Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for November, 2015

#100ForKoka List of Causes (51-100)

The explanation for this list… link

Day 51: November 6, 2015: Feminist Majority Foundation

Recent press coverage of Emma Watson and Malala Yousef embracing the word feminist, and the release of Gloria Steinem’s new book reminded me how much work there is still to do to create equal opportunity for women around the world.

The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) develops bold, new strategies and programs to advance women’s equality, non-violence, economic development, and, most importantly, empowerment of women and girls in all sectors of society.

It’s frustrating to realize that many of the issues I organized around at the women’s center on my college campus 20 years ago are still challenges today, including campus rape, pay discrimination, access to healthcare and birth control.

It’s heartening to see a new generation taking on these issues. I give to Feminist Majority Foundation in the hopes that more progress is made before our daughters start college.


Day 52: November 7, 2015: NephCure Kidney International

Among the many causes that we’ve given to consistently over the years, there are a few that have impacted several of our friends. Perhaps the one that has been heartbreakingly consistent is kidney disease. It has struck a close friend of mine from college, a close friend of Cherise’s from college, other good friends that we’ve made in the last couple of years, and even my favorite basketball player of all-time, Alonzo Mourning. In many of these cases, it is the children of the friends that are affected and creates a incredibly challenging lifestyle for the entire families. We’re not only inspired by these families that fight through those challenges, but also recognize that they universally throw their support behind the Nephcure Foundation as a critical in battling these diseases and give future families as well as their own hope for the future. Nephcure has been focused on researching the cause of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and Nephrotic Syndrome as well as managing care and searching for a cure.

Day 53: November 8, 2015:

Spending a Sunday watching football is still one of my favorite pastimes, but it’s hard not to be a little sensitive to the potential damage that players are doing to themselves. The frightening stories of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson are a reminder that the crushing hits that we cheer for can have potentially adverse affect on the players that sustain those hits. The Brain Trauma Foundation conducts clinical research to provide solutions and raise public awareness and understanding about concussion and traumatic brain injuries. By educating healthcare professionals on the immediate care for coma patients, BTF furthers this commitment and estimate that thousands of lives could be saved each year in the U.S., as well as millions worldwide, and more could be spared life-long disabilities.

Day 54: November 9, 2015 The Akshayapatra Foundation

In honor of Diwali, it seemed appropriate to give to a cause that supports the challenges going on in India, my father’s original home. Upon the recommendation of my cousin (and one of my father’s favorite nephews), we give to Akshaya Patra. They raise funds and awareness to eradicate child hunger and promote education for under-served children in India. They are the largest NGO-run school meal program in the world, serving over 1.4 million children daily in over 10,770 schools from 24 kitchens in ten states in India.

Day 55: November 10, 2015: Movember Foundation USA

OK, I look horrible in a mustache. Even the goatee wasn’t working. But Movember is a terrific way to increase awareness and support research in the area of men’s health, particularly prostrate cancer and testicular cancer (and, as I just learned this year, mental health). It’s a silly way to recognize an important issue. So as I rid myself of my ugly facial hair for the sake of not looking completely ridiculous and make a donation as my white flag to vanity, I think it’s worth calling out this terrific cause and these important issues that often don’t quite get the press of breast cancer or some of the other equally worthy women’s causes.

Day 56: November 11, 2015: Wounded Warrior Project

I’d like to consider myself a pacifist, but that could never diminish the gratitude I have for the men and women that serve on behalf of our country to defend the principles that we hold so dear. So, on Veteran’s Day, we’ve given to the Wounded Warriors Project. Their efforts in assisting wounded veterans on their immediate needs as well as on their transition back to civilian life fills a void that treats these heroes with the honor worthy of their sacrifices.

Day 57: November 12, 2015: Behavioral Intervention Association

Today we donate to BIA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children diagnosed with Autism and related disorders. Our friend Natalie has just been featured by them, and her strength and bravery is inspirational. We hope this donation helps other kids and families get the life-changing help that made such a difference for her son and for their whole family.


