Category: Uncategorized


Blog Reflection

 

My four years at Champlain College is almost over…I can’t believe how fast time has gone by and now I am going to be thrown out into the real world! This last semester, I was asked to brand myself through blogging about something that I am passionate about. In the beginning I really had to think about what exactly I was passionate enough about to keep myself interested, updated, and provide informative content to the world, but then it came to me rather easily; social marketing and my strong feelings toward Africa. The first few blog posts were difficult being that I had never blogged before and the tagging, engaging, informing, and linking to other social media tools was unfamiliar to me. But after a while I got a grasp on it and felt that my passion for Africa and helping others around the world was demonstrated in both my tone and topic choices throughout.

When originally asked to actively blog and brand myself, I thought it was more of a task than that of a personal gain, but over time I have realized that this is probably one of the better projects I’ve had throughout my college career. Being able to select something I love and have a strong passion for can open up so many career opportunities if I do it right; make connections using social media tools, recognize (reach out to) organizations and people that are making a difference, and creating a personality that truly shows my intentions and passion for the subject.

Beginning my blog in February, and not being very effective in terms of linking my blog with Twitter and other social media tools, not very many visitors came to my blog initially. But after being told that Twitter is a great way to interact with the public and get people interested and curious about your blog, I began to utilize this tool and in return, I have had more people visit my blog based now on the fact that they can just click on a bit.ly link if they want to learn more. I also struggled with the context surrounding my bit.ly link when tweeting my new blog posts to the public. Simply ‘check out my new blog post’ wasn’t getting me hardly any more viewers than I was when I didn’t use Twitter. I learned that in order to get people to click on your link they have to have a reason to. Why should they click on my blog? Because I told them “Butaro Hospital is a miracle worker in Rwanda” and “The Chosen Children’s Village is providing Kenyan orphans an opportunity for a more stable future”. These are engaging and leave those interested in the topic curious to learn more so they click.

As you can see, I’ve only had 116 viewers since I created my blog on February 1st. Although this is pretty insignificant compared to other blogs that can generate this and more in one day, I feel good about the fact that I was able to attract this many viewers in the first three months after having no prior knowledge about WordPress and creating meaningful content. My biggest finding was that when I presented good context around my bit.ly link on Twitter about a new blog post, I received the most traffic. The amount of traffic fluctuates back and forth from week to week, but I know that if I continue to select topics that are interesting and worth informing others about and promote them meaningfully, I can drive more traffic.  

Something that really excited me and gave me insight for great potential was when I received a tweet from BeadforLife, a non-profit organization that’s mission is to create sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of poverty by connecting people worldwide, that thanked me for supporting them. I couldn’t believe that they knew I wrote about their efforts and then actually responded; it was a great feeling, one that I would like to continue. Being that BeadforLife responded to me through Twitter and not a comment on my blog meant that my tweet was visible to them through my hash tag #beadforlife. This is when I truly realized the value of utilizing Twitter when blogging.

After learning about making meaningful connections and providing informative and engaging content, I felt more confident about my blogging and have developed an interest in continuing it after I graduate. I feel that with more time on my hands, I can really get into it, brand myself correctly, and open doors that will lead to my dream career; taking part and promoting those making a difference in the world.

Advertisements

Gardening is more than just a hobby to Christina Kaba’s; it is part of her plan to feed the community of Cape Town, Africa. At age sixty-three, Christina is still managing to head the project she started nearly a decade ago that has been providing families with fresh vegetables from her local gardens.

Christina’s garden plot is one of twenty-eight in the garden project just in the Cape Town area. Combining her plots vegetables with other plots around the area, they are able to produce enough veggies to not only feed the community of Cape Town, but provide for the Harvest for Hope program as well. Being able to garden given any type of surface, Christina claims that a lot of newspaper, cardboard, grass, and composting does the trick.

Christina’s love for gardening is both feeding her community as well as building it. By expanding the amount of gardens, the opportunity for work is available for those that need it. Her efforts to contribute to the selling of fresh produce in the larger Cape Town market has been successful and largely recognized.

Chosen Children International or CCI is an organization that’s mission is to “break the cycle of poverty for orphans and destitute children in developing nations by extending Christ’s love to them. We endeavor to give children the skills necessary to break the poverty cycle by giving them educational opportunities, spiritual and emotional counseling, nutritional support, and by giving them a chance to live in our holistic children’s villages where they will be taught to be effective leaders of their societies.”

