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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Ready And Wrestless, My Experience With Haiti’s 2010 Earthquake: Then And Now

This is a guest post from Neil Koppel.

A Nation in Crisis… or Gifts Come In Many Forms

On January 12, 2013, Haiti was struck by the worst earthquake in its history and suffered dreadful human and economic losses. Initial reports estimated that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake left over 200,000 people dead and some 895,000 Haitians homeless. Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, suffered widespread devastation. Hospitals, churches and schools collapsed, residences and commercial buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, and the few usable roads were blocked with debris. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 80 percent of its citizens existing in poverty. Hunger, unemployment, disease, malnutrition and limited access to education were an acceptable standard for many in Haiti.


Found this outside airport upon arriving

At the time of the earthquake I found myself in the undefined state of being retired; taking my son to school and watching my wife play tennis were my rewards for doing well in the jewelry business. Having had a manufacturing company in Haiti more than 30 years prior, I knew the country and its people. This was a serious mess. It was apparent that food, medical care, shelter and sanitation were desperately needed. However, Haiti lacked vital infrastructure and an organized government necessary to respond to the disaster. The more time that passed the more bodies were piling up in numbers that defied comprehension. Port-au-Prince’s morgues were so overwhelmed, that quick and dirty solution was to bury bodies with rubble on the side of the roads.


In the days and nights following the earthquake, it’s estimated that over a million people slept in open fields, the streets or the lucky ones, in relief camps. No place could you find electricity, running water, sanitation or predictable food. Crime in the camps was widespread, especially against women and children. Many children lost one or both parents and they were especially vulnerable. Any police protection that existed before was now in disarray and the U.N. troops which were tasked with keeping the peace, were completely overwhelmed.

Ready for Takeoff

Tuesday night January the 12th, CNN reported the disaster and horrific images were starting to trickle in. I watched in disbelief and turned to my wife and as I was about to say, “I need to go”, she said, “go”. The arrangements to fly my aircraft there and needed to be coordinated through the U.S. Air Force who effectively had taken over the airport. Thursday I received my slot, Friday I was to be the 110th aircraft cleared in. I flew my Pilatus PC12 and piloted the first of what would become 58 missions over an 18 month period to Haiti. On my initial flight I brought a U.S. Air Force Colonel who was a surgeon, an emergency room pediatrician and two professors from Sacramento State University. They were associated with a Haitian orphanage for more than 20 years and had been trying to get to Haiti since Monday before the earthquake struck. I also packed in 700 pounds of much needed food and medical supplies, plus a precisely calculated fuel quantity to get me there and back.


First Flight

When I arrived in Haitian airspace, there were aircraft stacked every thousand feet from 3,000 to 30,000 with no radar separation. They were all awaiting clearance to land and off-load recuse workers and cargos. My arrival slot number went out the proverbial window, and my maximum 15 minute hold time to burn jet fuel was quickly being consumed. The cacophony over the radio was impossible to communicate over and for an instant I was able to get through to the makeshift tower. No space to land… tarmac full… was the command, I explained grass was an acceptable runway option for the PC12 or they’d be launching a search and rescue operation for me if didn’t land. They cleared us to land.

The first signs of devastation were the missing pieces from the tower and the terminal which had whole chunks missing from its walls. I was overcome with sadness and grief by the sheer scale of what I was witnessing. I had often read and heard about how a person has a defining moment. One that sets into play a path that before that moment is neither a choice nor an opportunity. This was mine. It’s something so personal, that words are inadequate to describe the emotions.


The first month and a half of trips were dedicated to bringing children to the U.S. that were in some form of medical crisis. There were no commercial flights in or out of Haiti, so utilizing my PC12 was literally a lifesaver. All-in-all there were 21 kids I brought back ranging from 3 months to 14 years old that had life threatening conditions. I coordinated with the NGO’s Partners in Health and Project MediShare who provided the urgent care necessary once we landed back in the U.S.


Arranged for plastic surgery and prosthetic arm and leg.

One of the flights I brought back an 18 year old mother and her 3 month old infant. The mother and child survived the earthquake and found themselves in an I.D.P. camp (AKA; internally displaced people’s camp). While the mother was cooking in her make-shift tent, it caught fire and the burning nylon engulfed the young infant.

