Friday, 17 December 2010

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Coffee Talk II: Emily Saunders, Comfort the Children International

Funny how things work sometimes, don't you think?
You know, when you think about someone you haven't seen in ages, suddenly the phone rings and it's them?
Or when you think that it would be time to have another interview up on the blog and bam! you receive an email completely out of the blue from someone who has no idea what you do in the blogging world, an email about someone who is doing a great job for a non-profit, and it perfectly clicks?

Yes, exactly.

Emily Saunders is that someone doing a great job. She has been working with an incredible non-profit called Comfort the Children International (CTC).
CTC has been doing an amazing job in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, trying to create sustainable change there acting in 5 different yet connected areas: environment, education, health, economy, community.
Indeed it is near impossible to act on only one without impacting the others, which is why CTCs approach is, to put in in their own word, "holistic".


Emily has been collaborating with them to design a wallet. Not just any wallet. It's the Change wallet, with a Kenyan shilling sewn on the front as a lucky charm, perpetuating a Kenyan tradition, and the word CHANGE branded on the back, as a symbol of the change that the purchase of the wallet will bring to the kids of Maai Mahiu. Because yes, all the profits from the sales of the wallet will be injected directly into CTC's programmes. That would make a great gift right?

Want to know more? So let me introduce you to the wonderful Emily!

Hi Emily, tell us a bit more about you: who are you? Why and how did you start working with CTC?
I’m a native New Yorker, in May I graduated from the Associates Program at Parsons School for Design. During my last semester at Parsons I took an entrepreneurship class where I conceived of the idea of the Change wallet. My entrepreneurship teacher, Yrmis, had such belief in the idea that a few months after graduations she introduced me to Zane (the founder of CTC) with the idea that we might want to collaborate and make the wallet a reality.

One of the first words you read about CT is "holistic", can you explain what this means and what CTC's goals are?
The emphasis on the word “holistic” comes from CTC’s firm belief that in order to effect social change you can’t just rely on the effectiveness of handouts. You have to focus on the structure of a community and work with the complete structure, not just a part of it.
CTC’s fundamental goal is to break the cycle of poverty in Maai Mahiu, Kenya in a sustainable and long lasting way. 

What has CTC achieved so far? And what's coming next?
CTC has been working in Maai Mahiu for almost ten years now and in that time one of the most important things that they have accomplished is return a sense of hope to the community. They have built a school for special needs children (who had been marginalized by their community), and created a way for the mothers of these children to support themselves - providing them with the resources to make bags and sell them for profit.

They have initiated agricultural programs to improve nutrition and educational programs to increase HIV/AIDS awareness. They have also started a youth empowerment program, which provides boys and girls from the community with a place where they can have equal opportunity to access information, education and health.
The profits from the Change wallet will go toward expanding the youth initiative program.  

Tell us more about the wallet you designed for CTC: why did you choose to design a wallet, and what is its meaning?
The design of the wallet is simple, as is the wallet’s purpose: to propagate change and promote fundamental human rights. The wallet is unisex and handmade in grey leather with a Kenyan shilling sewn onto the front, and the word “Change” branded onto the back. I wanted to incorporate the shilling because I wanted to play off of the tradition that when a wallet is gifted to someone, the gift-giver puts a coin into the wallet for good luck and to ensure the wallet will never be empty. But I also wanted the coin to symbolize the change that the purchase of each wallet will bring to the lives of the youth of Maai Mahiu.  
I wanted to use a wallet as a fundraising initiative because a wallet is something that we all use multiple times a day and for the owner of the wallet it will not only serve as a daily reminder of the change their purchase has made to a community thousands of miles away but also, hopefully, encourage them to continue to think about what else they can do to promote positive change. 

What do CTC people need now?
Any community caught in a vicious cycle of poverty needs for there to be holistic change within the community. Which means that change must be effected on a number of levels; education, environment, economy, health and community issues must all be addressed. 

