Count Me Among The Crazy Ones

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” 
         – Steve Jobs, in this unaired version of the 1997 Apple commercial

I am honored and grateful to know so many of the Crazy Ones: Letha Sandison, Maggie Doyne, Esra’a Al Shafei, Bill Liao, Jeroen Hermkens, Estrella Roseberg, Gail Mooney, Subhash Ghimire. We’d planned to meet up tonight in Amsterdam for the 5th annual European Summit. Schedules and funding and overextension on my part meant that we are not. Tonight I salute you, Crazy Ones. Thank you for all that you do.

Maggie & the Kids at Kopila Valley need a car

I’ve written about Maggie Doyne, Do Something’s 2009 Grand Prize Winner, before… she is one of the most remarkable young changemakers I’ve ever met. If you’re not familiar with her work, you may want to check it out here:

or here:

Maggie’s been raising all these kids (around 30 now, and with fantastic local staff, “Aunites” and “Uncles,” Board, etc.) without a vehicle. Read her hilarious story about the first time many of the kids rode in one here.

Now she and her staff  have built a school for 300 kids. To haul the food for lunch, get sick or injured kids to the hospital, and be prepared for emergencies, they need a vehicle. Maggie’s done her research and knows what kind of vehicle will last 10+ years in the environment, what insurances are available and what the costs will be. Now she just needs to raise the funds. Can you ChipIn to help Maggie out?  Every dollar helps! All proceeds go directly to the BlinkNow Foundation, a 5019(c)3 non-profit. Please click below to donate:

ADDENDUM: Offline donations exceeded $29,000! You people are AWESOME!

You are not alone.

This is the week of European Summit 2010 — getting the new Website up (next week) and sponsorship materials pulled together and whatnot. It’s been a tough process this year. Lonely. I’m committed to it being bigger, more professional, and retaining the wonder and friendship it’s had in the past. It’ll also be more interactive, real working sessions. I’m not quite sure how it will all fall into place and to tell you the truth, it’s gotten bigger than anything I’ve created myself before. I can’t do this alone, I think. I have no idea how to do it. Exciting! Confronting! Really, really cool stuff is afoot. I need a team.

I work from home too much totally by myself here, even the neighbors don’t speak English, and today a Hare Krishna member came to the door. When I discovered he spoke perfect American English I took about 30 minutes out of my day to stand and chat with him (Mostly about their restaurant in Locarno. Who knew the Hare Krishnas had a vegetarian restaurant in Locarno?). Now, this may not sound unusual to some of you. It is highly, highly unusual for me. Truth is, I’m a little starved for conversation sitting at the computer alone all day here.

And then I see this on Maggie’s blog:

ania

My friend Ania is climbing Mt. Everest this week. I’ve been thinking about her every day. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Everest is her last and final climb to complete the 7 Summits challenge – the highest peak on every continent. She’s raising funds for my friend Subhash’s Peace School. Subhash and I have been sharing all kinds of wonderful ideas these past few months for our schools and he’s actually the one who introduced me to the bamboo school in Kathmandu. Blessings for Ania!

And I cried! They all met at the European Summit! Subhash, I didn’t know you gave Maggie the idea for the bamboo. GREAT idea! And can we all just pause a moment to consider what Ania is doing? Taking off from work with the BANK to climb the seventh of the seven highest peaks in the world?!

So thank you, Maggie, because in that moment tonight, sitting here in the house alone, wondering if I’m up to the bigger and bigger projects I take on, I realized, “HELL YEAH, I AM!” and I didn’t feel alone even a little bit.

Game on. Let’s go. Big projects wait. You’ll be getting emails with more details, Maggie! Subhash… can we meet up in Miami at the Clinton Global Initiative University? I’ll be there Friday night.

Introducing Tuesday Tidbits w/Darius Goes West

I admire bloggers so organized they post on a predictable schedule. Those with weekly special features, like Swirly Christine Mason Miller, just blow my mind. They actually Make. Them. Happen. Every. Week.  The punctuation there was intended to capture my awe and respect for their fastidiousness, organization and sheer force of will. She has Five Things Fridays and these Sparklette things.  I was once eating hummus with her and when I got back to my computer one of her blog posts had gone up. I kid you not. Amazing.

