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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: May 2015

Social Entrepreneur: ‘I Learned To Manage Stress Instead Of Stress Managing Me’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Social Entrepreneur Doron Libshtein, a former Microsoft MSFT -1.2% executive, speaks a language that sounds downright foreign in a business context, but his current crowdfunding campaign has raised over $100,000, suggesting he’s tapping into something real.

Libshtein recently wrote, “My mission is to bring a new consciousness to the world, transforming the world into vitality; to inspire each of you to walk your true path. I’m excited to write about a dream that has come true. Stress and pressure are part of life for all of us, and were part of my life until I discovered the world of meditation. The daily practice helped me relax, breathe properly, take breaks during the day and connect inner parts of me that I was not aware of. In short, I learned to manage stress instead of stress managing me.”

Libshtein created the Mentor’s Channel, a community of 2.6 million people he says, who seek the best mentors for meditation. He notes, “I’m full of gratitude for that opportunity. But there are billions of people who do not meditate. They continue to experience high stress in their life, which creates toxins being released to their internal and external environments.”

In order to address the needs of the billions of stressed out people like me who don’t meditate, Libshtein has created a solution. He explains, “I want to help the world be transformed, reduce stress, increase life’s energy, vitality and inspiration. I believe we have found a solution. It combines a digital bracelet that measures stress levels and helps us recognise when it begins and what affects it, plus an app that provides a customised solution to reduce the stress. The app gives us a playlist of music, breathing and guided imagery that work in sync with the feedback from our body. Together they produce a winning solution.”

Screenshots from the WellBe app.

This isn’t all superstition, Libshtein notes, “Mindfulness and meditation have been proven as highly effective ways to release stress and have many positive effects on sleep, productivity as well as lasting good feeling. A recent study from Harvard University suggests that meditation is influencing the grey matter in the brain and thus allowing better aging of the brain and the body.”

On Friday, May 29, 2015 at noon Eastern, Libshtein will join me for  a live discussion about his new device and the attention it is getting on Indiegogo. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Wellbe:

The WellBe is a digital bracelet designed to support and promote balanced well being for people in hectic and busy environments. The WellBe is using a heart rate monitor and a mobile app to detect and determine your stress level based on time, location and people you meet and then it offers variety of meditation and other wellbeing exercises to release stress and help you calm down immediately.

Mentors Channel is a resource for online meditation. We have created a movement with a vision to bring personal growth to the masses through technology. Our web app allows delivery of content to improve your well-being anywhere, anytime and on any device. We provide daily meditations, including tips on how to meditate, mindfulness techniques, healing mantras, meditation music and every other type of meditation you may wish to learn or practice.

Libshtein’s bio:

Doron Libshtein is a world-leading self-development mentor, author, chairman and strategic entrepreneur in the area of personal growth and Internet.

He is the Chairman and Founder of WellBe ( Insalveo.Inc ) and Mentors Channel, an interactive Website that empowers people to live fuller, richer lives doing what they love—by working interactively with the world’s best mentors worldwide.

As the founder and chairman of WellBe and Mentorschannel, and works with Deepak Chopra, Byron Katie and Robin Sharma via the Interactive Best Sellers Program to help people practice the wisdom from these visionaries’ books in their lives. He also recently became the Chairman of Restart™ – a new venture facilitating solutions to the over-40′s job crisis in Israel. and TheHallcenter in Santa Monica.

Doron’s world leadership extends to entrepreneurial and advanced mobile wireless telecommunications and online technologies. He was a board member of many companies such as Maayan Ventures, a publicly traded (TASE: MAYN) chain of technology incubators, with offices in Tel-Aviv, Shanghai, Omer, Sde Boker and Dimona.

Doron was for six years Chairman of the Board at the IPO Company in Tel Aviv, which owns FLIX and BLOGTV. Before that, he was for 14 years a senior manager at Microsoft, serving as Senior Director EMEA EPG Solution & Marketing and Director EMEA BPSG. Additionally, he served for two years as CEO of MSN Israel.

