How You Can Help Put an End to Female Genital Mutilation

How You Can Help Put an End to Female Genital Mutilation

Feb 10

The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation (FGM) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” It’s a significant problem that affects an estimated 200 million girls worldwide. Complications from the procedure are serious. So serious, in fact, that they can even result in death. But even if the victim doesn’t die, she is still at risk for developing infections and urinary issues. That’s not to mention the lifelong trauma she’s likely to suffer from due to the excruciating amount of pain (these procedures are seldom performed under anesthesia). Keep in mind that these procedures offer zero health-related benefits. They are only performed due to cultural beliefs surrounding female sexuality. One of the pervading beliefs is that removing a woman’s clitoris will lower her libido, thus discouraging her from engaging in sexual acts. Another popular belief is that FGM increases a woman’s marriageability. Some cultures even believe that FGM should be practiced for religious reasons, despite the fact that it is not mentioned in any religious texts. Girls aged 0-15 are considered most at-risk, even though older girls can be forced into undergoing the procedure as well. A lot of victims are as young as 8-days-old. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations that are working hard to combat this problem. Top organization include: FORWARD, 28 Too Many, and Equality Now. Activists are working ‘round-the-clock to dismantle the practice by educating women and men about the risks of female circumcision. Even medical doctors are finally taking a stance by letting the public know that FGM does not offer any health-related benefits. Slowly but surely, these anti-FGM campaigns are working. Mary Wandia, Manager of Equality Now’s End Female Genital Mutilation Programme, says that, “Evidence in several countries shows that many men and women believe the practice should end, suggesting a promising window of opportunity for change.” But this type of change would never be possible without the generous donations of concerned citizens, so please donate...

‘Pianos for People’ Unites Unused Pianos With People in Need

‘Pianos for People’ Unites Unused Pianos With People in Need

Dec 26

Pianos for People, based out of St. Louis, is a nonprofit organization that “connects people who need pianos with pianos who need people.” The organization restores used and broken pianos and gives them to people in need. But that’s not all. The organization also offers free music lessons. It’s a unique and clever concept, and one that’s garnering national attention. The Today Show recently featured Pianos for People on their morning segment. But it’s not just the mere concept that has people talking; it’s the founders themselves. Tom and Jeanne Knowles Townsend founded Pianos for People shortly after the tragic loss of their 21-year-old son, Alex. Alex was a talented and dedicated pianist who attended Georgia’s prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2010, he died in a car accident before he ever got the chance to graduate. But Alex’s parents were to determined to honor his legacy. So in 2012, they created Pianos for People. The organization took off almost immediately. In fact, as of now, the organization cannot accept any more piano donations until February. “We are actually full with pianos right now,” said Sheena Duncan, Executive Director of Pianos for People. “We can’t take pianos at the moment because we have so many to get through and inspect—and we can only afford to do so many at a time.” But it’s always possible that the organization will expand. Given the recent media coverage, it’s highly probable that the organization will receive an influx of monetary donations. But despite potential growth, one thing that will never change is the free-of-charge policy. “It’s really, really important to us that this component of free never go away,” said Tom Townsend. And so People for Pianos will continue to inspire others with their creative and unique vision. If Alex Townsend were alive today, he would surely be beaming with...

Helping People Design Video Games

Helping People Design Video Games

Dec 07

Video games have become a huge business, bringing in billions of dollars each year. But it’s also an industry that’s really hard to break into. Even though there have been a number of very successful independent titles made on shoestring budgets that garnered massive audience appeal, there are still many, many more that never break out, even if they’re really well made. This is where a Minnesota based nonprofit called Glitch comes in. Glitch is basically an arts charity, only instead of helping fund artists who paint or sculpt, they’re helping people get into the gaming industry. Finding and making the kinds of connections that can land prospective game designers jobs in the industry can be difficult, but Glitch pairs young designers up with established professionals to mentor them. It helps young designers develop games that they can showcase and, ideally, use to get into the industry. So far they’ve helped designers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas in the six years that the organization has been around. While helping people design games may not seem as important as, say, saving an endangered species or protecting civil rights, one could argue that it’s at least as important as funding a symphony. Perhaps even more so. 60% of Americans play video games and most of them are between the ages of 18 and 35. But the most popular games tend to be the most available, and those tend to be the same tried and true game over and over. More and more people are branching out and looking for new and different gaming experiences, but those can be hard to find, especially when the big companies aren’t interested in anything that can’t rake in millions. But organizations like Glitch help bring in new, unique designers interested in making games that explore something other than the standard white male power fantasy, and getting more diverse games out there is certainly a good...