Time was of the essence to get the baby to a burn center and I picked up the mother and her baby in Port-Au-Prince the next morning. A doctor was provided by Partners in Heath to stabilize the baby during the flight back to Fort Lauderdale’s (FXE) airport. As a quick footnote, Customs and TSA at Ft. Lauderdale did an amazing job clearing and making sure the rescue flights were handled in the quickest and most professional manner possible. Rarely do they get acknowledged for doing a good job, but during this crisis they did great. A corporate jet was standing by as we touched down to fly the 3 passengers to Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati. Within 10 minutes of landing they were taxing for take-off. I found out over 2 months later that the baby survived and was recovering.


I never provided my name or contact information to any of the children or families I helped. However, after the flights I did check up on each to see their progress. It was incredibly gratifying to find out that every one of the 21 children survived.

For many of us, (me included), it seems like the smallest and most materialistic things are our biggest issues. In Haiti, I witnessed a mother whose dilemma was how she was going to get her baby to survive through the night. It was pouring rain and she had no shelter or food for days. That gave me the opportunity to take pause and think about what mattered at that moment.

There was another rescue of a 13 year old boy who has stepped on a nail and got tetanus. In the U.S. it’s no big deal, an antitoxin shot and you’ll be fine. However, after a week of corporate lawyers arguing that since the kid couldn’t sit up and wear a seat-belt, he posed a “liability”, just leave him to essentially die was their solution. Not okay with me. Project MediShare doing their great work arranged for a doctor, nurse and portable respirator that plugged into the PC12 to bring him back to Miami. Three weeks later he was jumping up and down on his bed and dancing to an iPod a nurse gave him.


Working with J/P Haitian Relief Organization

In February as the situation in Haiti shifted from rescue and recovery to rebuilding, I met Sean Penn. He was at the J/P Haitian Relief Organization base in Petionville and we shared ideas of how to create housing and some semblance of normalcy. We agreed that the two most important problems to solve were to create employment and housing. However, giving a family a home without any means of support was a bad idea. That was something I experienced firsthand in my travels to India and Sean had his own similar thoughts.


I obtained distribution rights for an inexpensive and quickly built home made of recycled plastic and aluminum, and a small amount of steel. Not only was it a home that three unskilled people could assemble in less than two hours (think Ikea), but one that a family could safely live in. It was strong enough to withstand a tropical storm and allowed the family the privacy for themselves and their children.

Sean’s J/P HRO was the recipient of the very first one. Others were donated and one became a women’s dispensary for feminine needs and a makeshift clinic.

I worked to get 10 acres of land donated and start the first prototypical concept. In early 2011, I completed the first village of 21 homes and moved over 125 people from an IDP camp in Belleville near Port-Au-Prince to the seaside town of Jacmel. What resulted from the village was indescribable; people who never held a screw driver learned how to build a house, kids went to school for the first time, we helped the men obtain work rehabbing the building in town and the families began growing corn and feeding their own families.



Shortly thereafter, I met a professor who taught at Cornel University who helped teach me what would grow and prosper on the fertile Haitian land. Together, taking Sean and my ideas, I developed this concept for a “holistic village”. It started with 50 houses and families, a central village square, basic utilities and a school. Utilizing basic agriculture to raise chicks to maturity and then prepare, cook and finally sell them to NGO’s and aid foreign aid workers to create a micro economy. 



Links Jewelry is Formed to Support J/P HRO’s Efforts in Haiti

Over those first 18 months and beyond I witnessed firsthand the commitment that Sean Penn and his staff at J/P HRO have to Haiti. I wanted to continue my support even after serious back surgery forced me to end my flights there. In April 2012, Links Jewelry was formed to bring people together and help the Haitian economy. Having formulated a manufacturing model that would benefit the U.S. and Haiti, Links had a very different focus than any business I had ever created.


The plan started here in Florida manufacturing jewelry by hand and using American made materials that are fabricated with a Haitian labor force. Then, as sales increase and the number of units rise, a factory in Haiti will be built. The intention is to offer it to beneficiaries of Sean’s camp who have received homes but are without predictable employment. It seems rather logical to me to give a country where there is 87% unemployment an opportunity that is only 690 miles away from Florida, labor is far less and the carbon footprint is 1/20th, duhh. Conventional wisdom might say to source it in China but that would defeat everything I have painfully experienced.

