Tag Archives: SparkNYC

Making Changes: Block by Block

New Grantee: The BLK ProjeK

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Although the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the South Bronx is one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, many of its neighbors are without access to quality, healthy food. The median annual income in the South Bronx is $19,113, and good groceries are sparse.

The BLK ProjeK was born out of the frustrations of one such inhabitant: Tanya Fields. Tanya was a poor, single mother who moved to the South Bronx and found her asthmatic child struggling with the pollution generated by the hundreds of thousands of semis that deliver food to Hunts Point every year.

The struggles of her son led Tanya to think increasingly more about environmental justice. She began drawing connections between the unhealthy urban environments in which poor people lived, and the unhealthy food available to them. She also, naturally, began drawing connections between the unhealthy food available to poor urban communities, and the women who serve that food to their families. Tanya realized that poverty has a feminine face.

In order to tackle the insufficient access to healthy food in the South Bronx, Tanya consequently turned to mothers. She starting small, facilitating “Mommy & Me” classes in order to educate mothers about nutrition. In 2009, her efforts expanded beyond the classroom to the garden, and the BLK ProjeK was born.

The women of BLK ProjeK were guerilla gardeners from the outset. They broke into abandoned lots in the South Bronx and planted vegetables. They created a groundswell, compelling more than 200 residents to petition and telephone the Housing Preservation and Development of NYC, demanding that the city allow the BLK ProjeK to turn one of those lots into an urban farm. Eventually their demands were heard, and that lot became the Libertad Urban Farm. In order to deliver produce from the Libertad Urban Farm to their community, the women of the BLK ProjeK then renovated an old school bus, turning it into a beautiful mobile market running exclusively on used vegetable oil.

But Tanya and the BLK ProjeK have their sights set higher still. They want the South Bronx to be able to feed itself. They want to change the economic and political landscape of the community by creating local jobs and promoting municipal participation. And women remain the catalyst in all this. The BLK ProjeK is driven by its firm belief in the “girl effect” – the notion that investing in women and women-led efforts is the most effective way to promote social change. Women plant the seeds of physical and fiscal health in every community.

In order to support the BLK ProjeK, the Spark grant will:

  • Provide funds for the growth and sale of produce from the Libertad Urban Farm
  • Provide stipends for volunteer farmers
  • Promote community outreach in order to encourage participation in the Libertad Urban Farm, as well as the farm’s CSA

And source the following Pro Bono needs:

  • Web Design

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for The BLK ProjeK, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization. Visit BLK ProjeK’s website to learn more.

Reflections: Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series Launch

Reflections by Spark Member, David Scatterday

It was a distinct pleasure to participate in the inaugural installment of Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series. Worthy of a truly notable launch, we were joined by philanthropic innovators Yann Borgstedt and Antonela Notari Vischer from the Womanity Foundation.

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Auspiciously, everything about the launch event of such a promising series was seamless.

First, a little about our guests: Womanity is an entrepreneurial foundation that thinks creatively to find solutions to today’s women’s empowerment challenges. Key topical areas of action include giving women and girls a voice, advancing education and opportunities, providing fellowships to emerging female social entrepreneurs.  As a man, Womanity’s founder Yann Borgstedt does not fit the traditional model of a woman’s empowerment pioneer. However, Yann understands that solving for women’s issues is a key part of solving every development issue around the globe.

Back to our scene: we were hosted in the headquarters of the Cordes Foundation, whose work is focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.

In my mind, the event crystallized everything that is so great about Spark.

First, reinforcing its mission of empowering tomorrow’s philanthropic leaders, the event was custom-designed to engage millennials in real dialogue with real practitioners. Speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in the field triggered valuable dialogue about real solutions to pain points encountered by the aspiring millennial philanthropists and activists in the room.

Second, the event was infused by a deep sense of shared mission. While Spark and Womanity take relatively different approaches to programming and fundraising for women’s issues – it was very evident the two organizations share a deeply held common cause of empowering women around the world. This shared sense of mission added a tangible sense of relevance and urgency to the entire session’s dialogue.

Finally, over several years of involvement with Spark, I’ve realized that solving for women’s issues requires an ‘all-hands’ approach. In our increasingly globalized and resource-constrained world, every pressing social issue is a woman’s issue. Whether climate change, health care access or hunger, women are disproportionately impacted. Bringing about real change will require large-scale collective action – women and men working together to solve truly global problems.  Both Womanity and Spark are organizations that understand this and practice a large-tent approach to addressing social problems every day.

Last week’s mentorship session made me prouder than ever to be an active male, millennial philanthropist and Spark member, confirming that I, and everyone at Spark, are taking the right steps to meaningfully improve the welfare of women in this generation – and the next.

