week #6: In Search of Sanuk = finding fun in doing good

Several months ago I sat in the upstairs booth of a very unassuming Japanese restaurant in Bangkok. The place was modest yet awesome, and in some ways mirrored my dinner companion. This was my first meeting with Dwight Turner who started and runs In Search of Sanuk, a project that helps refugee families and asylum seekers living in the slums of Bangkok.

I’d heard about Dwight through a friend of a friend, and through a long trail of twitter connectivity, I’d been following his work. The purpose of our mini tweet-up was so I could learn more about what he was doing to decide if I wanted to support them as part of #give10.  After all, some people are good with twitter, but not legitimately good at the good they claim to be doing.

Dwight’s story was the real deal, as authentic and unpretentious as the yakisoba. He had never planned to start a project, but when he’d moved to Thailand, he accidentally got introduced to the world of refugees living in Bangkok’s slums and holding centers. When Dwight started learning about the refugees living with no means and no recognized existence in Thailand, he knew he had to do something. He looked for existing projects he could support to help his new friends, but came up empty handed. Instead of giving up because he didn’t know what to do, he heeded the advice of a friend and mentor, “You don’t need a project, get off your ass and start your own thing.”  And so he did.

Sanuk isn’t just a brand of flip flops. In Thai the word means fun, and In Search of Sanuk is on a mission to help a dozen refugee families in Bangkok rediscover the joy of having their daily needs met. The project financially support families to cover their needs of food, rent, and sending their kids to school. “Search of Sanuk isn’t a big project,” Dwight explained. “It is “micro-philanthropy”, (or fun-lanthropy as he calls it) small giving that has a pretty huge impact for the people who are receiving it”. For a stateless family that comes from a mountain village with no legal identity or papers to do any kind of work, it is a pretty big deal to have someone help them with the $60-$150 they really need per month to survive.

Give10 supported their women’s day project last year, and recently caught up with Dwight, over similarly amazing Lebanese food recently in Bangkok to find our what impact our dollars are having there:

1. Last year we gave $10 to In Search of Sanuk for your International Women’s Day project. What has this done?
We used our Women’s Day Donations to educate girls. One group of girls from the slums went to a place called Play Act where they learned song, dance and drama, and another group of girls attended lessons at a proper English school. The sucess of this project led us to develop the idea of Saturday School to provide education opportunties to kids in the slums.

2. What project accomplished are you most proud of this year?
This year we ran a Saturday School for 20+ refugee kids. We partnered with an international school and a group of 16-18 year old highschool students spent their Saturdays actively teaching the children. This was a change from our old approach of taking volunteers to teach in the slums which wasn’t financially sustainable. For kids who live on railroad tracks where it is dangerous to kick a soccer ball, it’s an amazing opportunity for them to even get to run free at a school to learn and play.

3. What are you most excited about in the year to come.
Building a stronger foundation of partnerships within the Bangkok community. The majority of our regular donors are local and we want to engage them more to build relationships with the community and families they are supporting.

4. How can a small 10$ donation make a difference in achieving your mission?
Many families don’t have as much to give as they used to, and it is overwhelming to think about one person supporting an entire refugee family. I try to encourage people to give recurring 10 – 25$ donations. Small recurring donations add up. Most of the online donations we get are small, but they add up to about 13% of our donations.

5. What is one thing you wish that the people who give to your cause knew or understood better?
I wish they understood how difficult it is to talk about what we do. Because many of the families we work with are on difficult terms with the government and lack legal status, talking about them or posting pictures of activities can put them in real danger. You connect to something you have had an experience with. I want people to see and understand what we are doing so they can understand the issue. My fear is that this makes it difficult for donors to connect.

6. What do you think stops people from giving to a charity?
People see “charities” as businesses and don’t want to give to a company. They don’t want to send money off into the distance and not hear back or get a response. People want to give to something personal, something with personality.

7. What do you think motivates the people who do donate to give again?
A donor who becomes part of the narrative. If someone sees a project as ‘something that I support and a cause I am a part of” rather than “that thing I gave to once” they are more likely to be engaged with time and/or money.

8. Doing world changing work isn’t free. How do you pay for the operational costs of your project?
We are 100% volunteers including us. Everything goes to the families and kids or a cost related to supporting them.

