Category Archives: Philanthropy

Seeing Through Our Project Window

New Grantee: Project Window

By Chrissy Schwen

Far Rockaway, the easternmost part of Long Island’s Rockaway Peninsula, can be a tough place to grow up. That is something Angela Hines knows all too well. Born and raised in the Far Rockaway NYCHA housing projects, Hines dropped out of high school in 1987 and struggled for years to support herself and her family. Vowing to create a better life for her children, Hines got her GED and decided to further her education.

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Dubbed “Hero mom” by the New York Daily News, Hines’ determination is awe-inspiring. In order to attend CUNY law school, she would bus from her apartment in Far Rockaway two hours with two children in tow, and then return from class in time to make dinner for all five of her children. All that hard work paid off; in 2009 Hines achieved her dream by becoming a practicing lawyer at the Queens County Court Legal Aid Society.

After succeeding in building a better life for her own family, Hines set her sights on improving the lives of girls still struggling in her community. She created Project Window to help girls in the Far Rockaway housing projects reach their full potential. “I don’t want to turn my back on the community,” she said. “If I could help just one person, then my work is done.”

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She’s done much more than that. Project Window has supported girls in Far Rockaway in many ways – from mentoring and tutoring programs to providing girls in the Sandy-raged community with free prom dresses and community service opportunities. All of the programs are designed to instill a sense of responsibility, community, and possibility. To achieve this level of comprehensive support, the organization is divided into components:

  • Project Connection is Project Window’s mentoring program. Each child is paired with a mentor for a school year for weekly activities and monthly check-ins that record the child’s progress.
  • Project Steppers promotes physical fitness and camaraderie through athletic and recreation activities, including volleyball and dance, on the weekends and through summer camps. The program aims to reach girls who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in organized activities.
  • Team Recovery aims to provide tutoring and other academic support to girls to keep them focused on their schooling.
  • Project Bulls-eye is a series of workshops for girls that address self-esteem, peer pressure, sex education, drug and alcohol abuse, and healthy relationships. The workshops aim to improve the girls’ ability to address these issues in a positive way.
  • Project Give back teaches girls to value their community and themselves by organizing clothing and toy drives, visits to nursing homes, and time at local soup kitchens.

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It is Project Window’s hope that this broad spectrum of assistance will expose its participants to opportunities they might not otherwise have had, and teach them self-awareness, the importance of education, and strong interpersonal skills.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to support Project Window! A Spark grant will cover:

  • The cost of 15 girls to participate in their summer camps
  • Pro bono support including:

o   Prom Dresses: Project Window is sponsoring “Queens of Far Rockaways” event, providing prom dresses and accessories to girls in the Far Rockaways who wouldn’t otherwise have them. If you have a dress to donate please email programs@sparksf.org.

o   Website Expertise: Project Window is looking for help revamping their website, and needs your help. Please contact programs@sparksf.org for more details.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for Project Window, please make a donation on our website. And if you are interested in donating dresses, revamping the website, or providing other pro bono services for Project Window, email programs@sparksf.org. Learn more about Project Window on their website, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

SparkSF Member Profile: Leo Garver

Leo Garver graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Chemistry. He has Spark Member: Leo Garverdone early-stage research for treatments of HIV, Hepatitis C and Cancer. He has recently shifted from using his talents in analytical chemistry to data analytics. He now does analytics and business intelligence consulting for a variety of bay area startups and non-profits (like Spark!). He is also an avid singer and ballroom dancer.

Leo’s Spark Story:
A former classmate introduced to me to Spark, and I was immediately intrigued with Spark’s mission and methodology. I joined the digital strategy committee and started going to Spark events. I was so impressed with both the people I met and the causes that Spark supports that I had to get more involved!

Who is your favorite grantee?
Uganda Women’s Water Initiative.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A beach vacation with a good book and good friends.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
The ability to play any song on any musical instrument.

What is your most marked characteristic?
A Thirst for Knowledge. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads me to become a fountain of useless trivia.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
An Eagle. Gracefully flying around clear blue skies sounds like a pretty excellent second life.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Empathy.

