High Impact of Virtual Institute 2015
This past Saturday, January 24th, we hosted Virtual Institute 2015! Every January, Nourish International and its Chapters gather together on AnyMeeting.com for this virtual training conference as a collaborative effort to grow the Nourish movement. This year, we were extremely excited to have over 30 of our amazing chapters with 100 student social entrepreneurs attend our daylong development session. (Shout out to our Chapters on the West Coast for getting up at 9 am on a Saturday!)
Every year, Virtual Institute has served as a platform for Chapters across the US and Canada to connect and learn from each other. We tailored our valuable workshops and discussions so that Chapters may build a better understanding of how to further the impact on extreme poverty as student leaders. Students are able to not only inspire but also learn from their peers—Virtual Institute is one of two times in the year, the other being our Summer Institute, in which Nourish is able to participate as one group.
Virtual Institute this year was a huge success! Students loved how they were able to meet with other leaders in the movement and share their passions for sustainable and responsible development projects. Lauren Monahan from Boston College loved “[seeing and] hearing from all the students and being able to connect with them!” Alex Deuley from Pitt affirmed that “connecting with students across the country and hearing that they are going through similar experiences that we are” was one of the best parts of Virtual Institute.
To support Nourish’s high impact virtual programs, like Virtual Institute, you can donate here.
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Recent Attack in Kenya poses the question to the Nourish Network: Is terrorism is a form of poverty?
Acts of terrorism continue to wreak havoc around the world and the recent international terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya hits close to home for Nourish International as we mourn for our partners and communities abroad that have suffered from the evil of others.
Africa remains the world’s poorest continent, with over 40% of sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty. In the past 10 years, however, Kenya has become one of Africa’s most developed nations, an entrepreneurial hub for east Africa. Nourish has worked there for two years partnering with organizations on the ground working in sustainable agriculture, HIV/ AIDS prevention, tree reforestation, and educational outreach. We have built greenhouses and hospitals, planted tree forests, and run outreach workshops alongside communities in Kenya.
The Nourish International Movement, founded in 2003, is built upon the tenets of empowerment, social and economic justice, community- led partnership, and systemic and sustainable solutions for communities living in extreme poverty. We engage students to participate in creating a more just world.
Theo Klimek, a Nourish Chapter Leader at the University of Minnesota Chapter spent five weeks this summer working alongside Organic Health Response in Kenya. Theo reflects on the attack this week in frustration and concern with the following: “Our Nourish team was in Kenya for five weeks and in that short window I fell in love with the heart of the Kenyan people and their goodwill. Being from Minneapolis, I’ve had a chance to sit in on some community discussions concerning Somalia, its emerging government, its relationship with Kenya, and its troubles with Al-Shabab. Putting the two together, it has been deeply frustrating watching this week’s events unfold. Kenya’s role as a friend to the young Somali government and its military investment in peace and humanitarian aid in southern Somalia are both great examples of the good heart of its people. The tragedy within the tragedy is that their goodwill is being combated with death and terror. It’s quite possible that members of the Minnesota-Somali community were involved in this attack (Somali leaders here have publicly condemned this act of terror). And although this fact is making national news, I’m glad to know that there were many more Minnesotans in Kenya this year working alongside the Kenyan people, whose names won’t make headlines, but whose actions were for good, rather than destruction.”
Poverty manifests itself in many forms, and the most common understanding is economic or absolute poverty. This would include the statistic we all know too well… that one in six people (roughly one billion!) in the world live on less than a $1.25 per day.
Economic poverty is just one representation of poverty. In fact, extreme poverty is more than the lack of material resources necessary to meet an individual’s basic needs. One critical component of the extreme poverty is when an individual lacks the opportunity to make meaningful choices that will sustainably improve his or her life. Like poverty, terrorism is a global threat that kills, prevents growth, starves, and frightens all people striving for a meaningful life and improved living conditions.
Nourish International’s network fights the disempowerment of all people and trains leaders in their efforts to alleviate and end poverty in whatever form it takes.
Acts of terrorism remind us at Nourish International why our mission to engage students and empower communities is vital to creating lasting change and developing a more economically and socially just world. Our resolve to impact those in poverty, whether it’s through hunger alleviation, disease prevention, access to education or economic opportunity has only increased this week while watching our partners in Kenya and communities in need, face the terror associated with the recent attacks.
