Kiva: Be Bold for Change, Invest in Her

I learned about Kiva years ago after reading the life-changing book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  This book could not have been more timely in my life as after reading it, I immediately began investing in women at Kiva and also using my voice as a blogger and social good advocate to help improve the lives of women and girls.

Kiva is an international nonprofit founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. What I love about Kiva is the brilliant concept of using small micro loans to empower people in the developing world to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. These are normally people who do not have access to traditional bank accounts and Kiva’s micro loans provide the missing link that they need to succeed. Kiva’s loans not only improve but change thousands of lives and what a greater gift than providing opportunity and empowerment, especially to women.

In honor of International Women’s Day this Wednesday, March 8th, Kiva has launched an exciting campaign called “Be Bold for Change, Invest in Her”.  The ambitious goal is to crowd fund $3 million in loads for thousands of women from March 1-8Kiva is offering 10,000 new visitors the chance to lend the equivalent of $25 on Kiva for free as part of the campaign.  You can choose which woman you want to support – a woman starting or growing a business, going to school, accessing clean energy or investing in her community. 




Individual loans of $25 are collected until that woman’s loan request is fully “crowdfunded.” It doesn’t cost new visitors a thing and they can be part of achieving the campaign’s overall $3 million goal alongside Kiva’s 1.6 million individual lenders. Furthermore, 100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes to funding loans. Kiva covers costs primarily through optional donations, as well as through support from grants and sponsors.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

The Graceful Beauty of a Rainforest Flower

“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth”. –  Bradley Whitford

As I am filled with utter dread about the stark reality that our nation now has a leader who appears to be against every single thing that matters to me and my beliefs, I search the darkness for a shimmering light. A candle in the unknown that glows and grows within me.

I was not able to attend the Women’s March in DC yesterday nor the local one here in St. Paul, Minnesota. I doubted my choice over and over again but despite not physically being present I was there 100% in spirit. When I browsed over my Facebook feed late last night, I felt nothing but pride. There were all my amazing friends and fellow advocates, all around the world out there standing up for their beliefs. None of the protests that they attended were violent or disrespectful. They were all full of beauty and grace.

It restored my faith in democracy, and it gave me hope again in humanity. I fully believe that every person should be able to have their own beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them. However, I am not going to support a government that does not respect human rights and our planet nor am I going to become complacent. I have joined several causes -even more than ever before – to get educated on what I need to know and what I need to do. I am not going to give up quietly. There is too much at stake.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal”. – Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, 1963.

In the meantime, I wanted to leave some photos of the gorgeous flowers I found in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Their graceful, fragile beauty symbolize the beauty of the women I know and have never met who have fought so hard to be treated as equals.

At yesterday’s Women’s March in Saint Paul, Minnesota (with record attendance of over 90,000 making it one of the largest political marches in Minnesota history) Newly elected State Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis (the first Somali woman in the United States to be elected to public office) poetically said:

“I hope to remind people that it is our differences that make our country beautiful.” 






“Sooner or later, even the fastest runners have to stand and fight”. – Stephen King

Global Issues Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY Weekly Photo Challenges Women and Girls
Gobi Bear Project

Defying the Odds: Saving the World’s Rarest Bear, the Gobi Bear

When you imagine bears in wild, images of majestic grizzly bears roaming the high mountain peaks of the Rockies often come to mind. Thriving with lush vegetation in the summer, fattening their bodies up in the fall, laying fast asleep during the long, cold winters, and coming out of hibernation at the first sign of spring, a bear’s life seems perfect for this postcard-worthy landscape. Yet, miraculously the grizzly bear also lives in one of the most surprising places on earth: The Gobi Desert.

During an inspiring interview with Doug Chadwick, wildlife biologist, journalist and author of the new book, “Tracking Gobi Grizzlies: Surviving Beyond the Back of Beyond”, I learned about the Gobi Bear Project in Mongolia and the amazing opportunity we have to save the world’s rarest bear from extinction. Here is the story.

