The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs

Shin Fujiyama is a CNN Hero and the Executive Director of Students Helping Honduras. He lives with 30 former street children in Honduras where he runs a school and international NGO out of a tree house. In each episode Shin will be interviewing a proven social entrepreneur or NGO leader in the nonprofit or international development aid industry-- including several CNN Heroes and bestselling authors. They’re going to deconstruct their journey to explain HOW they built up their organizations. They’ll also tell us about their greatest failures, lessons, regrets, and behind-the-scenes realities. We’ll talk about their tactics, philosophies, principles, tools, and motivations to give you inspiration and actionable advice. 1) Subscribe to this podcast. 2) Turn on automatic downloads. 3) Leave me a review. 4.) Enjoy every new interview for FREE during your commute or workout.
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The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs



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Dec 28, 2016

Social Entrepreneur Seth Maxwell has the goal of providing clean water to every single community in Swaziland. And at age 28, he is on his way of doing it. A few years ago, Seth founded Thirst Project with his friends from college. Together, they set out to end the number one global killer of children: the world’s water crisis.

Since raising $1,700 at their very first fundraising event, Thirst Project has worked with students from over 400 schools to raise 8 million dollars. They've provided 300,000 people with safe drinking water around the world. Seth Maxwell is the recipient of VH1’s Do Something Award and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship.

Text THIRST to 97779 to get connected to a staff person from Thirst Project.


Show Links for Seth Maxwell

Gary V

Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins

How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins


Show Notes for Seth Maxwell

While living in Los Angeles, Seth Maxwell learned about the global water crisis at age 19.

According to Seth Maxwell, 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water at the time

Women and children will spend hours each day to find water, which adds up to thousands of hours per year

Animals defecate into the same water source, causing water-borne illnesses

Drinking contaminated water kills more children under the age of five than AIDS and malaria combined

“Clean water impacts everything.”

Without safe water, other development aid initiatives loses effectiveness

Seth started a club with seven friends on campus to raise awareness about the global water crisis around LA.

Seth and his friends spent $70 to buy bottles of water. They gave out the bottled water on Hollywood Boulevard so they could talk about the crisis.

People began to ask them to speak about the crisis at their schools

Within one month, they fundraised $12,000, which sparked Seth to create the Thirst Project

They started off by sending their funding to partner organizations

Soon, they started to implement the water projects themselves after forming a technical team made up of water experts

Swaziland is small, with 1.4 million people and is known as the country with the highest AIDS density in the world

For people with AIDS, drinking contaminated water is a serious issue due to their weakened immune system

In order to provide running water to the entire country of Swaziland (100% national coverage), Thirst Project needs to raise $40 million

As a youth, Seth Maxwell was passionate about theater and telling stories on stage

Seth admits that he was arguably the most selfish, introspectively-focused human being on the planet at age 19

Learning about the water crisis shattered his world view

“There was a lot of doubt. Could I do this? How do I lead a team? How do I fundraise?”

Seth focused on finding experts who would join his team and Board

Seth faced great self doubts as he started as a young person with a background in theater

Seth no longer speaks at school assemblies anymore, as he feels his shelf life has passed

The Thirst Project presentations tell the story of the global water crisis

During the first 2-3 years, Seth focused on making the presentations himself

Soon, Seth realized that speaking so much was not a sustainable model for the organization

Thirst Project now find students who get trained and give the presentations on behalf of the organization where they speak at at least one school a day

Seth feels that now at age 28, he doesn’t resonate with high school students compared to when he was 19

About 2.5 years into the organization, Seth went on a 3-month speaking tour where he spoke at 80 schools all over the country. He never stayed in a city more than 3-4 days. It was emotionally draining because he didn’t have a sense of community being such a traveling nomad

In the last year, Seth started to work out 3 times per week to better take care of himself

Seth is protective of his weekend so he can make time for himself as a person

At age 25, Seth was overly consumed with his work and had very little going on in his personal life

Our generation is making an impact in the world but it often means sacrificing personal time or fun activities

Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are not necessarily big risk takers. They take calculated risks.

“Now is the time. Take risks. Build something. Break it down. Rebuild it. Figure out what works.”

“You have to try.”

Every high school or university that works with Thirst Project does it differently.

Their 45 minute presentations have lots of media, photos, videos

The students start fundraisers for Thirst Project, like basketball tournaments, video game tournaments, dances, walks, etc.

100% of these donations go to the water projects, as the Board pays for administrative expenses

Donors get personalized thank you videos from the project sites

The team making the content for the Thirst Project presentations is very young in age, allowing them to know what will grab the attention of their peers

The Thirst Project breaks down their content into three parts: 1.) The Problem, 2.) The Solution, 3.) The Call-To-Action  

“Storytelling is powerful.”

People expect high quality content

It’s all about building relationships

Too often nonprofits look at donors as ATMS and volunteers as work horses

It’s about genuinely caring about the people behind the organization

Thirst Project communities have water committees and a strong sense of ownership

Seth breaks down the White Savior Complex issue

Seth reads business books

Thirst Project is creating a team called G20 that will support the cause in a huge manner

Thirst Project is partnering up with Key Club

“There was something exciting about that hustle.”

Dec 20, 2016

Imagine working out of a coffee shop to start an online movement for social good that gets shared by the World Bank, William Easterly, Kiva, Grameen America, Oxfam, Finca, BRAC, and Opportunity International. According to Dr. Shawn Humphrey (AKA The Blue Collar Professor), you can do it by following his four-step-plan. And for $50 or less.

Dr. Shawn Humphrey is the founder of La Ceiba Microfinance Institute, The Two Dollar Challenge, The Month of Microfinance, and The Sidekick Manifesto.

In this episode, Shawn deconstructs how he starts online movements for social good and makes them go viral.

He also talks about his favorite books, how he responds to criticism, how to connect with influencers (like Seth Godin, William Easterly, and Jacqueline Novogratz), narrative humility, his “unusual” morning routine, his inner chatter, personal finance for social entrepreneurs, and tribal teaching.

Shawn Humphrey is a Board member for Students Helping Honduras and is an economics professor at the University of Mary Washington. Check out his blog at and his top posts: Pumping People Up About Poverty, Packaging Poverty, Making the Poor Pay.


Show Links for Shawn Humphrey

To Hell With Good Intentions

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki  (Author), Peg Fitzpatrick

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer

Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor by Hugh Sinclair

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz


Show Notes for Shawn Humphrey

60 groups participated in the $2 Challenge around the world in 2016

The Month of Microfinance struck up a partnership with groups like Kiva, FINCA, BRAC, Opportunity International, Grameen America

The Sidekick Manifesto went viral and got posted by World Bank, Oxfam, and William Easterly

These movements had cost Shawn about $50 each (domain hosting)

Shawn uses Wordpress for his campaign websites

Running a traditional nonprofit organization is much harder than running an online movement

You need to “start too soon”

Shawn Humphrey emphasizes the process of: learn, make changes, iterate

It takes Shawn Humphrey about half a day to start an online movement

The four components of an online movement: 1.) platform, 2.) social media infrastructure, 3.) power network, 4.) content

The content in the online movement is the most important. What does it put on the table? An experience? Useful information?

The $2 Challenge has three levels: Beginner (3 days), Intermediate (5 days), Difficult (5 days plus randomized daily income)

For the “Difficult” level, there are also “shocks” like unexpected expenses

The $2 Challenge pulls participants out of their comfort zone

The $2 Challenge creates empathy in participants

The Sidekick Curriculum accompanies the $2 Challenge, which includes daily reading material and short films.

At the end of each evening, there is a group meeting and reading

Participants read Ivan Illich’s To Hell With Good Intentions

During the first year of the $2 Challenge, about 10 students participated and called their tent a “shantytown” which he is now embarrassed about. He later decided on the term, “makeshift shelter.”

“The first year, there were doubts everywhere.”

Shawn experienced poverty during his childhood in Ohio

Shawn describes his impression of me when I was a college student

Shawn dropped his research project to work on development aid in Honduras

Bragging and promoting oneself was not something Shawn was used to when he started the Blue Collar Professor

Shawn started attracting online trolls who criticized him for misspelled words, etc.

Several people were offended by his post, The Do-Gooder Industrial Complex

In the article, Shawn criticized the idea of in-kind donations as a solution to poverty, specifically with shoe donations. An online debate ensued.

A well-known blogger criticized the $2 Challenge and her audience rallied behind her.

Shawn has a rule: Wait 24 hours before sending an emotional email

Shawn responded to the criticism to start a conversation. That conversation turned into a friendship. Her community began to understand Shawn’s point of view.

Shawn welcomes criticism because it allows us to clarify, reflect, and question our own thoughts and methods. But it’s not easy to take emotionally.

Shawn’s PhD advisor, Douglas C. North, won the Nobel Prize in Economics through his research on economic development. Shawn applied what he learned in his programs in Honduras

Through the Sidekick Manifesto, Shawn practices Narrative Humility. How do you handle and share someone’s story? What biases do we have? How can we be their sidekicks and not their heroes?

For the Sidekick Manifesto, the Sidekick Manifesto itself was the Content. It had taken Shawn 10 years to write it.

Shawn released the Sidekick Manifesto on The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to get maximum exposure

Shawn purchased the domain name on Godaddy for ~$10.

He hosted the site on Reclaim Hosting at no additional cost

He used Wordpress to build the site

He started the hashtag #sidekickmanifesto

Shawn already had 5 of his own social media handles pushing out the Sidekick Manifesto simultaneously

He then reached out to his power networks, including Students Helping Honduras, to build an audience

He simply asked, “will you Tweet this out?”

Who are your top 5, top 50, top 100 people in your network?

Shawn and William Easterly follow each other on Twitter and they had talked about Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance so he had been developing that relationship before the ask for a Re-Tweet

You need to give, give, give before making the ask

The homepage got 2,000 unique visits in two weeks

The total cost to run The Sidekick Manifesto was $40-$50

“I’ve been cold-calling and cold-emailing people since 2007. That’s how we got started.”

Shawn even emailed the marketing guru, Seth Godin. He replied back within 5 minutes.

Shawn cold emailed the founder of Kiva and started a conversation with her on the $2 Challenge. She shared Shawn’s content.

Shawn cold emailed Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen Fund and author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

Each year, Shawn will create a list and reach out to 10 influencers

It took 10 years of relationship building for Shawn to get the influencers to share his content

“It is a long, slow, patient process. One grain of sand at a time. But it does pay off.”

Shawn gets up at around 4:50am. He goes to Starbucks on his bicycle as he fights his inner doubts and chatter. He orders his tall, black coffee without sugar, no cream. He starts typing away on his laptop and works away for one hour. He rides back home as he again fights his inner doubts and chatter.

“It’s every moment.”

Shawn is constantly criticizing himself inside his head.

Shawn is now 45 years old and is asking himself: “Is this it?”

Shawn allows himself two existential crises per year

Being married and having a child gave him constraints that have helped Shawn

Shawn does not work after 5pm so he can focus on his life outside of work. He rarely works on weekends

Shawn is very protective of his time so he can stay productive

Though Shawn puts Tim Ferriss’s teachings from The Four Hour Workweek into practice, he cautions himself to not get caught up with the idea of working less and building wealth to accumulate material things or go on exotic vacations. For the social entrepreneur, doing the work (and doing it better) is the reward.

If you want to be in the social impact space, you have to be counter-cultural and accept the fact that you won’t be wealthy and find the value in the work itself. You won’t have the traditional, American lifestyle.

Shawn is getting ready to launch Tribal Teaching where he will teach students to stop seeking perfection, to re-wild themselves, to tear down the status quo, to ask why.  

Dec 7, 2016

Social entrepreneur Brandon Chrostowski was arrested in Detroit at the age of 18 and faced a long jail sentence. Instead, he received a second chance and was sentenced to just one year in probation. That was when he decided to turn his life around. He finished high school and went to a culinary institute where he peeled carrots. His relentless work ethic found him restaurant jobs in New York City, Chicago, and then Paris. It was there that he began telling himself to "quit screwing around, quit making excuses, quit overthinking things. Just do it.” In Paris, Brandon realized that "hard work doesn't have a language."

Yet becoming a successful chef was not enough for Brandon Chrostowski. He thought to himself, “I’ve got to do something even bigger with my life. It may take a long time, but I’m going to start today.” His dream was to give a second chance to ex-convicts. During his time off from his 80hr/week restaurant work, Brandon began teaching culinary skills in a local prison. He spent $2,000 of his life savings to buy all the equipment.

As his project grew, he built Edwin's Restaurant and Leadership Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. Not only is it a top rated restaurant, the staff who work at Edwin's Restaurant are ex-convicts who receive training and housing. Brandon attributes the success to his work ethic and trust in his instincts: “People think you have to rest one day. You don’t have to. You can work on a project. You can work 100 hours per week. You just do that seven days a week. When you hit it like this for a decade, things start to happen. You really chip away at what needs to get done and built.”

Brandon was recently named a CNN Hero.


Show Links for Brandon Chrostowski

Show Notes for Brandon Chrostowski

Brandon Chrostowski began working in the restaurant industry in Detroit before he was 18

Brandon Chrostowski got arrested at age 18 and faced a 5-10 year jail sentence. Instead, he received a second chance and was sentenced to just one year in probation.

