Tag Archives: Millennium Development Goals

The Girl Effect

30 Dec

Several months ago I saw this great You Tube clip that addresses Millennium Develpoment Goal 3 of promoting gender equality and empowering women. 

As the Interface Foundation looks to help high impact foundations eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2009 and in all levels of education no later than 2015 this video shows the powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.

The Long Journey to Africa

21 Nov

While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering.  We would want it to be a symbol for the triumph of the human spirit against the forcers of evil : a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small mindness and pettiness : a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness,” are the words of Ahmed Kathrada Prisoner 468 64.

I am on day 6 of my amazing journey through South Africa.  From the beautiful Table Mountain of Cape Town to the small HIV/AIDS orphanage in the Mfulleni Township where  “Mama”  Amelia takes care of 150 orphans to the prison cell of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island I am feeling the core of South Africa — the definite “courage & determination over human frailty & weakness”.

There is so much to say about the state of South Africa in terms of philanthropic need.  Africa is the epicenter of crisis, with continuing food insecurity, a rise of extreme poverty (this is poverty that kills), stunningly high child and maternal mortality, and a large number of people living in slums.  The need is great & thus the focus of the Interface Foundation on high impact public charities achieving the Millennium Development Goals is crucial.

Last night the owners of the Fifth Avenue Beach House  where I am staying here in Port Elizabeth shared with me the story of one of their personal heroes, Bishop Paul Verryn of the South African Methodist Church.  This is a man who works tirelessly with volunteers and staff to feed and shelter over 1600 homeless refugees at Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Mission.  After giving me Bishop Verryn’s background he actually arrived at the Beach House from Johannesburg.  

Ray Buchanan (a personal hero of mine & the founder of Stop Hunger Now, the reason I am in South Africa)  and I get to hear from Paul that there is an endless line of people waiting each day outside his office, five or more are always from Zimbabwe.   This has been going on for the last 4 years.

Women and children sleep in the sanctuary of the church every night, while homeless men wrap themselves in blankets and sleep head-to-toe like sardines in the meeting rooms above. Conditions for 200 people in a church building not meant for housing are a nightmare, Paul said, but a far sight better than living rough on the inner-city streets.

Some of the women appealing for help are refugees in the truest sense of the word. “Just recently we had a small family of a child, a mother and a father who came down. They had been to an MDC (a political party) rally, leaving their seven-year-old at home. He had been beaten up and was crying outside the house. They decided to move. I won’t tell you of the rest of her story because it is too horrendous for words, but they certainly left Zimbabwe in great fear of their lives.”

Young girls harassed to join the youth militia are also appearing more frequently at his office.

Although the outside world may think that what is happening at Central Methodist is commendable, Paul kept saying he finds himself “very ambivalent about the quality of what we are able to do here and would want it to be very different.”

“Some of the people we have in the building are extraordinary people: accountants, school teachers, qualified nurses, a doctor. Some are very ingenuous in the way they are making jobs and little projects trying to begin. So, sometimes just a little seed money for somebody to go and start a small business would make all the difference. We have wire artists, people who are making fly fishing lures. We have ballroom dancing, a drama group, all sorts of enterprises. Our goal is to try to enable people to take responsibility for their lives; to reduce dependency is a critical priority.”

Paul’s prayer is for a politically sustainable solution for the Zimbabwean crisis. 

As an American I had no idea what the Zimbabwean crisis even was and in the simplest of ways he describes it as a genocide in the making.
As Paul put it simply, “This is a God Moment.  It’s an opportunity for us to open our hands and knuckle down and be what we say we are.”

I have so much to learn, so much to do, and so much awareness to raise for the “Bishop Paul Verryn’s”  of the world!  I ask all of you to join the crusade in bringing compassion & justice to all on this planet!