Day 58: November 13, 2015: Robin Hood Foundation

I’ve had New York on the brain today. Not sure if it’s because I need to visit there soon for some business stuff, or been trying to connect with an old friend who lives there, or just a little nostalgia that became my Dad’s adopted “hometown” for 30+ years. Whatever it is, there’s a tremendous organization called the Robin Hood foundation that helps the 1.8 million New Yorkers living in poverty. Robin Hood’s board of directors pays all administrative, fundraising and evaluation costs, so 100% of the donation goes directly to organizations helping New Yorkers in need. As much as I love living in the Bay Area, my heart will always belong to New York and I have my Dad to thank for that. I owe it to his memory to make things better there. And that’s why I give.

Day 59: November 14, 2015: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

As people continually pass judgment about which tragedy is the worst, the fact of the matter is that hundreds of people throughout the world were senselessly murdered and those cities need our help. Whether you stand with France, Kenya, or Lebanon, prayers don’t actually change things. The most inspirational thing I’ve seen is the French were lined up around the corner to give blood. Those of us overseas can’t do that, but we can give. The International Red Cross provides a disaster relief fund for occasions like this.

Day 60: November 15, 2015: CODE2040

Much like gender equity in engineering, promoting minority talent in engineering is an important effort. We’ve given before to Hidden Genius, but CODE2040 also creates access, awareness, and opportunities for top Black and Latino/a engineering talent to ensure their leadership in the innovation economy. Their goal is to ensure that by the year 2040 – when the US will be majority-minority – Blacks and Latino/as are proportionally represented in America’s innovation economy as technologists, investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.

Day 61: November 16, 2015: Fred Hutch

After a weekend trip to Seattle, I thought it’d be appropriate to select a cause that reflects some of the great work being done in our old city. Everyone in Seattle (and many people outside the Pacific Northwest) knows about “Fred Hutch”. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center boasts teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians working together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. They are discovering new ways to detect cancers earlier, when cure rates are highest; developing effective treatments with fewer side effects; and learning how to prevent cancers from growing in the first place. People come from around the world for treatment there and it was always a source of pride during my years in Seattle.

Day 62: November 17, 2015: Reverse The Course

We discovered this story on A Mighty Girl’s facebook page:

After learning about the many girls in developing countries who never have an opportunity to go to school, 12-year-old Mary Grace Henry of Harrison, New York decided that she would help at least one girl get an education. She asked for a sewing machine for her birthday so she could start making headbands to sell to pay for a girl’s school fees. Six years later, Mary Gracehas built a successful hair accessories business and she donates 100% of its profits toward educational opportunities for girls — her 16,000 creations have now funded the education of 66 girls living in extreme poverty.

Robyn and I were looking at the site, and found this photo of one of the girls who benefits from Reverse the Course. Reminds me of Iris.

Robyn says she likes this charity because school is important. I like that we can support a girl who is an entrepreneur, who also supports other girls.


Day 63: November 18, 2015: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Yesterday’s announcement that Charlie Sheen is living with HIV is unfortunate, though his reckless behavior certainly makes him somewhat responsible for his fate. I love Sheen (I’ve seen “Wall Street” and the “Hot Shots” movies many, many times), but as I thought about today’s donation, my sympathies were stronger for those in Africa whose stories are far more tragic. Babies born needlessly tragically born HIV+. Is there anything more heartbreaking?

(RED) was founded in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver to get businesses and people involved in the fight against AIDS. When they started, 1400 kids were born with AIDS every day. It’s now down to 600 and (RED) has played a role in that through their work with corporations as well as The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was inspired by (RED).