What is your favorite journey?
 I spent a semester living and going to school in South Africa.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Nelson Mandela and Paul Wellstone.

5 Reasons To Be Grateful

5 reasons for being grateful

Authored By Spark Member: Larkin Callaghan

With the onslaught of Christmas carols, blowout sales on every corner, and impending sense of personal debt, all the telltale signs are here – the holidays have arrived. So, how do you stay sane during times of consumer craziness? One of the best ways to counter the ‘buy buy buy’ mentality is to focus on how grateful we are for what we already have. And with Thanksgiving coming up in just over a week, this is the perfect time for us to reflect on some of those things we can be grateful for:

1) Community – I know, I know. This is pretty par for the course around the Thanksgiving-gratitude-roundtable. But a strong community is what started Spark and communities dedicated to their development and growth are what Spark supports – creating one global community of folks constantly on the lookout for one another. We can be grateful that we live in a space that allows us to facilitate the work we love and are dedicated to.

2) Freedom to move beyond boundaries – the holidays are often when we regroup with our families and friends – which usually means getting on planes, getting in cars, and climbing onto trains. Sometimes prohibitive cost prevents this – but usually infrastructure, political and social instability and unrest, or in the currently devastating case of the Philippines, natural disasters, are not preventing this – as is the case for many of the organizations that we at Spark support.

3) Innovation – Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to take advantage of the remarkable developments being made in technology – and they certainly aren’t perfect (oh, the Facebook mistakes we’ve all made…). But the incredible gains that have been made in the global development space due to innovation in the last decade especially can’t be understated – everything from being able to support a microloan to the exact person or organization that speaks to you the most, to sharing news and updates via social media, to being able to facilitate healthcare in resource-poor settings thanks to mobile tech, to creating political movements via Twitter – to being able to become a member of democratic organizations like Spark with a few clicks of a keyboard! – it’s pretty amazing what’s happened and we’re pretty grateful for it.

4) Social movements work – Spark members know this already, but last year, when a collected effort was made to encourage folks around the country to participate in Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Black Friday, dedicated to giving back to non-profit and charitable organizations), over 50 million people pushed the agenda of charitable giving – resulting in millions of dollars of donations to non-profit organizations. So we’re thankful you’re involved.

5) Science backs up the importance of gratitudestudies have shown that being thankful and expressing it leads to a happier and healthier you – being thankful for how gratitude improves our well-being is a little meta, but we like it!

This year, Giving Tuesday is December 3, 2013 – and it’s a great way to give back after the onslaught of Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchasing craziness! A day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating non-profit and charitable organizations, Giving Tuesday allows you to show your thanks to Spark and other groups that work to serve vulnerable populations all over the globe – those who may not have the same resources we’re so lucky to have. Make a contribution of your own, or gift one for someone else – a Spark membership makes a great holiday present!

SparkNYC Member Profile: Kanwal Jehan

Kanwal Jehan works as a Litigation Paralegal at Cooley LLP – an Spark Member: Kanwal Jehaninternational law firm that represents clients across a number of industry sectors including technology, life sciences, clean tech, real estate, financial services, retail, and energy. Kanwal graduated from St. John’s University in 2011 with a Bachelors degree in Legal Studies and a minor in Criminal Justice.

She serves on the Investment Committee for SparkNYC and Advisory Board for Turning Point for Women and Families. In her free time, she enjoys attending Zumba classes and reading fiction books. She talks to us about how she got involved with Spark, Europe and time travel.

Kanwal’s Spark Story:
My former officemate introduced me to SparkNYC and invited me to their Cocktails for a Cause event. After having a great time at the event, I met with one of the board members to learn more about Spark’s history and mission. Since then, I have fallen in love with the organization. Spark has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader and connect with amazing people. I love being a part of an organization that truly wants to help bring change for women in United States and around the world.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Women LEAD, the first and only leadership development organization for young women in Nepal.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A happy family.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
If I could time travel, that would be great. I would love to go back in time to see my childhood and spend more time with my Dad.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Determination. No matter how difficult it gets, I never give up and keep moving forward.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A cure for all diseases.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Patience.