9. What’s one question people usually ask you about your project, and how do you answer it?
People ask all the time “How can you make this project to financially assisting refugee families sustainable?” Truth is, there are a lot of things that you can make sustainable, but this isn’t one with a simple solution. There is no plan for the people that we work with, and until something changes at a much larger level they pretty much won’t officially exist and need support. Some things are things are worthwhile and need help simply because they are worthwhile and need help. We have a reasponsibiltiy to give whether the project is sustainable or not.

10. What are three projects you believe in and would recommend to others to learn about and support?
I can’t possibly pick three, there are too many. Make sure you check these out if you haven’t already:
Cause and Effect, (Adam working in Brazil’s favelas)
100 Friends (the mentor who told Dwight to ‘get off his ass and do something’)
ildi (international Leadership)- a creative space / art collaborative in BKK with focus on social good
Bangkok Vanguards – random people washing car windows to raise 1million baht (350k USD) for flood victims.
Hope Mob (a mob of people changing lives one at a time through small gifts)
Preemptive Love (amazing guys doing heart surgeries for kids in Iraq)

Learn more about In Search of Sanuk or #give10 here:
twitter @insearchofsanuk

We’re giving another 10 x 10 this year to In Search of Sanuk to see what magic they can make for familes. Want to join us and #give10 here to help them make more fun today.

week #5: Love in a Laundry Basket

Did you know that 10$ = one roll of quarters = the cost for one family to wash their clothes at a laundromat. One time.

Most of us reading this blog, I’d dare to guess, have the luxury of at least having a washing machine- if not a matching dryer, in our home. We may remember the days of the university dorms scrounging for quarters in the pockets of our jeans in order to clean our laundry, or moving into our first apartment where we had lug a laundry basket to the laundromat on the weekends so we had clean underwear on Monday.

For me this is a memory. For many families in the US the laundromat is the way clothes get clean. Every week, at 10$ a load. I have to say I was pretty surprised to learn that it takes a whole role of quarters to wash and dry a load of laundry. I live alone and probably wash at least three loads a week once I throw in sheets and towels. Imagine how the quarters add up for a large family living on a low income. The cost of cleaning clothes can become a financial burden, and sometimes when money gets low, things just can’t get washed.

A few months ago I sat for coffee in Ybor City, Florida with Jason Sowell, the founder and president of Current, the organization that runs Laundry Love- an amazing project that helps meet a very simple and felt need for low income families: clean clothes and linens.

Jason’s personal goal is to educate others on social initiatives and mobilize them to bring about change. Laundry Love is just one of the ways he’s helping people do just that.

Laundry Love aim to turn neighborhood laundromats into places of community. On designated days, families can wash their clothing at no cost, thanks to private and corporate sponsors. But it isn’t just about the laundry. “We are trying to make the world better by turning laundromats into places of relief by paying for laundry fees, visiting with the participants and entertaining their children.” Jason said.

This week we’ve decided to give 10 more rolls of quarters towards Laundry Love’s next project. We also asked Jason to #give10 answers to us about what Laundry Love did with our donation and what they think of small donors. Here’s what he said:

1. Last year we gave $10 to Laundry Love. What has this done? How can a small 10$ donation make a difference in achieving your mission?

The great thing about this project is that $10 makes a big difference. That $10 payed for an entire washing & drying of a large load of laundry for a family.

2. What project accomplished are you most proud of this year?

One thing we are super proud of is that we recently hosted two projects at two locations simultaneously and had huge support from local businesses and churches. We launched a new location with the help of employees from a local Starbucks store who helped raise funds & supplies and worked alongside a local church to staff the location with volunteers. It was so inspiring seeing local businesses partner together and begin new relationships to better the community.

3. What is one thing you wish that the people who give to your cause knew or understood better?

That their donation makes a bigger difference than just paying for laundry. Something as simple as clean laundry brings so much dignity to a person and gives a lot of hope in a way that most people take for granted. Their donation is providing hope for a family, not just clean laundry.

4. What do you think stops people from giving to a charity?

I think one thing is that people feel like they can’t truly see what their money goes to. People want to see that their money directly affects people in need so if that’s not evident then people are hesitant to give. Money is tight for a lot of people and if someone is going to give they want to know that their donation, no matter what amount, is meaningful and put to good use

5. What do you think motivates the people who do donate to give again?

Seeing how their money helped. If they get a chance to see how their donation bettered the life of someone else then most people can’t help but continue to give. It becomes personal to them because they have a face to connect their donation to.

