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Sunday
Jan112015

Want to Ditch the Traditional Travel Experience? MEET: Marcela Fernandez, Co-Founder of ON BOARD

Marcela FernandezThis January, I had the opportunity to talk with Marcela. What a way to start the New Year! Marcela is full of passion and has had experiences most of us have only dreamed of.

Marcela hails from Medellín, Colombia but has lived in Canada, Spain, France, Italy, and the United States. Her favorite place to live? Obviously, Italy! She lived in Palermo, Sicily for a year. Part of what inspired her to start ON BOARD was the work she did there.

“I was doing a volunteer year with a catholic movement called Regnum Christi and my role was to develop a program called ‘Angelo per un Giorno’ (angel for a day). The way locals engaged with the program was a mind blowing experience and a beautiful reward. The people I met are still my family today. They teach me how to discover who I really am and going back to visit them is always a reminder of the person I want to be.”

ON BOARD, just four months old, is a “mobile outdoor classroom." Basically, the philosophy behind ON BOARD is that you can’t learn by staying put; the world is a classroom, and travel is the most authentic way of learning.

Marcela emphasizes that ON BOARD is not a travel agency: “We are a community of travelers, of people wanting to become life-long learners, willing to cross the threshold of their respective comfort zones to become their best selves. We don't sell packages; we create unforgettable experiences. We are not guides; we are facilitators of an inner journey that will be translated into an incredible life changing experience.”

Camilo Russi, Co-Founder of ON BOARDMarcela and her co-founder, Camilo Russi, created ON BOARD because they couldn’t find a program like it. Marcela left her conventional educational path and “wanted to learn while traveling and at the same time be able to create a sustainable impact.” When she discovered that the experience she was looking for wasn’t out there, she didn’t give up. Instead, ON BOARD was born!

Marcela has learned a lot from starting ON BOARD, but most importantly, she’s discovered the importance of collaboration. “We have received lots of support from the traveling and education world that could be seen as ‘competitors.’ However, many of them have become mentors, always giving us a thumbs up, supporting us the way they can, spreading the word or giving advice.”

Marcela and Camilo have high hopes for the future of ON BOARD. They hope to expand to other countries. “Ideally,” Marcela says, “they [will] invite us to create the ON BOARD experience in and around their countries.”

Interested in joining the ON BOARD community in Colombia? You will need to answer a set of questions, go through a Skype interview, and pay an initial deposit of 500 USD. Apply here!

 

Read about MovingWorlds, another travel company with a purpose!

 

SAMANTHA DUNCAN

@SamanthaADuncan

Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is the Content Editor at MISSION.tv.

 

Thursday
Jan012015

Lake Baikal, the Pearl of Siberia, In Trouble

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake, stretches nearly 650 kilometres through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border.

The lake lies in a cleft where Asia is literally splitting apart, the beginnings of a future ocean. More than a kilometre and a half deep at its most profound, and with layer of sediment reaching over six kilometres, the lake’s cold, oxygen-rich waters are filled with bizarre life-forms.

Completely surrounded by mile-high mountains, which are snow-capped for most of the year, Lake Baikal is a place of beauty.

The mountains remain a haven for wild animals, and many of the small villages on the shores of the lake are still outposts of tranquillity and self-reliance in the remote Siberian ‘taiga’ or forest. It is also home to Buryat tribes who live on the eastern side of the lake, where they rear goats, camels, cattle, and sheep.

The isolated settlement of Severobaykalsk, from which the photograph above was taken, is located on a plateau at the northern end of Lake Baikal at the mouth of the Tyya River.

To the west Severobaykalsk is surrounded by the Baikal Mountains, and to the northeast by the Stanovoy Range. The closest town to is Ust-Kut, more than 260 kilometers away.

ALASTAIR HUMPREYS: Mountain Microadventure

Often known as “the Pearl of Siberia,” Lake Baikal drew investors from the tourist industry as energy revenues sparked an economic boom.

