Tag Archives: You Can Change the World

You Can Change the World: Help People Find a Job

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The economy’s in the crapper. The list of people I know who are unemployed (or under-employed, like me) continues to grow. But what can we do about it? Help each other out, for starters. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul Social Media Breakfast event on Friday, local recruiter Paul DeBettignies said it best: “For the love of God help somebody else.”

So let’s try doing that. I’ve come across a number of resources to help job seekers lately, so let’s share.

The Online Job Hunt
First up, is the presentation Paul DeBettignies gave at the Social Media Breakfast. You can actually check out three of his recent presentations on using social media in the job search, getting the most out of Linked In and what to do after you have a “killer” resume. I’ve only seen the social media presentation, but I gleaned some good stuff:

  • “It’s not the size of your network that matters, but how you use it.”
  • Using Google to find people on Linked In you can’t find with Linked In’s search.
  • What to do once you get a job (thank people, tell people, ask if your company has other job openings, keep up with your network, look for your next job).
  • Ask why you didn’t get the job. Nine times out of ten they won’t tell you, but when they do it can be huge.

You miss out on a lot by not seeing the presentation live, but hopefully you can find a few nuggets.

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You Can Change the World: $5 Raincoats & Shoes

You can change the world this Christmas by buying raincoats for the homeless or shoes for the, um, shoeless. Two great, simple and cheap charity ideas:

50,000 Shoes in 50 Days
Anne Jackson teamed up with Soles4Souls to issue a challenge: Buy 50,000 pairs of shoes in 50 days. $5 will buy you two pairs of shoes. Soles4Souls gets shoes to people who need them, helping to keep them safe and healthy. There’s less than a week left in the challenge and more tan 40,000 pairs of shoes to go. There’s been some talk that this effort is more talk than action, that lots of people are talking about it but few are donating. That’s lame. I bought a pair of shoes (OK, two pairs). You can, too.

Dreaming of a Dry Christmas
I’ve talked about invisiblepeople.tv before, the site telling the stories of real homeless people. The man behind it, Mark Horvath, is working with homeless people in Los Angeles and has seen a need for raincoats. Michael Buckingham of Holy Cow Creative wants to send Mark 100 coats. He’s dreaming of a dry Christmas. $4.29 is all it takes to buy a raincoat for a homeless person. I bought one. It’s not much, but tell that to the homeless person getting soaked.

You Can Change the World: Redefining Christmas

For all intents and purposes Christmas has become a secular holiday. Sure, if you dig down deep the root idea behind all the gift giving, Christmas trees and Santa Clauses can be traced back to Jesus. But you have to do a lot of digging, and despite the continual reminders about the ‘reason for the season,’ Jesus really takes a backseat.

That’s why I like projects like Advent Conspiracy and Water for Christmas. The idea behind Advent Conspiracy is to remind people what Christmas is all about and encourage a radical redefinition and reinterpretation of the holiday. Water for Christmas is a challenge that as Americans we spend $450 billion on Christmas, yet it would only take $144 billion to ensure that everyone has access to clean water. (Shane Claiborne writes a little more passionately about these issues as related to Buy Nothing Day.)

As a family we’re trying to redefine what Christmas means for us. This year we’re instituting a new idea. Half the money we spend on one another is going to be donated to a cause. Part of the Christmas fun will be picking what cause (or causes) you’d like to donate your Christmas money to. It means we’ll get half the usual presents from each other and we’ll be able to donate more. It’s a small step, but I really like the idea.

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You Can Change the World: Paso a Paso

Jenni White's painting of life in GuatemalaA friend of mine and his family spent six months in Guatemala finalizing the adoption of their second child. That experience inspired them both artistically and practically:

“It is a land of great beauty, but marred by devastating poverty and instability. Guatemala impacted us spiritually as well as aesthetically. We saw poverty and injustice unmasked. The reality of poverty—that some people cannot provide for their families no matter how hard they work—was overwhelming.”

In response, my friend’s wife Jenni created a series of 10 paintings depicting the life and people of Guatemala. They also got involved in Paso a Paso, a nonprofit organization that’s trying to build a sustainable community in a small neighborhood. They’re focusing on education, clean water, safe stoves and job training.

Most families in this community cook with open fires in their home, and as a result the World Health Organization reports that the leading cause of death for children under 5 in Guatemala is falling into these fires. That’s astounding. Paso a Paso is working to replace in-home cooking fires with enclosed wood-burning stoves made from insulated steel drums. You can buy a stove for $130.

In addition to donations, Paso a Paso also sells a few items made locally, including blankets, purses and stationary. Jenni just got back from a trip to Guatemala to work in the community and connect with the people.

