wiki Commons Bagel Dumpster

A slide appeared, on the screen on TED.com, of a dumpster full 13,000 bread crusts as social entrepreneur Tristram Stuart mused about never being able to get a sandwich from a retail shop that was made from bread crusts. Where do all the bread crusts go? From this single bread factory (shown on the slide), 13,000 bread crusts are dumped into the trash every day.

This food waste expert explained that in America, and other well-developed nations, grocery stores usually carried double the inventory it expected to sell. And, if you add in the food that is fed to livestock, there is up to quadruple the amount that is needed to feed the masses. In his further investigation of food waste, Stuart visited a farmer who was letting 16,000 pounds of spinach die because there were some blades of grass growing here and there. It was not suitable for market.  It is quite common for farmers to throw out 1/3 to 1/2 half of their crops due to imperfect sizes, shapes or color that would be turned away at market.

In Europe, in 2001, feeding regular unprocessed food to livestock became illegal because of the foot and mouth disease epidemic. Because of the ban, soy has since become a major crop in South America.  Due to the expansion of this commodity, forests are being cut down in places like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to grow soy. From 1965 to 2004 soy production rose from 29 to 200 million tons, most of which is used for livestock feed after the oil is extracted. For 9,000 years, pigs had been fed with the surplus food products and refuse that people did not eat. Presently, people throw away this human grade food by the ton every single day — and pay to have it hauled away to rot in landfills. Then, they buy pig food.

The Pig Idea was born from what Stuart had learned from the overwhelming food waste problem. He joined forces with other Londoners to create public awareness of food waste around the world with the hope that the animal food ban will be lifted. The idea is ecologically sound. Eliminating so much processed feed would save the planet about 20 times more carbon dioxide emissions. More of the rainforest in the Amazon would be saved, as not as much farmland would be needed. More farmers in Europe would be able to stay in business by saving the cost of the expensive grain they are forced to buy. The problem of the foot and mouth disease can be eliminated by cooking the food given to the pigs and chickens.

To bring awareness to this issue, Stuart and his colleagues — the hambassadors, seven of London’s best restaurants, and thousands of Londoners gathered in Trafalgar Square to enjoy over 5,000 portions of free food, including pork that had been raised on food that would have otherwise been wasted at The Pig Ideas’ Feast of 2013.

Stuart started studying food waste at the age of 15 when he raised pigs to supplement his income. He is a renowned author for his book “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal,” and has won numerous and prestigious awards for his dedication to preserving the planet as well as the pigs.

UPDATE: Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tristram Stuart was featured in the National Geographic Web edition in an article by Elizabeth Royte “How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger.”

Check it out –

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/03/global-food-waste-statistics/?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=pom_20160228&utm_campaign=Content&utm_rd=1697077923

One Who Teaches with Experience

Wikipedia 375px-Computer_RecyclingTechnology changes at a rapid rate. It’s important for successful businesses to stay up-to-date with new technology. The site eWeek reports that a study done by Techaisle, an analyst and market research foundation, found companies that hold on to their computers for longer than three years, end up spending between $326 to $401 on maintenance of those computers with an extended warranty. For those companies without a warranty that figure jumps up to about $526 for repaired and upgraded computers. They also found that computers malfunction more often after a period of three years, and they suggest replacing them for the most efficient and cost saving measures.

A staggering figure of 355.2 million computers were sold globally in 2011. In 2010, the number was a bit lower at 346.2 million computers that were sold around the world. That means, about every three to five years a large number of those computers are being tossed out, in one way or another.

In 2005, social entrepreneur, Cormac Lynch from Dublin, Ireland, had a plan to do something with all those computers that were being thrown out into the landfills. He wanted to refurbish them for the children around the world, so that they could gain an education. The company he started was named Camara, which is West African for “one who teaches with experience.” In June 2007, 70 volunteers set off with 1,000 computers, and the initiative . . . (Read Full Article)

Mike Devlin’s Oasis in the Camden Food Desert

 

Dovecoate,_Vegetable_Garden_and_Fruit_Trees

The Camden Children’s Garden’s display at the Philadelphia Flower Show Photo Credit: South Jersey Magazine

A food desert is a place where there is no access to fresh, healthy produce or other foods. There are two types of food deserts in the U.S.  Urban food deserts are low-income areas located in the city that have no access to a grocery store, which sells fresh food within a mile of where someone lives.  In rural food deserts, the area expands to a ten-mile low-access area, which has no retail store with fresh food available. These figures are determined by census tracts.

The USDA states that 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts.  More than half of those are low-income, which also means they may not have readily available transportation to travel to where there is fresh, healthy food. An additional problem lies in the availability of fast food restaurants and convenience stores, which are more readily available, and could be contributing to the obesity and health problems of our country.

To see where these food deserts are located, go to the USDA Food Access Research Atlas.

One of these places is Camden, New Jersey — noted at various times to be the poorest city in the country and/or the most dangerous. It is also noted as being one of the nine worst food deserts in the U.S. There’s one social entrepreneur who has been trying to change that. It’s been a 30-year quest that Mike Devlin has been on to provide Camden residents with fresh produce. And, it looks like things are starting to turn around.

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2014 Philadelphia Flower Show Camden Children’s Garden – Photo Credit: Dyogi

Devlin, executive director of Camden City Garden Club, founded the organization in 1985 with his wife Valerie. He has worked tirelessly, turning empty city lots into community gardens so that people can have fresh vegetables.  So far, there are 130 of these gardens throughout the city, and a study by the state of Pennsylvania found that  having produced the equivalent of $2.3 million in food for 2013.

Many offshoots of the Garden Club were born including Camden Children’s Garden, Community Gardening and Greening, Grow Lab, the Community Youth Employment Program, and the mobile market — a truck filled with locally grown fresh produce offered to Camden residents at reasonable prices.

 

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!

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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