The lake is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, more than two-thirds of which cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

Above you see the Vega Gull or East Siberian Gull, Larus vegae, a large gull which breeds in North-east Asia, on the lake shore.

In recent months, Russian ecologists have raised environmental concerns and warned that Lake Baikal is starting to turn into a swamp.

Tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and transport boats is being unwillingly dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake, resulting in the growth of alien water plants, which are now starting to fill the lake, water-logging it and threatening its unique ecology.

MEET: Leo Rising, Yoga Teacher Who Traveled to Kenya with Africa Yoga Project

Often the camps do pass on their waste to special organizations, but the disposal vehicles often don’t reach the facilities and instead end up dumping the waste into rivers that flow into the lake, or into the lake itself. Meanwhile, ships, boats, yachts, and other vessels produce 25,000 tons of liquid waste annually, but only 1,600 of them end up at the proper disposal facilities, according to the head of a local NGO, Baikal Environmental Wave.

These new troubles come after an almost two-decade battle to close a major polluter of the lake: Baikal Pulp and Paper mill. In December 2013, it was finally shut down after 47 years of dumping effluent into the lake.

This region of Siberia experiences more sunshine than anywhere else in Russia. However, even in summer, the waters of the lake are quite cold, normally between 8 and 9°C, though it can reach 15°C in the bays.

In historical Chinese texts, Lake Baikal was known simply as the “North Sea,” and little was known to Europeans about the lake until Russia expanded into the area in the 17th century. The first Russian explorer to reach Lake Baikal was Kurbat Ivanov in 1643.

Today, many centuries on, this bio-diverse lake is of exceptional value to evolutionary science, and many communities live on its shores. I hope that Lake Baikal’s beautiful environment is protected for generations to come.

Learn more about what is being done for Lake Baikal.

Marina Rikhvanova's Quest to Save Lake Bakal

Manta Trust's Conservation in Yap

 

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO MAPTIA.

 

PETR JAN JURACKA

@PetrJanJuracka

Petr is a professional photographer and a PhD student of limnology and microphotography. Since a young age, he has been in love with nature.

 

 

Monday
Nov242014

MEET: Mark Horoszowski, Co-Founder of MovingWorlds

Mark has a Master's in Accounting, but his true call is with MovingWorlds, a social impact organization addressing the global talent gap. Their online platform and community connects people who want to travel and volunteer their expertise directly, or "experteer," with social impact organizations around the world.

What motivated you to quit everything to travel and volunteer?

I was looking to grow my career into a role that made an impact. I knew that global exposure would be beneficial regardless of direction, and figured the only way to really learn how my skills could be used to create an impact was to get real experience. I looked at the Peace Corps, fellowships, and more, but nothing had the right combination of time and skills... so I decided to created my own "fellowship" by traveling and volunteering for a year.

What inspired you to start MovingWorlds? Was there a specific moment that motivated its creation? 

It's interesting... it actually took me a long time recognize the market here. In fact, I can't even take credit for it. I was keeping a simple blog documenting my experience and people started asking me for tips how to find free, skills-based volunteering opportunities. But the idea of trying to support a movement came at a serendipitous meeting with my now co-founder, Derk Norde. We connected over our passion to help address the "talent gap", one of the leading barriers to progress, and both saw first-hand how the application of the right skills at the right time could really catalyze the growth of smaller organizations. And that, at any given moments, thousands of people were volunteering their skills overseas, but primarily in manual projects that they were paying to engage in.

How do you define “experteering,” and why is it important to social impact?

Experteering = Volunteering your skills. The "talent gap" has been identified as one of the leading barriers to progress. By Experteering, you can help the right organization access the right skills at the right time to scale, create an impact, and create jobs. As it turns out, lots of people are going abroad to volunteer, but they're working on manual projects and many times even doing more harm than good. By educating people to only engage in locally-driven, skills-based projects we can truly make a difference.

How is the MovingWorlds experience different from the experience at other social impact organizations?

We're a curated marketplace. We find, verify, and prepare organizations from around the world that are looking to host skilled volunteers. We then work like a matching site connecting people that want to go Experteering with these organizations. Since we measure long-term impact of engagements, we also provide Experteering resources, training, and personal support to increase the quality of every match. Different than a set program, you decide what project you want to support, how much time you can give, and when you go... It's like a "choose your own adventure", but backed by a global support team.

What has been the greatest challenge in creating MovingWorlds?

Creating a sustainable impact is what we measure against, and supporting that while we scale is our biggest challenge. Going Experteering is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for a lot of people and we want to ensure that people have a great experience AND create a sustainable impact. So far, everyone that has followed our matching and planning process has become a huge champion, so we're becoming more and more confident in our model. But as we go from 100's of matches to 1,000 's, we're looking to keep innovating to support high-impact matches.

How has starting MovingWorlds changed you personally? 

Every week, we here incredible stories of people that are putting their greatest asset - their mind - to work for common good. It's an endless source of inspiration, and powerful reminder that, as Harvey Firestone puts it "You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself". 

What advice can you offer to others trying to start their own company? 

Realize that your initial idea is probably wrong, but the passion fueling it is your biggest asset. Use a human-centered design and/or Lean Startup approach to validate your ideas and build your business, but keep your mission front and center when encountering difficult decisions. For us, every time we've taken the time to better connect and understand our users, and used that information to make decisions that are in the benefit of our Experteers and Hosting Organizations, not our bottom-line, we've been rewarded. 

 

SAMANTHA DUNCAN

@SamanthaADuncan

Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is currently interning at MISSION.tv and Tribeca Film Center.

Friday
Nov212014

Give the Gift of Giving This Holiday

Looking for the perfect gift for a friend or family member? Want it to also promote social good? That's a tough combination, but look no more! Our holiday gift guide is finally here!

 

1. Charcoal Alpaca Beanie from Zady ~ $95

This winter is going to be cold, so why not get your loved one something practical? This beanie is naturally and indulgently soft and warm, and Zady is committed to products with solid construction, the best materials, the lowest environmental footprint, and the highest labor standards.

 

2. Holiday 4-Bar Collection by Theo Chocolate ~ $16

This delicious chocolate, known more affectionately as the "snowman" bar, comes in a pack of four and has a unique coconut mint flavor. Theo Chocolate brings out the best in the cocoa bean by celebrating and strengthening connections with Congo.

 

3. Off-the-shoulder Sweater by Le Dessein ~ $75

After a long day at work, your friends are ready to curl up in something like this. This cozy sweater helps girls attend school in Liberia. Le Dessein believes that women have an irrevocable right to be educated.

 

4. Food Life Hope Men's Baseball Tee from Sevenly ~ $32

This poly blend tee is handdrawn and a reminder that food is a blessing that nurtures life. At Sevenly, $7 from each purchases goes to a charity. This tee helps restore the lives of sex trafficking survivors. 

 

5. Find Your Mission Trip ~ prices vary

This is the gift that keeps giving. Fund a volunteer trip for a loved one and have a permanent impact his or her or her life! From surfing with kids in Cape Town to working on an alpaca ranch, there's a trip for everyone. Help your friend or family member make a lasting impact on the world.

 

SAMANTHA DUNCAN

@SamanthaADuncan

Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is currently interning at MISSION.tv and Tribeca Film Center.

 

Wednesday
Nov192014

On the Socially Minded Industry...

Le Dessein's primary objective is to provide their customers with stunning pieces of clothing, which reflect power, confidence, and compassion. Consistent with their fashion values and vision, it is their company’s social objective to empower girls in developing countries by supporting their access to education. They donate 20% of their profits to girls’ school tuition in Liberia. The following was written by Eric Coly, the founder of Le Dessein.

