February 26, 2009

American Women and the Great Recession, Part 3 of 4

Taking a cue from President Obama’s speech yesterday, this week’s posting in the series on women and the economy continues its focus on healthcare. Most of President Obama’s fireside-inspired speech which he delivered to Congress and the American public last night centered on the economy, and addressing the labor and economic needs of the 21st Century.

A significant portion of the speech however, was geared towards healthcare and the dire need to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system as a critical part of reviving the economy. President Obama pledged reform to the American people in a compelling declaration in which he said that, "Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” Women’s issues were not specifically named in the speech, but hopefully the focus on healthcare and the economy will do some of the greatest good for middle and lower-income women and families.

One of the areas of health services in which help is truly needed among women is family planning. According to a recent study released by the Guttmacher Institute, entitled Next Steps for America’s Family Planning Program, individuals and families are relying more heavily on Family Planning Clinics that are federally-funded under Title X, to fulfill their primary healthcare needs. The study found that six out of ten clients consider Family Planning Clinics their main source of healthcare, as they often receive other preventive services in addition to reproductive health services, such as diabetes and high blood pressure testing.

In addition, for every $1 that the federal government invests in family planning services, it nets $4 in savings over the long term, so the program actually pays for itself and serves as a cost savings-generating measure. A statement released with the report by the study’s lead author Rachel Benson Gold illuminates the essential nature of family planning services to women, families, health, and how these intersect with spending and the economy:

The national family planning program is smart government at its best […] Publicly-funded family planning is basic health care that empowers disadvantaged women to decide for themselves when to become pregnant and how many children to have. It reduces recourse to abortion. And it saves significant amounts of taxpayer money.

The report also identifies areas where Medicaid can be expanded and restrictions that impede access for states (and recipients of Medicaid as a result) can be eliminated in order to better serve women and families in need of healthcare and family planning services.

In addition to expanding Medicaid, there are many other areas where healthcare programs can be changed right away to better serve individuals and ease some of the pressures that are bearing down on women and families as a result of the economic crisis. For example, covering more uninsured individuals in the new fiscal year will save money for the U.S. over the long-term by giving people access to preventive care that can help them avoid more serious and costly health problems down the road, such as diabetes and other chronic conditions. The U.S. is expected to spend $2.4 trillion on healthcare this year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Obama noted in his speech that 1.5 million Americans could lose their homes this year due to bankruptcy, which is often caused by massive medical expenses incurred by the under and un-insured.

By extending coverage to the uninsured, including many women and families, the government can help Americans to get a handle on their medical expenses, reduce the number of bankruptcies, stem the destabilization of housing, and provide the human right of health to millions of citizens.

For more information on the ways in which women’s health and economic policies are intimately linked in the current climate, check out the following links:

Written by Emily J. Kronenberger, Policy Analyst at the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities and founder of New Wave Grrrl, a health information and resource sharing blog for women. Emily is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, serves on the Board of Trustees at the Alice Paul Institute and volunteers as the Director of Policy Initiatives at the Younger Women’s Task Force of New Jersey.

February 25, 2009

Volunteer From Your Computer!

If you, like many, would like to do more to serve local and international communities through volunteerism, but don’t have the money to travel or lots of time to commit, I recently came across another great way of contributing – right from your own computer!

The UN has launched the United Nations Online Volunteering Service. This great service connects online volunteers with organizations working around the world for sustainable human development. According to the site:

‘Volunteers contribute their skills online to help organizations address development challenges. Organizations collaborate with online volunteers over the internet to strengthen the impact of their development work.’

You can search on the site for volunteer opportunities by your own skills, topics you are interested in such as education or health, or by a region of the world. A quick search on the site gave me multiple opportunities to contribute my skills very easily over my computer. I chose to search by my own skill, writing and editing, which produced 33 results – from editing reports for an organization in Syria, to helping write grant proposals for orgs in West Africa.

If you are looking to volunteer but can’t afford the traditional methods –online volunteering could be a great way to get involved with organizations and issues around the world that you care about!

This post was written by Katherine Osgood, Director of International Programs at United Planet. Katherine has her own blog focusing on women’s rights issues and is a volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project.

February 24, 2009

Mentoring Benefits Everyone

I was a teacher for 5 years. Prior to that, I worked in different non-profit organizations where the focus of the organization was education or youth services. I still work in education, but not directly with youth, and I miss it! It’s just one of those things that happens, especially in the current economy, I moved, I found a job, and I kept it for fear of not being able to find another one quickly.