What is your favorite journey?
In 2009, I studied abroad for a semester in Paris, Dublin and Rome. I had never been to Europe and this was the first time I had ever traveled on my own. I am grateful that I was able to make this trip; it taught me important life lessons that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My Dad, Mom and Aunts, Martin Luther King, Hillary Clinton and Paulo Coelho.

SparkSF Member Profile: Toni Alejandria

Toni Alejandria works as the website coordinator for the California Institute of Integral Studies and consults in design, marketing, and event planning for start-ups. She majored in Dance and Global and International Studies at UC Davis. In her free time, you can find Toni doing dance performances and fundraising for causes. She is a campaign manager for HackCancer and a Champion mentor for Groundwork Opportunities. She talks to us about how she got involved with Spark, flying planes, and Bear Grylls.SparkSF Member: Toni Alejandira

Toni’s Spark Story:
One of my friends introduced me to Spark and was convinced I would fall in love with the organization. After attending my first Spark mixer, she was right. It’s amazing connecting with so many people who have a passion for empowering women and supporting women’s initiatives around the world. I’m always impressed with the Spark members I meet and love being involved with their fundraising and event efforts.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, an organization that provides clean water training to women in rural communities of Uganda.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Traveling around the world photographing people and collecting art.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Flying planes. (It’s on my bucket list.)

What is your most marked characteristic?
Making friends wherever I go. It’s no secret, I love meeting people!

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
The female equivalent of Bear Grylls.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Ability to hold a conversation with a complete stranger.

What is your favorite journey?
Giving up everything to do an apprenticeship with a famous dance company in Israel. I never made it out there due to an injury, but during physical therapy, I learned so much about perseverance, dedication, and faith. It was the hardest year I’ve ever experienced, but I came out stronger is so many ways. That experience alone changed the course of my life and set me on the journey to where I am today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Sheryl Sandberg, Lisa Bevere, Scott Harrison, and Bartlomiej Jan Skorupa.

Unraveling the Ribbon: Pinkwashing Away the Real Issues of Breast Cancer

October is colored pink. From football to cosmetics, good intentions get devoured by cause marking. This is your Spark News Digest, this week devoted to the Pink Ribbon and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Pink Ribbon Gun

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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POLITICS: Annual Mammograms & The Feel Good War

True or False: The awareness and availability of annual screenings is a Breast Cancer victory. The truth is unclear. Writer Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, shares her research and searing insights as a cancer survivor into the limits of screening and the dangers of over treatment.

Read The Story 

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GLOBAL: Breast Cancer – Going Global           

In Uganda, awareness raising begins with vocabulary. Dr.Fred Okuku, a Ugandan oncologist says: “There is no word for cancer in most Ugandan languages. A woman finds a lump in her breast, and cancer doesn’t cross her mind”.  For African women, the fight against breast cancer faces multiple challenges. Not only are resources limited, but corruption and neglect hold women back from accessing timely treatment.

Read The Story 

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BUSINESS:  Pink Products – Hurting More Than helping?

Pink Ribbon labeled lipstick that causes cancer?!?! The market for these pink items isn’t all rosy. The industry is growing. Consumers beware.

Read The Story 

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WOMENS RIGHTS: In The Shadow of the Pink Ribbon

The overwhelming promotion of October as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month leaves other important issues unnoticed. October is also National Domestic Violence Month. Breast cancer effects 1 in 8 women and as many as 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence.  How did violence get beat by a pink ribbon? The answer: The Pink Industry. The Proof: Smith & Wesson’s Special Edition Pink Gun benefiting Breast Cancer Awareness.

Read The Story

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Interested in learning more?

Join SparkSF on Tuesday, October 29th for a special screening  and discussion of Pink Ribbons, Inc.  Tickets available HERE.

Five Ways to Make an Impact as a Young Philanthropist

We’ve created a great community of young philanthropists here at Spark. But getting involved in our organization isn’t the only way to be an engaged, young philanthropist. There are lots of ways to contribute to your local and global community that can have a lasting impact.

