Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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My India Trip Q&A

India mapSince I announced a few weeks ago that I was headed to India this summer, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the trip and my fundraising efforts. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer a few of them here for you now.

Q: When are you going?

A: We’re going in July! We have tentative dates, but may change them based on the cost of airfare. We’ll try to go when it’s most economical during the month. And we’re planning on staying for about two weeks.

Q: Who are you going with?

A: I’m headed there with two friends. This first is Katrell, who founded the organization we’ll primarily be visiting in Darjeeling, which provides education for at-risk girls in India so they may pursue secondary and university learning. The second is Stephanie who is a friend that also works for Katrell.

Q. Where did you meet the women you’re traveling with?

A. I’ve known both of them since 2012. We met when I was volunteering with the Georgia Chapter of Not For Sale.

Q. How are you connected to the organization?

A. Katrell owns a tea shop in Downtown Atlanta, and the proceeds benefit the scholarship program. I loved the shop and the work she was doing, so I have volunteered my time with her by consulting on her marketing and communications for both projects. I have also attended her monthly fundraising dinners several times, and made sure a lot of my friends knew what she was up to—and where they can get a good cup of tea.

Q. How did the India trip come up?

A. Ever since we met and I fell in love with what Katrell was doing, she’s told me I needed to come with her on this trip. She goes usually twice a year for about a month each time, and I have stalked her every time she’s made the journey. She does a great job documenting it! Now the timing has finally worked out for Stephanie and I to accompany her. And I’m so excited to be going with someone who knows their way around!

Q. What will you guys be doing on the trip?

A. The details are still being worked out right now, but we do have a loose itinerary. We’ll stay with the 11 scholars at their center in Darjeeling and spend time with them, helping however we can and learning their individual stories. We’ll also explore the cities of Kolkata and Darjeeling, and possibly Mumbai or wherever we fly into. Additionally, we plan to visit the tea plantation in Darjeeling where Katrell sources her tea. I’m also thrilled that we’ll be connecting with local orgs that are fighting various forms human and labor trafficking in India to learn from their work. And, of course, we plan on having a lot of fun!

Q. Why do you want to go on the trip?

A. This trip is an opportunity for me to better myself, and in turn, the world around me. It is a chance for me to learn more about issues that I’m extremely interested in and passionate about, such as human trafficking, slavery, women’s rights and girls’ education. If you’ve read even just a few posts on this blog, you know those are common threads. They have deeply wrapped themselves around my heart. I read a lot about these issues, watch movies, do some volunteering and attend events, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me to see it up-close on the other side of the world in a place where it is more common and exposed. According to the Global Slavery Index, India has more slaves than any other country. So, I’m extremely curious to witness the climate that facilitates such an atrocity. I’m ready to meet these people and share their stories with you. And I know it will give me renewed vigor in my local work.

Q. Is this a mission trip?

A. This is a question I get from friends and family in the Church. It is a trip with a mission for sure, but not one like most of you are used to seeing. It is not affiliated with a church or religious organization.

Q. Why are you fundraising for this trip?

A. No one has actually asked me this, but I thought I’d address it as it is a natural question. I actually really struggled with the decision to fundraise. But then I reflected on a few past conversations and here’s where I landed. Predominantly, while this is going to be a fun and amazing trip, it is not a sight-seeing tourist vacation. I very much see it as a humanitarian trip. I will primarily be there to learn and bring those lessons back home with me. If you know me personally, you know I am a natural evangelist for things that I care deeply about. So, this trip will live beyond me. I will find ways to use what I learn, and I will share that knowledge with others whether in the other nonprofits with which I volunteer, my church who will be sending missionaries to live in India next year, articles I write, events I attend or ways yet to be discovered. And the second reason is more simple. In talking with friends in the past about this trip, several of them told me that if I was ever able to go, they would help sponsor me.

Q. How will your funding be used?

A. I’m trying to raise $3,000. Approximately two-thirds of that is just for the airfare. The rest will be food, lodging and transportation within the country. And if I’m able to raise any additional funding, I will happily give that to the scholarship program and their great work.

Q. What if you don’t reach your fundraising goal?

A. Anything that I do not raise, I will pay for out-of-pocket. It will be a bigger strain on my finances than I’d like, but again, I believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Q. How can I help?

A. There are three primary ways I’d love your help. The first is, of course, that I’m fundraising for this trip. Any amount you can contribute would be helpful to me. The second way to help is to let me know if you have suggestions and/or contacts for organizations in the areas that we’ll be in. We have a few in mind, but we’re certainly open to ideas! And the third way is to pray for our journey. Though it is not a traditional “mission trip,” prayers for safe travel, making connections, building relationships and more are always appreciated. I’ll never turn down a prayer.

Did I miss any of your questions? If so, just ask! And thanks so much for your time and interest in my trip! To donate or read more about it, you can visit my fundraising page.