What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by the incredibly world we live in – travel is one of the most inspiring things to me, which is why I jump at the chance to go anywhere!

What are you thankful for in your life?
I am thankful for many things – just to be in a position where I can do something that I love (design) and have that benefit others as well is incredible.
Most of all, though, I am thankful for the people in my life – the friends and family that are both near and far away who provide me with unconditional support and love. I owe them each a million kisses!

Thank you Emily!

Now I'm sure you all want to see what the wallet looks like, here it is!

You can find it on CTC's webshop, as well as many other great products. If you want to purchase them all, hey, why not? It's for a good cause after all! :)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Wrap Up Africa take 2

It's that time of the year again, the end of year celebrations are in everyone's mind, Christmas is in the air, can you feel it too?

It's that time of the year when we want to share, when we open our hearts, when we want to spend time with our loved ones, share a good meal, and just enjoy.

It's also that time of the year when we become even more aware that some people don't have the same chance, that some people near us and not so near, actually a great number of people, don't have access to food, to water, to health care and services. Some people, children, that could be easily cured in our overprivileged region, suffer or die of diseases they should not die of.

To be even more so specific, I am thinking of children in Uganda suffering from Burkitt's Lymphoma. Now that rings a bell, doesn't it?

A few weeks ago I wrote about Wrap Up Africa and their goal to help children suffering from Burkitt's Lymphoma getting access to hospitals and proper care, while at the same time empowering their community.


Now, Letha Sandison, Founder of Wrap Up Africa, has taken it a step further: since December 7th, the Wrap Up Africa team have launched "Chemo for Christmas", a fundraising event aiming at bringing chemotherapy to 365 children. 365, can you imagine? For this, they need to raise USD 400 000.
Yes, this is a big amount, but chemotherapy is not the cheapest treatment unfortunately, and we are talking about 365 children, this is big too!

So if you're looking this year to give a meaningful gift to someone who needs it, maybe you can consider giving a kid access to proper care. And if you can't give, feel free to spread the word and have people you know read this!


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

TEDxBRussels, 6 December 2010

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend TEDxBrussels, which is supposedly the largest TEDx event, so yay Brussels! Ok we had the chance to experience the usual, er, level of service from Belgacom regarding the wifi network - and the location, albeit beautiful, had poor network, but overall it was an interesting day, to say the least.

I won't bore you with the details - and I'm running on short deadlines! I guess most of the talks will be available on line soon, so here is just a glimpse of what struck me most:

"Innovation doesn't come top down, it comes bottom up - William Kennard, US Ambassador to the EU - loved that he recognized that governments and institutions must facilitate innovation, not be the centre and motor of it.

"People do not take seriously predictions of catastrophes until it's too late" - Jeffrey Satinover - I could have transcribed his entire talk as everything he said was basically worth hearing, but let's stick to that one for now :)

"Innovation : listen - decide - do" - Sebastian Thrum - pretty straightforward isn't it?

"Creativity demands a solid basis of knowledge from which to diverge" - David Anderegg - his talk about Nerds and Why we need them was one of the best, in my opinion.

David Orban: here again I should have had a dictaphone to record the whole talk, but it definitely opens a new perspective on the future technology, where all devices will be networked in what will be called "the internet of things". I encourage you to read the TEDxBrussels blog for an introduction to his work, and check out his website.

"If you have to measure (a result), it's not big enough"
"The child becomes the agent of change, as opposed to the object of change" - Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop Per Child

"We need to raise a generation of problem solvers"
"Double click is a conspiracy against elderly people to keep them away from using computers"
"It's never too late to pick up a new profession" - Walter Bender, SugarLabs

"You know you're doing things right when they're a little bit out of control" - Dries Buytaert, Drupal

Unfortunately I missed Marc Luyck's talk, which I heard through the grapevine was great.

