Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Blog Location

We didn't expect to have it up so fast, but the new Streams of Hope blog is up and running! Keep in mind, it's a work in progress. We need to complete the Bios section, add more original photography, get it linked to our Facebook Fan Page, and a few other things.

Regardless, it's looking so good we thought we'd share.

Please feel free to give us your feedback here. We'll keep this account open for the next week to make sure no one loses us in the move.

Thanks!

See you at:

www.streamsofhope.wordpress.com

Saturday, August 29, 2009

We're Moving!

The Streams of Hope blog is getting a new home! We're moving over to Wordpress this week, and we couldn't be more excited.

We'll be taking our favourite posts from the past year, and giving them a jazzy new look. It should be cleaner, hold tonnes of pictures, and be more organized and navigable.

Switching content will take time, so bare with the process. We promise you won't be disappointed.

There isn't a grand re-opening date set, but we'll let you know when we're all moved in (hopefully by next Saturday). Once we've launched the new blog, we'll give you another week or so to get your RSS feed updated, and to figure out where we are. We'll keep the Twitter account the same, so check it if you've lost us.

Looking forward to another great year with you! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment thus far.

See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Be the Change Challenge - Continued

Engine's Be the Change Challenge started a lot of dialogue on Twitter and Facebook about how non-profits can best utilize social media as a marketing tool. If you checked out yesterday's post, then you really need to have a look at the Lessons Learned follow up from today. In fact, before you read the rest of what I'm going to say here, please read those two blogs so that you can see the context from which I'm working.

Streams of Hope was established to connect businesses and individuals with non-profit organizations in developing nations, that are efficient, effective, and trustworthy. This means that we work with people we have solid relationships with. I like to call this a community-centred approach to giving.

'Community' is a buzzword that's floating around a lot in social media circles. (FYI, part of my work life is spent online, building community for SOH, Engine Communications, for myself, and for *hopefully* many others.) Pro bloggers like Chris Brogan and Danny Brown have started this discussion, and many of us are following their lead.

What does community have to do with SOH?

Everything!

We're in the preliminary stages of setting up a movement in our local community (Belleville, Ontario, Canada, the World) to combat global poverty. This is global folks. Big. Big time. Huge.

I can't overstate the importance of right now--in this moment--building a community of people who will invest their time, energy and resources into groups like ours. As the world continues to shrink, we're seeing the absolute necessity of becoming part of a bigger dream than we alone could have. SOH is one piece of a multi-dimensional puzzle that's building the framework to see poverty eradicated in our time.

Who are they players?

You. Me. Everyone inbetween.

The reason I blog so much about what other people are doing is because I believe we reap what we sow. Right now, SOH isn't nearly as active as it will be in 3-5 years. We're in platform building times. That's why we need to help others who are where we want to be. It's time to find our place as part of a bigger community. This is of the utmost importance.

I'm passionate about social justice. If you're reading this, you must be too. But sometimes I forget how important it is to stay active and involved even when I'm hundreds of miles away from the situation.

And I do forget.

Like you, I have a job, family, and other responsibilities. Sometimes I feel like I'm wading through sand up to my knees. Sometimes I don't want to fight. I get tired. But lately that is shifting in me. I believe it is in you too.

What's changing?

Global consciousness.

You, and I, and SOH are a part of that. The online community I live in is getting bigger. It's your community as well. And I'm here to tell you it's as real as the one you physically inhabit. It's members are scattered, but even in Ontario there is a strong contingent of activists. We're moving in tandem like never before. The feedback I've gotten both yesterday and today have proven that to me. That's reignited the fire in me to push for change.

And it's so easy. You can get on board.

How?

Join me on Twitter. Follow SOH on Facebook. Check out Chris' blog, and Danny's blog. Talk to people like Shannon Boudjema, Callum Pinkney, Alex Sancton, Laura Nichol, and Charlotte Barker. Engage these activists in conversation. Become a part of our community. Vote for the Global Consciousness Panel at the SXSW conference; let them know that social justice belongs online.

Who are these people? What are these things? Nation changers; the heavy hitting kind. That's who. And that's the community you can belong to.

What's SOH doing right now?

We're joining a global movement to end injustice. You are part of it. I am part of it. We all need each other. That's true community.

Now it's your turn. Follow the links, read the blogs, join the movement. We need you.