Seeing how over 2 million people in Kenya are infected with HIV/AIDS out of the 35 million population, CCI decided it was necessary to incorporate a healthy and safe ‘community’ for the orphans left behind.  With grandparents having to take care of the children after their parents pass, it is great because of the family ties, but usually these older folks can’t provide the proper emotional and psychological nurturing they need, pay for their education, clothing, and so on, making them not exactly fit to care for these children.

The CCI was given twenty acres of land by the Kenyan government that would allow them to create their dream of the Children’s Village. With this acreage, CCI wants to not only provide HIV/AIDS orphans with a safe place to live, but with the opportunity to better their futures; with this goal in mind, the Children’s Village will include elementary and high schools, a technical college, an affordable health clinic, fields where children can raise crops and livestock, and a chapel. Given these, the children will feel part of a community, get an education, care for themselves, and learn skills in farming that will provide them with a much more stable future.

Here is a model of CCI’s finished Children’s Village-

To help the Chosen Children International continue to build their Children’s Village dream in Kenya,  check out  the  volunteer opportunities and other ways to help available!

(CNN) — In northern Uganda, Sarah Omollo, like hundreds of other women, rises early each day to collect shea nuts.

Omollo, who is now in her thirties, has been gathering the nuts since she was a young child, crushing them up and using the oil they produce for things like cooking and body lotion.

Now it is hoped this regional tradition could bring hundreds of women out of poverty and revive the local economy torn apart by years of conflict.

Non-profit organization Beadforlife has brought together 760 women farmers, many rebuilding their lives after two decades of civil war, and started a business processing and selling the nuts they gather.

The shea tree grows throughout Sahelian Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia. But some say the sub species, nilotica, which grows in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, is particularly special.

“Shea butter is commonly associated with West Africa but the trees in northern Uganda produce a high-quality oil that, if compared, is softer and perfect for cosmetics,” said Torkin Wakefield from Beadforlife.

The group is on a mission to bring local shea butter to the international cosmetic and soap market by buying the women’s organic nuts and turning them into “butter.”

Beadforlife says Omollo has been made a coordinator for a buying center in Orum. She was captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1992 when she was 18 years old. Her father was killed by the rebels and she and her sister were abducted.

Omollo is one of the many women in the region trying to rebuild their lives.

“When Beadforlife came here they did a wonderful thing and increased the price of buying shea nuts,” she told Beadforlife. “So even if you just bring a little, you get a lot of money. Life is better because of the shea.”

The women pick the nuts, shell, dry and process them before they are bought. The nuts are then made into butter by a Ugandan presser.

Beadforlife says this year it hopes to press between 20-30 tons of butter, but the aim is to eventually get the women to make it themselves.

“We have plans in the coming years for the women to own a couple of small hand pressers so they can sell us the butter instead of the nuts, so the women can make more money,” Wakefield explained.

But this grassroots organization has much bigger plans for the future. “The hard thing for Ugandans is to build a sustainable market,” Wakefield said. “Many companies have tried and failed in the past.”

“We’re looking at working with international cosmetic companies because our biggest desire is that this becomes an industry way bigger than what our project will do, where the cosmetic companies of the world say we want this ingredient, this is a premium, high-quality ingredient,” she continued.

Guru Nanank Oil Mills is a company that manufactures pure shea butter in the northern town of Lira. It says it already sells its product to cosmetic companies internationally and claims its business can help local communities affected by civil war.

Manager Surjit Singh said: “We work in collaboration with farmers in order to preserve this very high-value species and also educate them to protect the trees.

“The conflict brought poverty to northern Uganda, which affected shea butter production.

“People used to cut the shea trees for charcoal production for domestic usage. However, we have brought awareness to the community and offered cash for shea nuts to the farmers, directly creating a big market for them.”

Singh says that shea nut production is slowly increasing and Beadforlife believes that once there is demand the market could really take off.

“We are talking to several large and small companies and right now they are raving about this product,” Wakefield said.

“I have confidence that once companies start using the product a market will develop. Once a market develops jobs will be created for thousands of people that can harvest nuts across northern Uganda and Southern Sudan.”

For the women farmers it is still one step at a time. Beadforlife is also about to launch a trading process so as well as buying nuts, it will let women trade them for things like ploughs, school books and seeds.

Flo Engol sells the nuts she collects in Okwang to Beadforlife. She was nearly killed by rebels several years ago and said that gathering shea has improved the community in many ways.

“I have more respect from my husband because I am earning money. This has happened to many women,” Engol told Beadforlife.

She added: “Many of the children were forced to leave school during the war, and they are now just drop outs. Having an income will make a difference for all of us.”

Nike Davies Okundaye , also known as ‘Mama Nike”, is an award winning artist from Nigeria that has become the owner of West Africa’s largest art gallery. Her artwork is known around the world and has been sold for thousands of dollars in international auctions.

