Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fairmont Senior High School Students Join Nuru International’s Efforts To Fight Extreme Poverty in Kuria, Kenya

Back in February, I had the privilege to witness a first in the short history of Nuru International. I visited a high school in north central West Virginia that had organized an entire week of events dedicated to raising awareness about Nuru’s work as well as raising funds to further our efforts on the ground in Kuria, Kenya. To my knowledge this is the first time a school anywhere in the country has dedicated an entire week to ‘being Nuru’ and, as a West Virginian, it makes me extremely proud to know that this school is in my home state of West Virginia.

Over the course of the week, students organized a variety of activities to raise funds and to ‘be light’ on their campus. (Nuru is a kiswahili word that means light and has a connotation of hope.) The week started with me visiting the school for an all school assembly to talk to students about the issue of etreme poverty, what Nuru does, Nuru's West Virginia roots, and how young people just like them are getting in the fight to end extreme poverty together with Nuru.  That same day, students and faculty were encouraged to wear their “We Bears Do Care” Nuru Club T-shirts, and wrote statistics on clothes pins and pinned  these to one another to raise awareness around the school about global extreme poverty.  The week progressed with students being able to buy glow in the dark bracelets, raise funds to participate in a ‘bucket walk’ , and culminated last Saturday with a 5K race on the campus of Fairmont State University.

To me, one of the most amazing aspects of the week was the fact that it was largely coordinated through the efforts of one teacher and a handful of students. Mrs. Adrin Fisher, an English teacher (and also a past graduate of Fairmont Senior High School and West Virginia University), helped her students form a club, get permission for the events of the week, and mentored them along the way. As a result of their efforts, more and more students and teachers began getting involved with the events of the week, and together they had a massive impact.

Over the course of the week, over 200 people joined Nuru International’s fan page on Facebook, and these students together raised over $2700 to support Nuru’s work on the ground in Kuria Kenya. I am so proud of these young people. As Mrs. Fisher noted, too often, young people from small town America are discouraged from believing they can do something really significant to make a difference in this world.  The fact that Nuru was started by Jake Harriman, a person from rural Appalachia (Preston County, West Virginia), really resonated with the students and served as an example that they also could step up and make a significant impact on our world.

I hope other schools around this state, country, and world, will follow the example of these students, and organize their own unique events and fundraisers to inspire even more people to join us in this fight so that one day, we can say that together we were the generation who ended extreme poverty, and helped people everywhere have choices and the opportunity to determine their future.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nuru International Partners With Sevenly Clothing To Help Families in Kuria West, Kenya

Last fall, you might remember a blog post I wrote about a clothing company called Sevenly and their partnership with Nuru. Well, this week, Sevenly partnered with Nuru again.

Each week, Sevenly partners with a different nonprofit that is helping people around the world in areas varying from hunger alleviation, to human trafficking.  They have partnered with organizations including International Justice Mission, CompassionInternational, and Charity: Water. We are grateful to be among the organizations that they have invited to partner with them on multiple occasions, and we are even more grateful for the funds that they are raising through their business model this week that allow us to further our work.

When Sevenly designs a shirt, they design it for a limited run. The shirt Sevenly is creating for Nuru will only be available for one week, and as of my writing this post, there are just under two days left to purchase this design. Sevenly donates $7 from every shirt sale to the cause of that particular week, and because they have a quality product, they are able to generate a large donation in a relatively fast amount of time.

I love this model for a couple of reasons. Number one, it is effective. Since Monday, Sevenly has raised over $11,000 for Nuru through selling t-shirts. My second reason for loving this model is for the reminder it brings. You see, often we underestimate the power of a small donation. But several small donations added together make a huge impact.

Last Sunday, I was able to share with a group of folks from my home state of West Virginia (Almost Heaven), the amount of money they have raised over the last four years as a result of their small monthly contributions to Nuru. It is absolutely amazing to consider how quickly these contributions add up. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking your contribution is too small. Everybody has a contribution to make toward ending extreme poverty, and we put these contributions together, more and more lives are changed for the better.

So consider buying a quality shirt or hoodie this week from Sevenly and putting another $7 toward the amount they are raising for Nuru this week. And beyond this week, consider making a recurring donation to Nuru. Twenty-nine dollars per month (less than a dollar a day) can help an entire family lift itself out of extreme poverty. Together, we are ending extreme poverty, one community at a time!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Creating A Bu$iness You’ll Love: Top Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets

Toward the end of 2011, I received a copy of a new book in the mail. The book was Creating A Bu$iness You’ll Love: Top Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets edited by Mark Chimsky-Lustig. The book features essays from a wide array of entrepreneurs including Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist. One entrepreneur on the cover of this book caught my eye in particular though—Jake Harriman of Nuru International.

