Tag Archives: You Can Change the World

Geeks Doing Good: Help Mark Horvath Win $50,000

The SXSW Interactive Festival is going on this weekend in Austin, Texas. It’s a bigtime collection of web geeks (and yes, I so wish I could be there). The cool thing about web geeks is that they care about causes. There are a lot of online competitions happening this weekend to raise money for various causes, all in geeky fun.

There are probably others I’ve missed, but I’m most excited about Mark Horvath and the Pepsi Challenge. Here’s how it works: He’s competing against two others to see who can get the most votes by midnight on Monday. Winner gets a $50,000 grant from Pepsi. You vote by tweeting “#RefreshGary” and you can vote every two hours. All the details are on Pepsi’s Facebook page (vote on Twitter, details on Facebook?).

I’ve talked about Mark before. He’s a tireless advocate for the homeless. When he lost his job in the fall of 2008 he was only seven weeks away from being homeless. Again. He spent a year in the 1990s living on the streets of Hollywood. But instead of worrying about being homeless himself, he went out and started InvisiblePeople.tv to tell the story of other homeless people. He’s been doing that since, and the entire time he’s been on the verge of homelessness.

He lives in a cockroach apartment in Los Angeles. I interviewed him for an article a few months back and the contents of his fridge was a bottle of water, milk and a discount veggie tray. He was eating dinner at the homeless shelter, not because he wanted to, but because he had to.

If anybody could use $50,000 from Pepsi, it’s Mark.

Mark started InvisiblePeople.tv with next to nothing. Yet he’s shared the uncensored stories of over 100 homeless people, from Los Angeles to New York, Florida to Seattle, New Orleans to St. Paul. He’s done incredible things with no resources. Imagine what he could do with $50,000.

I get kind of tired of these social network voting things where we spam our friends and the most popular person wins. But I can hardly consider telling my friends about Mark Horvath to be spam. If you get tired of it, you can ignore me. If it makes you mad, stop following me. If I lose a bunch of followers because I tried to help my friend, so be it. If you don’t like it then you can give Mark $50,000 and I’ll be quiet. I just want to help my friend.

So I’m asking you to help Mark out. We only have until midnight tomorrow. So hop on your Twitter account and slap a “#RefreshGary” tag on your tweets every two hours. If you don’t have a Twitter account, set one up just for today. Why not?

Geeks doing good. What’s not to love?

Update: Here’s a story Mark shared from my own backyard. Pearl calls a shelter in St. Paul her home. She wants to know if you’re kind or cold-hearted? This why Mark deserves this grant from Pepsi, so he can continue to share these stories and make us realize the reality of homelessness in our own cities.

Pearl from InvisiblePeople.tv on Vimeo.

A Boy Draws

A boy draws at a makeshift camp in Champ de Mars in Port au Prince on January 25, 2010.

I came across this picture in a CNN article today that gave the numbers of the tragedy. The stories are always more interesting, like this boy drawing in a makeshift camp at Champ de Mars in Port au Prince. I wonder what his story is.

But he’s drawing a picture.

I wish he knew that kids here in the United States are drawing pictures for him. How cool would it be if we could get his picture for Color4aCause?

I hope you’ll consider making a donation to help kids like this. Color4aCause: Make a donation, get a picture.

Mark Horvath on CNN.com

InvisiblePeople.tv's Mark Horvath on CNN.comMy day started by seeing the face of my friend Mark Horvath on the front page of CNN.com. Mark Horvath is a tireless advocate for the homeless and founder of InvisiblePeople.tv. Earlier this year Mark did a national road trip and spent a day in the Twin Cities, giving us a chance to hang out. CNN did an in-depth feature on his work, including a video and a lengthy article.

It’s a pretty great feature and hopefully a boost to Mark’s efforts to help the homeless. As the article notes, “He isn’t making money from this, but he’s doing this to make a difference,” says Heather Meeker. “You can’t say that about many people.”

Mark has been living on the ragged edge just shy of homelessness himself (again) for more than a year now. He barely pays his bills. He doesn’t have health insurance. His ghetto apartment sounds kind of scary. And yet he treated my wife and I to dinner when he was in town. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s an inspiration.