A Kit That Saves Lives: Bringing Safe Delivery to Nigerian Mothers

New Grantee: Advocates for Sustainable Health (A4SH)

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Nigeria is the most populous country and arguably the richest in Africa. Yet, the health of the people remains poor, especially for women and children. The Nigerian Ministry of Health spends about 70% of its budget in urban areas, where only 30% of the population resides. Most public healthcare facilities are consequently under-funded and lacking supplies leaving expectant mothers to buy their own basic medical supplies or go without, exposing themselves to serious health risks. The 2013 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) reports that Nigeria has a maternal mortality ratio of 576 deaths/100,000 live births (the 13th highest in the world), and the neonatal mortality is 37/1,000 live births (with the highest at 47). The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that 1 in every 13 mothers die during childbirth in Nigeria every year, and the deaths of newborn babies represent a quarter of deaths under 5, most of which occur within the first week of life. These deaths are primarily attributable to complications during pregnancy and delivery, many of which could be detected and prevented before delivery during antenatal care visits.

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Spark’s latest grantee, Advocates for Sustainable Health (A4SH), seeks to improve the quality and availability of health services provided to pregnant women and mothers in rural Nigeria. A4SH was founded in 2013 by a small group of dynamic young individuals driven by a passion to ensure that women in their communities could gain access to basic and necessary health care.

A4SH’s signature program is the Safe Delivery Program, which encourages pregnant women to attend antenatal care visits in exchange for safe delivery kits. The kits are sterilized and packaged locally and include: a delivery mat, infant receiver, gloves, cord clamps, a scalpel, methylated spirit, antiseptic soap, a mucus extractor, olive oil, cotton wool, gauze, and maternity pads.

Expectant mothers receive a delivery kit at their fourth antenatal care visit in a participating primary healthcare center. Since its founding in 2013, A4SH has reached about 400-500 women in three communities within the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • 4 interventions in hard-to-reach communities,
  • 100 safe delivery kits to facilities in these communities,
  • and further outreach through providing “pikin kits,” (post-natal kits) for women after delivery in a health facility. Kits include items to care for their newborn babies including powder, baby oil, Vaseline, a sponge, lotion, cloth diapers, one outfit with hat and socks, a blanket, and information on post-delivery care.

Pro Bono needs:

  • Website Development: The organization’s staff did their best to create a website, but are in need of professional consultation and aid in completing website development.
  • Video Development: Create a demonstration video for their Sensitization Program in which they provide essential care instructions on breast feeding, immunization, and hygiene in the local women’s language of Hausa. Create a video around their Advocacy Program in which they advocate for the provision of midwives for communities in need.
  • Management Consultancy – Help the organization develop a sustainable business plan to help A4SH successfully move forward with its mission and vision.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for A4SH, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization, and thank you for all of your support! Visit A4SH’s Website to learn more.

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!

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.

SparkNYC Member Profile: Megan Lynch

Megan Lynch is a program coordinator at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)— an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher—where she manages corporate relationships for the Council’s Corporate Program. Megan graduated from New York University in 2010 with a Masters degree in Politics and a concentration in International Relations. She M Lynch Photoserves on the Membership Committee for Women in Development and the Investment Committee for SparkNYC. She talks to us about how she got involved with Spark, penguins, and a wrong turn in Europe.

Megan’s Spark Story:

A friend invited me to attend a SparkNYC membership mixer, and I immediately felt like I connected with the organization’s mission and community. I’ve long had an interest in women’s empowerment, international development, and effective philanthropy, and SparkNYC allows me to invest in all these areas alongside an incredible group of young professionals. Spark has provided me with a unique opportunity to learn about the grant-making process and to think about philanthropy from a funder’s perspective. I’m continually inspired by the innovative grassroots organizations that we support and by Spark’s energetic and committed members.

Who is your favorite grantee?

The Komera Project, a leadership incubator in rural Rwanda that facilitates educational opportunities for young women.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A good book, cinnamon scone, coffee, and an unscheduled afternoon.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?

Flying would be fun, but I think the power to teleport might be even better. It would definitely cut down on my commute.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Curiosity. I grew up pestering my parents with questions, and I still have that eagerness to learn and understand.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A penguin?

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

Compassion.

What is your favorite journey?

Last summer, I traveled through Europe for two weeks with my three sisters. One of my favorite unplanned moments of the trip was when we took a wrong turn on the highway from Basel to Munich and ended up in Liechtenstein. Despite being lost, it made for great sister bonding. Plus, we got to see a tiny yet stunningly beautiful alpine country.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I have a long list of heroes, but some that come to mind include my mom, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Madeleine Albright, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.