Photo: Ricardo Gomes
Share Your Stories
Social entrepreneurs reframe common social dilemmas and identify resources where others only saw problems. Below are the submissions of viewers who have their own entrepreneurial stories to share. Read more about how these people are working to transform the communities where they live.
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Travis Solberg, Colorado
I have started a donation drive amongst friends and acquaintances for Oxfam refugee camps in Chad and Sudan. The idea is that by spreading the word to friends, then them spreading the word to friends, strength in numbers can make big difference. This gives the opportunity for many people to feel the power of leadership. I suggest people to fast a meal or take night off of drinking and donate the money. Again, it might be only $5-$10 per person but strength in numbers will make the big difference to help out those in need.
When I get older, (I'm only 9) i'll run for president. Then, if I get elected, I'm gonna straighten up the country and make sure everyone has what they need. Food, homes, clothes ect. Then, i'll make animal shelters in every contenent. There for, ensuring health to humans; and animals. (You gotta love 'em!)
My father has been working for the past 30 years + in Africa (though based in Canada), to improve maternal health. He is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, originally from England but emigrated to Newfoundland in the 1970's. He is now consulting in many other countries incl. Rwanda, Kenya and has also visited East Timor and Albania to name a few. His main focus (but not only) has been obstetrical fistula, including education on prevention i.e. proper birthing techniques, encouraging the native people not to marry off their daughters at too young an age; surgical repair, and has worked to build a hospital and obtain badly needed equipment. My dad has raised 7 children while trying to run a practice in Newfoundland. He taught at our Memorial University and accepted a lower pay than [he would have recieved] if he were to have gone into private practice. [It allowed him to] be able to take sabbaticals and spend time working, at that time in Nigeria. By doing this his family was able to stay in Newfoundland. He is now retired from his practice and has focused all his attention on maternal care. He travels long hours, carrying loads of equipment, presenting the plight of women in less fortunate countries to sometimes very small groups of people trying to get funding to keep it going. He has basically begged the Canadian government for assistance and to this date they have continually denied him, though they have made him jump through hoops to just apply. He has never asked for any kind of recognition but is one of the most qualified people I know who deserves it (other than my mother who often found herself alone with her brood because dad was needed elsewhere). He will be 67 next week and is getting tired of all the fundraising and would like to focus where he is needed most... with the devastated women of the world who have been forgotten, his skills are being wasted...
I am a coffee roaster, 100% organic and fair trade. we began dean's beans as a model for how businesses could be a proactive force for positive, peaceful social change. for eleven years we have been on mission, including creating people-centered development projects in coffee communities around the world. we have so many stories, and they are all on the website, www.deansbeans.com, but here's a good one. during a visit to Ethiopia three years ago, i was told by the farmers that access to clean drinking water was their highest priority. at the same time, the u.n. was saying that clean water was one of its top millenium development goals. we decided to do something. we created a revolving loan fund called "miriam's well" (miriam was the biblical figure who could find water anywhere in the desert-really resonates in ethiopia). the fund is administered by the coffee cooperative we deal with, and funds are loaned to farmer groups who build their well and then pay back the loan at harvest a penny a pound without interest. the fund then revolves to the next group and so on, so like miriam, it keeps finding water. i am so excited to report that our first wells have been opened in jimma, ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee! the wells mean that kids can stay in school instead of having to wait hours for a dripping pipe to fill up their family water cans, and that village women don't have to walk two miles to a dubious stream for the same purpose.
This is what we do, see many other stories (our landmine victims cafe in Nicaragua, our eco-water buffalo project in sumatra) on the website. We do this because it is the right way to engage in the world. We accept the coffee villages as we find them and take responsiblity for their situation beyond giving them a fair price for coffee...
Craig Whitt, San Jose, CA (USA)
My High School (Archbishop Mitty High School--San Jose, CA) participates yearly on an immersion Trip to El Salvador and each year we witness a "new hero", as you describe it, in action. Seeing your program last night for the first time, made me realize that our host, John G., an ex-Jesuit transplant from New York, is indeed one of the people your stories describe. He has lived in El Salvador since the 1980s, helping aid displaced refugees during and after the war. In the past 5-6 years, he has committed his life to the youth of the country by starting a youth organization and hockey team, serving the war victims' children, and his hockey team recently won the championship for all of Central America. His famous adage is, "these kids used to pick up guns..now they pick up hockey sticks." He also started a youth club called the "tamarindos" (tamarind seeds tightly woven together), serving youth in the small village of Guajilla in Chalatenanga where they can read, sing, dance, play sports, and help rebuild community in their village still feeling the after effects of war.