He was a high energy child who loved to push the limits

He started working in the restaurant industry in New York, Paris, and Chicago

Back in Detroit, friends were getting killed or going to jail

The idea of race was a big issue for Brandon

“I’ve got to do something bigger with my life. It may take a long time, but I’m going to start today.”

When Brandon started Edwin’s Restaurant, he was still paying off school loans

“You can work 100 hours per week.”

Edwin’s schedule when starting Edwin’s Restaurant: 8am-10am Edwin’s Restaurant, 10am-midnight work at a restaurant, midnight-2am Edwin’s Restaurant

“You just do that seven days a week.”

“People think you have to rest one day. You don’t have to. You can work on a project.”

Brandon works from 8am until 1am six days a week currently, and 10-12 hours on a Sunday

“When you hit it like this for a decade, things start to happen. You really chip away at what needs to get done and built.”

Brandon had to figure out how to start and run a nonprofit organization

While Brandon worked as a full-time chef, he started small, by teaching culinary skills in prison. That’s how he started

A documentary about Edwin’s Restaurant will be coming out in early 2017, with 4 years of footage

“Nobody’s going to invest in you if you don’t invest in yourself.”

Brandon invested $1,000-$2,000 to purchase the startup equipment like knives

Small family foundations began supporting Brandon

One in three people have been involved with the justice system in the US

Stigma makes it hard for people with criminal records to find jobs

Yet it’s a crutch. If you have a special skill and the desire to work, there is no trouble finding a job, even with a felony. It’s hard, but that’s if you don’t have a skill.

“Hard work doesn’t have a language.” About succeeding in France

50% of people who leave prisons go back to prison eventually

In the prison program, a typical student will get trained for four hours each Saturday on the fundamentals of cooking

At the restaurant, students get interviewed and join the training academy

The first three weeks of the academy is extremely challenging. Students memorize many facts and get tested.

Half of the students quit during the training

Applicants are not judged based on previous offenses or education level

Edwin’s Restaurant will help students get licenses, bank accounts, insurance, and other life basics

Students go through an additional 5.5 month training program where they rotate through all the different positions: host, server, bartender, food runner, pastries, cold food, fish, meat, prep working, business management, etc.

The days are 10-12 hours each day of class, setup, restaurant work, meetings, etc.

Case managers help the students in their lives

“You need a MAKE IT HAPPEN kind of approach no matter what.”

Building up the self-esteem of the students is a high priority for Brandon Chrostowski. He does so by giving bigger challenges and helping them overcome those challenges, day after day

“It’s about coming together as a family.”

If a student is having problems with drug addiction, Edwin’s Restaurant will help them through rehab, sponsor programs, strengthen their network, uphold them to high standards

Before, drugs affected 30% of the students at the academy. It has been reduced to about 10% now.

“Everyone here has a life plan. And as they are succeeding in their life plan, they’re winning. And that winning is addictive... And anything that might make you lose… you’re more apt to say no.”

Some of his students were homeless and slept on couches.

In three months, Edwin’s Restaurant raised $1.3 million to build a campus with free housing, 25 beds for his students, including a fitness center, library, and basketball court.

Brandon’s mentor used to challenge Brandon to do more, teaching him the MAKE IT HAPPEN attitude

“Continue trusting your instincts.”

Brandon does not own a TV to avoid the fear-driven media

Brandon had no doubt that the project was going to work. It was simply about building it.

Brandon felt thankful everyday, and very little fear

Being a social entrepreneur is tough. Brandon went through a divorce because he wife thought he was too obsessed with the project. Twice he was left without a home.

Brandon Chrostowski feels grateful for life and for being alive

Brandon Chrostowski is hoping to add a butcher shop

“It’s a day at a time.”

The first days of Edwin’s Restaurant was like the “Wild West.”

Alvin was one of the first students. He was sent to jail mid-way through the training but he kept studying in jail. He persevered and is now running a restaurant in Detroit.

95% of the customers know what the restaurant is about when they come.

Edwin’s Restaurant is rated as the #1 restaurant in Cleveland

A hamburger at Edwin’s Restaurant costs $33!!

The cost to run the academy is offset by the profits made through the restaurant

“People will come for the mission maybe once. But they’re not coming back unless the experience is stellar.”

According toBrandon Chrostowski, the potato-wrapped grouper in a red wine butter sauce is the best meal at the restaurant

“Quit thinking about it. Just do it.”

“Shoot, aim, fire.”

“Quit screwing around, quit making excuses, quit overthinking things. Just do it.”

You don’t have to be in New York City to start an innovative program

“Sometimes the right place is where you’re at.”

Nov 29, 2016

Social entrepreneur Gavin Armstrong is the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a social business and B-Corp aiming to combat iron deficiency. Nearly 3.5 billion people around the world suffer from iron deficiency or anemia, resulting in constant fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating at school or at work. The Iron Lucky Fish is a piece of iron cast in the shape of a fish. When boiled with food or broth, it releases enough iron to provide up to 90% of the daily necessary intake.

Turning this simple idea into reality was no easy task. Gavin started the B-Corp in Cambodia while simultaneously pursuing a PhD. He went for years without a salary. He made mistake after mistake and things didn't work out as planned. Yet Gavin kept tinkering and iterating.

The Lucky Iron Fish is a global phenomena now. Gavin was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for social entrepreneurship.

Many people in the developed world also suffer from iron deficiency. You can buy a Lucky Iron Fish ($25) for yourself and the company will give one to a person in need. The Lucky Iron Fish is a great holiday gift for friends and family.


Show Links for Gavin Armstrong

Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus

Gavin’s experience during college volunteering at a refugee camp in Kenya made him want to fight world hunger

Researcher Christopher Charles had a project called Happy Fish that sparked Gavin’s interest. The original thesis paper can be found here.

Chris abandoned the research project

Gavin continued Chris’s research in Cambodia

Cambodia has an extremely high level of iron deficiency due to nutritional and genetic factors

Iron deficiency is the world’s most common micro-nutrient challenge

Half of the world’s population suffers from this preventable condition

Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and even death

Iron deficiency leads to a loss of $70 billion to the world’s GDP

Women, especially, suffer from iron deficiency

Iron deficiency does not discriminate between the poor and the rich

Iron supplements have negative side effects and are expensive

Gavin pursued a PhD in Canada revolving around this project while starting the company in Cambodia

He spent many days on airplanes

The lucky iron fish is a simple health innovation product

You boil the piece of iron with the food for 10 minutes, which releases iron into the meal

The iron is reusable for 5 years

The lucky iron fish doesn’t change the food’s color or taste

The product is in the shape of a fish because the fish is the symbol of luck in Cambodia

The Lucky Iron Fish received $180,000 from the university to start the company

“We were very lean in the beginning.”

Gavin worked with a foundry in Cambodia to make cast iron material that met international specifications

Gavin made sure the iron was safe, bio-available, and contaminate-free

Much of the iron in Cambodia was contaminated by arsenic

They made the prototypes out of wood and approach local focus groups in rural communities to get their feedback

Rapid prototyping was key

Gavin went to all the focus group meetings

He observed people’s facial expressions

The fish’s surface area was important to be able to release the right quantity of iron per use

The Cambodians called the prototype models the “Heavy Black Fish”

Gavin wanted to brand the product better so he stamped the front of the face with the Cambodian symbol that means “good” and people began calling it the “Good Fish”

The smile of the fish is designed so that after five years, it fades away… so when the smile fades away, the families know they need to trade it in

Lucky Iron Fish is a top ranked B-Corps and not a nonprofit organization

B-Corps (Benefit Corporations) is an international certification given to social enterprises that make a social impact

Gavin was frustrated by the sustainability of nonprofit organizations, which are unable to get investments like for-profit companies

Understanding the distribution model was a major challenge

There was no established trust with the communities in the beginning

They tried a travelling road show, which didn’t work

They pivoted their model to sell the product to NGOs in the area that already had built up trust with the target communities

The NGOs are the front-line workers for the Lucky Iron Fish

These NGOs were already buying iron supplement pills, and these pills were much more expensive than the pills

The purchase price of the Lucky Iron Fish ranges from $5-$10 for NGOs

The iron pills can cost $30 per person per year

The NGOs are in charge of the distribution

They use a tuk tuk

Lucky Iron Fish has an eight-person team

Cash flow becomes critical so you can pay your staff members each month

Two big challenges Gavin had to overcome were obstacles with the Cambodian government and funding

During a low point with his work, the BBC ran a story on Lucky Iron Fish that went viral

Oprah said that Lucky Iron Fish was “off the hook”

“Success can be temporary. Failure can last a lot longer” Gavin’s outlook on humility

The families are usually concerned whether Lucky Iron Fish will affect the taste of the food

Gavin has faced criticism because of his age or sexual orientation

“The only thing you can do is to prove them wrong.” Gavin on critics

People can buy a Lucky Iron Fish and give one in the Buy One Give One model

Gavin feels very well-versed at trial and error and especially the error part

Gavin though the travelling road show was going to be a huge hit but it did not work out because he didn’t understand the market at the time

Lucky Iron Fish is expanding to India

Gavin loves going back out into the field in Cambodia to get reinvigorated and not get caught up in the mundane tasks ahead

Gavin’s favorite Cambodian food is spicy peanut chicken curry

Gavin takes time for himself to unwind. Exercising, cooking.

Gavin loved his mother’s cooking and he often helped out

Gavin didn’t earn a salary during the first few years of starting Lucky Iron Fish

“Never forget the power of one person and their ripple effect.”

Gavin feels a bit of imposter syndrome despite all of his success

He remembers the times that haven’t been easy and so is mindful of the importance of the team

Gavin is grateful for his entire team and recently he hosted a team retreat

Nov 22, 2016

Growing up as a child of Korean immigrant parents, Robert Lee experienced hunger first hand. There were times where all his family could afford was instant ramen.

While studying at NYU's Stern School of Business, he joined a campus organization that delivered leftover cafeteria food to local homeless shelters. It was there that Robert learned that one in six Americans struggle with food insecurity. Yet strangely, 40% of food in the US goes to waste.

After graduating, he worked for JP Morgan where the pay was high. Simultaneously, he started the nonprofit organization Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and ran it during the weekends and evenings. As a social entrepreneur, Robert worked doggedly. “If something is important to you, you make time. And you do it," he said.

Eventually, he quit JP Morgan so he could work for Rescuing Leftover Cuisine full time. People discouraged him, thinking he would regret leaving such a lucrative job. Yet he persisted: “I had this crazy belief that I was right and everyone else was wrong.”

At first, the NGO had very little resources and faced rejection after rejection when speaking to the local restaurants.  Robert was full of self-doubt. “I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to be leading the organization,” he said of his early days. Only five out of a hundred restaurants were willing to donate their leftover food. Yet after each rejection, Robert Lee repeated a mantra to himself: "For every no that you get, you’re one step closer to a yes.”

Robert Lee's original vision was to end food waste in New York City. Soon, the movement spread to 12 cities and the NGO is on track to deliver its millionth pound of leftover food to the hungry. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine works with partner food providers and matches them with local volunteers that carry leftover food to local homeless shelters and food kitchens. Nearly 200 cities want to start a chapter of the organization, and it's only a matter of time that Robert Lee will accomplish that.

In 2015, Robert Lee was named a CNN Hero.


Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children by John Wood

Show Notes

Robert Lee’s parents immigrated to the US from South Korea

They grew up poor and sometimes could only afford to eat ramen

His family never tolerated food waste

Robert went to NYU on a full scholarship

At NYU he joined a club (Two Birds With One Stone) that delivered leftover food from the cafeteria to a local homeless shelter

When he joined the club, Robert entered with curiosity

As a freshman he wanted to expand the outreach for the club

40% of the food we produce in the US goes to waste!

We produce enough food to feed everyone in the world

Global hunger is a matter of distribution

Much of land and water is used to produce food, so all that is going to waste

Food waste produces methane gas

Food waste ranks third globally in terms of carbon emissions from food waste

Restaurants are concerned about getting sued for donating food that gets people sick

Research shows that it is extremely unlikely for a business to get sued for donating food

Robert Lee worked for JP Morgan for about a year after graduating from NYU

He wanted financial stability

Robert worked on Rescuing Leftover Cuisine part-time while working at JP Morgan

Robert figured out a way to automate a lot of the delivery process through technology

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine has a tiered volunteer model

In 2013 they won $1,000 in seed money on campus to start Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

“You never have time. You make time.”

“If something is important to you, you make time. And you do it.”

200 cities wanted to start a chapter of Rescuing Leftover Cuising after the CNN Heroes coverage

They have chapters in 12 cities at the moment

Sustainable and organic growth is more important

Food waste and hunger are caused by distribution problems

Initially, they had too many restaurants partnering and not enough volunteers to transport the food

Robert Lee helped hand deliver the food himself during the startup phase

A trained lead rescuer leads the volunteer groups

A corp rescuer with a license manages all of the trained leaders

Volunteers are ordinary citizens wanting to make a difference

During Thanksgiving in 2015, they brought turkeys to a homeless shelter that had ran out of food

“There should be more individualized definitions of success.”

People told Robert that he was throwing out his degree from NYU Stern for entering the nonprofit world

He was gung-ho and according to Robert himself, somewhat delusional when he started

“I had this crazy belief that I was right and everyone else was wrong.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to be leading the organization.”
Robert lacked confidence, charisma, and persona when he first started

In the beginning, only 5% of the restaurants he approached to seek out partnerships accepted

Robert talks about his mistakes in the past, like being too aggressive and outright rude to some of the restaurants that rejected a partnership.

