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

A Miracle in the Toilets


David Kuria is a 37-year-old architect from Kenya. Already having a comfortable life working for the few wealthy Kenyans who could afford his services, he felt unsatisfied. He wanted to do more to help his community. David found his calling in an unlikely area: the toilets.

According to the Acumen Fund, only 48% of Kenya’s population has access to basic sanitation services. It has been more than 30 years since the government last invested in toilet facilities in Nairobi, one of the most densely populated informal settlements in the world. The few toilet units in low-income areas are beset by overcrowding, inaccessibility, as well as a general lack of privacy, hygiene and security.

Upon learning that women seeking privacy, would often pay a small fee to use a privately operated, unhygienic pit latrine, David saw an opportunity to build a business while helping his community. He founded Ikotoilet, a company which provides clean and secure sanitation services for a small fee. The company uses a Build-Operate-Transfer model of public-private partnership, entering into long-term contracts with municipalities to secure use of public lands.

David’s venture is now a real success. As an architect, he designed himself the facilities, which look like small restaurants, not toilets. An average of 1000 Kenyans use everyday each Ikotoilet because besides providing dignified and decent toilets, it also offers a range of services like showers, baby stations, phone booths, shoe shines and a small food shop. At the same time it creates jobs for urban youth.

David made a point to focus on sustainability especially with water which is now scarce in cities. That’s why each facility uses waterless urinals, low flush systems, rainwater harvesting and water saving taps to ensure optimal conservation. He is also keen on the potential for nutrient and energy recovery, harvesting urine and now exploring how to invest in conversion to ammonia. Also, biogas is generated from human waste and is used to light Ikotoilets.

His vision fulfilled David wanted to make sure expansion would not hurt the quality of service provided to the community. How could he guarantee the managers would keep each Ikotoilet spotless? David came up with very simple but effective idea: the office is located above or next to the toilets. No one would want to work or hold a meeting around stinking toilets. :)

I Will Fundraise for You


I am always surprised by the capability of children to take action and fight for a cause and that’s the reason I feature a lot of them on They take their responsability very seriously and their persistence deserves our respect. I think I could post only about them if I wished, as I find such cases in high numbers through the net, one of them being Fergus Walker.

Fergus is an 11-year-old from New Zealand. He happens to have several friends diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder known to be an inherited disease of the secretory glands, including the glands that make mucus and sweat.  It is a rare disease although it is more common among nations in the Western world. It is a life-shortening disease and so far there is no cure for it.

All of this made Fergus mull different plans and finally approach his teachers at Point View Primary School in Auckland, to ask for their help with a fundraising campaign. Because what was bothering Fergus is that there is no real government funding towards research for finding a cure to help is friends. Starting a fundraising campaign was a way for him to show how much he cared for them

His selfless attitude quickly spread among his peers and paid off when his efforts turned into a school-wide campaign, with the student school council arranging meetings to plan the best ways to raise money. With the help of the teachers the school community planned a series of fundraisers and Fergus delivered himself a speech to introduce the genetic disease to younger students.

But the 6th grader is not done yet. His has many more ideas to bring awareness about cystic fibrosis in New Zealand. Why? because a close family friend, Tayler, was diagnosed with the disease and Fergus wants to be able to do whatever he can to help find a cure for his friend. Via

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. :)


A Secret Addiction Among Afghan Women


Torda wants to be a mother. She is living in the Shortapa District of northern Balkh Province. Last year, her pregnancy ended up in a stillborn birth. She almost died during the delivery before her family rushed her to a district hospital. The doctors gave her a stern warning. Next time, if she didn’t make some changes in her life she might die.

Why? Because Torda who has poor nutrition habits, works hard and long hours in the traditional Afghan carpet-weaving industry. To stave off fatigue and pain she uses opium, an addiction that has weakened even more her body. It was her sixth stillborn birth and Torda was desperate to finally deliver a healthy baby.

It is a little known fact that in Afghanistan opium addiction is rampant among rural women and even children. Make no mistake, the drug is taken not as a luxury but out of necessity. A lack of access to health services either due to cultural restrictions or dearth of health centers makes opium the only available painkiller in many areas. Sadly, mothers also use it with their children. They blow back some smoke in their mouth or give them a small piece of opium. Restless children calm down, dazed, allowing their mother to work more. Doctors are worried because giving opium to infants is extremely harmful.

What about Torda? She knew that after six stillborn births her seventh pregnancy was the most dangerous of all and maybe her last chance to have a baby. It triggered something in her mind and she took action. She decided to kick her opium addiction and finally delivered, at 45 years old, a healthy baby girl, setting an example for other Afghan women.

Via – Picture by Parwin Faiz/Irin (not Torda)

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

Life After the Tsunami


As many of you remember, the tsunami of 2004 hit first the coast of Aceh, the northern part of the island of Sumatra which belongs to Indonesia. At that very moment Cut Resmi, a 40-year-old mother of two was planting flowers in her garden. When the waves came, destroying her home, one of her children was swept away, leaving Cut, her husband and their surviving son homeless.

Desperate and hopeless, Cut and her family found refuge in temporary barracks where the Red Cross had set a  psychosocial support program to provide support to survivors in the area. Cut’s situation was especially difficult because her family had lost nearly everything and was completely disconnected from the usual network of friends and extended family which traditionally helps its members overcome a tragedy.

After receiving emotional support for about six months from the American and the Indonesian Red Cross, Cut decided to help fellow survivors in the camp who were still struggling to recover. She trained as a community psychosocial facilitator, helping to organize supportive activities in the shelters. Cut, through her volunteer work found the self-confidence necessary to face an unclear future while putting the past aside.

