August 26, 2012

GIG Social Good Spotlight: Eye Care for Kids Foundation

Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT: Eye Care for Kids Foundation – Empowering Children Through Vision

Compiled by Marcia Estarija Silva

"I am writing this letter to thank the people who made it possible for me to see the world a little better. If it weren't for [the Eye Care for Kids Foundation], I would have gone on without glasses and not have known how beautiful the world looks when it's clear." – M.S.

What is Eye Care for Kids Foundation?
Eye Care for Kids Foundation provides free eye examinations and glasses for low-income, uninsured children in the greater Houston area. The organization also provides vision screening services for children at community health fairs and targeted schools. The mission of Eye Care for Kids Foundation is to empower children to reach their full educational and social potential through vision. Since its inception in 1998, it has provided free eye exams and glasses to more than 25,000 children in need.

Eye Care for Kids Foundation is able to assist so many children because of the generous support of more than 100 optometry doctors. They donate approximately $200 of in-kind services per student, and Eye Care for Kids pays the remaining cost at a reduced rate.

“… I don’t have to twitch my eyes or get up close to the board to read what’s written there.” – J.N.

What inspires Eye Care for Kids Foundation to do this work?
The need is clear. According to the American Public Health Association, 80 percent of students' learning depends on good vision, but 25 percent of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are severe enough to hinder learning. Each year, more than 10 percent of students fail their vision screenings, and of this group, 30 percent are left untreated. A growing number of families in Houston are unable to access health insurance and cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket health care expenses. Eye Care for Kids Foundation provides free comprehensive eye care for children who are not covered by private health insurance, Medicaid, VSP or CHIP.

How can GIGSTERS get involved and help Eye Care for Kids Foundation?
  • Donate – A donation of $50 provides a child with a comprehensive eye exam, a new pair of glasses with UV and scratch-resistant coating & a new carrying case.
  • Volunteer – if you are in the greater Houston area, Eye Care for Kids Foundation is seeking Vision Screening, Fundraising, and Social Worker Volunteers.
  • Keep in touch – Get the latest news by connecting to Eye Care for Kids Foundation’s page on Facebook

Find more Social Good Spotlights here. If you know of an organization that you think should be featured, please help us forward their stories to inspire the world and contact us.

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August 18, 2012

From New York Sweatshop to Wall St. Banker & Lawyer to BAYCAT CEO

This blog post and Go Inspire Go (GIG) video is for everyone – especially the youth, who don’t think their story matters.

Every story matters in how it moves you, changes your perspective and inspires you. As a journalist with over ten years of experience, I’ve interviewed thousands of people. Time and time again, I was shocked to hear that many interviewees didn’t believe their story mattered.

Why do people think their story is irrelevant? I believe that everybody’s story matters. Likewise, our hearts and minds can change as we learn about other people’s stories.

People like Jow Way, an immigrant single Chinese mother who raised two kids by herself in the housing projects of New York. She didn’t speak English, worked several day jobs, including hard labor jobs in a sweat shop environment, laundromat and pizzeria. She also made jewelry at home for a wholesaler and eventually worked her way up to a receptionist job at a doctor’s office. Following her passion for fashion, Way eventually opened up her own clothing business, bought a house (outside of the ghetto) and raised two educated children.

Way is Villy Wang’s mom. Wang is the CEO and founder – or as I like to call the “Head CAT” -- of BAYCAT, a San Francisco-based nonprofit social enterprise that educates, inspires and employs underserved youth in the digital media arts.

Wang still gets emotional when she speaks about her mother, “She inspired me to be a banker and lawyer on Wall Street and did the best she could, yet till this day she doesn’t feel like what she did as a single mother raising two kids, not speaking the language, opening up a biz [is a big deal]. She still thinks her story is irrelevant.”

Feel inspired as you learn about Villy Wang, who went from working in a sweatshop and living in the New York projects to achieving her dreams as a Wall Street banker and lawyer. Find out why she left a big job title and paycheck to start BAYCAT.

What I love most about BAYCAT is that the kids not only learn multimedia tools; they also learn responsibility and self worth with every video and film project. I have seen many kids like Lamar Turner mature as they went through the program. Lamar and others are now giving back and have become ambassadors – mentoring the newcomers.

I first met Villy at the Bank of America Local Hero Awards where I was a 2011 recipient and she was a recipient from the year before. I knew we were kindred spirits. After a few follow-up meetings to discuss how my nonprofit, GIG and BAYCAT could join forces with our GIG Spark (Lesson on Compassion) Program, I realized we shared similar stories.

My mother, Tran Lam also does not believe her story is relevant. My parents had a successful business in Vietnam, but in the late '70s, when the communists took over, she and my Dad gave up everything they worked for to bring their five children and a few other relatives to America for “opportunity.” They ended up with $4 in their pockets in Sacramento, Calif., in a trailer – yes there were 10 of us crammed in one trailer.

“We were happy, we were all together, safe and you had a future,” my immigrant mother reminisces with a smile. My mother speaks six languages, raised five successful children, yet she still says things like, “I’m glad my children are smart and independent like their Dad.”

I still don’t think my Mom knows how much of an impact she’s made on my life – and that the inspiration I’m trying to spark around the world with GIG started, in part, to her strength, incredible endurance and survival skills. I hope that she and Jow Way will one day comprehend how their undying love, relentless spirit and search for a better opportunity continues to ripple out through BAYCAT, GIG and by people like you, who are reading, sharing their stories and using your power to help others.

As you saw in the video, the story-telling was disrupted when BAYCAT was recently burglarized and thieves sole more than $50,000 worth of laptops. The kids got over the shock and sadness quickly went back to work and kicked off a “$50K in 50 days” Indiegogo campaign to replace the laptops. Values and actions like these can be traced back to Jow Way’s impact on Wang and Wang’s impact on the BAYCAT kids.

Join me in raising my computer “mouse” to Jow Way, Tran and everyone out there – especially the youth that don’t think their stories matters.

You matter. You do.

Please share a story in the comments section below that inspired you!

Take Action:

1. Watch their Indiegogo campaign to raise "$50K in 50 Days" and contribute what you can.
2. Follow @BAYCATSF on Twitter and BAYCAT on Facebook.
3. Get to know someone’s story in your community and share it. WHAT CAN YOU DO?

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