Happy World Teacher Day!

seva-mandirOctober 5th marks World Teachers’ Day, which provides us all with the opportunity to thank those who have taught us invaluable skills and helped us grow. On this day, we can also provide children who would not otherwise receive an education with these same opportunities.

Seva Mandir’s primary schools provide children in disadvantaged tribal areas across India with access to quality education in an interactive and joyful environment. The organization has been able to bring classrooms to over 580 villages across Rajasthan and hopes to expand its efforts in order to reach as many children as possible. Through providing underserved youth with an education, we are able to positively impact the futures of children and communities across the world.

Getting married? Create a registry to support Seva Mandir’s important work!

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Evidence Action: Providing Safe Water to Communities in East and Southern Africa

Welcome back, lovely humans! It’s #ThirstyThursday (it’s still cool to say that, right?) so today we’re going to introduce you to an amazing impact-driven partner that’s working hard to make drinkable water accessible to everyone.

That’s right, we’re looking at you, Evidence Action!

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What’s the story?

Evidence Action scales proven development solutions to benefit millions of people around the world. They fill the gap between knowing “what works” and having impact at scale. They do this by implementing cost-effective interventions whose efficacy is backed by substantial rigorous evidence. Furthermore, they identify innovative, appropriate financing mechanisms and build best-practice operational models.

Evidence Action continuously self-evaluates, learns, and improves their models for scaling with a commitment to transparency on progress, impact, and value for money.

(Awesome, right?)

The organization’s current initiatives include Evidence Action Beta, which focuses on pressure-testing promising interventions, and Deworm the World Initiative, which scales up school-based deworming programs worldwide.

Last but certainly not least, Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water initiative is an entrepreneurial program that dramatically expands access to water treatment at an extremely low cost for more than 4.7 million people in Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda.

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Source: WaterAid.org
The Problem

Unsafe drinking water is a global problem, with almost one billion people lacking access to a reliable water supply. Over 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Unsafe drinking water is also a leading cause of diarrheal disease with nearly two billion cases each year globally. An estimated 760,000 children under five die from diarrhea each year, making it a leading cause of childhood mortality.

The Solution

Evidence Action focuses on sustainable service delivery, not a one-time hardware installation. Dispensers for Safe Water are a proven solution to the global crisis of access to clean water. Evidence Action treats water with chlorine, a proven, low-cost water treatment solution. Success is measured by actual use of chlorine, and by leveraging cues from behavioral economics to achieve high rates of adoption. They take on the challenge of sustainability and solve it, but do not resort to user fees which would screen out many households.

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Source: USAID.gov | Photo Credit: Jonathan Kalan
How it works
  1. We place chlorine dispensers in the immediate vicinity of wells and other water sources.
  2. Community members go to their water source to fetch water, place their bucket or jerrican under the dispenser, turn the valve to dispense a correctly measured amount of diluted chlorine, and then fill the bucket with water.
  3. The chlorine disinfects the water as a community member is walking home, and by the time he or she arrives, much of the chlorine smell has dissipated and they are left with clean, safe water that stays safe for 2-3 days.
Sustainability
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Source: EvidenceAction.org

Dispenser access is free to users, but the organization does not rely solely on donations or grant funding to cover the costs of service delivery. Instead, Evidence Action works with experts to develop, monitor, audit, issue and sell carbon credits. They then use the revenues earned from carbon sales to reinvest in the program, ensuring that it is sustainable over the long term.

Get involved

You can make a donation in support of any of Evidence Action’s initiative’s on their website. Alternatively, if you’re tying the knot sometime soon, consider creating a charitable wedding registry that helps provide safe water to communities in East and Southern Africa!

The Olive Branch for Children: Bringing education to every child in Tanzania

Early childhood education services—such as kindergarten and preschool—are not available in the majority of rural communities in Tanzania. This results in missed opportunities for the country’s most vulnerable youth to develop their academic foundations and skills before entering primary school. Moreover, children who do not receive early childhood education often have negative attitudes towards school which can lead to low attendance rates throughout their primary school years.

In an attempt to tackle this problem, Deborah McCracken founded The Olive Branch for Children in 2005 with the objective to help remote communities in Tanzania assess their own primary needs and establish programs that target the most vulnerable.

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The organization runs a wide range of programs focusing on issues like HIV/AIDS prevention and care, general medical support, food security, economic autonomy, and women and girls’ empowerment. All of The Olive Branch for Children’s programs share the common goal of establishing community-led programs that empower locals and generate models that can be replicated in other communities throughout Tanzania and elsewhere.

Early Childhood Education

One of this organization’s most impactful projects is their Montessori Outreach Program, which brings quality early childhood education to Tanzania’s most vulnerable areas. Compared to traditional didactic teaching methods, the Montessori methodology is interactive, encourages self-discipline and independence, and fosters respect within the classroom.