Now onto something I didn't quite enjoy as much, and I love ranting, so here we go. But first let's get things straight: I am a yoga student and teacher trainee, therefore I am familiar with meditation, connection even, and setting an intention, a "sankalpa" for my practice and daily life.
However, Lynne McTaggart's talk left me somewhat uncomfortable. Honestly I cringed.
Using "intention" as in "positive thinking" is not a bad thing per se. Using it in the name of science, claiming to have almost singlehandedly halted war in SriLanka thanks to intention, and claiming to cure people is not science, it's dangerous.
On top of that, she used some kind of guided meditation to get the audience take part in her experiment, something we as a whole did not respond to quite well. Overheard: "I did not pay for that". Ouch. This was not the right place and time. That didn't make sense to anyone. And I'm a bit concerned about my own "niche": how will the people attending this talk react when someone mentions meditation in a conversation, how will that be viewed?
I am not a guardian of the yoga temple, I would not dare calling me one, and is there such thing as a yoga temple anyway? But on a very personal level, I felt sad.
The good thing about it? I can work to prove we yoga teachers slash practitioners slash students are not just a bunch of lunatics. I guess we can help save the world :)
End of rant, thanks for reading!

Anyway, apart from this glitch, I enjoyed the day, opening new (to me anyway) perspectives, and really giving me food for thought. If I'm still in Brussels next year, count me in!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Coffee Talk I: Ninette Murk, Designers Against AIDS

Today is World AIDS Day. Today is the occasion to put AIDS back on the map of causes, because despite much less press than 15, even 10 years ago, AIDS is still present, still lethal, still killing people.

Today is the occasion to feature my first interview on The Change You Wish, and who else could I feature but the amazing Ninette Murk, founder of Designers Against AIDS, a Belgian-based non profit aimed at raising AIDS awareness in the media and the public, using pop culture tools to touch young people?

About 10 years ago, Ninette, then a freelance fashion editor, lost her best friend to AIDS. She decide to make something positive out of this awful experience, and launched Designers Against AIDS (DAA). Since then, various projects have been developed over the years, the latest one being the publication of the book "Designers Against AIDS : the First Decade", celebrating beauty and life with a collection of amazing photos, including an unpublished picture of Marilyn Monroe.

But let's read from Ninette what DAA is all about:

What has DAA achieved so far? And what’s coming next?

I think that we have put the issue of HIV/AIDS back on the map in the minds of young people, for instance with our global annual Fashion against AIDS campaigns/collections with H&M. We will do our 4th collection with them in 2011. As for what’s coming next, my dream is to have condoms in cool looking wrappers for sale worldwide (in collaboration with major brands and celebrities for the campaigns) in every spot where young people visit such as school/university, festivals, clothing and music stores, hairdressers… make suing condoms cool and we can stop the HIV virus from spreading more.

    Why the book “The First Decade”? 

    Because my publisher at Ludion asked me and also because it’s a good thing to have all our past projects in one place, combined with over 100 artist visions on pure beauty from my art collective Beauty without Irony.

    Olaf Breuning - Clouds - 2008

    Playing the Devil’s advocate : It looks like the HIV / AIDS issue is much less present in the media than it used to be. Does that mean that the disease is somehow contained and decreasing? 

    No. It means that the media is bored with reporting about the disease- so it’s up to us to make it interesting and worthwhile for the again. This is why we draw the card of beauty and pop culture and not of fear.

    What do you need now? 

    We need subsidies and other funding to enable us to run our education center and continue with our work and campaigns. Strangely enough, we still don’t receive any subsidies although our work is very valuable and we even get compliments about it from Dr Peter Piot, who was director of UNAIDS for over 10 years.

    What inspires you? 

    People, love, light, life, sunshine, nature!

    What are you thankful for? 

    I'm thankful for my brain and idealism and stubbornness- and for my husband, children and everybody who loves me and who I love.

    Thank you Ninette!

