Guest post from Jeff Ruffalo.
CEBU, Philippines – I am a survivor.
And I have been as wounded as any person that has been raped and abused – unwanted and unasked.
To describe to you what it was to survive – and that word is not used flippantly – the Superstorm that was Yolanda (the International name Haiyan) was a descent not only into madness but a journey from the 21st Century to the 13th Century in a matter of moments.
Yolanda was a mad, evil thing that rose up out of the depths of darkness to pounce onto the islands of the Philippines and carve a path of destruction that is unlike anything mankind has ever seen.
Think of the sheer power of Superstorm Sandy that came ashore in New Jersey and pulverized one community after another.
Think of the awesome impact of Superstorm Katrina that laid waste to New Orleans.
Put both of them in a blender, mix well and dump the remains onto the southern oceans southeast of the Philippine Islands and allow it to bubble and rise up to destroy everything in its path – then you will have a small taste of what Yolanda was like.
It was not the finger of God that touched down onto the Earth.
But the fist …
It happened in this way for me, my family, only a few days ago.
I live in Guangzhou, China and married my true love, the former Cris Evert Lato last year. We have twin children, Nicholas and Antoinette, who as of this writing are 4 months old. I am an American and Cris a Filipina … so in order to allow the twins to have their birthright and US Citizenship, Cris and I (mostly her) compiled a massive dossier that included all ultrasounds, records of our 14 trips back and forth from the Philippines to China and reverse – all to prove to the US Government that our relationship was true and real.
As such, these documents had to be presented to the US Consulate in Cebu. I flew from China down to Cebu for this express purpose of visiting the American Consulate, which we did a few days ago. Once that was done, I had a chance to spend a few extra days with Cris and the kids.
Fast forward to last Wednesday.
Cris and I were in Alaya Mall, an upscale shopping center in Cebu when it was flashed that a major storm was coming directly at the city.
Rushing home, we frantically called Cris’ mom on Leyte, a province located on another island located northeast of Cebu and she immediately grabbed her bag and headed out to get onto one of the last ferries down to Cebu City.
The reports were coming in fast and furiously now. The storm was named Yolanda and Philippine government reports were already warning everyone in Cebu to take shelter.
All schools in Cebu were closing and the three major grocery stores/malls were being overwhelmed with panic buying.
I jumped into a taxi and zoomed over to the SM Grocery Store to pick-up whatever canned goods and bottled water I could – but you could forget any bread, eggs or other perishables.
By the time I got to the supermarket, those were long gone. I saw dozens of families rushing up and down isles dumping everything they could into shopping carts only to find they had no money to pay for it at the check-out stands.
I was fortunate to have bought the last cooked chicken the store offered.
Thursday was a “dead day” as Yolanda made her ever so slow advance toward Cebu. Cris’ Mom spent a lot of time with the kids which freed Cris and me to make preparations on her house which fortunately was built quite solidly – unlike the shanty homes with tin roofs that surrounded her backyard.
Yolanda then pounced – descending onto Cebu on Friday morning at 9 a.m., making landfall onto Leyte and the other small islands surrounding it.
Then it hit Cebu City.
When it did the power of this single storm nearly instantly exploded every power transformer in Cebu, sending the second largest city of the nation of the Philippines – of more than two million souls – into complete darkness and by 10 a.m. we all – in the collective sense – had made a one-way journey into the 13th Century. There was no power, no internet service and for most people in Cebu, no running water.
Cris had wisely bought enough candles so we didn’t have to grope in the darkness. The house has standby water tank and we had an inventory of canned goods and other food products ready to be consumed.
The full power of Yolanda then came onto us like an unwanted guest at 3 p.m.
The sky turned an evil black as Yolanda swirled above us.
I went out onto the front patio to look at the full power of nature on display and when I gazed upward at Yolanda, she looked down onto me.
It was the most terrifying experience you could ever imagine as this evil thing looked at me, took me as naught, continuing along on her pathway of complete destruction.
Yolanda placed her full fury onto the northern part of Cebu, churning and grinding away at everything made by the hands of Man.
Nothing physically made by humans could withstand the awesome power of Yolanda.
And nothing did.
Our family huddled together in the darkness for several hours … then Cris, her brother and I braved to go out and try and find hot food. Walking over to a small street, we hopped onto a gas-powered tricycle that took us to the main boulevard near the house. Nothing moved except for the shuffling of humans along the sides of the road.