However, with this new position, I have a lot of free time after work, time where I can go to the gym, watch TV, read a book, or, another option I recently discovered, mentoring. It wasn’t hard to find an organization looking for mentors and coaches. Especially because of the economy, there is a greater need for volunteers. Many are struggling since most of their funding comes from these companies that are crumbling in the recession.

There are many students and young people that benefit from this relationship. Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to relate to the students and that I didn’t have anything to “give” them as a mentor, but once we started talking and they brought in their work and questions, I quickly realized that by just talking to them and supporting them, I was being helpful.

There is always a need for mentors; especially with the cloudy future for securing scholarships and loans for college student being what it is, these students need all the support they can get. Mentoring organizations are all over the U.S., and you don’t need to be a mentor through an organization. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes the relationship between mentor and mentee is not specified, but it is something that just happens out of necessity. If you have some free time, this is a great way to impact someone else’s life.

The mentee doesn’t have to be a total stranger; it can be a family member, neighbor or someone from a community center. Try to remember what it was like for you as you were growing up and ask yourself, if I had a mentor, would my life have turned out differently?

This post was written by Matthew Reid, volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. A native New Yorker, Matthew now lives in Boston and works for a math curriculum development company.

February 23, 2009

Looking for Role Models

I am a huge sports fan and I have always looked up to athletes for their work on the field of play, their dedication to excellence through practice and living a healthy lifestyle and their determination for becoming the best in what they do. However, with each week that goes by, more and more athletes are on TV and in the newspapers for all the things they are doing wrong and that are illegal, and not for their athletic successes.

Yet we still try to suggest that because they are on TV and in the public eye they are role models. Why?

Haven’t we learned from the days of Charles Barkley when he said, “I am not a role model,” and even had a commercial to state that fact? Hasn’t the lifestyles of famous athletes made us cringe and question the way we put them in the spotlight?

Recently we found out that the king of the Olympics was pictured doing illegal drugs and let down hundreds of thousands of fans, young and old who looked up to him. Baseball players left and right are admitting to doing drugs to enhance their performance and make more money, while everyday people in our communities across the country are passed over for these role model positions.

Growing up, I was a huge sports fan. However, when it came to looking for role models or people I admire, it was not someone on the cover of magazines and newspapers, the internet was not around and TV didn’t have cable, so I found role models in the people around me, my family.

Depending on the day it could have been my sister, father, mother, grand parents, cousins, family friends, whomever. I saw these people regularly and could rely on them when I needed them. I realize and understand that because I had these people in my life makes me lucky, I would argue that I was spoiled because of it. However, whether it was because I knew to look elsewhere or because these people around me guided me, I did not look to people in the spotlight for my role models.

We need to do a better job highlighting these members of our communities that should be the role models and spend less time worrying about what celebrity is doing what with whom, and which drugs they are using. Our culture sensationalizes movie stars and athletes, but regularly dismisses the efforts of teachers and suggests that single mothers are bad for the “family” structure.

How can we change this culture so that the community that raises a child is the most important aspect in that child’s life?

This post was written by Matthew Reid, volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. A native New Yorker, Matthew now lives in Boston and works for a math curriculum development company.

February 18, 2009

Tough Times Make Strong Hearts

Adults who grew up during the Great Depression have been shown to be more well-adjusted, stable, and successful in later life than more recent generations. Theories are that during times of collective “deprivation,” children must learn to adapt to frequent change, consequently facing situations which require problem resolution behaviors at a young age.

The children of the Depression developed a “what you see is what you get” attitude as personal strengths and weaknesses were discovered early and had plenty of time to be further tested and fortified as they grew into adulthood. One of the major reasons why so many children growing in poverty were able to embody such solid characters as adults was the undiscriminating nature of the crisis- they were all in the same boat.”

It was not an anomaly to have your neighbor stop by your door asking for money or food, the entire American consciousness was looking through the same lens. This collectivity unified them in their struggle and bled into one huge heart that America had never before seen in such stark but beautiful light. The hardship these children, particularly, faced made them into better people.

Our generation is now raised on pop tarts and television. Many children of the upper, middle, and even lower class are lost in a fog of materialism, consumerism, and image-obsession. It’s not their fault; they live in the easy world we’ve worked so hard to create for them. Many young people now believe you can simply BUY social change, BUY action, BUY righteous anger, BUY battle scars.