I want to give the Links customer the opportunity to buy an awesome piece of hand-crafted jewelry, while at the same time feeling good about making a difference. Additionally, by donating 10% of sales to J/P HRO, Links Jewelry is supporting the vision that Sean and I share for Haiti.

The 18 months that I gave the best of myself was echoed by thousands of other people I met. There were so many individuals in Haiti from every aspect of life, some with their possessions in a backpack for a 1-year stay, some generous and wealthy and some who would break a piece of bread in half so each of us could have our own slice. But, what I came away with is how grateful I am for the gift to have done what I loved to do most, fly and build stuff.

Neil Koppel

Pilot Light Foundation Lifts Batwa; See How You Can Help

This is a guest post from Carol Levy of Pilot Light Foundation.


When I first visited the Batwa in the spring of 2011, I was shocked to see their living conditions. The homes they were living in were tiny and not water tight, made of sticks, leaves and various other items of trash. Some of them were lucky enough to use mud. They were living crammed onto small plots of land with very little food growing and almost no farm animals. The hygiene was clearly an issue.

Our intention was do an income generating dairy goat project that would also help improve the nutrition of the Batwa children. My partner and I quickly realized, however, that it would be impossible to focus solely on income generating activities without first addressing the pressing issues of safe housing, food security, etc.

Since that first visit, we partnered with the African International Christian Ministry. We have been able to build 40 homes and are going to build 94 more. We have established 29 Village Savings and Loans Groups, so the Batwa are learning to save, borrow and invest in income generating activities. We have improved food security through teaching farming techniques, supplying seeds and helping to acquire land for farming and building homes. We have been educating the Batwa on health and hygiene and giving incentive to send their kids to school. Many tourists who are in the area to see the mountain gorillas stop by to watch the Batwa sing and dance. We are working on a project that will centralize and organize the tourist visits to create an income generating business that will benefit the whole community. We did all of this with 5 groups of Batwa living in the area around Kabale, Uganda and are now increasing our program to include another 5 groups, in total 716 people.


During my last visit to the Batwa Project, it was so exciting to see the progress made. The Batwa were clearly thrilled with what they had been able to accomplish in such a short time and were proudly inviting us into their new homes. One man spontaneously broke into a dance when showing off his new home. We met with each group to give them the chance to tell us what they thought was working, not working and what else was needed. Now we are ready to move forward and to continue our progress.

To donate to the Batwa Project, visit

To learn more about the Pilot Light Foundation, visit

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Follow us on twitter @PilotLightFund


The “Touristification” of Education

This is a guest post from Carlos Miceli.


I’m currently reading Antifragile, by Nassim Taleb (probably the most relevant book of the year), and a particular concept caught my attention: the idea of “touristification”. Taleb explains:

Touristification castrates systems and organisms that like uncertainty by sucking randomness out of them to the last drop while providing them with the illusion of benefit. […] This is my term for an aspect of modern life that treats humans as washing machines, with simplified mechanical responses and a detailed user’s manual. It is the systematic removal of uncertainty and randomness from things, trying to make matters highly predictable in their smallest details. All that for the sake of comfort, convenience, and efficiency.

This is the biggest challenge for Exosphere and any other institution that aims to be a responsible alternative to the broken traditional educational system: how NOT to create a “touristified” educational experience.

We all face the same pressure to “touristify” our lives and remove volatility and chaos from everything. It’s how modernity tries to function: by being safe and predictable. Some things in society should be predictable. But the path to develop maturity and self-reliance is anything but predictable. This is why universities and big companies are terrible at it and only foster dependency and powerlessness, with their super-structured 4-year degrees and their 8-hour, 5-day workweek. The things that matter can only be developed in volatile environments, not in educational tourism agencies.

It’s important to clarify that you can go through this process alone (it’s how I did it), but it’s harder and the chances of failure are higher (I know I failed more than was necessary). Another option is to join a community that will support you and pick you up when, not if, you stumble. This is why I’m building Exosphere.

Selling broccoli, not candy

It is paramount for new educational alternatives to have “skin in the game” for the success of their participants. They need to risk something. Otherwise, it’s not real. That’s why they don’t care when you go into the real world and experience real pain without any real preparation. They give you your piece of paper and say good luck, then reality hits you square in your unprepared face.

Lifelong learning and curiosity only come after one reaches what Charles Hayes calls a “critical mass of knowledge”, a tipping point in learning after which the activity is self-fulfilling. But there’s no pre-packaged body of knowledge that can inspire one to become a lifelong learner in a passive way. There’s no degree or job that gives it to you. It’s a process that you have to discover for yourself. It’s chaotic by nature.

