Anyone Can Make a Difference


Ebony Shante Edwards is a third grader at Henry Heights in Lake Charles, LA. She is a good student and participate to a special program to get better grades. At the end of the year, prizes are awarded and when her name was called, Ebony Shante received a brand new bicycle. Since she already had a bicycle, she knew what to do. She went to the officials and asked them to draw another name to give the bicycle she had just won to another student.

The officials present at the ceremony were so surprised and inspired by Ebony Shante’s behavior that they decided to pass around a hat and everybody pitched in. They didn’t want her to be left empty handed and were able to give her a gift certificate. Ebony Shante already said she knew to whom she was going to buy something with her new prize. Via


Jeff Ziolkowski is a 18-year-old senior high school student from Flagler County, Florida. He just graduated and in September, he will be heading to the University of Notre Dame to study medicine. Is Jeff ready to start his college studies? Of course he is and maybe even more than is future classmates.

Since he wants to be a MD, what could have been more normal for him than volunteering at a clinic in order to learn, to feel what is it to be on the other side. So far he has dedicated more than 300 hours of his time to welcome patients or help them fill out forms. In my opinion, the most important of his deeds was to sit with them and just listen. We live in a world where we think we have no time to listen to others. And if we do ‘listen’, we are nodding while thinking about our answer. True? Next time you have a conversation with someone, pay attention at how much you are listening. Shift your mind and really listen. I guarantee, the person you are talking to will feel it. Via Flagler County News

How to Be a Good Listener (

Jeff Ziolkowski on facebook

A Sister Fighting For Her Brother Gets Help From a Famous Musician


Veronica De La Cruz is a former CNN anchor who has put a career on hold to save her brother Eric. He was diagnosed five years ago with severe dilated cardiomyopathy meaning his heart cannot function normally.  Unfortunately for him he was faced with a lot of red tape. The different healthcare systems available in the US and in the state of Nevada where Eric is living didn’t help him much or even refused to support the cost of his treatment. Basically it is the story of someone who was dying because he had no money and bad insurance.

This spring his condition worsened and it became clear he would need a heart transplant. But Veronica learned that administrators at transplant hospitals were reluctant to admit Eric, requiring supplemental insurance. While fighting with the bureaucracy Veronica  started a grassroots movement on the net through twitter. She asked for donations to help Eric but also to push for healthcare reforms in the US.


Her efforts attracted the attention of Trent Reznor, frontman of Nine Inch Nails, who decided to start a campaign to help Eric pay his medical bills. With tour mates Jane’s Addiction he offered special deals for the remaining shows on their tour. In less than two weeks Reznor raised close to $900,000 lifting the financial pressure on Veronica De La Cruz and her family. Eric is now waiting for a heart transplant that will, hopefully, give him a new lease on life.

Update: Please RT, donate or go to this page where now other celebrities are spreading the word about #Eric. (Thanks e. nacino)

This story is touching because it shows how as a group we can make a difference. Just a reminder that this week is World Refugee Week and you can donate to the UNHCR. Even a small token will be helpful! Added to thousands of other donations it will show how a group can be powerful.

Mama Lucy Is Helping Tanzania Fight Poverty


The Girl Effect is happening everywhere and especially in developing countries. Everyday I find new stories about women stepping up to the plate with courage and persistence to offer a better future to the next generation.

In Arusha, Tanzania, Lucy Kamptoni, aka Mama Lucy, was selling chickens, her main income. Knowing that the key to eradicate poverty in her country was education, in 2003 she took her savings and started a primary school, Sheperds Junior Academy. She rented land next to her home and with iron determination, grew the classes from 6 children to include by 2007 more than 300 students at 8 grade levels.

But in July 2007, a hotel developer bought the land Mama Lucy was renting, planning to start construction in 2008. That meant the school would have to be shut down. Luckily for the students, around the same time, two Americans, Stacey Monk and Sanjay Patel in the midst of a trip, were volunteering at the school. When they learned about the situation, they were moved to help. They knew that their background in project management and corporate consulting could benefit the children.

Back in the US, they founded Epic Change (facebook page), a non-profit that loans money to organizations seeking to improve their communities. After raising tenth of thousands of dollars, they loaned the money to Mama Lucy and Sheperds Junior Academy was able to buy land and build new classrooms.

