March 21, 2011

Make the Connection: Why One Man is Walking from Canada to Mexico


Pause.

Seriously, just for one minute.

Think about the last time you had a minute to yourself. Perhaps you were waiting for a friend to arrive or the bus to come. Out of nervous habit, did you pull out your cell phone to send a text, check your email or Facebook?

I do that all the time. But I'm hoping to change that, thanks to Jordan Bower. Unfortunately, quiet moments have become awkward as technology, which conveniently connects us, is also creating a bigger disconnect.

Jordan is a business graduate-turned-vagabond who hopes his wanderlust inspires you to change by putting down your gizmos, gear and gadgets to engage with one another. The 30-year-old Toronto native wants you to join him on his journey. His latest adventure: to walk from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Mexico. His goal is to create a shift in you and me.

Why would anyone want to walk for 1,800 miles?

"I started to feel a lot of disconnection going on.  It was the start of the Facebook thing -– and the way people were relating with each other started to change," Bower said. "Personally, I was going through some growth, so I went traveling and went to India."

That trip changed the trajectory of Jordan's path personally, philosophically and photographically.


I met up with Jordan recently during his stop in San Francisco's Mission District to find out what inspired Jordan's journey and how the purpose of his unique photo project clicked like a shutter.



"There's a lot of bad things about the quality of life in India when compared to the wealth and prosperity of life in North America, but one thing Indians don't lack for is community," he said.

Jordan says he doesn't expect you to follow in his footsteps. Instead, he hopes you have a moment of awakening.


"Enlightenment isn't going to come through an app or through your computer," Jordan emphasized. "Community comes with people interacting with people."

Jordan's pilgrimage has cut into his savings. Ironically, he turned to his community for help. Through Kickstarter.com, he raised $8,051 to pursue his passion. However, he needs to raise funds to complete his journey to Mexico. Here's his fundraiser page. He also shares his adventures through his photoblog: WalkingToMexico.com.

What can YOU do to connect with someone today?

March 14, 2011

How You Can Use Social Media to Mobilize Help for Japan

As soon as I heard about the earthquake in Japan, my heart fell. Understanding the catastrophic enormity of the situation, I anxiously fired up my laptop -- sweaty palms and all -– to Facebook and tweeted my friends to see if they were OK.

Specifically I wanted to hear back from a good friend I have known through the Asian American Journalists Association and ABC News, Akiko Fujita, who lives and covers the news from Tokyo. I haven't heard back from her, but was relieved to know she's OK, thanks to her social media community.

Images from the tragedy of Japan's one-two punch from last week's earthquake and tsunami continue to flood the multimedia landscape: Facebook, Twitter, blogs and news outlets consume our attention. Today's technology is changing the way we learn news.

With the click of a mouse, virtual birds-eye views like these show the unfiltered enormity of the devastation. According to Japanese officials and news outlets, a tide of more than 2,000 bodies washed ashore in Miyagi, the region closest to the epicenter, tens of thousands more are missing or feared dead.

The BBC and The Daily Beast readers send in stories of survival and loss.

Yuko Abe, 54, of Rikuzentakata, a northern town that now is almost totally flattened, writes in tears from an evacuation center. "I am looking for my parents and my older brother," Abe said. "Seeing the way the area is, I thought that perhaps they did not make it. I also cannot tell my siblings that live away that I am safe, as mobile phones and telephones are not working."

John McLaughlan, a teacher in Sendai, wrote that his whole kindergarten class is missing. "I just hope they were evacuated," he said.

Then there are the stories of hope. After being swept away atop his roof, Hiromitsu Shinkawa, 60, was spotted by a rescue ship, thanks to the red flag he made. "[He] saw the tsunami coming and ran home to gather his belongings. In a flash, his home was decimated. He was swept out to sea on what used to be the roof of his house. "No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me. I thought that day was going to be the last day of my life," Shinkawa said. Before being rescued onto the ship, he drank a glass of water and then broke into tears. Shinkawa's wife is still missing.

We absorb the constant multimedia images of destruction and devastation, voyeuristically hooked by the horror.

As I blog from the comfort of my San Francisco apartment, I wonder what would we do if a tragedy of this magnitude shook our reality? Who would I call? How are my friends and family?