In light of the recent events, we pose the following question to the Nourish Network in reflecting on this week’s event, Is poverty a form of terrorism?
It’s now May 17th at 11pm, we’ve been in transit since 4am, and we’ve still got 15 hours left until we reach our destination – well, until we reach Mumbai where we will be spending the weekend before flying off to Bhubaneswar. According to the map, we’re over Greenland right now, and we’ve got just 6,018 more miles until we reach New Delhi – a lil more than a hop and a skip away. By the time that I post this, we will have undoubtedly reached Mumbai and will have hopefully caught up on our rest before cavorting about the city.
I’m sitting here in my cramped lil seat – one that seems to have been designed with somebody who is perhaps six inches shorter in mind – elbow-to-elbow with a plane full of delightful Indians, reflecting on a movie I’ve just watched and thinking about choices…
In the time leading up to this trip to India and sharing the news about where I’d be this summer, I commonly encountered two distinct kinds of reactions from most people. There were those that expressed their sense of amazement, and perhaps admiration, that I was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to come and serve on this project, willing to endure hardships and all sorts of unpleasantries for the sake of helping those less fortunate than me. And then there were those who just as well expressed their admiration but more than that, they mutually shared the excitement and spoke of how certain they were of the joy that was awaiting me in the splendid country of India.
Table that thought for a moment… So I just watched The Bucket List, and there was a scene where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are sitting atop a pyramid in Egypt, and Morgan asks Jack the two questions that Egyptians were supposedly asked before being allowed into Egyptian heaven: “Did you have joy in life, and did you bring joy into the lives of others?” Quite thought-provoking questions! Needless to say, this led me to think about choices, particularly the choices I’ve made in my own life.
Now we are all faced with choices in life, millions upon millions of them, and some of them are small, like choosing to smile at a child as he crosses your path or deciding to look on the bright side of things when your seating arrangement on a 14-hr flight is a little less comfortable than one might like. And some of them are big, like deciding to travel halfway around the world to spend 6-weeks in the blazing heat, forgoing A/C and the other amenities of the Western world, essentially paying to work for free. It’s at times like these that I am reminded that it is not the hand in life that you are dealt but rather how you decide to play that hand that matters most – tis about the choices you make, no matter how great or how small, that make all the difference (…thinking of you Mr. Robert Frost…).
I’m sitting here in the wee hours of the night, somehow still operating on a mere 4-hours of sleep, simply wanting to share with you my own joy at this moment. Despite the cramped quarters and the troubles we’ve already faced with the airports and boarding pass issues and sleep deprivation and so on, I am finding immense joy in being here on this plane, flying with three other incredibly amazing volunteers, who I am so honored and blessed to have here with me, embarking on the journey of a lifetime. I feel overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for having the privilege of getting to serve for the 3rd time on a Nourish project – but this time having the honor of sharing this leadership experience with someone that I admire from the bottom of my heart (…thinking of you Lauren…). To the Nourish – Austin officers & members, to the Nourish staff & Board of Directors, to our partner (DJMV) in India, to my fellow volunteers, to my family back home, to my friends wherever you are – I offer you a sincere and humble thank you for all your hard work and support to make this project happen!
So Mr. Freeman, yes, there has been, and continues to be, much joy in my life! As for the 2nd question – do you bring joy into the lives of others? – I invite you all (yes, you the reader) to follow us on our journey, and when our stories bring you a sense of joy, share your feedback with our volunteers and offer them your kind support. Know that each of us have chosen to set aside these weeks to come in order to travel to these two remote fishing villages in India to offer a helping hand, to offer a ray of hope, and perhaps at the end of the day, a little bit of joy.
In Peru, more than 14 million people lack access to health care. A lack of other basic necessities, such as clean water and proper sanitation, exacerbate this problem by causing illnesses that are difficult to treat. Typhoid fever, hepatitis A, dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, and leptospirosis are all commonly contracted diseases.
This summer, the Nourish chapters at Ohio State University and Yale University teamed up with nonprofit MOCHE, Inc., to address health care access in Peru. The two project teams traveled to the Moche Valley to construct a health clinic that will provide subsidized and free services to 10,000 poor Peruvians. The clinic will be run by the local community, making it sustainable. Additionally, the project teams hosted health fairs to educate the local people about maternal health, hygiene, and nutrition.