Consider supporting Paso a Paso, purchasing some of their locally made products, or buying one of Jenni’s paintings (contact her through JenniWhite.com).

You Can Change the World: Invisible People

Mark is unemployed, his home is in foreclosure and he’s six weeks from homelessness. Again. Sixteen years ago Mark was homeless in Hollywood. And now on the brink of homeless again, Mark is telling the story of the homeless. Armed with a small video camera and a slow laptop, Mark is talking to homeless people, capturing their story, and sharing the unedited footage on his vlog, Invisible People.

Mark is an example that homelessness can happen to anyone. I’ve talked before about homelessness being on the rise, and as the economy tanks it’s only going to get worse. Watch Mark’s videos and start seeing the homeless as people. Remember the words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” (Matthew 25:40 NIV). And take some action. Support a local shelter. Donate to a food bank.

And somebody hire Mark. Or better yet, somebody fund Invisible People so Mark can continue to share these stories.

You Can Change the World: Moving to Uganda to Adopt

Francis holding a picture of his family.In 2005 the Palmer family of Tulsa, Okla. started the process to adopt Francis, an orphaned child in Uganda. In January the Palmers—all six of them—will be moving to Jinja, Uganda to unite their family under one roof and finalize their adoption of Francis.

It’s a crazy story, and it keeps getting crazier. In a nutshell, the Palmers were granted guardianship of Francis but fine print stipulated that they had to come back to Uganda in three years to finalize the adoption, essentially fostering him for three years. Since the U.S. won’t grant a visa under those circumstances, Francis is stuck in Uganda. So his family is coming to him.

How amazing. Stories like this bring tears to my eyes. Adam Palmer, the dad of the family, is a friend of mine (I interviewed him back in 2005 about his book Taming a Liger: Unexpected Spiritual Lessons from Napoleon Dynamite) and I’m so excited to watch their story continue. You can read a newspaper article about their story and follow the journey on their blog.

Homeless For a Night

Homeless For a NightI wrote this article after my homeless experience and hoped to find a publication interested in printing it (and paying me!). So far no such luck, so I think it’s safe to print it here and at least share it. If you’re interested in helping homeless families in the Twin Cities, you can still support my Facebook cause (thanks to those who already did show their support!). For more on homelessness, I highly recommend the videos at Invisible People.

I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never had to wonder where I was going to spend the night. I’ve never had to contemplate sleeping in my car. I’ve never had to consider who I would call if I lost my house and had nowhere to go. I’ve never had to consider how anyone could possibly sleep outside in 42-degree weather.

Until last month.

On Oct. 16, 2008 I spent the night homeless.

The Not-So-Homeless Experience
Now in the interest of full disclosure I should let you know that I signed up for the experience. I didn’t lose my house. I didn’t have to consider sleeping in my car. I wasn’t actually homeless. I joined more than 500 teens and adults from across the Twin Cities who became homeless for a night and camped out at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to raise cash and awareness for homelessness. Our efforts raised more than $11,000 for Families Moving Forward and Project Home, two organizations that provide emergency shelters in the Twin Cities.

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You Can Change the World: Mama to Mama

baby hatsMy wife has been on a craft kick the past few months like I’ve never seen.

One of the coolest projects she’s talked about lately is called Mama to Mama. The idea is for crafty people (i.e., not me) to spread some peace and handmade love. The crafty mind behind the big idea is Amanda Blake Soule, author of the Soule Mama blog and the book The Creative Family. She describes Mama to Mama like this:

“The simple act of creating something with intention and heart—for someone in need, can have a beautiful effect on the lives of others. We can, indeed, do something to create a more just and peaceful world … all with the simple, mindful and crafty work of our hands.”

Their first project is to make hats for newborn babies in Haiti. They’ll be distributed with Safe Birthing Kits to help reduce Haiti’s maternal mortality ratio (1 in 40, which is the highest in the Western Hemisphere. My wife already made a pile of the hats.

Since I’m not at all crafty, I’ll just applaud and support these efforts. Changing the world through craftiness. That’s cool.

You Can Change the World: Compassion Bloggers

Nick Challies playing with a child in the Dominican RepublicIn February the child sponsorship organization Compassion International sent a team of bloggers to Uganda. They’re doing it again this week, sending a team to the Dominican Republic. This trip doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention, but the stories are just as powerful. My favorite is reading 8-year-old Nick Challies’ blog and reading about two sisters meeting the kids they sponsor:

“My sponsored child, Rosemary, is so nice. We had so much fun and we swung on the swings together. I asked her lots of questions: Her favorite color is pink, and she is nine years old … just like me!”

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