Sunday, December 23, 2007

The 100 Friends Project

I need a counter to my Holiday blues (which have been a long and hopefully transformative process this year) and I would like to introduce my friend Marc Gold, and his 100 Friends Project.

Marc is an amazingly energetic psychologist and teacher from El Cerrito, California, who now spends half of his year travelling around the world giving money to needy individuals and small organizations, and half in the U.S. fundraising. On his website, you can learn directly about the people who receive the funds people donate. In his own words, the project began in 1989,

"When I visited India for the first time. I met a Tibetan woman in the Himalayas who had terrible ear infections, and I was able save her life with antibiotics that cost about $1.00. For another $30 I purchased a hearing aid that restored her hearing. I was shocked to learn something so important could be accomplished with so little. I began raising money among my friends, as much as people were able to donate. Then, in 1992, I traveled to India with over $2,200 in donations, with the goal of distributing it as directly and intelligently as possible. The rest, as they say, is history. "

It's so important now, with the onslaught of despair and orchestrated fear in the media, to remember that there are many, many heroes like Marc, making a big difference. He's inspired me to travel next year myself, and I may be doing volunteer work or even starting a handcrafts business for women's products in the course of my travels. Thank you, Marc.

And as a further counter to the cynicism I'm too often guilty of myself, I copy below from the 100 Friends Website Marc's network page, in case anyone else may be inspired to do something similar to what he's done. So, wishing all of us a Global and Merry Christmas!

Tips & Hints from Marc Gold: How to Change the World While Traveling

How do you prepare? Get a lot of education about the place you're going to -- through reading, watching videos, talking to people, surfing web sites. Learn about the area's history, politics, and geography. Get there with as much knowledge as possible. Learn 20 phrases in that language. People appreciate that, and it goes a long way toward making connections. Do special research into the problems of that country. Find out what the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are doing. Meet with them when you get there.

How do you raise money? Talk to people. Write a letter (see sample letter) and send it to everyone you know. If you don't have 100 acquaintances, so what? Do you have 40? Start a web page. It's all about making the time and having the guts to follow through. Become a non-profit [this is actually more affordable than you might realize. Create a newsletter. Have photos to send, or to show on your web page. The most important part of raising money? ASK for it.

How do you know whom to donate to? You meet trustworthy people, and you keep going back to them. Meet with people at NGOs once you're in the country, and ask them to connect you to good people who are especially worthy or needy. Be cool. Hang out for a number of days. Get to know people before you start talking about money. Trust your instincts. It's easy for money to go into the wrong hands. One family member can keep it from the others, or it can introduce jealousy. You learn as you go. The longer you do it, the stronger your connections will be, the more you'll know whom to trust -- and they'll connect you with honest, reliable, deserving people in the community. Do a web search for NGOs or NGO directories in the region you're planning to visit. Visit the World Organization of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO) or Taking It Global.

Here are some links from other "Global Ambassadors" that are very helpful:

(Marc's website is Copyright (c) 2004 Judy Wolf )

No comments: