In 2013, I began giving a seed grant every single day of the year to a social change visionary with a practical plan to make their community and the world a better place. Now there are 40 daily givers who share this practice with me, each of them giving $1 or more a day to our inspiring grantees around the world.
Here are the extraordinary people and projects that we are honored to support this week.
Mindful Learners, Mindful Leaders in New Jersey. Jeff Melillo, a PhD student in Educational Psychology in New Brunswick, New Jersey, recently left the secondary classroom to advocate for the benefits of incorporating contemplative practices- particularly mindfulness meditation- into secular organizations and learning spaces. The Mindful Leaders, Mindful Learners project utilizes a working group model that combines meditation with conversation. This project focuses on two non traditional populations: students who were previously incarcerated and students who are military veterans.
Supporting Victims of Human Trafficking in New York. Anne Pollack, Founding Director of The Art of Freedom, brings workshops in dance, music, writing, theater and visual arts to survivors of human trafficking and CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children). Taught by Teaching Artist Facilitators from NYC's rich pool of wonderfully talented artists, Anne explains, "these creative outlets provide therapeutic tools to manage difficult emotions and offer a bridge from the traumatized self-concept to an empowered, and stronger sense of being and thriving for survivors." The Art of Freedom has been offering workshops since 2013, reaching 290 survivors of trafficking with classes in dance, singing, song-creation, spoken word, visual arts and instrumental music in a safe, supportive and nourishing environment.
Talking About Gender-Based Violence in India. Aditya Gupta and Nivedita Soni, and their organization, People for Parity, are offering "Explore Your Calling"workshops focused on the issue of gender-based violence in villages and cities all over India. "Our project addresses gender identities because we feel that gender is rarely talked about in our culture," they said. "It also creates a space for healing spiritually." The group has already held workshops with young people and trained facilitators. They are now holding their first workshop on gender-based violence in Ghandiyala. Aditya and Nivedita hope this dialogue builds a community of young people ready to confront and talk honestly and openly about gender-based violence.
A Future for the Cunén People in Guatemala. Sandra Hannen is a passionate humane educator and activist who has worked with indigenous communities in Colombia for many years. Despertar! brings humane leadership training to the youth of the indigenous community of Cunén, Guatemala which has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition and illiteracy in the world. Sandra explains that youth are increasingly vulnerable to drugs, gangs and apathy and are seeking the tools and knowledge to help their families and communities rise out of extreme poverty and overcome post-conflict fear and discrimination. Despertar! will conduct humane leadership training with a group of 45 indigenous youth facilitators and community organizers in Cunén, who will in turn work with other young people to organize and campaign together on important issues. "The vision is that youth in Cunén and surrounding regions have an active social and political voice with which to stand up for their people," Sandra says.
Milkweed for Monarchs in North Carolina.
For longtime butterfly lover Nina Veteto, a plant called Milkweed is the answer to the disappearing Monarch butterfly and their declining 2,000-mile annual migration. Based in North Carolina, Nina's project, Divide and Multiply, aims to propagate Milkweed which is essential for healthy Monarch habitat. Nina will distribute the plants to organizations, schools and non-profits that have signed on to maintain butterfly habitat. Nina is also looking to partner with sustainable farmers interested in growing Milkweed on their land.
African American Art Renaissance in Michigan. Anthony Jerome Artis and Davida Artis are introducing African American Art to the communities of Flint and Genesee County Michigan. Art Community Outreach will install artistic creations in blighted spaces to transform impoverished communities. Using artworks by famous and local African American artists, Anthony and Davida hope to cultivate dialogue and discussion with residents of all ages around African American culture and history. "This project is needed in our divided community to bring diverse groups of people together, to dialogue, and to share interactions and positive outlooks on life together," Anthony explained.
Sanitary Napkins for Women in Uganda. Sarah Nabbanja Kweyunga works with the volunteer Soroptimist International club of Masaka, Uganda which aims to transform the lives of women and girls. Sarah discovered that women were missing work and girls were missing school for several days each month due to their menses, as foreign-made disposable sanitary napkins are too costly for most women. "Girls who are unable to afford sanitary protection miss about 36 days of schooling a year," Sarah explained. The Club created the Sanitary Napkin Project to establish a local manufacturing facility that produces low cost sanitary napkins to help improve the lives of women and girls. The Sanitary Napkin Project will not only manufacture affordable sanitary products, but will also create employment opportunities for local women.
African American Women Thriving in Colorado. Struck by the alarming number of African American women who come from a cycle of abuse, obesity, poor health and low self-esteem, Cynthia James, and Beth Oden set out to change this. The Extraordinary Living Project aims to end the obesity epidemic among African American women through education and support for healthier living and spiritual empowerment. Women will participate in a 10-week intensive course that includes instruction in fitness, nutrition, cooking and emotional healing followed by personal coaching to help the women continue to progress. The Project is centered on "Freedom Circles" - groups of up to 12 women who learn from a nationally-recognized fitness expert, a certified nutritionist, and also work on their personal emotional barriers. "We aim to put Extraordinary Living Projects in every major city in America and help African American women free their untapped potential and live healthier, longer, more enriched lives," Cynthia said.
Congratulations to our grantees this week for their outstanding work to bring justice, peace, health and compassion to their communities.
These are just a few examples of what a little seed money can do when put in the hands of someone with a vision and a plan to change the world.
Are you our next grantee? Please go to our website at www.thepollinationproject.org for funding guidelines and application.