It’d be easier for us to create a “touristified” experience and not be responsible for how our participants behave. After all, how can anyone complain if we deliver a predictable, streamlined experience that begins and ends the same for everyone? We would be off the hook. Once they leave, we can put the blame of their future shortcomings on them because “they didn’t work hard enough”, and take credit for their successes because “they learned at Exosphere”.

But that’s why we won’t do it. Because we won’t follow the cowardice of traditional institutions, where they disconnect themselves from the process and results of their people by making things too safe. We will always speak out of tough love with our members. We will always remind them that both their successes and failures are up to them AND us. We’re in it together.

We would rather let Exosphere die with the right values and because we had skin in the game with every member of our community, than grow it out of fear and let it poison future generations with passivity, fragility, and paternalism.

The challenge is to have the right balance of structure and volatility where people can go through the pain and growth of entrepreneurship, without being isolated to the point where they could fail too hard to ever get back up.

The challenge is to sell broccoli, not candy. If you want to learn and grow in a healthy way, you should start paying attention to the nutrition facts label of the more traditional institutions.

A case for a “flâneurial” education

If the tourist is the traveler that wants things to be clear, safe and predictable, then his opposite would be the “flâneur”: he who strolls aimlessly, open to randomness and volatility in the journey as he moves forward. We need institutions that can provide a “flâneurial” education.

What should you expect in a “flâneurial” education, you ask?

You should expect uncertainty, unknowns, and a sense of adventure.

You should expect to assume responsibility for the consequences of your actions and in-actions.

You should expect the availability of resources and support, but not directions of when or how to use them (unless you ask).

You should expect to stay attached to reality and listen to opposing views, in order to look for the truth and achieve a better outcome.

You should expect to feel sad and lost sometimes, because that’s feedback. It’s your mind reorganizing to know how to do things better next time.

You should expect to feel thrills and emotions that you never felt before when solving real problems. You’ll discover an inner creativity and resourcefulness that only wakes up when dealing with real problems.

You should expect to always have someone willing to listen and help you work through your problems.

You should expect to feel fulfilled, to experience spiritual growth, and to develop strength and discipline.

You should expect to feel like your life matters, and embrace how necessary you are to make other people’s lives better.


This is what you can expect at Exosphere. At Exosphere, we only want the flâneur entrepreneurs and curious learners. The ones that come for the broccoli and the unmatchable rewards of a courageous and uncertain life.

Estas en mi Corazón

This is a guest post from Israel Aiesha of Habitat for Humanity.

That’s what my Soachan grandmother told me upon departing her home and “almost complete” flooring. I took a quick glance at her as I knew what was coming next. I have a soft spot for those who give of themselves to show gratitude, often giving what they don’t have, what I believe to be love of purest form. Why must I travel so far to find such love? I go to hug mi abuela and immediately I melt like an ice cube on the sidewalk of a hot Texan day. Does she not know how much she and her grandson have fed my soul? How dare I walk away from her unfinished floor! How must I show her my gratitude? Please wrap your hands around this woman and her child oh God. Hold me accountable for what I have seen and experienced here.

Habitat for Humanity was established in Colombia in 1991, when a teacher from a rural school in Quimbaya, Quindío, became aware of the organization through a magazine article. Three years later, the construction of the first 28 houses began in the Los Cerezos de Quimbaya neighborhood.

Habitat for Humanity Colombia (HPHC) strives to become an alternative for low income families, helping families to build and improve their own homes. Habitat Colombia seeks support and partnership from government, the private sector and civil society—especially crowdfunding networks and people like us.


HPHC has served more than 3,500 families through diverse housing solutions, and granted 2,300 loans for over 4 million dollars. Habitat has also helped more than 1,500 people through training on financial education and healthy housing. More than 20 municipalities and regions have benefited from HPHC’s projects.

In the week of our interaction and dialogue with the people of Soacha, I was humbly made aware of their dire need for affordable housing, adequate sewage and safe roads. They need transportation in and out of Soacha and to do that, roads must be accessible. But for road accessibility, sewage must be assessed. There are so many issues in getting this informal settlement to where it needs to be. Where do we begin??? We need financing!!! HPHC cannot fufill our mission and ensure housing for all simply by building more Habitat houses. To reach the goal of safe, adequate, and affordable housing, we need to change systems, attitudes, policies and institutional behaviors that lead to inadequate housing and homelessness.

