Blog Action Day Today – It doesn't have to be about money

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I did not want the importance of Blog Action Day to slip by even though I am up to my eyeballs in final edits on the book.

For those of you who haven’t heard:

On October 15th bloggers everywhere will
publish posts that discuss poverty in some way in support of Blog Action Day.
By all posting on the same day we aim to
change the conversation that day, to raise
awareness, start a global discussion and
add momentum to an important cause.

It isn’t about the money

I feel wildly, completely and passionately committed to helping youth fight poverty.

From the age of 20-30, I was a martial arts maniac, training and teaching the Afro-Brazilian style of Capoeira.  I co-founded a program called the Community Action Project (CAP), where we offered free classes to local youth that lived in poverty, rough neighborhoods, and with difficult home lives.  We started with just one youngster, Jimmy Jarquin, a shy, chubby 14-year old immigrant from Nicaragua who fled the war with his Mom and settled in the Mission district of San Francisco.

Jimmy brought his cousin, then another kid joined.  Soon, a small group of youth were training hard. The program grew by word of mouth.  The kids were passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic.  We grew to 250 students in San Francisco, Daly City, Oakland and Hayward.

I taught the martial art classes along with co-founder Master Preguica, but also spent a lot of time in conversation with the kids.  We talked about family struggles.  Drugs.  Homework.  Girls.  College. The regular kinds of challenges faced by teenagers in an urban setting.  I wiped tears.  Gave hugs.  Proofed papers.  Gave unwanted dating advice, just as any good Mom or Auntie would do.

And the kids responded.  Compared to an average 50% high school graduation rate for their neighborhoods, we had a 98% rate.  Many went to college.  Most steered clear of drugs, gangs and alcohol, huge magnets in their environments.  Many opened capoeira schools themselves, teaching kids in their local communities.

Without the support of programs like ours, there is no question in my mind that many of the kids would have been dead or in jail.  Many were already in gangs when they came to us, and got out.  They had brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters dealing drugs and in jail.  There wasn’t a lot of hope.

The secret ingredient was not money but love.  Good, old fashioned caring and concern.  These kids that looked tough and menacing on the outside were desperate for a bit of parental love.  It was like magic.

So instead of worrying about donating money when times are tough, why don’t you do this instead:

  • Find the local Boys and Girls Club in your area and volunteer.  I don’t care what you do, your presence, positive attitude and encouragement will help some young people.
  • Connect with a young person in your own family.  You don’t necessarily have to work with an organization to make a difference.  You could make a big impact on a niece, nephew or grandchild that wants the support and love from a trusted family member.
  • When you see a young person on the street, no matter how different they may look from you, smile at them.  They need to feel that adults are encouraging. Don’t be afraid of them — they are all our children!
  • If you have the time, teach a class.  My dear friend Carlos Aceituno was a shining example of a great teacher and father/uncle figure. It doesn’t matter what your area of expertise is — accounting, computer programming, music, dance, your skills will be appreciated.
  • Support your local youth arts and community programs!  Fight to preserve programs that serve youth.  Nothing makes me more angry than talking about young people in urban
    America as a scourge, a "problem" that has to be dealt with.  Punishing
    and locking up youngsters will not help.  The love and support of
    positive adults will not only keep them out of trouble, it will totally
    alter the course of their lives
    .  If I had to bet on the outcome of juvenile hall (aka prison training ground) vs. structured, active youth programs to change lives, I will bet on the programs EVERY time.

Jimmy turned into a world-class athlete, and now teaches youth in his own community.  That is him in the center of the photo in the top row, flexing his muscles and showing off his hard-earned 6-pack abs. I am so proud of him I could burst.

A few posts I have written in the past referencing my precious kids from CAP:

Graffiti is a transferable skill and other business wisdom I learned while volunteering
Get out of your mental ghetto
Speaking marketing nonsense?  Get a gang member coach

Youth is my passion, but you can still blog about whatever cause gets your heart racing. Check out the Blog Action Day Get Involved page.