6. Doing world changing work isn’t free. Can you explain the model that your project uses to cover its operating costs?

We really do what we can do keep operating costs low. Our project/organization is mostly volunteer run. We really depend on great people who believe in the cause to give their time to administrate things. We also lean on our closest supporters to donate towards our operating budget so that we can truly put as much outside donations as we can directly into paying for a laundry project.

7. What do you think is the role of the individual who can only make a small donation?

Small donations in numbers adds to a lot of support. I think it’s very simple for the “small donation” giver. Give what you can and tell other people about it. One person can double & triple their small donation by simply encouraging their friends to give a small donation as well.

8. What are you most excited about this coming year?

We are really excited about the new locations & cities we are seeing this branch into. We are adding new cities across the country and are coaching some teams in other cities to begin their own Laundry Love Projects. We’re really excited to see what happens in these new locations.

9. What are three other projects you want other donors to learn about and support?

The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking

LiNK (Liberty in North Korea)

Just One

10. How did you come up with this idea?

I wish I could say it was my idea, but I “stole” it from a friend. A friend started the idea of Laundry Love Projects in Portland for homeless people and I saw the value of clean laundry for struggling people. So we partnered up and started our own version of these projects and it’s gone from there.

Want to know more about Laundry Love? They’re hip and they’re all over the interwebs. Catch them here, and give a roll of quarters if you can spare it.

Laundry Love on the web: www.laundrybycurrent.org

facebook: engagecurrent 

twitter: @engagecurrent 

Donate your own roll of quarters to Laundry Love

Thanks for reading. Now, I think I’ve got some laundry to do.




Giving is Hard

I’m a few days behind on my post about “giving” this week. Instead of making excuses for how busy I’ve been, I’ve decided to go with the truth: Giving is Hard.

Yep. Hard.

Really? How hard can it be to give money away? Isn’t this blog supposed to be talking about how awesome giving is and how it is making the world better and all that?

It’s about week 60 now of my giving-palooza, and as excited as I still get about giving in my own nerdy way, I have lots of reasons why somedays I just want to quit. Here’s three:

  1. I can’t control what happens to my money and sometimes it just hard to find out how it has made an impact. (*note, I said hard, not impossible). Just a few weeks ago I promised you some answers about the difference our favorite projects from last year had made. Turns out, it’s a little bit more challenging than I thought to get answers. But we’re sticking with it and beating down doors and twitter feeds until we get some. Stay tuned. In the meantime check out last week’s interview with an amazing 6 year old behind Marbles4MS if you haven’t yet. Stories like these keep me going on my days of doubt.
  2. It takes a lot of effort to make sure the project I’m giving to is good at its mission for world changing, not just good at marketing their cause. You can’t judge a project’s success by an organization’s tally of twitter followers. I do my best to find projects that invest for impact, but sometimes I learn later that a project I loved isn’t all I thought it was. Yes, there are a few projects I wouldn’t give to again (but more on that later). When this makes me want to throw up my hands in defeat, I have to remind myself that one bad brand shouldn’t damper my drive to do good.
  3. Believe it or not, even when you’ve found a great cause you want to rally the world towards, some organizations make the process of giving incredibly difficult. While making giving easy should be a no-brainer for do-gooders dependent on donations,if often isn’t. So many cause-related websites lack links to enable online giving. It’s 2012. If you are a project that wants money, please, I beg you, make sure your donate button exists, is easy to find, and works. The world has paypal there are no excuses.

Maybe giving isn’t as hard as it feels somedays. But the only thing I can think of that could be worse than bad Giving days is Giving Up.

And since I don’t like to quit, giving up really isn’t an option. So stick with us.  One bad giving day down and 49 more weeks of Giving awesomeness to go.

 I’m sticking it out this week even though it isn’t going my way. What are you sticking out?


“Don’t give up before the miracle happens.” – Fannie Flag


week #2: mothers, marbles & fighting MS

When I remembered it was mother’s day, it wasn’t hard for me to pick which project I wanted to feature this week for #give10 x 10. Today we’re going to meet Connor and hear about his dream for his mom and how he became a world changer at age five.