The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

Nov 30

Room to Read is a nonprofit that has been largely focused on global literacy since it’s inception. But since the year 2000, they have also developed a strong focus on girls’ education in countries like India, Cambodia, and Zambia. They operate programs in nine countries around the world, and they’ve come to realize that life skills such as negotiation, self-confidence, and persistence are important for girls who might have to struggle to keep their education going. To that end, they’ve developed a study to test their students for those skills. The study is actually built around a three-day scavenger hunt. The idea is that, by having each girl get at least 10 of 30 listed items, they can gauge where she falls on a number of these skills. Getting a toe-ring, for example, illustrates negotiation and trustworthiness, because for women in some parts of India, toe-rings are the equivalent of a wedding band. It’s a novel way of doing things. But by choosing items that wouldn’t be too easy or hard to find, they think they’ve struck on a system that will inform them about what level these girls are at in these critical life skills. Self-reporting by answering questions doesn’t always give an accurate accounting of something as ephemeral as self-confidence, especially in girls aged 11-13 who don’t necessarily have the life experience to gauge that. But by assigning tasks that use the skills in question, they can more accurately measure those skills by looking at the end result. The study involved 2,500 girls at 60 schools. The study will be repeated again in 2018 in order to build off the baseline data collected in 2016. Hopefully, it works as expected and becomes a tool that Room to Read can use to help instill these skills in their students. Maybe it will even allow the girls to continue their education after they age out of the nonprofit’s...

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Nov 21

“We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.” That’s the vision as quoted from civil rights organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. As the last decade in the United States has shown, this country still has a long way to go before achieving social equality. That’s why we need organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice. Founded in 2009, Showing Up for Racial Justice has grown to become a national network of activism groups across the country. The goal of this specific organization is to help get white people involved the fight for racial equality. The organization operates on the belief that those who are privileged can use their position of power to be an advocate for the disadvantaged. By creating this large scale network of multi-racial people with a passion for equality, citizens can band together to improve the country “through community organizing, mobilizing, and education.” The advantage of having a network like this is being able to unify and orchestrate protests when injustices do happen. As the old saying goes, “There is strength in numbers.” The organization wants to make it very clear that white people don’t have to be the enemy; they can be allies. The organization seeks to lead by example by being inclusive, not divisive. Put in their own words, they want to “call people in, not call people out.” It’s inspiring that the leadership of Showing Up for Racial Justice has taken several steps to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. They work closely with other organizations to make sure that their activities and endorsements are in line with the values and beliefs of their mission. Their transparency is a leading example of what honesty and integrity looks like in the nonprofit...

Goodwill Omaha Proves Communication is Key

Goodwill Omaha Proves Communication is Key

Nov 09

Recently, it came out that Goodwill Omaha is paying a number of its board members over $100,000 a year and that CEO Frank McGree is making $250,000 a year. It’s a $30-million-dollar organization that has over 600 employees, so those salaries aren’t too crazy, considering. But there is also evidence that they pay many of their employees, namely those with disabilities, less than minimum wage. The World-Herald report that brought all of this to light makes Goodwill Omaha sound like an organization that borrows too much inspiration from the for-profit world. And the responses from both the CEO and the board have made it look like nobody in the organization knows what anyone else is doing. In short, they weren’t able to answer tough questions from the press. The big mistake that Goodwill Omaha made is that they didn’t answer questions asked from the World-Herald. As Nonprofit Quarterly points out, investigative reports that get stonewalled tend to turn mean. The whole thing is an abject lesson in the importance of communication. People who read the report are justifiably upset with what seems like some pretty shady practices by Goodwill Omaha. Whether these allegations prove to be true or not, it’s going to hurt the organization. But it’s their own fault because even if they’re not doing anything wrong, they still failed to communicate with the press. The lesson to be learned is that you have to be able to communicate with reporters and others outside of your organization if you want to put forth a good public image. The other lesson is that you need to have clear communication within your organization as well. It really does seem like, regardless of the truth of the allegations, Goodwill Omaha didn’t have good enough internal communication to either prevent unethical actions or to simply respond to allegations of them. Neither of these scenarios is good, especially in nonprofits, where public trust is an absolute...