If my pleas and ranting don't move you to action, this video will. I watch it everytime I get complacent. Gut-wrenching. Why do we not feel this in our bones everyday?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Be the Change Challenge

Hey All!

I need your help...

Well, I don't, but World Vision Canada does.

I've decided to try an experiment with all this social media stuff. The details are at the Engine Room blog.

It's pretty simple. Just follow @wvcanadanews on Twitter, and I'm going to donate to them.

Why?

To make a point.

Social media revolutionalizes the way we can get involved with our favourite charities (SOH included--follow us on Twitter and Facebook). It makes giving back to others easy, quick and affordable.

And the challenge isn't just about giving to a worthwhile cause. It's about uniting community and passion in the SM realm.

But I can't do it alone. Please take a look at the blog for all the details. Write a comment. Share on your Facebook or RT on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Happy World Humanitarian Day!

What a phenomenal morning!

First, it's World Humanitarian Day (#WorldHumanitarianDay on Twitter), and people are motivated, engaged, and getting involved. I'm not going to make this post too long, because I've blogged about this very special occassion at the Engine Room. All I can say is THANK YOU to all of the people who are working with SOH, and all social justice organizations around the world, for your dedication.

Your bravery, love, courage, and hope inspire us daily.


We've been connected with some amazing groups here at SOH. Thanks to World Vision Canada and Australia, CARE Canada, One Day's Wages, Hero Holiday. All their links can be found on this blog (check the interviews tag).

Second, today the Top 30 Under 30 Tweeters were announced by Len Kendall and his panel of all star judges. Our own Bryna Jones, PR Director here at SOH, made the list! Congrats Bryna!



Also, some of you have been asking what SOH has been getting up to in our local community. We've been on a bit of a hiatus over the summer, but the fall has many exciting ventures, and adventures in store. (Hint: They involve our superstar tech wizard Nathan McCready)



Consider supporting Nathan and his humanitarian efforts by checking out his website, Shift8.ca

If you're not already following us on Twitter and Facebook, cick the links and get involved!

Have a great day!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Interview: Kevin McCort, President CARE Canada, Part Two


Kevin with a child in Kibera during celebrations for the “Day of the African Child.”

ME: There's been a lot of debate recently surrounding foreign aid. In your opinion, what does the future of foreign aid look like?

Kevin: Yes, lots of welcome debate, but I’m worried that the message the public is hearing (which are not always what people are saying) is that Aid Doesn’t Work. My counter-message is “Aid Does Work… if it’s done the right way”.

Just look at the example I mentioned of the village savings and loans program in Zimbabwe. There’s an aid program that is successfully building prosperity in a country with one of the worst economies in the world. Or there’s the community garden I visited in Zimbabwe. There CARE has combined conservation farming with village savings and loans. In Zimbabwe there are food shortages and food is very expensive. But the 87 families participating in that community garden are now fairly food-secure. They’ve increased their crop yields, with the VS&L they can afford agricultural tools and inputs, and they’re producing enough to sell for income. I’ve got a great photo of one woman named Rumbizwi Seminrufo proudly holding up a handful of ripe tomatoes and grinning from ear to ear. She’s living proof that, if you do it right, even in the most challenging environments, aid can work.

For people who are interested in the debate about aid, there are three books they should read: Paul Collier’s “The Bottom Billion”, William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” and Peter Singer’s “The Life You Can Save”. Collier outlines in a very convincing way “where” foreign aid should be given. The “bottom billion” are the citizens of those countries where – at best – things have stagnated over the past 20-30 years. For many people in places like Chad, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Haiti, things have gotten worse over time, and our aid should be channeled to the poorest of the poor countries. “The White Man’s Burden” outlines how ‘official development assistance’ (i.e. ODA, or aid given by governments, mostly to governments) has failed to eradicate poverty. There is plenty to debate in the book, but while Easterly points out the failings of official assistance, he often points to the success of work by NGOs. Finally, Peter Singer makes a very compelling ethical case that we in the rich world simply haven’t tried to eradicate poverty. He acknowledges the weakness pointed out by Easterly, but puts it into context – the amount the West has invested in ODA over the past 30 years is equal to one dinner/evening out per North American per year. So how can we expect that modest amount to “end poverty”? Peter says that the time to do more is upon us, and that NGOs have proven that we can make a difference.