You briefly met Marbles4MS when we first gave 10$ in July, and again in December when more than 1,000 of you voted on who should get an extra special donation on our 300th day of giving.

The thing I love about this story is that Marbles4MS isn’t a big organization’s fundraising campaign.  It is a five year old’s idea for change put into action. You see, Connor’s mom has MS and he wants to do what he can to help.

“Our project is raising money and awareness to cure our Mom and MS forever.  We try to inspire people to help us and we think it works.  Little kids can make a big difference, ” is how he described it.

Connor makes paintings using marbles rolled with paint in cigar boxes and sells them with proceeds going to the National MS Society so the “scientist guys can fix Mommy and everyone with Multiple Sclerosis”.  In its first year, Connor and his 9-yr old brother Jackson raised $45,000 to help find a cure.

We asked Connor to #give10 answers about his project. (no non-profit marketing spin here, just straight from the heart of a now six year old).

1. Last year #give10 gave $310 to Marbles for MS ($10 + $300 for our 300th day prize). What has this done?

The $310 donation was sent to the National MS Society.  They spend their money on scientists to find a cure and on helping people and families that live with MS.

2. What are you most excited about in the year to come. 

In the next year, we’re really excited to share our story with new people because just hearing it sometimes makes them feel better, and to see where our new adventures take us!

3. What do you think is the role of the individual who can only make a small donation?

For our charity, their role is everything.  When we sell a $2 bookmark, that sale is just as important to us as any donation.  That person helped and that’s what matters.

4. How can a small 10$ donation make a difference in achieving your mission?

In that $10 donation, there could be the dollar that finds the cure.

5. What is one thing you wish that the people who give to your cause knew or understood better?

We wish people knew how hard MS is to live with and that it’s their support that gives us the strength to keep going.

6. What do you think stops people from giving to a charity?

Maybe people can’t really connect with the cause, or maybe they think it would take more money than they have to make a difference.  But it could be their dollar that finds a cure.

7. What do you think motivates the people who do donate to give again?

When a charity tries new ideas to raise money, maybe the same people will be newly inspired to give again.

8. What did your project accomplish that you are you most proud of this year?

We are most proud of 2 things:  being invited to the National MS Conference in Dallas. We met so many people who are trying to cure this disease and made a lot of new friends.  The other thing we are really proud of is making a painting for the CEO of Valero Corporation in San Antonio.  We (Connor) told him it was going to cost $10,000 and he wrote a check to the MS Society.

9. What are three projects (other than your own) you would want other donors to learn about and support?

  • Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation because she’s like us, making a dollar at a time.
  • Small animal rescue groups since so many animals need help.
  • And we’d like people to know about Make-A-Wish Foundation.  It must be so hard to be sick when you’re a kid, so it’s important to make a dream come true for them.

10. What is one question people usually ask you about your project, and how do you answer it?

Most people ask us when we’ll be done with our project. We tell them we won’t stop until there’s a cure.


You can find Marbles for MS online and buy your own original artwork from Connor here: www.marbles4ms.org

Facebook: Marbles 4 MS

Twitter: @Marbles4MS

Youtube: Marbles4MS

I have to say, that the only thing more amazing than giving 10$ to change is giving 10$ to a 5 year old world changer. Watch out MS, the future is committed to finding a cure.

Happy Mother’s Day to Connor’s mom and the rest of you out there!




#give10 kicks off with Traffick Jam Asia

The hardest part of kicking off the first week of #give10 year two has been deciding which of our 366 amazing year one causes to pick first.

Last year when I had the same starter’s dilemma, I followed the age old advice that “Charity begins at home.” Since this worked before I’m going with that mantra again and giving our first #give10x10 donation to a cause that is working right in the neighborhood where I live.

This week I met up with Alli Mellon, Founder and Director of The Hard Places Community in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We ate mango crepes and I asked her to give 10 answers about her perspectives on giving and a report back on what difference they made with the 10$ we contributed donated last March on our 25th day of giving to Traffick Jam Asia. Grab a cup of tea and check out what she said:

1. Tell us about your project. What is it doing to make the world better?

We started the Pun Lok Thmey Prevention and Restoration Center this year so young boys who have been victims of abuse and sexual exploitation have a safe space to find support within their own community.

