November 15, 2009

Video: Meet EFI

I realize I already blogged about Extended Family International (EFI) -- the nonprofit housing organization I work with -- but in case you didn't have the time to read through all of my passionate babble I thought I'd share this video with you. :)

We originally created this video to play at our first Music for Malawa (malawa = the Kurdish term for "home") benefit concert, but updated it for general-use purposes. I could go on and on, but instead please take three minutes out of your day to watch this video and learn more about EFI and our first partner family, the Mahmouds.


October 26, 2009

A home for Kenyan orphans

A friend of a friend is doing some pretty cool work in Boston. I wanted to share it with all of you and give you an opportunity to be a part of the change she's trying to make in the lives of orphans in Kenya.

A lady by the name of Dana Reichman has committed to raising $2,500 between Oct. 19 and Nov. 20th to help provide a home and an education for 32 orphaned girls in Mtwapa, Kenya. Dana lives in Boston and is raising the money for a new Boston charity, called One Home Many Hopes. Its mission is to provide this home and education for these 32 girls in Kenya, who are currently sharing a four-bedroom home with three house mothers.

The group is working to raise $70,000 by Nov. 20 to help build the girls their first proper home. The idea is that these girls, who grew up eating and sleeping alone in the streets, will eventually become women who will be able to keep other children from suffering similar childhoods in the future.

Dana has raised an amount just shy of $1,000 thus far. Please take a moment and a couple of dollars to help push her to her goal. You can visit her fundraising page and make a donation by clicking here.
Donations of any size will help. Those who donate $100 or more will receive a limited edition One Home Many Hopes t-shirt.

As Dana puts it, "If we give up a night out one week this month, or cook instead of going to a restaurant, we can do this."

To learn more about the girls or to find out how you can get involved by raising money for this cause, click here.


September 22, 2009

Resurrecting Change 101

Shouldn’t bloggers blog every once in a while?

It has been ages, dear readers. I could apologize for that, but instead I will share with you why I am not blogging so very often, or really at all, these days.

I guess it all started with this blog. I had this idea to collect information that would help inspire people to initiate change. It just so happened that it worked extremely well, for me at least.

Back in February I was asked to join the board of a startup nonprofit based on an idea a good friend of mine had come up with. He came across a need in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq near the end of last year and decided to do something about it. By bringing together a group of key friends back in the U.S., he was able to establish Extended Family International (EFI).

The group provides no-interest home loans to families in need of adequate shelter. While our work is beginning in Iraq, we dream of expanding the nonprofit across the borders of this particular country that is in such great need of compassion and a helping hand. You can learn more about our first partner family, the Mahmouds, by clicking here.

It was a complete no-brainer for me to agree to join this amazing effort as their director of events. In fact, I think I leapt out of my chair and had to dance around – I was so filled with joy to be given an opportunity to be part of such a good thing.

The entire experience quite simply has filled me with electricity. I have been living with a happiness I have never known before. I still remember feeling my blood pumping through my veins as I sat around a kitchen table one night near the end of winter with four other board members during our first meeting as we officially became board members of EFI and adopted our bylaws. Our founder, Bruce, was on speaker phone. It was 3 a.m. over in Iraq, where Bruce was sitting in a room lit by candlelight because his house was without power. The irony was beautiful and powerful. And the excitement of this journey we were about to embark upon was more real than anything I’d ever felt before.

As the months have flown by, one by one the pieces of our puzzle have fallen into place. EFI became registered as a nonprofit in Pennsylvania back in January. We received our 501(c)3 tax-exempt status from the IRS in August.

And in September we celebrated the launch of our organization with the inaugural Music for Malawa benefit concert in Harrisburg, Pa. It was a great success as more than 100 people came out to support our cause at the Abbey Bar at the Appalachian Brewing Co. Sept. 5 – on a holiday weekend! Three amazingly talented local bands came out and provided entertainment for the evening, for FREE. We raised nearly $1,500 at the door – right in line with our goal. Simply incredible.

I had the great pleasure and honor of being in charge of organizing this event. I can’t properly describe the joy it brought me to be able to bring together so many good people to create an evening filled with so much love, support and the celebration of the ability to give and do good. It was one of the best nights of my life and I couldn't have done it without the incredible people I have in my life who helped me along the way. It is a humbling experience to find your calling – to discover what you are most passionate about – and to watch what can happen if you just simply try. Even more so, to understand that none of it had anything at all to do with you – and to know that that fact is the absolute best part of all.

And this, my friends, is why I have been so absent from Change 101. It seems that I have inspired myself to do more than just write about all of the things that need to be done in the world. I’ve decided to try my hand at helping out a little bit, albeit I have the help of a ton of awesome people I feel blessed to be surrounded by. EFI will continue to take up most of my spare time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll try to update you every now and then, but really, what are you waiting for? There is plenty of work to be done. Won’t you join us?


June 3, 2009

Resource center for homeless being built in Cumberland County

Here's some exciting news from The Patriot News in Harrisburg. Carlisle CARES broke ground today in Cumberland County on a resource center aimed at providing homeless individuals with access to various resources. What a great idea!

Click here to read the full story.