I know there are simple programs that make scheduling weeks worth of blog posts in advance a cinch, but me? I’ve always been an impromptu kind of girl. Still, in the spirit of it’s never too late to be more organized (Who am I kidding? I bet not you.) and even though I am all about, and have always been all about, the wild, spontaneous, “let’s not plan it” I am going to hereby announce a weekly feature. Or a sometime weekly feature. Or a feature I post whenever I have something like this on a Tuesday. How ’bout that?

I’ll call them Tuesday Tidbits. Little odds and ends to brighten your day. Let’s start with Darius, shall we?  Do you know of Darius? Darius was a fifteen-year-old (he’s older now) living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He’d never left home before when he and eleven of his best buds set off across the US in a giant RV to convince MTV to customize his wheelchair. The film they made will make you laugh and cry. It may forever change the way you think about teenage boys. These are good guys.

One of the funniest scenes in the film is when they dare Darius to eat a spoonful of super-spicy Japanese Wasabi. He calls it Goslabi. Now they’ve launched the Goslabi challenge to raise money for DMD. Here’s the video of me and a bunch of my friends at the European Summit for Global Transformation taking the Goslabi challenge. I didn’t think it was so bad…

Welcome to Tuesday Tidbits. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

So many stories and images to share from last week in the Netherlands. Here’s one of my favorites:
Subhash MaggieHe’s 22, and from Aarupokhari, Nepal. You fly to Kathmandu, he says, take a bus a few hours, then walk for two days. He hopes I’ll come this summer.

“Then they’ll really take me seriously!” he exclaimed over dinner at the Rotterdam Cafe.

He has one photo of himself as a child. When he was five Save the Children came to his village with a camera. Now he writes for the Huffington Post and studies political science at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Last summer he went back to his village with 1600 books, a team of volunteers and two computers. And so Aarupokhari has its first library and enjoyed its first summer camp for kids. The library’s named in memory of his Mother, who died because they didn’t have roughly $200. Next he’s building a school. Subhash Ghimire is a young man you’ll be hearing more about.

And who’s that lovely lady in the floppy hat? She’s 23, from New Jersey, and lives in Surkhet, Nepal with 27 kids. That’s understating the matter, though. Maggie Doyne has placed over 700 children with local family members. She has the conversation with the families, “If you feel like you need to sell them, we can help you. You don’t have to feel that way any more.” What other 23-year-olds do you know who have that conversation? She built the house herself, with the villagers, on land she bought with her babysitting money. She’s handled tuition for about 100 other kids, not to mention medical care. This is a little woman who thinks big and get things done! If we lived in the same town… Lord have mercy on the PTA (or whatever we put our minds to). It would never be the same.

Together these two twenty-somethings are transforming Nepal. This weekend they formed a posse. It includes Mama Lucy of Tanzania who’ll help with curriculum at their schools, Ania Lichota originally of Poland, who’ll climb Everest in the Spring to raise money for Subhash’s school; Renu Bagaria, who’s educating street kids in Kathmandu; and Jen Lemen, who makes magic happen on a regular basis; she’ll make it all go down without a hitch. We all hatched some big plans this last weekend, let me tell you.

And the beautiful photo? That’s what happens when you give Stefan, my handsome husband, a camera and set him loose to shoot. Here are a few more…
toyinToyin’s from Nigeria. She empowers young girls and women through ICT (Internet & computer technologies). We met at BlogHer in Chicago last summer.

Here’s acclaimed San Francisco artist Andrea Fono, who had us all painting together Saturday night. As you can imagine from the photo, it was FUN!
Andrea Fono And here’s one of Reinder Schonewille, who helped a lot with event logistics in his native Netherlands:

Reinder

More stories from the week to follow, that’s for sure. There are enough for a year of blog posts.

Big Challenge, Bigger Rewards

Organizing the European Summit for Global Transformation… hmmm… what to say?  People from all over the planet… from Poland, Latvia, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Texas, New York, California, the Netherlands, Switzerland… and so many other places are coming.  A young woman from Nepal who runs a free evening school for impoverished kids in Kathmandu wrote to me today that there is a paradigm shift bringing more urban poor into effective education.  Yes, there is certainly a paradigm shift, and it is toward a lot more than just that.