Emily (my editor) if you are reading this, sorry I stopped writing the book for 20 minutes!  I couldn’t help myself. πŸ™‚

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18 Responses to “Blog Action Day Today – It doesn't have to be about money”

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  2. I agree the infrastructure or foundation is the most critical; whether your building your home, a personal relationship, or business and love and generosity are the cornerstones of strength and stability.

  3. I just found this post today. Isn’t it rewarding to impact other’s lives just by giving your time? Good job! I know the feeling because I participated in the Big Sister program. That is another way to help make a difference. The screening process to be a Big Brother/Big Sister and then get matched takes some time but it is really worth it!

  4. Acony Belle says:

    I have escaped!!!! Okay, I have reached complete burnout status and am on a leave of absence. It is a hideous place to be, but I’m not there and I don’t intend to go back. Ever. Onward to recovery! Onward to living. Thanks for your blog πŸ™‚

  5. Joe says:

    Terrific article…very admirable. How is capoiera?

  6. Deborah N says:

    What an inspiring post! My daughter is currently volunteering in Ecuador teaching basic math skills and honing her spanish. This blog post timing coincides with CROP walks and the current Bread for the World letter writing campaigns happening in faith-based organizations. Links below:

    http://www.churchworldservice.org/CROP/index.html

    http://www.bread.org/take-action/ol2008/

    Thanks for the wonderful examples.

  7. Sarah Cook says:

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing story about how lives were changed. Sometimes a young person just needs a positive role model, someone who can truly invest in their lives and build them up, to see that there is hope in the world.

  8. Angel Cuala says:

    I totally agree with the title and the whole post, as I believe giving someone food to it is only temporarily. But teaching them and giving them a chance is a better idea. I should know. I’ve been there.

    If not for the people who trusted me, I am still among them. That’s why my entry discussed about being us treating each other as members of a big and happy family.

    Thanks!

  9. Robyn says:

    Thanks for giving specific examples of how you can make a difference in other peoples’ lives.

    Even though poverty forced us to move around a lot, even a short experience with one of these programs would have meant so much.

  10. Zoe says:

    It’s wonderful to read a completely personal, exciting story for Blog Action Day. More inspiring than reading about where to click your mouse to end poverty!

  11. lilalia says:

    Your words are so true. We can all find time to help, for it is one of those situations where everyone’s lives is enriched. Thank you for sharing your story, it lift my spirits.

  12. Alexis says:

    I really appreciate your blog, too many people think they can’t help because they don’t have the money to donate. How about warm blankets, or canned food that’s just sitting in your cupboards? I think getting involved with Boys and Girls clubs, or volunteering in soup kitchens and shelters is a wonderful way to make a difference. We can all do our part, whether big or small, and help the millions of people who are battling poverty every day.

    We’re also blogging about poverty today, check us out at http://current.pic.tv/

  13. Gonzalo says:

    Right on the money! Sending money does not guarantee mitigating the problem or getting closer to solving it. Thank you for writing this entry.

    Gonzalo
    nicedeed.blogspot.com

  14. Paul says:

    One of the better blog action day posts I have read today…. Well done for taking the time to make it.

  15. Alex says:

    Great post, I myself wrote one at: http://www.guruofsales.com/general/427/fight-poverty-its-blog-action-day-today and the action has not stopped. Would you share your thoughts by a comment there as well?

  16. commonweeder says:

    I’ve been having a great time trawling through the posts that come up on the Blog Action Day website. I’ve done by own post, and I am so inspired by all the different ways we can each respond to this problem. Love, is something we can all provide. Thanks.

  17. Great post for BAG 2008!

    I’m right there with you on the “doesn’t have to be about money” concept. Giving minds think alike. πŸ˜‰

  18. kouji haiku says:

    cool. πŸ™‚ great how you made a difference in their lives.

    sigh. for my part, i turn to sites like freerice (rice donation), kiva (microfinance), and goodsearch (donation per search), as ways to help alleviate poverty online. i also put up their banners on my blog. πŸ™‚

    saw this post via the front page of blog action day. it’s great that you’re participating. πŸ™‚

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