Results from ItStartsWith.Us

by Nate on April 2, 2011


   
I’m always talking about changing the world in 15 minutes a week. It’s kind of my thing, right? “Change the World” written on my palm, always rockin’ the “One Love” beanie . . . you may think it’s just my hook to get people interested. And you’d be right.

But if you think it’s only something nice to say, or just a punchy tagline, take a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish with such a simple idea. It’s real, guys. And it changes lives.

I began this project in April 2009 with the goal of demonstrating that love actually is all around us, and that the small things do matter – in fact, sometimes they truly are the most important things.

Now, just two years later, ItStartsWith.Us has 5,000 participating members in 100 countries, not including the two spin-off projects. Love Bomb has 2,000 members. And the brand-new Love Drop already has 1,000 members. Every one of these people spend just a tiny amount of time, effort, or money to make a positive impact on the lives of the people around them. But consistent actions like these, done over time, and especially as part of a larger team with a common goal, can produce some pretty amazing results. I’d like to share some of them with you below.

I’d also like to thank you all once again for allowing me to lead this tremendous group of people who care. As a direct result of your efforts, we’ve had millions of people touched by love, with many of them inspired to do the same for others. Thousands of individuals have been changed forever by your actions. And along the way, even if you didn’t know about it, you have quite literally saved dozens of lives. And those are just the ones I know about. I’m sure there are more.

This team doesn’t get a lot of publicity, and there’s never much fanfare, which was how it was envisioned right from the beginning. We just quietly go about the business of changing the world.

Here’s what we do, as written by . . . you.   :)

ItStartsWith.Us

Site: www.ItStartsWith.Us
[visit site to join]

2009 Year in Review (PDF)

(2010 Year in Review coming soon!)

“I enjoy being a part of the ItStartsWith.Us team because of the fantastic people who make up the group. Speaking to ItStartsWith.Us members, you’ll notice their unfailing love for others. Diversity, friendship, and coming together for common good are all values maintained by members. They respond to need not only in their family and friends but also in strangers. They go the extra mile to write words of encouragement to those who are suffering far away from them and also within the group. And they show this kindess all in a quiet manner, without seeking great recognition. In this collection of inspiring leaders, you’ll find an accepting community who will aid you in your journey to help others.”

“In my signature box, on my art room wall, occasionally as a screen saver, and quite possibly a soon to be tattoo, you will see a quote by Martin Buber that motivates me to be thoughtful and considerate in my day to day.
Buber’s quote reads, “I think no human being can give more than this. Making life possible for the other, if only for a moment” and for me It Starts With Us works just as this quote does.

ISWU is a reminder to put into practice the love and compassion I want to live. It is a 15 minute task that bleeds into the whole week and inspires me to go beyond those 15 minutes. I have my ugly moments, I have said and done things I am not proud of and need to work at keeping my heart open and compassion flowing. It Starts With Us is a genius way to remind ourselves, through ACTION, of what the smallest act of love can do for ourselves and the world around us.

I am also motivated by how it can spread. It’s Wildfire baby! Many thanks to Nate who put the energy behind the spark. Incredible, innovative, heartwarming… and just plain awesome.”

“It Starts With Us has offered me a structured yet completely individual
opportunity to give back to others. When you join the community and read
the forums and talk to the people who are part of this amazing group, you
realise the huge effect it has on your own life and the lives of others.
It Starts With Us has given me the opportunity to give back in short sharp
bursts not only fulfilling my own daily dose of that ‘warm and fuzzy
feeling’ but in the process I have been able to satisfy the needs of
others; whether that be in the shape of a heartfelt note on someone’s blog
or sending a simple ‘I Love You’ to a friend.”

“I love being a part of It Starts With Us. This community opens up so many opprotunities to help people in the smallest ways. I would never have thought that in just fifteen minutes I could change someone’s day for the better. ISWU has really given me a chance to think about others before myself and come up with ways – big and small – to better my community. I love how open everyone is to new ideas and how creative everyone is. We really all are part of something bigger than ourselves in ISWU and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

“You know that moment, when you’re crushed in your own life, everything is at risk, and you look to the side of you and see that 14 year old girl who has lost her best friend to drugs, or that military wife who couldn’t take one more day of the PTSD of her beloved husband, or you find that single dad who feels beaten about the head by the challenges of raising his kids alone. And you find that your hand reaches out to their hand, you find your heart fill up with a deep love and you share words with them, listen, hug them, staying that extra ten seconds that change you from broken to human, and you go back into your world knowing you’ve given them peace, and love and they know they’re not alone in their struggles. THAT is why I am involved with Nate and ItStartsWithUs. Because my life is reeling from traumas and challenges, but I am grateful to be alive and I’m grateful to have the strength to share sorrow or laughter with someone who is also in the dregs of life’s challenges.”