Ultimately, these arguments point to a radical scaling up of developmental assistance. We actually have to try harder and we must channel the bulk of this assistance through civil society organizations who are the most effective. The only way this will happen though is if the tax-paying public hear the message that Aid Does Work, and demand that their tax dollars, and their charitable giving, go through the most effective channels to make it happen.

ME: How can our readers get involved with CARE Canada?

Kevin: Well I’d say the most important thing is for them to start by getting informed and active on development issues generally. Find out what is happening in the world. There are far too many forgotten crises right now – Gaza, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Pakistan. The mainstream media gave them their 15 minutes and moved on, but the suffering didn’t end when the coverage did. Imagine if your readers took just half an hour each day to learn something new about a development or humanitarian issue, then shared that information with their friends and family. Now if all those people then shared with *their* friends, and then all those people went and wrote letters to their local news media asking “Why aren’t you talking about this?” That’s the beginning of a groundswell for action.

CARE Canada has lots of avenues for people to get informed about what we’re doing, and what’s happening in the world.
There’s our web site
We’re active on Facebook
We’re on Twitter: @KevinMcCort and @CARE_Package
We have a Youtube page with some great videos.

For people who want to support CARE’s work, we just launched this great new online tool that empowers anyone to become a fundraiser and awareness-raiser: www.care.ca/events. With the information and resources there you can organize anything from a small charity bake sale to a full gala ball, or even just turn a personal event like a birthday or anniversary into a fundraiser.

If you want to make a different AND challenge yourself to test your limits, this coming January CARE Canada will hold a “Climb for CARE”. We’ll take a group of Canadians to Tanzania to scale Mount Kilimanjaro. That will be an experience to remember for a lifetime. More information on the climb will be coming to the CARE Canada web site soon.


ME: Why are you so passionate about social justice?

Kevin: I know that it is possible to help people have a better life. I know there are people whose lives are incredibly difficult (I’ve met many). Knowing these two facts makes any other choice about what to do with my life impossible, because I know that I can make a difference. As we say about the women with whom we work “She has the power to change her world, you have the power to help her do it”. I take that personally.

ME: Anything else you'd like to add?

Kevin: There’s one statistic that has always interested me – and concerned me. Canadians are very generous. Canadians have also always been very involved in global issues and ensuring Canada plays its part in the world. But of all the charity giving Canadians do every year, less than five per cent goes to causes outside of Canada. I think that is a statistic that would surprise most Canadians. It’s definitely something they should be aware of, and should think about.


A woman who had just graduated from village saving and loans program in Masvingo province, Zimbabwe , at the ceremony Kevin attended. She is showing the rabbits she now owns thanks to her participation in the program.


This is Rumbizwi Seminrufo, the woman in the community garden in Zimbabwe.


Kevin talks to Pauline Muthoni, the entrepreneur scrap metal dealer who started her business thanks to a CARE microfinance loan.

Make sure to check out the links that Kevin mentioned, and get inovlved in this amazing organization.

Thanks to Kevin for your generosity in sharing the CARE Canada vision with Streams of Hope. And the whole team at CARE Canada: What you do is no small feat. Your passion and dedication are to be commended.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Interview: Kevin McCort, President of CARE Canada


What I enjoy about Kevin McCort, is that you can tell he genuinely loves his work. When someone's passion shines through to that extent, I think we can all agree that's when we get excited about a cause.

The work that CARE Canada does around the world to empower and equip a generation of women and girls to better themselves and their communities, is one of the most noble efforts in the aid community out there today. I'm so thrilled that Kevin offered to share the work of CARE Canada with our readers.

This is part one of a two part blog. Read, absorb, and support CARE.



ME: For those of us who don't know, what is CARE Canada's vision and mission?

Kevin: In essence, it can be summed up in four words – Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty.

CARE is a global force dedicated to defending dignity and fighting poverty by empowering the world's most vulnerable and greatest resource for change: women and girls.

We seek a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security.

Recognizing that women and children suffer disproportionately from poverty, CARE places special emphasis on working with women to create permanent social change. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of HIV, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity and protect natural resources.

Another very important part of CARE’s development philosophy is participation, consultation and empowerment. We believe that, in order to be successful, our job is not to tell communities what they need and what they should do. When CARE goes into a community we ask them what they need, and we help them build their own solutions. That’s why 96 per cent of people who work in CARE field offices and on CARE projects are not foreign expatriates, they are people hired and trained from within the communities themselves. By working in this way, CARE: creates programs that respect and adapt to the unique needs and culture of the community; builds the economy of the community through employment; and ensures that when CARE leaves, the skills and knowledge stay in the community and do not leave with us.