“Back in 2004 my vision was to bring personal growth to the masses. I felt that 14 years in senior positions at Microsoft prepared me to bring the technology and infrastructure that allows people to improve their wellbeing anywhere, anytime and on any device. I have the privilege to work with the best mentors in the world and I am full of gratitude for that. I also have the privilege of working with an amazing team that works days and nights improving the lives of millions.”I am an Author, Mentor, Chairman and Strategic entrepreneur in the area of personal growth and internet.

I see my vision as bringing as many people as possible closer to growth. my efforts and vision embrace people, wherever they are, offering each one of them various solutions and tools using high-end technology to provide simple and easy to use solutions at affordable prices.

I believe that the way to realize this vision is by establishing cooperation between people all over the world with mentors, coaches and coaching schools around the globe using common unifying objectives. This is an outstanding opportunity for synergic cooperation that will help increase and fulfil the hidden potential of coaching.

My recent mission via WellBe is to reduce the stress in the world with helping people know when and why they are stressed and how they can reduce thier stress.

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Some Stocks Go Down, Some Fruit Goes Bad, Some Charities Are Better Than Others

This week’s announcement from the FTC that it, along with
all 50 states and the District of Columbia, was filing a complaint against four
nonprofits that had reportedly used virtually none of the $187 million raised
for charitable purposes, has sent shudders through the nonprofit community.
Organizations are afraid what this news will do to fundraising.

Here’s why you should continue to give to charity enthusiastically.

When you buy fruit at the grocery store, you know there is a
chance, in fact a near certainty, that some of the fruit you buy will get
thrown out. Some will be bad when you get it home, either because it was
already overripe or under ripe when it left the store or because it was damaged
in transit. Most fruit is sold by the pound, but there is hardly a fruit on the
market that you can eat entirely. Have you ever eaten a banana peel or an apple
core? Then there is the risk that the fruit is prepared for someone who doesn’t
eat it and finally the risk that no one happens to eat it before it goes bad.
How much of the fruit you buy actually ends up in someone’s tummy? You still
buy fruit because it is healthy and delicious.

When smart investors buy stocks, they buy lots of them. Most
mutual funds have many dozens of different stock positions in their portfolios
because they understand that some will go up and others will go down. Some may
even go to zero. In the middle some will be parked money, after decades still
worth only what was paid for them. Some stocks, however, will grow dramatically
and may after just a few years be worth 10 times or more than what was paid for
them. Smart investors buy stocks even though they know with certainty that some
of the money invested in stocks will be lost.

Venture capitalists and angel investors who invest in
startup companies know that it is so hard to predict which companies will
thrive and which will tank that they make sure to diversify their portfolios,
too. They know that when investing in early stage companies, easily a third of
the companies will flame out completely, a few will struggle on endlessly and
only a few will thrive, providing all of the return in their portfolios. Think
about that; early-stage investors give entrepreneurs knowing that there is a
very good chance they will never see a dime in return.

So, here’s the question for you? Is it reasonable for you to
expect that every dollar you give to charity will go directly to a noble
purpose and that none will ever be wasted? The frank answer is simple.
Absolutely not. Some nonprofits will use your money to create fantastic social
impacts. Some will not. How many millions of dollars for cancer research have
yielded only another compound that doesn’t work? Does that mean we shouldn’t
fund cancer research? Of course not! A cure will only come from more funding.

Sometimes I hear people say, “I will only give to this one
nonprofit because…” I have news for you. There isn’t a perfect nonprofit out
there. While some may use volunteers to allow 100% of donations to go directly
to programs, those organizations may not have the same impact as other
organizations using professional staff to do more with the same donation, even
after paying the staff.

Does this mean that you should give
indiscriminately? No, of course not. See my tips for smart giving here. But it
does mean that you should keep giving!

These Women Wow Shark Tank, Get Cash, Light Up The World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork, founders of LuminAID, were offered deals from all five of the investors on ABC’s Shark Tank earlier this year; they successfully closed a deal with Mark Cuban.

Perhaps what made them both different and successful on the show, was a focus on social entrepreneurship, a double bottom-line that balances making a profit with having an impact for good. Their solar lights are not only terrific for camping, but perfect for long-term use in areas without power and great for use when power can’t be relied upon for evening studies. One of their largest customers is ShelterBox, featured here a few weeks ago.

Visit their site to buy and/or give a LuminAID.

Sreshta explains, “LuminAID’s core technology–solar lights that pack flat for ease of distribution– was created to address both the need in an emergency and to make it easier for aid workers to distribute supplies on the ground.”

She adds, “We have learned a lot from working with our NGO customers and partners like Shelterbox. They put out our lights into some of the toughest areas and situations in the world, so we like hearing from them about what worked, what worked less well, and how we can continue to support their efforts.”

On Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Sreshta and Stork will join me for a live discussion about their experience on Shark Tank, as well as their success and their impact since. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Luminaid:

LuminAID develops innovative, solar-powered products for humanitarian relief aid and outdoor recreation. The company’s first product, the LuminAID light, is a solar-powered, inflatable lamp that packs flat and inflates to create a lightweight, waterproof lantern suitable for outdoor recreation and emergency situations. The LuminAID light has been sold to individuals in more than 30 different countries, and outreach projects with NGO partners have put more than 10,000 donated lights on-the-ground in more than 50 countries countries including Haiti, Nepal and the Philippines. LuminAID has supplied its lights to Shelterbox, Doctors Without Borders, and several organizations in the United Nations for distribution on the ground after disasters and in refugee camps. Earlier this year, LuminAID was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, received offers from all 5 of the Sharks, and made a deal with the billionaire investor Mark Cuban.


Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork

Sreshta’s bio:

Andrea Sreshta is a second-year student in Chicago Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program and co-founder of LuminAID. The company was awarded the 100k Early Stage Prize in 2013 through the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy and was named the winner of Booth’s John Edwardson Social New Venture Challenge in 2012, and awarded a Toyota Mother’s of Invention Grant at the 2014 Women in the World Summit. Andrea previously worked in and studied design and architecture. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master’s in Architecture from Columbia University prior to attending Booth.

Stark’s bio:

Anna Stork is co-founder of LuminAID Lab. She was a 2012 Kauffman Global Scholar at the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship. As a Kauffman Fellow, she was an Operations Intern for the retail start-up Warby Parker. Anna has also worked in product development at the Department of Defense with a focus on developing new technologies for military in remote locations. She completed her Masters in Architecture at Columbia University and earned her B.A. in Engineering and Studio Art from Dartmouth College.

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Billionaire Offers Tips; Some Will Surprise You

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Ranked #369 on the Forbes list of billionaires, Shari Arison is passionate about doing good business–and she means good.

Her bestselling book Activate Your Goodness shared her take on the impact of doing good on people. Her new book, The Doing Good Model, provides a thoughtful look at 13 values that are intended to help business leaders rethink their impact on individuals, their communities and the globe.

One of the most intriguing values that Arison puts forward in her book is “purity.” She explains it in the book, “Think of the many types of behavior that can affect you as a human being as well. For example, you might ask yourself, what am I putting in my body–is this good for me or not? What am I listening to? Is it something that is uplifting like music, or is it gossip that is unkind?”

Her thoughts on volunteering sound conventional to nonprofit leaders, I suspect, but may strike business leaders as a flash of insight. She says in the book, “The most motivated volunteers are the ones with passion for the cause.”

She goes on to share an anecdote to make an important point.

A funny thing happened to me right after I was talking to my editor on the phone going through this chapter on volunteering. I was called away and needed to rush out to a meeting outside my office. I went to another office building, and when I came out of my meeting, in the elevator on the way down, there was a husband and wife talking. The woman said to her husband, “Isn’t it amazing tha the doctor goes to Africa every six months and volunteers his time to perform surgery?” She went on to say, “Do you know he’s an eye doctor?” I smiled to myself as I was walking out of the elvator, thinking abou what a coincidence it was that I was just writing about volunteering. So you see, as I said, one can volunteer basically anywhere in the world, according to one’s talents, passions and time.