Social causes have become an image market and these attitudes are in the way of real social change but they seem to be increasingly entrenched in the minds of our young people who are relentlessly barraged by advertisements before they even learn how to speak. If the Great Depression is on our doorstep once again, perhaps our children will face a similar “deprivation” culture which will blossom into another Greatest Generation of honest, family-oriented, thrifty people who understand the slow process of true change and are willing to stick it through while giving us the power of their true selves without all the image driven garbage. Maybe they will grow up to be less alarmed by losing what luxuries they have and be more naturally inclined to face problems with early wisdom and bold hearts, willing to take more than a calculated risk because they aren’t afraid of losing it all.

Suppose we face a second Great Depression. What would the possibilities be for social change?

Would people revert to selfish self preservation and fear? Would the children save the day?

This post was written by Leah Bush, a freelance writer, volunteer blogger for the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, and aspiring Guru whose past involvement includes the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Recovery Project and volunteerism in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Questions regarding this post may be forwarded to ultraEchelon@gmail.com.

February 17, 2009

What is the Literacy Rate of the US?

The World Factbook, prepared by the CIA, states that the US literacy rate is around 99%. This means that around 3 million people in America are unable to functionally read and write. That is equivalent to the entire population of Mongolia!

As if those numbers weren’t enough to make you sit up and think, there is some dispute about the 99% - the actual figure could be lower, depending on the various definitions of literacy used. Jonathan Kozol, in his book ‘Illiterate America’ states that the government based the 99% literacy rate on interviews and written responses to Census Bureau mailings from a small portion of the population. Of that portion, if the responders or interviewees had completed fifth grade they were considered literate. About 5% had not completed fifth grade, but 80% of those were subsequently considered literate, and so the Bureau reached a conclusion of a 99% literacy rate.

In 1993 a new study was released. Over 5 years, and $14 million spent (the largest literacy study ever conducted by the US government) it showed that 21% to 23% of Americans were not “able to locate information in text”, could not “make low level inferences using printed materials” and were unable to “integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.”

Whether the 99% rate is correct or even if the rate is even lower, that is 3,000,000 US Americans who cannot functionally read or write.

How is this possible in one of the most developed countries in the world?

It is up to us to ensure this number is reduced in future, by encouraging education reform and ensuring every child and adult have access to education resources throughout their lives.

This post was written by Katherine Osgood, Director of International Programs at United Planet. Katherine has her own blog focusing on women’s rights issues and is a volunteer blogger with Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.

February 12, 2009

American Women and the Great Recession, Part 2 of 4

On Wednesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate came to an agreement about the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Package, which will tally $789 billion dollars in total, and hopefully give much-needed aid to states, local municipalities, working people, families, and some individuals who have been hit hardest by this Great Recession. The bill, which President Obama has been urging members of Congress to agree upon and push through all week long, emerges with much controversy still surrounding it, even among some seasoned Democrats who were unhappy with the outcome of Wednesday’s inter-Congressional talks.

Some of these lawmakers feel that too much money was taken from education and social programs as a way to strike a compromise with the Recovery Package’s detractors. Nevertheless, the bill is ostensibly set to move forward in Congress and may even be on the President’s desk - ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered - by as early as Friday.

As I described in Part 1 of this Series, women and families will be greatly impacted by this bill, although it is not clear whether the impacts will be all felt as positive, given some of the current provisions in the Package, and some that were left out.

Originally, the Package had symbolized for many who advocate on behalf of women and families great hope and opportunity: a chance to undo some of the negative effects of misguided policies that characterized the last decade and have resulted in systematic underfunding of key social programs. Several of these social programs that have suffered of late were proven effective, such as food stamps and nutrition programs, at targeting poverty and creating better outcomes for women and children. Although the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides food vouchers (stamps) to families in need is actually being strengthened and augmented by the new Economic Recovery Package, other programs which many hoped would slip past the Congressional chopping block did not make it.

For example, the bill includes 87 million dollars in new money for states to offset Medicaid costs that have been continuously rising. The initial House bill, before it was passed by Representatives, contained a provision called the Medicaid Family Planning State Option, which would have allowed states to expand coverage for lower income women and families to access family planning services.

One of the most critical services included in this, contraceptives, has recently experienced a steady spike in costs across communities rich and poor and even on college campuses, and women’s advocates hoped that this provision would remain in the overall Package in order to give assistance to lower income women who cannot afford contraception and other family planning services. However, the provision was removed in an effort to satisfy objections from House Republicans, who ultimately did not vote for the House bill, citing failed negotiations.