“For me, I want to see a change in the world, and I want to be a part of that change by the way I live my life. ISWU challenges me to do things I might not normally do that really do make a difference in the lives of people everywhere. It provides small but important ways to show love to others, and that is something that I want my life to always be about.”

“10 years ago, I wanted to die. I didn’t want to actually kill myself, but
I would hope that while driving I would lose control of the car and be in
fatal accident.

Now I know that I was suffering from severe undiagnosed depression. At the
time, the thought never occurred to me. All I knew is that I was
constantly unhappy, I didn’t want to be around people and all I did want
was to sleep and play online.

Unfortunately, it never occurred to my friends or family either. My
parents decided I was lazy and sponging off them and constantly nagged me
to get a job. My friends decided I was lazy and enjoying living off my
parents money too much to bother joining them in the real world.

It was a group of girls, then a man who has now become my fiancée who
pulled me through this. It was the kind words of strangers who lived on
the other side of the world that did what my friends and family could not.

I joined ISWU to help those in situations like the one I was in. Never
underestimate the power of a few kind and understanding words, even those
from total strangers to help lift a mood. It’s a relief to me to see that
there is something out there to give a boost to others who are suffering.

I know this isn’t a cure and the affects may last as little a few hours,
but I know from experience that could be the difference between another
miserable day with dreams of dying to finally end the pain and deciding to
get help or that death is not the answer.”

“I have recently joined ISWU team and the whole ISWU community. Pre-ISWU I had the notion that there is no one good left on this earth. I felt like we were all in this purely for ourselves, who cares how others are feeling. Yes, someone has to change that, but who will? Who will take the role of the savor of our dying race? Someone, anyone, but not me. I don’t have the power. A 14 year old can’t change the world. All we’re good for is sitting on the couch complaining about the poor state of it. The change comes from the grownups.

But through this, I was shown how wrong I was. Somehow, by some random act of fate, I stumbled upon this website. I subscribed, thinking it was a waste of time, but hey, I was bored. When I read the first ATeam mission, I felt power. I felt the power that I could change someone’s life, for the better. Like even if no one else does, I can be the one person who at least attempts to brighten others day.

I have had few and far between nice things done for me, so I know how it fills your heart up with a sense of well being, a sense of happiness. I wanted to pass that on. I wanted more people to experience this feeling. Through this, I found even minor things, like 2 dollars a day, or telling your family you love them, or even opening up to someone new gives them that heart-in-the-clouds feeling. I could all of a sudden change the world. Who cares if I’m not yet 18? I am powerful. I can change the world through small actions. Yes, once I get a job, it will be easier to make a difference, but until then, I still can.

I have a renewed sense of worth, a renewed sense in faith for the human race. Everyday, I will make a difference in someone’s world. I will complain less and act more. No longer will I sit idle. I want to thank ISWU for giving me that kick in the rear. For telling me it wasn’t impossible.”

“I love being part of this team because it has made me learn more about myself as a person. I also love being part of the ISWU team because it has shown me how truly good people are, and basically restored my faith in humanity. When I joined ISWU I was, sadly, suicidal. I figured that I might do any little thing to help people before I died. ISWU showed me how much people care and that hope is not lost. So, thank you for allowing me to be part of this.”

“ISWU has been a huge morale booster for me, it has given me the means to help people with such little effort and so much in return. I have and will continue recommending this to people as I feel it is a brilliant project.

Only 15 minutes out of your week at most and you help someone else as well as helping yourself, whats not to like about it? So what if you aren’t noticed? The lack of being noticed is out-weighed tenfold by the gratitude you give to others, in turn reflecting on yourself.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Teresa

“I immediately knew when I read about ISWU that I wanted to be a part of it because it HAS to start with us. With one person. One act, one smile is contagious. As Nate has proven over these past months. I’m glad to chip in a bread crumb here and there to make something happen.”