“My passion pushed me through all of the rejections.”

Robert worked as the pickup driver, loader, salesperson, everything!

“For every no that you get, you’re one step closer to a yes.”

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine receive grant funding from JP Morgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Clif Bar

They focused on corporate funding

Two of his main colleagues at Rescuing Leftover Cuisine were friends from NYU

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Heroku and CircleCI for their website

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Trello for project management

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Slack for team communication

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Salesforce for their CRM and email marketing

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine uses Google Ad words

To Robert, nonprofit organizations are like two separate businesses: one that fundraises and the other that creates impact

Unlike for-profit companies, a nonprofit cannot simply provide a great product or service. They have to market it and fundraise to survive

Earned revenue is critical for nonprofits nowadays

Restaurants pay Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to take the leftover food because the restaurants 1.) get huge tax deductions 2.) have to pay a hauler anyways to pick up the leftover food 3.) want brand association with RLC

The hauling industry is not transparent at all about prices

They charge 10-20% of what a hauling company would normally charge

At one point Robert was at an all-time low when funding was drying up and he started to feel like what he was doing was just a bandaid solution

Instead of trying to address hunger, RLC decided to focus on food waste

Robert Lee misses meeting the volunteers and doing the pickups like in the old days

As a social entrepreneur not making much money, you must create a personal budget and works towards gaining more earned revenue

Robert does not waste time in the morning so he can use his fresh mind’s energy towards his three most important tasks for the day

For Robert Lee “Sleep is the best medicine” to fight burnout

Robert Lee enjoys hiking and kayaking

Robert Lee is afraid of growing too quickly

It was difficult for his parents to see Robert leave JP Morgan because they had sacrificed everything for his future

His parents were one of the first donors for RLC!!

Nov 17, 2016
Social entrepreneur Nedgine Paul immigrated from Haiti to the US at a young age. After graduating from Yale, she received her masters of education at Harvard University. She gained valuable experience working for the prominent charter school network known as Achievement First and then working for Dr. Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health in Haiti. Shortly after, Nedgine Paul started the nonprofit organization, Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti).
The NGO recruits and trains local Haitians and sends them out to teach in some of the toughest and most rural schools in Haiti. In a country where she must battle constant blackouts, natural disasters, and the fact that only 30% of children pass primary school, she is fighting against all the odds in her quest to create a new narrative for her home country.
Nedgine Paul is an Echoing Green Fellow and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

Show Notes 

“Growing up, I was the child who loved school. I was obsessed.”

Coming from Haiti, snow days were confusing for Nedgine Paul

Nedgine’s father was a school teacher before he became a priest

“It’s not enough to just take in knowledge. It’s about using it to do good.”

Nedgine worked at Achievement First Public Charter School Network for three years

“Zip code is not destiny.”

Social justice was important to Achievement First

Continuous improvement was important for the staff at Achievement First, a trait that Nedgine has taken to Haiti

People really asked for the HOW and the WHY at Achievement First

“Who are you as a leader and how do you show up?”

Nedgine Paul was active in the Haitian American community during her youth

“I want to create and contribute to a new narrative of our mighty nation.”

Her father is one of Nedgine’s north stars

The power of “one person’s quest” as a story

The organizational culture at Partners in Health is: doing whatever it takes, being local rooted and locally informed

PIH has maintained credibility and legitimacy for decades through authenticity

AT PIH it’s not about working for or with a community. It’s about being “of” the community. Nedgine hopes to bring that culture to Anseye Pou Ayiti

Staff members at Anseye Pou Ayiti spent years getting to know their communities in the beginning

PIH maintained their roots and knew how to improve from criticism

“Scale in global education has become about numbers and not about depth.”

“It’s not about scale in numbers but in depth.”

It took Nedgine and her team four years of planning before launching, talking to community members

Their approach was to be “slow and steady”

“As the Millennial generation, we want to rush to the next best thing, the next bright thing, the next thing that will go viral.”

It’s time to pause and listen, especially to our elders

“Why do we think that everything in Haiti’s educational system is broken?”

They asked for a assets instead of deficits in their communities

Before launching, Nedgine worked on Anseye Pou Ayiti part-time, during nights and weekends

Echoing Green’s fellowship and funding allowed Nedgine to pursue Anseye Pou Ayiti full time.

Nedgine Paul questioned herself a lot in the beginning

Nedgine Paul had a “brain-trust” of allies

“We have to be solvers AND learners at the same time.”

All the operational stuff was really difficult for Nedgine, coming in as an educator and not as a manager

Nedgine was told at Echoing Green that “Failure is okay in social entrepreneurship”

Many social entrepreneurs struggle with fundraising during year one

Anseye Pou Ayiti is part of the Teach for All network

Teach for All operates in 40 different countries now

Anseye Pou Ayiti is recruiting and training LOCAL teachers

Anseye Pou Ayiti went on a national recruitment campaign

Current teachers could apply at first, and now they make up a majority of the corps members

“The best is yet to come.”

Anseye Pou Ayiti has a mixed cohort approach

Corps members get leadership training and additional stipend (paid by Anseye Pou Ayiti) beyond their regular salaries (paid by the local schools)

Only 30% of children in Haiti are passing primary school

Her team was “lean and mean” in the beginning

Staying up late was critical

They did not want to be just “marginally different” than everything else

Anseye Pou Ayiti leverages partners that can provide specific teacher training workshops

Their training sessions are held in rural Haiti where logistics are “hairy” but it allows them to live their values

Past corps members come back to help with training

Blackouts are challenging

Not having a Staples in the area makes it hard to just go out and buy supplies when needed

Co-founder Ivanley Noisette and Nedgine are able to listen to and criticize each other

Nedgine’s students keep her ego in check

“The elders must be brought back into the conversation.”

Getting fellowships is a great fundraising strategy

In terms of fundraising, ask yourselves who would care about your cause

For Nedgine, giving gratitude is important

She asks herself, what went well today?

Funding was not going as well as Nedgine wanted it to recently, so she had to reach out for help

That moment of crises reminded her to be more humble, and to more willing to reach out for help

Nedgine gives thank to her professor, Dr. Lillian Guerra, who encouraged her to keep going

Nedgine is worried about the negative narrative of Haiti  

Nedgine loves hearing about the progress inside the classrooms of her fellows

Nedgine recommends books: Visions of Vocation and also anything written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nov 14, 2016
Today's guest is the person who I spend the most time with (even more than my mom) over the phone/email during any given week. She is also one of my best friends.
In this episode, Amanda Fennell talks about getting adopted from an orphanage in Colombia, childhood in America, how she dealt with her "ugly duckling" years, the tragic loss that devastated her family, her first (tumultuous) exposure to leadership where she was called "awful", favorite books, what she REALLY thinks of me as her boss, what was going through her mind during her first trip to Honduras, how she raised $125,000 while in college, why she quit a high-paying "dream job" to help SHH, what it's really like having a location-independent work arrangement, her newest side-hustle, and more.
As COO of an organization with an annual budget of almost $1 million and network of 5,000+ volunteers, Amanda does it all: answering phone calls & emails, updating our website & social media, coordinating the efforts of 100+ chapters, securing new partnerships, and more.
She was the co-founder of the Students Helping Honduras chapter at Towson University, leading the efforts to raise a record-breaking $125,000 in four years while a student. She also served as Student Director her senior year, organizing the efforts of the then 50+ chapters of the organization nationwide.
Check out her newest side-hustle known as Bear Street Collective, a succulent arrangement business! 

Show Links

Show Notes

Amanda Fennell was adopted from an orphanage in Bogota, Colombia in 1990

It was around the time of guerrilla warfare, and the orphanage had bomb nets over them, and military was everywhere

Amanda Fennell grew up in New York

Amanda wants to adopt one day

She wants to visit Colombia, her birthplace, but is unsure of when and the circumstances of her situation, and facing her fears

Amanda feels a tremendous amount of gratitude for her situation

Amanda's sister, Lauren, was adopted from the same orphanage four years before Amanda was adopted

Lauren was Amanda's very first friend

She doesn't remember when she found out or realized she was adopted

Lauren was killed by a drunk driver when Amanda was a senior in high school

Amanda has a tattoo of Lauren's fingerprint together with her own fingerprint to format a heart shape

She was bullied a lot in middle school because she was outcasted as a "church kid"

Her "ugly duckling phase" lasted a while, especially since she went into college with braces

I use the word antifragile to describe Amanda Fennell

She has always been resilient and "overly" optimistic

Amanda thrives on stress and a sense of urgency

Amanda decided to attend Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland because of their strong nursing program

She wanted to be a pediatrician back then

Because of the loss of her sister, Amanda almost didn't attend college

Instead of wallowing in sadness, Amanda enrolled at Towson

In a strange way, going to college allowed Amanda to "run away" from her trauma

She wanted nothing to do with the medical field due to the loss of her sister, so Amanda majored in Family Studies and Community Development

She searched for student clubs to join.

Joining Invisible Children club was intimidating for Amanda because it was for the "cool" crowd

She then joined Circle-K service club

She ran for President as a freshman!

Amanda met two of her best friends, Kari Adlington and Jessa Coulter, during freshman year

The Circle-K initiatives were too small and low-key for Amanda, who wanted to do more

Amanda (along with Keri and Jessa) and I met at a Circle-K Convention where I gave a keynote speech

Amanda thinks that I am quirky!!! LOL

When Amanda wanted her Circle-K club to get involved with SHH, she was labeled “awful” and as the “worst President”

Leaving Circle-K to start Students Helping Honduras on campus caused rifts in friendships and personal hate against Amanda

Honduras was Amanda’s first trip outside of the US

She didn’t realize the SHH service trip would have so much of an educational component to it

Amanda met and talked to the families in Villa Soleada when the project had just started

SHH introduced Amanda to concepts like the ethics behind development aid

She helped build the Villa Soleada Education Center, which was the prototype project that later turned into the Villa Soleada Bilingual School

Eduardo “Chilo,” a small boy from the village spoke to the group to thank them for providing the education

The Education Center would provide Chilo his first books and computers ever

Amanda is careful about over-romanticizing development aid and volunteering

“I was so idealistic and naive.”

It was difficult to convince the Towson administration to let the chapter go down to Honduras, then considered the most dangerous nation outside of war zones

Dr. Santiago Solis helped as a faculty advisor and mentor to Amanda

The Towson Chapter raised $13,000 during their first year

They then returned to Honduras with 33 student volunteers

The following year they raised $30,000

During Amanda’s senior year, the chapter raised $53,000

In four years, the Towson Chapter had raised about $125,000 for Students Helping Honduras

Jessa Coulter was the co-President of the chapter alongside Amanda

They didn’t have much of a hierarchy

The chapter members became best friends

Some members spent more time on SHH than on school work

They organized 3-4 events every week

Each semester they did one massive event, like a benefit concert

Having compassionate, empathetic leadership is key

Fundraising was fun despite the sense of urgency

A lot of other chapters envied Towson and Amanda’s success

Leadership Week has fostered competition while building friendships between SHH chapters

Amanda became a community director for March of Dimes after graduation

She posted photos from Honduras all over her desk area at March of Dimes

Amanda was always interested in international maternal and prenatal health

I reached out to Amanda for help, as SHH was under so much stress due to lack of staff members and security threats in Honduras

Amanda saved up for a year working at March of Dimes and quit there to work for SHH on a shoestring salary as the Chief Operating Officer (COO)

Amanda feels really lonely while working out of her laptop in New York

At around 11:30pm one night—I was on the brink of shutting down SHH because of all the turmoil in Honduras and its consequences—I called Amanda to ask her for help and to join SHH

Amanda and I consult each other on everything just naturally, going all in together

Humility is something Amanda and I value in staff members

I needed someone to support me

Amanda doesn’t like being placed on a pedestal

Amanda is as loyal as it gets

At Towson, Amanda had a sense of community and personal success

It’s hard for Amanda to not have that sense of community as she works alone in New York

Amanda’s boyfriend Chris is supportive of her, always

Amanda’s best friends are mostly from SHH, though many of them are far away

Amanda is a social butterfly so it’s hard to work alone for her

“The work day is never over."

She’s learned to pace herself, delegate, avoid burnout

SHH could use some help with grant writing, social media, chapter recruitment

People are much more motivated when they can work face to face, instead of remotely and isolated

There is no reason to constantly second guessing herself as the COO of SHH with all the trust that I have in Amanda

Amanda has to remind herself that there is value in what she does for SHH

Amanda and Chris have started a succulent arrangement business on the side, BEAR STREET COLLECTIVE

The succulent business allows Amanda to interact with other people, something she missed doing

Jessa Coulter and Amanda Fennell are like the Yin and the Yang together

Amanda Fennell drinks a lot of coffee!

Amana is a night owl, working late into the night

She likes being “zesty” with life : )

The person Amanda Fennell was most grateful for that week was her boyfriend Chris

They recently visited Denver, Colorado together

Nov 7, 2016

While studying at the University of Maryland, Melissa Frankenberry raised more than $30,000 for Students Helping Honduras. In this episode, she breaks down her process step-by-step and talks about facing her own fears when making the ask.