 

**Unfortunately, donations made for this trip are not tax-deductible. I realize that may impact your ability to give, and I still deeply appreciate any consideration. Also, please know that Indiegogo Life, where my fundraiser page is located, charges no fees for its service, therefore all donations will go directly to me outside of your standard credit card fees which are typically around 3%.**

 

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How to Give to Charity With Little or No Money

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 3.15.05 PMIt’s the beginning of the year, so you may feel a little financially stretched after the holidays. Or, you may be like a lot of people who would like to give more to charity, but feel you lack the ability or resources. Well, I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of ways to give with very little or no money involved. All you need is the desire to do so.

One of my heroes, Sheryl WuDunn states in moving her TedTalk, “Research shows that once you have all of your material needs taken care of, there are very few things in life that can actually elevate your level of happiness. One of those things is contributing to a cause larger than yourself.”

So here are 10 easy ways that I’ve come up with to add a little more happiness to your life. I challenge you to pick one and get started this month. What have you got to lose? Probably something you won’t miss anyway.

  1. Use Charity Miles to earn money for charity when you walk, run or bike.
  2. Donate your hair. I’m actually in the process of growing my hair out in order to donate it, and have had a few friends do the same. I’m still doing research on which charity to give it to, so I’ll keep you posted. But this is a great way to support cancer patients, by providing hair that will be turned into a wig.
  3. Through Fit for Food, Fitbit and Feeding America have teamed up, along with Joel McHale, to donate meals to those in need. You burn calories via Fitbit, they give.
  4. Donate things like airline miles to a charity who can use the travel bonus for their staff or beneficiaries.
  5. Spring clean. Like me, you probably have way more stuff than you need. But chances are, someone else may want or need it. Clean out your home and donate your excess to Goodwill or another local charity. I recommend giving to places where you can actually meet the recipients. This will motivate you to de-clutter on a regular basis knowing that there is a real need, and a real face, that needs your clothes and household items. And if you need any motivation in this area, I suggest you read 7: A Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.
  6. Have extra…anything? If you’re like me, you’ve stayed in a hotel at least a few times. And what’s your most popular and consistent souvenir? Probably the toiletries. I had a gallon+ Ziploc bag of unused toiletries. Then I found out that the organization I volunteer for can use those items in their weekly outreach. The same goes for blankets, suitcases and things like that for people who may not have a permanent home. Realistically, you can probably find a charity for anything you have. You just have to look, and ask.
  7. Don’t use your smartphone. The UNICEF Tap Project will help give clean water to children in need when you open their app or page on your smartphone and leave it alone. Each minute without you using your phone results in a larger donation. (It will drain your batter, though, so keep it plugged in while running.)
  8. Give consistent time. This is probably the idea that first came to mind. But, besides money, it’s probably the item you feel you have the least to give. And that’s ok. As we’ve pointed out, there are other ways to be a solution. But, before you dismiss it, let me say two things. First, we prioritize what matters to us. If you really want to volunteer your time, you can likely carve some out during your week or month. It just has to matter enough to you. Second, you might want to check with your favorite charity to see if there is an option that fits your current lifestyle. You don’t know until you ask. For example, through Out of Darkness, I write letters monthly to a woman in a long-term recovery program. It’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time given my schedule and other conflicts, but it provides her with a source of comfort and encouragement consistently each month.
  9. Give inconsistent time. Maybe you have a skill that can be utilized infrequently, that would still be a huge help to an organization. Like to clean or organize? Are you a business professional that can consult? Do you have first-hand industry knowledge that could benefit others? Can you teach a seminar? Have a couple extra hours one month to run errands? I’ve had friends do all of these things. And I personally consult on public relations, advertising and social media for my friend’s organization. I probably only do it a couple of times each year for a few hours, but it’s beneficial to them.
  10. Buy well. There is no shortage of this topic on this blog. I’m a HUGE proponent of utilizing the money you’re already going to spend on something that has a bigger (and better) impact. Luckily, we see this form of social enterprise everywhere now. This can be anything from clothes to dinner out to eyeglasses to comforters to chocolate to sports gear to flowers to .  . . really almost anything these days. You get the point. It’s easy to do. It may take some habit changes in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll become a pro in no time. And you’ll feel better about where your money goes each month, which is priceless. Here are some resources to get you started. And, I’m an avid Amazon shopper, so when I use that site, I use Amazon Smile to donate to my local charity.
  11. One to Grow On: Give your life event. Charity Water can probably be credited with starting this movement, but many others have done similar things. If you’re reading this post, it’s likely you have a birthday. You may even have an anniversary, or something else you celebrate regularly like a holiday. Those are super easy ways to let others in on your desire to give and tell them about your favorite organizations. Charity Water asks people to donate their birthdays by setting up pages on their company website in order to help build a well from small donations in lieu of birthday presents. I’ve seen similar things for Christmas presents, and even read about a couple who asked their wedding guests to make small financial donations to their favorite org instead of bringing gifts. Last year, I had my friends donate $10 Chick-Fil-A gift cards to Out of Darkness for my birthday. This way the women could be taken out of the house for a treat without it being a financial strain on the house moms, staff or budget. As discussed above, I can imagine that you, like me, have enough. So, why not use these events as opportunities for others to have enough as well.

 

Well, that’s my list. What else did you come up with, or have you done? And if you do any of these, or anything else, let me know how it goes!