Love Drop

Site: www.LoveDrop.us
[visit site to join]

“It’s been a pretty amazing month watching how a Love Drop comes together. The guys that run the organization, Nate and J Money, are not only tremendously full of heart, but they are funny, sweet and really great to be around. I love the concept of Love Drop – how a little bit can go a long way – even a donation of a buck a month can do great things. I’m kind of a Love Drop fan girl now.”
http://thismomswired.com/2011/03/more-drips-in-the-bucket-love-drop-style/

“In the end, I saw a group of people gather together to do something really amazing for Katie who has done so much for other people throughout her life without asking for much in return. We came together, we made a difference, we changed a life by flooding it with love.”
http://www.thestilettomom.com/2011/03/30/and-then-the-love-bomb-dropped-and-it-was-massive

“Over the past few months the community of people who love Katie has come together to make this Love Drop very special for her. From sharing frequent flier miles so her best friends could come to Dallas to surprise her, to sending gifts, cooking food to stock her freezer, shopping for her kids, gathering donations, and traveling many many miles, the people behind this drop were able to give back just a tiny bit of the love Katie shows to everyone who knows her. It was a very heartwarming thing to take part in, and truly a blessing to give.”
http://ericasays.com/3715/we-schemed-and-then-we-dropped-some-love

“I like these organizations because you can begin to get into the habit of giving to others and yet the commitment moneywise is negligible or non-existent. Any age can participate and I can see this appealing to teenagers and others who are unable to give in other events. Amazingly, the effect of these projects could bring hope to each of those affected and they are more likely to pay it forward themselves. I think we can all agree that could truly change the world.”
http://mundanemagic.com/2011/03/be-part-of-a-love-drop.html

Love Bomb

Site: www.DropALoveBomb.com
[visit site to join]

“The idea behind this is genuine. I have never been a part of something so sincere and sweet in my life. I read the blog of the person we are “bombing” and my heart goes out to them. I then read what everyone responds to and my faith in humanity is restored. So many giving people are willing to give their time to someone who they dont know. the overwhelming feeling of love that these people must be feeling after their bomb is amazing. I can not even accurately express how phenomenal this experience is.”

“I am the recipient of a Love Bomb. My older sister had committed suicide and the day that I found out I wrote every feeling that came to mind on my blog. I was struggling. I felt very alone in my thoughts. Nate and his team found my blog and then flooded it with over 400 comments from people all over the world. They understood my grief and left so many positive comments. I was floored. Here were people I have never met offering me such support and an outpooring of compassion. It made my journey through my grief just a bit easier. I will forever be grateful to Nate and It Starts With Us for taking the time to show me that the world still cares.”

“I love bomb people because once upon a time I was suicidal and was saved by the kind words of one person. If one person can do that, think of what hundreds could do.”

“Margaret Mead is quoted as saying “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” As a girl obsessed with the contagious spread of positive emotion, I have always believed this but saw it firsthand when I dropped my first Love Bomb. A few mouseclicks and heartfelt words from around the globe have restored hope, offered comfort, and changed lives. I’ve seen it. The ItStartsWith.Us team is exactly the kind of “group of thoughtful, committed citizens” Ms. Mead was hoping for.”

There are many, many more notes like this, and I’m sorry I can’t include them all. But I would like to thank each and every one of you for being a part of this team and working together to change the world . . . in just 15 minutes a week.

{ 12 comments }

Under Construction

by Nate on March 3, 2011

Yep, we need one of those old-school animated GIFs of the construction dude. Major site overhaul underway right now, so please excuse any craziness you see.

Catch ya’ll on the flip side…

{ 0 comments }

A Love Bomb for Lauren

by Nate on February 11, 2011

LaurenWall

Hey Lauren, it’s February 10th, 2011. Well, technically it’s February 11th, but I say the date ends not at midnight, but when you go to sleep. And I haven’t gone to sleep yet . . . you know how that goes. Anyway, it’s February 10th – your one-year anniversary of being on the Love Bomb team. You were one of the very first ones, my friend. And seven months ago you took over leadership of the team. You’ve now officially been running it longer than I have. Congratulations . . . and thank you.

I remember the very first time I ever noticed you, when someone pointed me to a piece of writing you had done. It was really, really good, so I went to your blog to read more. And what I found there was even better. After reading for 30 minutes, I remember tweeting something like, “This is what a blog should be. Raw, real, vulnerable, beautiful.” And that’s just your writing! Your photography is gorgeous. Intelligence is crazy. Personality is fun. You look like a model. And your heart . . . that’s the best of all. Do you know why I asked you to take over the team so long ago? Not because of anything listed above. That stuff helps, of course, but your heart, Lauren – you just straight-up LOVE people, in a way that I knew I never could.