Cris bought two whole roasted chickens and some tomatoes. I managed to find four potatoes and some sodas to bring back.
We had dinner by candlelight.
Romantic it wasn’t.
By 4 a.m. that Saturday morning, Yolanda had sucked out all of the oxygen in her move northeast and out of the Philippines and what was left was this thick, anxious “air” that burned the lungs.
Not able to sleep, I went back to the front porch and sat outside in front of a single candle that drew in all of the insects from the surround area – seeking the comfort of this single light.
As time slowly passed, I could hear the zombies of Cebu rising from what was left of their tin-roofed homes. Moaning and slouching in their quiet dismay, they passed by without a glance – neither of us wanting to acknowledge each other.
One became two and slowly the group of undead residents emerged, seeing the remnant of the broken trees that were dispersed all around. They too had survived Yolanda and as dawn broke their humanity was slowly returned to them.
Machetes started whizzing through the air as dead wood was furiously being chopped into firewood.
As wood chips flew through the air, I thought of the people of Cebu and of the Philippines.
What an amazing group of people they truly are. The Filipinos are the ultimate survivors and are made of tough stuff. They have been colonized and subjugated by the Spanish, the Americans and the Japanese in the past … and not one month ago lived through a 7.2 magnitude Earthquake only to face the ultimate evil.
We lived another day.
Thousands of their countrymen were not as fortunate especially the city of Tacloban in Leyte.
Yolanda plucked their lives away from them as you might pick fruit from a tree.
My family made it through this event but we collectively never be the same.
Yolanda was a Mad Harriett from the darkness of Hell.
May she rest in peace.
Guest post by Thea Linscott of Stupid Cancer.
Young adult cancer patients face a number of challenges when faced with the big C. One that may be the greatest challenge is isolation.
A cancer diagnosis moves you away from your peers, co-workers, family and friends. It places you on a barrier island with chemotherapy, radiation, hair loss, pain and loss swarming around, waiting for a moment of weakness to take over.
Stupid Cancer is a non-profit organization that empowers those affected by young adult (15 – 39 years old) cancer through innovative and award-winning programs and services. As the nation’s premier patient advocate for this underserved population and serve as a bullhorn for the young adult cancer movement. The charter is to ensure that no one goes unaware of the age-appropriate support resources they are entitled to so they can get busy living. These services are built to connect the young adult to a network of support.
“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 26 years old, my doctor may have cured me but meeting others who had already ‘been there and done that’ is what truly saved my life.” ~ Jennifer
Young adults, a largely unknown group in the war on cancer, account for 72,000 new diagnosis each year. That’s one every eight minutes. It’s also seven times more than all pediatric cancers combined. And yet, these young adults, regardless of the amount of support they have, feel isolated and on their own.
“I have heard New York described as a lonely place. It’s irony at its finest – someone being lonely in the most populated city in the US. Being a cancer patient follows similar irony. You are constantly surrounded by people and support, but it can be extremely lonely.” ~ Briel
The Institute of Medicine has found that lack of peer support can be a barrier to better outcomes for cancer patients. Connecting with someone who has already walked in your shoes can be a bridge to positive thinking, community, resources and much needed support.
“When I was diagnosed, I was told I had six months to live. I felt like I was the only person in the entire world that was hearing those words. Thank goodness they were wrong.” ~ Matthew
In the next chapter of Stupid Cancer, there will be a mobile health app to connect the young adult cancer patient with people just like them. The app to end isolation.
Stupid Cancer has launched a crowdfunding campaign with WeDidIt, a crowdfunding platform that enables non-profits to fundraise more efficiently.
Instapeer is a revolutionary mobile health app that brings 1-on-1 peer connection into the 21st century for 20 million Americans affected by young adult cancer. The app will use modern technology to connect those impacted by young adult cancer.
Research has found most millennials are not availing themselves – and therefore not benefiting from – today’s peer matching solutions, which are outdated, call center-based and not in sync with the way this generation socially engages. Instapeer will meet the underserved needs of millennial patients, survivors and caregivers on their terms and their turf with technology they already use and understand.
Stupid Cancer anticipates over 500,000 users adopting Instapeer by 2016. Visit http://instapeer.org for more information.
Thea Linscott is a 15-year cancer survivor serves on the board of directors for Stupid Cancer.
I love this inspiring video and am excited about work that empowers women around the world.
Hat tip to the Daily Do Gooder for sharing it with me.
Guest post from Andrea Lo of Piggybackr.