This essay pertains to the type of life that our girls had and its amelioration once we instituted our program. The second part discusses the current overall state of the Socially Responsible industry and its future growth.

The meaning of our existence in this socially minded industry, vis a vis our company’s ethos comes to fruition when we have succeeded in providing the opportunity of an education for the girls we are working with. The girls who previously were subject to a patriarchally led environment, where their value was discussed, determined and assigned by socially accepted constructs entirely established by men, had developed little notion of self esteem. Domestic violence, female genital cutting and an acute sense of discrimination represented only a fraction of all the ills young girls were exposed to…What our effort is meant to do is not only shield these young girls from those socially, culturally and economically debilitating acts, but also and more importantly plant the seeds of a future empowered life – where the notion of “self-ownership” starts becoming ubiquitous.

The investment into these underprivileged girls’ education through their own artistic participation starts causing a rift in the highly and long held belief that their lives would be subject to the same predictable patterns of an early school dropout, followed by marriage and the bearing of a number of children at still quite a young age. This “unfulfilled” life is an all too common picture that has pervaded the developing world for very long. And our effort is just meant to hand the reins back to them. 

CUBA: Havana's Smile

We are fortunate to live in an era characterized by the birth and recent growth of the Socially Responsible Industry – although some would probably argue for a longer tenure. Nevertheless, Toms Shoes, ubiquitously known for the 1 for 1 program where a shoe is given to a person in need for every one bought, helped cement the nascent growth of this movement. Indeed with yearly revenues north of $225M, Toms recently ceded with half of its whole equity to a Private Equity Fund out of Connecticut for over $300 million - after a bidding war that included a number of other financial institutions… Seldom have we seen a shoe company or even retail company achieve this much success in less than 10 years – even less in this type of totally unchartered market space…This type of appetite, along with the emergence of hundreds of companies over the last couple of years (ours included), fortifies the belief that we are heading towards an era where the Socially Minded industry will no longer be the exception in the marketplace but eventually the norm.

One of the main anchors and pillar of this movement will consist of this new millennial generation – by virtue of large numbers, conviction, and purchasing power. This situation will be even more compounded by a similar or even greater growth rate, some would argue, internationally. As with any new industry though, growing pains can be long lasting and sometimes even debilitating.

Fortunately, we have the benefit of having witnessed a number of successes and failed attempts in both the traditional Corporate and Non-Profit worlds. Even though we principally all abide by a number of similar rules and agendas meant to ascertain our existence and survival, I would wish that ”we” did not forget the essential premise of our mission – which in a large sense theoretically has a purpose bigger than ourselves – and let that sentiment fuel and drive our efforts, and integrity.

 

ERIC COLY

@Le_Dessein

Eric is the founder and CEO of Le Dessien. Eric grew up in Dakar, Senegal, where he was influenced by his mother's passion, drive, and fashion sense at a young age. His mother would eventually inspire him to start Le Dessein. He attended UCLA Business School and began his career in investment banking.

Wednesday
Oct222014

Education of Girls in the Developing World & How Le Dessein Helps

If women in the developing countries completed secondary education, 3 million children under the age of 5 would be saved every year.

This unfortunate statistic by the I.M.F. is just one the many plights young girls and women in general are facing in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

Here are some more startling facts:

1) More than 115 million 6 to 12-year old children are not in school in the developing world; three-fifths of them are girls.

2) When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.

3) A woman with six or more years of education is more likely to seek prenatal care, assisted childbirth, and postnatal care, reducing the risk of maternal and child mortality and illness.

4) When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

5) Today, the U.S. invests in its future by spending about $6,800 a year per primary student on public education. In Iran the figure is $156 per student per year, in India $64, in Laos $30, and in Rwanda, $30.

6) An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.

Young girls in developing nations have not been given the attention they highly deserve in education. Yet they have the undeniable power to help uplift their communities out of poverty through education and the earning power it will generate. 