Every week you lead the Love Bomb team in reaching out to a person who’s struggling, and you lead by example. When I read what you write to each person, the sincerity and empathy in your words are striking. And not many people know this, but you follow up with the people we help. You keep in touch with them. You become friends. You take a vested interest in their lives. Wow. That’s what people in this world need so much more of, and you’re always willing to give.

So today, on your anniversary, I wanted the rest of our team to give a little something back to you. Everyone goes through personal struggle, and you’re no different. I understand that you’re in the middle of a rough time right now, and so do some of our team members.

But know this, Lauren:

You.
Are.
Loved.

I tell you that a lot. I know you know it. But what I don’t tell you nearly often enough is that you changed my life. You brought joy back into it when I was in a very dark place. I finally started laughing again, and 9 times out of 10 when I laughed, it was with you. That did so much for my soul last year. So, so much.

You were surprised the other day when I agreed with someone about how talented you were. That made me realize that I’ve been pretty quiet with my praise for you. Now that we’ve been friends for so long, and you’ve worked for/with me for so many months, I totally understand that you’re brilliant. Because I know how much you’re capable of, I also expect a lot from you. And while I think that being demanding drives you to become better in certain aspects, I never want you to feel that I take you for granted.

I don’t know if you know this, but I still read almost everything you write. I look at all your pictures. I talk about you to everyone. In fact, often when my family members ask how I’m doing, they ask how you’re doing as well. Because you are family to me. You’re my sister, Lauren, and I want nothing but the best for you in this life, whether you continue working with me or go far off into the world to do whatever is next on your list.

Thank you for always being one of my best friends.
Thank you for leading this team by example.
Thank you for loving unconditionally.
Thank you for being you.
You are enough.
You are loved.
I love you.

LaurenNateBlissdom

{ 286 comments }

When You're In Over Your Head

by Nate on February 6, 2011

deepEnd

I feel like I just took a happy, laughing, running leap into the deep end. And only now that I’m here do I realize why this part of the pool is such a challenge. So what do you do when you’re in over your head? You reach out for help, of course.

Many of you know that my business partner (J. Money) and I launched a new project on January 1st: Love Drop. Each month we work to change the lives of one family or individual by bringing community together around the concept of micro-giving. Last month we were able to do some amazing things for Jill, a single mom in Chicago whose family had become homeless for the second time. If you’d like to learn more about that story, you can find it here.

Love Drop can be labeled as social entrepreneurship, which means it’s a (barely) for-profit business – we take out just enough from the contributions to pay taxes and run operations. It makes enough to be sustainable so we can continue to do it without going into debt. We love what we do, and we are honored to be a part of these families’ lives each month.

In January we brought in around $5,000, of which we gave Jill around $2,500, as well as many other gifts of goods and services from team members all over the world. For this month, February, we chose a recipient family that really, really touched our hearts, and in doing so we took on a challenge that is well beyond the strength of our team at the moment.

This family lives in my own city of Milwaukee, which I’m really excited about. Here’s the story in a nutshell: The Rewolinski family consists of a mom, a dad, and three children. The two older boys (Ethan, 7 and Alex, 6) are autistic and need constant attention. The family has been trying to obtain a specially trained service dog to help with the boys . . . especially to stay near Alex, who will attempt to run away at any time. They’re all ready to have a dog placed in their home by a wonderful organization called 4 Paws for Ability. I know it’s a fantastic organization because J. and I took a trip down to Ohio to inspect the facility and make sure it was awesome (which it was).

4 Paws works with the family to place a dog in their home, free of charge and with no waiting list. The one thing the family must agree to do is provide $13,000 worth of fundraising for 4 Paws, which is a non-profit organization.

And that’s where Love Drop comes in.

We made it our goal this month to help them raise the $13,000 necessary to get them started training with their dog and get it placed in their home as soon as possible. Great goal, powerful story, amazing thing our community can help out with this month, right? Right. Except with our business model, we’d have to bring in double that revenue in the form of contributions to make it happen. And we’re simply not there yet – we just launched this project a month ago, and our membership is still small.