The added benefit of this loan is empowerment. Lead by Mama Lucy, the parents and the children are working hard to reimbourse the loan, giving them a sense of pride and ownership. Through the sales of gifts like postcards drawn by the students, everyday Shepherds is becoming more and more independent. Their motivation is backed by their academic scores. In November, the school participated in national exams for the first time.  Shepherds ranked #1 out of 117 participating schools in the Arusha district. Yeah! :)

Women Find Their Collective Power


Subhadra Khaperde is an activist from the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. She helps people solve problems. In villages from the Khargone district where she is based, Subhadra noticed than more and more women were complaining about their health and about their husbands behavior. These families belonged to the Bhil tribe, one of the most ancient in India, but where alcohol is regarded as a “holy spirit”. Alcoholism among men was rampant, especially since they could buy it at illegal liquor stores run by the local mafia. Drinking sprees lead to sexual abuse and also husbands not being able to work for days. This situation gave another burden to the women who had to feed their families.

Subhadra, helped by health doctors collected data, discovering that most women suffered from reproductive health problems. Taking action, she gathered hundreds of women to an informal meeting in the village of Akya. There she painstakingly explained that medication would not solve their problems. Social customs had to change. Women answered that they were powerless in front of this kind of change. Guided by Subhadra, their own analysis concluded that the men had to be involved which was not possible because of the abundance of alcohol.

Subhadra passed their conclusions to male activists who conducted workshops exclusively with the men. They admitted that alcohol was the main problem. Before the illicit liquor stores appeared and the lack of reaction from the authorities, they had to brew their own alcohol using the flowers of the mahua tree. It was a time-consuming task and could be undertaken only occasionally. To reduce the consomption of alcohol the solution was obvious.

On a sunny afternoon, hundreds of men and women gathered in front of the illegal liquor shop of Okhla. They confiscated the alcohol and closed the shop. Similar actions were taken in various villages. The local mafia boss was not amused. Hearing that another operation would take place in Pandutalav, he came down with his henchmen, ready to crackdown on villagers. When he saw thousands of determined men and women, he fled. The illegal liquor store was shut down and the keys were handed to the police.

There is always an answer to a problem. Finding it always starts with trusting your ability to do so. Subhadra Khaperde empowered the women in her community, giving them the confidence to stand up and take action. Via

A blog about the Bhil tribes

An Unstoppable College Student


Kristin Eliott is a 19-year old college student from Houston, TX. Since an early age her parents taught her the value of giving and helping. They took the family several times on trips to help the less fortunate in Mexico.

When she was 16, Kristin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her thigh. It was advanced enough for doctors not to be very optimistic. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy but the treatment was not successful. The last possibility was for Kristin to have an 8-hour surgery on her thigh. This was followed by radiations treatment which badly burned her skin. Doctors did not expect her to have much function of her leg afterward.

Amazingly, she recovered and was quickly back in her volleyball team. The family took another humanitarian trip, this time to Zambia where Kristin was touched by the needs of the children. She decided that she wanted to do something for them, especially the orphans who had no place to stay. Returning to the US, she was handed another news: the cancer had spread to her lungs and she needed one more surgery to remove the tumors.

Around that time the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted her. They usually grant wishes of children and teens with life-threatening illness. At that moment, Kristin saw an opportunity, not for her, but for all the kids she had met in Zambia. She asked the non-profit to help fund her idea to build an orphanage there. She needed to raise $60,000 and through numerous donations, sparked by her resilience, ended up with $300,000. Next month, she will travel to Zambia again and will officially open the orphanage. The extra money raised will go to build an AIDS clinic in the same area.

This is a pretty amazing story for a 19-year old college student who credits her Christian faith with helping her to cope with cancer. You might think that your own actions are small in comparison to Kristin’s achievements. You couldn’t be more wrong. I believe that every single action counts to make our world a better place. You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to do good. I am sure Kristin would agree with me. Wherever you are and whatever is your situation, you can do something. And you don’t need anyone to tell you what to do. Intuitively you will know. Agreed?  :)

Kristin’s website: Kristin’s Heart

Using a Toolbox to Save a Life


Doctors are sometimes faced with situations where they need to improvise in order to save a life.

Nicholas Rossi, a 12-year old boy from Maryborough in Australia was riding his bicycle with no helmet when he fell and was knocked unconscious. He seemed to quickly recover and went back home. There he started complaining about headaches to his mother, a trained nurse. She took him to the local hospital where Dr. Rob Carson was on duty. He kept Nicholas for observation and the boy soon began to drift in and out of consciousness. Dr Carson felt that the situation was serious and upon closer examination diagnosed internal bleeding in the skull, the same condition that claimed the life of actress Natasha Richardson after a skiing accident in March 2009.

The doctor knew that time was running out and he had one shot at saving Nicholas’ life. He called a leading neurosurgeon in Melbourne for advice. The latter confirmed his fears. He advised drilling a hole in the skull with a neurological drill to relieve pressure from internal bleeding that was putting a huge pressure on Nicholas’ brain, inexorably killing him. The problem was that the countryside hospital didn’t have any such drill and Dr Carson had never performed such an operation.