On Thursday, May 21, 2015 at noon Eastern, Arison will join me for a live discussion about The Doing Good Model. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Arison Group:

Arison Investments, the Arison Group’s business arm, houses companies that provide responses for the basic human needs of large populations, while yielding high financial returns. Shari Arison directs her businesses to maintain a diversified portfolio of ventures that have moral responsibility at their core. Arison Investments business companies include Bank Hapoalim, Shikun & Bunui, Miya and Salt of the Earth.

Shari Arison

Arison’s bio:

Shari Arison is an American-Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, owner of the Arison Group that operates in more than 40 countries across five continents to realize the vision of Doing Good. Its business arm, Arison Investments, operates in the fields of finance (Bank Hapoalim), infrastructure, real estate, and renewable energy (Shikun & Binui), salt (Salt of the Earth), and water (Miya). Its philanthropic arm, The Ted Arison Family Foundation, houses the organizations Essence of Life, Goodnet, All One, and Ruach Tova that operates Shari’s global initiative Good Deeds Day. She is repeatedly ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the world, and as one of the world’s greenest billionaires. In 2013, Shari was named Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by George Mason University.

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Charity Fraud Take Away #1: Don’t Stop Giving! Plus 3 Tips For Smart Giving

Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a joint complaint with all 50 states and the District of Columbia against four nonprofits that were reportedly operating as anything but legitimate charities.

The four organizations named in the federal court complaint are Cancer Fund of America, Inc. (CFA), Cancer Support Services Inc. (CSS), their president, James Reynolds, Sr., and their chief financial officer and CSS’s former president, Kyle Effler; Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. (CCFOA) and its president and executive director, Rose Perkins; and The Breast Cancer Society Inc. (BCS) and its executive director and former president, James Reynolds II.


It is tempting today interpret this news as suggesting that
you shouldn’t give to nonprofits because there is no way to tell the good ones
from the bad. That is simply false! Not only can you tell, it isn’t that hard
to tell.

Here are a few quick tips:

Give to organizations you know.
There are
countless well known charitable organizations that have been vetted every which
way to Sunday, that have great reputations, including Doctors Without Borders,
American Red Cross, The Nature Conservancy and many others. Giving to
organizations you recognize and can trust is a safe way to continue giving.

Go to work.
Most organizations that are
legitimate need volunteers; be one. When you give your time to an organization
you get to know more about them than you could ever learn online. If you don’t
want to volunteer for an organization, you probably shouldn’t be giving them
your money anyway. If you think you’re ready to give, you should be willing to
donate a few hours first. This is a great way to not only do your due diligence,
but also to double the impact of your money.

Check Charity Navigator.
There are a number of
online resources for vetting nonprofits. None of them is perfect, but if you
are asked to give to an organization that you haven’t heard of before, visit and search for their name. For many organizations, you can
quickly see the Charity Navigator star rating (on a scale up to five) and key
metrics like the percent of funding spent on programs versus administration and

Whatever you do, don’t stop giving. Resolve to give more and
give smarter instead.

Why Glass By Minna Yoo

This is a guest post from Love Bottle founder Minna Yoo.

Every day we have to drink water for survival and good health. Each time we drink there is the choice of what to drink out of. What is best for our planet, and what is best for our bodies? What is the most sustainable choice we can make? The answer is glass.

Currently, about 50 billion single use plastic water bottles are consumed every year in the USA alone. Over 200 billion are used globally every year. However, only about 20% of this staggering number is recycled. That means the rest ends up in our landfills and our oceans. This plastic problem has created floating plastic islands in our oceans, called gyres. These gyres are releasing dangerous microplastics into our ecosystem and into our oceanic food chain.


It is not only our oceans that are at risk, but our bodies as well. Plastic bottles can leach into the water that we drink and those chemicals affect our internal systems. This creates a problem. We want to drink more water for our health, but what should we do when the water contains things that are dangerous to our bodies?

The solution is glass. Glass is made from three natural ingredients: sand, limestone, and soda ash. It is stable and doesn’t leach anything into our water or our planet. In fact, glass is endlessly recyclable, so the glass you are using today can become the glass someone else will use in 100 years. Glass is also time tested as the safest and healthiest way to store food and beverages. It doesn’t impart any flavor, which is why we like to enjoy the best things in life out of glass. Imagine drinking your favorite wine out of plastic or stainless steel. Gasp, the horror, right? We reach for glass when we want the best drinking experience.