HPHC has a longer term vision for a more comprehensive upgrading program of Ciudadela Sucre, rather than a house-by-house type of housing improvement strategy. Construction plans for the years ahead include:

  1. Participatory appraisal
  2. Healthy housing program
  3. Neighborhood upgrading program
  4. Security of tenure
  5. Microcredit and savings program

If you see this post today PLEASE SHARE so that I am held accountable, so that I will never forget Luisa, Maicol and all of the people of SOACHA.


Please visit and share my Habitat for Humanity pledge page. Donate TODAY!

“By building homes…we build peace.” – Israel Aiesha

Anti-Trafficking Trio Share Passion For Freedom

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Lisa Kristine inspires the world with her photography of people living in ancient and often horrific circumstances; much of her work focuses on vividly documenting slavery. In early 2012, 8-year-old Vivienne Harr saw a photo Kristine had taken of two slave children with rocks strapped to their heads, holding hands as they struggled under the weight of their backbreaking work. Vivienne was stunned to learn that nearly 30 million people are still held as slaves today and she decided to do something about it.

With the help of her father, Eric Harr, Vivienne launched a campaign to raise money to fight child slavery. Starting with a lemonade stand, her efforts grew into a social enterprise with a remarkable 5 percent of revenue going the fight. Make-a-Stand Lemonade is now available in stores. I’ve written about Vivienne’s story before.

Free the Slaves is one of the six carefully selected organizations that Make-a-Stand supports. Executive Director Maurice Middleberg will join Kristine, Harr and me for a live discussion about how we can go about ending slavery. We’ll be live on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:00 Eastern.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Kristine’s web site notes, “Lisa Kristine is a San Francisco based photographer specializing in indigenous peoples and cause related photography. Best known for her evocative and saturated use of color, her fine art prints are among the most sought after and collected in her field.”

Harr’s success in raising money and awareness has brought her an unusual level of fame for a girl yet to notch her tenth birthday. She was recently invited to help ring the closing bell at Twitter’s IPO, representing the potential for Twitter to effect good.

Free the Slaves describes its work “on the ground with liberators around the world. We do what it takes to free men, women and children and help them stay free. Basic needs for food, shelter and safety from angry slave owners must be met. Then the system that allows slavery to flourish has to be dismantled and another created by former slaves learning to live in freedom.”


This interview is part of a series that will examine what can be accomplished in the fight to solve the world’s biggest challenges within the next thirty years. The solution to every big problem also presents opportunities entrepreneurs will exploit to change the world. From this series of interviews, a book, working title: Thirty Years to Peace, will emerge.

Please help me continue this conversation below, on Twitter or on my personal website.

ECPAT Battles Human Trafficking Around The World; How You Can, Too

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation selected ECPAT International the recipient of the $1.5 million 2013 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize on August 1, 2013. Hilton describes ECPAT as “the leading global network of organizations dedicated to stopping the commercial sexual exploitation of children.”

Executive Director Dorothy Rozga accepted the award on behalf of the organization, saying, “ECPAT is deeply honored to be selected to receive the prestigious Hilton Humanitarian Prize by its distinguished jury. Over the last 20 years the name ECPAT has become synonymous with action to stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Hilton Humanitarian Prize is welcome recognition of the pioneering role ECPAT has played to bring this issue to the world’s attention. The Prize is also an impetus for ECPAT to accelerate action as we seek to build a world where no child is a victim of child prostitution, child pornography or trafficking for sexual purposes.”

On Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:30 PM, Rozga will join me for a live discussion about the battle to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Tune in and listen while you work.

A bit more about ECPAT:

ECPAT International is a global network of organizations dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). ECPAT focuses on the three key manifestations of CSEC; child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. ECPAT began as a regional campaign in 1990 after researchers at a tourism consultation in Thailand first exposed the degree to which the prostitution of children was growing in parts of Asia. Today, the ECPAT network is comprised of an International Secretariat based in Thailand, together with 81 member organizations in 74 countries. For more information, please visit


This interview is part of a series that will examine what can be accomplished in the fight to solve the world’s biggest challenges within the next thirty years. The solution to every big problem also presents opportunities entrepreneurs will exploit to change the world. From this series of interviews, a book, working title: Thirty Years to Peace, will emerge.

