Tag Archives: community

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!

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


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


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


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


BUSINESS: Moonwalking in heels – “Mars Explorer Barbie”

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

Read The Full Story


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

Talk it out, Brit Love Fest & Afghanistan’s Sheryl Sandberg

Talk it out, Brit Love Fest & Afghanistan’s Sheryl Sandberg . This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom


Roya Mahboob Afghan Citadel Software Co

ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Afghanistan’s Sheryl Sandberg

Roya Mahboob, Afghan tech entrepreneur, is shattering the concrete ceiling. Her company, Afghan Citadel Software Co., has become the foundation for social change. In a country, where women’s literacy hovers at 15%, this business leader is using her acumen to change the state of education in her country. You can see why Time Magazine calls her one of their 100 Most Influential People.

Read The Full Story


POLITICS: Love is legal in England and Wales

The royal baby isn’t the only thing to celebrate. Same-sex couples will be able to get married in England and Wales after a new measure became law. Tally Ho!

Read The Full Story


U.S NEWS:  Violation of women’s rights within prison walls

Shockingly, 150 female inmates were sterilized in California prisons between 2006 to 2010. Hundreds more have been sterilized since 2000. This outrageous act is an unwanted reminder of the 70’s brutally forced sterilizations.

Read The Full Story


POLITICS: Q: What do Boris Johnson and the Princeton Mom have in common?

A: Both are sexist and ridiculous. First, the Princeton Mom pens an open letter about the importance of finding a husband during college, then, Boris Johnson makes the same irresponsible suggestion. Boris and the Princeton mom should be sent to the Principle’s office to think about their comments.

Read The Full Story 


GLOBAL:  Communication Never Gets Old

Let’s talk it out. In deeply rooted cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), change making is difficult. When determined to do something about the widespread problem, a pro-women group in an Ethiopian village made remarkable achievements. Read about how their strategy of  “community conversations” led to effectively ending female genital cutting in their home village.

 Read the full story 

Supporting Women Weavers in Guatemala

By SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow

Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The civil war in the 1980s devastated the county and the financial crisis in 1998 crippled its projected economic recovery. Today, the country is still facing serious development challenges:

  • 51% of Guatemalans live on less than $2 a day and 15% of the population lives on only $1 a day.
  • Guatemala is reported to have the most unequal income distribution in the hemisphere.
  • Its social development indicators, including chronic malnutrition, illiteracy and infant mortality, are some of the worst in the Americas.

I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala last summer in the highlands near Quetzaltenango and Lake Atitlán and was greatly affected by the reality of these challenges.

Indigenous rural communities are particularly impacted by poverty and malnutrition. Many of these communities create beautiful textiles and artisanal crafts, but they do not have access to markets or resources to insure consistent income from these goods.

I am therefore very excited about Spark’s newest grantee The Chuacruz Women’s Weaving Cooperative, as it will work to support women weavers in the village of Chuacruz and help them generate sustained income.

The grant will provide the following:

  1. Foot-pedal Loom: The women in this community are back-strap weavers, a time-intensive weaving method that makes it impossible for them to create and sell enough textiles to support their families.  Spark’s grant will supply a traditional foot-pedal loom and foot-pedal loom classes  to increase their skill set and production capacity.
  2. Business Classes: Additionally, Spark’s grant  will provide a 12-week Business and Design Curriculum to teach these women business skills that will help them turn their unique weaving into a sustained income.
  3. Microbarter Loan: After the women are successfully using the foot-pedal loom and have completed their business training, our grant will provide the community with microbarter loans to start a business. This unique opportunity allows the women to pay back their interest-free loan by selling their goods in the US market. Our grantmaking partner Nest will assist the consistency of these sales by connecting them with a vast network of designers and distributors here in the US.

We are so excited about the success that our grantmaking partner Nest has had in other Mayan communities in Guatemala and this opportunity to support this community in Chuacruz that we have decided to feature this new grantee for our upcoming Cocktails for a Cause event.

Please join us at Spark’s Cocktails for a Cause event on April 20, 2011 to help raise funds for the women weavers in Chuacruz.

Beyond Hip: Connecting Actions to Rhetoric – By Jenn Wilcox

Last December, the progressive journalist Courtney E. Martin posted a powerful reflection on the state of dialog regarding women’s issues. While it has certainly become hip to advocate for women (think about Nick Kristof’s columns or the corporate engagement by companies like Goldman Sachs and Coca Cola), we must remember the importance of connecting actions to rhetoric and not assume that the current climate means our work is done.

Jenn Wilcox, Tanzania 2010

One of the things I love most about Spark is its dedication to engaging its members on all aspects of women’s empowerment. Through this blog, the Spark News Digest and the number of educational events Spark co-sponsors, members are able to learn about and engage on issues that impact women around the world. By attending Grants and Advocacy meetings, we engage in important conversations about how to prioritize projects and how to turn our values into high-impact grants. At Cocktails for a Cause events, we help support domestic and international women-focused organizations while socializing with civically engaged friends. In a vacuum, each of these activities is important, but the real power of the Spark model comes from their integration, from turning what we learn into decisions we make and causes we support.

Perhaps most importantly, this powerful confluence of engagement means that we start to more fully appreciate what Hillary Clinton meant when she declared in 1995 that women’s rights are human rights.  I don’t support women’s rights because I’m a woman, I support women’s rights because in so many places women are systematically denied opportunities and disadvantaged uniquely because of their gender, and battling this injustice is one of clearest ways to create maximum impact. Spark is a small grassroots organization – by definition we have to think about our funding not only in terms of dollars, but in terms of how each dollar will impact the community. As I learn more about the issues surrounding women’s rights, I am convinced that our focus on gender inequality and substantive discussions surrounding funding ensure that each dollar donated to Spark is deployed in a thoughtful, high-impact way.

Human Trafficking—Scope and Solutions?: An Activist Asks Questions

By K. Kerr

K. Kerr is a lawyer, human trafficking activist and Director of Programs for Freedom House, the first transitional shelter dedicated to supporting survivors of human trafficking in the San Francisco area.  K. Kerr has been a Spark member since 2009.

I have spent the last five years in the fight against human trafficking.   I have worked and written on this topic and still I am left with a lot of unanswered questions.  In this, I am not alone.  I can repeat what the U.S. Government, United Nations and various nonprofit organizations report.  I can tell you what I have seen in working with populations vulnerable to trafficking and survivors of trafficking.  Despite this, key questions around scope and solutions, remain unanswered.

Continue reading

Craig Newmark, I am disappointed in you

I have found jobs, roommates, apartments and the chair I am sitting in on Craigslist.  I have used your services while living in three cities on two continents.  It is fair to say that one of the ways that I engage with my community is through Craigslist.

It is for these reasons that I am empowered to write: Craig Newmark, I am disappointed in you.  Last year, you took bold action when you announced that you would remove the erotic services section from Craigslist.  It is a well-known fact that your website is used for the illegal sale and trafficking of minors—both girls and boys.  But, then, you replaced erotic services with adult services which contains the same content.  It is the SAME content.  The language is a bit different.  The pictures are slightly less graphic. But it is essentially the same.  Craig, you have to change more than the name. Continue reading