MOCHE, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the standard of living in impoverished communities, preserving archaeological sites, and promoting research and education on the rich cultural heritage of Peru. To do this, MOCHE forms partnerships with poor Peruvian communities. In exchange for education programs and funding for development projects, the communities agree to protect specific local archaeological sites.
The two project teams have returned from Peru after successfully completing their projects. This was OSU’s second summer working with MOCHE and Yale’s first.
Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, Google, blogs, instant messaging, Skype, chat rooms, discussion boards…the average American youth has so many methods of communication all available at the click of a mouse. These outlets give youth access to a vast array of information and allow them to connect to their peers and world in new ways.
In many developing countries, the Internet is still a new concept. Can you imagine how hard your life would be without the Internet? How would you search for a job? How would you keep in touch with friends and family? How would you find a recipe for dinner? The Internet gives humans access to so many resources that improve quality of life, yet many people do not have access to the Internet and do not know how to use it.
This summer, the UNC Nourish chapter and two students from Yale and Brown Universities teamed up with nonprofit FIPAH to bridge the communication and information gap between developed and developing countries. The project team taught English, computer skills, and Internet literacy to Honduran youth in the Yorito and Jesus de Otoro regions of Honduras. The team also taught the youth about photography to further facilitate connections between the youth, their communities, and the wider world.
This is UNC’s fourth consecutive summer working with FIPAH, or the Fundacion para la Investigacion Participativa de Agricultores de Honduras. “Nourish UNC’s longstanding, fruitful partnership with FIPAH models the kind of mutually beneficial exchange our chapter seeks to build in our relationships with every partner organization,” says one project member. “We keep sending teams to Honduras because FIPAH never fails to propose compelling projects and our interns return to the US every year raving about their experience.”
One UNC student has continued to work with FIPAH outside of Nourish. Rising senior Claire Kane, who established Nourish’s FIPAH partnership in 2008, returned a second time to film a documentary about the organization.
This year’s project team has returned from Honduras, and you can read about their experiences on their blog by clicking here.
As we look back on the Summer Institute, Nourish International would like to recognize and thank our food sponsors. This year, we strived to work with locally owned businesses, supporting our community members in these difficult times. Not only was the food delicious, but Nourish was able to continue forging strong relations with our community. Read on to learn more about our food sponsors:
Located in the eclectic town of Carrboro, Armadillo Grill is an award-winning Tex-Mex restaurant that has been operating in the Triangle area since 1993. Perhaps the secret behind their famous soft tacos is the fact that they make their tortillas after an order has been placed, not before. We enjoyed Armadillo Grill’s delicious rice and beans as the first day’s lunch, featuring a kick back to our first venture, Hunger Lunch.
We also enjoyed UNC’s Carolina Catering. From veggie wraps to Carolina Barbeque to portobello sandwiches, Carolina Catering pleased a variety of tastes.
Local coffee shop Cup A Joe provided caffeine for those Institute attendees who are not morning people. Owned by Joe Van Gogh, a certified organic coffee roaster, Cup A Joe offers certified Fair Trade and Shade Grown coffee. We love that Joe Van Gogh strives to purchase coffee directly from farmers, maximizing the compensation for hard-working coffee growers around the world. Next time you’re shopping for your morning cup of coffee, check out their Cafe Feminino line, which supports women-owned co-ops around the world.
Elmo’s Diner is definitely the spot to go if you’re in need of comfort food. From chocolate chip pancakes and biscuits to meatloaf and burgers, Elmo’s menu covers all home-cooking favorites. Elmo’s provided delicious quiche for the Summer Institute for the second year in a row.
Jessee’s Coffee is another local coffee shop that provided coffee for the Institute. Nourish staff members are especially excited about this coffee, as they miss their near-daily visits to Jessee’s when the National Office was located in Carrboro. Jessee’s offers free live music throughout the week and also features a locally-sourced food menu that is delicious!
We are excited that Mez Contemporary Mexican catered the Summer Institute Banquet for the second year in a row. Located in Durham, NC, Mez is the latest venture of the locally owned and operated Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, which also owns the popular 411 West, Squid’s Seafood, and Spanky’s. Mez features traditional Mexican recipes with a modern, healthy twist, and uses locally grown organic products whenever possible.
Vimala’s Curry Blossom Cafe is owned by Vimala, a Bombay native and mother of three. She began cooking donation-based community dinners in her home in 1994, and it was here that her restaurant was born. Vimala’s long-term goals are to transform the local economy by buying locally produced food, seeking local investors, and paying a living wage to staff.
