Come to Nicaragua With Me!

nicaraguan child smiling

Hey all!

My Nicaragua trip is coming up in 2 short days!  I’m busy getting everything packed up, immunizations handled, and all that brooha, and thought I’d like to give others the chance to participate with me in my trip!  I’ll be going around to different non-profit groups and in the cities trying to experience the world of philanthropy and the people of Nicaragua, and I’ll be meeting a lot of people who deserve some love from my American friends – so if you’ve been wanting to give to a good cause but haven’t found an organization you feel passionate about, here’s a good opportunity to give a little bit and see the impact a small donation can make in someone’s life.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Let me know how much you want to donate.  You can use PayPal or deposit it to my account at Wells Fargo titled “Nicaragua Donations.”
  2. I’ll look for a good opportunity to help someone out, and snap a pic of them so you can see who your money went to!  I’ll keep track of this while I’m away and update you when I get back.

Who it could help:

  • A talented artisan who lives by what they sell in the market each day.  It can buy excess cloth so they can build an inventory and start making a profit.
  • A farmer (for the same reason) to buy extra seed or fertilizer so they can buy more seed the next season.
  • Kids in rural areas who need books for their school.
  • A mother who deserves something nice from the market.
  • A hard working day laborer who wants to help send his child to college.

Of course the donation could go to any number of people as the opportunities present themselves, or directly to a non-profit I come across that I think is doing great work.  Who knows who will receive your donation?

Let me know if you’d like more details!

(If you’d like to participate – let me know who you are and how much you’re donating so I can keep track, and then you can donate via PayPal (click the button on the right) or by depositing to the separate Wells Fargo account I have titled “Nicaragua Donations” (just go into Wells and ask them to deposit it to me in that account and they’ll know what to do).  Everything donated will go directly towards helping others, none of this will go to paying for my trip.  If I don’t find someone to use your donation for I’ll give you a call and see if you’d like me to send the funds back to you or donate it somewhere else you’d like.  Also, this isn’t a tax-deductible contribution since I don’t yet have a 501(c)3 established, but is a great way to see the direct impact of your contribution!)

Why Self-Inflated, Cocky, Pompous, Shallow Philanthropists Are “OK” By Me!

the dbags are ok by me!

We’ve all seen him; the archetypal narcissistic philanthropist who seems to just volunteer so he can brag about it.  He’s wearing his stupid khakis, sporting his stupid tan because he “just came back from Africa” and talking to the stupid girls at the bar who are all googly-eyed for him.

But . . . are my motives always pure?  Why do I want to help?

To quote my man Jesus (pronounced the Spanish way – Heysoos!”), “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what your right hand doeth.”

“Uh . . . how the hell can I do something with my right hand and not let my left hand know what its doing?”  He’s talking about intent here – not giving to charity just for your pride or make other people think you’re a great person, but giving sincerely to help someone in need.  As I prep for my Nicaragua trip a few people have asked me, condescendingly, why I’m doing it.  “Is it just so you can feel like you’re doing good, or what?”

Well . . . maybe?  Life is bleak, it ends early, and I’d like to feel I’m doing something important.  Is that ok?  While I agree with Jesus and want to be sincere about my reasons for doing good, I’m here to say that its OK to feel great about yourself for giving.

Because our beliefs and behaviors are not on a one way road.

What I mean is, we all have beliefs and values, and those beliefs are supposed to determine our behaviors on a day to day basis, but it doesn’t work that way.  If Becky believes smoking is bad for her but she continues failing when she tries to quit, eventually she will change her beliefs to match her behaviors.  Its about self-worth: our minds really, really want a high self worth, so rather than sit there thinking “I’m a shitty person for smoking” day after day, her statement will eventually become “Smoking is bad for me, but I just don’t give a crap!”  Belief has changed so that her behavior can continue while maintaining self-worth.

Actually, we all take queues about ourselves based on our actions; we define ourselves by what we do.  If I do good at the first baseball game I play in Elementary School I may say to myself, “I am good at sports.”  My successful attempt at sports the first time I tried it has just given me a belief about myself, and that belief was verified by others who told me I did a good job.  And that’s the way it works with the d-bag at the bar too.  He may be exploiting charity to get women and approval . . . but that’s his choice.   And if some celebrity-since-birth decides it’d be “cool” and “helpful” if she gave a few million to a charity or adopted an African child and just wants to do it to feel good about herself . . . all the power to her.  I’ll still think they’re dweebs, but if lives are being saved as a result of some self-righteous person at the bar, he can have that girl’s number and my approval.

And I’ll admit it . . . it feels good to give, and to help, and I like talking about what I’m doing.  And that’s totally fine.

So here’s my question . . . why do you give?  What is your motivation?

P.S. – I’m an Atheist, and this isn’t a religious blog . . . but Jesus still said some great stuff, so I’ll still use it 😛

The Hunger Games – What the Author Meant

commentary on the hunger games, talking about our society

The Hunger Game’s trilogy is decent writing, but a better story; the impact it made on me wasn’t in Collins’ literary prowess but in the contrast of the Capitol and Americans.  Whether you have or haven’t read the book, I’m not giving anything away here – so don’t worry!

Meet Katniss – citizen of an outlying district, kept in poverty for generations by a strict and oppressive ruling elite hundreds of miles away in the Capitol.  Katniss’ father died when she was young and she grew up perpetually on the brink of starvation and had to resort to black market trade and poaching in order to get enough to feed herself and her family.