Gobi Bear Project

The Gobi Bear, a rare grizzly bear that lives in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Photo credit: Joe Riis

The situation:

Thousands of miles away, in one of last remaining wild places on earth lies a remote section of the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia. The Gobi Desert is the world’s fifth largest desert spanning from the southern third of Mongolia on into northern and northwestern China.  In one of the most unusual habitats in the world lives a miracle: The world’s rarest bear, the Gobi Bear.

Fewer than three dozen Gobi bears remain in the world, living in one of the harshest places on earth. The extreme temperatures range from 120 degrees in the summer to a bone-chilling -40 F in the winter. There is less than 2-8 inches of rainfall a year. The landscape is almost like being on the moon with large, windswept valleys, high mountain peaks and scatterings of low vegetation. Yet somehow, there are Gobi Bears. The fact that these large, rare creatures actually exist is a shock in itself. In fact, no one actually knew that Gobi Bears existed until 1943. Today, little is still known about the world’s rarest bear whose very existence is on the edge of extinction.

Gobi Bear Project

Big Bawa among the Phragmites grasses at the oasis where he was radio-collared. Photo: Joe Riis

A little history on Mongolia

Mongolia’s history is as long and vast as its rugged, expansive land, dating all the way back to the 3rd century BC. This landlocked country known as “The Land of Blue Skies”, lies between China and Russia, and its immense, dramatic landscape has the lowest human population density on the planet with a magnitude of uninhabited land. Mongolia’s 3 million inhabitants are mostly nomadic and hold a deep connection to the environment and nature. Mongolia remains one of the few places in the world where nomadic culture is still the main way of life for its people.

For centuries, Mongolians have lived nomadically and their main income has been based on agriculture and livestock. Yet Mongolia also lies on a jackpot of mineral wealth: There are vast amounts of copper, coal, gold, and other valuable minerals laying beneath the massive, barren landscapes of Mongolia. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s led to devastating economic cutbacks in Mongolia pushing the country into a deep recession. The Mongolian economy slowly picked up from an increase mining exports however the mining boom has dwindled again due to a sharp decline in the price of commodities over the past couple of years. Despite this fact the pressure to open up new wild lands to mining remains and with mining comes a price:  Roads and new mines must be built which could endanger animal habitats and the environment.

Thankfully, the Mongolian Government has protected key Gobi Bear habitat by creating the “Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area” which sits adjacent to three large Mongolian National Parks. However, the economic temptation of increasing mining is a huge threat. Existing gold, copper and coal mines are not far from either Protected Areas. The question becomes what will the Mongolian Government do.

National Geographic Gobi Desert

Map credit: Maggie Smith – National Geographic Staff. Sources: T. McCARTHY, ET AL, URSUS; TURQUOISE HILL RESOURCES

Conservation/Environment Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD

Gifts that Give Back: b.a.r.e soaps

I am always looking for inspiring social good enterprises to feature on my blog. This past month, I had the opportunity to speak with Jessie Yoh, Co-Founder and CEO of b.a.r.e. soaps, an all natural, socially conscious soap and candle company that helps women and children in Uganda and India. b.a.r.e. stands for “bringing antiseptic resources to everyone” and was built on the idea that something as simple as a bar of soap can effectively help prevent the spread of diseases and illnesses while improving overall health and hygiene.

b.a.r.e soaps was inspired by Jessie’s friend Clare Li’s mission trips to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Uganda where she witnessed the desperate need for basic health necessities. After every mission trip, Clare returned energized to make a difference but was never sure how. The idea behind b.a.r.e. soaps didn’t arise until August 2012 when Clare was in Uganda, and brainstormed an idea to make her own soap and use proceeds to invest in developing communities that lacked basic sanitation.

b.a.r.e. soaps

b.a.r.e. soaps

After Clare returned to the US, she pitched her good friend Jessie her idea. Jessie, a business major, hopped on board immediately. Upon further research, the pair realized that there was a problem also at home. The soap we typically buy from our local grocer or drugstore isn’t really soap. In actuality, it’s made with synthetic and artificial compounds. Thus, a two-fold mission for b.a.r.e. soaps began: First, to educate and provide an all-natural product for those at home, and second to create a sustainable sanitation program for the children in Kaberamaido, Uganda. While working full-time, the pair launched the business in September 2013 and have been changing lives ever since.