Please help me continue this conversation below, on Twitter or on my personal website.

Amway One by One: Losing Control

This is a guest post from Jesse Hertstein of Amway.

We were no longer in control … but were we supposed to be?

I often travel for work, and this year all of my travel was crammed into a few weeks. First, I found myself in Russia to participate in the launch of a new charitable foundation. Next was a whirlwind trip to South Africa, where we documented an education program supported by Europeans.

Whether from the travel or the short time in each country, I became overwhelmed by the momentum and complexity of projects that Amway regional leaders were supporting. I also realized that we, Amway Corporate, were no longer controlling the initiatives at the local level. They had developed a life of their own.

In Russia, where many companies struggle to ignite western-style volunteering and fundraising, Amway Russia had moved into advanced corporate social responsibility. The launch of an Amway foundation didn’t include a ribbon cutting. Instead, an expert panel discussed parenting, cultural norms and child protection. Our local communications teams had developed sophisticated partnerships with nonprofits, government groups and academia. They were using PR agencies not to promote the good works of Amway, but positive parenting techniques and child crisis hotlines. This was cutting-edge social investing, and it was completely driven by local leaders.


Two weeks later in South Africa, I found myself standing next to the eldest daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as we delivered portable desks to students in remote coastal plains. We were capturing the story of a program that our local staff found and introduced to leaders in Amway Europe. Those leaders decided to rally their peers across the continent, which means Amway Business Owners from 28 countries were now raising money for “Tutudesks.”


The program attacks a complicated social issue – the lack of classroom space and difficulty students faced in performing work at school and at home. Shane Immelman, a South African social entrepreneur, created a low-tech innovation called a lap desk, which was easy to produce and durable enough to last a lifetime. It worked so well, he now consults for Harvard and MIT, and Desmond Tutu has lent his personal endorsement – the desks are now called “Tutudesks.” Amway is raising funds for thousands of desks and participating in the delivery.

Our local leaders had moved way beyond us. And yes, this was a good thing.

We launched the Amway One by One Campaign for Children ten years ago as a challenge. We were trying to focus the generosity of more than 3 million business owners and employees on a single cause. But we encouraged them to find the most important local issues that drove their passions. Ten years later, we count 10 million children whose lives have been touched through the campaign. On November 20, we held our first global volunteer day to celebrate our anniversary, and 15,000 people responded in 57 countries.

And it’s beyond our control.

It’s a movement. So we learn to channel the enthusiasm. We learn to ensure that any investments of hours and donations are making a real difference. We tell lots of local stories and use them to paint a global mosaic of what our company is all about.

And we are surprised, every day, at what becomes possible when you lose control, and let others lead.


Jesse Hertstein is Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist at Amway. His primary focus is communication and strategy for the Amway One by One Campaign for Children, which concentrates the generosity of the company, employees and business owners on helping children in need.

Matthew Lesko Shares Insights On Grants For Nonprofits Live

Matthew Lesko

Matthew Lesko is famous for helping people find “free money." He has been working to help people get grant money from the U.S. Government for over 25 years. 

On Monday, December 23, 2013, at 1:00 Eastern, Matthew will join me for a live discussion about finding free money for nonprofits.

Tune in and listen while you work!

Following the interview, Matthew provided these links:

Matthew’s bio:

Twenty five years ago, Matthew Lesko was working out of his bedroom with one phone line helping Fortune 500 companies get information on commodities – until he got bored.

Today, Lesko is a best-selling author, appears regularly on network television shows and travels the country appearing on virtually every newscast in the top 100 markets. His stage antics, as well as his sound consumer advice has made him a favorite guest on Larry King Live, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jay Leno, Letterman and The Today Show.

Lesko’s wardrobe is as much a part of his appeal as his frantic message – colorful clothes, like his suit covered with neon question marks, his mismatched bright socks, wild bow ties and a seemingly inexhaustible collection of eyeglasses in every color of the rainbow. He even drives the only Lexus with yellow polka dots. Matthew loves his work.

Matthew Lesko has published over 100 books showing everyday people how to get free services and products from the federal government. He has had two New York Times best-sellers and two national best-sellers,Getting Yours and Information USA. In addition, Lesko has twice made the prestigious "Best Reference Book of the Year” lists from the American Library Association and has written syndicated consumer columns for Good Housekeeping, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune.