Show notes for Melissa Frankenberry

  • Melissa Frankenberry first heard about SHH at UMD’s First Look Fair where 500+ clubs on campus try to recruit members
  • She was actually looking for Habitat for Humanity and instead joined SHH!
  • She knew very little about Honduras
  • She remembers the upperclassmen members like Nahal, Kristin, Peter, Brandon
  • Melissa still remembers the first meeting still
  • She volunteered in Honduras four times while at UMD
  • Honduras was Melissa’s first exposure to a developing country
  • She worked at Balsamo village during her freshman and senior year
  • She worked hard selling grilled cheese in front of bars during weekends
  • Melissa used to create an online fundraising page
  • “It’s really scary asking people for money.”
  • The first thing she did was craft a long email message to her family and friends
  • She sent it out to her immediate circle
  • It wasn’t as bad as she had imagined
  • Her father’s business clients got involved and donated
  • She customized the messages of each letter to personalize them
  • Photos and videos were critical
  • At first she wrote it “straight from the heart” but it ended up being too long
  • She placed the link to her fundraising page at the very beginning of the letter and not at the end
  • The subject line of the emails was important. For example, saying Students Helping Honduras instead of SHH was helpful
  • Follow up phone calls and emails after each campaign was critical
  • There is a Fundaround “hack” that Melissa did. She used a photo collage for each of the photo boxes, to increase the number of total photos she could post!
  • Showing your passion is critical for fundraising success
  • “Don’t just half-ass on the fundraising.” -Melissa Frankenberry
  • “Don’t be afraid to ask for donations. People want to help.” -Melissa Frankenberry
Nov 3, 2016
Want to learn how to raise money for your favorite charity by traveling across a continent on a bicycle?Long-time Students Helping Honduras support Cristy Falcone biked 2,200 miles through Europe for SHH. On her daring expedition from Oslo to Paris, she got lost, stuck in rain storms, slept in her tent, and faced gear malfunction. At one point, she crashed and injured herself badly.
Cristy Falcone pedaled 50 miles (5-7 hours) nearly every single day for the cause.
Learn how she physically trained herself, learned to fix & maintain her bicycle, got the right equipment, packed, stayed fueled, slept, and built up her fundraising platform. Get an understanding of where your mind will be before, during, and after such an epic feat.
Check out Cristy Falcone’s Bike For Honduras.

Show Notes & Summary for Cristy Falcone

Ever since Cristy Falcone was a little girl, she wanted to go places on a bicycle with a sleeping bag

According to Cristy, I was an enthusiastic and energetic guy back in college

She had done one previous grand tour, going 1,800 miles from Seattle to San Diego

Her touring pace is about 12 miles an hour

Her plan was to do 45-50 miles per day!

Scandinavia was the hardest part of the trip for Cristy

She used the Kona Sutra touring bike

You must use a touring bike that puts your body in a comfortable position

Most touring bicycles cost $500+

She worked at Bike Works , a bicycle shop in Fredericksburg during her senior year in college where she learned the basics of bicycle maintenance

At the least you should know how to change your tires, fix a flat tire, adjust your brakes, adjust de-railers, and fix your gears

You can get panniers and strap them on the sides of your bicycles to store your stuff

Backpacks are not recommended because it makes your back sweat

She carried 25-30lbs of gear (food, water, sleeping bag, tent)

She went on an unsupported tour where she had to carry all her stuff with her!

“You basically carry your life with you."

Cycling maps are essential

GPS systems for bicycles can cost $400-$500!!

She set up a Facebook page and coordinate a Fundaround page with Colette Eustace

She had to face her fears while fundraising

Her dad gave out fundraising flyers and gave them out at his work

She was moved by her father’s gesture

You need friends and family to support you while on a grand tour

She posted photos and updates during her grand tour

Leading up to the trip, she was scared, nervous, excited, anxious

“The first day was totally ridiculous."

To fly a bike, you have to take it apart and stuff it into a box

On the first day, it poured rain and everything got soaking wet

They had to dry everything overnight on a campsite!

Advice: Put all your stuff in trash bags inside your panniers

In Scandinavia, she saw lots of farmland, coastal sea, beautiful scenery

She ate a lot of picnic food to stay fueled, and also fish in Scandinavia

She ate a lot of sausage in Germany

France has great fruit

She stayed in hostels sometimes, the cheapest ones in Europe cost about 20 Euros per night

She camped out in random places

Her two biggest threats were bike accidents and men

Her then boyfriend went along with her for the first month

She met other cycle tourists and would ride along with them sometimes

Europe has very developed and organized bicycle routes

She regrets not having a gadget to listen to podcasts during the tour

“You can work a lot of things out, alone on a bike."

She loves bicycle touring but got homesick

Her brakes kept failing on her during the expedition for an unknown reason

She got sun burn and saddle sores

In Basil, Cristy got into a serious accident and got badly injured

Her bicycle tires got stuck in a trolly track and she crashed in slow motion

She had to sit down and cry in the shade for a little while : (

She got a beer afterwards to recover

She could barely make it on the bicycle the next day

She ended up sleeping (“nestling”) in her tent in a random community garden!

The owners of the garden plot caught her and Cristy was terrified hearing them rustle around and speaking in German

The German family took her in like a little child, feeding Cristy and even gave her coffee and pastry

Her rain gear was not adequate

Scandinavia has a strong wind going against you

It gets very hot in the summer in France

She’s injury-prone and has scoliosis, but avoided any major injuries

She rode 5-7 hours per day on average

She had to end her trip in Paris and not in Spain as planned because her visa expired

At the end, she felt sadness, relief, homesick

She had to stop putting up photo updates because of a potential stalker

“I can’t wait until my next tour."

After the trip, she slept a LOT but didn’t eat too much

European coffee is very strong and bold

You’ll be scared every step of the way. But you should do it anyways."

“I was scared during the entire phase of the process."

Before the trip, Cristy was working on a farm and at some odd jobs

Her dream is to work in biotech and live on a homestead

Oct 31, 2016

"The mountains are calling, and I must go." -John Muir

Back in 2011 while at the Coast Guard Academy, Johnny Zeng envisioned climbing the 48 fourteeners in Colorado. The fourteeneers are mountains that each exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. Five years later and after many months of training and preparation, he faced his fears and self-doubts head on. Johnny embarked on the dangerous journey to raise money for his favorite charity, Students Helping Honduras, through the climb. He called the expedition, Climb for Honduras.
He survived the grueling expedition to tell us his tales. Learn how he prepared, trained, equipped himself, slept, ate, dealt with wildlife, and survived a life-threatening fall up on the mountains, all the while figuring out how to raise money through trial and error.
Show Links for Johnny Zeng

Show Notes & Summary for Johnny Zeng 

Johnny found out about Students Helping Honduras from his classmate George at the Coast Guard Academy

He was a cadet for four years and then was commissioned for five years in Honolulu, Hawaii and then in Seattle

He was a swimmer growing up and into many physical activities

Later on in college, Johnny got into mountaineering and rock climbing

His friend Kyle told Johnny about mountaineering in Colorado and about the fourteeners

He realized that he could combine his passion for mountaineering with his passion for SHH by climbing for Honduras

Johnny focused on "scrambling" which is kind of like hiking but on steeper terrain, like cliffs

He took a year-long alpine mountaineering course through where he learned skills getting getting out of crevasses

Rock fall was a serious threat

Redundancy in equipment is important for safety

Johnny worked on his cardio and leg strength for fitness training.

You must be able to run 3-5 miles consistently

Everyone handles altitude changes differently, with headaches, appetite loss, vomitting

He did a lot of camping next to his car, which carried everything he needed

Colorado has convenient camping locations and regulations

He carried a water filter with him and get drinking water from a nearby streams

He took food, water, and snacks, emergency gear with him during the climbs

Sunglasses and sunblock are important

Johnny encourages the use of trekking poles to preserve your knees, even if it's a stick you pick up on the side of the road

Johnny had gotten a certificate in fundraising from the University of Washington through a year-long course

He learned to make a website through

"Learning about fundraising in the classroom was one thing. Applying it in the real world was a whole new experience."

Johnny used as the online fundraising platform

He marketed Climb for Honduras via word of mouth, Facebook

Right before the trek, Johnny felt terrified and was full of doubts and uncertainty

He knew that life was uncertain after the expedition, or even during the dangerous expedition

He brought a Honduran flag with him everywhere, including on the expedition. People signed it as he trekked along

People from his church network in Colorado helped him and even joined him during parts of the expedition

Johnny prefers climbing with his friends instead of going alone

Chicago Basin, Colorado, was the most beautiful landscape Johnny witnessed during his expedition

He worried about his fundraising while on the treks and continued to work on it during his rest days back in civilization

He would climb 4-5 days of the week and take 2-3 days off

Camping up in the mountains was peaceful, especially the places with less people

There was the threat of encountering black bears

He saw many marmots!

At one point it started snowing, even though it was August

There were many moments where Johnny felt in danger

Due to frost, Johnny fell and injured his right hip. He kept going despite the sharp pain.

He saw rain, snow, thunderstorms, and even hail

Johnny ate a lot of dehydrated food that he heated up with hot water. They were mostly stews

Johnny's favorite flavor was chicken and rice

The sunrise hikes were breathtaking

When the sun comes up, all your worries melt away

The last peak was Mt. Huron, and in preparation they had brought a champaign bottle with them

He had lost 12 pounds of weight

He loved In-And-Out Burgers when he got home

"The mountains are calling, and I must go." -John Muir

Oct 26, 2016

Social entrepreneur Sophia Sunwoo believed in her mission so much that she worked without a salary for the first 2.5 years of starting The Water Collective. To make ends meet, she worked at a bakery during the day and built up the NGO at nighttime.

Entrepreneurial at heart, Sophia built a clothing company (celebrities like Miley Cyrus wore her clothesline) and sold it while still in college.

She remained in the corporate world for several months after college. But for Sophia Sunwoo, creating social impact was her calling. She quit her job, and began working at a bakery in New York. With co-founder Josh Braunstein, Sophia created The Water Collective to help provide clean drinking water to partner communities in Africa and India. 

In this episode, Sophia talks about the challenges of working in the developing world as a female leader and dealing with petty community politics. You'll also learn what it's like to run an NGO with a co-founder and why for Sophia it's like "like a marriage without all the fun parts." 

Sophia was listed as a leading force for social entrepreneurship on the Forbes' 30 Under 30 List in 2016.

Show Links - a site that connects NGOs, people, and projects


Show Notes & Summary

While in college, Sophia started a clothing line out of her dorm room with her roommate

She wanted to be a clothing designer since she was 9 years old

250 retailers

Miley Cyrus wore one of her hoodies

Despite her success, Sophia was unhappy

Sophia sold her company while she was still in college so she could do what she was passionate about

She was inspired by a professor asking his students to do something about climate change and social impact

She regimented a very strict schedule while in college to accomplish everything

She wanted to enter the nonprofit and social impact industry but nobody would offer her a job due to her lack of experience. She got rejected every time!

She returned to the corporate world, at a art consulting firm

She learned to project manage, production schedules, conflict resolution in the corporate world

Within 7 months, Sophia was ready to quit the corporate world

Her parents took a step back and trusted Sophia and her decision

Sophia met her co-founder, Josh Braunstein, at the bar on the day she quit her corporate job

Sophia worked in a bakery while starting The Water Collective

Sophia had never met an Asian American social entrepreneur for her first five years in the social impact space

Josh's Jewish network was supportive of their work. The Korean American community was less willing to support Sophia because charity is not a part of their culture as much.

Immigrant parents have a hard time understanding the risky decisions that their second-generation children may take in entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship

You need to leverage your immediate network early on to be a successful social entrepreneur

They had many false starts in the beginning and projects kept falling through for an entire year

Co-founder Josh Braunstein had worked in the nonprofit industry, specializing in clean water. He had noticed that many projects simply did not work on the ground.

They noticed that many water systems stopped working after a few years

Maintenance, troubleshooting, and finding spare parts were largely unaddressed

Super high-tech or electric-powered water systems were problematic due to technical problems

Sophia found partner organizations in Africa mostly on-line

They received an email from a farmer in Cameroon who came from a village that did not have access to clean drinking water

They hopped on a flight to go meet the farmer in Cameroon

It's extremely difficult for NGOs to work in Cameroon, such as roads not being paved. Mud roads got washed away when it rained.

The Water Collective had dealt with much of the legal work finished during the first year to make things easier for the second year

Managing community relationships and dynamics is challenging due to competing interests that people within the community may have

Each community has a village chief and it is crucial for The Water Collective to foster those relationships

The Water Collective never fully funds a project so that the community can feel as if they are true stakeholders by fundraising and building

Working with different village chiefs is challenging, as they may or may not have the support of the community or certain members

Seemingly small relationships within the communities are important

Sophia believes that you can always create a system or process that can help you, even when managing key relationships or choosing partner villages

The Water Collective vouches each community where they ask questions, observe, and gather anecdotal data to see if the community would be a good fit as a partner

Sophia is all about testing ideas, getting feedback, and iterating

Sophia is a Tim Ferriss fan!

Sophia needed a confidence boost after being in a country where women are not respected as much and where people don't know how to handle a women in a leadership position

People gave her more authority when she told them that she was American

People from work would invite her for a meeting but would cross the line with their romantic approaches

People would make offhand comments about Sophia because she was a woman

She now does not show a hint of her feminine side when in these communities. It's awkward for her because she's all about women's rights and equality.