That is the only way I can explain what is happening with the Summit.  Ordinary people around the world are standing up and saying, “This shall be.”  It shall be that people have clean drinking water and access to education and human rights… across the board for everyone.

And so by golly I can say THIS SHALL BE about this Summit.  About Innocent Bajeneza and Mama Lucy making their first trips outside of Africa safely and without a hitch.  And to raising funds for these 8 young women (below) to come.  I have one week.  It’ll take donations of plane seats or train fare, money for meals and hotel rooms.  I have no idea how it’ll happen, but they are each deserving, motivated, award-winning champions of human rights and education for girls and women in their home countries and they are all in London at King’s College for just six months.  They should be there and take what they learn and all the resources they encounter back to Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Do you know how to help?  We need several thousand dollars within one week.  We will connect them with other changemakers from around the world, with fundraisers and support services galore.  Working together we amplify all our impact.

csdgfellowswithmel2 small

From the left side at the back Myriam, Vicky, Shuvai, Debra and Toyin. From Left in the front: Selam, Saramba and Phidelia

Moved, touched and inspired…

An absolutely life-changing thing is happening for me and I want you all to know about it. Truth is, I want you all to come, the least I can do is share it with you here.

I’ve told you before I’m organizing, with a very small group of friends, an event called the European Summit for Global Transformation. I’m in charge of the Program, of finding and speaking with and managing and, well, pretty much everything with all the speakers.

And, you know, I don’t do anything small. So I assumed when we said, “Hey! Let’s call it the European Summit for Global Transformation,” we meant it. I’ve taken on finding ordinary people all over the world who are in the midst of transforming their communities, their lives and the lives of those around them… and what I want to say to you is TURN OFF THE TELEVISION. Put down the newspaper. Do not believe the doom and gloom or listen to the naysayers, because all over the planet right now, in every kind of condition you can imagine, there are people doing amazing things. Loving things. Creative things. Things that will last and make a difference on this planet long after they are gone. Every day I get the most amazing messages just out of the blue. I wish you did, too. You’d be all inspired like me. Here are just a couple:

Today I got one from Letha Sandison of Wrap Up Africa. The part that got me is she doesn’t know how she’s going to do it, she’s doesn’t even know how she’s gonna’ get her generator to keep going so she can send us another email, but she wants to come “be in the room with so many people doing wonderful work.”

Final Piece from Amanda Bontecou on Vimeo.

A few days ago I got an email from Nimesh, a kid in high school at the Budhanilkantha Schhol in Nepal. He wrote:

I am also a part of the British Council’s Global Changemakers Network, and I am a founder of an education project called Minimally Invasive Education, which aims at revolutionizing the out-worn classroom environment of Nepali community schools. We have over 200 high school student-volunteers for our MIE Mentor and Tutor Program and we are linked with over 4 schools in Kathmandu City.

I’d love for him to come, he’d be the fourth person involved in education in Nepal, but I don’t have any way to get him here. We’ll live stream on the Internet, perhaps, and he can be connected. Maybe I’ll have to head back to Nepal again next year and check out all their good work!

What is clear to me, as I receive these messages out of the blue from all over the world, is that there is a global movement for good. Call it what you want: social entrepreneurship, transformation, whatever. It’s happening all around us.

I know it’s short notice and all, but I really do hope you’ll come. You won’t regret it. It’ll change your life if you let it. It’s changing mine already. You can register here.

As promised, prepare to be inspired!

So often, friends and family write from home (the States) and say, “Keep blogging — I live vicariously through you!”

Today I’d like to share with you the story of a young woman whose life I live vicariously (as much as any of us can do that) through her blog.  Her name is Maggie Doyne.  I first heard of her in this Superhero post.

Maggie reminds me a little of me 15 years ago, except braver, bolder, way cooler and with a sense of purpose bigger and clearer than my own. Watch:

You can read all about Maggie’s adventures with the now-28(!!) kids in the Kopila Valley Children’s Home here and check out the Blink Now Foundation she created here.

I’m inspired by the difference Maggie and the people who make it all possible are making in these kids’ lives; you can hear it in little stories like this one from 4-year-old Sabita. I’m inspired by how she just keeps taking them in. I’m inspired by the joy and love these kids are growing up with, not to mention health and education! It’s not how their lives were going to go.  Her fierce stand for little Juntara (read about it here and here and here ) brings me to tears each time I read it. This is a lovely tribute.