And he’s not just a jolly do-gooder. He’s fiercely passionate about his cause and will get worked up at injustice, the way we all should. I think he actually allows the things he sees to wreck him, to bowl over his walls and break his heart. Most of us (myself included) can only take so much and we turn away. I’ll admit I’ve only watched a fraction of the videos on InvisiblePeople.tv. They’re just too brutal. But any time I need that shot of reality, I know where to find it. Mark is a constant challenge to my own life of comfort and ease.

It’s cool to see him featured on CNN (getting higher billing than Obama’s announcement that 30,000 troops are going to Afghanistan) and I hope it translates to more support. Right now he runs the site on donations and pays rent with a temp job at a homeless shelter. I’ve actually been shocked that some homeless organization hasn’t just started paying him to run InvisiblePeople.tv and keep it going. It’d be an incredible investment and a no-brainer marketing move, even if the organization was an invisible partner—I think Mark does that much good for telling the real story of homelessness.

I Salute You, Mustache Men

Today is the last day of November, which means it’s the end of the Movember charity drive, an event where men agreed to go clean-shaven and then grow mustaches for the month of November in order to raise money for men’s health. Movember specifically fights prostate and testicular cancer and donations go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Since its inception in 2003, Movember has raised more than $47 million for men’s health. That’s a lot of money for mustaches.

I first heard about this event when I saw my old friend Kyle and my brother Rick participating this year. I really wanted to join them, but my wife said I wouldn’t get kissed for a month if I grew a mustache. That’s a long time to go without getting kissed by your wife, so instead of participating I’ll have to make do with supporting them. Cancer is one of those things that inevitably impacts everyone. My grandpa is a prostate cancer survivor—and it’s through efforts like these that hopefully there can be more survivors.

Despite my wife’s distaste for the mustache fashion statement, I have to say that I love these kinds of charity events. As a culture I think we place entirely too much importance on personal appearance, and anything we can do to thumb our nose at the status quo while supporting a charity is just awesome. (This coming from the guy whose only haircut in the past two years has been shaving his head for a cause.) Maybe next year I’ll forsake getting kissed for a good cause (but don’t bet on it).

So even though I couldn’t join my mustachioed brethren, I salute your Movember efforts and the mighty hair spreading across your upper lip. Every mustache makes a difference. You can support Kyle or Rick by making a donation on their respective pages.

And what’s a post about mustaches without an homage to them in song from none other than the Tick? We could all use a little mustache feelin’:

Share Your Leftovers

Musician, blogger and Compassion advocate Shaun Groves is in India right on another Compassion bloggers tour. These are pretty incredible trips (they did Uganda last year and the Dominican Republic last fall) and admittedly hard to read.

This morning I checked in on his blog and came across this post about leftovers. It turns out to be the same pitch he gave at a concert in Minnesota a couple weeks back that I happened to attend (which is great, because now it’s in writing, not just in my head). It’s a powerful statement on how God provides for us, but he only wants us to take what we need for each day. It’s an Old Testament rule that Paul repeats in the New Testament: Share your leftovers so everybody can have enough.

In America, it seems, we’re gorging ourselves on leftovers while the rest of the world starves. Using this idea of leftovers, Shaun challenges people to sponsor children through Compassion using their leftovers. And there are tons of other ways to do it. That’s part of why I keep doing these ‘you can change your world’ posts.

It’s easier than you think to change the world.

You Can Change the World: With a Tomato

Twin Citizens can head to Bachman’s this weekend to support Children’s Home Society & Family Services (our adoption agency). For $5 you can get all the fixings to pot a tomato plant right in the store (fun for the kids!) and 100% of the money will go to CHSFS. It’s an easy Mother’s Day gift or a cheap way to add a little green for you apartment dwellers.

It’s this Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bachman’s. You can find more details at the CHSFS site.

You Can Change the World: Vote for Homeless

I’ve talked about the site invisiblepeople.tv before and the incredible work being done there. Mark is the man behind the site, formerly homeless himself, unemployed and on the verge of being homeless again. He’s been holding on for quite a while now and it’s great to see the site continue and help people start seeing the homeless.