Also, neither J. nor I have ever done any kind of fundraising before. Ever. You see, usually we keep it simple, and choose to work with those that we can easily help within the framework of our project. Bringing in $5,000 – not too hard. Bringing in 5 times that – ridiculously tough.

And since we help a new family each month, we have very little time to bring in the money. In this case, it means that we only have until February 28th to raise enough money to get this done. I think we’ve brought in close to $2,000 in the first week, which is good, but not nearly enough.

Before I tell you what we’ve decided to do about this situation, I want you to meet the family, and especially the two boys we’ll be helping. Alex is in the black shirt, and Ethan is the one with the full head of hair. :) Check out the video below to take a peek into their home. If you don’t have much time, skip to the last two minutes or so.

Just so you know, the way Love Drop works is that at the end of every month, J. and I literally go visit the family at their home and present them with everything that the community came together to help out with for the month. The Rewolinski’s live in my hometown of Milwaukee, just a few miles from me, and I don’t want to go to their house on February 26th and tell them that our community and our city could not do enough to help them get their dog. I want to go in there happy and confident, knowing that this city and our national network came together to do something incredible this month, something that will quite literally change their lives.

J. and I talked about it, and we realized that we aren’t going to be able to get this dog if we do things the normal way. But we do think there’s a way to bring in $13,000 if we work our tails off and have a lot of help from individuals and small businesses, especially those in the local (Milwaukee) community.

So here’s what we’re doing about it: We’re not going to take any money for taxes or operations for Love Drop this month – we’re going to funnel all of that money directly towards fundraising for 4 Paws so we can help this family get their dog. Every penny that we get this month will go towards the $13,000 needed for the service dog. Love Drop can take a hit in February . . . Ethan and Alex can’t.

There’s no way we can do this alone, though. We really, really need your help to get it done in such a short timeframe. So we’re asking you to pitch in however you can for Ethan and Alex. Here’s what you can do:

1) Give money through Love Drop
You can do this quickly and easily on our site here: http://www.lovedrop.us/get-involved. There are directions provided to subscribe monthly via PayPal, to do a one-time donation via PayPal, or give by credit card or physical check. We will make sure that everything we get this month (up to $13,000) goes straight over to 4 Paws and is accounted for correctly. If you’re an individual or business that gives a significant amount, we will include your information on our “Friends of Ethan and Alex” page here.

2) Give money directly to 4 Paws
If you want to make a larger, tax-deductible donation directly to 4 Paws, you can do so here: http://www.4pawsforability.org/donation.html. (Just make very sure to note that the money goes toward the Alex Rewolinski account.)

3) Spread the word
If you can’t help out financially, please help us spread the word this month by sharing this blog post with your network, or by sharing the story on Facebook or Twitter using the buttons at the top of the Love Drop homepage. If you have a blog, you can also join our Blogger Network, and we’ll send you an email with free content that you can copy/paste to share this story with your readers.

So that’s what I’m focusing all my energy on this month, guys. I’m not gonna lie – it feels really weird to write all this and ask for money and help from you. I’ve never done anything like this before, and it puts me in a really new and uncertain situation. But the fact of the matter is, my discomfort this month is nothing compared to what this family deals with on an daily basis, and if I can spend all my time in February making sure we come together to help change their lives, then I’m happy to do it. Yes, I’m in over my head – but I wouldn’t have it any other way right now.

I know this was a really long post, and I thank you all for reading and being a part of such a large group of caring people.

J. and I really want to make this happen for the Rewolinski’s this month. Thank you for helping us out – we truly appreciate it.

Much love,
Nate

Photo Credit: Jef Harris

{ 19 comments }

You Can't Outsource Yourself

by Nate on January 30, 2011

outsourced

I used to write a blog. Then, as I began to build and grow all my projects, I realized that I didn’t have the time to write on a consistent basis. So I outsourced writing duties on the ItStartsWith.Us blog to other people. And now here I find myself, three months later, realizing that I am no longer a blogger.

To be fair, I never really considered myself primarily a blogger – I’ve always been a more project-oriented guy who just happens to write adequately and often enough to be viewed as one. But still, I was proud of my writing. And now I am not.