    I have had the chance to have a look at "The First Decade", it is really a beautiful book, celebrating life in all its glory and beauty. You can order it from DAA's website, it would make a great holiday gift for a good cause. You can also visit DAA's webshop for great clothes shopping, supporting this way the International HIV/AIDS Awareness Education Center in Antwerp.

    The most important thing is not to forget about HIV/AIDS, as Prof. Peter Piot rightfully wrote in the introduction of "The First Decade": "AIDS is not over by any means and the world can't afford to ignore this threat".


    Saturday, 27 November 2010

    Water Take 3 - A Nyabushozi birthday

    Those who know me will tell you: when I start something, I go all the way. Ok, maybe not when this involves stupid thing, but in this case I don't believe it does.

    Especially when it involves celebrating a birthday :)

    So let's take a trip to Nyabushozi one more time.

    "What's a birthday got to do with Nyabushozi?" you wonder. Easy: today Christian de Neef, Nyabushozi project co-founder, is celebrating his birthday. His 50th birthday. Not that it is a remarkable feat in itself, but this is one day we can all make memorable.

    You see, Christian doesn't want any gift, he doesn't need anything. But there is still something that we can do to celebrate, there is still something we can offer him.

    A Fundraising Birthday 

    Indeed, you read that right: Christian launched a fundraiser at the occasion of his 50th birthday, to collect 50 times 50 USD, to reach the amount of 2500 USD for a well in Nyabushozi and provide water to the community, and who knows, maybe more?

    And if you can't give 50 USD, don't worry, any amount is important!

    How to contribute?

    • Remember the Cosi10 community ChipIn mentioned in this post? Yes, it is still active, and it will be until December 10. The project must raise 850 USD by then to be eligible for a 5000 USD award, and as I'm writing this post 210 USD have been raised. Let's keep going!
    • You can donate directly on Nyabushozi project's website;
    • Another solution: wire / transfer directly on Nyabushozi project's bank account: NL25ABNA0534575161, BIC/SWIFT: ABNANL2A. Easy peasy!
    Christian says that "a lot of things can be done, not through high profile charity organizations, but grassroot initiatives with measurable, tangible results". Let's prove him right!


    Edited to add : 
    Monday 29 Nov., ChipIn: 310 USD, let's keep it up!

    Tuesday, 23 November 2010

    A wonderful worldwide wave of gratitude - Epic Thanks!

    *WARNING : this post is brought to you by, be prepared to open your heart and hug the whole world*

    I am French. I live in Belgium. "What's it got to do with thanks?", you wonder. Well, actually, nothing. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving, of course, it's not part of our history. We French are more used to complain about basically everything and go on strike whenever something's bothering us. Since we complain about everything we're always on strike.

    That said, I am first and foremost a world citizen, and I'm thankful to be one. I feel, as a world citizen, that whenever a celebration such as Thanksgiving takes place, I want in. I usually write about what's needed, let's turn around and write about what we have, and what we're thankful to have.

    I am thankful for my parents, who might not always understand what the hell I'm up to, but who have supported me in every decision I've made.

    I am thankful for my boyfriend, who might not always understand what the hell I'm up to either, but who has always supported me in every decision I've made.

    I am thankful for my friends, here and far away, for the great conversations :)

    I am thankful for my first real English teacher from my days of yore, who doesn't know the Anglophile monster he's unleashed.
    I am thankful for my two yoga teachers, one in Brussels and one in London, who are taking me on a path to a destination yet unknown, but what a ride it's been so far already!

    I am thankful to have a roof above my head and food on my plate, which is not the case for everyone as we all know...

    I am thankful for my body: for my legs that carry me all day and every day, for my arms that are strong enough to make me look like a crow (yoga talk, sorry peeps!), for my brain that takes me to places you can't even imagine, for my heart that has opened up so much lately that it's almost unbearable.