Through fashion, art, and socially responsible actions, we’ve designed a way to get involved. Le Dessein is a fashion line aimed at funding the education of underprivileged girls around the world by featuring their designs on our fashion. We then contribute 25% of our proceeds to the girls’ yearly school tuition.

The nature of our effort is not just monetary – our ultimate vision is to create independence and freedom through the empowerment of our girls. A critical component of this whole vision being self esteem – we were adamant on making sure that our girls would be intimately tied to the creation of the designs which would end up on garments. The success of their artistic journey through their participation and engagement would create a profound sense of OWNERSHIP, which is essential in affecting one’s self-esteem. Indeed, we wanted to demark ourselves from the traditional form of aid towards developing countries, which has consisted mainly of charity, and instead have “ownership” be the driving factor in maintaining this self-sustaining endeavor.

Lake Baikal, Pearl of Siberia, In Trouble

Creating an impact in these young girls’ lives will take collective effort from various committed parties. Inculcating the notion of “Ownership” though noble, can be an arduous task and required collaboration. And we’ve had the fortune and pleasure of being aligned with the More Than Me Foundation – “The More Than Me Foundation is on a mission to make sure education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, define the lives of the most vulnerable girls from the West Point Slum of Liberia.” Its motto is: “When she graduates, she will decide what comes next for her life.”


Indeed, for our girls, this is about reclaiming and redefining their own sense of self. For far too long, girls and women from the developing world have been subjected to a strongly patriarchal society – a society where their “value” was unilaterally decided by men – So “Ownership” to us is simply the final destination defined by an effort that consists of arming our girls and presenting them with opportunities susceptible to make this journey a worthy one.


Our fashion line is elegant and sophisticated and aims at serving a market that for too long has had to sacrifice quality and design for purpose and mission.

 

Learn more about Le Dessein.

Learn more about the More Than Me Foundation.

Read about Zady, another clothing company with a conscience.

 

ERIC COLY

@Le_Dessein

Eric is the founder and CEO of Le Dessien. Eric grew up in Dakar, Senegal, where he was influenced by his mother's passion, drive, and fashion sense at a young age. His mother would eventually inspire him to start Le Dessein. He attended UCLA Business School and began his career in investment banking.


 


Wednesday
Oct082014

MEET: Jerri Chou, Founder of The Feast

Jerri ChouJerri was named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business. In 2008, she started The Feast, a two day summit for remarkable innovators, leaders, and creatives, where brilliant social impact solutions are born from creative collaborations across multiple disciplines. It will take place October 9-11 in Brooklyn this year.

What inspired you to create The Feast? Was there any specific moment that motivated its creation?

We had built a community of highly talented, inspired and passionate people and that community was growing across the country. I quit my day-job to figure out what my role in supporting this community was. We created the conference because there wasn’t yet a place for people like us, a place that could bring together leading thinkers and doers to talk about changing the world, and to do so across multiple disciplines. We all brought different perspective to the table, whether we were in business, philanthropy, creative fields, you name it.

How has creating The Feast changed you personally?

That’s a big question. Creating The Feast has changed me in so many ways; I’ve learned what it takes to start a company, and I’ve developed my business savvy and focus along the way. The Feast has taught me how to define value, as well as what impact can mean (what it takes to create large-scale change, but that you can also create impact through small actions and big ideas). At the same time, focusing too much on the business has also really made me understand the importance of community and true connections, and that having the goal of a well-rounded life is actually a better way to measure success, because it defines the structures that you set into place for your business and yourself. Throughout this change, I’ve also become much more zen about everything. There are so many changes and unexpected hurdles that you encounter when you start something like this; I’ve learned to appreciate my role in this world with grace and faith that it will all happen as it should, all while doing my best to build something great that will impact as many people as possible. I’ve been thinking a lot about power over force in particular lately. Throughout it all, I will continue to evolve as a person, with the best yet to come. 