Back in October I brought on someone to manage all the writing on the site, including contributions by a small group of staff writers – not professional writers, but people pulled from our team who were interested in writing, gaining experience, getting their voices heard, etc. At that time I wrote my last “real” blog post, “Your Best Friend.” Other than that my only contribution to the blog has pretty much consisted of updates on the various projects I’m working on, except for one small bulleted list that I wrote in 30 seconds as a note to myself, but decided to publish. Ironically (or appropriately), that one tiny post generated more traffic than any of the other articles in the past three months.

Please understand that I’m not taking anything away from the people I brought on to help me with this. They did exactly what they were asked to do, and I really like some of the stuff that came out of it. The simple fact of the matter, however, is that they’re not me. And I hope you understand that’s not meant to sound prideful . I’ve simply realized that when you have a blog that’s built on personal experience and a familiar voice, you can’t just up and quit and give the job to someone else. It doesn’t work like that. I’ve felt this in my heart for a while now, but after trying it for three months, I also have the numbers to back it up. Every single applicable statistic on reader engagement is down (and down big) over the last three months. Across the board, folks.

I know in my heart what I want to do: I want to be proud of my blog again. And it’s so very difficult to say to those who have been helping out “Sorry, I don’t need you anymore,” but it’s what I’m going to do. Because at the end of the day I need to be 100% satisfied with the caliber of my work, and this is the way to do it. I’m taking back my blog, starting now.

I’d like to thank all the good people at BlissDom for reminding me to take another look at what I’m doing with my online voice. I’ll write more about that experience later (now that I write again, ha), but for now I’ll leave you with something that Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) said in his keynote that really hit me. He was answering the question: How often should you write?

“You should write when you have something to say.”

And that’s what I intend to do from now on.

Photo Credit: Rob Warde

{ 15 comments }

The Mysterious Letters Project

by AliciaB on January 26, 2011

Last year, we set out on a mission to surprise an entire town with handwritten letters with our Mysterious Letters project. Our leadership team pulled together, brainstormed, used the Internet to find as many addresses as we could and hoped our project would be a success.

The town we picked was Omer, Michigan. With the help of a few amazing It Starts With Us members (you know who you are), we were able to send handwritten letters and postcards to almost everyone in Omer. We also received e-mail messages from members around the world, which we wrote on stationary and sent to the town in Michigan.

However, the amount of handwritten letters we received from members outside of the leadership team was disappointing — two letters (so, thank you to the two of you who took time to do this).

Overall, this project turned out to be an interesting experiment. Perhaps more members would have written letters if we promoted the project more, or if we created more enthusiasm around it. Albeit the lack of member participation, the Mysterious Letters project was still a success, as we did end up doing what we intended from the beginning — surprising a town with anonymous, handwritten letters. It certainly wasn’t a failure. Thank you to all who participated.

After reflecting on the way the Mysterious Letters project turned out, I’m willing to try this again with another small town. How about you guys?

{ 5 comments }

Love Bomb + Love Drop for Jill!

by Lauren on January 21, 2011

Just wanted to throw up a quick video update for you guys on this week’s Love Bomb mission as we partner with Love Drop for Jill, our very first Love Drop recipient! Check it out.

Love you guys!

You can read more about Jill here on the Love Bomb website, or go directly to the blog post to leave her a comment.

{ 2 comments }

Alia Mohamed – Superstar

by Beverley on January 19, 2011

This is the second in a series of posts featuring ISWU members from around the globe sharing what they are doing in their communities to make a difference.

africa1

Alia Mohamed…Superstar

Most people would not consider Alia Mohamed famous.  She’s not an actress, pop singer, politician or even an athlete with exceptional abilities.  But at age 22, this Marymount University biology senior has a fan club of 200 Somali orphans.  To them, Alia is a true superstar who has changed their lives forever.

What moves someone to take action with passion and commitment?  Alia is the fifth of eight children who, with her family, fled Somalia when she was only one year old, escaping the country’s civil war.  Although she was raised with charity work and selflessness as part of her upbringing, she admits she never really thought about Somalia.  In January of 2009 when she heard about the incident where nearly 100 Somalis were killed in a roadside bombing she realized that no one was talking about Somalia, which is the poorest country in the world.