Despite these events which some have called sell-outs or setbacks for women during this process, the bill does still include many provisions that should bring about change, growth, and relief in the coming months. For example, although the Package has since its inception caught the ire of critics for its expansion of government programs, thereby increasing the size of government, it should be noted that this action will create jobs which will most likely employ many women, as women are typically highly represented in the public sector.

As a result, it is expected to put men and women on more equitable footing, since the bill also creates “shovel-ready” jobs in construction and infrastructure development that typically employ men. Putting both men and women back to work in the current economic slump will undoubtedly lead to better outcomes for middle and lower-income families.

Much in the same manner as we found ourselves two weeks ago, uncertainty still prevails over exactly what the future will hold for Americans as a result of the Stimulus bill, which has yet to become law. Check back soon for a break-down of the final Package’s implications for women, and some insights into how this will impact us on the ground as these details become more apparent, and policy is finally put into practice.

Written by Emily J. Kronenberger, Policy Analyst at the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities and founder of New Wave Grrrl, a health information and resource sharing blog for women. Emily is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, serves on the Board of Trustees at the Alice Paul Institute and volunteers as the Director of Policy Initiatives at the Younger Women’s Task Force of New Jersey.

February 11, 2009

The V3 Campaign and Nonprofit Politics

Almost one month into an historic presidency, party lines and a candidate’s stance have certainly faded into the rearview mirror. However, President Obama is only one man. Robert Egger, the founder of the V3 Campaign, would like us all to remember that real change is an ongoing, cooperative effort that involves state and local representatives as well. It’s an effort that would do well to work with nonprofit organizations, as well as the professionals, volunteers, donors, and advocates that keep them running.

Egger wants us all to imagine a world in which the nonprofit voice rings loudly in the political arena, working for feasible and effective solutions. Nonprofit organizations are frequently bound by short-term projects and yearly budgets, often waiting into the spring for their annual funding. Despite the large contributions made by nonprofits to their communities, the economy, and the job market, it is large corporations that seem to have the most pull. According to Egger, nonprofits are businesses. Furthermore, it is our job as volunteers, professionals, donors, and concerned citizens to ensure that voice is heard.

Then again, what would it mean for nonprofits to partner with politicians, much in the way that corporations do now? It’s inevitable that nonprofit policies will clash, from time to time, with political platforms. Nonprofit organizations mold their own unique visions. Would those visions be compromised in order to compete for relevancy in the political realm?

I’d like to hope not. In any case, I can’t imagine that the risks of an increased importance placed on the nonprofit sector would outweigh the benefits. Whether in the form of more funding for supplies, programs, and wages or through the power to catalyze real changes in policy – I think this country could benefit from its government cooperating more with nonprofit organizations. If you agree, download the V3 Campaign’s candidate questionnaire, and ask your local representatives how they would work with the nonprofit sector to achieve goals.

And sound off in the comments about just how you think that relationship should look. Should nonprofits be given a bigger role in the world of politics? What do you think?

This post was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments or email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions.

February 10, 2009

Improving Women’s Lives in Bosnia

I recently discovered a great organization working to alleviate women’s struggles around the world through education and micro loans.

This organization – Women for Women International - operates in eight countries including the Congo, Kosovo and Iraq. About a month ago I decided to sign up for their sponsorship program. This includes a small monthly financial commitment, which is used to support a ‘sister’ in a community where Women for Women work. It takes about a month for you to be matched with your sister, once matched you are able to correspond with her to see how she is and how she is using Women for Women’s support.

Last week I received information about my sister. She lives in Bosnia. I confess I don’t know much about Bosnia, despite being born and raised in Europe. I know about the war in ‘92, but I don’t know much about how the people are trying to rebuild their lives since the war that ripped their country apart. I was shocked to find out the following:

  • 50% of the schools in Bosnia were destroyed and have not been rebuilt
  • Landmines have made farming deadly
  • 45% of all women are unemployed – making them targets for human traffickers

These are just some of the issues Bosnian women are dealing with, but by using micro loans and education services provided by Women for Women, those that receive them are able to make a difference in theirs and their family’s lives. The women use the loans to educate themselves and start their own businesses, in everything from agriculture to jewelry making. It is working, with 88% of women saying that their self confidence has increased, and 91% better understand their rights.

This post was written by Katherine Osgood, Director of International Programs at United Planet. Katherine has her own blog focusing on women’s rights issues and is a volunteer blogger with Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.