    But most of all, today, I am thankful for you, readers, change makers, yoginis, friends and coworkers, who inspire me daily. I am thankful for having met lately amazing people who are so compassionate, so committed, that you can't help but think that yes, eventually, it will all work out. Hope and faith, that's what I'm thankful for.
    Today I am thankful for EpicChange, Stacey, Sanjay, and the awesome work they have been doing to do good in this world. I am thankful to be part of such a group of wonderful people who are committed to spreading gratitude, and by doing so helping and honouring individuals who make a change in their communities.

    This year, TweetsGiving / EpicThanks will celebrate and honour three changemakers. Yes, not one, but three. I'm sure you're dying to know who they are, aren't you? Truth is,  I have been searching for my words to tell their stories, but whatever I write no match to their own voices, so I'll it to them to share, enjoy!
    • Mama Lucy, Tanzania
    "My village in Arusha, Tanzania did not have many good schools. So, I started a primary school in 2003 with money I raised from a small chicken farm.  I began with only 10 students.  Now I serve more than 411 kids and my school is currently ranked #2 in my district out of 123 schools.  
    I am Mama Lucy Kamptoni.

    Over the past two years, TweetsGiving and Epic Change have supported the expansion of our school, and our primary school is now complete - with seven classrooms, even a school bus, library and technology lab.  Most importantly, our students continue to perform well, and have been recognized as some of the best and brightest in our area.  While I’m excited about our progress, I’m also honestly worried about what will happen to these children once they leave the doors of our primary school.

    Primary education in Tanzania ends at class 7. Next year 2011 October, our first class 7 will sit for their final primary exams. Thereafter, they’ll need a good secondary school to join by January 2012. We believe they’ll perform well enough to earn a place in secondary school, but due to the lack of enough good schools in our country, the Government will place them to any available school. What I know is that, most of the government schools across the country lack good/enough teachers and also teaching materials. I’ve come across secondary school students complaining on going to school for almost a month without being taught one/two subjects like Math or Science. I’m so much worried about this for my students. 

    How can Gideon fulfill his dream of becoming an astronaut without ongoing good education after the primary level? What about Glory who’s dream is to be a lawyer and stand for human rights? Will Leah’s dream of being a doctor come true without continuing good education? These children have incredible potential to transform our nation.  It’s my hope that we can continue their education until they become independent young adults ready to lead Tanzania.  

    I ask you to join us on making it possible. The world we share will be better for all of us if these children are able to reach their amazing potential.  I know that’s true.
    I’m so grateful for what many people across the globe have done so far for my dream and for these kids.  Your shared love and gratitude made so much possible.  Thank you so much for pushing these kids’ dreams into reality!

    Connect with me.

    You may also follow my sixth grade class, the TwitterKids of Tanzania, on the twitter list at"

    Mama Lucy's actions do not stop there. She helped EpicChange pick up another project, and she chose Subhash Ghimire's initiative in Nepal!
    • Subhash Ghimire (Nepal)

    "My journey to this day began in Arupokhari, a remote western Nepali village, which is more than a day’s walk from the district headquarters. My village was at the heart of Nepal’s ten years of civil war from 1996 to 2006.  When I was five years old, every day I walked barefoot to and from school and then came home to study under the kerosene lamps as part of my daily routine.  Even though we didn't have blacktopped roads, electricity, telephones or a proper school, all the children I knew dreamed of becoming doctors or pilots. We knew even then that no one wanted us to settle for anything less.  But over time, as we busied ourselves building dreams amidst poverty, hunger and scarcity, we slowly began to realize how unrealistic and impossible those dreams were. After all these years, we do not have a single doctor or a pilot from my hometown.

    Still, with all of this, I have never been able to stop dreaming big.  From the time I was young, I longed for changes in Nepal.  My audacity to think like this came in part because at the age of nine I had one very important dream come true.  I was selected to study in a prestigious British-style school in Kathmandu, Nepal. That was when I saw buses and electricity for the first time; and first started to learn English.  That is where I first learned that sometimes in one moment, your life can change forever.