So why is it when we reach for water, anything will do? Water is the most important thing we put into our bodies. Our bodies are actually 60-70% water. If we have the opportunity to constantly replenish 60-70% of our physical make up, we should reach for the cleanest, healthiest, most delicious vessel possible. This is why I am such a fan of glass. It is the ultimate way to experience water.

When we enjoy our water drinking experience, we are likely to drink more, which is vital to our health. When I was working as a Nutritionist, I found that many people disliked drinking water and thought of it as a chore. Most of them were drinking out of a cloudy looking plastic container that made their water not very enjoyable. Transitioning them to glass water bottles always resulted in them drinking more water. When we personalized their bottles to make them more special to the drinker, we found that they drank even more and enjoyed it. All of this led me to start Love Bottle, a reusable glass water bottle company.

As a business owner and mother, I am always thinking about my footprint in this world and what I am doing to help leave a beautiful planet for my children. Choosing glass lets me know that I am providing them with the healthiest water drinking experience as well as a chance for a brighter tomorrow.

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Harnessing the Power of the Online Crowd to Change Our World and Better the Business of Giving

This is a guest post from Liz Deering, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of

In 2011, when I became the marketing director for a large nonprofit organization in Central Texas, I realized very quickly that the technology platforms and business processes that had fueled earlier successes at startups where I had worked– including Picasa, InnoCentive and EnPocket – were greatly lacking in the nonprofit sector.  

At that time, I encountered pushback when introducing new technologies. I felt would improve fundraising efforts, or attempting to incorporate more tried-and-tested business practices into the organization. Challenges presented themselves in other ways, too, whether recruiting volunteers, raising funds, buying operational supplies or convincing companies to care enough about what we were doing to get them truly engaged and willing to donate equally.
That’s when I knew there had to be a much better way for nonprofits to run their businesses. I partnered with my future co-founder, Mark Courtney, who shared the same passion. He envisioned a model that would help nonprofits become more commercially efficient and make an even bigger impact by adopting available technologies that businesses were using successfully, and enlisting corporate support to improve their outcomes.

We set out to build (pronounced one-to-one giving) and better the business of giving. 121Giving is an online product marketplace and crowdfunding platform that brings together nonprofits that need products to fulfill their missions, companies who want to support those nonprofits in order to help make our world a better place, and givers who are willing to support these transactions, too – especially if they can see exactly where their giving is going.


Unlike many of the traditional crowdfunding platforms that are focused on raising capital for ideas or concepts, 121Giving brings together three distinct audiences – consumers, companies and charities – whose collective power addresses and fulfills specific needs in tangible ways.

  • Nonprofit organizations across the U.S. can use 121Giving to publicize their needs for products, such as beds, blankets, medical supplies, clothing, nutritional supplements, furniture, pet food, non-perishable items, personal hygiene supplies, pillows – whatever their operations need. Nonprofits can launch product-specific campaigns to buy those products in a matter of minutes, not spend weeks hunting for those same products at discounted prices.
  • Consumers can search for charities, causes or issues they care about, identify campaigns they want to support, and donate in just a click or swipe to buy the products that nonprofits need to run their organizations more efficiently – and make an even bigger impact on our world.
  • Socially conscious brands and manufacturers can make their products available at 121Giving, not only to support their own business goals but also to prove to the world that they, too, are part of the solution for society’s challenges. They can make their products available to help support social issues, community needs, the arts, education, the environment, animal welfare, child and family issues, homelessness, disabilities, disaster relief, safety and many other worthwhile causes.

Online crowdfunding can help address so many of the challenges that today’s nonprofits, socially conscious companies and donors face in wanting to make a tangible impact. For nonprofits, crowdfunding provides a new vehicle for creating visibility, awareness of their immediate needs and, of course, fundraising. They can spend more time solving problems instead of raising money for the day-to-day items they need.