Here is their inspiring story. 

b.a.r.e. soaps

b.a.r.e. soaps

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

One women’s courageous fight with Mesothelioma

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along”.-  Eleanor Roosevelt

Every so often I get that one email that truly touches my heart and moves me to action. It came about a month ago from a fellow Minnesota mom named Heather Von St. James. Heather is a 10-year survivor of a rare cancer called mesothelioma, who against all odds beat the disease, and is a prominent advocate for mesothelioma awareness and an outspoken proponent of banning asbestos. Her beautiful blog “Beating the Odds – My Decade of Mesothelioma Survivorship” and advocacy work for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance continues to spread awareness of the disease, give hope to those fighting the battle and seek justice to stop the use of asbestos in the United States. Here is a brief part of Heather’s story that drew me in. 

Heather, her husband Cameron and daughter Lily

Heather, her husband Cameron and daughter Lily

“A diagnosis that would change my life” written by Heather Von St. James

I remember the waiting. From the cold patient waiting rooms, on hospital beds waiting for the CT machine and biopsy to start and especially the long, to angst filled days at home waiting for results. After all the testing, the poking, prodding and questions to try to figure out my breathlessness, sallow skin and all-consuming exhaustion…my husband, Cameron and I were left to wait for the answers.

These things happened to other people, not to me. That’s all I could think, how surreal all of this was. I had just given birth to my daughter, Lily, how could I be back in the hospital hearing the words CT scan, thoracentesis and “there’s a mass in your lower left lung.” After the years I spent working in a salon and farther back to when I had smoked, I was trying to block out the million thoughts racing through my mind, the heaviest and most terrifying of all – cancer.

Finally, on November 21, 2005, the answer came. It was malignant pleural mesothelioma. Cancer had overtaken the lining of my left lung. Cams and I sat in my doctor’s office too stunned to speak. When Dr. Flink asked me if a family member had worked around asbestos, the image of my father’s dusty work jacket I wore each day as a child to do my chores came flooding back to me.

It was his next words that rocked me back to life, “If you don’t do anything, you have about 15 months to live.” With chemo and radiation I could get up to five years. Five years. Maybe.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

A light in the dark days ahead

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before”. –  Edgar Allan Poe


Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota


There I stood. Looking at the dark, painful world in despair. Not knowing how I would rise out of bed each and every day with the roar of ugliness that has suddenly filled my heart.

How would I look into those young innocent eyes of my children without sadness and despair?

How would I continue to walk this earth with gratefulness and love when it no longer was there?

Yet alas I’m a fighter. I cannot let it win. I must not let my voice be quieted, I must stand up and speak out loud and clear and let my voice sing.

I am a fighter. I will always fight for my beliefs and will be a voice for the voiceless.

I will not let hate bring me down.

I will not let tyranny rule my life.


I will stand up,

be tall,

use my voice,

and proudly wear those pants.

I will never ever let myself fall so low.


I will let light

and the promise of hope

for a better future for our children

fulfill my days with gratitude,

beauty and grace.

I will never ever give up.



“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” –  Carl Jung


Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”. –  Desmond Tutu


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness”. –  Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota
“I  will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars”. –  Og Mandino

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”. –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”. – Albert Einstein

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own”. –  Michelle Obama
Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”. –  Barack Obama
Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within”.-  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Now, as a nation, we don’t promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. That’s an essential promise of America. Where you start should not determine where you end up”. –  Barack Obama

We shall overcome. Peace.