His company, Information USA, Inc., publishes reference books on government grants including best-sellersFree Money to Pay Your BillsFree Money for Real Estate and Free Money to Change Your Life as well as popular consumer books like Free Stuff for SeniorsGobs and Gobs of Free StuffFree Health Care, and Free Legal Help.

When Lesko isn’t on the road, he lives in Kensington, MD with his wife Wendy Schaetzel Lesko, an author and lecturer, and their two sons, Max and Morgan. Matthew’s own boyhood was spent in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. He received his undergraduate degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, then went to Vietnam as a navigator for the U.S. Navy. When he returned he earned a Master’s degree in computer science from American University in Washington D.C., then started his first business as a management consultant helping Fortune 500 companies uncover information. One day he had an idea: why not publish the names and numbers of federal programs that offer free and low-cost services and money programs for taxpayers? His first book, Getting Yours, was a national best-seller and today, Lesko publishes six or more books each year.

Two SF Bay Area Women Meet on a Jungle Hike in Singapore and Reinvent Themselves


Singapore and San Francisco – December 18, 2013 – This past Friday, two very different enterprises launched: one could revolutionize kids’ video games and the other aspires to end child sex trafficking. Besides potentially impacting future generations of children around the world, what they also have in common are two equally passionate women, who a little over a year ago met on a hike in the jungles of Singapore while searching for their “next.”

Expatriate Americans living in Singapore, these two SF Bay Area Californians were ripe to find that elusive next, but not quite sure how.


Three months prior to their meeting, Michelle Waite who had moved to Singapore from San Francisco in 2011, had decided to take a sabbatical from her 20-year career as a Global Marketing and Business Development Manager. After some soul searching, she concluded that she would start her own company more aligned with her passion for global connectedness and tolerance. But, having worked for a larger established company for most of her career, the idea was daunting, Carol Whittaker, who had just moved to Singapore 6 weeks prior, was experiencing a state of flux, in part due to her recent move, in part having dropped her son at college that same year, and in part from her desire to explore opportunities outside of the work that she did during her 25+ year career in corporate training and leadership development.

During that fateful trek in the jungle, organized by a mutual friend, Michelle and Carol met and shared their stories and aspirations. It was then that Carol shared an idea that would soon be implemented by the two of them. A reinvention group was born, eventually called simply, the Re-Group. Little did they know the effect it would have on both of their trajectories.

Gathering a group of like-minded people, Carol and Michelle, along with other group members, have been facilitating weekly discussions for over a year now which use a blend of Lean-In exercises, the Artist’s Way process, guest speakers (on topics like social media and entrepreneurship), and assessment tools (MBTI and life mapping). The goal of Re-Group is for each member to find their “next,” whatever that might be–their next passion, purpose, identity or métier. Both Michelle and Carol credit the group for where they have landed a year later.

Michelle Finds Her “Next” by Co-founding a Gaming Company with a Social Cause


Michelle Waite shows off the Pandoo Nation launch page

Through another member of the group, Michelle was introduced to a successful serial entrepreneur for mentorship and advice in her own start-up pursuits. When she learned of his idea for a new business, an on-line game for kids with social benefit, she was intrigued. The underlying ethos of the idea was completely in line with her own, more recently understood and articulated,thinking on business and social good. So much so that she decided to make a significant angel investment and become part owner and CMO for the start up company, ShiftRunner. This past Friday, ShiftRunner launched their Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to help complete the game for March 2014, while also providing a venue for pre-launch marketing.

“I can not stress enough the importance of the Re-Group, in this journey,” explains Michelle. “It feels like I have my own personal army of champions who support, encourage and provide valuable input for helping me pursue my passion. It is hard to put in words the sheer joy that I felt seeing their faces and sharing in the celebration of my company’s campaign launch party this past Friday. I know that I would not have been there, were it not for them.”

Carol Finds Her “Next” in Ending Child Sex Trafficking


Carol Whittaker explains EmancipAction’s strategy

Coincidentally, on that very same Friday last week, Carol, as the recently appointed Director of Communications for EmancipAction, launched a website, video and donation portal for that organization – a non-profit start-up that aims to end child sex trafficking.