To help our Sparkles out, we’ve created a list of five ways you can get started on your path as a young philanthropist:

1)    Hours            

This is the most obvious. You don’t need a lot of money to be a young philanthropist. Find out what moves you and if you can’t give cash, give hours! Tons of organizations are ready and willing to accept volunteers eager to give their time. You will likely need to go through training, and while that may take a while, you’re guaranteed to meet some like-minded folks dedicated to improving their communities while gaining an even deeper understanding about the organization.

If you’re really keen on giving money, one way to budget it that might be easier than a one-time gift of, say, $1,000, is to donate a little bit each month. I signed up for a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood so many years ago I forget that it even pulls $20 from my bank account every month. While $240 a year doesn’t seem huge, we do know that every dollar counts; and when you consider what that number looks like after ten years – $2,400 – it’s a pretty good chunk of change towards a cause I care deeply about.

2)    Turn Gifts to You into Gifts for Others

Have a birthday, wedding, or other celebration coming up that traditionally has the host receiving gifts? Think about a donation registry instead. If you’re getting married, give your guests the option of donating to an organization or cause that’s meaningful to you. Do the same in lieu of presents at your next birthday.

3)    Talk – Digitally and in Person

I found out about Spark from my old roommate. I recruited members when I moved to New York because I couldn’t stop talking about what a great organization it is – not only did I do this one on one with friends, but by posting and promoting on social media and blogs. Virtual communication is a big part of getting the word out these days, and it can spread the cause really quickly. Talking through an organization’s mission, beneficiaries, policies, and impact can strengthen your commitment and improve the depth of your understanding of issues it addresses. Plus, you never know who in your network is equipped to and may want to make a big donation based on your inspiring and impassioned words!

4)    Start a Movement

I LOVE Spark’s origin story. A group of young women were finding it difficult to get their foot in the door in development and philanthropic spaces in the Bay Area, coming up against the Catch-22 of needing experience to get involved but not being able to get experience because they were prevented from getting involved. Did they give up? Nope. They started their own fundraising, awareness-raising, educational organization by gathering together each of their networks and friend groups, who were all hungry for the same passionate involvement, and it grew into what is now the largest millennial philanthropic member-based organization around. What’s stopping you?

5)    Party.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Come to the Black and Pink! Are you too busy to figure out points #1 or #4? Nothing on the docket in terms of point #2? Too worn out from chatting to drum up the energy for #3? Well, then buy your ticket for the Black and Pink here, re-energize your efforts at our soiree, and know that all the proceeds will be going to our fantastic grantees. That many of you helped select!

The Hillary Project, Moonwalking in Pink and a Lemon Heroine

The Hillary Project, Moonwalking in Pink and a Lemon Heroine. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Vivienne Harr, Make A Stand, Lemon-Aid

 ENTREPRENEURSHIP: When life give you lemons, start a social enterprise. 

9 year-old philanthropist Vivienne Harr, founder of Start A Lemon-Aid Stand, doesn’t wait for summer to change the world. 365 days a year she sits curbside, selling lemonade to raise money to abolish child slavery. In just 6 months of operation, she raised over $100,000. This year she registered as a B Corp.

Read The Full Story

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U.S POLITICS: Violence gets political

“The Hillary Project”, a new animated game goading the player to slap the former Secretary of State, is a bad joke – funded by a conservative Super Pac. It also reflects a bigger issue concerning the justification of violence against women. Violence against women is no laughing matter.

Read The Full Story

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WOMENS RIGHTS: Gender Equality – the cheapest, fastest way to get food on the table

What’s the most cost-effective way to combat hunger? Gender Equality. Women play a big role in food production and small-scale farming around the world. When obstacles like gender discriminatory land and labor laws make it harder for women to farm, it impacts food security. Equal opportunity will end hunger.

Read The Full Story

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BUSINESS: Moonwalking in heels – “Mars Explorer Barbie”

Still pink. Still disproportionate. Check out NASA’s Barbie.