May 17, 2009

Harrisburg group supports at-risk youth

I wanted to share another of Harrisburg’s somewhat hidden treasures with you. The Joshua Group is a mentoring organization located along Market Street in Allison Hill. The group supports and works to rescue the futures of street kids in that particular neighborhood. They offer hope in the form of educational and vocational opportunities. You don’t get much more important than that around here.

One branch of the group is the Joshua House, which provides around-the-clock supervision and an intensive life-skills support program to non-adjudicated males in need of guidance and counseling. The goal is for these young men to become self-sustaining members of a community.

The Joshua Group also organizes a Save Our Students Fund, which has enabled the group to place more than 20 deserving, at-risk high school students into a private city school. This intensive mentoring program gives potential drop-outs a chance to set higher educational standards for themselves without having to face the obstacles of the local public school system.

The organization operates a resource center where more than 150 streets kids come each month to take advantage of tutoring opportunities, job search and placement programs, and classes to help prepare for GED and SAT testing. It also includes a walk-in counseling service for those in immediate need of help.

Another component is the J-Crew – an after school mentoring and tutoring program that partners 7th and 8th grade students with a group of older Joshua Group kids. They spend time together working on at-risk youth prevention skills, homework assignments and recreational activities. The program is successful because the kids are eager to seek the advice and encouragement of someone who can directly relate to life growing up in Allison Hill.

The group also offers a transitional home, which allows youth to experience the responsibilities of self support and paying rent while still having the support of the Joshua family when they need it.

The final element of the Joshua Group is its urban farm, which grows and sells organic vegetables while providing education, service and vocational opportunities to youth.

Many of the children the Joshua Group comes in contact with are simply looking for a way to put some sanity back into their lives. If you find yourself wanting to reach out and further support this initiative, there are a number of avenues you can take. To find out how you might be able to help, call (717) 236-4464 or send an e-mail to

I invite you to find a way to connect yourself to this group and help to support it. Their donation needs include school supplies, office supplies, household and cleaning supplies, personal care items, cold-weather items and gift cards.

To make a monetary contribution, please click here or send a check made payable to The Joshua Group to 1442 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101.


May 14, 2009

Clean up the streets of Harrisburg

My sphere of influence in the Harrisburg area recently allowed me to discover a group that I am rather excited about. Floored about, in fact, particularly because of what they're trying to accomplish within the local community.

First, let me tell you how you can help. Then I'll tell you about the group.

Sycamore House is organizing a Trash Away Day and Neighborhood Bar-B-Q for Saturday, May 30. Allison Hill is often known as an area where some shameful individuals choose to randomly dump their garbage and unwanted possessions. The group hopes to help reverse that trend a bit by cleaning up the alleys of this neighborhood between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. that day. They will concentrate on the areas from Market Street to Regina Street, between 18th and 20th streets. Trash bags and a free lunch at noon will be made available to all who are able to attend.

The group will meet at the corner of Market and 19th streets in Harrisburg at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. A Bar-B-Q will take place around 4 p.m. at this same spot following the clean-up as an opportunity to socialize and spend some quality time with your neighbors. What a great way to make a difference -- at no cost whatsoever -- while interacting and connecting with the community. I invite you all to come out and help clean up the streets.

So what in the world is the
Sycamore House? It is an intentional Christian community that calls Harrisburg home. The idea is for members of the house to help each other, their church and (perhaps most importantly) the surrounding community in any way, shape or form possible. In essence, they’re looking to make a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate living within our own community. This is at the very essence and core of what Change 101 is all about.

The group began with its first community downtown about three years ago along Front Street in conjunction with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral. This year a sister community erected in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg next to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The church allows the house members to live in the rectory rent free in return for a certain number of hours of community volunteer work each week. I love it.

If you can’t make it May 30, perhaps you’ll have some time to stop by the group’s used book sale the weekend before during Artsfest. The festival is scheduled for May 23 through May 25 along Riverfront Park in Harrisburg. The book sale will take place at 223 N. Front Street, in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The proceeds will benefit Sycamore House.


May 6, 2009

Shopping for good causes

I recently came across a couple of Web sites I thought I would share with you all. It's not always the easiest to choose a cause out of thin air, so why not do some browsing? The Point and MadeBig appear to allow you to do just that.
Now I'll be honest here -- I haven't spent a ton of time on either site. Right off the bat, The Point makes a lot more sense to me. The site allows you to start your own campaign and raise money or contribute to a cause that has already been created. There are a couple of featured campaigns, but there is a handy spot where the causes are broken down by categories -- education, international and health are just a few examples. Some of the causes within the categories request donations -- others are merely looking for support. But don't listen to me -- go have a look-see for yourself.

Another site I came across this week is MadeBig. You'll have to do your own research to decide if this is something that you want to spend some time on, but if you find yourself playing games online a lot, why not see if you can simultaneously do something good for the world. Basically, the idea is to create an account and then play a bunch of games. As you win and collect tokens, you can pick causes to which you can contribute your tokens. When you pledge support to a cause, MadeBig commits to supporting the cause. The site also offers various categories of causes, including arts and culture and hunger and poverty. Go check it out.

If you don't decide to use these sites, perhaps you'll at least come across a cause that you rings true with your own ideals so that you can find your own way to support it. Whatever it is, get out there and give it everything you've got. I promise you won't regret it.

Happy changing,