Also, of the nearly 37 million people in the world living with HIV, nearly 15 million have access to life-saving treatment that costs as little as 30 cents a day. While this is incredible progress, there’s still got a lot of work to do to ensure that all those who need medication have access to it. Charlie Sheen will get it. This donation is so that those 600 kids will get it and, eventually, that number goes to 0. And that’s why I give…

Day 64: November 19, 2015: BlinkNow

CNN annually honors those who are doing great service to the world as part of their “Heroes” program and this year’s winner is Maggie Doyne, a New Jersey woman who used her babysitting savings to change the lives of hundreds of Nepalese women and children. Yeah, I didn’t believe it either…

After a life-changing backpacking trip to Nepal several years ago, she spent $5,000 in savings from her babysitting days to buy land there and then worked with the community to build a school, a women’s center and the Kopila Valley Children’s Home. Her BlinkNow Foundation supports these efforts (as she says, “in the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference”). These are the people I admire–inspirational selflessness. From one Jerseyite to another, way to go, Maggie!

Day 65: November 20, 2015: Operation Safety Net

Another one from CNN’s “Heroes” program: Over 20 years ago, a doctor named Jim Withers began providing medical care to Pittsburgh’s homeless population. He partnered with street-savvy formerly homeless individuals and, initially dressing as a homeless person, began to make nighttime street rounds in the alleys and under the bridges of the city. Other clinical volunteers joined in and Operation Safety Net was born. They’ve been pioneers in this concept of “Street Medicine”. In the absence of a more humane healthcare system, we’ll depend on these individuals to provide for those in need. Dr. Withers demonstrates everything we should aspire to as human beings. As Iris dreams of being a doctor, her father dreams she’ll use that training to find a path that follows the spirit of this humanity…

Day 66: November 21, 2015: Human Rights Campaign

This summer was a remarkable time for the LGBT community. Whether it was a clerk who wouldn’t serve up marriage licenses or an Olympic Gold Medalist who is now a woman, civil rights for the LGBT community has constantly been in the news. While some of the rhetoric is to be expected (after all, not everyone is open-minded), the fact that prominent politicians and community leaders mocked and ridiculed Caitlyn Jenner and threw extra support behind Kim Davis is a grim reminder that we’re still a long way from taking the stigma away. As the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality.

HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Day 67: November 22, 2015: Peace Corps and Let Girls Learn

52 years ago today, John F. Kennedy was shot & killed in Dallas, TX. I grew up fascinated with the legacy of JFK, from descriptions of “Camelot” to challenging the US to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade (spoiler alert: they did it and inspired the popular business term “moonshot”). But perhaps the most inspirational thing he did was to create the Peace Corps, sending Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers work around the world at the grassroots level toward sustainable change. It’s a wonderful approach to encouraging our young citizens to be global citizens and embrace the world around us instead fearing it (as we seem to be doing of late). In honor of JFK and the Peace Corps, we give to Let Girls Learn, a collaboration between Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps to expand access to education for adolescent girls around the world. It’s a testament to the sustainable change that JFK was able to achieve despite his tragically short time in office.

Day 68: November 23, 2015: Girl Scouts of Northern California

“I’m a girl, and a girl scout, and I like being in girl scouts. We should donate so more girls can be girl scouts and have fun. They will get to earn badges, like i painted to get the painting badge and I’m going to get a pottery badge and I’ll probably be doing pottery for that badge. The whole troop might use their cookie money for tents and camping utensils and get to do something they’ve never done before. Girl scouts work together as a troop and a team.” – Robyn

Day 69: November 24, 2015: March of Dimes

We’ve already given to a pre-mature birth organization (NICU Helping Hands), but there is another organization that came recommended to us on multiple occasions where the work they do is clearly worthy of recognition. The statistics are staggering: 15 million kids will be born prematurely and 1 million of them will die. Even in situations where they survive, the staggering cost of care goes from under $4,500 for a healthy baby and over $54,000 for a child born prematurely. The March of Dimes has been around as long as I can remember, focused on improving these numbers and helping families who are faced with this challenge.