Her involvement with the organization began months earlier when, after approaching the founder to see where she might be able to help in a cause that was close to her heart, she was asked to produce a video for them. Film, as the Re-Group knew already, was one of Carol’s passions. Just prior, through the encouragement of the group, she had finished a short film class. So, she jumped at the opportunity. Eventually, this led to her new role with the company and her part in launching the new website and video.

“Every step of the way the Re-Group was instrumental,” Carol explains.

“From helping me articulate that a driving value for me was empowering women, to encouraging me and helping me make a film. But more than anything, they pushed me, supported me and had confidence in me."Both Carol and Michelle continue to work hard with their newfound passions in business and philanthropy. But, no matter how busy their lives may become because of it, a 2-hour window on Wednesday afternoons will always be reserved for Re-Group.

Established in 2013, Singapore-based ShiftRunner Pte. Ltd. is an entertainment and social awareness company. Its principal activities include the creation of Pandoo Nation, an innovative online virtual world for kids ages 8-12, and Pandoo Foundation, its not-for-profit sister organization that funds and leads outreach efforts in Southeast Asia, including micro-lending programs. The founders of ShiftRunner believe kids can be mobilized through game play to act on behalf of others in need, particularly children in developing countries. ShiftRunner created Pandoo Foundation as a bridge to realize its social ambitions. ShiftRunner most recently embarked on a crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo which is active from December 13 through January 19. You can access the campaign and learn more about the project at

EmancipAction is an international, non-profit organization working to end child sex trafficking around the world. The aim is to bring freedom, healing and justice to hundreds of thousands of children who have been sexually abused and exploited, while building up the system to break down the business of sex slavery. They strategically plan to build a model that can be used throughout the world, based on global best practices, that would disrupt the profitable business of sex trafficking and bring healing, education, job training and the successful reintegration to society to its victims. To learn more about EmancipAction and the efforts to end child sex slavery around the globe, see:

Clean water: A Matter Of Life Or Death

This is a guest post from Ben Park, founder and CEO of Fosmo Med

Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease, killing 1.5 million children around the world each year. That’s more deaths than malaria, AIDS and measles combined.

Many of those deaths could be avoided if safe drinking water and proper sanitation systems were made available. But, there is one thing no one can control: mother nature.

Not enough or too much

A lot of media attention goes to water scarcity, which is prevalent in areas such as Africa. However, the other extreme of having too much water can also be a major issue in disaster areas.Disasters, such as the recent typhoon in the Philippines, strike randomly around the world every year, leading to flooding and contamination of drinking water.

Water comprises 65 to 75 percent of human body weight and we can last only three to five days without it. In disasters, victims often resort to whatever source of water they can find, leading to diseases, such as cholera, which can kill a person within days.


Ben Park, Fosmo Med founder and CEO

The cure for this problem is saline IV bags.  But, today’s saline IV bags are more than 99-percent water.  They’re expensive to ship, have a short shelf life, and are prone to leakage.

A simple solution

About a year and a half ago, I started a company called Fosmo Med to address the worldwide water problem. We’ve developed a product called Maji, a field hydration system for IV use that is shipped without water. Once onsite, forward osmosis technology converts local water – even if it’s not clean – to a sterile solution without requiring any electrical power.

The time-lapsed video below shows how Maji works to convert almost any type of non-salty water to fresh water:

An estimated 16 Maji bags can be shipped for the same cost as one traditional IV saline bag, saving up to $500 for every 14 units shipped.* Simply put, Maji will enable more IV bags to be shipped at the same cost, provide safer storage onsite, and make it easier to transport supplies to remote regions.

Driven by the desire to help

The Maji field hydration system was recently awarded the grand-prize in the Philips Innovation Fellows competition. The award is a turning point for Fosmo Med because the prize money and mentorship from Philips will help us gain the resources and awareness needed for Maji’s commercialization.

We’ve proven our technology works and we’re now ready to create final units for FDA-level testing. Our ambitious goal is to bring Maji to market in 2014.

Fosmo Med’s need for speed is driven by a different agenda than for most start-ups: We see events such as the typhoon in the Philippines and the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti and are heartbroken that we cannot contribute our simple, life-saving solution.


Anyone interested in finding more can visit our website at We’re also active on twitter (@fosmomed) and Facebook ( We’d love to hear what you think about our technology and how it could impact different parts of the world.

*Estimated costs for shipment from San Francisco, Calif., to Conakry, Guinea, via FedEx medical device shipping.

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