Every victim has a story -- people desperately waiting to hear from their loved ones, the people stuck beneath the rubble and those like Shinkawa, who were swept away by the tsunami and, of course, the thousands of others who weren't so lucky to escape death.

In a weird way, I found solace in the abundance of Facebook and Twitter messages. Messages like this tweet from @TimeOutTokyo: "If you're feeling utterly useless (we know the feeling) here's a list of ways you can help http://bit.ly/gX5pdU #helpJapan"

I thought what can I do to help?

Ironically, the answer is right in front of me. I had an epiphany – use my website as a platform to inspire people to help. GoInspireGo.com, my nonprofit (a video-based website that inspires people to "Discover and use their power to help others") harnesses social media to inspire social change.

Here are some suggestions on easy ways to help… and, in numbers we can make that difference:

1.) Make your Facebook updates and Tweets count. Texas-based start-up HelpAttack! is partnering with the Red Cross, to support that organization's earthquake relief efforts. It's easy here’s how.

a) Log in to Facebook or Twitter
b) Pledge an amount for every update (You can cap the total amount)
c) At the end of the month, your credit card gets charged based on your updates

2.) Through Groupon, the website that sends you daily deals, now allows you to donate. You can easily donate $5, $10 or $25 for the International Medical Corps., a humanitarian aid group that helps with Japan's earthquake relief efforts. So far, they’ve raised more than $16,000. The daily coupon site Living Social is also offering a similar donation program.

3.) Social Gaming: FarmVille fans, listen up, you too can help children who are victims of the quake by just doing what you love – playing the game. Zynga, the company that created this popular Facebook game announced that it is teaming up with Save the Children to support earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. Users can donate in eight of the company's most popular games just by playing FarmVille, YoVille, Zynga Poker, Words With Friends, Cafe World, CityVille, FrontierVille and zBar.

4.) SXSW4Japan: Organizers of the tech world's annual social media spectacular, the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, are doing what they know best to raise money for Japan -- using social media. The event director tweeted that some social media marvels launched a website to raise money for victims in Japan. So far, more than $36,000 has been raised. And if you feel inspired to create your own campaign, the site also includes helpful tips for launching your own fundraising page.

5.) Text: This is the easiest way to help out, quickly, and without a lot of fuss. The Mobile Giving Foundation launched an effort late last week, empowering people to give by using their cell phones to donate $5 or $10. Here are just a few options:

a) The Red Cross has its own mobile giving program, in which supporters can text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to donate $10.

b) Text "JAPAN" or "TSUNAM" to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of Save the Children Federation, Inc.

c) Text "4JAPAN"or "4TSUNAMI" to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of World Vision, Inc.

d) Text "MERCY" to 25283 to donate $10 on behalf of Mercy Corps.

e) If you want to support The Salvation Army USA, you can text "JAPAN" to 80888 to make a $10 donation to the organization.

You can do something to make a difference. It's in your hands. You have the power.

Prayers to our brothers and sisters in Japan.

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March 10, 2011

Harnessing The Power of Connecting On and Off-Line


If you're reading this post, chances are, you've recently Facebooked, Tweeted, Friended or Liked someone. As the quickly changing landscape of multimedia and social networks continue to take shape -- and then change again, we'd like to ask you this -- what impact do your online clicks, clacks and messages have on the users on the other side of the screen? Go Inspire Go's board member, Marcia Estarija Silva, shares her experience of how she reconnected and helped a Facebook friend in need.

Good, genuine people attract other good, genuine people. That’s how I met Roseabelle, by way of my childhood friend Rachelle. Over the years, I have crossed paths with Roseabelle at various Rachelle-related events, from birthday parties to a wedding and, in this age of social networking, quite frequently on Facebook.

Through Roseabelle’s Facebook status updates, I followed the progress of her daughter Olivia. Born July 5, 2008, Olivia was diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilm’s Tumor on July 24, 2009.


My heart rose and sank with Roseabelle’s updates, learning that Olivia was back in the hospital because of a serious infection or that her sonograms and X-rays were clear or that Olivia was thankfully only suffering from pneumonia (yes, there was relief that it was *only* pneumonia).

