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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Now displaying: September, 2016
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

Check out the links and related articles at

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