Thursday, February 26, 2009

Give an inspired gift.

What do you give the person who has everything? How about the knowledge that their gift helped save a child’s life. UNICEF now makes this possible with their UNICEF Inspired Gifts. These are truly amazing gifts – every thing from Plumpy Nut which successfully treats malnutrition to antimalaria bed nets to water purification kits. Gifts are organized into three categories:

• Education and Play
• Immunization
• Water
• Nutrition
• Health
• Emergency

* Honor your favorite teacher with a school in a box and ensure that 80 children can continue their education even in times of emergency.

* Know someone who rides their bike to work? Celebrate their efforts with a bicycle for health workers that will enable workers to reach remote villages and serve the people there.

* Thank your child’s pediatrician with a vaccine carrier that keeps immunizations effective even in hot climates.

These items can make a life-saving or life-changing differences for a child. Want more evidence? Just watch . . .

Watch CBS Videos Online

”To find yourself, think for yourself.” - Socrates

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Join the Carnival for Change - Booth 14.

Welcome to the Carnival for Change where we explore the web for interesting items relating to social justice, health, education, and opportunity. Today’s entries are from the mailbag . . .

* Women for Women International is hosting an international conference call on their work and other ways to celebrate International Women’s Day. The call is March 5. More later on the holiday (March 8).

* Emily, a 12 year old girl from Pennsylvania has started a charitable e-greeting site. Visit and choose a $5 singing gram card to send to a friend. 100 cards are available for all occasions and Emily sings the greetings herself. Proceeds go to food allergy research. Way to go, Emily!

* Join the I’m in campaign from Starbucks and the HandsOn Network and pledge to volunteer five hours in your community. Every little bit helps!

* In The Trouble with the Alphabet: Through The Eyes Of Innocence, each letter is represented by a beautiful painting, a country and a way to help improve lives of the people there. Check it out.

Thanks for visiting the Carnival for Change! If you'd like space at the next booth, send your items to me with "Carnival for Change" in the subject. See you next time! In the meantime, subscribe to So What Can I Do (see sidebar) or follow us on Twitter (@sowhatcanido)

"We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems." - Lee Iacocca

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bank Southern.

I don’t watch a lot of old movies (or movies in general, for that matter), so I saw It's a Wonderful Life for the first time fairly recently. Many of you already know the story - a guardian angel shows a depressed and suicidal banker how much worse his community would have been without him and helps him value his life and the positive difference he makes in the lives of others. I remember being struck by the beneficial role the bank played in the small town. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but the bank was a community development financial institution.

When my family and I decided to move to Arkansas (where I grew up), I took the opportunity to look for a position that made my interest in and commitment to social justice an asset. I consider it a blessing that I found meaningful work at Southern Bancorp.

Southern Bancorp is a community development financial institution and is the largest rural development bank in the United States. Southern channels profits from three community banks (with more than 40 locations) into three nonprofit affiliates. The nonprofits work with residents in the bank service areas to help them improve their communities. This model of social entrepreneurship is making a real difference for the people in the communities we work in, some of which rank among the poorest in the nation.

Southern excites me for two main reasons. First, our work focuses on rural areas in southern Arkansas and the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi. Because my mom is from southern Arkansas and my dad is from the Delta, I have family all over the region we serve. So it’s personal. More importantly, Southern is implementing an ambitious and innovative community development model that is proving to be effective, scalable, and reproducible. Southern’s rural hub development strategy is revitalizing communities by educating children, helping their parents find jobs and homes, and creating a myriad of good reasons for people to stay in or return to the towns they love. It’s helping turn dying towns into vibrant places to live.

If this work and these ideas inspire you as they do me, here’s how you can get involved:

* Open an account at a Southern bank branch in your area. By banking at Southern you’ll be supporting your community.

* Open a Certificate of Deposit at Southern. Your FDIC-insured investment will earn interest and support community development work. You can even choose to donate a portion of your interest earnings to the Southern nonprofits.

* Donate to Southern’s direct service nonprofit, Southern Good Faith Fund. Remember, your contribution is tax deductible.

* Search the web through GoodSearch and select Southern Good Faith Fund as your nonprofit. Every search generates a donation to Southern, so search often.

* Shop online through GoodShop for Southern Good Faith Fund. Every purchase results in a donation to Southern.

* Learn more about Southern. Start by perusing the website. You can also watch Delta Dreams. This 2007 documentary focuses on Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, where Southern first implemented its innovative community development strategy. And you may want to read Doing Development in Arkansas for an early history of Southern. It's important to note that Southern's development model has been significantly refined in the years since this book. It is this new strategy that is creating the real results we are seeing now.

*Spread the word. If you are from Southern Arkansas or the Delta or know someone who is, let them know about the many ways to support or participate in Southern’s community development work.

Isn't it nice to read a good story about a bank? Especially these days. Now you know why I'm proud to bank Southern.

” Just a minute — just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was...Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. And what's wrong with that? Why...Here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? said...What'd you say just a minute ago?...They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait! Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken-down that they...Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be! - George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lend a hand.

Have you ever tried to organize friends and family to help out a loved one in a time of need? It can be a challenge to respond to needs following a medical crisis, arrange meals for a new parent, caregiving for a parent, or support for the family of a deployed soldier. Lotsa Helping Hands can help make that process a lot easier.

Lotsa Helping Hands is a free online service that helps people organize “circles of community who are eager to help those in need.” Simply visit their website to set up private and secure network. Your community of friends and family can then sign on and sign up to lend a hand. Use it to

• Organize meals, transportation to doctor’s appointments, and home visits to someone dealing with a debilitating illness.
• Keep those who care up-to-date on medical progress or family activities.
• Securely share medical, legal, or financial information with designated people.
• Plan group activities, volunteer projects, school or religious events.

It takes only minutes to build your site. And once you do, your community members can sign up for tasks, receive email reminders of commitments, view a calendar of activities, and much more. Lotsa Helping Hands is certainly better than endless emails and phone tag. So when you need to get a group together for a set of activities, us Lotsa Helping Hands to facilitate the process. It makes lending a hand a lot easier.

"Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

Friday, February 06, 2009

Show your love with a loan.

Valentine’s Day is almost here. Those who want to offer a token of love to their sweetheart have lots of options – chocolates, cards, flowers, and more. Now here’s one more option to add to the list of socially responsible Valentine’s gifts.

MicroPlace is a microloan service provider that has a special offer for Valentine’s Day. Make a $20 investment in microloans and honor your someone special with a free card and fair trade, organic Divine Chocolate Hearts from Ghana. Your sweet gets a treat, you get an interest earning investment, and someone else gets a chance to move out of poverty and make a better life for herself and her family.

So visit to open your account. You can invest in $100 increments anytime, but the $20 offer is only available until Valentine’s day. Send your gifts by February 9 if you want to chocolates to arrive on time. And if you’re getting married this Valentine’s day, don’t forget to spread the love!

Mmmm, chocolate! Mmmmmm, microloans!

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." - Dorothy Thompson