    I am a wildly optimistic person willing to sacrifice for my country so that future generations do not have to suffer the same way. I believe that changing a country has to start with educating the young generation and that is where I am investing my energy. With the Sarswati Foundation that I founded in the summer of 2009, I am now working on building the first peace school in Nepal so that the children whose lives were blighted by the war get an opportunity to overcome unfounded prejudice and discrimination and realize the possibilities of creating an informed and tolerant society for future generations. I want all of the children in my village to get the best possible education so that they can achieve their dreams of becoming not only doctors or pilots but anything else they desire to be.

    After years of poverty, struggle and despair, I became the first person in generations of my family to graduate from college.  My mom passed away when I was nine years old. Her life has been a light and inspiration to me and without her motivation and upbringing, my journey to this day would have been impossible.

    Dear Friends, we need countless stories to move our world forward. We need schools that teach our students to action; we need education that not only teaches us to be good citizens but also go out and make a difference. We need idealists; we need dreamers, thinkers and leaders. My education has made me look beyond and contribute towards the greater good of the society. As President Obama once said, “every generation we have an obligation to work on behalf of the next generation.”

    Some may have called me naive for daring to dream at all, if they had seen the place where I started from. But if we stop dreaming and if we stop believing in ourselves, we are never going to create a world that is fair and just for everyone. If we are not willing to sacrifice, who will? How long can we wait? Please support my peace school project to educate and enable thousands of war affected Nepalese children to dream big and achieve their dreams. 
    Connect with me.
    Twitter | Facebook | Blog"

    The third project has been chosen by the EpicChange team in Tampa, let's have a look:
    • Mike Halley

    I’m a Marine. My journey with the United States Marine Corps began in 1960. I served for eight years, including two tours in Vietnam.  I survived the horrors of that war, and returned home after the Tet Offensive to find a country that had abandoned us.

    After returning from Vietnam, I found myself at a loss. I couldn’t get close to other people and I couldn’t explain what was wrong with me. Just driving my truck down the road, I’d be in tears.  The explanation was found in the fact I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an invisible disability that affects many Americans, military and civilians alike, following a traumatic event in their lives. My diagnosis finally came in 1988, twenty years after my honorable discharge from the Corps.

    It took my collection of experiences as a Marine to lead me to where I am today. Presently, my vocation is to serve my fellow service men and women find peace when they return home from war.  In 2007, I trained my Doberman pinscher, Porsche, to be my personal service dog.  Having a partner like Porsche has led to making my life better both in how I deal with my PTSD as well as how I relate with other people. 

    Following the success of my training of Porsche, I was inundated with questions about who trained my dog or if I could train a dog for someone else with similar needs to mine.  This got me thinking and, as a result, I founded Halley’s K-9s for Veterans in October of 2008.

    The goal of the organization is to provide service dogs to disabled veterans of all ages, to help these veterans overcome their invisible disabilities in order to become more productive and functional, and to inform the public of the need for service dogs other than seeing eye dogs.  Even with our humble beginnings, we’ve been very successful in teaming over 25 disabled veterans with their new partners, and we’re very proud of the good we’ve been able to create as a result.

    Our next goal is to build a temporary home at our kennel where veterans can stay while we pair them with their service animals and, of course,  to expand our work to serve as many veterans as we possibly can. In my eyes, it’s the least we can do for them.
    And I know it can make all the difference in the world.  It certainly has for me.

    Connect with me.
    Twitter | Facebook"

    Don't these stories make you all warm and fuzzy inside? So unleash your thankful self and give EpicThanks too! Spread the word on Twitter (hashtag #EpicThanks) and Facebook and any place you can think of, contribute and support these beautiful projects!

    Saturday, 20 November 2010

    Water + Girls - A Follow Up

    Hello dear readers, this one will be short but sweet. 

    I just wanted to update you on two initiatives I've been sharing here, and in a way, they are connected, let me explain.