She picks her battles when it comes to standing up for women's issues in developing countries because she wonders if it is her responsibility and it takes away from her efficiency getting the projects done

Someone of power in Cameroon is usually overweight, since that means he is wealthy enough to eat a lot. Sophia is a tiny Asian girl, the opposite of what most leaders look like.

Demonstrating a sense of self-worth is important for women in development aid, not accepting sexist comments or unwanted advances or being treated as a plaything

The co-founder relationship is complicated, it's "like a marriage without all the fun parts"

You can go from being best friends to not talking each other constantly. It can get very emotional.

Building a startup is an emotional process

"It's always about execution. It's never about the idea."

A close staff member in Cameroon passed away recently, and dealing with death was difficult for Sophia and Josh. They considered closing down and became depressed.

The Water Collective has an important gala coming up in New York

Sophia and Josh meet at least once a week, usually in person

In one community, the intra-community problems were too deep that The Water Collective could not moderate even with the help of moderators and political leaders. The community chief did not have the support of his community

It was not in Sophia's philosophy to try and be the white knight that would throw money at the problems the community struggled with to try and solve it for them.

They had to abandon that particular community partnership

The Mundame community partnership is Sophia's proudest project

The Water Collective has a rigorous water maintenance program

They teach the communities how to fix and repair the systems so that it becomes second-nature, kind of like how everyone nowadays know how to use a smart phone

The Water Collective uses mostly water catchment systems where they will get water from a stream, and sometimes wells

It's important for Sophia that women are involved in the communities

Sophia and Josh worked for The Water Collective without a salary for the first 2.5 years

It's important to stay on the pulse when it comes to fundraising so you can evolve

It's important for an NGO to have a strong Board that can financially contribute a certain amount each year

Sophia like to host intimate, private dinners to update key donors

Sophia finds Board members that she can get along with and will support each other

They found Board members by searching for specific qualifications

Sophia likes to meditate and write down how she's feeling about certain projects

Sophia loves the Tim Ferriss Podcast!!

Sophia is currently coaching social entrepreneurs secure revenue for their projects at

Oct 24, 2016

Social entrepreneur Marquis Taylor started Coaching for Change by racking up $15,000 in credit card debt. He believed in his mission that much.

Marquis Taylor grew up in a rough, gang-riddled neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. For him, basketball was the only thing that mattered. Using his talent and dogged work ethic, Marquis got a scholarship to play NCAA basketball.

After college and a number of years in the real estate industry, Marquis took a giant leap of faith forward. He left it all to start Coaching for Change to help vulnerable students become college and career ready. Coaching for Change organizes business training, mentorship, and academic support through the one thing that he loves: basketball. The organization works with low-income, disengaged high school students who are on the verge of dropping out.

Marquis Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow and CNN Hero.


Show Links (Echoing Green is a social innovation fund that acts as a catalyst for impact. With access to funding, grants, and strategic foundational support, they can accelerate the positive vision leaders have for the world.


Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough


Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin


Show Notes & Summary

California is not all palm trees and sunshines as people may think

He saw the worst and the best of humanity growing up

Marquis struggled through school, unable to read until the third or fourth grade

Basketball was his one escape, his "one and only motivator"

Marquis describes himself as a mid-range player who was like a "gnat"

Over the summer during high school, Marquis trained three times per day

He trained under Wayne Slappy at UCLA during the summers

Marquis noticed that the NBA players focused on the little things

He worked in the sub-prime mortgage industry, kind of like as Cristian Bale's assistant in the movie The Big Short

After college, Marquis wanted to make a lot of money

When the industry collapsed, he moved to the Mississippi Delta for a new job.

Marquis felt like he was in the third world being in the Mississippi Delta seeing all the dirt roads and lack of opportunity

They call these areas Mail Box Communities because everyone is living off welfare

It was there that Marquis realized the importance of education and how privileged he was relative to the people there

Witnessing the poverty, Marquis decided to become an educator to help

He got a master's degree in education but realized he didn't want to be a teacher

He started Coaching for Change without much of a fallback plan

Marquis truly hustled to start Coaching for Change, from sleeping on couches and in his car to getting into credit card debt

"It's not rocket science. It's persistence and hard work."

The program evolved from just training high school students to become basketball coaches

Coaching for Change then helps the students get jobs, graduate from schools, and mentor middle school students

"People label these kids we work with as the bad kids. I believe that they are just misunderstood."

These kids have a lot of things to deal with at home, such as parents being in jail

"Through small successes, young people begin seeing that they CAN actually do this."

Coaching for Change started with just 15 kids

Some of his high school students had never met a person who was in college

One of his high school students was struggling in school because he was dealing with his father being imprisoned for drug dealing. He overcame immense challenges and became a mentor to middle school students and is now attending college

His kids are required to organize sporting events, like 3v3 basketball tournaments and run them like businesses, selling t-shirts, running concession stands, charging entry tickets

The learn the elements of business through a fun process

Marquis racked up $15,000 in credit card debt to start Coaching for Change and to keep his promise

He won the Echoing Green Fellowship and $70,000 award by being honest

"When you put forth the work and effort, luck will follow."

Principles, teachers, and parents have competing interests

Marquis stresses the importance of fighting for moments and embracing them

The public schools pulled out of Coaching for Change because they did not want the organization to start including charter schools in their program

Marquis hadn't realize the dark side of politics behind education system until then

They had plans to impact 350 kids from 7 schools and all the public schools pulled out of the program just because Marquis wanted to also include charter schools in the program

There is intense competition for funding between public and charter schools

They had to shut down their programs as a result

Schools are able to custom design the programs like the Nike ID Lab

The students Coaching for Change works with have a 6,000-hour learning gap (equivalent to 5 years in the classroom by the time they are graduate due to a lack of extracurricular activities compared to students who enjoy them in higher-income neighborhood

He had to start all over again, going from seven schools to just one

Instead of working district by district, Coaching for Change started working with individual schools

Marquis was inspired by Geoffrey Canada, the founder of Harlem Children's Zone

Geoffrey Canada has the ability to mesmerize a room through his story telling

People tried boycotting Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone whey it was first starting off due to its audacious nature

The secret to recruiting busy college students is to get them passionate about the project by having them meet and spend time with the kids in the program. They also get paid, which helps.

Oct 18, 2016

Most high school students are too busy with school work, video games, and their social lives to do much else. But Chris Cao, a 17-year-old senior at Thomas Jefferson High School is raising the bar for his generation.

At age 15, CNN Hero Chris Cao became a social entrepreneur. He started Reboot for Youth, a nonprofit organization in northern Virginia that recycles, repairs, and delivers refurbished computers to youth in need.

His core team is made up of his friends who go to different high schools in the Fairfax area. Each Saturday, Chris gets the team together at a friend's basement to further their mission. Of course, pizza is essential at these gatherings.

In two years, Reboot for Youth has delivered 418 computers (as of October, 2016) to youth in the Washington D.C. area, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Leave your comments here:

Show Notes & Summary

Started the operation at the basement of his friend's house

Chris Cao has several online classes at his high school

He spends his weekend like any normal teenager, hanging out with friends and catching up on school work.

Chris was tutoring a kid named Sebastian who couldn't afford to have a computer at his house

"Students in our very own neighborhood don't have access to computers."

Chris began tinkering with and fixing computers at age 10 by watching YouTube videos

Chris's parents were supportive of his interest in computers

Chris's grandfather was a doctor from Vietnam and worked in philanthropy, offering free medical care to the poor in Vietnam

The process of becoming a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization was "tedious" for Chris. He found most of his information on WikiLinks.

It's difficult to juggle school work, a social life, and Reboot for Youth simultaneously

Homework gets in the way of running Reboot for Youth

Chris has a great team he can rely on

Chris was only 14 when he started Reboot for Youth, and because of his young age it was difficult to get adults to see them as a legitimate organization

Every Saturday the Reboot for Youth team meets for two hours at a friend's house. They form an assembly line to repair the computers together. Pizza is essential at these meetings.

Families in the Washington DC neighborhood could submit a request for laptops on the Reboot for Youth website

Reboot for Youth uses Keepod USB drives to provide operating systems for the refurbished laptops.

The first international shipment was to El Salvador

Sometimes Chris focuses his attention towards his personal issues and away from Reboot for Youth, which is frustrating for him

Sometimes Chris gets overwhelmed, feeling like his back is against a wall and there is nowhere to go

It was extremely difficult for Chris to take his AP exams while Nickelodeon was filming his efforts all day

Chris Cao describes how he felt when CNN called him for the CNN Heroes program. He was happy that Reboot for Youth could finally display their work to the entire world. The showing resulted in many laptops donated.

At first not everyone believed in Chris nor in Reboot for Youth's mission

Chris felt a tremendous amount of pressure not to let down his donors, but he used it as motivation to work harder

When the Reboot for Youth team encounters a disagreement, they make decisions by voting and through peaceful means.

For the Costa Rica project, the Reboot for Youth team had to refurbish 20 computers in one week all the while they had to go to school and finish homework. They stayed up until midnight to finish the project.

Chris is learning to be a leader through trial and error.

He picked up his leadership skills while a freshman intern at an IT firm in DC. The CEO of the company taught Chris Cao about leadership, recommending him books like Good to Great.

The CEO selected Chris as a project manager even though he was only a freshman in high school, leading a team of developers to make a website for the company. He had to lead people who were older. Chris doesn't think he was a great leader when he did that.

He learned many leadership skills at the internship that he can use for Reboot for Youth

The CEO saw in Chris drive and the willingness to learn and progress as a person

Chris believes that the youth today are very inquisitive and self-motivated to further themselves

Intrinsic self motivation is important for Chris

Having parents who were not too strict has helped him

We live in a world where Asian Americans are underrepresented in the media and in leadership positions. Chris wants to be a trendsetter for Asian Americans.

Yang Yuanqing, the CEO of Lenovo tweeted at Chris after watching CNN Heroes to congratulate him

Lenovo donated 75 new laptops to Reboot for Youth, which became a turning point for Chris

Chris is now finding a new group of high school students to run the local operation so he can head out to college

Chris plans to expand the international reach of Reboot for Youth

"You're never too young to make an impact. I've met entrepreneurs younger than me."

Chris is grateful for his family and brother who have helped him along the way.

Oct 13, 2016

Ned Norton could deadlift 660 pounds. But that's one of his smaller accomplishments in life.

Ned is a social entrepreneur and a Top 10 CNN Hero from Albany, New York. He is the founder of Warriors on Wheels. In this episode he tells his story all the way from growing up as a scrawny kid (like me) and how that motivated him to become a competitive athlete and power lifter. He became a fitness trainer and trained several Olympic athletes, helping them win gold medals.

But even that wasn't enough for Ned Norton. He needed a greater challenge. Through a series of random events, he began to train a friend who had been paralyzed from an accident. Soon, many people in wheelchairs and with physical disabilities like spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injuries began to seek his help.

So in 1988, Ned started the nonprofit organization, Warriors on Wheels, opening a gym at his home town specialized for individuals with disabilities. At one point, he trained five members at his gym to bench press 300+ pounds.

Through his newest initiative, The Hercules Project, Ned ships free fitness and rehab equipment to individuals with disabilities in more than ten countries, including Mali, Darfur, Guatemala, and Somalia.

Ned has a saying at his gym: every person who comes in our front door will become their own success story.

Show Notes & Summary

Ned Norton was a scrawny kid growing up

When Ned was 12, his uncle gave him a set of weights, which was a great discovery for Ned

At his peak, Ned was deadlifting 660lbs

He loves going to the gym, he can't wait to get there each day (like me)

"It becomes part of your life. Like brushing your teeth."

Ned Norton is 58 years old

He got his dream job, to work at a gym. He became a trainer.

He worked with a few Olympic gold medal winners

He was a strength coach for three Olympic teams, basketball teams, football teams, bodybuilders

He learned about a 20-year-old guy who had gotten paralyzed after falling off a tree. The kid was so depressed that he was suicidal

Ned started training him at the gym, which instantly boosted the kid's confidence and self-esteem, eventually leading him to return to college and find a job

Nobody at the hospital could believe he was the same guy. This inspired 6 other people from the hospital come in to train with Ned

He had no specialized equipment

They called themselves the Warriors to have a cool name

The guys were making social and psychological transformation through Ned's training

60 people began to seek Ned for training after a story was published in the local newspaper

Ned saw the need and formed a nonprofit organization to help his disabled trainees

They get that feeling of well-being, confidence, progress, positivity

He found an abandoned floor in a public housing project which he was able to use for free for the new facility

People thought he was crazy for working in the "projects"

He charges a fee at his gym, but if people can't afford it, they don't need to pay

Less than 25% of his members are paying

When Ned got the phone call from CNN, he thought it was some kind of joke from the fire department guys

So many times things were so tough he was on the brink of closing the doors

It was on the day that Ned was contemplating how he was going to close down the gym and sell the equipment that he go the phone call from CNN Heroes

The ups and downs of running a nonprofit organization is extreme

Ned does it ALL ALONE. He runs the gym, he does the social media, the website, takes care of his family

The CNN glory gave Ned about a year of fame and funding. After that, he has had to return to the grind. "It never ends lol."

He was out meeting celebrities, movie stars, and on TV. Soon after, he was back in the projects hustling and grinding to keep the gym afloat

Raising money is the most frustrating thing about running Warriors on Wheels

Ned has a hard time asking for money (he's like a giant teddy bear)

After being on CNN, people with disabilities from all over the world began contacting him for help

A guy from Cambodia asked for help for landmine survivors and that sparked the Hercules Project where Ned sends resistance bands for free all over the world

Ned partnered up with the United Nations Mine Action Service

He will be sending workout equipment to Cali, Colombia (I'll be there during October-November, 2016)

He sent equipment to patients from a mental hospital in Somalia, where people had been chained down and their muscles had atrophied drastically

One girl in his program lost a leg to bone cancer at age 18, then at 24 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which put her on a wheelchair, then she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to get a double mastectomy. Yet she still never misses a workout.

Ned has a strict morning routine where he works out at the gym and/or goes for a long run to "outrun the thoughts in his head."

To help the people in wheelchairs bench press 300+ pounds, Ned followed the strategy: Less is More. He only had them do 3-5 bench press sets per workout using his 6-8 weeks program.

Because his athletes dominated so many competitions, Ned eventually felt like he was the "evil coach" from the Karate Kid movie lol

I decide on the show to name our home gym at the Villa Soleada Children's Home the "Warrior's Gym Honduras"

Ned read up on Arnold and Franco's workout tips during his early days, before the internet was available

Arnold said to Ned in a seminar: "Don't ever do any of the workouts I talk about in the magazines. I never did any of them!"

Ned's "go-to" fitness resource is Muscle and Fitness

"Once you get hooked into enjoying it [fitness], it opens up a whole new world for you."

"You can always do more than you think you can. Never give up."

"You've only tapped into 40% of your potential."

He calls his best friends at the gym "the smelly monkey butts" lol

Ned trains people with Down's Syndrome. They oftentimes are good at powerlifting and bench pressing because they have shorter limbs.

When people come into the gym for the first time after recovering from an injury, they have terrible self-esteem

Sometimes doctors, family, and people at the rehab office focus on telling their patients what they can't do, what not to do. Whereas Ned talks about the amazing things they will be able to do after his 3-month training program.

Oct 11, 2016

In today's episode, we have Jessica Heinzelman ("a white woman who doesn’t discriminate against lovers based on race") and Teddy Ruge ("an educated, angry African--a rare species in the development sector").

They are the founders of Jaded Aid: A card game to save humanitarians (Wayan Vota, the third co-founder, couldn't make it for the call). As friends, they loved to drink and laugh together. And all three worked in the international development aid sector.

One day at a bar in Washington, DC, the three founders realized that existing power structures and humanitarians’ propensity to take themselves too seriously were inhibiting honest dialogue about the industry that could catalyze transformative change for improved results.

They decided to create a card game similar to Cards Against Humanity, except that this one would be for development workers, created by development workers.

They used Kickstarter to fund the idea. Within 48 hours they surpassed their goal, eventually raising $50,000+ on the platform. They were featured on several news outlets and sales began to climb.

As a humanitarian who has worked in Honduras since 2007, one card in the deck made me laugh out loud: “giving up any hope of a stable relationship.”

Learn how these founders created Jaded Aid to help the development industry... all the while making beer money and having fun.

Show Links

Jaded Aid Original Deck

Jaded Aid Peace Corps Expansion Pack

Jaded Aid T-shirt (red)

Jaded Aid T-shirt (grey)

Show Notes & Summary

They crowdsourced the card idea to the online community of aid workers

They received more than 2,500 admissions for card ideas

They held design parties to get feedback

User-centered design

Jaded Aid is fashioned very similar to Cards Against Humanity

There is a donor card (a statement with a blank or question) that is read out and recipients submit their proposals to answer or fill in the blank using the recipient cards

Jessica talks about the process they went through to come up with their cool logo, a play on the USAID logo and the donor-industrialization of the industry. Also the black, bleeding heart inherent cynicism of the industry

How the three co-founders divide up their roles despite their busy lives

"It helps that we're friends first and co-founders second."

Why friendship makes the working environment vibrant

If you love it enough, you'll make the time

When overachievers find something that is fun and worthwhile, they'll figure out a way to do it

The co-founders see Jaded Aid as a side hobby. They all have other full-time jobs

"If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." LOLOL So true!

It's harder get the stuff done that's not fun, like how to move product around

Jessica explains what a design party looks like for Jaded Aid, where there are lots of people and alcohol. They ask for feedback and watch for reactions and get people to weigh in what they like/dislike

The expansion pack coming out soon has the theme: Peace Corps

Themes on violence and sexual assault were deemed "too much" and were tossed out

Their $50,000+ Kickstarter strategy was simple: Wayan

Within 48 hours they had reached their funding goal

Jaded Aid was featured on many major news outlets despite not having tried that hard to get their attention

The founders had tapped into a particular sentiment of frustration in the industry that nobody else was willing to talk about. They were addressing a taboo and doing it in a funny, real, and approachable way.

Once you get one major media captures your story, the other media sources jump on the bandwagon to not to miss out

The cards can take you to some crazy places and the combinations are nearly endless. They can be benign, uncomfortable, outrageous, squirm-worthy

The Diva Cup is a menstrual cup that can be re-used

Shipping through Diplomatic Pouch Services

Jaded Aid ships internationally, although it can be expensive

It's a very dedicated and loyal market but not huge enough to make Jaded Aid profitable enough for the founders to work full-time on it. It's enough for beer money.

The founders want to be a part of the effort to change the industry. They love their work and the humanitarian in themselves and want to help the industry pivot for the better

They want to act as the trigger for conversation, innovation, and improved impact in the industry

"Here are the problems. Let's discuss them out in the open."

They can't ever stop working in the development industry though, since they have to keep generate new ideas for cards lol

Oct 6, 2016

Today’s guest is our very own Caroline Gray, a staff member here at Students Helping Honduras. She began teaching in 2011 in a low-income neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut through Teach For America. Her first year there, she taught reading and writing for grades K through 8. She then taught third grade for two years. 

Caroline moved to Honduras in 2014 to teach third grade at our Villa Soleada Bilingual School, helping her students achieve 1.6 years of growth in reading each year. And she did that twice. She is now the Academic Director of the school. 

You can follow her on her personal blog at

For show links, go to

Show Notes & Summary

She oversees the curriculum

Why Honduran parents want to send their children to a private bilingual school

The tuition for bilingual schools can range from $100-$400 per month plus material costs in northern Honduras

The Villa Soleada Bilingual School's tuition is around $25/month

Caroline shares the story of a student from Villa Soleada who has been making tremendous growth despite coming from a challenging home-life and having parents who are illiterate

The evolution of the bilingual curriculum at the school, especially aligning the content taught in Spanish and in English

In Pre-K and Kindergarten classes, the majority of the classes are taught in Spanish

As they move through the grades, less Spanish is spoken and more English is spoken

By the upper grade levels, the majority of classes are taught in English

Teacher training at Villa Soleada Bilingual School has evolved tremendously, going from a few days to five weeks

We use the S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) framework when setting goals

We assess the students three times per year in phonics, sight words, reading comprehension, and math

We track data for each individual students and also entire classrooms using the Core Phonics Survey assessment, Reading A-Z Diagnostics, and the NWEA MAP Assessment

Our school shares many values with Teach for America. A big one is in the belief that all students regardless of where they come from deserve equal access to an excellent education as their wealthier peers

 We also align with TFA in the belief that great behavior management and high quality instruction can lead students to find success in the classroom no matter where they are

Time management is Caroline's greatest challenge

Caroline has many self-doubts and insecurities, only being 27 years old and running Villa Soleada Bilingual

Her Spanish was poor when she began in Honduras

Caroline understands her limitations and reaches out to a wide range people who support her

A special shoutout to Maxie Gluckman

Caroline loses sleep when she is worried about her students who come to school with black eyes or when families are assaulted

She understands the need for a holistic pathway out of poverty to supplement the work that the school is doing

Teachers who didn't succeed at VSBS failed to become a part of the greater community in El Progreso, which serves as an outlet. It gives them a way to relax and make friends. Small things like joining the local gym

The teachers who succeed have the heart for this kind of work. They have a sense of purpose.

The students who come from wealthier neighborhoods have superior early childhood education. The children from lower-income families have to catch up already in pre-K and Kindergarten.

Earning the trust of the community and parents has been challenging for Caroline. It took years for her to build that trust, especially in an environment where parents are used to foreign staff members coming and going each year

The school is looking to provide more extracurricular activities to the students

The Summer Enrichment Program allowed children to participate in many extracurricular activities

Caroline is the head soccer coach of the school. Our team has lost almost every single game, but our kids have learned to play with heart and humility; to lose with grace and dignity; to improve.

The first and last victory of the year was huge. It was 120 degrees outside. The victory was for the team and for the school and the entire community. The entire community cheered on the team and celebrated.

Caroline's goal for the team is to continue improving technical skills and approach everyday with courage

She wants our kids to be on par with their peer in high performance schools in the US by the time they graduate from our school at the 9th grade

The kids who graduate would go onto a bilingual high school in the city or continue to work on conversational English with us

Fluent English speakers can work at the growing tourism and call center industries, even as managers.

Jobs that require English pay much better in general in Honduras

Get ready for our very first graduation ceremony in the year 2020!

Oct 3, 2016

Michael Driscoll was an active member of Students Helping Honduras during his time at Virginia Tech, helping build several schools in El Progreso. During his senior year, he served as the Chapter President on campus.


Upon graduation, as his classmates were signing contracts to work at high paying corporate desk jobs, Mike took a different path. He became a middle school teacher in a low-income neighborhood in Miami through Teach for America.


After serving TFA for two years, Mike flew down to Honduras to work for the Villa Soleada Bilingual School as a 4th grade teacher.


In this episode, Mike talks about his experience with TFA in Miami and what his days are like now living and working in Honduras.


Check out the show notes & photos at


"The idea of sitting in a desk for eight hours everyday wasn't appealing to me."


"Some days I felt like... what am I getting myself into!?"


"There were days I did not want to get out of bed."


A day in the life of Michael


The meal plan of a typical teacher at Villa Soleada Bilingual School


What the gym in El Progreso is like


Michael compares the teacher training process between Teach for America and Villa Soleada Bilingual School


The biggest difference that Michael has seen between schools in the US and in Honduras: unexpectedness


Many teachers at his school in the US transferred out to other schools due to their unsatisfactory experiences


His goal this year is to help his students reach 80-100% proficiency in grade level math and 1.5 years growth in reading levels.


Mike is working on a CRM (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning) program in his science class


Mike is collecting data and tracking the progress of his students


Each week Mike has been highlighting a specific character trait with his class. This was inspired by the KIPP schools. This past week he highlighted grit.


"Grit is about never giving up. It's trying your hardest. And doing your best."


Something has been keeping Michael awake at night, worried.


What the first day of school was like for Mike, working for Teach for American and then at the Villa Soleada Bilingual School


On the first day in Miami, one girl says to him, "Middle School fucking sucks!!!" That inspired him to make sure nobody finishes the year with that mindset.


"This is when I figured out what it meant to have high blood pressure."


"My students are like my cup of coffee in the morning."


His biggest challenges in Miami were to get kids to listen to him, behavioral management, low test scores


What his weekends are like in Honduras (salsa lessons, tutoring friends in English, gym, night out in town)


Mike's favorite dance club in El Progreso is Zona 504. They have air conditioning!


He encourages people interested in working at Villa Soleada Bilingual School to come visit the program first for a short period of time


Don't miss Mike's moving shoutout, Academy-awards style.


Sep 27, 2016

In this episode, Natalie Jesionka and I discuss volunteer travel and current trends in the NGO industry. Some of the questions asked during the episode:

  • Does a volunteer's intent matter?
  • Should an NGO ever fire a volunteer who is there to help?
  • Should volunteers take photos during their trips abroad?
  • Should vulnerable children grow up with distant relatives or in orphanages?

Natalie is a lecturer, reporter, and human rights advocate. Natalie is the founder of the Prizm Project, the first human rights education organization for young women. She has researched human trafficking, the arms trade, and women in conflict throughout Asia.

She is also the Editor of Shatter the Looking Glass, a human rights and ethical travel publication examining the complexity of moving across borders in the modern world. She serves on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA. She is currently a sociology professor at Rutgers University.

Natalie and I originally met in Thailand in 2010 where she was a Fulbright Scholar.


Show Notes & Summary

  • "Voluntourism"
  • Be wary of third party organizations that match you with volunteer opportunities for a large fee
  • Not every volunteer opportunity may turn out to be as great as promised in their marketing material
  • Volunteers need to set realistic goals instead trying to change the world in a short amount of time
  • Volunteers may go home with more questions than answers
  • Ethical practices for taking photos while volunteering
  • What to do as a volunteer when you make a mistake that causes a misunderstanding or unintended consequences
  • Why mentorship is important in the volunteer industry
  • Why energy slamming and insulting volunteers who make mistakes should be redirected
  • "We need to start helping each other instead of bringing each other down."
  • The intent of the volunteering isn't always of altruism, but is that a bad thing if the end product
  • Let's stop with the charades, volunteering is a lot about our own personal development and ourselves
  • Natalie challenges young people to consider starting a social business instead of a traditional nonprofit organization
  • She talks about the sense of entitlement that volunteers get even though the skills they gain may not be as relevant for jobs back at home
  • What to do when a volunteer is acting out. Should the NGO fire him or her?
  • What should a volunteer do if he or she finds out that the NGO they're working for is corrupt?
  • The importance of having tact as a volunteer when confronted with complicated situations
  • Experteering = Volunteering + Expertise
  • Natalie responds to recent criticisms of volunteer travel
  • Some people think that volunteering abroad carries a colonial essence
  • How to respond to criticism about your organization
  • How I feel about the orphanage vs. family reunification debate regarding orphaned and abandoned children
Sep 23, 2016

Social entrepreneur Caitlin McHale is the Co-Founder and Director of Project Esperanza (, an NGO dedicated to serving the Haitian immigrant population of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in the areas of education, social aid, and community development.