Ely, MN

Our Local Treasure, The Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools”. –  John Muir

As much as I have traveled to the far corners of the earth, I am constantly amazed at the beauty of my own home, Minnesota. A land of over 12,000 lakes, Minnesota is a nature lover’s paradise that is awash in forests, water, fields and plains, and rugged wilderness. Minnesota is also home to one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States, the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCWA). The BWCWA is one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited and its extraordinary beauty and tranquility is unequal to any place I’ve been except the far reaches of Patagonia. Its 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, and 1,500 miles of canoe routes are like no other place on earth.

When we were in Ely just two weekends ago, we noticed all the lawn signs up supporting the mining industry. Ely is part of Minnesota’s Iron Range, a group of four large mining areas of iron-ore that dot northern Minnesota near Lake Superior and the Canadian Border. Ely is known for its strong mining and timber harvesting industry (which was established as a clause in the 1964 Wilderness Act that also protects this pristine wilderness). However, it is also known for its strong tourism sector given its prime location as a launching off point into the BWCWA.

The Iron Range in includes these four major iron deposits: Mesabi Range, the largest iron range, largely within Itasca and Saint Louis counties; Vermilion Range, northeast of the Mesabi, in Saint Louis and Lake counties; Gunflint Range is in the extreme northern portion of Cook County and extends into Canada; and Cuyuna Range, southwest of the Mesabi, largely within Crow Wing County. Source: Wikipedia Free Media Commons

The Iron Range in includes these four major iron deposits: Mesabi Range, the largest iron range, largely within Itasca and Saint Louis counties; Vermilion Range, northeast of the Mesabi, in Saint Louis and Lake counties (Ely); Gunflint Range is in the extreme northern portion of Cook County and extends into Canada; and Cuyuna Range, southwest of the Mesabi, largely within Crow Wing County. Source: Wikipedia Free Media Commons.

What I didn’t realize was the struggle and conflict between conservation and industrial development has been impacting the BWCWA for over a century and once again has come to a head on collision.

Just yesterday, I received my mail and noticed with dismay the cover of the latest Sierra Club Magazine. In the November/December issue (which is not up yet on the website, it is so new), Conor Mihell’s powerful piece Border Dispute: The Fight to Keep a Mega-Mine Away from the Boundary Waters Wilderness opened my eyes to what those signs meant and the impact for both parties, the miners and the environment if the legislation succeeds.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

If the Chilean company Antofagasta is able to renew the federal mining lease, their proposed sulfide-ore copper mine located adjacent to and draining into the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, could make America’s most popular wilderness, its most polluted, argues Mihell. 1.1 million acres of pristine wilderness could be forever changed.

After reading the piece, I realized that I too could not sit back and let this happen. I decided to write this piece to raise awareness of the issue and also use my advocacy to contact the Interior Secretary of the US Government to pledge to protect the BWCWA. (To see how you can help, click here).

Isn’t this a place worth protecting?

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My daughter gazing out at the pure blue water

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My son and our puppy

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Ely, MN

Conservation/Environment Global Issues Minnesota SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION United States
the Statue of Liberty.

Inspiration from the Social Good Summit in NYC

Last week, I attended my fifth Social Good Summit in New York City along with five other amazing friends from World Moms Network. The Social Good Summit is a unique convening of world leaders, new media and technology experts, grassroots activists and voices from around the world that come together for a two-day conference coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly meeting held during UN Week. The Summit is held at the 92nd Street Y and is truly a global conversation as it streamed around the world in multiple languages.

The Crew of World Changers from World Moms Network and other social good bloggers

The Crew of World Changers from World Moms Network and other social good bloggers

The theme of the summit– #2030NOW: What kind of world do you want to see in 2030? – challenged speakers, participants and a growing worldwide community to explore how technology and new media can be leveraged to benefit people everywhere, to spark discussion and ignite change in creating a better world for all by the year 2030. The 7th Annual Summit was kicked off with a great promise to connect the world with more humanity and give everyone a voice in improving poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change through the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon last year by 193 global leaders at the UN General Assembly.