You can help Mark and invisiblepeople.tv by simply posting a comment on this blog entry, thus giving your vote to invisiblepeople.tv to win a $3,000 grant. So follow that link and comment and you can keep Mark’s site going.

How’s that for easy way to do something important?

You Can Change the World: One Day Without Shoes

One Day Without ShoesI went barefoot today as a part of Toms One Day Without Shoes. It’s a simple idea to raise awareness for the millions of people who go without shoes every day and face dire consequences. Not having shoes can lead to cuts and sores that can get infected and lead to serious medical problems. Some kids can’t even go to school unless they have shoes. And the fact that really grabbed me: Approximately one million people in Ethiopia suffer from a debilitating and disfiguring condition (podoconiosis) that’s completely preventable with shoes.

Something as simple as shoes (like water) can make a big difference. I never would have thought of shoes as being the difference between life and death before. But that’s the reality.

If you’re not familiar with them, Toms is a company that wants to put shoes on shoeless children. For every pair of shoes you buy, they’ll donate a pair to a child in need. It’s a cool concept (though I haven’t bought any of Toms shoes). Another way to help put kids in shoes is with the organization Soles4Souls (I mentioned them a while back).

I don’t know if I actually raised much awareness going barefoot (other than Twitter and this blog), but I do think it was valuable. Last fall I went homeless for a night and I remember someone made a comment (I don’t know if it was directed at me or not) that they didn’t understand what good it did to pretend to be homeless. I get that perspective. Pretending I don’t have shoes and going barefoot for a day doesn’t really help a child with no shoes. And going homeless for a night doesn’t directly help a real homeless person. But it’s not so much about directly helping them as it is about changing me.

Continue reading You Can Change the World: One Day Without Shoes

You Can Change the World: Easter Well in Ethiopia

Donkey carrying waterDuring our week in Ethiopia we couldn’t help but think about water. The water that flowed from the tap would make you sick. And it did. I spent a day sidelined by it. You couldn’t brush your teeth with it, you had to be careful not to drink it while showering, you had to be careful with dishes “washed” in it.

Everywhere we went, even in Addis Ababa, we’d see these yellow containers that looked like they carried gasoline. But they were for water. When we drove to Hossana we saw even more of them. People would be walking along the road carrying them. Donkeys would be loaded down with them. Whenever the road went over a bridge or a depression where there was some source of water we’d see people crowded around a muddy, brown patch of water filling up their jugs. This was their drinking water. At least what came out of the tap in our guesthouse looked clean, even though it wasn’t.

I’ve known all along that this is what happens in places like Ethiopia. People walk miles just to get water, and the water they do get can make them sick. But seeing it is something else. Getting sick from it yourself is a different experience altogether.

And that’s why I love what charity water is doing. Tomorrow they’re going to start drilling a well in Ethiopia with money raised from Twitter. They’re call it a Twestival.

Continue reading You Can Change the World: Easter Well in Ethiopia

You Can Change the World: Saving Kids from Poverty

Shaun Groves spray-painting a rock at Northwestern: 163 kids sponsored!Last week indie rock star (wait, is that an oxymoron?) Shaun Groves came to town.

I’ve tried to keep up with Shaun since his debut album came out back when I was just getting started at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. We interviewed him at GMA and he played at the our offices and I think we talked him into writing for us. I was always struck by how genuine he seemed. A few years ago he launched a blog, but it wasn’t a typical rock star blog. For starters he called it a “Shlog” (which is where that ‘shlog envy’ comment came from), but more importantly he blogged about the real stuff of life and not just ‘hey look, I’ve got an album coming out’ or ‘we’re rocking in Georgia!’ and then no posts until the next album. Plus, he tried to kick Amy Grant’s ass (OK, not really).

Lately Shaun’s been doing this whole Compassion blogger thing and actually comments on people’s blogs. He still does some music in there somewhere, but he gives it all away for free.

Continue reading You Can Change the World: Saving Kids from Poverty