They run a group home for street children and two school projects, mainly for children from the "Batey" slum communities near the sugarcane fields. In the D.R., it is said that nearly half a million Haitians live in 400 Batey slums. Many children from the Bateys face trafficking, indentured servitude, prostitution, a sense of "statelessness," and illiteracy.

Caitlin began volunteering in Dominican Republic while an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech. Upon graduation, she left everything behind to pursue her calling to grow the nonprofit organization. She continues to live on the Caribbean island, now married and with children.


Show Notes & Summary

  • Caitlin went to the Dominican Republic for the first time as a freshman volunteer
  • Haitian children born in the bateys of Dominican Republic are oftentimes denied citizenship rights
  • These "stateless" children get stuck in the middle of two cultures/nations
  • There are about 400 bateys in the Dominican Republic
  • Some schools deny admittance to these children who lack "proper" documents and birth certificates
  • Project Esperanza works in the Muñoz Batey near a resort area
  • More than 550 residents live in a space about the size of a football field
  • 78% of the families had no toilets according to their census
  • Esperanza began building compost toilets in the Bateys
  • Where Caitlin lives, they get running water one day a week!
  • Many sugar cane fields have stopped functioning, leaving the workers in the bateys to find jobs elsewhere
  • It all started as a student organization at the Virginia Tech campus
  • A street census in Puerto Plata revealed that none of the Haitian children in the area were attending school
  • A restavek (or restavec) is a child in Haiti who is sent by his or her parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant to make a living. It is considered a modern form of slavery, although not in every case.
  • Some Haitian children are tricked and then trafficked into the Dominican Republic to become restaveks
  • Caitlin talks about her group home for boys where they house up to ten street kids and how they try to foster self-sufficiency
  • The young adults aging out of the group home face a set of difficult challenges
  • The sense of entitlement becomes a problem for the young adults, who oftentimes become jealous of the extra attention that the younger children in the program receive
  • One young adult in particular became rebellious and they had to call the police to have him leave the premise--and how that made Caitlin feel
  • How the day care program for street kids turned into a residential program (group home)
  • Esperanza purchased a plot of land in 2013 to relocate the group home because the neighbors in their old location didn't want street kids around
  • They have no running water in the new location so they have to get water trucks to fill up their tanks
  • A nearby church was giving classes to disadvantaged kids who were not admitted to the local public schools due to documentation problems and discrimination
  • Esperanza partnered with this one-room church school, helping pay teacher stipends
  • After moving the school through five rental properties, they finally purchased a permanent building for the school through a private loan
  • Deportation is a threat for these Haitian kids, even if they've lived in the DR their whole lives
  • The budget to sustain the school started at $400 per month and is now around $3,000 per month, including the mortgage on the loan
  • This year the school added a 7th grade, free lunch program, and extended hours (8am-1pm)
  • Shortly after, they began working in a place called Muñoz with a community school there
  • Public school teachers in the DR make about $300/month. Private school teachers make about $100-$200/month
  • The minimum wage in the DR is around $180/month
  • The children now have a support network and sponsors helping them
  • Prostitution and the sex trade are major challenges in the area
  • The children begin attending the school at age 3
  • Creating trust and teamwork were the two biggest challenges Caitlin has faced
  • They were taken to court by a corrupt staff member who brought up labor laws that they were not aware of to extract money from Esperanza
  • They started an internet center but the project failed due to the lack of electricity in the area
  • They used the space to start an art shop instead
  • The well-digging on their property has been delayed repeatedly
  • They can start selling water from the well for about a dollar per tank
Sep 13, 2016

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There are many ways to help orphans and children who have no home to go to, and there is a heated debate to figure out what programs are best or in some cases harmful.

Traditionally, orphanages helped these children. As the years have gone by, foster care, family reunification services, and adoption have become the dominant options. Today, some people are skeptical or even against the idea of orphanages, believing that it's an outdated and sometimes harmful way of helping these children. Recently, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, tweeted a series of criticisms against orphanages and young people who volunteer in such institutions. In one tweet, she says, "Orphanages cause irreparable damage, even those that are well run."

Dr. Richard Mckenzie is a professor emeritus of economics and management in the Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. He has taken on a life-long mission to support and advocate for high quality orphanages in the US. As a child, Richard grew up in the Barium Springs Children's Home in North Carolina. He has conducted research studies and surveys of orphanage alumni, collecting data on their life outcomes. 

He is the author of a number of books, including: The Home: A Memoir of Growing Up in an OrphanageMiracle Mountain: A Hidden Sanctuary for Children, Horses, and Birds Off a Road Less TraveledHome Away From Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages and Rethinking Orphanages for the 21st Century.

In today's episode, Dr. Mckenzie defends the role of orphanages in today's day and age.

Show Notes & Summary

  • Why Richard uses the term "orphanage"
  • The different words for orphanage all mean the same thing
  • "Treatment centers" are different--they take kids who have been severely traumatized
  • Richard grew up in an orphanage in North Carolina (Barium Springs Children's Home) in the 1950s from age ten and got their support to attend university
  • He has bad memories from his childhood living with problematic parents
  • His father was too much of an alcoholic to take care of him and eventually his mother committed suicide
  • Richard became a bad kid, stealing and shoplifting
  • His relatives didn't want to take care of Richard and in fact wanted him out of sight and out of mind
  • Family preservation or foster care were the norms
  • Kids with behavioral issues often cycle through various foster families
  • His experience in the orphanage was positive
  • His surveys from the 1990s (with 2,500 respondents from 15 different orphanages) revealed that 85% of orphanage alumni had favorable or very favorable experiences growing up in orphanages even though most of these centers were not financially endowed... They had a significantly higher high school graduation rate, college graduation rate (39% higher), and rate of having doctoral degrees than white Americans their age. They also had a higher median income (10-60% higher) than white Americans their age. They had a lower criminal record. 29% reported being very happy compared to the general population where 5% reported being very happy. They suffered less psychological problems. The did report a slightly higher divorce rate than their peers
  • He enjoyed his time living and constantly playing with other boys in their cottage
  • The kids at the orphanage worked at the orphanage farm, developing work ethic and valuable experiences
  • They learned skills like plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, thing that other kids were not exposed to
  • The orphanage had their own school, which was better than the city school
  • They had their own basketball team which was very scrappy, small-bodied, but with a winning record
  • Richard remembers the houseparents, some of them were good, others weren't
  • Young Richard remembers being told: "It's not your circumstance that determines how far you'll go in life. It's going to be you."
  • "Their good work [of the people running orphanages] is being unduly trashed."
  • He gathered 4,000 pages of testimonials from orphanage alumni and most of them wrote raving reviews of their experience growing up
  • Charles Dickens gave orphanages a bad image even though he actually favored orphanages. He did it to give the story some dramatic tension
  • In the 1900s people began to think that orphanages were poorly run
  • In the 1930s and 1940s, studies of institutionalized kids started coming out, with questionable and sometimes appalling and biased study methods where the orphanage kids always had the worst outcomes. Six studies had just 6-15 kids from the samples without knowing if they were randomly selected or not--many of these kids had serious psychological issues. The outcomes often favored foster care, but Richard suspects biased research methods
  • There are many interest groups that want to protect jobs in the foster care industry
  • Many people in the child welfare industry have never visited or investigated an orphanage
  • Why ABC was overwhelmed with what they saw in two modern-day orphanages in the US
  • Richard is looking forward to his orphanage's homecoming event later in the year, although many alumni have passed away already
  • The orphanage that he grew up in has gone through major changes
  • "If you don't have dramatic tension in a documentary, you won't be able to sell it."
  • The Hebrew Orphans Asylum (a large residential facility for 1,100 kids) still has massive reunion events even though they've been closed for decades
  • There are nearly half a million children in foster care in the US
  • Richard spent a week living in the Crossnore School for Children in Need recently to see what life was like for the children there and was impressed
  • The Crossnore School guarantees high school graduation and promises financial support for post-high school education
  • One boy from the school said in response: "We are larger than our biographies. Our pain and hurt are only a small fraction of who we are. We read numerous articles of abuse, neglect, and drug addiction. But few ever tell the real story. That the important part is what comes after the storm. It is who we are now."
  • Of a pair of twins, one boy ended up at Crossnore and the twin sister stayed at home in a problematic household. The boy graduated with honors from NYU whereas the sister dropped out of high school.
  • Child welfare workers in the foster care industry were reluctant to share information with Richard
  • Many kids in foster care get moved around constantly from one family to another
  • Some judges call kids in foster care as the "plastic bag brigade" because they go from one family to another carrying their belongings in plastic bag
  • There is an organization that dedicates itself to giving suitcases to foster care kids
  • The chief family court judge in San Diego got tired of the foster care system and built a children's home outside San Diego for 125 kids--each kid had gone through 7-8 foster care placements
  • Everyone in the community supported this orphanage because they wanted an alternative to foster care because they found that 56% of kids who aged out of foster care at 18 were homeless within 3 months, and a disproportionate number of these kids who ended up in the penal system
  • One girl had to go through 8 different foster families during her first two months of her freshman year of high school
  • Family reunification services haven't met their promises and sometimes does harm to kids
  • Many parents are not loving or responsible. Some are mean, physically abusive, sexually abusive. It's easy for these parents to hide these things from family reunification services, forcing kids to be with abusive and/or neglectful parents
  • Kinship care sounds like a great solution but sometimes relatives can molest or sexually abuse the child, leading to more toxicity and the child getting sent to yet another home
  • The orphanage critics always say "Children will always do better with loving and responsible parents." Policy makers buy into that ideology.
  • According to Richard, not having loving and responsible parents is the problem.
  • Kids need permanence and stability and alternatives to orphanages do not always offer that
  • Foster families sometimes give preferential treatment to their biological children over foster children
  • The Bucharest Early Intervention Project studied the outcomes of children who grew up in Romanian orphanages with terrible conditions
  • Communist Romania had some bad orphanages and if you study the outcomes of such orphanages you're going to find problems
  • "Nobody is recommending duplicating orphanages like the ones in Romania."
  • Father Marc's organization in Haiti, Free the Kids, houses 600 kids
  • Dr. Kate Whetten from Duke University followed 3,000 orphaned kids in 5 low-income countries in Africa and southeast Asia in a study. The kids in the orphanage care do as well or better than the kids who were reared in biological families and better than in foster care. The orphanage kids are far less subject to sexual violations.
  • "You can have children's home that do good."
  • J.K. Rowling's (author of Harry Potter) recent criticism and condemnation of orphanages on Twitter and her anti-orphanage and anti-volunteering campaign. She has no data to back up her claims
  • Richard responds to her criticism, stating that even though most orphans have at least one living parent, in many cases those parents and relatives should not or are incapable of taking care of these kids
  • There is a dark side to foster care payments and stipends for the parents of kids who go through family reunification
  • It's much easier to monitor the progress of the children in an orphanage compared to scattering the kids between dozens of locations
  • Dr. Mckenzie agrees that the high cost-per-child to support children in orphanages is a legitimate concern
  • Orphanage care is oftentimes more expensive because the kids tend to have more serious problems (e.g., they have to first be turned down by 10 foster families before entering Crossnore)
  • It costs about $60,000 per child per year at Crossnore ($30,000 for basic care and $30,000 for academic services)
  • The key is to get the kids into the orphanages sooner, before they are "damaged goods"
  • The Children in Families First Act of 2013 would prevent government funding to support orphanages that are not treatment centers. If this law comes to fruition, kids will see more problems
  • "What we need in this country is a change in attitude towards orphanages."
  • The US needs someone like Sam Walton who could figure out a way to provide care at a good price to show the world that children's homes can work
  • "We need a menu of options for kids."
  • There is a growth in failed adoptions where kids end up with families who should have never adopted, kids have serious problems that the families were not aware of or prepared for, or the parents get a divorce
  • Some kids in Crossnore were involved with failed adoptions
  • Foster families may not take in large groups of siblings and these siblings get separated into different families. With orphanages, sibling groups can stay together
  • There are camps where siblings living in different foster families can reunite for a few weeks to be together
  • Private organizations and churches are stepping away from child welfare services as the government is taking over. Richard thinks that we need to reverse this.
  • For Richard and Phyllis, children need hugs
  • Reports say that 60% of Americans have lost faith in the American Dream, but Richard's upcoming survey of orphanage alumni have shown that 91% of orphanage alumni said they have lived the American Dream
  • Richard will be coming out with several new studies on life outcomes of orphanage alumni
  • Richard publicly thanks the staff members who brought him up at the orphanage
Sep 8, 2016

Two college buddies studying engineering--Greg Mcgrath and Wes Meier--started EOS International with no money. They had to travel on chicken buses, ox carts, and by foot for years in Nicaragua. Today, their NGO provides under-served communities with access to low-cost appropriate technologies that generate income, improve health, and preserve the environment. Together with other engineering students, they began working in Mali (where Wes served for the Peace Corps) and in Nicaragua.