Day 70: November 25, 2015: Friends of Civic Arts Education Foundation

“I chose the Friends of Civic Arts Education Foundation. It gives scholarships to those who don’t have the money to pay for classes. It covers a population of over 750,000 people. I chose it because I think all kids should have the opportunity to take extra classes besides normal school.” – Iris

Day 71: November 26, 2015: Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano

Thanksgiving Food
A poem by Iris

On Thanksgiving we eat turkey
I want everyone to see
Beautiful things on Thanksgiving Day
And they all should say “Yay!”
Because they have food.

I want to donate to the food bank so that everyone can have food. This is especially special on Thanksgiving, when people give thanks and usually have turkey and other delicious foods. Food will be something people can give thanks for. -Iris

Day 72: November 27, 2015: Moneythink

I met Ted Gonder, the co-founder and CEO of Moneythink five years ago as part of my time as a Kauffman Education Fellow. He was a student at the University of Chicago, but I was floored by his polished demeanor and his wisdom beyond his years. But when he shared his vision for Moneythink, I was truly blown away. He recognized this critical need for financial literacy for young kids, and that this education could come from college students paired with these kids as mentors to impart these critical life skills. At the time, they had a few chapters with promising progress. I remember encouraging Ted to go for it and make it something bigger. While I’m sure he had many people sharing this advice, I still take a level of pride in seeing their success and knowing how it all started and how far it comes. I applaud the Moneythink team and look forward to continued success from them and from Ted, who continues to impress me as I watch his growth from afar.

Day 73: November 28, 2015: Planned Parenthood Action

Why? Because that’s what you do to bullies that attempts to intimidate you into a behavior through violence and fear. You gain resolve. You push back. You say “no f–king way”. You do what this organization has been doing for years and will continue to do. You keep the doors open.

Day 74: November 29, 2015: Officer Garrett Swasey Memorial Fund

Officer Swasey, who was killed in the line of duty as a part of the attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado, is a reminder of bravery of those who are asked to protect and serve. For all the bad publicity for police of late, it’s important to remember there are officers who put their lives on the line and some are forced pay the ultimate price. To his family, our condolences and our support.

Day 75: November 30, 2015: The Greater Good Science Center

Today I choose to donate to the Greater Good Science Center. They’re based at UC Berkeley, but are independently funded by memberships and contributions, not by the university. I’ve personally learned a lot from their free research and tools. I took their free online Science of Happiness Course, and receive their email newsletter full of quick tips about everything from how to stop yelling at your kids, to how to practice mindfulness or encourage gratitude.

The GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: Not only do they sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, they help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives.

The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.

I hope that by donating to them, we’ll help them spread their knowledge and skills far and wide to schools, workplaces, homes and communities.

– Cherise

Day 76: December 1, 2015: Adopt A Grandparent

With the holiday season firmly upon us, it’s hard not to think of my Dad and how this time of year seemed to bring out the best in both of us. The Thanksgiving drive up to my mother-in-laws was lonely without him there to listen to my stories and pontificate about my career. But as lonely as I felt, I also recognize the loneliness of the seniors that don’t have a son to bore them with stories. Or ones who don’t have much money and are forced to live from social security check to check. Wonderful human beings who are often cast aside by society and forgotten despite how much they have left to give to the world. While I miss visiting my Dad at his senior living community each week, I also miss his friends who were all so caring and kind to him and to my family (especially the ones would flirt with him a little bit smile emoticon ). A friend alerted us to a wondeful idea of “Adopt A Grandparent”, that provides small gifts and handwritten notes to low income seniors. This isn’t a cause that will save the world or defend against evil, but it’s amazing what random acts of kindness can do. And after all, this is the season for giving.

Day 77: December 2, 2015: Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation)

The fact that the folks at Wikipedia have managed to create a site that I use every day and rely on to get me up to speed on any topic before I drill down is wonderful. The fact that they’ve done it as a non-profit with no ads on the site is amazing. The use of the community as the publishing mechanism for knowledge sharing is probably the most fascinating case study of the whole “Web 2.0” concept that was the rage 10 years ago and continues on now. I can only imagine how much I would’ve loved it as a kid and I know my girls have gotten a lot out of it as well. But servers cost money as does the oversight. Given the value I’ve gotten, I figured it was about time to support their efforts to remain neutral and commercial-free.