They was no time left to think it over so the doctor rushed to the maintenance room to grab a household drill. With the Melbourne surgeon on the phone to guide him through the procedure, Carson drilled a hole in the boy’s skull just below the bruise mark and soon enough a clot of blood emerged. He then inserted a drainage tube. That was enough to stabilize the boy’s condition who was soon airlifted to a Melbourne Hospital.

Nicholas is now doing well and has promised to always wear a helmet. Modest, Dr Carson insists he just did his job and praised the team who assisted him. Via sky news

I Am Blind but I Hear Life Better Than You


Blup Au is blind.

When he was 5 years old, he contracted an acute eyes allergy but living in Tay Nguyen, a highland area in central Viet Nam, there was no way to get medical treatment or even money to pay for it. His mother tried different herbs and leaves with no success. Desperate, she finally used bear bile, an acid that unfortunately blinded her son. In the small village of Ro Buop, everyone thought that his life was over.

From then on little Au would focus on sounds, developing a great hearing ability by listening to the music played by the sole radio of the village. In 1995, Au, as if life was not hard enough, accidentally touched a gun he couldn’t see,  setting it off and killing his own mother. His father to compensate for the loss bought him a radio and Au further developed aural memory. He could remember and sing any song after hearing it twice.

In 2001, it all came together. A group of students came to the village to do some volunteer work and at night, sang and played guitar around a campfire. Blup Au borrowed the instrument and amazed everyone at how quickly he could play a song on it. Astounded, the students gave him the guitar and  his life changed forever.

Blup Au still lives in his village. He looks like an ordinary villager who goes into the forest to cut woods, catch wild vegetables or grab snails in mountain streams. But when Au start playing guitar for children, for the community or just for himself he becomes a poet, proud of sharing his gifts for the delight of others.

Life can and will take unexpected turns. If you believe that what happens to you can get you closer to your gifts, you are a winner. Mark Lewis, previously featured here said it from first hand experience, whatever lemon life throws at you, turn it into an opportunity. Blup Au heard that song a long time ago. Via

Life Is What You Make of It

by on May 21, 2009
in Awareness, Health, Sports, USA


Sometimes you have it all at a very young age.

American Mark Lewis was doing exactly what he wanted. Passionate about sailing since he was 12, he was enrolled in a program of college studies on a ship that was taking him for a 100-day trip around the world. It was all about meeting new friends and exploring cultures. Suddenly, it all came to a stop when a swimming accident in the Seychelles left Mark quadriplegic.

Life is what you make of it“, told him the doctor in the intensive care unit. Mark cried quite a lot but finally remembered those precious words. Nine months later he was back to school and graduated cum laude. More importantly, soon after he was in a boat, sailing again. He formed a sailing team and made an unsuccessful attempt at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Having learned from this, he is doing it all over again for the 2012 Paralympics in London.

What’s even more interesting about Mark, are his views on life. Supported by his family and having surrounded himself with great friends, he tells us that whatever path you choose, it will not go exactly as planned. Those misfortunes, you can use them to your advantage. As Mark says about his quadriplegia: “I am taking one of my lemons in life and turning it into an opportunity.”

I look at my own life and I see times where lemons were handed to me. Did I turn them into opportunities? Rarely but when I did, the lemons blossomed into wonderful experiences. How about you?

There is no time for regrets. More lemons are coming. More opportunities!  :)

Mark’s inspiring blog: Take On Life

I Survived the Worst in Life


Nicole Mangaza, 18,  has seen more horror in her short life  than you or I will ever witness in our entire life. She has also suffered much more than us. Because, unfortunately for her, she was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been at war for the last 10 years. It is the deadliest conflict since World War II.

When she was 12, she was abducted by rebels and became their slave. She endured the life of a child soldier and an abused teen for about four years. She reached a point where she decided that it was better to try escaping and die than stay alive with her tormentors. She ran away and luckily could escape her slavery.

Now, strong willed, she is learning a trade, metalwork and woodwork, at a special center for former child soldiers in Goma, giving her a chance to earn a living in peace and raise her little boy, David. Even though she is happy, she knows that she will never forget the abominations she witnessed and endured. (Via

Words cannot describe what I felt when I read her story. Words cannot describe what you will feel when you read her story, through the link. But Nicole is a survivor. She survived the worst, has a little life to care for and maybe for the first time in her life, is optimistic for her future. A future she can imagine.

Tina Smith (US Organ Donor)


Tomorrow, this young mother and grandmother from Sahuarita, AZ, will do an extremely selfless act: giving one of her kidneys to a neighbor she barely knows. Via

Update: Around the same time, in New Zealand, Brendon Lynch-Blosse was donating one his kidneys to Janette Wilson, a woman he also barely knew. Via NorthShore Times

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