Read The Full Story

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GLOBAL: The “Virginity Institute” upholding the purity myth in Georgia  

Recent human rights report reveals that Georgia’s National Forensics Bureau performs as many as 200 “virginity inspections” a year. While some are used for evidence in rape and abuse cases, many families will paid up to $200 for receive a certificate confirming their daughter’s “purity”. Protesters using social media and the streets are demanding the government to end the archaic practice. In response, a member of Georgia’s gender-equality council stated, “If there’s a demand for this service, the government can’t forbid it”. 

Read The Full Story

Avon for Good, Mobile BFF’s & Lady Gaga’s Credo

Avon for Good, Mobile BFF’s, & Lady Gaga’s Credo. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Anat Binur, co-founder of MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology)

TECH: Can a mobile app help Israelis and Palestinians MEET in the middle?

MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology) – is a mobile app that helps Israeli and Palestinian students break both cultural and physical barriers. Anat Binur, co-founder, aims to help students forge bonds between students by studying programming, marketing, and strategic planning side by side.

Read The Full Story 

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BUSINESS:  How do you say Ding Dong in Swahili?

 Avon Products inspires more than good looks. By applying Avon’s renown door-to-door business model, Living Goods, a non-profit, helps thousands of Ugandan micro-entrepreneurs earn an income while saving lives by selling anti-malaria medicine, clean burning stoves, solar-powered lamps, and sanitary supplies.

Read The Full Story 

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GLOBAL: What one thing is holding Iranian women back from running for President? A word.

The Iranian constitution says that the president should be from political rejal, a word with adual meaning of politically qualified and men. Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi sheds light on why women aren’t qualified to run for president in Iran but why they still keep on registering as candidates. You can’t stop, nay, won’t stop the ladies from pursuing what’s right and fair.

Read The Full Story 

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 U.S.  NEWSLady Gaga credo, “Baby, You Were Born This Way” Swings legal.

Delaware agrees. Their House recently approved a bill outlawing discrimination against transgender people. Now, the category of gender identity is among race, age, religion, and sexual orientation as protected non-discrimination categories.

Read The Full Story  

From Lake Wobegon to Lake Havasu, Donut Security and Progress Made In China: Spark News Digest

From Lake Wobegon to Lake Havasu, donut security and progress Made In China: This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

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NATIONAL: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Calls Out Military Leaders For “Good Order And Discipline”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in a word, ROCKS. Our Senator will not accept rhetoric for an answer. Last week Sen. Gillibrand questioned military leaders on sexual assault, demanding zero tolerance in the military justice system.”I appreciate the work you’re doing, but it’s not enough,” Sen. Gillibrand told military officers during a recent Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. We appreciate your leadership, Senator. Rock on.

Read The Full Story

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NEXT GENERATION PHILANTHROPY:  NPR Wants To Click With Those Who Tweet

Pivoting from Lake Wobegon to Lake Havasu, NPR is taking a crack at the under 30 crowd. Their presence at South by Southwest Interactive Conference (SXSW) was part of their Generation Listen campaign. Their aim is to inspire a new generation of listeners to support local stations to keep public programming alive and out of retirement.

Read The Full Story

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INTERNATIONAL: Empowering Women To Improve Food Security – What Works and Why

Food security is not just hiding the last donut from your co-workers. In Olivier De Schutter’s report to the UN on Gender and the Right to Food, he notes that one of the most promising approaches to alleviating poverty is to include gender-sensitive elements to existing food security programs.

Read The Full Story 

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INTERNATIONAL: China Signals Greater Role For Private Nonprofits

Social progress – Made in China. Last week, China declared  that it will allow nonstate groups to take a bigger role in tackling economic and social issues within the country. This is a big, positive step for a government that has been repressive to social sector actors.

Read The Full Story

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WOMEN IN BUSINESS: Speak Up, Believe In Yourself, Take Risks

Lean In closer to the debate. In this opinion piece and video, Sheryl Sandberg takes notice of the conversation swirling around her book and movement, Lean In, explaining that we need a national dialogue in order to break the barriers holding women back from achieving true equality in the workplace. Can Lean In help create a world where passions, interest, and talent are king, and stereotypes take a backseat?

Read The Full Story