Flash forward a hundred pages and we see Katniss riding into the Capitol on a train: chandeliers, golden ornamentation, a complete excess of food and luxury.

A hundred more pages and we’re at a party thrown by the Capitol for the powerful citizens to meet the “tributes” of the hunger games.  They have spent countless amounts of money on their clothes, dying their skin, reshaping their hair, tattooing themselves and changing the way their bodies look in hundreds of ways.  They eat, and when they’re full they drink something that makes them throw up so they can eat some more.

Katniss is disgusted, and so are we.  We’re thinking of her sister, of her father who died because of the Capitol.  We see these images come on the screen of completely ridiculous styles the Capitol citizens think are so important; they are so self-focused they don’t see or don’t care about the suffering of everyone in the districts.  We want to slap them and get them to wake up and open their eyes.

Maybe that message wasn’t lost to you.  I think most of us have some of the Capitol in us, but want to do something to help.  But what to do?  And what kind of an impact can we actually make?  We have to work, and drive, and get that new thing we’ve been looking forward to for so long.

And soon . . . we’re in our golden years, and all we can give is our money; we’ve missed out on one of the greatest journeys we could have had: helping those in need directly. 

“But collective thinking is usually short-lived.  We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.  Although who knows?  Maybe this will be it, Katniss.”

“What?”

“The time it sticks.  Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race.  Think about that.”

(Mockingjay)

Millions of Americans went to see The Hunger Games on its opening night.  I hope they picked up on the message, and who knows?  Maybe we’ll remember this time, and live a little differently.

Solo Trip to Nicaragua!

trip to nicaragua

The first trip is almost here!

I’m going to Nicaragua for 11 days starting April 11th . . . and the possibilities are wide open.  I’ll be meeting up with and helping as many different types of programs as possible so I can experience them firsthand.  Thanks to Patrick Hale at the Rockway Foundation for tipping me off to the great work being done there!

Here’s what the trip cost me –

  • Plane ticket: $789 . . . ouch.  Ya, $111.90 of that is taxes and fees . . .
  • Passport: $260.12 . . . ya, I procrastinated so I had to pay extra to have it expedited.
  • 2 days “service” time and 7 days PTO paid by Wells Fargo (woot woot!)

Then its just lodging, transportation, and food (mmmm, handmade tortillas, slow-cooked beans, and carne asada . . . with a touch of diarrhea for me when I get back!).

Now I’m just working on contacting all the groups I want to work with.  Here are the categories I’m going for:

  • Micro-finance.  (very small loans made to people who otherwise could never pull out of poverty by themselves.  I loan you $30 of fertilizer and you pay me back a couple of months later, and you can use the excess for more seed the next time!  I love this model).  Thanks to Steve Wanta (Whole Planet Foundation) for helping me with this.
  • Artisan helpers.  (help skilled artists make products that will sell here in the U.S. instead of for pennies on the dollar locally or to tourists.  This opens a huge market for them but still has to compete with factory production on price or sell their story well).  Check out ALDEA and CTC International
  • Infrastructure builders.  (clean water wells, schools, city buildings).  I’ll be meeting up with Project Schoolhouse once I’m down there, but unfortunately our schedule didn’t match so I can’t work with them in their outlying project – so I’m looking for others as well!
  • Government programs (there is a Spain sponsored project to fix “La Chureca” – a problem that’s been around for over 40 years – and its making great progress).  Look at these guy’s photo’s.
  • Education.  (renting books out to kids, teaching english, replacing black boards with white boards, small computer labs).  Check out the work of the Rockway Foundation!
  • Food, hygiene, and clothing.
  • Medicine and disease prevention.
  • Religious sponsored groups.  (Forever a skeptic, I just want to see what the mix of helping/preaching is!)

Other than that . . . its all about the people.  I’ll spend my time talking with individuals, interviewing them, and seeing what their day to day life is like – and their biggest challenges, and just having a blast getting to know them!  I’m looking forward to some great relationships and a great trip!

– Jefferson

Welcome!

Thanks for coming to my new blog!  I hope you’ll look around for a second, get a feel for what I’m doing, and join the conversation.

My name is Jefferson Cloward – I’m 25, live in Austin Texas, have a great job, a nice computer, and a decent car; I’m healthy, strong, have every opportunity ahead of me . . . but I’m dissatisfied.  I go to work 5 or 6 days a week and make enough money to pay the bills and rent out about 4 hours of each day where I can do what I really want to do.  Life is short, and I want to do something meaningful.  When my hair has fallen out and my gut is hanging over my belt I want to look back with a boyish grin and a head-full of great memories.

So that’s why I’m here!  Over the next year I’ll be digging into philanthropy as much as possible: studying, writing, interviewing, and most importantly doing.  I’m doing a series of trips to the developing world to really experience their people and their struggles, see what organizations are doing to help, and find out how much of an impact that help is making.  I live in a town that loves to help – hippy town USA here in Austin Texas – and I love the energy this place has.  I’ll be diving into the local nonprofit scene, connecting and helping, and asking questions.

So – join me!  Come here for updates on what I’m doing, to read about what’s going on abroad and here in Austin, and find a way to give better. There are so many ways to help . . . but some things work, some don’t, some make things worse,and some just make the giver feel good about themselves.  This is my quest to find a sustainable way of helping that isn’t culturally invasive, leaves those served with a higher self-worth and cultural pride, solves a pressing problem, and will continue to grow long after I stop.  Please read, respond, send suggestions and tips, challenge my positions, and grow with me!

– Jefferson