Day 78: December 3, 2015: Breakthrough Providence

My Dad was always extremely proud of his two nieces (they were the daughters he never had) and what they accomplished in their careers. His younger niece, Dulari, has been Executive Director of a great non-profit called Breakthrough Providence that creates a pathway to college for low-income middle school students and encourages high school and college students to pursue careers in education. My Dad and I often spoke about the amazing charter of the organization and how critical it was to provide support and inspiration and build confidence in these youngsters. Breakthrough Providence helps do for these kids what my Dad did for me.

Day 79: December 4, 2015: Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment

The demons of substance abuse plagued Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland for the 20 years since I first saw him “making faces like Eddie Vedder”. As a huge fan of both Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, I went through the roller coaster highs of new music & tours and lows of breakups because he couldn’t control his habit. While there’s no confirmation that Weiland’s death was drug-related, it’s fair to say that his demons played some sort of role, even if it was just in long-term effects of heroin & alcohol abuse. As was the case with Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, Weiland’s ability to manage their addictions led to failed comebacks, frustrated fans, and a legacy tarnished by the junkie label. Even more tragic is that these stars had the best treatment and were unable to overcome their challenges. For the non-rock stars w/o resources to fight these addictions, their climb is even harder and the toll it takes on their family & friends is even frightening. Having met people who’ve gotten sober, their experiences are a cautionary tale on what happens to everyone (not just themselves) when things get out of hand. Fortunately, there are services that do support people who have these addictions, but not the budget of a rock star. The Gateway Charitable Foundation raises dollars to fund critical elements of Gateway substance abuse programs for early intervention for drug rehab and alcohol treatment. Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment helps individuals, regardless of economic status, get their lives back on track. It never worked for Weiland, but Gateway has saved countless other individuals and their families from facing a grim long-term fate.

Day 80: December 5, 2015: Bernie’s Book Bank

As you can imagine, literacy has always been an important thing to us. Cherise’s work with BVA was all about creating opportunities for low-income at-risk youth to get the proper assistance in learning how to read. Another great non-profit is Bernie’s Book Bank, an organization that I learned about through a co-worker and friend (who happens to sit on the board).

Bernie’s Book Bank facilitates the collection, processing and redistribution of new and gently used children’s books to significantly increase book ownership among at-risk infants, toddlers and school-age children throughout the Chicago area. Whether it’s watching the girls curating their home “libraries” or remembering the thrill of my Dad buying me a book, the thrill of owning a book can often be the impetus to read (and re-read). Encouraging children to read at a young age can keep them from falling behind early and never quite catching up. It’s a short-term investment with a tremendous long-term gain.

Day 81: December 6, 2015: The Carter Center

I grew up not quite appreciating Jimmy Carter. Years later, through books, YouTube videos, and watching his active post-Presidential career, I’ve grown to admire a man that’s taken more criticism than he deserves. Integrity. Honesty. Dignity. Pacifist. Humanitarian. Values that are pretty much lost on most politicians today. With a positive turn in his health (and even my conservative Dad’s appreciation of his legacy), this seems like as good as time as any to say thanks. The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and human rights; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.

Day 82: December 7, 2015: GlobalGiving

For all the disheartening headlines in the news, I find it remarkable that so few people are aware of the flooding in Chennai, India. Unprecedented downpours have resulted in catastrophic flooding. Hundreds of thousands of families have had to evacuate their homes and hundreds of people have died. While rain has lightened up a bit, some are predicting a second wave of torrential downpours. The people have Chennai have banded together for support, but they can’t do it alone.

This fund will provide relief to victims by helping purchase emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine in addition to longer term recovery assistance. All donations to this fund will exclusively support local relief and recovery efforts from this flood.