Many thanks to our other food donors as well:
- Alpine Bagel Cafe
- Boston Market
- Harris Teeter
- Krispy Kreme
- Noodles & Company
- Papa John’s Pizza
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Foods Market
In this difficult economic climate, we appreciate that local businesses and franchises continue to support our students and mission. Many thanks to all of these restaurants for their generous contributions!
In Nicaragua, a large portion of the population lives in poverty. Poor women, disadvantaged due to both their gender and their economic status, often operate on the margins of society. Lacking economic opportunity, these women struggle to care for and support their families. Basic needs like food and shelter are often not met.
This summer, the Nourish chapter at the University of New Mexico teamed up with Nicaraguan nonprofit Casa de la Mujer to provide housing for women and their families in Nicaragua. The project team is currently in Nicaragua building and improving upon houses. Deeds to the homes will be sold at little cost to female heads of household, providing the women with a property investment and increasing their independence. The women will then be able to focus on other needs in their lives.
In addition to constructing safe shelters for Nicaraguan women, Casa de la Mujer addresses other needs, providing these women with legal resources, job training, and other services. The organization also educates women about domestic violence, health and nutrition.
The project team is currently hard at work in Nicaragua. Despite the hard manual labor required to build the houses, the team has still found time and energy to experience the culture of Nicaragua through holiday celebrations and sightseeing trips. Read about their experiences on their blog by clicking here.
It’s hard to believe that summer is already drawing to a close here at the Nourish International National Office, with the Summer Institute fast approaching. After the conclusion of the Institute, our four summer interns will leave their positions to focus on school work, jobs and other new commitments. But who are these interns and what exactly have they been doing all summer, anyway?
Natalie Prince, who came to Nourish through UNC’s APPLES Service-Learning Program, served as Nourish’s event planning intern. Her primary duty was to plan the Summer Institute, a five-day leadership conference for Nourish student leaders. Natalie has also started planning for Nourish’s Masquerade Ball in October.
Though Natalie sometimes found it challenging to be assertive in securing donations, she liked her position. “I enjoyed working in a nonprofit setting and learning more about Nourish’s mission,” she says. “I also enjoyed getting to take the lead on my own project.”
Natalie is a rising junior majoring in Spanish and political science. During the upcoming school year, Natalie will serve as co-chair of public service and advocacy for UNC’s student government. She also hopes to study abroad in the spring.
Ethan Fujita, a rising junior at UNC majoring in philosophy and international studies, served as Nourish’s operations support intern this summer. His job involved creating resources for Nourish’s 24 chapters. Ethan created campus profiles, which highlight unique features to each chapter in order to better educate the National Office’s chapter support team. He also created university contact sheets for each chapter and researched campus restrictions on things like holding events and selling foods.
This fall, Ethan will be focusing on school, working at a local coffee shop, and volunteering with an on-campus organization called AIESEC. “AIESEC is very similar to Nourish,” says Ethan. “It is an international exchange program for student interns. We have chapters across the country and a national team as well. A lot of the things I learned through this internship are very applicable to the work I do for AIESEC, and I have a better understanding of what the national staff deal with.”
Megan Straubel, a 2011 UNC graduate, served as assistant to the executive director at Nourish this summer. Her position was challenging because of her wide range of duties: she sent out a summer mailing to donors, processed donation letters, wrote thank you letters, prepared for upcoming fundraisers, and contributed to grant writing strategy. However, Megan was happy to work for a cause close to her heart. “My internship reinforced my passion for public health while opening my eyes to the many ways in which an impact can be achieved,” she says.
Megan also worked this summer with the Chordoma Foundation, a research group for a rare form of cancer. She plans to stay on at Nourish this fall as a special projects consultant while continuing to work and apply to graduate school.
Laura Jasmine, a rising senior majoring in public relations and religious studies, worked as Nourish’s public relations and grant writing intern this summer. She wrote Nourish’s blogs, created monthly newsletters, and designed the summer mailer and new brochure. She also helped Executive Director Ryan Richards apply for grants. “The practical skill sets that Nourish has given me have been so beneficial,” she says. “Not only have I built a portfolio and resume, I have also contributed to a cause with a mission I believe in.”
This fall, Laura will continue to serve as her sorority’s philanthropy chair and provide habilitation services to the special needs population in Chapel Hill. She will also be writing an honors thesis and applying to graduate school for social work.