Nothing Can Stop Me


Sherida Alexander is from North Carolina. She is a senior in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system and a couple of days ago she graduated from high school. Sherida’s path is interesting because her road to graduation was not as smooth as others teenagers. She had to fight her way through her four years of high school and, until recently, was not sure she could graduate.

When she started as a freshman at Hawthorne High School, everything looked fine until Sherida had trouble with her vision. Her doctor told her that she had keratoconus. It is a specific disease from the cornea which cause it to change its shape to a cone and blur the vision. Most of the times, keratoconus is diagnosed in young people and can be cured. Sherida’s one was much more dangerous as she could become blind.

The degenerative eye disorder didn’t stop Sherida from attending school. Even though her vision was impaired she kept studying. As her vision became worse and worse, two years ago, doctors decided that it was time to take action. Sherida had a double cornea transplant to help her regain her vision.

After the surgery, she was back to school and because of her poor sight she had to work much more than her classmates. She would arrive at school at 6am and would not leave until after 6pm. Even when her body started rejecting one of her cornea she kept going. Unfortunately, Sherida was not able to graduate in June but Hawthorne is a special place where the focus is on preventing students from dropping out of school. They  can complete course requirements at their own pace rather than a pre-determined pace.

Sherida in July took an extra computer class and was finally able to graduate and get her diploma. She is beaming with pride and ready to tackle her next challenge: becoming a cosmetologist. She will start classes in a community college within a few weeks but she knows that more challenges await her. She has now lost all sight in her right eye and could have to undergo more surgery. But that will not stop her from reaching her goal. Via

Pitching his Cause


When you go to the ballpark to catch a baseball game, one of the most common sight of America’s favorite pastime is the beerguy. He goes up and down selling his drinks helping the fans cool down a little. In Chicago, that’s exactly Adam Carter’s job. He is there at Wrigley stadium and The Cell. White Sox or Cubs doesn’t matter and he has been doing this job for more than 15 years. But what happens when the season is over?

Adam doesn’t stay much in Chicago. He heads to underdeveloped countries and give away his profits. He started doing this in 2003 and has been going to a different place every year since. Don’t think that he is just a disorganised lunatic. Quite the opposite.

Born and raised in Chicago, Adam holds an Anthropology degree from the University of Michigan and a Masters degree in International Development from George Washington University in DC. In between those two degrees, Adam traveled extensively around the world and was profoundly affected by the poverty he found himself face-to-face with. Then he wondered, as a simple beerguy what he could do.

Through his non profit Cause & Affect, Adam raises money during the baseball season. Then he chooses a specific place he wants to support and through his contacts he finds a well run non profit that needs funds. He usually by-passes the big NGO and heads directly to the place he has chosen. There, collaborating with the non profit chosen earlier, he helps them by giving the much needed funds he raised. He also give a hand with his own time, trying to understand the best ways to fight poverty.

Throughout the years, Adam has assisted local projects in countries such as Brazil, Cambodia and Colombia and spent last off-season in West Africa, where he helped under-equipped schools, under-funded health clinics and local children’s organizations in seven countries. That’s what I call stepping up to the plate :)

A Son with a Big Heart

by on August 7, 2009
in Family, Selflessness, Teens, USA


Zach McGuire is really a son with a big heart. The boy from Toledo, OH, has made himself a reputation as a great fundraiser. It all started in 2005 when hurricane Katrina struck. The principal of his school asked each student to do an extra chore over the weekend to earn $1 for victims. Zach thought he could do better than that. He set up a Kool-Aid stand and, at his father Tom’s suggestion, asked that people simply donate what they could. In two weekends he raised more than $400 for Katrina victims.

Upon hearing that feat, the mayor of city, invited him, lauded his his initiative and named him Citizen of the Month. In 2007, Zach did it again. This time, he set up his Kool-Aid stand to help victims from the flood in Findlay, OH.  Later he would use again his stand but replacing Kool-Aid by hot cocoa to raise money for California wildfire victims. He estimates that his fundraising efforts reached around $1000. Not bad for an 11-year-old.

Now though he is facing a challenge closer to home. His father, who taught him to help others has fallen on difficult times. The licensed contractor has not been able to find a job since last December and is financially liable for a large remodeling job he did last summer for which the customer never paid. His situation is getting extremely difficult with mounting bills and no job in view.

So Zach again took action to help his father. He has decided to put on sale all his childhood toys in order to bring some relief to his dad. The selflessness in his action is wonderful, even though the money raised will be just a drop in a bucket. But I am sure that Zach’s father is proud of his son and as a result, his level of persistence to solve his financial problems will shot up.  Via

Growing the Donation


Eighteen months ago Savannah Head took a big decision. The 11-year-old from Jackson, TN, had approached her parents about Locks of Love, a non profit I have already featured on The Florida-based organization provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

Savannah wanted to do something to help children with cancer and making a donation of her hair to Locks of Love seemed perfectly fitting. The thing is Savannah loves to sport short hair whereas Locks of Love requires the donation to be at least 10 inches long. There was only one way to participate and Savannah, eighteen months ago let her hair grow. It was also challenge for her because the longer the hair the more she needed to take care of it.