While crowdfunding has exploded and become mainstream – doubling to an estimated $3B industry in just three years – young people have largely been left out of the revolution. That is, until there was Piggybackr, the only crowdfunding website designed for young people and their teams.
This week, Piggybackr launched the world’s largest crowdfunding challenge—the first campaign that challenges young people nationwide to join in and show the world that they won’t be left out of the crowdfunding revolution. We are calling all aspiring entrepreneurs, leaders, and philanthropists to post their ideas, projects, and community needs to their networks of friends, families, and local businesses.
We’re calling it the One Million Leaders Challenge and we’re challenging young people to take the lead and bring their fundraisers online this holiday season – a time when the majority of giving happens. You could be a student interested in funding a sports team or training to become an artist or musician. Or you might be a future entrepreneur, community leader, or political activist. Whatever their passion, young people ranging from age six to 25 (with help from their teams of adult allies) have nine weeks (Nov. 1, 2013 to Jan. 3, 2014) to launch fundraisers, and will be eligible each week for a carefully cultivated list of weekly prizes, some designed to help them take their idea or cause to the next level through mentorship or recognition. Someone will be crowned “Leader of the Year” and serve as a role model to other young future leaders.
Why does this matter now? A recent study revealed that more than six million Millennials age 16 to 24 are out of school AND jobless. Six million! That’s six million young folks starting their careers on uneven footing; it’s a scary thought.
While this may seem glum during a time of limited resources, it makes the potential of this call to action even more important and exciting. We need to call on a new generation of leaders to help us change the staggering statistics and inevitable negative stereotypes of the younger generations from entitled to empowered.
You, or someone you know, has the chance to take the lead, raise funds, and gain visibility for a bright idea, project, or cause this holiday season.
Global women’s organization and CEO recognized for innovation in furthering mission of improving the lives of women and girls
Soroptimist International of the Americas, a global organization that works to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment, is a model for success. Soroptimist; its executive director and CEO, Elizabeth M. Lucas; and its online community, LiveYour dream.org, have all been recognized recently for achievement in furthering the organization’s impact.
In addition, LiveYourDream.org, received the W3 Silver Award for excellence in activism. This award recognizes websites that encourage change, movement, reform, revolution and involvement. The W3 is sanctioned and judged by the International Academy of Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from acclaimed media, interactive, advertising and marketing firms.
“As a membership organization, our intent is to enable our clubs and members to successfully deliver our mission.” added Lucas. “We are proud to serve as their partners in helping women and girls the world over to achieve their full potential.”
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist (Soroptimist.org) improves the lives of women and girls through the work of volunteers in 1,300 clubs across 19 countries and territories. Soroptimist’s major program, the Women’s Opportunity Awards, provides cash grants to women for education and training, leading to improved career prospects. Since 1972, the award-winning program has disbursed more than $30 million to tens of thousands of women throughout the world. Soroptimist is also developing a new program that will provide career guidance and support to girls. A 501©(3) organization that relies on charitable donations to support its programs, the organizationa also powers LiveYourDream.org—an online community offering offline volunteer opportunities in support of women and girls.
From time to time I find evidence to support my theory that people are almost universally good at heart. Here is some of that evidence:
Guest post from Peter Whitehead, Director of Communications, Media Development Investment Fund.
Mike Daka told me how he left his job as head of the country’s top journalism school to set up a radio station in Zambia’s remote Eastern Province. It was a risky thing to do for a veteran journalist, but in 10 years he has built Breeze FM into the most-listened-to broadcaster in the region.
The station provides a valuable service, not just providing entertainment but also exposing local corruption and providing information to listeners about health, education and agriculture. Mike spotted a great opportunity to increase Breeze FM’s audience and ad revenues by investing in a more powerful transmitter. But when he tried to borrow money, no one wanted to know. The project is too risky for local lenders, not just because they don’t have expertise in the media business but also for political reasons – the government doesn’t like the fact that it can’t control what Breeze FM broadcasts and the business prospects for any lender who helps it will suffer.
Five thousand miles away, two other highly respected journalists, Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan, run the independent news website they founded in Malaysia, a country where the government and its friends control almost every media outlet. Despite police raids, blackouts and cyber-attacks, they have built their website into the most popular and most influential political news site in the country, playing an important role in recent elections that are helping to move the country towards greater democracy and freedoms. They needed an investor to bring finance and strategic advice to help them take their business to the next level. Though there’s no shortage of companies and wealthy individuals ready to offer financing, the problem is that they’ll only do so if they also get to influence editorial content.