What do you think separates The Feast from other conferences aimed at creating a better world?

The Feast has been described as an art project, a burlesque show, a populist CGI, and so many other fun things, and it has that feeling more than other conferences. We are about making and doing so there’s an energy in the room that’s truly palpable. At The Feast 2014, there will be an artist creating a boat out of the conference trash that he’s going to row from Red Hook to Battery Park City. There is a hardware hackathon for Red Hook in support of FEMA. There is no shortage of people offering tangible feedback to one another other and creating remarkable scenarios for the future. I don’t know of any other conference that is that action-oriented and brings together so many different viewpoints and stakeholders in order to collaborate for meaningful change. 

Also, I recently really started thinking about the interactions between people at The Feast, and unlike any other conference, that’s really what it’s all about. It’s about the idea that every individual is incredibly powerful and that if we unlock that unique insight, talent, and resources in support of each other, we can really better the world. Our attendees inspire each other to do more, better. 

Has The Feast grown the way you expected it to? Were there any surprises?

Not at all. I had no idea what it would become. When we first started, it was about 100 people in a room where we covered the projector with note-cards while we introduced the next speaker. Over the last few years, we’ve had everyone from the CEO of MTV to Arcade Fire grace our stage and community. Not only that, The Feast Worldwide continues to inspire me. I just got an email from our group in Kuala Lumpur that the Feast in 2012 resulted in the launch of Malaysia's first social incubator in 2013 in partnership with British Council (one of the attendees of the dinner) and the incubation of 6 social innovators. That just inspires me so much. 

The venue: Pioneer Works Center for the Arts in Red Hook, BrooklynThe impact has been organic. The only reason we started the Worldwide program was because when we announced a new format in 2012, people from around the world emailed us, asking how they could get involved. Now we’re in 38 cities. The most important thing we’ve been able to do is act as a catalyst for people and offer them a frame. I would have thought that our impact would have come from the projects that we’ve taken on, but it’s not the top-down stuff that’s driven the most change, it’s the bottom-up.

As far as surprises, I think it’s been interesting to witness our role in starting the “Social Innovation” movement; we can never stop evolving, and we’ve adjusted so many different facets of our conference over the past three years to stay ahead of the curve. In terms of infrastructure, The Feast hasn’t grown as quickly as I would have thought, but I think that’s going to change very soon!  

What is the greatest obstacle you have faced since starting The Feast?

There have been a ton of obstacles -- ranging from the nature of The Feast as well as the business model -- but I think a lot of the obstacles stem from myself, to be honest. I’m a very hard worker, and very strong willed. That can be an immense asset, particularly when you’ve got a big vision, but it can also be a weakness. I’ve had some incredible successes, but I can also be hesitant to accept help and advice. I realize that changing the world isn’t a solo job, and I’m getting better at involving those whose strengths compliment my weaknesses, in order to help drive the kind of change I know The Feast can create.  

What advice can you offer to people trying to make tangible changes in their communities?

Just start. You’ll be really surprised what you’re capable of. I think that people have this fear that they’ll fail, or that it won’t be as great as they expected, or that they’ll lose everything. A good friend of mine once said, “Have you ever failed at something you’ve really put everything you have behind?” The answer is no. If you’re resourceful, open to help, curious, and passionate, chances are that if you start small, you’ll be able to accomplish something. Just start small. Test things out, welcome help and feedback, and build from there. Even if all you do is inspire someone else on your team, a friend, or community member to be a better person, that is a win and something that never would have happened if you hadn’t started.

Attend The Feast.

Watch Jerri Chou's TEDx Talk.

 

SAMANTHA DUNCAN

@SamanthaADuncan

Samantha is an Art History and Visual Arts major at Columbia University. She is currently the Content Intern for MISSION.tv and is also interning at Matthew Studios. She has a passion for travel and helping communities.