Companies, likewise, are able to participate in ways that provide what consumers demand today: results. With increasing skepticism about where donor dollars go, or how companies are making an impact, each product-specific campaign identifies how many items are needed, what the goal is, and how many individuals/families will be helped. 121Giving’s interface logs the progress of each campaign, providing transparency into questions around “Where is my money going? How is it being used?” And donors benefit from the knowledge that their contributed amount – regardless of its size – creates something tangible toward a better world.


In March 2015 during SXSW, our vision finally came to life when we officially launched 121Giving in Austin, Texas.

Since then, we have hosted nonprofit campaigns that address agencies’ uncomplicated, yet profound and immediate needs. New beds and mattress for an HIV/AIDS hospice facility. Move-in kits containing pillows, cookware and silverware for homeless individuals and families. Cases of Ensure nutritional supplements for cancer patients. Wheelbarrows and stepladders for volunteers who repair the homes of low-income families. “House in a Box” kits for 140 victims of a devastating tornado that destroyed their homes.

Each donation is logged, and the website’s campaign tracker keeps supporters updated about how many items have been purchased, how many items are outstanding, how many clients have been helped, and how many days remain in the campaign. Results are visible, transparent and measurable. 

Our goal is coming to life at 121Giving: to be the most tangible giving experience online for nonprofits, companies and donors alike.


Liz Deering

Liz Deering, Co-founder, Connector and Strategist

Liz Deering is a social entrepreneur, strategic thinker and risk taker whose experiences with both category-disrupting startups and traditional nonprofit organizations provided the skills and fueled her passion to help launch 121Giving (pronounced One-to-One Giving) – a first-of-its-kind digital marketplace that harnesses the collective buying power of hundreds of thousands of U.S. charities, matching their needs with corporate discounts and new crowdfunding capabilities.

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The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Wear is the Expression on Your Face

No one knows who said this phrase, but it is an important idea to consider for many reasons. For example, how do we talk about courage? How do we talk about intimacy? How do we talk about identity? We talk about the face. We face our fears. We discuss important things face-to-face. We know someone when we can put a name to a face. The face is the conduit for expressing the most basic and fundamental human emotions.

These are the ideas the Daniel Wennogle, a Denver-based Civil Litigator and Trial Attorney, brought to light back in November at the Fourth Annual Restoring Hope Event (hosted by DecorAsian to benefit Mending Faces). Before Dan found his passion for practicing law and participating in court, and before he became a die-hard Broncos fan and an avid fly fisherman, he was a child born with a cleft lip and palate.

If you have never heard of a cleft lip or cleft palate, it isn’t as rare as you might think. In fact, according to a study by the World Health Organization, a child is born with a cleft lip or palate somewhere in the world approximately every two-to-three minutes. While the cause is currently unknown amongst medical researchers, it is one of the more common birth defects worldwide.

“I was lucky,” Wennogle says. “I was born with a cleft lip and palate in the United States of America with a caring and devoted family that had access to top notch medical resources. As a result, I had a normal, happy and healthy childhood. I’ve also been able to make friends, be outgoing and have good social relationships. I’ve been captain of sports teams, played lead roles in plays, and most importantly, I’ve been able to know what it feels like to fall in love.”

Now imagine another child half way across the world living in the Philippines that isn’t afforded the same opportunity to gain access to medical care like Dan received. In these situations, ear disease and dental problems can occur frequently, as well as problems with speech development. These children are also typically shunned by society and therefore cannot experience the same quality of life as “normal” children without a cleft lip or palate.

A cleft lip and/or palate surgery is by no means simple, but it is not as involved as some major surgeries performed for children with more serious health issues. Yet, this manageable level of medical care can literally change the world for a child and their family because it can change the way he or she interacts with people. “Our faces are how we interact with the world,” Wennogle continues. “A smile, a kiss, a spoken word; all of these things are difficult and compromised with a cleft lip and/or palate. Yet these things lie close to the core of what it means to feel human. This surgery is much more than cosmetic because it changes lives for the better and I am a living example of that.”