Savannah though, is no stranger to challenges. First, she has celebral palsy which requires her to walk most of the time with crutches and leg braces. Second, she has already made meaningful contributions throughout the years. For example when she was 7, helped by her mother, she started a small business, ”Boneyard Bakery.” She baked bone-shaped doggie treats and donated the proceeds to various charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation or to those helping the 2004 tsunami victims.

But last week was the moment she had been waiting for eighteen months: to finally cut, with the help of a hairdresser, her long ponytailed hair. Savannah hopes that by doing that she can encourage others to do the same. She says that it will make kids who need it feel good and the person who donates her hair too.

Via Picture by Devin Wagner

What Is Motivation?


What makes some people take a specific road in their life? What makes them decide to take left or right? When you ask this question to teenagers, most of the time they mention their parents as having the biggest influence on them. Jillian Froelick credits her parents too. She said they always emphasized the importance of giving back to the less fortunate. Jillian is now going to apply this concept.

A junior high school student at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Jillian quickly found her call. After years talking about going to Africa to help and after further research, she settled on a very detailed plan that will take her to Tanzania after her senior year. When her parents learned about the project, they had mixed feelings. Of course they were proud of Jillian’s spirit and selflessness but they still worry about their child spending 7 months in Africa.

Jillian has knocked down every objection to her project by laying down a very carefully prepared plan. She knows exactly what she is going to do. Back in May she started with a book drive “Give a Supply to Help Them Reach the Sky” on her campus where she could collect 373 books and three boxes of school supplies. She also had a book drive in her hometown high school of Weddington where she collected 400 books.

Jillian has other events planned to get more school supplies. She also will raise money and work part time to pay for her trip. She has already chosen a non profit, Projects Abroad, to help her with the logistics. Jillian knows she will teach English and care for AIDS patients while in Tanzania. Interestingly, her future is also already planned. After returning from Africa Jillian wants to attend college to become a surgeon. Her motivation? To later open a clinic in Tanzania. :)


How Much Can You Help?


Meredith Buck from Chalfont, PA, was busy with her own law practice which focuses on medical malpractice when 9/11 happened. As she watched advertisements from the American Red Cross looking for volunteers something clicked in her mind. The next day she signed up as a disaster responder. She stayed in New-York for about six weeks. As she was just coming back home she was dispatched right away to West Philadelphia to work with victims of an apartment fire.

This has been the life of Meredith, now 49, since 2001. She has worked in 55 local and 12 national disasters, not to mention her involvement with other volunteer and advocacy works. She has run shelters and trained nurses. Meredith has also helped in the massive recovery efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.  She has served as a disaster health services supervisor at a shelter, assisting people displaced by Hurricane Rita.  While on the job, she led a team of nursing specialists who were surrounded by the fear and wreckage the hurricanes had wrought.

Meredith’s daily life is rarely predictable, since as a volunteer she can be called at anytime for an emergency. This happened as she was on a way to a Christmas party. She fielded a call about a house fire nearby, immediately quitting her party plans  and rerouting to the scene. She can even be called while everyone else is sleeping.  Buck did just this one frigid night in January, when more than 100 people were left homeless in an apartment fire.  She worked around the clock, out of the basement of a church, prioritizing dozens of requests while, at the same time training new Red Cross nurses.

Such selflessness hasn’t gone unnoticed. Even though Meredith is not volunteering to get recognition, in her law practice she already has received several awards related to her pro bono services for clients in protection-from-abuse cases. Now she has just been awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest honor a nurse can get from the Red Cross. Think about it, she is one of only 60 Americans to have earned the medal since the award ‘s inception in 1920. This recognition shows how much she has done to help her fellow human beings. Via

It’s Never too Late to Make Peace with Yourself


Last May, Xenia Giolli from Pacifica, CA, was reading the newspaper when an article caught her attention. The story was about a veteran of the Korean war, Ed Gallagher, 77, who was living alone in a nearby State Beach Park. Ed, a retired fisherman, had lost his wife about 5 years ago and since then had hopped from park to park, even living on the side of roads in his travel-worn minivan.

Xenia Giolli, from this article, also learned that Ed had terminal prostate cancer but refused to be confined in a hospital or senior home. He didn’t care too much about receiving proper care, he was determined to live his life the way he wanted and his choice was to be left alone. Xenia, a 35-year-old college student, majoring in psychology and economics, thought about the whole story and decided to do something. She was not sure exactly what but she thought paying a visit to Ed would be the obvious thing to do.

The Korean war veteran who had refused help from the many social workers who had visited him, opened up a little bit when Xenia stopped by, bringing a few magazines and food. She felt Ed was lonely and later asked the campsite staff to call her if he needed help. The next day they called because Ed couldn’t legally stay anymore, he had to leave. The psychology college student picked him up and brought him to her home. That was a temporary solution though because Ed wasn’t getting the care he needed.

