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!