Then, in the summer of 2009, she attended a Somalia youth conference where the attendees were encouraged to get involved with topics like politics, education, health care, immigration and refugees.  When the speaker talked about how the orphan population was rising rapidly, she couldn’t get this out of her head. “Just like Somalia as a country has been abandoned, the orphans have also been abandoned.” Although everyone was eager to engage in discussions about politics and other topics, no-one seemed interested in the startling statistics….Somalia has the largest orphan population in Africa and maybe the world, yet no-one seemed concerned about the children.  She kept thinking, “The children are the future of the nation, and if provided with the necessary care, they will lead the nation into a different path.  We can focus on all other dilemmas our country faces, but how far will they go if we don’t educate our kids and care for them?”
mtm2

With the education she received at the youth conference on how to start an NGO (non governmental organization), she knew exactly what she had to do.  Mercy to Mankind was born and with the help of family and friends, fundraising efforts quickly allowed them to raise enough money to hire two teachers, rent a house in Mogadishu and initially bring 50 children a new home.  The foundation is dedicated to orphans who have lost both parents, as these are the most in need.  Currently they house 200 children ages 3-13.
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She is sincerely hoping that in the spring of this year, the foundation will have enough funds to start building a children’s centre and bring even more orphaned children a permanent home.  In talking with Alia you know that her heart and passion is with the children. Her vision sounds simple. “My dream is to see every orphan in Somalia provided with basic needs such as education, medicine, home and love.  I am so blessed to have changed these children’s lives and hope to brighten the lives of many more. Orphans and children in general, are prone to violence in Somalia and I’m glad that’s not the case with my children.”  To the orphans of Somalia, Alia Mohamed will continue to be a true superstar.

To find out more about her foundation please visit: http://www.mercytomankindf.org/

This is the first article my ISWU team member Beverley:
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Beverley is a freelance writer and songwriter who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She has written everything from full length magazine articles to song lyrics and loves to research, design and build stories. She is passionate about helping and supporting others who reach out and help as well and is delighted to be a part of the ISWU team. You can visit her personal website at
http://www.beverleygolden.com.

The first article in the Continent Series can be read here.

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Today I have something very short and sweet to say:

The secret to just about everything is getting outside of yourself.

What do I mean by ‘getting outside of yourself?’ I just mean slowing down your brain and paying attention to the people around you. Putting a hold on your personal goals, and asking who needs help with theirs. Making a sacrifice so that someone else can get what they’ve been waiting for. Going over to your Mom’s house instead of sending her a message on Facebook.

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve become a very individualized society. Words like ‘family’ and ‘community’ aren’t dropped too much anymore when discussing life decisions. The idea of still being friends at 25 or 30 with the kid you met on the playground when you were 5? That’s obsolete for 9 out of 10 people. With the traditional media explosion (radio, television, and eventually the Internet), culture shifted from what immediately surrounded you in your daily life to something that’s worldwide, and people then had their pick of what culture they wanted to adhere to. Through traditional media, we all got grouped into the humanity movement. And, true to human nature, we rebelled by ‘standing out,’ ‘being unique,’ ‘embracing diversity’ and ‘doing me.’ (I could elaborate much more on the symptoms of individualism, but that’s for later, and not quite the point of this.)

Then came what I lovingly refer to as Teh Soshal Mediaz. Thanks to social media, we’ve suddenly become a relational generation again. Sure, it looks wildly different from the 1950′s, but I think we’re finally realizing that we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when we raced to put our careers first, let go of some pretty significant family values, and when “doing me” became the epitome of Cool.

Even if you don’t use social media, that’s okay. It’s changing your world for you, and you didn’t even have to Like any Facebook fan pages. There’s been an outrageous rush in even the last 365 days to raise awareness, build online communities, use Twitter to strengthen local non-profits, bring philanthrophy to the corporate world, interact personally with customer groups, and elevate the importance of sincere relationships.

We’ve even gotten so far as to have a man we call Doctor Love (Paul Zak) do extensive studies to prove that Oxytocin, the cuddle chemical, is triggered by things like a positive Facebook status comment. In the same way a bearhug from your best friend does. The significance? The corporate world is now anticipating that in the near future, their worth will be primarily measured not by their profit margins, but in customer relationships and their trust factor. Yes, people. Social capital is more valuable than money in the bank.

This has left us scrambling to figure out how to best gain this social capital. And it’s so, so easy. The secret is getting outside of yourself.

What does this mean for you? It means that we finally have proof that putting others first is the best way for the world to work. It means that engaging in a sincerely interested manner with the person at the drive-thru gives you an amazingly good return on your 5 minute investment. It means that putting a sticky note on your dashboard reminding you to focus on others, and not yourself, will actually increase your standard of living. It means that the whole purpose of social media is to be social: “marked by friendly companionship with others.”