The Montessori Outreach Program focuses on training selected villagers as teachers in the basics of Montessori Education to then establish village-operated Montessori kindergartens in their communities. Since 2008, Canadian Montessori teachers have volunteered to travel to this region and conduct 2-3 week training seminars for the local teachers. Site visits to each school are also done during this time. Teachers from the schools meet monthly with the Tanzanian Montessori supervisor and a representative from The Olive Branch to review Montessori materials and work collaboratively on improving their schools.

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Some of The Olive Branch for Children’s target communities are 80km from a main road and over 20km from a primary school. For some children, the remote Montessori kindergartens will be their only access to education. Currently, there are 28 kindergartens running in partnership with the organization.

Sustainability

obc1The schools enrolled in the Montessori Outreach Program are 100% owned and operated by their communities. All Montessori kindergartens in the program have school and community advisory committees. After the initial training, the program continues to build the capacity of the strongest teachers within the program to function as mentors for new and struggling teachers. In addition, The Olive Branch for Children’s trainers are volunteers, offering their services free of charge.

Get Involved

You can support The Olive Branch for Children’s Montessori Outreach Program by making a donation or volunteering. Alternatively, if you happen to be getting married, you can create a charitable wedding registry that helps bring early childhood education to rural communities in Tanzania!

Heartful.ly Says “I Do” to Partnership with GlobalGiving!

Hey, hey, heartful humans! Have you heard the news? Heartful.ly just said “I DO” to a beautiful partnership with GlobalGiving, and we couldn’t be more excited!

GlobalWho? 

GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community for nonprofits. It makes it safe and easy for people and companies to give to local projects anywhere in the world, providing nonprofits with the tools, training, and support they need to become more effective. Since 2002, GlobalGiving has helped raise more than $200 million from more than 500,000 donors for more than 14,000 projects.

What does this mean for Heartful.ly?

Two words: More Love. Over 1,000 new projects have been added to our already robust platform through this fab new partnership, which means that there now even more ways to give back on your special day!

This huge expansion means “we can focus on growth in the wedding industry with confidence that the supply of vetted, diverse nonprofit projects will scale without compromising quality or transparency,” said Kate, our founder and CEO.

To celebrate this sensational news, today we’re featuring FIVE new projects you can support by creating your very own Heartful.ly registry.

MAVUNO

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Mavuno works in rural villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mobilizing and training community leaders to create their own business solutions to the problems of extreme poverty. You can now use your big day to support Mavuno’s livestock program, which aids in the development of proper animal shelters and optimizes livestock activities to generate wealth.

MADRE

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MADRE is an international women’s organization that is advancing women’s human rights by meeting urgent needs in communities and building lasting solutions to the crises women and girls face. A registry in support of MADRE can provide counseling and art therapy to help Colombian sexual violence survivors heal from their wretched experiences.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is a small, effective charity funding key projects in Africa and Asia working to save critically endangered mammals in the wild. Now, you can throw a wild wedding that also helps save the wild tigers of Assam, India.

Global Autism Project

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Global Autism Project is an international nonprofit that helps train teachers to work with children with Autism all over the world. If you want to support this organization’s mission, you can now create a registry that helps finance the skills local educators need to effectively work with and empower autistic kids.

Project HOPE
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Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. The organization is responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis through the provision of medicines and medical supplies. Now, you can use your wedding to help support the health of refugees moving through Macedonia.

 

#FollowFriday: Stephanie Carolyn Anderson from carolyn a. events

Happy Friday, heartful humans! Today, we’re featuring #girlboss and Atlanta-based wedding planner that’s using her brilliant mind and amazing design skills to create unforgettable events (and give back!).

Stephanie Carolyn Anderson, a Nashville native, is the owner and creative director of carolyn a. events, an event design and planning studio that specializes in custom luxury weddings and events. Her philosophy centers on meshing a client’s unique vision and style with the design process to create incredible and stunning events.

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Source: Brophy of OneNine Images

We had the chance to talk with Stephanie about being her own boss, her sheroes, and how she’s helping to empower other women.

What made you want to start your own event planning business?

My background is a mix of design and engineering and, out of college, I was looking for something that fit the structure of engineering but also allowed me to use my design skills and be creative. I researched countless fields and professions and found wedding planning and design to be the perfect fit. I worked as an intern and associate planner for about 3 years and then decided to I wanted to try it for myself!

What are some of the biggest challenges of running an event planning business?
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Source: Gracie Blue Photography

One of the most challenging aspects of running any business is keeping your motivation up and personal engagement high; it’s only exacerbated when you work for yourself. Instead of pulling inspiration and support from a boss or coworkers you have to search other places and find ways to encourage yourself. It can be difficult at times, but it makes it all the more rewarding when you succeed.