A day with Mama Amelia in Mfuleni

A day with Mama Amelia in Mfuleni

The Interface Foundation — My Life's Work

8 Oct

As a child I always saw myself helping countless people.  Serving is truly the essence of who I am & for most of my life this has been a double-edged sword.  The words of Henry Van Dyke in his short story The Mansion resonate in my soul daily, ” What could I have done better?  What is it that counts?  ‘Only that which is truly given,” answered the voice.  Only that good which is done for the love of doing it.  Only those plans in which the welfare of others is the master thought.  Only those labors in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward.  Only those gifts in which the giver forgets himself.”  So this double-edged sword of my souls ultimate desire to serve has finally become my ultimate blessing & my life’s work.  For years I would bang my head against the wall as I was not born with a trust fund, I was not educated at an Ivy league school, I was not blessed with “fame” however these supposed “hurdles” in my life are my actual blessings.  My unquenchable desire to be a force for good is a flame that will never be extinguished because I don’t have a trust fund, I didn’t go to an Ivy League school & because I can’t carry a tune & didn’t win American Idol & end up touring the world.  It is that simple!  What I do have is the ultimate desire to serve humanity and after 12 years of working professionally in the non-profit world the Interface Foundation was born.

As most of you know last year Interface came to life.  The Interface Foundation is a 501(c)3 private foundation whose mission is to leverage the power of business and celebrity to bring attention to high impact organizations working to accomplish one of the eight Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2000.

There is no greater peace than knowing your life’s mission!  With Interface I work 24/7 in doing all in my power to get humanity to help humanity!  Each and everyone of us can contribute in some way & I am here to guide the philanthropic ship of Interface to the ultimate destinations where high impact philanthropic initiatives will change countless lives.  Eradicating extreme poverty & hunger (850 million people suffer fromt the tragedy of hunger).  Allowing every child in the world to receive primary education (presently 125 million children don’t go to primary school).  Promoting gender equality & empowering women.  Reducing child mortality.  Improving maternal health.  Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases.  Ensuring environmental sustainability.

In a very short time we have seen hundreds, thousands of people come together to learn about Interface partner organizations, we have seen donations of time, money & products, and equally as big we have seen people spread the Interface mission!  It is a testament to the power of Interface.  Choose your goal & we will help you support it!!!

I have to give huge thanks to the business community and it’s true philanthropic leaders like Steve Luczo from Seagate, Brent Bishop, Josh James of Omniture, the famed music video director Hype Williams, Randy Blosil of Xango, Alex Hoffmann of Nu Skin, Brandon Fugal of Coldwell Utah, Bernadette Turner of QVC, Darren Dixon, Charlie Walk President of Epic Records, Brent Bolthouse of SBE, Bryan Ferre of Cultivate Ideas, Andrea Donsky, Jim Evans of Xactware,  Jason Deere, Maggie Biggar of Fortis Films, Lisa Spackman, Joel Sybrowski, Jeron Paul of V Spring, Bernadette Hill, Lisette Sand-Freedman of Shadow PR, Jessica Weitz, Dee Murthy of Five Four Clothing, famed music producer Harvey Mason JR, Lisa Nelson of ICAP, Joe “3H” Weinberger, Cynthia Garrett, Kirk Lee of Intuit. 

And I have to set the record straight here after being asked a million times if celebrities are truly engaged in causes because of their own heart or is it a PR move?  Well after being involved with some of the biggest names in the world, I have to say regardless of the celebrity’s initial reason for getting involved I have text message, emails, voice messages, & hand-written thank you notes that show they can’t wait for the next opportunity to serve humanity.  With that I want to thank a few now by giving them a “shout out” — Jeremy Piven of Entourage, Vanessa Williams, Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty, Jesse Metcalfe, Lance Bass,  Sheila E,  Sandra Bullock, Shannon Elizabeth, Tom Higginson of the Plain White T’s, Terri Seymour of Extra, Edison Chen, Paul Wall, Paris Hilton, Marla Maples, Patrick Muldoon, Blake Lewis from American Idol, Michael Moloney from Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, Laura Harring, artist Paul Rusconi, Miss USA Rachel Smith, and Billy Bush from Access Hollywood to name a few.

Paris Hilton Using Her Voice For Philanthropic Good

Paris Hilton Using Her Voice For Philanthropic Good

Let’s continue to come together to change the world.  The goals are simple.  The mission is pure.  Remember what the poet June Jordan taught us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.