But, there’s a catch. Being driven by love isn’t something you can fake. Even behind a creative Twitter handle, intricate philanthropic blog network, or super cute profile photo, people can tell fairly quickly what your motive is. Most people who are paying attention can skim a blog, and after 10 minutes, give you a fairly educated guess on what that blogger’s definition of success is.

I want this to be a challenge to you. Make a conscious decision to put other people’s interests above your own. When you go through the drive-thru, stop thinking about your next destination long enough to realize that a real human being is serving you. And when you jump on Twitter and half-skim a couple hundred tweets as your type yours up, pay attention to who needs a little extra love that day.

Success isn’t complicated, you guys. Fight the urge to be ruled by the numbers game and to be ‘doing me’, and let’s go back to our 1950′s roots – where family and community take priority in our lives. While still crushing on our sexy MacBook Pros.

Lauren (@laurenlankford)

Note: Lauren is the Team Leader for our sister project, Love Bomb. You can check out her own blog here, and follow Love Bomb on Twitter here.

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…You Are So Beautiful, Can't You See It?

by Susi on January 13, 2011

Following is a second article from our blog series highlighting  young ISWU members.

Opperation hope“Hey now, you are not ugly, you are so beautiful. Can’t you see it?” This was sent by Opperation Hope [misspelling intended], a website where anyone can enter a recipient and a message, and the email will be sent anonymously for you (which is really handy for people you don’t normally talk to, like your estranged brother-in-law or the lonely shy girl at school). Opperation Hope was created by Aly and Mebediel [not their real names], two teenage girls in California, US that, one day, decided to send an anonymous email to a lonely sophomore at their school. That was their first Opperation Hope email, and their first step to changing the world. One sender told Aly and Mebediel that the boy she wrote to had changed the way he acted, becoming more outgoing, less restrained, and making more friends. Each message they send is just as amazing, and offer advice we all deserve to hear, but often forget: “You are awesome, so I just wanted to tell you this: Be yourself; everyone else is taken,” and “… A lot of people appreciate you and what you do. Never doubt that.” So far, the girls have filled 17 hearts with hope.

You can share some hope at http://opperationhope.weebly.com/

 

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The Entire Interview with Mebediel And Aly

Q: How many people have used Opperation Hope?
M: So far there have been 17 messages that were sent through us, and one person has asked us for advice.

Q: Have you had any feedback from people about it?
A: Yes, I believe so, and we’re always very excited whenever we receive one.
M: We have had a couple of suggestions for improvement on our site such as the “Other acts of hope” section, the “Ask for hope” section, and a suggestion that we might forward any replies from the “victim” (I have no better words for the person we send the email to) back to the original sender.

Q: Has anyone told you an inspirational story about their experiences with it?
M: So far, no one has shared any inspirational stories with us, but there was on boy who kept communicating with us; we knew the hope-sender personally, and she told us that she had seen a change in how he acted–that he was more outgoing and less restrained after that, and that helped him make more friends at school.

Q: The boy that inspired you to start it – did you ever see any change in him?
M: If I remember rightly, the biggest change we saw in him was that he found some friends later on…that may or may not have had anything to do with our email.
A: Well, in general, yes, although it probably wasn’t because of our email. He found a few new friends and I think, he recently reunited with his old friends, so we’re glad that he’s not all alone anymore!

Q: Do you read the messages – (i assume you have to since you have to rewrite them, and you might want to make sure they aren’t mean?) and if so, what was your favorite one?
M: Yes, we read the messages, and so far we haven’t had any mean ones. One of my favorites is, “People can be so hurtful but people can be so healing. So don’t give up on people. You’re a wonderful guy. A lot of people appreciate you and what you do. Never doubt that.”
A: I guess my favorite one has to be, “Hey now, you are not ugly, you are so beautiful. Can’t you see it?”. It just sounds so honest and sincere, I love it!

Q: Are there any others that really stand out to you?
M: All of the Opperation Hope messages are amazing, but two more that stood out to me are: “Hey now, you are not ugly, you are so beautiful. Can’t you see it?” and “You are awesome So I just wanted to tell you this: Be yourself; everyone else is taken. =D”
A: Other than my favorite, one that stands out to me is “People can be so hurtful but people can be so healing. So don’t give up on people. You’re a wonderful guy. A lot of people appreciate you and what you do. Never doubt that.”

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