What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?

I have always been surrounded by powerful and accomplished women; from my mom to my grandmothers to best friends, I have had women beside me every day encouraging me and pushing me to excel. It has been through this that I was able to step out and start my own business. It’s also because of this, that I knew I needed to give back and, as a company run exclusively by women, I wanted to focus on using our gifts to empower and support other women.

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Source: Dash Photography
What do you do to give back? What type of charities do you support?

At carolyn a. events we support Wellspring Living, a restorative organization that focuses on victims of sex trafficking. Wellspring believes in not only rescuing women from at-risk situations but also giving them the tools to succeed and thrive once they re-enter society. When a client chooses our Wellspring package, we commit to give 10% of their final rate to Wellspring Living in their name on their wedding day. We also encourage all of our employees to volunteer their time at Wellspring and offer our clients opportunities as well!

Any advice for brides-to-be as they start their wedding planning process?
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Source: Melissa Schollaret Photography

In our work, one of the largest issues we see is that many couples feel pressure to conform their wedding to traditions and expectations — they have to have a cake cutting, second cousins are required guests, and house-ware gifts are a must. What many couples don’t realize is that they can make this day completely and comfortably their own. It’s important to identify which elements are important to you and your fiance. From there, don’t stress about the smaller details that you could care less about. Also, a wedding planner can guide you through this process and take charge of those tough conversations with great aunt Hilda when she demands you have a garter toss!

Know a wedding vendor that’s going above and beyond to help others? Leave us a comment and we might feature them next time!

#FollowFriday: Sandra from SandraChile Photography

Happy Friday, homies! Today, we continue our #FollowFriday series with a spunky lady that is making the world a better and funnier place, one click at a time.

Sandra, owner of SandraChile, is a wedding photographer based in Pittsburgh that specializes in alternative, fun couples who like to do things a little differently.

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Source: SandraChile.com

We had the chance to talk to her about the joy of out-of-the-box (and green!) photos, her experience growing up in Chile, and how she uses her business to give back. This is what she had to say…

How did you get started as a photographer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I always liked pictures, but when you grow up in a developing country, like I did, being a photographer is not “a thing”.

I went to college for visual communication and when I came to live in the US, photography became a language to explain my friends back home about my new life; pumpkin pies, bonfires, or the concept of a white christmas (all things that we don’t have down there) took a different meaning through my pictures.

Little by little, I became close friends with photography and I developed a business out of it. I suddenly realized that wedding parties and love stories where my favorite. And can you blame me? Partying to celebrate love is always the best!

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Source: @SandraChileP

Tell me more about how you keep your business green and sustainable!

My business has a giant emphasis on ethics and sustainability because I genuinely care about others and the planet.

Photography is not a very green practice on its own. First, consider all the chemicals that come together to coat a picture, album, or photo book, and their residual effects. Then we add the deforestation that takes place to create the paper and packaging: Boxes, tissue papers, paper bags, ribbons, plastic… the list goes on and on! Do you follow me? The impact just one person can have is massive.

Most people don’t know this, but the industry of photographic products can be so toxic that workers can end up with severe skin burns. This issue gets magnified when photographic labs are outsourced to developing countries where safety and sustainability are not a priority.

This is why I am proud to be one of the few photographers in the country who offers exclusively vegetarian and sustainably-sourced products.

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Source: @SandraChileP

When it comes to prints, I have handpicked labs who are environmentally friendly and use plant based inks sourced from locally harvested soybeans. In addition, I do not sell any mass-produced items. Instead, I prefer items made in countries where labor laws are in place to protect workers. In fact, most of the the items I sell are proudly made in the USA, prioritizing collaboration with small business.

What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?

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Source: SandraChile.com

Part of it has to do with the fact that I didn’t have a good upbringing. Not only did I grow up in a poor country that was recently coming out of a dictatorship, with an unstable socio-economical situation, but I also didn’t have a loving and supportive family by my side.

I ended up homeless at the age of 16. I am where I am today mostly because of the compassionate people God put along my life journey.

Growing up like this made me realize that every second can be used to make a difference in someone’s life, and I have chosen to make that difference particularly using my business.

What do you do to give back? What type of charities do you support?

As part of the ethical standards I advocate for, my business donates a percentage of every wedding fee to Too Young To Wed, an organization started by a photographer that creates awareness about forced child marriage. That way, whenever someone books my services, they immediately become participant of this tremendous cause.

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Source: @SandraChileP

If someone cancels a wedding, instead of just walking away, I arrange for a charity photoshoot to take place that day. I ask the couple to send me to any charity organization near where the wedding would have taken place to take pictures for free. So while other vendors take that day as an opportunity to make more money, I make sure we fill that day with happiness.