‘Mama Nike’ has made it her mission to improve the lives of disadvantaged Nigerian women through teaching her techniques in artwork.  By providing these women with free classes and then setting them up with exhibitions that allow them to sell their artwork, these women have not only the opportunity to learn, but the opportunity to sell their creations to provide for their families.

She stresses the importance of teaching Nigerian women how to manage their money so they can successfully provide for their family’s education expenses, food, and medicine if an emergency arises.

By opening her workshop, Okundaye hoped to better the futures of Nigerian women and their families. This woman’s passion was so strong that she wanted to share it, and it appears to be making a huge impact on the lives of so many around her.

Teach what you love and see what happens!

Here’s an article from the New York Times that stresses the impact microfinancing has had on Africa…

Microfinancing gains pace in Africa

By Bosire Nyairo

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2007

NAIROBI — Selling vegetables at a stall in a filthy open-air market in Nairobi, Fatma Amina barely makes enough to feed her four children, let alone give them an education that would lift the family out of poverty.

The Kenyan government receives millions of dollars in aid to fight poverty, but little of it is available to small traders like Amina unless they can put up collateral.

“I hear of donors but where are they?” Amina said.

But that situation may be changing as African countries follow the lead of Asia, where tens of millions of people have obtained small loans, thanks to an explosion of microfinance operations.

Kenya’s Microfinance Act, signed into law late last year, provides a legal framework regulating lenders, known in the industry as microfinance institutions.

“It makes business sense for the government to have a clear policy because this is the fastest growing sector of the economy,” said Winnie Kathurima, a general manager at Equity Bank, which won an international award in 2005 for its role in providing loans to microentrepreneurs.

Microfinance has been around for decades, but has mushroomed in recent years, especially in Asia where nearly 100 million people have access to it, according to the Microcredit Summit Campaign, which hopes to bring such services to 175 million of the world’s poorest families by the end of 2015.

In Africa, the poorest continent, the campaign’s figures show seven million people had access to microcredit at the end of 2005.

Germany will press rich nations at a Group of 8 summit meeting in June to create a microcredit fund for African entrepreneurs as a way to help the continent’s poorest, the international development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said in February.

Anna Awimbo, the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s research director, said, “There’s a long way to go.” She added, “It may look daunting, but there is such a huge potential for growth and that’s the region where we are most likely to see the biggest growth.”

Some governments have already made progress.

Kenya’s partners in the East African Community, Tanzania and Uganda, have also adopted new laws governing the industry, which Awimbo said should allow microlenders who meet certain standards to offer savings accounts, thereby giving them access to more money to lend.

Microfinance shot into the headlines last year when the Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded picked up the Nobel Peace Prize for their grassroots drive to end world poverty through microlending.

Because of the higher unit costs, microcredit interest rates are higher than normal bank rates, often around 15 percent to 35 percent. Yunus’s Grameen Foundation, which promotes access to microcredit, said that was preferable to paying loan sharks or money lenders annual rates of 120 percent to 300 percent.

Operators in Africa may have to adapt the Asian model to the conditions on the continent.

“One obvious difference is the population density,” said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. In Asia, ” you did have population density, which gives economies of scale. I would say that is one of the biggest barriers in Africa.”

“It’s much easier for one bank worker to reach 400 clients who are jam-packed in villages next door to each other than to reach 400 clients spread out in rural areas, which is why so much microfinance in Africa is urban,” Daley-Harris added.

Technology may have some of the answers.

Some operators are looking at using prepaid phone credit and Africa’s rapidly expanding mobile networks to transfer money and make repayments, reducing the need for credit agents to travel from village to village collecting tiny amounts of cash. Better communications and credit monitoring will also help.

Kenya’s new law, for example, encourages lenders to pool information on borrowers’ credit history, drastically reducing the risk of default, said Jean-Philippe Prosper, senior manager for Eastern Africa at the International Finance Corp., the private sector arm of the World Bank.

“International experience suggests that the use of credit information allows banks to reduce loan processing time and cost by 25 percent or more and lower default rates by 40 percent to 80 percent.” Such cost-saving measures could be crucial to future growth.

The Grameen Foundation’s president and chief executive, Alex Counts, said some African countries had already demonstrated ways to nurture microfinance, like Morocco, where new regulation and government backing set off an explosion of microcredit.

“Within six years microfinance outreach went from 10,000 to more than half a million,” Counts said.

“If this kind of growth happens in the most populous countries, then things will start to change very quickly, and if it’s done correctly the G-8 fund could be a big part of that,” he said.