Learn how these two young social entrepreneurs built up EOS while they worked full-time and how they distribute products and services that provide clean water, drip irrigation, biogas, fuel-efficient ovens, and solar power throughout Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Show Links

Show Notes & Summary

  • The challenges of having two founders
  • How they decided on job titles and responsibilities
  • Wes volunteered for the Peace Corps in Africa
  • Greg worked on marketing, logistics, getting the nonprofit status
  • What makes their significant others jealous
  • They were influenced early on by Paul Pollack, Muhamad Yunus, Martin Fisher
  • EOS is focusing more on sustainable development over charity
  • Greg talks about their first project, their drip irrigation system and why it took way longer than expected
  • What it was like starting an NGO without basic tools, language skills, experience
  • Wes talks about his frustrations getting their nonprofit status and bank accounts set up in Nicaragua
  • The moment that Greg realized that a good idea and passion were not enough
  • How EOS found their first Nicaraguan staff members, including the Country Director, Alvaro
  • Wes explains how the EOS biogas stove ($150/unit)  works, where a family can produce 5 hours worth of odorless methane gas for cooking with manure from one cow
  • How EOS uses customer testimonials to market their appropriate technology products to new communities
  • How EOS allows customers to make monthly payments for their products
  • Greg shares the story of a failed solar oven project
  • Greg explains why it's so important for their customers to pay a fee for the products instead of them receiving free handouts
  • "What is free has no value."
  • Wes explains why their first drip irrigation was not utilized by the community--people did not feel ownership because they received the project for free
  • Wes explains how their water chlorinator ($100/unit) works using PVC pipes, chlorine tablets, and gravity to treat water for up to 1,000 people
  • The unpleasant taste of chlorinated water makes implementation and usage a challenge
  • Each water project design is unique because of terrain, available materials, etc. which makes standardization difficult
  • Greg talks about the toughest water project they tackled where multiple, elevated water barrels were involved
  • What it was like hauling barrels on the roofs of Nicaraguan chicken buses, ox carts, and on their backs back when they didn't have vehicles nor money
  • What it was like when they couldn't afford a $3,000 motorcycle to carry their supplies
  • The behind-the-scenes story behind EOS's marketing, website, and logo design
  • Why EOS emulates the Charity: Water marketing model
  • How Wes was able to finally work for EOS full time, and the conditions that had to be met first
  • How Wes and Greg worked on EOS for 20 hours per week while they were both working other full-time jobs, their hustle and grind
  • "EOS was a full-time hobby"
  • How EOS fundraises successfully, using the help of family, friends, and individuals
  • Why the "Sponsor a Technology" fundraising model has been so successful
  • How EOS organizes regional fundraising hubs by leveraging their network
Sep 6, 2016

When sloths are in trouble in Suriname, people call today's guest for help. Social entrepreneur Monique Pool is a CNN Hero and the founder of Green Heritage Fund Suriname. She's rescuing homeless sloths in South America who are facing deforestation of their natural habitats. It all began from a chance encounter at the animal shelter that led to her facing what history called the "sloth Armageddon." She is also helping other animals in Suriname, such as anteaters and dolphins. 

Learn what a rescue mission looks like, how she built an animal sanctuary in her own house, and why she wakes up at 4am.


Check out the show links at


Show Notes & Summary

  • What Monique Pool does during her free time
  • How looking for her missing dog changed Monique's life for good
  • Monique hadn't realized that sloths have a 30 year life span when she began taking them in at her sanctuary
  • Monique explains what happened to the first baby sloth she rescued and how it changed her life
  • How Monique names each of the sloths
  • What happened during the sloth "Armageddon" in Suriname
  • The difference between two-fingered and three-fingered sloths
  • How Monique managed to house 200 sloths after the big rescue
  • Monique's experience working at Conservation International Suriname
  • How Monique got help from experts in Costa Rica and Colombia
  • The deliberate process that helped Monique become a sloth newbie to a sloth expert
  • Why Monique was inspired by Wangari Maathai, the first African female to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
  • How Monique got involved in a battle with the local oil companies
  • "Ni un paso atrás." --The quote that keeps Monique going
  • Monique explains the peculiar behavior of sloths when they feel stressed out
  • Relocating the sloths to new forests
  • The sloth  that was most special to Monique and the things she did in the bathroom
  • What is going through her mind when Monique is releasing the sloths back into the wild
  • The first products that Green Fund Suriname began selling to raise money
  • Monique put in a lot of her own money to start the NGO
  • The Suriname River pink belly dolphin project
  • What it was like to have her parents as her first volunteers
  • The moment that made Monique question her own conviction to keep fighting for the animals and the environment
  • Why Monique feels she has failed at fundraising
  • What volunteers do for the organization
  • The story behind their website
  • The story behind their merchandise program
  • What Monique did with a sloth that had been shot with a bullet
  • How Monique is "professionalizing" Green Heritage Fund Suriname instead of doing things on the fly
  • How Monique used to find mentors
  • Her take on personal finance for the social entrepreneur
  • The new sloth rehabilitation center that is under construction
  • Sloth Armageddon 2 is looming
  • Monique's public speaking routine
  • Her upcoming book, Slothified
  • Why Monique wakes up at 4am
  • What Monique would say to her favorite sloth Lucia if she could see him one more time
Sep 1, 2016

Kelly Phoenix is the former Executive Director of Nourish International, a non-profit organization that partners with communities to make a lasting impact on extreme poverty. With the fundraising efforts of their 60 campus chapters, they've invested in 113 long-term, community-based programs to fight poverty. Learn how this NGO reached this level of success.

In this episode, you'll get a behind-the-curtains look at what it's like to be the Executive Director of a growing nonprofit organization. Kelly talks about the things that keep her awake at night as well as the issues and tasks that get her excited. Learn about the tools, books, habits, traits, mindset, and conferences that helped Kelly in her journey.

Kelly is currently heading Nourish Insurance. Check it out at if you'll be volunteering abroad and need travel insurance

Check out the show links at

Show Notes & Summary

  • What Kelly does during the weekends
  • Kelly's life-changing trip to Belize while in high school
  • Kelly's take on how our consumerist behavior and choices affect the world
  • How the organization started at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • How Nourish International Chapters start business ventures
  • Nourish's Hunger Lunch where they serve rice, beans, and corn bread where they make $2 profit per plate
  • How Nourish raises $30,000/year through Coolers for a Cause
  • How Nourish works with community partners in 28 countries
  • The criteria that partner organizations must meet in order to work with Nourish, such as being locally led
  • How Nourish recruits new members on their campuses
  • "Less talking. More action."
  • The Annual Nourish Institute
  • How a Nourish alum became the special assistant to Samantha Powers, the US Ambassador to the United Nations
  • How Kelly started Connected for Cause at UNC
  • Kelly's struggle with the co-founder of Connected for Cause
  • Kelly talks about whether a young person should start an NGO or work for a pre-existing nonprofit organization
  • What Nourish did when they found out that their donations were being misused by an employee in a partner organization in Uganda
  • Why Nourish builds long-term partnerships
  • What Nourish does during their staff retreats
  • Training volunteers prior to their visits to partner communities
  • Kelly's response to recent criticisms of NGOs and international volunteers
  • Nourish's annual Giving Challenge every February
  • How Nourish competes for foundation grants
  • Why nonprofit organizations lose about half of their donors each year
  • Nourish's Gratitude Grid for their donors
  • "Your donors are like your garden."
  • How Nourish provides insurance to volunteers from different organizations, including SHH, to generate revenue
  • Kelly on directive and servant leadership
  • Why passion is the one trait Nourish is looking for in their job candidates
  • The average Development Director in the nonprofit industry works 18 months for the position
  • Why Kelly listens to the TRON Legacy soundtrack before going on a speech
  • Why Kelly listens to Tony Robbins and Les Brown speeches
  • The one worry that keeps Kelly awake at night
Aug 30, 2016

Social entrepreneur and CNN Hero Jock Brandis is the founder of The Full Belly Project. He is the winner of the MIT Ideas Award and the Purpose Prize. He is known as the modern-day Thomas Edison, having invented the "holy grail" of sustainable agriculture and more. His universal peanut sheller and other appropriate technologies have helped tens of thousands of people in many countries across the world. His nonprofit organization works out of a factory in Wilmington, North Carolina. 

Jock is an old guy with a great sense of humor. He made me laugh out loud many times during the episode in between his inspirational stories. He talks in depth about embracing failure in this episode.

This episode is mostly about Jock's involvement with... peanuts!

"The peanut (or groundnut as it is called in West Africa) is an important subsistence crop to hundreds of millions of people across the world. Not only is it important nutritionally, as it provides a convenient source of protein and 30 essential nutrients, but it is also an important source of income for these communities. Often referred to as a "women's crop" in Africa, women traditionally grow, harvest and shell them to supplement their families' diets, but also as a product to bring to market." - The Full Belly Project website

Check out the show links at

Show Notes & Summary

  • Jock's teaching assignment in Trenchtown, a slum in Kingston, Jamaica
  • Working for Oxfam by flying food into war-torn Biafra in Africa
  • How Jock met Kurt Vonnegut in Africa and the deal they made together
  • How Jock became a lighting guy and an actor in the movie industry
  • Jock's role in Deathbed, The Bed That Eats People, known as the worst movie in history
  • Jock's life on a steam-powered tug boat in Toronto with his wife
  • How his life changed when his wife passed away, leaving Jock with his two children
  • Jock's favorite advice for raising children
  • How he ended up in Mali, Africa where he got the idea of creating a peanut sheller
  • Peanuts are the most consumed protein food in the world for poor people
  • What the doubters said to Jock when he told them about his attempt to invent a peanut sheller
  • How Jock's peanut sheller invention was featured on National Geographic
  • How Jock worked with Peace Corps volunteers to deliver his peanut shellers
  • What his first garage shop looked like where he made his inventions
  • How Fully Belly Project sends out their small peanut sheller factories to developing countries around the world
  • How one machine shelled 16 tons of peanuts, making enough money for a village to dig a water well that provided clean drinking water
  • Why his fail-proof peanut project failed in Guyana
  • "Hunger has nothing to do with food."
  • Aflatoxin, the peanut fungus that is toxic
  • How Jock used ozone to combat aflatoxin
  • Why Jock sends small ozone generators to the villages now
  • How Jock developed a solar livestock water program in the US
  • Jock explains what the Full Belly factory is like
  • Jock explains the important role that volunteers play at Full Belly 
  • The clubhouse-like factory culture
  • "Fail early, fail often."
  • "We've learned to fail faster than anyone else."
  • How Fully Belly got their water powered seesaw patented
  • Jock's secret to creating a big impact with a small team
  • His biggest regrets in life
  • "The road to misery is trying to make everyone happy."
  • "To roll up your sleeves and try something because your first three mistakes will teach you more than all the design conferences in the world."
  • Jock on failure: "If you're going to fail, fail with as many people in the world seeing you fail."
  • Jock's secret to success
Aug 25, 2016

Sebastian Africano is the founder of ENASA, a consulting firm for fuel-efficient cooking stoves. He now works for Trees, Water & People in Colorado as their International Director. Sebastian manages TWP's clean cookstove, solar energy and reforestation programs in Central America and Haiti.

In 2008, Sebastian worked with SHH to replace 30 traditional stoves with 30 fuel-efficient cookstoves in Honduras.

If you're deciding whether to become a social entrepreneur or to work for a traditional non-profit organization, this is your episode. Sebastian talks about and compares his work as a social entrepreneur in Central America and in East Africa vs. his non-profit desk job at TWP.

He discusses the lifestyle differences, and the different skills required for the two kinds of work.

Show Notes & Summary

  • Sebastian tested health indicators such as carbon monoxide and particulate matters (smoke and soot) in the kitchens before the fuel-efficient cooking stoves were installed
  • The paper white smoke filters turned black with soot within 24 hours
  • His tests showed an 80% reduction in particulate matter and carbon monoxide with fuel-efficient cooking stoves
  • According to the World Health Organization, approximately 4 million people are dying from indoor pollution each year
  • Babies are immediately exposed as soon as they're born.
  • Chronic exposure to indoor air pollution causes vision and respiratory issues
  • The Justa Stove was developed in Tegucigalpa around 1998
  • Appropriate technology is technology that adapts to the local realities
  • It improves conditions without interrupting culture
  • Scaling is difficult due to regional differences
  • Mass production, one-size-fits-all models that aren't localized
  • Composting latrines
  • Pit latrines during floods can cause a cholera epidemic
  • Sebastian started his journey by volunteering after college, getting to know different organizations in depth.
  • He was paying off parking tickets by volunteering. That's how he got started.
  • Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon
  • After 3 years of volunteering and interning, Sebastian became a consultant in Central America and East Africa
  • Sebastian discusses the skills it takes to land an internship position in a nonprofit organization in today's day and age
  • How Sebastian hustled to get his job at Trees, Water & People
  • Why Sebastian decided to take on a more traditional job with Trees, Water & People after seven years of being on the road as a social entrepreneur and independent contractor
  • Sebastian discusses the lifestyle differences between a social entrepreneur versus someone working for a pre-existing non-profit organization
  • The difficult transition that Sebastian went through from being a field guy to an office guy
  • Sebastian's relationship with his Executive Director
  • Sebastian discusses the kind of communications skills that are required for those looking to work in the nonprofit world, both in the field and in the office--or as he calls it the Barrio and in the Board room.
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