Roseabelle also provided lighter updates, like a posted picture of adorable Olivia enjoying a pony ride at Camp Arroyo. These posts reminded us that, despite all the hospital visits, Olivia was a fighter and, through it all, still able to enjoy being a little girl.

Roseabelle’s candor and strength inspired me. She didn’t have time to be emotional. All that mattered was getting Olivia the care that she needed.


How did Roseabelle keep a strong face? According to Roseabelle, it was love and support from family and friends that helped her get through this.

Olivia’s treatment ended in February 2010 and she is currently doing really well. She has had check-ups every 3 months since and test results have come back negative. Olivia is hitting all the milestones for her age, like walking and talking.

Cautiously optimistic, Roseabelle is now focused on keeping up with her 2 year-old who registered for preschool last fall. While Roseabelle has returned to work full-time at a gluten-free bakery and occasionally teaches at a cooking school, her first priority remains to keep Olivia healthy.

An active supporter of the American Cancer Society, Roseabelle notes that the organization does more than prevention, education, research, and advocacy. It also provides services to those in need, from giving rides to patients who can’t drive themselves to appointments to providing college scholarships for children with parents who’ve exhausted their savings on treatment.

She continues to participate in Relay for Life, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. To support Olivia and Roseabelle directly, visit Team LIV’s Relay for Life page. To volunteer, join or create a team, visit American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. To get on Roseabelle’s mailing list of events and news, email her at roseabelle@roseabelle.com.

I’d also like to encourage you to reach out to friends on Facebook (or other social networks) that you’ve fallen out of touch with -- especially those who are going through a difficult time. Then set aside time to meet with them and connect off-line. When I read emotionally revealing postings from my online-only friends, I often think my message won’t really mean anything to them. I’ve learned that a simple gesture, whether it’s ‘liking’ a status update, commenting on a picture or connecting them to someone who could help, can mean more that we think. If you are willing, let them know you are listening and that you care. I hope this post inspires you to reach out to the people you care about.

Click on...

March 5, 2011

How Your Clutter is Holding You Back From Helping Others

What does simplifying and decluttering your life have to do with your altruistic intents? Clearing your physical, emotional and spiritual life could lead to extra time for yourself and for others. Go Inspire Go's marketing volunteer, Sarah Skotvold shares her insights on how clearing her personal and professional life allows her to give back.


For my New Year’s resolution, I decided to focus on clutter clearing. The idea was to simplify my home and work life. In the beginning, I started with all of the logical first steps: halting junk mail/e-mail; throwing away old files and papers; and cleaning out my closets and drawers. I quickly realized how powerful this exercise can be in not only clearing out the physical clutter but the mental clutter that blocked my ability to see the truly important aspects to my life. I knew I wanted to help others in some way and make a difference; but I became overwhelmed with choosing a direction. My mind was filled with so many to do lists and tasks unrelated to my true goals, I found it hard to focus.


It turned out that the journey to simplify my mind and life changed to finding a means to help others. I found a number of valuable free resources online and checked out a stack of books from the library. Next, I used these resources to take action and start taking steps to make changes and simplify my life. I found that as I organized my environment, my mental state was more organized as well. This allowed me to be more relaxed, focused, meditate, exercise and spend more time outside.

With a clear mind, I could see the truly important aspects of life. I would focus my attention on my family/friends, my health, traveling, giving back to others and writing. I have always enjoyed writing but stopped because I had filled my schedule with so many other tasks. I decided to make writing a priority in my life again.

By simplifying, I opened up time and space in my life to write. It became clear that writing could be my tool to help others, so I started focusing on writing positive stories that inspire change. Now I’m meeting two of my most important goals in life through one medium--I find that inspiring!

So what inspires you, how can you make a difference? If you do not have a clear answer, perhaps starting your own clutter clearing process will help. I truly believe that the first step in inspiring and helping others is to feel inspired within yourself. Enjoy simplifying and discovering what inspires you and then passing that gift on to others.

Cheers,
Sarah

Some fabulous resources on clutter clearing
Free Resources
Thriving On Less by Leo Babauta
The Change Blog-How to Get More From Life by Alie Hale

Books (I recommend checking them out from your local library)
Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James
Simplify Your Work Life by Elaine St. James
Soul Couching 28 Days to Discover Your Authentic Self by Denise Linn