Day 83: December 8, 2015: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

I get it. America has the second amendment. I spent the last few weeks teaching my daughter what the 2nd Amendment means as protections conferred to citizens who choose to bear arms. But I admit that I don’t get the thrill of guns and the ridiculous arguments on Facebook only serve to anger me. Still, on this day, I don’t think San Bernadino. I don’t think of Planned Parenthood in Colorado or theater in Colorado. I don’t think of the Sandy Hook kids that should be in 5th grade learning about the Constitution from their parents, whose lives have been shattered because of the destructive impact of weapons. No, today I think of John Lennon, who was murdered 35 years ago on this day. I think of being 9 years old and hearing the news on the radio that morning and not being able to understand what happened. I think of introducing the Beatles to Iris at that same age and not being able to explain what happened when she asked where all of the Beatles are now.

John Lennon was the first victim of gun violence that I can clearly remember, but he obviously wouldn’t be the last. The Brady Campaign has fought for sensible restrictions on gun ownership.

But while I have given to them as gift number 83, I am not going to post their link. And I’m not going to post a John Lennon song, though he had many to choose from. Instead, I’ll post a song from Sting written about the murder of John Lennon. The lyrics are timeless (I’ve used it when thinking of 9/11) and I’ve included them below…

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the color of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are
On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star


Day 84: December 9, 2015: Stand Up To Cancer

Years ago when I was on the admissions committee at Wharton, I interviewed a young doctor that graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and was looking to get his MBA. We talked about a lot of different topics when he said something I never forgot. “I believe we’ll find a cure for cancer in my lifetime.” I remember getting excited and imagining what that could mean for the world. Could there be a more profound development inmodern medicine? The TV show “The West Wing” even had a plotline a couple of years later where President Bartlett makes it his moonshot. Well, that was 15 years ago and we are not there yet, though we continue to fight the good fight. I’d like to think we’re closer, but we’re not there yet and we need to do what we can to get there. Stand Up To Cancer has done a great job reminding people about the vigilant fight to rid the world of the disease. To so many of us who have know of friends or loved ones who succumbed to the disease, it’s a personal mission. I still remain optimistic that the young doctor I spoke to years ago is right and I know supporting research is the only way we can help make that happen.

Day 85: December 10, 2015: Everyone On

As the girls go through another year of “Hour of Code”, I love the willingness of schools to promote software development as a viable career. That said, one hour rarely is enough to really expose kids to this wonderful.

Personally, I spent countless hours in front of a Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64 in the 19080s, making those computers my canvas with thousands of lines of BASIC code. My dad stretched our budget to feed my habit, whether it was buying the computers, or following up with tape drives, disk drives, extra kilobytes of memory (yeah, I said kilobytes). To save money on books, he would also drop me off at a bookstore and I’d just read the computer manuals while he ran errands. But without those computers in our home, I’d probably be a lawyer (gasp!) or working on Wall Street (double gasp!).

That’s why organizations like EveryoneOn are so great. They’re a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected Americans. Having that computer + internet in the home, waiting to be used as a canvas for a young mind, can spawn a career or even a calling. An hour is great. A lifetime is better.

Day 86: December 11, 2015: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

If there’s one organization that I regret never getting involved in, it’s the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been making connections between children in need of mentorship and adults ready to give back. They make meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country. As someone who greatly benefitted from the influence and mentorship of a big brother, I’m aware of the profound impact these matches can make on the life of a child.

Day 87: December 12, 2015: South Asian Youth Action – SAYA

I’m in the middle of watching “Master of None”, Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series that spends a lot of time focusing on the life of an ABCD (“American Born Confused Desi”) and the balance of his Indian ethnicity and his American upbringing. Beyond the fact that I think it’s funny, I also recognize it’s probably the most empathy I can have for a TV show (with the possible exception of “Silicon Valley”). I spent much of my youth not sure how to embrace my ethnicity with respect to the world around me. The unfortunate by-product was a lack of appreciation of my heritage and all that is has to offer, both in its history and its community.