This story of John and what he has done may seem like a "small ring in the pond" as you describe it in the show, but his message is having a profound effect in the country (he was recently featured in a 8 page fold out in the major newspaper there). His definition of "solidarity" (standing alongside the people) is the kind of social justice your show explores and it seems to fit exactly with what you're attempting to teach the public about "new heroes" in difficult regions of the world.
Jane Winn, MA
Eddie & Kelley O. are heroes. Over the last decade they have taken 4 bus loads of goods down to Guaimaca, Honduras; built the New Hope Training Center for the Arts and Mechanics (New Hope is the name of the barrio the school is located in); and most importantly brought an ambulance to this city of 40,000 people. The city is 60 miles from the nearest real hospital and had no ambulance. No fire truck either - that is the new project. Kelley and Eddie do all of this on a shoestring, much with their own money. They are true heroes.
Adam, Syracuse, New York
After graduating from college and getting my masters degree I decided to take several years off to explore the world. So many of my friends were following the "traditional" job path that most students in the US feel compelled to follow and were ending up bored and disenchanted. I felt that my education was lacking in that I did not really understand what happens outside of the borders of the USA and how our actions affect the rest of the world - through the business and culture that we export. I decided to travel around the world to really see new places, learn about topics that interest me that I may not have been exposed to at school, and work with organizations whose ideals I admire. While doing so, I have been communicating through my website - Through the website and newsletters I tried to educate people on what I have been seeing and learning. Since I began this trip 6 months ago, I have already helped another college graduate create a website of his own with the same idea in mind.
Ana, Converse, IN, USA
My daughter Ana didn't feel her story was worthy, but I did.
Ana is a 17-year-old high school student who was born in Bogota, Colombia. For the last year she has collected Spanish-language books from publishers and others in order to create a library in a poor school in Colombia. She started a program she calls "Books for Peace." Her idea is that through reading children can dream and have hope. That through books they can see that there are other things in life to do and become than to work for the drug cartels and mafia. She has been communicating with the assistant minister of education of Colombia and will deliver the books to a school in October or November 2005.
She has had trouble raising money to ship the books and to travel to Colombia, but that hasn't stopped her. She has collected about 1,000 books. She said teenagers don't have to wait until they go to college, get out and get jobs, to make a difference in the world.
World REuse REpair and REcycling Association, www.wr3a.org deals with repair people in foreign countries. Repairing TVs, monitors, computers, stereos, etc. is a forgotten and abandoned art in the USA. In countries like Peru, China, Malaysia, and Venezuela, repair is a field where a person with intelligence and no capital can produce a TV or computer as good as one you can buy from the store.
The richest Chinese auto parts distributor (number 1 in the USA now as well) began by repairing tractors. Samsung began by refurbishing Sonys. Our small company founded WR3A (World REuse REpair and REcycling Association) to promote fair trade with these businesses while controlling dumping of unrepairable junk on them.
My friend has created so much good out of nothing in Tanzania, Africa: impacting a whole village, over 1,000 children many of them total orphans [no adult at all to live with them]. She is an AMAZING testament to what ONE PERSON can do!! because "there was no question, I just had to do it" without having any money and ALOT OF HEART, LOVE & COMMITMENT! Her website, while I like it's simplicity, doesn't begin to give the picture of what has changed in that village. She grew up in Harlem, now lives in Connecticut, and has her heart in Tanzania. hile it is not new, I love that this show is airing!! such has been a vision of mine for a long time.
Michael Daube, New Jersey
In 1994 artist Michael Daube was rummaging through a Dumpster near his illegal Jersey City loft, looking for sculpture materials, when he came across a drawing in a rickety frame signed with a funky dh. Having taken an art attribution course, he had an inkling that it might be a David Hockney. A professional confirmed his hunch, and Daube, then 30, sold his find at Sotheby's for $20,000.
With the money, he took off for India, where he'd traveled six years before. The son of a butcher and a housewife(neither a high school graduate) Daube had survived a turbulent, sometimes violent family life by dreaming of cultures far from his rural upstate New York home.
On his first trip, Daube was struck by the Buddhist concept of compassion (a love that makes one's own needs and happiness inseparable from those of others) which he'd witnessed during a visit to Mother Teresa's mission in Calcutta. When he returned after the Hockney sale, he went back to Mother Teresa and asked her how he might practice compassion $20,000 richer. She suggested opening a school in the country's poorest, most heavily tribal state, rural Orissa. Prone to floods and cyclones, it's an area about which even devoted aid workers ask, "Why would you go there?"