We live in the hub of one of the world’s worst places for the trafficking and exploitation of young children. While there are many services available in Cambodia to reach out to girls who’ve been exploited, the issue of abused boys has been often overlooked or misunderstood. We want to make the world better for these boys to help get them established in a life where they can be safe from further exploitation.

The drop-in center offers education, counseling and social work for boys close to home without removing them for their families and the people they love. We try to do everything we can to address the issues of sexual abuse within a day center setting through counseling and therapy.

In the Khmer language, the center’s name means “new growth.” It symbolizes that moment when a seed is planted in the ground and begins to sprout. This dream of a new life for these boys is what motivates us.

2. Last year we gave $10 to Traffick Jam Asia. What difference has this made?

Traffick Jam is our annual fund raising event which mobilizes supporters to locally organize 10 mile walks. In the event you supported last year we raised enough money in one day to fund the opening the opening of the boys center and its operating costs for 11 months. Prior to this event, our project operated as a “club” in a local park, but the kind of work we want to do required us to have a permanent safe space for the boys. This center now provides a safe space for more than 70 children.

3. What project accomplished are you most proud of this year?

I’m proud that we now have over 70 boys in the program and the kids love it. They want to be there from the time the doors open until the doors close.

Even more than this, I’m so grateful that I’ve finally been able to see the very first two young boys we started working with two years ago finally being able to live a life where they are safe from exploitation and abuse. This wouldn’t have been possible without the perseverance and commitment of our staff and donors to this work.

4. How can a small 10$ donation make a difference in achieving your mission?

Everyday the kids come to our kids clubs hungry and malnourished. They all look about three years younger then the age they report to be. Our organization isn’t big enough to do a full feeding program, but what we can do with 10$ is buy enough fruit to make sure all of the kids have eaten a healthy snack before they go home.

The Traffick Jam movement is also built on a belief in a 10$ model. Each participant recruits 10 sponsors to pledge 10$ (1$ per miles of the 10 mile walk). The 10$ add up quickly. Last year we raised $72,000 through these 10$ pledges. This year our biggest walk raised $15,000 (although some people did give more than 10$, and some people paid NOT to walk!)

5. What is one thing you wish that your donors knew or understood better?

I wish the donors to our project could actually feel for themselves the immense relief that you feel when you know that a child is finally safe. If they could feel this even just one time they would give a million trillion dollars.

Since I know most will never be able to feel this, I also wish they’d be able to hear the laughter of the kids in the playroom coming into a safe place. If we can’t take them out of these dangerous and difficult places, we can ensure they at least have a safe place during the day

6. What do you think stops people from giving to a charity?

Fear and economic times. Many people are scared to give because they don’t know what is coming in their own lives tomorrow. In my own life there have been times when I’ve been terrified to give, but I’ve wound up being given back even more than I imagined- not always monetarily, but with a different kind of joy.

7. What do you think motivates people who donate to give again?

When people can see and understand our work for themselves and really partner with us they will continue to give. Donors must realize they are a partner in the outreach not just people who give and forget about it. We don’t take any of our donors lightly because we know what we can’t do what we do without them. The ones who understand this and stay engaged and take ownership to share the stories with others- these are the people who give more.

8. Doing world changing work isn’t free. Can you explain the model that your project uses to cover its operating costs?

Hard Places and all its projects are funded through private donations and the growing Traffick Jam movement. All of our international staff raise funds to cover their own costs, and funding from Traffick James pays the salaries of local staff and all of our day to day operation and program expenses.

9. What do you think is the role of the individual who can only make a small donation?

Small donors can encourage others to give small amounts. They are so important to us because giving doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Small donations add up to big donations. In this day and time people may say I can’t give 100 dollars or 200 dollars, but I can give 10. This is the perfect time for the small donor.

10. What are three projects would want other donors to learn about and support?

  • World Hope’s trafficking assessment center in Cambodia
  • Agape International– they also work in anti-trafficking and set an example for our work in our project’s formative years
  • Back to the Roots / Asha House is a children’s care center in India for children who have come out of horrific situations

To learn more  about Traffick Jam, or to #give10 (or more) to the work of Pun Lok Thmey, check them out at www.traffickjamasia.com, or follow them over on facebook.