Dan is correct. Research shows the recognition of faces is an important neurological mechanism that an individual uses every single day of their life. Our brains are literally hardwired to trigger instant reactions based on the image of a human face and any distortion in that image makes it more difficult to pick-up on nonverbal communication, such as emotion. Those that are born with a minor birth defect like a cleft lip can suffer deeply from this subconscious differentiation.

And it is because of this neurological construct that Dan recognizes, along with the life he has led, happiness he’s enjoyed and the passion he shares that inspires him to want to give back to children in need. “I wanted to get involved with a local grassroots nonprofit called Mending Faces that brings wonderful people together that share a strong commitment to making a large impact on children’s lives that were born with a cleft lip and/or palate.”

In February of 2015, a group of volunteers (with both medical and nonmedical backgrounds) travelled to Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines with a goal of performing 60 cleft lip and palate surgeries for children in need and at no cost to their families. The group also raised the funds necessary to bring along supplies, equipment and care packages to help the children and their families cope with the hardship of surgery. This took a lot of planning, effort and money to get these volunteers (who donate their own time and pay their own way) and the necessary supplies to the children in need.

What’s amazing is in just six days, Mending Faces exceeded our goal – we treated 83 patients and conducted 87 total surgeries – both records for a Mending Faces mission! By the numbers that included 54 cleft lips and 33 cleft palates. That’s $1,000,000 in services! This annual medical mission would not be possible without our partners in the Philippines, the U.S. and around the world including generous volunteers and donors.

From my perspective, it is hard to digest the happenings of this week and put the experience into words. First and foremost the volunteers are what made everything so exceptional. Regardless of race, religion or country of origin, everyone came together to do something truly inspiring for generations to come. We each played our separate parts well and when all of those efforts came together, the results spoke for themselves. Now an impoverished, but extraordinary group of children have reason and ability to smile and communicate without fear or limitation.

“For a child with a cleft lip or palate to receive the opportunity of a lifetime, all it takes is a small amount of support that will make a difference for an entire lifetime,” continued Wennogle.

A surgery to repair a cleft lip or cleft palate is roughly $250. This is due to the fact that our volunteers donate their time as well as cover their travel and lodging expenses to participate in the medical mission.To support or learn more about Mending Faces and its most recent medical mission, please visit:

Nepali Nonprofit Leader: ‘I’m Not Discouraged’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Bishnu Adhikari leads the Nepali efforts of CHOICE Humanitarian, a nonprofit that seeks to end extreme poverty around the world. Since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25 and the major aftershock of 7.3 magnitude today, CHOICE has been refocusing its short-term energy on emergency relief. Adhikari’s story was told in 2014 in a feature film called Meet the Mormons.

The tragedy in Nepal has a personal feel to me. In March, I visited Nepal and spent several days in a remote village with Adhikari helping village families install clean, wood-burning stoves in their homes to replace their open indoor fire pits. I have been worried about those people ever since. I reported on my trip here. Two weeks ago, I did a piece about the work of in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and last week did a story about ShelterBox providing relief to victims who’ve lost their homes.

Adhikari is philosophical about the tragedy in his homeland, “It’s a difficult situation but I am not discouraged.  I know life has ups and downs. Sometimes we go through these situations for our personal learning. I am grateful I am here and will do whatever I can in my capacity. There are so many things to be grateful for.”

The ongoing work in Nepal will continue, Adhikari explains, “Nepal LIFE is an initiative by CHOICE Humanitarian to end extreme poverty in a designated area that can be replicated worldwide. It’s both exciting and humbling to be part of this effort.”

He celebrates the success of the program to date, “There are so many wonderful stories about individuals and families we have worked with that are no longer living on $1.25 a day.”

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at noon Eastern, Adhikari will join me for a live interview to further discuss the crisis, the people in the village where I volunteered with him, the relief efforts and the ongoing work of CHOICE Humanitarian in Nepal. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about CHOICE Humanitarian:

CHOICE Humanitarian – ‘The Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Inter-Cultural Exchange’, is a strategic non-governmental agency (NGO) currently working in five countries, Kenya, Nepal, Bolivia, Guatemala and Mexico. Our overriding goal is to end extreme poverty and improve quality of life through a bottom-up, self-developing village-centered approach.