    Water: the Nyabushozi project

    You remember Nyabushozi, right? The initiative started by Winfred Asiimwe and Christian De Neef, aiming at providing with water Winfred's region in Nyabushozi, Uganda, is now taking a new step. 
    2 weeks ago, Winfred was in Brussels and presented her project at a Cosi10 event
    Good news is, the Nyabushozi project is now one of the ventures selected by Cosi10 to be eligible for an award that could amount up to USD 5000. Isn't that great?

    But there's a small condition to be granted this award, and this is where we all can help: in order to receive an award from the Cosi10 community, they need to raise USD 850 for Cosi10 by December 10. USD 850. This is no small amount, but they have already raised USD 110. That leaves us USD 740, and if all of us contribute, that is not unattainable, don't you think? 

    How to contribute? Easy, you only have to go there and chip in : ->

    Wanna see Winfred's Cosi10 presentation? Easy too, it's here:

    Winnie's presentation

    And if you are not in a position to donate, then there's still one thing you can do: spread the word!

    Winfred's project will be sustainable if the Nyabushozi girls and women are involved and empowered in their own community, which leads me to the second initiative: the Girl Effect.

    Girls : the Girl Effect

    I wrote about the Girl Effect this week, as part of the blog campaign launched by Tara Sophia Mohr. As I'm writing this post, 123 blog posts make the campaign. 123 posts. This is how powerful we are, people.

    You can still add your own, this has to go viral! And some of the wonderful bloggers on that list have taken the campaign a step further, by launching their own initiative to raise funds for the Girl Effect.

    You want some advice on personal finance and help girls? Have a look at what Manisha Thakor offers.

    Have 5 bucks in your wallet and don't know what to do with them?  Then be a part of the 5-for-change challenge.

    Wanna help girls in Bengladesh buy cows and feed their family? Then Jasmine Lamb can help you do that.

    You can't donate? that's ok, you can still read each and every post and write your own, or again, spread the word!


    (so much for the short post!)

    Tuesday, 16 November 2010

    The Girl Effect in Action

    Do you remember when I mentioned in this post that "a study by the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) of community water and sanitation projects in 88 communities found that projects designed and run with the full participation of women are more sustainable and effective than those that do not. This supports an earlier World Bank study that found that women's participation was strongly associated with water and sanitation project effectiveness."

    Exactly. Wanna know why? Because the women walk for hours to get the water, not the men. Because the children go with them or on their own to get the water, not the men. Because the women can't go to work, can't send their children to school, can't develop their community, while they walk these long hours to get the water.

    Now imagine a well project supervised by women. They make sure it works, because the contrary would mean getting back to walking for hours to get the water. They can work, send their children to school with the money, develop their community. And in turn, when their daughters reach adulthood, they can expand, develop, enrich their community. They are empowered, and they are the force behind social change.

    This, my friends, is called the Girl Effect

    Our responsibility as developed countries

    We don't often realize what it is to be a woman living in a developing country. We don't often realize here what it is not to have easy access to water - no it doesn't always come from a tap - medicine, or education.
    But we are all connected. What happens to one of us happens to all of us.

    It is our responsibility as human beings in developed countries to reach out to human beings in developing countries. To listen to them, and help them get the tools to get started and bring about change from within their community.

    How can we do that? First of all, check out the Girl Effect website and their videos, and go read the fabulous blog posts participating in the Girl Effect campaign developed by Tara Sophia More at


    Then spread the word: write a blog post in time for International Children's Day on November 20 and add your link to the Girl Effect campaign page, share the videos, post about it on Facebook, Twitter using the hashtag #girleffect.
    Spread the love!


    Tuesday, 9 November 2010

    Change Uganda's children's lives - Change The Truth

    Can you believe I've never set foot in Uganda? You would be forgiven for thinking I have and loved it, as we are going to stay there again this week.