Lastly, I put together goodie bags that I give away to every homeless person I meet. The bags contain basic travel-sized toiletries, water, and a meal that doesn’t need cooked. The funny thing is that usually I distribute the most bags whenever I’m on my way to shoot a wedding!

What are your favorite wedding photos to shoot?

My favorite wedding pictures are the ones that show raw, real emotions, particularly of people having fun. I strive to capture laughs, funny dances, drunk moments, and all of those awkward situations that other photographers avoid. That is my jam! I believe life is made of stories built around those moments, and as a photographer, nothing makes me happier than the thought of people gathering to enjoy and laugh at a picture I took.

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Source: SandraChile.com

Know a wedding vendor that’s going above and beyond to help others? Leave us a comment and we might feature them next time!

Sundara: Harnessing the power of soap for good

Soap is something that so many of us take for granted – but there are many people today who can’t afford it and don’t understand the benefits of hand washing.

Just ask Erin Zaikis. While working in rural northern Thailand in 2013, she first met children who didn’t even know what soap was. Upon Erin’s return to the US, she found that this problem in Thailand actually existed in many developing countries. In India, for example, more than 70 million people can’t afford soap.

The fact is that hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of infection and illness, and is more effective, yet cheaper, than any vaccine on the market. Thus, this lack of access to soap prevents children living in low socioeconomic and rural areas from reaching their full potential.

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Source: Sundara.org

What’s more, while hundreds of millions of people are deprived from the health benefits of this cheap item, billions of gently used soap bars are tossed into overcrowded landfills each year, specifically from India’s high-end hotels.

This wastefulness prompted Erin to found Sundara, an innovative nonprofit that seeks to empower women and children through better hygiene and health care by connecting the surplus to the need.

The Sundara Approach

Sundara takes used soap bars before they hit the trash and cleans and sanitizes them so they are pathogen-free, can not transmit disease, and are fit for use again. They employ a holistic approach to soap recycling, relying on community members for leadership, giving dignified jobs to underprivileged women, and focusing on intensive hygiene education in a sustainable movement to reduce preventable hygiene related death and disease.

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Source: Sundara.org

COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

Sundara believes in getting the community involved to solve their own hygiene issues. They hire locals as their employees and community hygiene ambassadors. The organization listens to them and allows them to create their hygiene modules to be culturally effective. Education is a lot more powerful if it comes from someone who looks like you, speaks your language, and has had shared experiences.

FEMALE LEADERSHIP

Women in the countries Sundara works face difficulties in finding dignified jobs, so the organization insists that their employees are women from underprivileged backgrounds. Sundara aims to empower them not only economically but socially, giving them positions of power as community hygiene ambassadors. Local women are Sundara’s biggest allies in reducing preventable hygiene related deaths.

 

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Source: Sundara.org

 

HYGIENE EDUCATION

Sundara is encouraging a societal shift in every community they work in. The organization does that by having their female hygiene ambassadors conduct regular free hygiene demonstrations to teach adults and children alike about soap’s uses and its importance. This knowledge is really what empowers that community and allows good hygiene habits to stick.

Their impact

Through recycling soap, Sundara has rescued thousands of kilograms of waste from ending up in overcrowded landfills – but more importantly they’ve brought soap to those who couldn’t afford it, given economic opportunity to unemployed women, and seen increased rates of hand-washing in all the communities they work in.

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Source: Sundara.org

INDIA

Sundara’s main soap recycling workshop is located in Ashte, a rural tribal village 4 hours north of Mumbai. Sundara has trained 3 women to recycle soap full time and 26 local women to become local hygiene ambassadors. Each month these women deliver soap and hygiene training to over 2,000 children. They also deliver soap and hygiene training for adults and children at medical centers in the Kalwa slums.

UGANDA

Sundara has hired 10 victims of domestic violence in Mubende district who have received full hygiene ambassador training. Additionally, the women are trained in bar and liquid soap making, so they have a marketable skill to support themselves and their families. The women are employed to recycle soap from several hotels in Kampala, with the new bars being donated to underprivileged local families.

MYANMAR

Sundara works with local Burmese families to recycle soap waste from Yangon’s hotels. The soap is distributed, along with simple hygiene classes, to orphanages, juvenile detention centers, and communities of people with leprosy in Yangon, Bago and Bagan.

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Source: Sundara.org
Get involved

If you think that Sundara is awesome (we sure do!) and want to support their mission, consider making a monetary donation! You can also learn more about current volunteer and internship opportunities on their website.

Alternatively, if you’re getting married and want to use your wedding to bring health and education to women and children in rural areas, you can also create a charitable wedding registry that supports Sundara’s work!