Stories like Mike’s, Steven’s and Prem’s are played out every day in dozens of countries around the world. More than 80% of people – about 5.5 billion – live in countries without a free press, where citizens are fed a diet of unreliable news that those in power want them to hear. Following the logic ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’, many governments see independent media – ones that follow ethical journalistic principles to provide reliable, quality news – as the enemy. Informing the public isn’t a national service, it’s a threat to national security.
Even for those news organizations which do manage to produce quality journalism, a continual challenge is commercial sustainability. Without financial independence, media companies are always going to be at the mercy of political parties, oligarchs and others ready to trade their capital for influence.
For many, it’s a surprise to find out that this is an area where impact investing is possible, never mind that it’s got an 18-year track record of delivering real and measurable impact. By providing affordable debt and equity financing without editorial strings attached, impact investors have provided scores of journalist-entrepreneurs with the tools they need to compete with state-supported media and build robust news institutions.
With proven equity exits and a write-off rate of less than 3%, the financial case is already well-made. As for the social returns, I’d say that holding governments to account, exposing corruption and providing a platform for people to have a say in how they’re governed is hard to beat.
Crowdfunding Website launches Nationwide Campaign, Offers Prizes & Mentorship Opportunities to Young Leaders
SAN FRANCISCO, November 4, 2013 – Piggybackr (www.piggybackr.com), a crowdfunding website for teams, announces its inaugural “Piggybackr One Million Leaders Challenge,” a campaign to mobilize the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists to raise money for their projects, ideas, and communities this holiday giving season.
The challenge invites young people and their teams to launch fundraisers and crowdfund on Piggybackr.com anytime between Nov. 1, 2013 and Jan. 3, 2014.
Participants will be considered for weekly prizes including a backstage concert meet & greet with role model Selena Gomez, a tour of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and mentorship opportunities like a 1-on-1 chat with serial entrepreneur and original “Shark Tank” investor Kevin Harrington. The grand prizewinner of the challenge will be named “Piggybackr Leader of the Year.” Prizes have been designed to encourage young people of all ages and leadership experience levels to get involved.
“It’s an opportunity for young people to take the lead this holiday season, to share more about the things they care about – their teams, projects, and ideas, and get the funding and mentorship they need to take it to the next level,” said Andrea Lo, CEO and Co-Founder of Piggybackr. “We want to inspire one million young leaders to act.”
The grand prizewinner will be named “the Piggybackr Leader of the Year,” and will serve as a role model to other young people, receive funding, recognition, and support to help amplify their projects. The winner will be selected by a panel of accomplished young judges including 15 year-old educator Adora Svitak who gave a TED talk on what adults can learn from kids, 20 year-old Alex Wirth who leads the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council, and 21 year-old Stacey Ferreira whose startup received investment from Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson.
Other weekly prizes include an official NFL football signed by 2013-2014 MVP and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, a coaching session with the Kauffman FastTrac Entrepreneurship Program, and a professional team photo shoot from SmartShoot.
For this Challenge, Piggybackr has partnered with a group of regional and national nonprofits committed to empowering the next generation of leaders in fields ranging from STEM, entrepreneurship, environment activism, to sports and community service, including BizWorld.org, Camp BizSmart, Coalition Wild, DoSomething.org, Equal Footing Foundation, GenerationOn, Girls Innovate!, Greening Forward, Kauffman FastTrac, and Young Dreamers Network. Piggybackr invites other nonprofits to step up and participate as well.
For more information on the Piggybackr One Million Leaders Challenge and to enter, please visit: http://www.piggybackr.com/challenge.
Piggybackr is a crowdfunding website for teams & new fundraisers. Raise more money for your team, school, or cause while mobilizing your members in an easy & fun way. Since launching nationwide in 2013, Piggybackr has helped teams from 47 states raise an average of $76 per donor—compare that to selling 76 candy bars to each donor! Hailed as the “Kickstarter for Kids,” Piggybackr has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and TEDx for empowering the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. For more information, visit www.piggybackr.com or follow Piggybackr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Prior to joining BYU, Phil spent two years as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of Utah, serving on Governor Mike Leavitt’s Cabinet and as a member of his Senior Staff. Before entering public service, Phil was Vice President for Product Development and Operations at Excite@Home. He was the Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of iMALL, Inc. an early creator of electronic commerce tools. Phil serves on the Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards for several high-tech companies. Phil received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Univ. of California, Davis in 1990.
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