February 9, 2009

Pura Vida: Making Change

"As co-founder and CEO of Pura Vida, John Sage has helped Fair Trade coffee – coffee purchased at a price that is fair to farmers – become a regular at U.S. breakfast tables and cafes. At the same time, he has helped better the lives of people in coffee-growing regions. In this talk, Sage discusses how Pura Vida uses every aspect of its products, processes, and profits for social good. He also outlines how the company works to improve the health, educational opportunities, and psychological outlooks of children and families in coffee-growing countries. Sage talks more broadly, as well, about how a new generation of socially minded organizations is producing meaningful, sustainable, and lasting improvements to our world."
~ From Stanford's Social Innovation Conversations website

I listened to John's talk recently and was inspired by his story. After leaving business school, he went to the Pacific Northwest to work for a tiny software company named Microsoft. He went on to other consulting gigs at places like Starbucks. Throughout his career, he kept up his friendship with Chris, a business school friend who went back to Costa Rica after graduation to work in the field that would become social entrepreneurship. It is through this friendship, John's success is the corporate world, and Chris's connection to the poor in Costa Rica, that the idea of Pura Vida was brought to life.

During the conversation, John tells a story about a woman who came from Costa Rica to Seattle University to tell her story. She, her husband, and her children had only known a life of picking coffee. Her children didn't go to school - the family needed them to work so the family could survive. With the fair price that Pura Vida pays for the coffee on the plantation where they work, she and her husband could earn enough money to support the family, allowing her children to go to school. She had a wish for them to continue their education and perhaps to have the opportunity for college that all of the students in the audience at Seattle University have. Prior to Pura Vida, this dream was not even conceivable, much less possible.

The cost for this kind of dramatic change in a child's life is an extra buck on our cups of coffee. On my Con Edison bill, I give an extra dollar a month to go toward a fund that helps people who struggle to pay their own electric bills. My dollar alone doesn't help much, but together with thousands of other people it makes an enormous difference. When I go to Barnes & Noble to buy a birthday card, I have the opportunity to purchase a UNICEF greeting card so that a portion of the sale goes to UNICEF. The same can be said of hundreds of other products we purchase regularly. Our tiny purchases in this country have huge implications around the world. And we make most of these purchases without thinking, without even acknowledging that we have an opportunity every day to choose and create social change. With this kind of widespread collective impact, these small decisions are worthy of more of our attention.

This post was written by Christa Avampato, a product developer in the financial services industry. In the future, she would like to parlay her product and service development experience into the world of social entrepreneurship. She is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project and publishes her own blog on creativity at http://www.christainnewyork.blogspot.com. Please leave your comments or email christa.avampato[@]gmail.com with your questions.

February 5, 2009

The Healthcare Hustle

“You need surgery”

“SURGERY! I don’t have insurance!”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you with that…”

I severely fractured my finger and was given my options - perform surgery for $5000+ or cast it for $500 and risk recovering full function. Neither option is appealing.

Forty seven million Americans are currently uninsured. According to CoverTheUninsured.org, people ages 25-34 are the most likely to be without coverage. Conversely, children, pregnant women, and the elderly are enjoying the actualization of subsidized coverage that’s long since been an obvious necessity with Federal programs such as Medicaid, SCHIPP, Medicare, and the recent passing of a Congressional bill to extend coverage for children. State programs provide even more support for the above niches and families.

Meanwhile, twenty- and thirty-something’s wait for the new administration to slowly phase in universal coverage of some sort, but the hard truth is that we will be the last to see it. Many of us are not eligible for Medicaid, cannot afford COBRA or even a bare-bones emergency health plan.

We do the health care hustle.

Free clinics can provide you with low-cost care and some free services like testing and vaccinations. In some areas there are even traveling clinics if you don’t have a way to get to the office.

Unfortunately, the quality of care is very low. If you have a cold, this is fine, if you have food poisoning or a broken bone, this is not fine. Urgent care centers or hospitals enter the scene. In my experience, urgent care often asks for a large deposit upfront and are limited to what they can do. Hospitals will not charge you anything up front and you will receive great care. If you feel that there is no way you can pay the anticipated bill, say so while you are there.

Many hospitals are non-profit and receive special benefits from the State, like exemption from property taxes, in exchange for giving a certain percentage of charity care to people who don’t have the means to pay. They are required to give someone free care so it may as well be you, be pushy if you can’t pay! If you have the means to pay, but not all at once, you can usually negotiate either a lower bill or a payment plan.