Slowly, thinking about her surviving young son who still needed he help, she rebuilt her life and went back to her village. A new house was raised on the same lands where the family used to live and Cut, getting stronger, started a small business selling clothes. She didn’t know it yet but she could do more for her community. The tsunami disaster had destroyed more than 400 health facilities and displaced or killed nearly a third of all health workers, leaving the healthcare system in Aceh pretty much non existent.

So when the two Red Crosses came to her village looking for volunteers for a new community-based first aid program, Cut didn’t hesitate. Now, as a health volunteer, she feels empowered by make a huge difference in her community. Before, preventable diseases like dengue or malaria ended up being fatal in Aceh. Cut is proud because she can answer the questions of worried mothers about their children, nutrition or symptoms. Before she might have panicked not knowing what to say or do. But now, Cut has first aid knowledge and knowledge is power. :)


A Passion That Doesn’t Fizzle


She is not yet 12 but Casey Sokolovic from Noth Carolina has an incredible vision of what she wants to do. It all started four years ago when she visited the the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, NC, on a family trip. There, she discovered the world of injured turtles being brought back to health by a team of dedicated volunteers. The visit had such an impact on Casey that she decided to take action. She chose to raise money for the rehabilitation center.

First she had to create an organization and “Help Them LAST” (which stands for Love A Sea Turtle) was born. Second she had to find a way to raise money. She decided to bake and sell turtle-shaped cookies. She participated in school fundraisers. She ignited the interest of everyone she could possibly find. And a few months ago, Casey was proud to hand to the center a check of $3,000 as a result for her efforts.

Although the money is good to finance the rehabilitation center, Casey’s impact on people is also surprising. Her family who had no interest in oceans is now devoted to sea turtle conservation. Her parents and her brother joined the cause and are fully helping Casey. The family even booked a trip to Barbados because she wanted to clean the beaches and talk to marine biologists working there. At school, Casey is sharing her successes and involves friends in her activities. They, in turn are very supportive and come up with new ideas.

Make no mistake, her dedication is serious because she knows sea turtles are disappearing fast and need our help. Casey who would like to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist, has other plans. She is creating a logo and setting up a website for “Help Them LAST”. The family has collaborated with coffee creator Joe Van Gogh to introduce a special Fair Trade Organic coffee blend called Sea Turtle Blend. You can buy it online and 10% of the net profits will go to the rehabilitation center. Via

What about you? Are you passionate about something? or are you hesitating among several interests?

Give and You Will Receive. Really?

You have heard about it. It’s in the Bible, “The Secret” talks about it as a key law of the Universe. Here is one more inspiring example to show you that selflessly giving comes back tenfold… or more.


Anna James is a senior high school student from Grey Highlands Secondary School in Flesherton, Ontario. She just graduated and her last two years have been busy. Distressed by world poverty, Anna decided to take action and founded her school’s Humanitarian Club. She couldn’t accept that people in countries far away were starving or couldn’t study. So she spearheaded Project Love. The goal was to help schools in Tanzania while involving her classmates in Grey Highlands. She devised an inter-class competition which gathered and sent 800 school supply kits to Tanzania.

How can you increase awareness about hunger among your peers? Anna’s idea was to organize an overnight “30 Hour Famine” group and help plan African lunches, to expose her community to global cuisine and gather funds for charitable causes. She also wanted first hand experience. In 2008, for six weeks, Anna volunteered in Peru helping abandoned and disabled children while also assisting impoverished seniors in the Peruvian desert.

She was also active in other areas, so much so, that she became, to her surprise, one of the recipient of a scholarship, which recognizes 20 students across Canada who are making a difference in their communities. This windfall will cover her post-secondary tuition and living expenses. Says Anna, “All along there have been personal rewards. I would have done these things regardless of the chances of a scholarship. The reward is the people you meet and it’s nice to have this material reward too.” Via Bayshore Broadcasting

Do you still not believe in giving and receiving? Or have you had a surprising experience?

Finding a Meaningful Life in Refugee Camps


Born in Sri Lanka, V. Thenmozhi saw her world being shattered when she had, with her family, to flee the civil war on her island. They lost everything and on rickety boat they crossed the Palk Strait to reach Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. There, she became a refugee in one of the numerous camps set up for fleeing Tamils by NGOs, one of them being the OfERR.

Then 18, she first thought about going back to school but soon the family having no income she decided to work for the OfERR where she felt at home among other Tamil refugee activists. Thenmozhi was young and people were doubtful she could do the job. How was she going to counsel men 4 times her age? How was she supposed to provide advice to a mother who had lost her children while fleeing?

Thenmozhi was persistent. She first finished her training as a counselor, learning precious lessons, and then started visiting the 117 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. It was, and still is, a tough job because depressed or angry refugees would not easily tell their story, a crucial part of the healing process. Thenmozhi took the time to know them, get their trust and slowly they opened up, releasing memories trapped in their mind.

After that, she helped them get more confident, taught them to think positively so they could pick themselves up, start an activity and earn some much needed money. She particularly empowered women, pushing them to start small businesses which was against the traditional view. Thenmozhi, now 38, is teaching the next generation of counselors who step-by-step will take over. She feels a great sense of accomplishment even though it hasn’t been easy to take her fellow refugees from being nobodies to reclaiming their life.

Empowerment is everywhere. From the refugee camps to your own home, anyone can make a difference in someone else’s life. If you do it you will find meaning. Via

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. Thank you.

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