South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!) is an inclusive, South Asian-focused youth development organization for K-12 students in need of support in New York City. Like a lot of other organizations, SAYA offers mentorship beyond the classroom so students confidently grow into engaged community leaders ready for college, career and personal success. But by creating a program dedicated to South Asian youth, they help create an identity and solidarity that I personally missed out on growing up.

Day 88: December 13, 2015: Make-A-Wish America

Over the years, I’ve seen several examples of the Make-A-Wish in action, delivering seemingly impossible dreams to children whose fate lies in the balance. Thousands of volunteers, donors and supporters advance the Make-A-Wish vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. Whether it’s Batkid or the little Marcus Mariota fan that got to practice with the Titans (that would’ve been my wish), the uplifting nature of these productions can be a critical element in the health of these young children. It’s a beautiful concept that probably seemed impossible when they first thought it up, which makes the organization all the more inspiring.

Day 89: December 14, 2015: Women’s Audio Mission

Think about the sounds you hear over the course of a day… music on the radio, newscasts, tv, internet… Did you know that less than 5% of the sounds you hear were produced or recorded by women?

Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) is a San Francisco-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts.
WAM seeks to “change the face of sound” by providing hand-on training, experience, career counseling and job placement to women and girls in media technology for music, radio, film, tv and internet.

Founder Terri Winston talked about how she grew up ‘playing’ in her dad’s recording studio, only to later on realize that most girls never have access to the science and technology behind what creates most of the sounds that fill our world. They now provide classes to underprivileged girls and women, placing them in jobs at employers from Pixar to NPR to Dolby. And their online training library, SoundChannel, is used in college classrooms across the globe.

Invest in this nonprofit along with Full Circle Fund. They’re going places for sure!


Day 90: December 15, 2015: Oceana

As we continue to struggle to find a balance between progress and the way we treat our environment, there are great organizations that are dedicated to preserving the precious resources that we often take for granted. Oceana, founded in 2001, is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. They work together to win strategic, directed campaigns that achieve measurable outcomes that will help make our oceans more bio diverse and abundant.

Day 91: December 16, 2015: Karama

According to the World Bank, world poverty has dropped below 10% for the first time in history. Investments in education, health and social safety, in addition to strong growth in developing countries,have been mainly responsible for the rapid decline in global poverty. In addition, the ability for many of these global citizens to create a marketplace for their vast talents has created a wealth opportunity that is changing the world. Karama is an organization that enables this transformative marketplace. Karama, an Arabic word meaning dignity, was founded on the principle that individuals thrive when given opportunity to provide for their families through creative, purposeful work. They alleviate poverty by restoring dignity through creative, purposeful work for artisans, beginning in Africa. In addition to enabling the sales of African crafts to buyers worldwide, they also invest in African teens through Young Life Africa camp sponsorships. Oh, and their pieces are outstanding. Might be late for a Christmas gift, but you can’t go wrong with the stuff that’s here.

Day 92: December 17, 2015: Lend-A-Hand India

Staying in the spirit in enabling global prosperity by advocating and supporting educational and entrepreneurial activities throughout the world, we move from Africa to India, where Lend-a-Hand India has been doing this for several years. I met Raj Gilda, the founder, during my last startup and was inspired by the passion he had to reach back to those in his mother country that could not help themselves. They create employment andentrepreneurship opportunities for the rural youth, making school education practical and relevant by providing job/life skills training, aptitude testing, career counseling, and bridge loans for micro-enterprises. They have reached 15,000 students from over 150 villages in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa and Uttar Pradesh. Raj was doing this part-time while being at Citi and then decided to leave Citi and focus on it full-time–much to the benefit of these thousands of kids.

Day 93: December 18, 2015: International Refugee Assistance Project

Obviously, the refugee crisis going on around the world has far-reaching ramifications. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid and systemic policy advocacy, IRAP serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders.

Day 94: December 19, 2015: APSARA

Sovanna Koeurt is a hero of mine, and her organization APSARA has worked tirelessly to create opportunities, services, and a strong community for residents of Park Village Apartments in Stockton, CA. An Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Most of the residents of Park Village are Cambodian, having survived the killing fields and come to the United States as refugees.