In July, the first report card was released that maps the scope of the SDGs progress, giving leaders an idea of the challenges that lie ahead in order to ensure the SDGs are achieved and no one is left behind. Much progress has been made thanks to the successes of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) yet much needs to be done in order to achieve the SDGs.

Some challenges that lie ahead include:

  • While poverty has been halved, 1 in 8 people were living in extreme poverty in 2012.
  • An estimated 5.9 million children under 5 died in 2015, mostly from preventable causes.
  • 216 women died in childbirth for every 100,000 live births.
  •  In 2013, 59 million children of primary school age were out of school and 26 per cent of women aged 20-24 reported that they were married before their eighteenth birthday.
  • In 2015, an estimated 663 million people were still using unimproved water sources or surface water.
World Moms Network contributors talking with Stephanie Sinclair, Founder of Too Young to Wed, about her quest to end child marriage around the world.

World Moms Network contributors talking with Stephanie Sinclair, Founder of Too Young to Wed, about her quest to end child marriage around the world.

As we sat at the conference and listened to all the heartbreaking and inspiring tales facing people around the world it was hard at times not to get overwhelmed or discouraged. The amount of issues and acute challenges at times seem almost impossible. Quite frankly, it can also make one feel quite powerless.

Throughout the two day summit, we learned that there is much work to be done yet there is hope. The Social Good Summit is all about making a plan for the future.  The world has a plan and 14 years to deliver it. Despite how enormous the challenges may seem, they are achievable and the Global Goals are our guidelines to make the world a better, more equitable place. It is clear that the future of our planet and our people depend upon it. And, every single human being has a role and a responsibility to make it happen.

Top Tweets of the Social Good Summit:

(Click here  to watch a powerful video on what the Global Goals mean).





I also asked my friends and fellow World Moms Network contributors what was the most meaningful quote or event of the Summit. Here is what they had to say.

For Jennifer Iacovelli

For Elizabeth Atalay




For Tes Solomon Silverman

For me, Two things stuck: Carolyn Miles of Save the Children talking about refugees: “Refugees are people with skills great for opportunities”. And Tiq Milan, Journalist & Spokesperson for GLAAD re: LGBTQ in the Media: “My existence may complicate yours, but it doesn’t invalidate yours.”

For Jennifer Burden

“The UNICEF vigil for refugee children was the most moving for me. Standing in a crowd, holding up candles near the UN and listening to the stories of 4 children from around the world who were refugees was incredibly important and moving. The story of the boy who was kidnapped and was going to be sold if his parents didn’t pay ransom broke my heart. And when the high school choir sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the end, I lost it.”

For Nicole Morgan

Loved this … Imagine a world where children are innoculated for measles AND cancers. This is not about some day … but a moment, the days, a month … there is much we can do. #cancermoonshot is about never giving up. It is about promise. And hope. VP Joe Biden.

For all of us

Being together with such wonderful like-minded friends who we could share our hopes, our dreams and our fears together was amazing. Often during our busy lives as a mother, we don’t get much time to spend together with each other. It was amazing, inspiring and fun.

I was so moved by the Social Good Summit and the dedication, enthusiasm and commitment people have towards changing the world and making a more equitable place. Despite the immense challenges, there is hope. We can’t give up. We all must do our share.

This is an original post written and first posted on World Moms Network. 

In your mind what is the most pressing Sustainable Development Goal?

Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD
World Bicycle Relief Zambia

The Bicycle as a vehicle of global change

“I’ve seen some of the highest performance bicycles in the world, but I believe the most powerful bicycle is the one in the hands of a girl fighting for her education, or a mother striving to feed her family.”  – F.K. Day, Founder of World Bicycle Relief

It is hard to believe that something as simple as a bicycle can be a vehicle of dramatic change, enabling people to go to the market to sell their products and for children to go to school.  As a tool for development, a simple bicycle can mean not just transportation but employment—even access to education and healthcare.  Bicycles can change people’s lives and lift them out of poverty. Yet access to bicycles can prove daunting especially for people living in the developing world.

For many people in the developing world, walking is their primary mode of transportation. Add the challenge of distance and seemingly simple tasks of going to school, visiting the clinic, or delivering goods to market become difficult and sometimes impossible. With no choice but to walk, meeting everyday needs is a struggle against time and fatigue.

Mobilizing people through the power of the bicycle is the mantra behind the non-profit organization World Bicycle Relief who designs, manufactures and distributes high quality bicycles that withstand the challenging terrain and conditions in rural communities.  Entrepreneurs use the bikes to increase productivity and profits. Students with bikes attend class more regularly and academic performance dramatically improves. And, health care workers with bikes visit more patients, more often, providing better, more consistent care.

World Bicycle Relief also promotes local economies and long-term sustainability by assembling bicycles in Africa and training over 1,200 field mechanics. Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief has delivered over 300,000 bicycles and is making an enormous impact in people’s lives.

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

Ethel, a student in Zambia, begins her nine kilometer ride to school. Before receiving her Buffalo Bicycle from World Bicycle Relief, it took Ethel 2 hours to walk to school. After doing chores for several hours at home and then walking to school, she often arrived tired and had to take a nap during class. Now, she arrives on time and ready to learn. Ethel aspires to become a nurse and give back to her community.

All photos credited to World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

Ethel lives with her aunt, uncle and cousins and often rides her cousin to school on the back of her bicycle. The rear rack on the Buffalo Bicycle is designed to carry 220 lbs and can accommodate more than one person. Ethel and her cousin are on a track to graduate from high school on time.  Photo credit: World Bicycle Relief

And now…

World Bicycle Relief Zambia

World Bicycle Relief’s 2012 Education Report highlighted a 28% increase in attendance and a 59% increase in academic performance for students with Buffalo Bicycles. Through BEEP (Bicycles for Educational Empowerment), World Bicycle Relief has delivered over 90,000 bicycles.

On July 11, 2016,  World Bicycle Relief presented the Trailblazer Award to Dr. Leszek Sibilski, former Olympic cyclist, global development thought leader and advocate for bicycles. The annual Trailblazer Award honors an individual who has challenged conventional thinking around the complex issues of poverty, social justice and access while illuminating a new path forward with innovative and bold ideas that have the power to transform millions of lives. Dr. Sibilski has done just that with his tireless work promoting the bicycle as a tool of great change for people around the world.

Dr. Leszek Sibilski received the Trailblazer Award presented by World Bicycle Relief. Dr. Sibilski is joined onstage by Dave Neiswander, President of World Bicycle Relief.

Dr. Leszek Sibilski received the Trailblazer Award presented by World Bicycle Relief. Dr. Sibilski is joined onstage by Dave Neiswander, President of World Bicycle Relief.

Dr. Leszek Sibilski addresses the audience at the Trailblazer Award ceremony on how the bicycle can be a powerful agent of change and lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into shared prosperity.

Dr. Leszek Sibilski addresses the audience at the Trailblazer Award ceremony on how the bicycle can be a powerful agent of change and lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into shared prosperity.

Here are some of the words that Dr. Sibilski shared with the audience while accepting the Trailblazer Award:

Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD

Kurandza: One woman’s quest to #FeedMozambique

Meet Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder of Kurandza, a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. I have featured her work and organization before on my blog and include their products under my Gifts that Give Back Guide. Kurandza uses education, entrepreneurship and sustainable development programs to help create opportunity and change for women and their communities. A devastating two-year drought in Mozambique has caused widespread hunger inspiring Elisabetta to shift gears and focus on hunger relief. Here is her heartwarming story. 

