Saturday, April 25, 2009

Follow through on your good idea.

I always like to be a bit ahead of the curve, so I was really pleased that I had already written about Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank before Professor Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. But I was no where near as ahead of the game as Southern Good Faith Fund. In the early 80s, Professor Yunus visited Arkansas to help start the peer lending component of Southern Good Faith Fund. Yunus returned to Arkansas earlier this week to work on another iteration of Grameen and I got to meet him!

Professor Yunus spoke, took questions, and left us all inspired. I always enjoy hearing about how people follow through on their good ideas. Muhammad Yunus could have easily continued teaching economics especially after the banks in Bangladesh told him that no one would lend money to women who are poor. He could have given up, gotten angry, or just theorized about why his idea would work. Instead, he followed through on his idea and made it work.

How many times have you had a great idea and sat on it, only to see someone else implement it? It has happened to me more times than I can count. But when I hear folks like Muhammad Yunus speak, I’m encouraged not to let it happen again. I challenge us all to act on our good ideas. Who knows what the result could be? You could win a Nobel Prize, or maybe, even create a world without poverty.

”It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” - Charles Darwin

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Join the Doe Network.

I cannot imagine the horror of someone I love going missing. Hopefully, you can’t imagine it either, and never will. But for some of us, that horror is all too real. And the longer a person is missing, the harder it is to find them. That’s why there are so many unsolved missing persons cases. That’s where the Doe Network comes in.

The Doe Network is “a volunteer organization devoted to assisting Law Enforcement in solving cold cases concerning Unexplained Disappearances and Unidentified Victims from North America, Australia and Europe. It is our mission to give the nameless back their names and return the missing to their families.” They work in three ways:

• using their website to give the cases exposure
• organizing volunteers search for clues on these cases and making possible matches between missing and unidentified persons
• soliciting media exposure for these cases that need it

This process has been used to close numerous cases through finding the missing person and naming or finding an unidentified person. You can help solve more cases by volunteering with the Doe Network or its sister agency North American Missing Persons Network. Many states and other organizations have their own networks which can use support.

So if you are good at solving mysteries, if you never forget a face, if you want to reunite loved ones, consider joining the Doe Network. Someone will be very grateful for the closure your efforts can help bring.

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Be a VITA volunteer.

It mid-April and that means tax season. If you’re one of those rare people who don’t mind filing your taxes (They really exist! I’ve met some!), consider volunteering to file taxes for others. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program trains and certifies people to file taxes for low- and moderate-income clients helping them take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly. The EITC is particularly important - it is one of the largest antipoverty tool in the US but one quarter of qualified working people miss out on it each year. If you’d like to help hard-working families keep more of what they earn, consider becoming a VITA Volunteer.

VITA volunteers are trained through community organizations and nonprofits throughout the country (like Southern Good Faith Fund). According to the IRS, “VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing.”

* To volunteer, call 1-800-829-1040 to find a VITA site near you. Then contact the sponsoring organization to get trained and volunteer your services during the next tax season.

* To file your taxes, call 1-800-829-1040 to find a neighborhood VITA site and see if you qualify for this free service. Hurry! It’s almost April 15th!

* The IRS also sponsors the Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program which “provides free tax help to people aged 60 and older.” As part of this program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program for senior citizens of low- or moderate- income. Call 1-800-829-1040 to learn more about TCE. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit

These are great ways to serve your your neighbors and help them keep more of the money they earn and keep it working in your community. Happy filing!