“Africa could catch up with the average country in Asia in a matter of five to eight years.”

Everyone is aware how recycling is important to the world; but would you be even more inclined to recycle if you knew it was helping people out of poverty in Ghana? I think the majority of people would say yes. That’s right; every time you recycle a CapriSun or a Sun Chips bag you’re directly donating material to the women in Ghana who are lifting themselves out of poverty by creating and distributing these bags and purses throughout their villages.

Not only does recycling benefit the people in Ghana, there are many other poverty stricken countries in Africa that are able to generate a small but workable income as well. Poverty in many countries of Africa is so bad that women are left wondering how they are going to send their children to school and most importantly feed them. Recycling has given these mothers a chance to make a difference in their children’s futures.

Recycle, it’s good for the environment and feeds families across the world.

Evan Wadongo Introducing the Solar Powered Lantern

In Kenya money is hard to come by. Kerosene and firewood are the main sources for lighting but the costs are sometimes greater than the average family can afford. The average family lives on less than $1 a day but the costs of kerosene are about $100 a year. With this said, many families are unable to do anything constructive after dark; this includes children not being able to do their homework, which can then lead to a potentially unsuccessful future.

Evan Wadongo, a native from Kenya, was personally affected by the lack of lighting in his village growing up. He was forced to stop doing homework after dark because he couldn’t see and his family couldn’t afford to use the kerosene for that purpose. In result, Evan said he rarely finished his homework and received poor exam grades. He knew that these conditions would only damper his future so he decided to do something.

Attending a Kenyan University, Evan discovered solar power. From here he began to experiment with creating his own solar-powered LED lantern that would allow his village to access light after dark cost free as well as better their futures.

At the young age of 23, Evan Wandongo was named a CNN Hero for creating and bringing solar-powered light to Kenya. His plans are to continue spreading his lanterns to other rural areas that are unable to function after dark and allow these people to spend their money on food rather than the high costs of kerosene. Bringing these solar powered lanterns to areas that need it, he hopes to directly improve education, reduce poverty and hunger.

It all sparked in a South by Southwest Interactive conference out of Austin, Texas; sitting together, two bloggers decided they needed to do something to support the disaster relief in Japan due to the tsunami tragedy on Friday March 11th. They pulled together a website, had a logo designed, created the hashtag #sxswcares on Twitter, and began communicating to the world.

South by Southwest established a partnership with the Red Cross, an organization that people are comfortable donating to, so that they could raise money to support disaster relief in Japan.

Through Twitter and the use of their hashtag, they were able to draw people in and guide them to the website that then allowed them to donate to the Red Cross.

People aren’t just retweeting this hashtag, they are actually taking it upon themselves to donate to a good cause.

Within the first two hours, they had raised $2,000 and by the end of the day it became $7,200.  Now only being just four days into the campaign, the result of this effort has become that of $25,000.

Samsung joined in on the effort and agreed to donate $1 every time someone tweets #sxswcares followed by a @samsungtweet.

It is amazing how social media can communicate and encourage so many people to come together for the greater good. Any effort, small or large, can become as big as you see it…or share it.

So sign in and start tweeting, the impact is greater than you may think!

 

Make a donation at http://sxsw4japan.org/

Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped

The Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped is an organization that rescues mentally disabled people from their poor environments where they are unable to be treated properly for their conditions. They are in poor environments based on the lack of funds to pay for hospital visits, being too much for their families to deal with, the stress they get from neighbors, and the lack of places to confine these people from hurting themselves and others, or simply running away.
Due to this organization, thousands of children and adults have been taken out of confinement, neglect, and abusive encounters and brought back to their families in better mental conditions. Although The Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped has helped many, they have reached less than 1% of the population living with mental disabilities. Restrictions to helping more individuals are some of the following, listed on the KSMH website:
• Lack of early identification and assessment services for children with intellectual disabilities.
• Inaccessible basic & specialized services especially those needed by mothers and families of persons with intellectual disabilities.
• The presence of insensitive & discriminative legal and institutional policy frameworks
• High poverty levels that has increased the incidence of intellectual disabilities in the country and affected its management.
• Deeply entrenched social, cultural and religious stigma associated with intellectual disability.

The CEO, Edah Maina, has been working toward the goal of ‘actively promoting identification, acceptance, inclusion and equal opportunities and all rights for persons with intellectual disabilities and their families in Kenya’. Although it has been hard to implement these rights into government form, the organization is continuing to aid those with mental disabilities and bring them back to their families for a more stable and humane lifestyle.

To demonstrate the extremity of the poor living environments and suffering these mentally disabled Kenyans go through for years, here is a inside story from CNN reporters.