The odd pair became friends and Xenia found a place for him in a Pacifica hospice. Even though Ed was against the idea, she convinced him to go and settled there. Xenia visited Ed everyday, spending time with him, becoming his closest family and giving him much needed love. The old man died at peace shortly after one of her visits on June 18th.

Xenia says that she is no saint. She also walks past homeless people all the time, but there was something special to Ed.  By her actions she made the old fisherman’s last days worth living. She helped him die with dignity. Via

Pay it Forward as a Fee


With the economy in shambles and unemployment soaring many communities across the United States have seen their share of layoffs and bankruptcies. For parents of young kids the task of finding a new job is even more difficult as they have to go out to look for opportunities, show up for interviews but at the same time have to care for their young children. Many cannot afford childcare costs as they can usually receive federal aid for only 30 days after their job loss.

Enter Jennifer Chiger, the dynamic owner of the Little Achievers Preschool in New Port Richey, FL. She thought about what she could do to help those parents stuck in that catch-22 and came up with an idea inspired by another preschool in Wisconsin. Parents looking for a job can drop their kids at the Little Achievers Preschool for free and then do whatever they need to get back to work. But there is catch. They have to sign a promissory note that they will do a good deed for somebody else within the next year.

The “good deed” can be anything, as long as something gets done. Jennifer is hoping that it will be helpful for some parents who are in a very tight situation while giving back to her community. She is planning to do it for two days in July and will assess how successful it was. Other dates will be added later.

What a wonderful idea! We can all do a little something more to help our families or communities. It takes a little bit of thinking and the courage to step up to the plate. Like Jennifer. Via

Selfless Action is Always Rewarded


Jorge Orozco-Sanchez from Colorado is a gentle man. He lives a quiet life with his wife and enjoys spending quality time with his two children. He is a truck driver, a job he loves because of the independent life it provides him. Last October, as usually, he was driving his truck on a narrow stretch of the highway when he noticed too late a SUV crossing into his lane. The vehicles collided head on.

Jorge jumped out of his truck and rushed into the burning SUV not once but twice, to pull two little girls from the fiery wreckage. Their mother died in the crash. The fire spread to his truck and there was nothing he could do but watch his livelihood reduced to ashes.

Over the next few months, life got much harder for Jorge and his family. He took a job at a restaurant but that was not enough to cover the bills. He was hounded by creditors while he was waiting for his insurance payments. At the same time he was getting a lot of praise and accolades for his heroic action.  In March he got one of the most prestigious award for a truck driver, the Goodyear North American Highway Hero Award. And generosity kicked in. Life went on for months, the heroic truck driver wondering if one day he could decently feed again his two children.

Finally, good news came for Jorge would couldn’t believe it when he heard them. Touched by his story, the US National Association of Independent Truck Drivers had found him a 2005 truck with a no-money-down loan. Goodyear provided 18 brand new tires to replace the bald ones. On June 3rd, Jorge was back in business still amazed at his good luck and saying he didn’t deserve all of this. By the way he is still waiting for his insurance payments. ;) Via

The Power of Two


Tsegaye Bekele was born in Ethiopia and emigrated to the US in 1976 where he built himself a comfortable life in Mill Valley, California. Father of two and grandfather also of two, he had never returned to Aleta Wondo, the Ethiopian village where he was born, until recently for a brief trip where he reconnected with family members. After that visit, a thought kept nagging, telling him that he had to do something to help his people who were in tremendous need.

One morning he stopped by Mill Valley Peet’s Coffee shop to have his morning cup and a friend introduced him to Donna Sillan, who happened to stop by too. She was just coming back from Ethiopia where she had helped a couple adopt two Ethiopian orphans. Tsegaye ‘s interest grew as he understood that the two kids where from Aleta Wondo. After some exchanges he discovered that they even had attended the same primary school he had graduated from. Fate was helping.


Donna Sillan herself, was a perfect match to help Tsegaye. She had a long experience working around the world in health development for different NGOs. They decided to collaborate to bring in Aleta Wondo a sustainable development program. First they would need to decide what type of activity would empower the men, women and children from the town. Actually the choice was easy. Aleta Wondo has a long history as a coffee plantation where even Tsegaye ‘s earliest memories were nursed by the aroma of coffee.

In 2007, after writing down the different steps of their development program, they both flew to Ethiopia. In Aleta Wondo they met with community leaders, religious leaders and women and children in the village, all of whom gave their blessings and commitment to work together. They visited officials of the government, all of whom fully endorsed the program. They completed the permit requirements, received letters of support and obtained all necessary documents to start. Soon a new school with a boarding facility was constructed as 1200 coffee trees were planted. Later a community center was built and farmers were trained in sustainable coffee growing techniques. Women received micro-financing for their business projects.

Today the Aleta Wondo coffee is relished by coffee lovers all around the world while profits from the sales are going back directly to fund education, health, water, sanitation and livelihood development in Tsegaye’s hometown.

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