Daube soon found out what they were talking about. "In Orissa, people with extremely sick babies approached me begging for aspirin," he says. "I saw a man in a basket hanging on bamboo poles held by two skinny men who intended to carry him 16 miles through mud to the nearest hospital. Instead of building a school, I began to build a hospital."
It quickly became clear that Daube would need more money to complete the project, so he returned to New York in search of work. In a stroke of good fortune, a friend introduced him to musician David Byrne and artist Adelle Lutz, who ended up giving him odd jobs. ("They knew I could help with art projects as well as fix a fence," says Daube.) During the next two years, he would work for Byrne and Lutz until he'd saved enough money, then travel back to Orissa to add a floor or roof to the hospital. His New York employers convinced him to help them build a clinic in Chiapas, Mexico, to serve the Mayans, and in 1995, Byrne performed in a concert to raise funds. With both hospitals to manage, Daube formed an organization he named Citta, the Sanskrit word meaning "mind and heart"; soon director Jonathan Demme and actress Thandie Newton lent their support.
Most recently, Citta has thrown a lifeline to the poorest regions of Nepal, where women used to leave newborns in the snow to die rather than watch them starve. Now mothers support their families making jewelry and doing bead- and needlework commissioned by New York designers. More medical centers, as well as orphanages and schools, may follow. "After we are involved in a region, it usually becomes apparent what else is needed," says Daube. "Our approach is holistic. There is never just one aspect that allows a community to emerge from poverty."
With marriage and family on hold (Daube is on the road too much) he's become the unofficial big brother to Babu, an eight-year-old Orissa boy. Abandoned in a temple as a baby, Babu now hangs out at the Citta hospital in Orissa, which serves 60,000 people, and he's learning to read at the newly completed school. From that original discovery of the Hockney, Daube has opened up an entire world of beauty and possibility.
Melissa, Fallbrook, CA
When I was a little girl when I saw on t.v. or when I went to Mexico. I saw so many children who needed help but nobody paid much attention to them. Usually kids in Mexico can't go to school because they have no money and their parents are farm workers. Usually I see them in streets selling or working without an education. Usually when a child is ub an orphanage they take them out in a certain age in the real world and have no idea what to do. Usually their are farmers that live very far away from a city or a town and they do not have electricity, water and food. It a really hard life for them. When I got older I realize I wanted to help like put up schools give education. Help out the farm workers with what they need with their farming. Prepare the children for a better future. Besides one small difference in the world makes a big difference.
Maybe a flicker only.......but MAYBE a flame.
Eight years ago, my husband and I were one of a handful of American families who were allowed by the Vietnamese government to adopt a Montagnard child.
At that time, the Montagnards had the highest maternal mortality rate in all of Asia, and many children were in orphanges even though their fathers are living, simply because Montagnard poverty is so deep that without a lactating woman, they have no way to keep an infant alive. It has become the grim tradition to simply bury the infant with the mother. One child in our group was literally taken out of his mother's grave by someone who had the resources to get him to an orphange.
The Montagnards, suffering politically by having been US allies, are becoming more impoverished than before the war. The government is repossesing their land, their only method of supporting themselves, and offering nothing in its place.
When the provinces of Pleiku and Kontum realized that there was a strong willingness among American families to adopt Montagnard children, the adoptions were halted, some midstream and the doors were closed. Other provinces have re-started adoptions to Americans, but those with large Montagnard populations have not, and have announced no plans to open in the future.
The relatively small city of Kontum houses three orphanages that I know about. Each containing upwards of 150 children. Yet only 11 children were allowed to leave the country. The US government challenged many of the adoptions, and in some cases, it took two years for the legally adopted children to enter the US. Several children were housed in Vietnamese foster care at the American parent's expense, because the parents were not able to give up their jobs and leave the US while the State Department stalled their child's entry again and again.
We have a friend who worked as the facilitator for all of the Montagnard adoptions at Children's Hope International in Portland, Oregon. When you spend any time at all in an orphanage, you capture snapshots in your mind of particular children, of certain faces or eyes. Our friend Jane has been unable to leave those hundreds of children's faces in Vietnam. They keep following her around in her head. Clearly, adoption is not the answer. Not enough families, too many bureaucrats. But education might work where removal can't.
Jane is in the process of setting up scholarships to send four or five of the older orphaned girls to nursing or teaching school. Bringing the concept of a knowledge based career instead of an agricultural life to people who's land is rapidly being "reassigned" by the government, is crucial. It needs to happen before the Montagnard villagers find themselves part of the world of urbanized unskilled labor.