If you need help paying for your prescriptions there are some great state, local, and even private programs that can help you out. Start at your State or County website. I have a Care Mark Prescription discount card that I ordered from Nassau County which gives me half off prescriptions ordered at the counter and even more off prescriptions ordered by mail. You can also look to pharmaceutical companies for help. They already look so bad, they need poster children to boost their rep. If you call them and are deserving (or convincing) they may pay for your meds.

Networking is under-rated when without health insurance. Talk to your friends, see if any of them are tight with their doctors or have doctors in the family, they can refer you and you may get a deal.

The bottom line is knowledge is power, especially without health insurance. You are your own best advocate so put in the work and you’ll be okay!

This post was written by Leah Bush, a freelance writer, volunteer blogger for the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, and aspiring Guru whose past involvement includes the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Recovery Project and volunteerism in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Questions regarding this post may be forwarded to ultraEchelon@gmail.com.

February 4, 2009

Blogging for Social Change

Blogging can be a mysterious even to those of us who have been doing it for while. It is easy to get lost and lose sight of your goals when you started blogging with the mission of changing the world. How do I join the blogosphere and build community and inspire action? Below are a few steps to help:

Pick a topic that has Personal Significance but Social Implications

What are you passionate about and can write about regularly? Generally the things that have personally touched us are things that serve as great motivation.

The trick is to moving beyond personal experience to acquiring greater context on your topic i.e. research. Try interviewing people or writing a response to an article that relates to your topic to get your mind going.

CONNECT with others who Share Your Passion—on and off line.

Read and comment on blogs that relate to your topic. Look for meetups, local university clubs/events, and volunteer groups to find people who are committed to addressing the same issue as you are.

The more people you meet who do and do not use social media, the better as you will be forced to think of ways to bridge the two for greater social impact.

Develop Exciting Ways to Take Action

Blogging is a means, not an end. The Twestival taking place on February 12th in 160 cities across the country is a great example of using twitter to get people together to donate money and come together for an excellent cause. Blog Action Day is another great example of people writing about and motivating people to act on a pressing issue.

Join these activities or start one in your own community and share the successes and challenges on this blog.

This post was written by Allison Jones, a development and communications professional in New York City and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. She is a writer, advocate, and educator focusing on empowering young people to change the world. Please leave your comments or email ajlovesya [at] gmail.com.<

February 3, 2009

The POWER of Intention

This year, I'd really like to get my writing out in front of a larger audience. On January 20th, I was inspired by President Obama who believed in himself, believed in us, and called us to take action. He empowered us to change our lives, change our country and our world. "If it has to be, then it is up to me." I took this to heart as I watched him take the oath of office. First, I jumped around and did a little dance for joy, and then I set about looking for a part-time blogging gig.

With the enormous need for content generation, there are a lot of blogging opportunities out there. Most of the ones I found are non-paid, though I found one fairly quickly with Examiner.com, an on-line newspaper with city-specific news that spans a number of areas from art to food to business, and everything in between. It pays its reporters, Examiners, by click which is a fair and reasonable system and in New York, they had a need in their Business Section. Perfect. Exactly what I want to write about. So I pitched to them my angle on entrepreneurship, specifically social entrepreneurship, and the power it has to transform society. They liked the pitch and several days later I got the job. My first posts will appear this week and I'll keep you informed by revealing weekly topics and overviews of what will be up on Examiner.com.

After applying for the Examiner.com post, I put the last few stamps on 8 letters I had written to social entrepreneurs whom I admire. At my friend, Richard's, urging I composed the letters rather than taking a class on the subject. "Just go out there and talk to people doing the work," he told me. So I walked out my door to the mail drop box on the corner, said a little prayer, and dropped the letters in.

Three days later, I received an email from Pat Christen, the CEO and President of HopeLab, a organization in California that built the video game, Re-mission, to help kids fight cancer. She invited me to come visit when I'm in the Bay Area and we're in the process of setting up a date and time. (Pam Omidyar, the co-founder of HopeLab, will speak at TED next week.)

These two experiences taught me about the power of intention. It is fine to hope for fortuitous events, turns of good luck, and the realization of a dream. But after we acknowledge that hope, it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. My mom loves the saying, "God helps those who help themselves." Hope does, too.

If we want change, particularly social change, the journey is best started by looking in the mirror and asking ourselves the question, "what am I willing to do to make a difference?"

This post was written by Christa Avampato, a product developer in the financial services industry. In the future, she would like to parlay her product and service development experience into the world of social entrepreneurship. She is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project and publishes her own blog on creativity at www.christainnewyork.blogspot.com. Please leave your comments or email christa.avampato@ gmail.com with your questions.