I can also appreciate that there must be times, many of them I imagine, when she just wants life to be a little easier, to go home (to her New Jersey home), some creature comforts, maybe even to be a “normal” 22-year-old… you know, like at a bar or party or something.  It’s a whole different kind of wild, this Maggie Doyne’s life is.

I have wanted to have children for 15 years now. I live an amazing, blessed, wild-in-its-own-way, precious life. And I live vicariously through Maggie’s story with these kids. I’m inspired by the difference we each can make. I’m inspired to make more of a difference every single day because of what she does. Here’s a little something she made in all her spare time, I guess ;-).  It’s wonderful:

Maggie will be at the European Summit.  I, for one, can’t wait to meet her.  Are you coming?

Introducing the European Summit

I haven’t written much here about something I’ve spent a lot of time on the last few years. That seems a little odd.  I guess I thought sharing it with some of you… like childhood friends, my family… might seem strange. This isn’t how you know me.  You know me as Becky, the little girl who put on roller skating shows in the driveway.

Maybe that’s still how I’ve seen myself.  That was a long time ago, though, and isn’t even my name anymore. It hasn’t been for ten years. In the meantime I’ve been up to something.

It started with teaching.  At first I was just excited about the ideas, at what happened when students realized the stories we tell ourselves and each other, through the mass media… those stories matter, they make a difference, they shape the quality of our communities, our culture, our communication.

Then I was on a mission. My mission was to transform the way news is produced. To create in students media consumers who stand for, even demand, responsible and ethical media coverage. To orient people toward what’s good and just and right and we want more of in the world.

I know I have done that because I receive messages that say things like, “I am a former Marine… and you made me believe in Justice.” or “I never thought about politics before your class. I’m entering this public policy graduate program and devoting myself to politics in Idaho because of what we learned.” or this or this or this.  What I am up to is so much bigger than me or these students; we’re part of it.

Along the way I’ve stopped teaching (for now) and have started organizing an event called the European Summit for Global Transformation.  I don’t do this for pay; it’s a labor of love for a small group of people.

It started after I received a forwarded email.  It had gone out to a group of people across Europe, including my husband (then beau), Stefan.  The author wrote of the first Summit, “My dream is to have Scott … speak.”  Well, I knew Scott.  And a couple other people I thought should speak.  So I hooked them up.  It was a small gathering.  People were inspired.

It got bigger.  For me the idea became, “What could we create, what would happen, if we gathered together everyone I know, and you know, and your friends know who are up to something bigger than themselves on the planet?”  What would happen if we bring community to this?

Lakshmi Summit 2A group of six of us started planning. I was in charge of the Program — who’d come and what would happen.  I wasn’t sure who to invite, so I started telling people about it and asking them who they thought.  A friend of a friend who works at the World Bank said, “Oh! I met a wonderful woman! She’d be perfect!  She runs a non-profit that provides mentoring and microfinance to underprivileged young entrepreneurs in India.”  Stefan looked her up on the Internet and called her in India.  She said she’d come.  No one told us her father was the President of India.  Wow!  You wouldn’t believe the people on the planet you know in far, far fewer than six degrees of separation!  Lakshmi was lovely. Her organization, BYST, is one of the most inspiring I’ve ever encountered.

One of my former students, Esra’a of MidEast Youth, agreed to speak via Skype from Bahrain and was a huge hit. Another speaker, Bill, who’s a TED participant, nominated Esra’a as a TED Fellow this year and now she is!  Summit participants donated as much money to MidEast Youth as the group had raised their first three years.  Bill and Esra’a work together now. It was an amazing weekend.  People left inspired and have produced real results in the world.

And it’s coming up again. It’s not that this year’s program will top last year, it’s that we know a little better what we’re doing and we’ve gained a little stature. We lucked out last year. Really. And we know AMAZING people. This year the experience promises to rock your world. It could be one of those things that you never quite get over.

I’d love for you to be there.

I’ll post more about the weekend as speakers confirm, starting tomorrow with one I think will bowl you over and knock your socks off — and that’s a lot of hyperbole! Her life’s work is very real and need not be exaggerated, though. I’ll tell you more about her soon… prepare to be inspired.