In 2010, I started Link Haiti, a non-profit, because I needed to. Like most Americans, I heard about the earthquake in Haiti from family, followed by the words: turn on the news.
For the first 12 hours I watched, listened, and grieved. But I could only do that briefly, because I had a rough plan. 24 hours later, I reached out to my college network.
48 hours later, I posted on Facebook the call for volunteer nurses or doctors who were willing to fly to Haiti within 72-hours.
Within 96 hours, we assembled our first group of medical volunteers.
Within 144 hours, we had medical volunteers in Haiti.
In six months, we sent 7 medical teams to Haiti and arranged for major heart surgery to be done on 3-year-old Catalina at the Ronald McDonald House and 13-year-old Daphne in Haiti, and helped many others.
We accomplished this with minimal funding and the best volunteers that you’ll find on the planet.
A year after the earthquake, Link Haiti closed its doors because we had served our purpose.
However, here are three leaders and their amazing organizations that are making a significant difference within their community with minimal financial support and lots of heart that you should know about.
The 1881 Institute, New Orleans, Louisiana
Three years ago Bahiy Watson founded The 1881 Institute to prepare underrepresented youth, primarily African Americans, to successfully enter into STEM fields by infusing them with college-sophomore level mastery in engineering, math, and applied science by the time they graduate high school. As a result of Watson’s passion and commitment for 1881, I was a board member.
In June, Watson was honored for his “tremendous work and leadership” as part of the Champions of Change program. A program where the White House recognizes every day Americans who are making positive changes in their communities.
This year, the organization is embarking on the most important work they’ve done as an organization. 1881 is turning its focus to small groups of students and offering a 4 year multi-tiered pre-apprenticeship after school to prepare students, 12-14 years old, to work as apprentices in the engineering field by the time they turn 16.
1881’s small groups meet concurrently after school at four New Orleans rec centers along with one location in Huntsville, Alabama. This year, 1881’s cohort consists of approximately 20 students and the groups are 95% African American, 5% Latino, and 35% female.
Shugga, Atlanta, Georgia
La’lecha Green was moved to start Shugga because of her experience as a single mother. Green wanted to give women the opportunities, support and network that she understood from experience.
In June, Green started working full force with women that are homeless, single mothers or in need of educational support for their children. The first thing on her list was to sign up for Panera Bread’s Day-End Dough-Nation program. At the end of each day, Panera Bread’s cafes package unsold bread and baked goods to donate to local hunger relief and charitable organizations, such as Shugga’s. Once accepted into the program, she started feeding homeless women weekly.
Green also provides the women care-packages that include basic necessities, such as, sanitary napkins, deodorant, soap and chap sticks. Initially, she was using her funds to provide these supplies but she has slowly started receiving support and partnering with other organizations.
Smart Coos, an edtech organization that provides families the tools and resources to raise bilingual children, that I co-founded, is one of those partners. Smart Coos’ Learn a Language, Share a Language initiative partners with local organizations to provide low-cost or no-cost live bilingual instruction to students from low-income homes. Green’s goal is to provide the children of the single mom’s that she works with the opportunity to provide their children more than they had themselves.
In 2017, Green’s goal is to expand her organization to help more single mothers that may be struggling by providing basic necessities, financial literacy and educational support for their children. Simply because she understands their story and her need to help demands she takes action.
Randal Johnson, Jr.
Fish with a Man, Delray Beach, Florida
Randal Johnson always had a passion for helping others. However, it wasn’t until earlier this year that he found his calling with Fish with a Man. Johnson’s organization focuses on helping reduce the dropout rate for homeless and at-risk children.
Recently, Johnson, my partner, volunteered at a school in Haiti with Smart Coos, Johnson saw some striking similarities between at-risk and homeless students in the U.S. and Haiti. According to the Haiti Ministry of Planning and External cooperation, the dropout rate in the country is nearly 60%. In the United States, according to the American Psychological Association, homeless and at-risk students were five times more likely to dropout than their peers.
In October, Johnson was invited to attend South by South Lawn, a White House festival of ideas, art, and action. In March, President Obama traveled to South by Southwest in Austin for a conversation on civic engagement. He challenged entrepreneurs, creators, and organizers from across the country to step up and help tackle our country’s toughest challenges. South by South Lawn was a celebration of entrepreneurs, like Johnson, that decided to take action. Johnson’s flight was scheduled to depart Haiti, just as Hurricane Matthew grounded all flights in the country. He missed the festival.
However, Johnson, now back in the United State is partnering with local schools and organizations such as Smart Coos’ Learn a Language, Share a Language initiative to support at-risk and homeless youths. His aim for 2017 is to directly impact 200 homeless and at-risk children in Palm Beach County.
Support is key
Watson, Green and Johnson are leaders in their community and are having a tremendous impact. So, if you’re looking for new organizations to support during the holiday season, you’ve found them – don’t hesitate to connect with each of them via their website or social media.
Do you know an individual that is having a significant impact in their community? Shoot me an e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org – telling me why they rock with their contact information.