ME: What is the history of CARE?

Kevin: I’ll bet most of your readers, at one time or another, have heard or used the term “care package”. A basket of food, some clothing, or just some money for a son or daughter away at university. We send our loved ones “care packages” all the time. But I’ll bet most of your readers don’t know that every time they use the term “care package”, they’re talking about us.

Over 60 years ago, at the end of World War II, much of Europe was almost destroyed. Millions of people had no homes, no income, no way to feed or clothe their families. So Canadians and Americans began filling boxes with food, clothing and other basic necessities and sending them to needy people in Europe. The first CARE Packages. That’s how CARE was born.

When the immediate need in Europe was over, CARE spread out across the globe. Over the years, CARE's work has expanded as it addresses the world's most threatening problems. In the 1950s, CARE expanded into emerging nations; in the 1960s, it pioneered primary health care programmes. In the 1970s, CARE responded to massive famines in Africa with both emergency relief and long-term agro-forestry projects, integrating environmentally sound land-management practices with farming programmes. In 2004, CARE was one of the primary emergency responders in an unprecedented natural disaster, the South Asian tsunami. Today, CARE works in over 65 countries, focusing on global issues like HIV and AIDS, economic strengthening, women’s empowerment, adaptation to climate change, development and relief.

ME: You just returned from a trip to Kenya and Zimbabwe. Could you explain what the purpose of that trip was, and what the situation there is like right now?

Kevin: I’ve started a blog of my own, where stories and pictures can be found: http://care-kevinmccort.blogspot.com/. The trip was undertaken because we know at CARE that we are working with many individual women, families and communities, but the stories of our success are often not told. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “CARE is doing great work, but people just don’t know about it”, I’d be the greatest fundraiser ever! We are working at a vast scale, aiding 55 million people last year. But this trip was all about telling individual stories, not bulk reporting. How did we change one life, one family? I was gathering this kind of evidence and proof so my stories and testimonials would be fresh, compelling and vivid.

Kenya was incredible. I had the opportunity to visit Kibera and Dadaab. Kibera is often referred to as the largest urban slum in Africa, and Dadaab as the one of the largest refugee camps in the world. When we do hear about them here in North America, we tend to hear stories that are terribly negative. And to be fair, the need and the poverty in both these places really are staggering. But what I also saw was a lot of hope, and a lot of positive development that is happening. For example I met one woman, Pauline Muthoni, who has built her own successful scrap metal business in Nairobi thanks to a micro-finance program in which CARE is a partner. You can read her story in my blog.

In Zimbabwe, Zimbabweans themselves are hopeful. They have come through a very difficult period, and think the only way for them to go now is up. They really are an amazing people. They have faced economic and political challenges we can’t possibly comprehend, and they’ve done it with resiliency and with optimism. They are innovative and just like in Kenya they embody the spirit of entrepreneurship.

In Masvingo province I attended the graduation ceremony for 113 women and 2 men who were involved in a CARE village savings and loans (VS&L) program. At the ceremony the participants set up tables to show the livelihoods they had created and the pots and pans, livestock, and all manner of goods that were the fruits of their work. It was an incredible display in a country where inflation is so high the government is issuing banknotes for one hundred trillion dollars. And beyond the economic impact, that program is successfully changing societal attitudes about gender. This is what woman at the graduation ceremony, Tsungai Shimbuya , said to me: “My husband initially did not approve of my participation in this program. He saw it as a waste of time. When he realized that I could buy household goods, seeds and fertilizer during the farming seasons and pay for my children’s school fees, he came around. He is now one of my biggest supporters.”

I think Canadian donors are often nervous about giving to support Zimbabwe because of the politics. But the country really is at a turning point now. Canada can make a difference if we just make the investment.


Kevin washing plastic with Somali women in the Dadaab refugee camp. These women are in a CARE plastics recycling program that helps control solid waste and gives these women an income.


A deaf student and the woman who is the only teacher for special needs students in the Dadaab refugee camps. There is a desperate need for more resources to support special needs education in Dadaab.


Women showing the water and sanitation kits they have received as part of CARE’s anti-cholera efforts.

Friday we'll be posting the second half of Kevin's interview, where he speaks out on the foreign aid debate, and how you can get involved with CARE.

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Uganda 2009

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The Philippines

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