Bishnu Adhikari

Adhikari’s bio:

Bishnu Adhikari has been the voice of CHOICE in Nepal since the beginning of operations there in 1999.

Bishnu grew up in a small mountain village high in the Himalayas. Despite arduous work in the fields and hours of commute to school, Bishnu excelled in his education and earned numerous scholarships. Hard work and determination led him to Russia where he earned a master’s degree in engineering.

Following this life-changing transition, Bishnu returned to his Nepalese village and made the commitment to help others improve their quality of life. He began working on development projects for The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and USAID. In 1999, Bishnu discovered CHOICE Humanitarian and joined as a staff member. He later returned to school and earned a second master’s degree in international environmental policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Bishnu has provided the leadership necessary to bring the CHOICE model of sustainable development to hundreds of villages in Nepal. He has developed a series of income-generating programs that have helped thousands of Nepalese see a means to economic freedom like eco trekking, hydropower, biogas, buffalo keeping, and Jatropha oil.

Bishnu has received numerous certifications of appreciation from high ranking government officials in Nepal for his humanitarian work.

Bishnu and his wife, Mangala, have three children: Smina, Rebecca, and Jeev.

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With Millions Displaced, ShelterBox Has Essential Relief For Nepal

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Thirty days ago, when I scheduled this interview with Alan Monroe, the Interim Executive Director of ShelterBox USA, this was intended to be a standard profile of a social entrepreneur making a difference in the world. Then an earthquake hit in Nepal and changed everything.

Shelterbox is one of many organizations providing relieve to Nepal, where I happened to spend a week volunteering, just six weeks ago.

With millions displaced from their damaged or destroyed homes, shelter is an acute need in Nepal. With millions displaced from their damaged or destroyed homes, shelter is an acute need in Nepal.

Monroe explained, “On average, ShelterBox deploys to a country every other week. Many [deployments] never hit the news cycle. Whether it be the major disasters like the Haiti earthquake or the Indian Ocean Tsunami that capture America’s attention or the flooding in small villages on the banks of the Amazon, ShelterBox is there.”

Alan Monroe, ShelterBox

“Our primary focus is the beneficiary and their needs during an incredibly trying time of their life. I was in Indonesia after a volcano eruption and we had just set up an aid camp for 100 families who had no place to go. As I was checking the lines and the setup of the tents, I looked inside and saw the families looking through the box. I can remember one child picking up the stuffed bear and smiling. About that time, the father came out and grabbed me by my arm and said ‘Thank you, Thank you’ in Indonesian. It hit me, that this piece of equipment had already become their home–just like that,” he concluded.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at noon Eastern, Monroe will join me for a live discussion about ShelterBox and its relief efforts in Nepal. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Tweet questions in advance to @devindthorpe.

More about ShelterBox:

ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that provides emergency shelter and supplies to families made homeless as a result of disaster and humanitarian crises. Since ShelterBox was founded, we have responded to over 240 disasters and humanitarian crises in more than 90 different countries and provided emergency aid for well over one million people. ShelterBox aid is tailored to a disaster but typically includes a disaster relief tent for a family, thermal blankets and groundsheets, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, mosquito nets and children’s activity pack.

Monroe’s bio:

Alan Monroe is the Interim Executive Director of ShelterBox USA, Inc., providing leadership to the U.S. affiliate of the rapidly growing international disaster relief organization. 

Alan first discovered ShelterBox at the International Rotary Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2007. Drawn to ShelterBox’s mission of providing shelter, warmth and dignity to people impacted by disasters, Alan immediately recognized that his Eagle Scout and other life experiences had groomed him to become a ShelterBox Response Team TISI -4.13% member. As a response team member, Alan delivers aid to families in need and has deployed following disasters in the U.S., Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Taiwan, Haiti, Guatemala and Indonesia. 

Alan’s prior experience includes serving as a Marketing Director for a large heating and air company, Online Sales Manager for a daily newspaper and partner in a company that built aerial maps of state forests.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Spanish Language from Flagler College and his Master of Arts in International Affairs from Florida State University. Monroe lives in Sarasota, Florida with his wife, Casey.

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