I’d like to give a review of this book that was completely unbiased, but because I know Jake fairly well, that will be a bit difficult. So I’m balancing this post between the book as a whole and Jake’s contribution.

As a whole, I was really impressed with the book. The essay authors and their styles vary considerably, and make this book a very enjoyable book to read either as a whole, or by reading an individual essay.  I’d have to say the most creative essay in the book was Tony Hsieh’s “Everything I Know About Business I Learned From Poker”—It was extremely brief, fun, and engaging.

The book consists of several chapters that include a brief author bio and then a short essay about some of the pivotal decisions they made that helped them  to start and grow successful businesses. As I mentioned before, some of the authors include folks like the founders of Starbucks and Craigslist. I think it is wonderful that so many have contributed a nugget of wisdom from their experience as a contribution to this book.

Separate from the book as a whole, I love the fact that this book has given Jake an opportunity to share some of the experiences that served as the engine for what would become Nuru as well as sharing some of the challenges he has overcome in seeing this dream become a reality (including contracting malaria twice, getting struck by lightning, and being attacked by thieves). At the close of his chapter, he offers five practical pieces of advice for anyone who wants to start a business or social enterprise.

One piece of advice in particular that I appreciated was Jake’s suggestion to develop a “getting out of bed” answer. What drives you to get up each morning and do the work that you do? What compels you to push forward. I think the reason that this particular passage struck me is that I believe that this is the key to participating in any endeavor. When times get tough, what is going to motivate you to keep pushing  ahead? What is going to be your reason to not give up, when giving up is the easy route?

There’s a ton more in the book, across all of the essays, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy, and give all of these essays a read. This book would be a great inspiration for pushing your dreams forward and taking them from ideas to reality.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Jumping Rope Into Fitness

As 2011 was coming to an end, I found myself, among other things, considering ways I could maintain my fitness in a low cost, time effective way.  A few years back, I had purchased a jump rope, but could never really get started jumping because I was looking for the perfect surface to jump on.

Rather than continue the search, I thought back to my childhood, and jumping on sidewalks and gym floors and varied surfaces. And as a result, I started jumping rope in my gravel driveway as well as on a couple of different streets at Lake Floyd & in Parkersburg over the holidays last december.

The first day I jumped rope, I think I set a goal of jumping 500 times. I thought I was going to have a heart-attack after 100 jumps. (So I took a break after each set of 100 jumps, and made my way step-wise to 500.)

What I discovered along this journey is that jumping rope is definitely not as easy as it was growing up on 15th Street in Parkersburg and chasing each other & playing tag as we raced through double-dutch jumping.  It was not nearly as easy as it seemed when I participated in one of my first fundraising events a Jump Rope for Heart at Mckinley Elementrary school. And it was definitely not as easy as it was when I tried out for the jump rope team that later became known as the River City Skippers (I didn’t make the cut).

Instead, I found that jumping rope is a challenge and that a little bit goes a long way in burning calories and improving cardiovascular fitness. After a few minutes of jumping rope, my heart rate can get up to 170-180 bpm (similar to running sprints or running longer distances at near max effort). I can get about 120-130 jumps in per minute, and I can also carry a jump rope with me anywhere I travel.

In essence, I can pack an intense cardioworkout into my day with 5-10 minutes of jumping rope (in 1-2 minute intervals), and I can take the equipment with me anywhere. I think the idea came to me when I saw the rope, and I had seen a few of those infomercials advertising the latest in exercise equipment (and known of a few people who made purchases but failed to use them). I feel like any health or fitness plan needs to travel well, and should be able to happen at a relatively low cost.

So far, I have a little over five months of jumping and building a baseline with the rope. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to jump start cardio and fitness, I recommend a jump rope. Or even if you are looking for a way to vary already existing workouts or a way to take a simple workout on the road, jumping rope is a great form of exercise.

My one recommendation is to go slow. Unless you are incredibly fit already, you aren’t going to be able to jump rope in the same way you did as a child. You’ve put on weight, and your body is not accustomed to the impact. The cardio workout is intense, but it is also an impact workout, and as such I recommend entering in slowly and build a strong base. Of course, in saying this, I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy with a jump rope who is trying to maintain and improve my health.