    The birth of a non-profit organization

    Now, a question: what do you do when you're an American photographer and return to the US after a trip in East Africa? Answer: you set up a charity to help Ugandan children who have become orphans because of war and HIV/AIDS. Oh wait, maybe this answer only applies to Gloria Baker Feinstein.

    Gloria went on a trip to Africa in 2006 as a photographer in an NGO workshop revolving around HIV/AIDS, and what she saw there changed her life forever. She then proceeded to set up a non-profit organization called Change The Truth, to send orphan children in Uganda to school and support St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood, home to around 190 children having lost one or both parents. 

    Changing the truth to change the world

    Change The Truth is now sending 28 pupils to secondary school, and of course their goal is to send even more. Education is key in this region, but the children need food, school supplies, clothing, a bed to sleep in. The orphanage / school raises some funds by its activities such as bead making and farming, but they could use some extra support.

    Every year in December since 2007, a team of ten volunteers travels to Uganda to work on the field and offers assistance to the children and the staff of the orphanage. Team 4 is already up and ready to leave for ten days, taking with them the items donated throughout the year to Change The Truth. This will be an exciting journey, and you will be able to read all about it in Gloria's blog!

    Kids in yoga class led by a team volunteer  - you know me, I'm a sucker for all things yoga, could not pass this one out! Source

    You too can be a part of this adventure, by donating, buying a book made by Gloria and the children of the orphanage, participating in the annual fundraiser, or even, why not, travel to Uganda as a volunteer!

    Kutuuka, the book! Source

    "Mostly, we wish for love" 

    And if you want to give love, check out these sites:

    - Gloria's blog:
    - Change The Truth:  - watch the video by Lynne Melcher on the homepage, and you might hear the quoted sentence ;-) 
    You can also subscribe to the newsletter for more information on the items you can donate, or fundraising activities.
    - Gloria's gorgeous portfolio:


    Thursday, 4 November 2010

    Shop for a cause - Wrap Up Africa

    Hello dear readers!

    Last time we met, I took you on a trip to Uganda, Africa. Let's extend our stay there now shall we?

    We all know by now that unfortunately AIDS / HIV infection is a major public health concern in Africa, and that is an understatement. But you know what is, too? Cancer. Yup, you read that right. Cancer attacking adults, but cancer attacking children too.

    The predominant form of childhood cancer is Burkitt's Lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymphatic system. And it's not a pretty sight.
    One would think that Burkitt's Lymphoma is linked to AIDS / HIV infection, due to the subsequent weakness of the immune system. However according to a study by the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC Scientific Publication No.153), cases in Uganda are of the endemic type, meaning they are not associated with AIDS.

    With the proper treatment and therapy, this cancer can be cured easily, if you have the means. In Uganda, people have slender means, not the type they need to receive treatment. It means that for diagnosed children, the outcome is not likely to be looking bright, to say the least.

    So what can we do, can we help? Well of course we can! How? Easy: buy a dress. Yes, once again, you read that right. But not just a random dress, get a dress from Wrap Up Africa.


    Wrap Up Africa was founded in 2007 by the wonderful Letha Sandison when she moved to Uganda, with the aim to empower and support families struggling with cancer. Wrap Up Africa designs and sells clothes tailored by family members of cancer's patients, thus giving them the opportunity to develop their skills, receiving fair wages for their work, and more generally to improve their quality of life.
    The profits from the sales are then funneled back to Wrap Up Africa's support programs.

    Wrap Up Africa is composed of 2 entities: Wrap Up Africa llc which sells the products, and Wrap Up Africa Foundation to which sales profits are redirected to fund the programs (treatment and education mainly).

    You can have a look at the clothes and purchase them here and here, have more information on childhood cancer, treatment and programs over here.
    Want to get involved: check out this page.

    You can also find Letha and Wrap Up Africa on Facebook, and follow @LethaSandison and @wrapupafrica on Twitter.

    Oh, and by the way, wanna know a secret? It's Letha's birthday today :-)
    Happy birthday, and a big thanks for your great work!