I had the privilege of working with Sovanna when I worked for Rural CA Housing Corporation, since APSARA and RCHC collaborated to build the apartments and provide resident leadership training to their nonprofit resident association. They run after school learning opportunities for youth, english classes, job training, and cultural events including the Cambodian New Year celebration. Business development has included starting a farm and a sewing cooperative. They’re now fundraising to upgrade their computer center.

Investing in APSARA is investing in a true grassroots organization that works every day to lift people up and connect them to opportunities.


Day 95: December 20, 2015: Clinton Foundation

It has been 15 years since Bill Clinton left the White House, but his post-Presidency legacy has beautifully taken a page out of the book of Jimmy Carter. The Clinton Foundation is a nongovernmental organization that could leverage the unique capacities of governments, partner organizations, and other individuals to address rising inequalities and deliver tangible results that improve people’s lives. The Foundation focuses on improving global health and wellness, increasing opportunity for women and girls, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth, and helping communities address the effects of climate change. Clinton’s life has been marked by public service and his willingness to continue that service has been a tremendous benefit to humanity.

Day 96: December 21, 2015: Feeding America

I learned about Feeding America from an old friend of ours in Seattle who has been working with them for the last couple of years–though I’m really surprised I didn’t know about them before. Their network is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The nationwide network of food banks provides more than 3.6 billion meals to virtually every community in the United States through food pantries and meal programs.

Day 97: December 22, 2015: Goodwill Industries International, Inc.

Goodwill has been around for 100 years and has been synonymous with helping people down on their luck. They aim to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by helping people reach their full potential through education, skills training and the power of work.

Last year, Goodwill helped more than 26.4 million people train for careers in industries such as banking, IT and health care, to name a few — and get the supporting services they needed to be successful — such as English language training, additional education, or access to transportation and child care.

Day 98: December 23, 2015: Trust In Education

Combine trusted relationships with innovative solutions, and you’ve got Trust in Education. Based in Lafayette, CA, this organization is the real deal. They harness volunteer power and donated items, leverage existing transportation, and get Afghanistan people things they need the most. Their volunteers here are “afghans for afghans”, student groups, and families – all getting to know personally who they are helping. On the Afghanistan side, local leaders are creating educational opportunities for girls, teaching families to use solar cookers, and distributing warm clothing for the biting cold winters. They’re building schools and economic opportunity to recover from the devastating earthquake and war.

Every penny donated to Trust in Education is spent efficiently and effectively, building community and understanding across the globe.


Day 99: December 24, 2015: Marine Toys for Tots Foundation

Christmas was always a funny holiday growing up. We weren’t religious, so “he” clearly wasn’t the reason for the season–at least with us. But it was a time for gift giving and presents, almost an excuse to reward a year of good behavior. Christmas was always the heavy hitter when it came to requests. I got my favorite games at Christmas. I got a mini race track one year. And, of course, at 11, I got a Commodore VIC-20 and my whole world changed. Something about getting toys at Christmas can mean so much to a child. Tomorrow morning, Toys for Tots will allow less fortunate youngsters the ability to receive and enjoy gifts that they will remember for the rest of their lives. The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas, play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children, and unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future. Much like the Make-a-Wish foundation, this genorisity can have a dramatic effect on children to where they’ll hopefully pay it forward in the years to come.

Day 100: December 25, 2015: Teach For India

With the final day of this 100-day journey, it was really important to reflect the most important interests of my father. The two most important things in his life were his country of origin (India) and the value of education. Teach for India reflects both of these critical values that marked his life. Millions of children in India do not access to quality education. Inspired by Teach For America, Teach for India envisions a future where each one of these children will have an opportunity to attain an excellent education. Through their “fellows”, which they provide with training, mentors and resources, TFI puts children on a different life path. Today, Teach For India is in 7 cities – Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bengalur with a total of approximately 1200 Fellows and 1100 Alumni working towards eliminating educational inequity.

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