Percina and Elisabetta. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography

Percina and Elisabetta, two wonderful friends who met in a village in Mozambique while Elisabetta was a Peace Corps volunteer. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography

“Kurandza: To Love”: Written by Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder and Designer, Kurandza

I’d known there was a hunger crisis in Mozambique, but what really got to me was hearing that HIV positive mothers were faced with choosing between letting their children starve or nursing their children past the recommended time despite the risk of passing on HIV.

Prior to founding my non-profit organization, Kurandza, which means “to love” in the local Changana language, I lived in Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. While there, I worked at a rural hospital counseling mothers on the prevention of HIV transmission to their babies, and had successfully prevented the transmission to hundreds of children.

At first, I thought that maybe the mothers who continued to nurse despite the risk were doing this because they forgot their training. Or I thought perhaps I hadn’t taught them very well after all.

But when I counseled one of these mothers over the phone last month from my home, now living thousands of miles away in California, I realized she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it hurt her to do so. She knew that by continuing to nurse her child past the recommended time, she was putting her baby at risk to contract HIV. She knew that when a child contracts the HIV virus, it often leads to mortality.

Food Security Gifts that Give Back Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD
Boy at Mosebo village

Why it is time to stop Orphanage Volunteering

Last July, when I was in Arusha, Tanzania I stayed at a Tanzanian-run hotel that is a popular launching off point for safaris and Kilimanjaro climbs. The hotel is owned and run by a Tanzanian woman who also does a fair amount of charity work within the community. One such project she worked on was supporting a local orphanage. As a social good blogger, I was very interested in visiting the orphanage to meet the children and spend a little time playing with them. I agreed to join a huge group of American volunteers who were heading over to the orphanage for the day to check it out. Little did I know, my visit is something that many international organizations that work to protect children are trying to stop.

A month ago, I was contacted by Anna McKeon, Co-Coordinator for Better Volunteering, Better Care, a global initiative facilitated by The Better Care Network and Save the Children UK aimed at discouraging orphanage volunteering and promoting ethical volunteering alternatives. Anna wanted to see if I would be interested in joining the upcoming blogging blitz to lobby the volunteer travel industry to stop orphanage trips, and to raise awareness about the issue.

Since the onset of the campaign in early May, I learned a lot about the negative consequences of volunteering and visiting orphanages. Although it often seems as a great way to give back and make a difference, orphan trips can be harmful for vulnerable children, and is also contributing to a growing orphanage industry and the separation of children from their families. Child protection specialists have expressed concern about this growing phenomenon in over 20 countries worldwide. Anna herself had once volunteered at a few international orphanages (See article:  I Volunteered at an Orphanage and Now I Campaign Against It”) and it was through her experiences that she became committed to end it.

Moshi Tanzania

These girls live right outside the orphanage and are school age. When girls in Tanzania go to school, it is customary to shave their heads.

So what have I learned since the beginning of this campaign? Quite a few things that I honestly was completely unaware of and even took me by surprise.


The inspiring story behind Anchal Project


(1). The decorative edge of a sari used to provide comfort and protect to loved ones.  (2). A Shelter. 

gulshan holding her finished piece

I first learned about Anchal Project a few years ago from a fellow social good blogger who lives in Louisville, Kentucky where Anchal Project is based.  After looking at their beautiful website and learning about their philanthropic model, I bought my first scarf and fell in love with the beauty and exquisiteness of their unique products and the story behind each scarf. I have been promoting their products on my Gifts that Give Back page for years and finally this week I had the opportunity to speak with co-founder and CEO Colleen Clines about the inspiration behind Anchal Project and what she has done to help women escape poverty and prostitution in India. Little did I know, her own personal story was equally as inspiring and powerful as her work heading Anchal Project. Here is the story.

Colleen meeting with the women of Anchal after battling cancer.

Colleen meeting with the women of Anchal.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD