If you tuned into the live broadcast of Help-Portrait on Dec. 4, 2010, you probably caught a glimpse of the sweet emceeing skills of Annie Downs, Help-Portrait’s events coordinator. Annie also works for a nonprofit in Franklin, TN, called Mocha Club and we wanted to share about it with you here on the blog. Elayna Martine is interning at Mocha Club and gives us a glimpse into their fresh approach to nonprofits and one of their fashionable initiatives that supports sustainable business for women in Africa. The line of scarves, called fashionABLE, has garnered support from music group Lady Antebellum and actress Minka Kelly.

Fashion Fuels Change

By Elayna Martine

Scarves and mochas. Who knew two of America’s popular vices could change the world?

fashionABLEfashionABLE reinvents the practice of making a bold fashion statement by creating a link between the drastically different communities of the economically privileged West and impoverished Africa. Fashion may be the art of self-indulgence, but fashionABLE uses the demand of trendsetting scarf-sporting Americans to tackle the issue of women at risk in African countries, namely Ethiopia.

African women who have previously resorted to dehumanizing practices such as prostitution to collect income and financially support their families are offered a new chance and a different opportunity. Through the fabrication of unique, handmade scarves, Ethiopian women reclaim their dignity by means of sustainable development. Each scarf carries the meaning of fashionABLE’s mission with a personal note from the Ethiopian woman who crafted the scarf and is an integral part in the cycle of the transformation and restoration of these women.

Channeling the material world and harnessing the power of trends to provide better lives, fashionABLE is a branch of the greater non-profit organization called Mocha Club. Founded in Nashville in 2005, Mocha Club uses the power of social networking to gather members and advocates for its mission to build a better Africa. Mocha Club’s fresh approach within the realm of non-profits is based on empowering its members to make a big change in a small way. How small? “$7 a month” small, or the cost equivalent of two mochas.

When the need of a continent is so daunting, Mocha Club offers a means to make realistic impact by practical sacrifice. Members personally choose which one of Mocha Club’s five mission projects their donation will benefit between Child Mothers and Women at Risk, Clean Water, Education, HIV/AIDS and Health Care, or Orphan Care and Vulnerable Children. Pick a project, start a team, and invite friends. Members have the means to track the impact of their donations through regular email and news updates.

Check out the overview video and get inspired in the “Make Your Fashion Statement” section of the site, where users upload a photo and description of how they rock their fashionABLE scarf.

Posted on Jun 02, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

Jonny and Michelle Hoffner are boutique photographers known as Paper Antler who regularly give back through their work. They donate 10% of their earnings to She Dances, an organization that works to rehabilitate girls who have been victims of trafficking. “Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world; this is our stand against it,” they say on their site.

And they’re about to take a major stand against it.

They’re taking the entire year of 2012 to raise $50,000 for She Dances. They plan a coast-to-coast tour in which they fill photograph 50 weddings (one a week) and donate $1,000 from each wedding.

It’s a lofty goal they’re calling “Fifty Nifty.”

They’re asking everyone to get involved by:

  • Booking them to shoot your wedding in 2012.
  • Blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking about the Fifty Nifty.
  • Telling your friends, family and tech savvy children.
  • Contacting your local media for potential coverage.

We love seeing photographers finding creative ways to give back and wish them the best on this endeavor!

Posted on May 31, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

gov haslamSix hundred thousand Africans now have access to clean water thanks to Blood:Water Mission’s seven-year project, which was celebrated in Nashville earlier this month. Launched in 2004, Blood:Water Mission‘s first goal and campaign was to create 1,000 water projects in communities across Sub-Saharan Africa. They celebrated that goal with a concert at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium involving Blood:Water Mission’s founders, Jars of Clay, and friends including HANSON, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Kenyan artist Eric Wainaina & The Mapinduzi Band, host Charlie Peacockand surprise guests Brandon Heath, Christopher Williams and Matthew Perryman Jones.

The night celebrated the fact that so far:

  • More than 600,000 Africans in more than 1,000 communities now have access to safe water.
  • Tens of thousands of Africans have access to adequate health care through clinic, HIV/AIDS treatment & education.
  • Friends in the U.S. are learning how they can make a difference through creative grassroots efforts.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (pictured above), spoke at the reception and said his children first told him about the water crisis in Africa, and that he is proud to recognize the impact of the work accomplished by Blood:Water Mission.

The evening generated more than $100,000 in donations to further the work of the mission. Blood:Water also rolled out a new monthly donor program called Community:Builders to continue their ongoing efforts in Africa.

Learn more, donate or become a community builder at Bloodwatermission.com.

Excerpts from this post first appeared at HalogenTV.com. Used with permission.

Posted on May 27, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

(Photo by David DeHetre of the storm cell that may have produced the Joplin tornado.)

Our hearts go out to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been affected by this Spring’s deadly tornadoes, storms and flooding that have affected central and the southern U.S. The 2011 U.S. tornado death toll has now reached 500, according to The Weather Channel.

At least 124 people are dead as a tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., followed by another deadly string of storms in central U.S., which killed at least 13 people in three states, according to news reports.

More than 1,500 volunteers helping police, firefighters and other first responders got to work on Monday, looking for survivors. Aid continues to roll into the area as 1,500 people are still missing, and 750 people have been treated for injuries – in just the Joplin area alone.

Victims and recovery workers are still working around the clock to help victims in Tuscaloosa from April’s storms, and flooding continues to destroy homes and lives in the Mississippi Valley.

Here is a list of organizations who are on the ground or planning to respond to the victims of these disasters. Consider spreading the word or donating to help maximize their efforts.

  • World Vision: Text TORNADO to 20222 to give a $10 donation to the U.S. Disaster Response Fund for tornado survivors.
  • Samaritan’s Purse: Text SP to 80888 to donate $10 to Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief efforts on the ground in Joplin.
  • CrossPoint Church in Nashville is preparing to send volunteers to Joplin on Sunday. They’re asking folks to pray, give or go. Details are here.
  • Gleaning for the World (GFTW) has now shipped 54 tractor-trailer loads of emergency supplies to AL, TN, NC and TN to help storm and flood victims, with more planned. Donate online, text “GFTW” to 27138 to subscribe to text message updates, or follow @GFTW.
  • First Response Team of America is headed into Joplin. Each relief effort costs approximately $70,000—and every dollar you donate goes toward supplies for relief, getting a team to the affected area or saving the life of someone in need.
Posted on May 25, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  1 Comment
  • William Price William Price

    Also, Mercy Ministries is making doctors available. https://ssl.4agoodcause.com/mercy/donation1.aspx?id=1
    William Price | 26/05/2011 6:28 PM

Celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the story of Help-Portrait and the unexpected impact it had on both sides of the camera. Illustrating how it began as a simple idea that spread to a global movement in just a few months, Jeremy reminds us all that giving within your gifting can change the world.

Posted on May 20, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments
Sleeping at Last

Fort Collins, CO. May 2010 Photograph by: Luca Venter

Sleeping At Last is an indie band with commercial cred. Having songs featured on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” the duo Ryan O’Neal (voice, guitars, pianos) & Dan Perdue (bass, pianos) originally formed in 1998 in Wheaton, Ill., and built a following opening for bands like The Appleseed Cast and Switchfoot. They signed to Interscope Records in 2002, but returned to independent recording six years later.

Last year the group decided to do something drastically different. They announced that beginning in October 2010, they would release three songs on the first day of the month for an entire year. Dubbing the project Yearbook, the collection is released on their website and is named after each month.

Halogen TV recently talked with Ryan O’Neal to talk about this new endeavor and also to hear about how they became involved with To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Here’s an excerpt. (Read the full interview here.)

What cause are you passionate about?
To Write Love On Her Arms is an organization that has been near and dear to my heart for a while. They offer resources and encouragement to people who struggle with addiction, self injury, depression, etc. I’ve had the privilege of performing songs at several TWLOHA events and to see so many hurting but brave people attend, in an effort to rebuild their lives; that is something very special to me. TWLOHA’s message is  “hope is real. help is real. your story is important.” and that resonates with me a lot. Other organizations that inspire me are: Invisible Children, Discover The Journey, First Response Team … all of which are doing incredible, incredible things… addressing such important issues head on.

How were you first made aware of TWLOHA?
Many people close to me have struggled with depression, addiction, etc. which is why TWLOHA quickly became something I wanted to support. I feel like they address issues that are seldom talked openly about. I met the founder, Jamie Tworkowski, about five years ago, at the beginning of TWLOHA’s story.

What’s next for you?
Well, there’s about four months left in this “Yearbook” project, which means four new EPs have yet to be written, recorded and released. After Yearbook, plans of touring will be sorted, so I am excited to give these new songs a home in live performance. And after so much consistent writing, I am sure that I won’t be able to go too long before the itch of writing new songs sets in again.

For updates and news on their monthly releases, follow @sleepingatlast and Facebook, where you can also hear some of the tracks.

Posted on May 16, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  1 Comment
  • Jeremy Cowart’s ‘Reaching Down’ to Benefit First Response | Help-Portrait | 10 Dec 2011 Jeremy Cowart’s ‘Reaching Down’ to Benefit First Response | Help-Portrait | 10 Dec 2011

    [...] The Joplin photos and video footage in this video are by Cale Glendening, and the music was donated by Sleeping At Last. [...]
    Jeremy Cowart’s ‘Reaching Down’ to Benefit First Response | Help-Portrait | 10 Dec 2011 | 07/06/2011 1:34 PM

In the upcoming Live Below the Line Challenge (May 16-21), individuals will eat on $1.50 a day for five days to raise money for Global Poverty Project and its charity partners.

Help-Portrait’s Jeremy Cowart is spearheading a photography contest this month to conjunction with the campaign. He’s encouraging amateur and professional photographers to photograph a representation, or interpretation, of what living below the line looks like to them. He’ll jury the photos and curate 10 of them for a special exhibition in New York after the winners are announced May 27.

“I’m excited to see what this visually represents to photographers worldwide,” Jeremy Cowart said. “Living on $1.50 seems unimaginable to our society, so for photographers to show us what that looks like is huge. I hope this is just another small step in changing our cultural perspective and priorities.”

To participate, visit www.dollarfiftyaday.com and upload your photo. Submissions are open until May 22.

Posted on May 09, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

Jen MayJen May Pastores (@jenmayzie) is a photographer from greater Los Angeles who has been a total rock star for Help-Portrait. Her team’s efforts as Help-Portrait Los Angeles (@HelpPortraitLA | Facebook) have drawn national attention, thanks in part to celebrity friends who participated in the past two years’ events. In this post, we share about another way Jen May has given back through photography, and how you can play a part.

In August 2009, Jen May Pastores taught a free digital photography workshop to the youth of Tiny Toones Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. More than 50 students participated daily in the program. The workshop covered the basics of photography such as composition, lighting and finding good backgrounds for portraits. More importantly, the workshop encouraged students to exercise their voice in telling their story and how they see the world around them.

Jen May helped the students prepare for a photo exhibit where the student’s work were showcased at the Meta House in the city. “Each print sold fundraised for the center of Tiny Toones, as well as a percentage of the proceeds given towards the student of the print purchased,” she said.

Jen has since received support to tour with a series of photographs taken during that workshop, “The World Through Our Eyes.” She calls it “a vibrant statement by youth countering stereotypes of artistic, emotional and urban desolation in the developing world.” Contact her if you’re interested in hosting the exhibit in your city.

“In retrospect and speaking quite honestly, I feel as though my students gave back to me the most….Every individual student was such an inspiration to me,” she says in the video.

On her career as a photographer, Jen says, “What I believe to be most important in this career is to always make room to pursue personal projects …. Much of it has to do with knowing how you can use what you have for the better, but all of it has to do with living a life that matters to you.”

To see more of her videos visit youtube.com/ jenmayzie. You can also follow Jen May on her websites, jenmayphotography.com and jenmayblog.com.

Posted on May 02, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

Stanley-Carl du-Pont is an H-P organizer for CODP Help-Portrait in Johannesburg, South Africa. He offers an overview of his group’s ambitious plan for 2011. We hope it inspires you as much as it has us.

South Africa is a country of many contrasts: From having one of the widest wealth gaps between rich and poor, to being the largest economy on the African Continent; from being the first African country to host the FIFA World Cup, to having unemployment as high as 25 percent.

Help-Portrait is therefore a project perfectly suited to this unique environment, and one that adds tremendous joy to the lives of many, many people. So many, in fact, that the CODP Help-Portrait group is aiming to give 25,000 portraits this year.

The team of volunteers already numbers more than 100 photographers, with a dedicated volunteer work group facilitated by the College of Digital Photography in Johannesburg driving the group onward and upwards.

The target of 25,000 portraits is not arbitrary – it’s based on the success of the group’s efforts in 2010 that yielded more than 5,500 photos. These were taken of individuals in needy communities and included abandoned and orphaned babies, toddlers and children, the homeless, disabled and elderly people across the South African rainbow nation.

Three months of shooting

Tackling a task as monumental as this requires intensive co-ordination and forward planning, and a little flexing of the original Help-Portrait model.

For a start, the portraits are going to be captured over a period of three months – from September to December. The bulk of the images will be captured in the first two months, with the team fanning out to rural communities, informal settlements and squatter camps where the “neediest” are to be found.

Children in under-privileged schools will also be targeted as that is a sure-fire way to gather large numbers of beneficiaries together. As an added value to these schools, a complete set of digital images will be provided for use for the schools’ records and yearbook.

Due to the demand and popularity following last year’s program, CODP Help-Portrait is also actively expanding to other provinces, and even neighboring countries, with the project team taking these fledgling Help-Portrait enthusiasts under its wing.

Adding value to photographers

Reaching the targeted number of portraits is as much a function of the organization behind the events as it is about getting the volunteer photographers confident and geared up to shooting groups as large as 400 people or more.

For this reason, the project team has arranged a number of workshops to help less-experienced photographers tackle shooting portraits under variable lighting and on-site conditions. Free training is being provided by some of the more accomplished team members, as well as trainers from the College of Digital Photography.

Taking the concept even further

As if setting such an ambitious target for the year is not daunting enough, the project team has added other elements to its activities that directly address needs in the country.

The first of these is job creation, with a sub project – Help-Portrait PhotoStar – initiated to develop at least four candidates from under-privileged backgrounds to the point that they can confidently enter the market as independent, self-employed “PhotoStar” photographers by the end of the year.

Educational training will be provided by the College, with discussions currently under way with equipment providers and professional photographers who will sponsor their kit. Help-Portrait volunteers who are working professional photographers will provide mentorship and in-service training.

In addition, CODP Help-Portrait will be launching Help-Portrait Goes2Town to involve volunteers in visiting smaller towns to create a complete photographic collection that showcases the town’s landscape, people, arts, food, and other aspects that may be of public interest. This material will then be provided to the town’s local administration as well as national tourism bodies to promote interest and economic activity in those areas.

Another initiative, Help-Portrait Exchange, seeks to encourage volunteer exchanges between CODP Help-Portrait and other Help-Portrait groups, while Help-Portrait 4PBOs encourages volunteers to offer free photography services to public benefit organizations that serve needy communities.

The merits and benefits of Help-Portrait continue to enchant all who are touched by it. And the proof of this is borne out in the way the project is expanding rapidly and also in the unexpected ways in which it can so easily be added to.

Giving free portraits will always be the project’s mainstay and that has provided a great foundation to build on using three key pillars: giving back, giving freely and giving through photography.

It is hoped that by sharing knowledge, stories and experience with the greater Help-Portrait community, that others too will be inspired to get further involved in their communities in need.

CODP Help-Portrait has also posted a discussion thread inviting other Help-Portrait groups to consider partnering with their group on their new Exchange initiative. Join the conversation!

Here are some photos shared with us from CODP Help-Portrait that were taken during the hand-over and distribution of portraits.

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

CODP Help-Portrait

Posted on Apr 19, 2011  |  Category: H-P Organizers, Inspiration  |  No Comments

Photo and story by Kevin D. Hendricks

Armed with a video camera and an iPhone, Mark Horvath walks up to a pregnant homeless woman and asks if she wants to tell her story (video). The result is painful and eye-opening: Turning to drugs to numb the pain, forced into sex for survival, ending up pregnant and not knowing who the father is.

This is what homeless advocate Mark Horvath does. He talks to the people we’ve decided are invisible and tells their stories, posting the raw, unedited video to his site, InvisiblePeople.tv. He launched the nonprofit site in 2008 while only a few weeks away from being homeless himself — again. In the mid-1990s Horvath spent nearly a year homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.

The experience of being homeless gives Horvath a unique perspective and urgency. That passion has taken him on two cross-country road trips, he’s appeared on CNN and NPR, and last spring he won the $50,000 Pepsi Challenge at SXSW.

A new book inspired by Horvath, Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness (full disclosure: I’m the editor of that book), shares the stories of 35 homeless people, offering an opportunity to move beyond the stereotypes. With a foreword by Trust Agent author Chris Brogan, the book also includes reflections from social media experts, nonprofit heroes, technology executives and more, sharing their perspective on homelessness and how Horvath’s work has inspired them. The book is a manual to motivate action and all proceeds benefit InvisiblePeople.tv.

We talked to Horvath about his work and this new book:

Why did you launch a site to help homeless people when you were nearly homeless yourself?

Two reasons:

1) When I started InvisiblePeople.tv, I was close to 19 months unemployed, moving fast forward into foreclosure. I don’t think I could have filled out one more job application, and I filled out a lot. I couldn’t find work and I had to do something to keep from going crazy.

2) I knew from my own experience that the homeless story wasn’t being told correctly. We needed to empower the homeless to tell their own story. Nonprofits would produce these pieces, but it was always for fundraising and sugar coated whatever the nonprofit needed. People detach from that. I don’t want to call InvisiblePeople.tv reality TV, but it’s as real as you can get. It’s unedited and raw. You get the good and the bad. You get to hear what life is like on the streets. And that’s how we effect change.

So with those two things pulling at me I didn’t have much of a choice. I was forced into it. I’d love to quit, but I just can’t. It has become my life. Besides, great men and women are ordinary men and women who do not quit.

You’ve crisscrossed the country twice now — in 2009 and 2010 — talking to homeless people. What’s it like out there? Is it getting any better?

We need more Waffle Houses. Seriously, it’s not getting better and it’s going to get worse. We have a problem with the older generation now entering retirement years without any savings or healthcare. That’s going to put a huge tax on the social service system to an extent we’ve never seen before.

I’ve traveled all over and what I can tell you about homelessness is that it’s not the geographic location that changes homelessness, it’s the community. The homeless people in Anchorage, Alaska, have to do different things to survive than those in Tampa, Fla. However the reason there are more homeless in Los Angeles is not because it’s warmer weather, but because there’s so much bureaucracy. Bureaucracy kills.

A community can embrace homeless or bulldoze it. If you embrace homelessness and try to figure out a solution — like 100,000 Homes — you get people off the streets and save lives and save money. If you go into a city and there’s aggressive panhandling, it’s because there’s no services for the people. We need to think of creative ways to get them off the streets.

You say in your contribution to the book Open Our Eyes that you’re not a hero and you’re not even that nice. If you’re not a hero, who is?

The big hero of my life is my stepfather, Casey Jones. Casey was always honest, always real, always admitted his mistakes. He was a very good role model for me.

That’s one of the problems we have today—we have a trust deficit, as Chris Brogan says in Trust Agents. If you trusted the Salvation Army and other large homeless services, there wouldn’t be any InvisiblePeople.tv. We need more integrity and commitment to build trust. That’s what my stepfather had.

And I’m really not that nice. To me, a hero is like Peter Parker, a nice kid who does nice things. That’s not me. I’m just loud and pushy.

The book supports you and your work with the nonprofit InvisiblePeople.tv. So how will that money be used?

Money that comes in to InvisiblePeople.tv is used to continue the education and activism campaigns. It continues efforts like WeAreVisible.com.

I’m very grateful. People on social media have kept me going. I’ve been honored to win the Pepsi grant, but it’s the $25 gift that’s kept InvisiblePeople.tv going. I get beds when homeless people move into apartments, get RVs out of impound — whatever’s needed.

What InvisiblePeople.tv does is change perceptions. Millions of people who would never have rolled down their window at an exit ramp to speak to a homeless person have been touched by InvisiblePeople.tv. Because of that housing programs have been started. That is amazing and proves we need more.

What’s the best way we can help homeless people?

I just posted 35 ways you can help the homeless on Twitter.

There are a lot of great causes. Maybe homelessness isn’t the cause that touches you. Then find something. I support charity: water. Whatever. Find your thing.  Maybe homelessness isn’t your cause, but there’s enough madness in the world that you can find a cause that fits you.

If homelessness is your cause, then your first step is education. Part of education is listening. If you’re walking down the street, just listen to people. Reach out and get involved at your local level. Most homeless services are overtaxed and don’t know how to coordinate volunteers. So don’t just go to one place and give up after a bad experience. You need to try a few until you find one that can use your talents. It can be as simple as writing letters to your senators. Maybe you can cook. Maybe you like to talk to people. Maybe you’re an accountant. Whatever you can do, we need you.

This post was first published at HalogenTV.com. Used with permission.

Posted on Apr 11, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  2 Comments
  • Mooch Mooch

    The more articles I read about Mark, the more I learn. I had been wondering if he won the Pepsi Challenge or not - and now i know! Congrats!! And if I may, I'd like to mention one of my own posts where I've listed some not so common items homeless people would benefit from. These are actual items I use myself while living in my car in Los Angeles. http:// doingithomeless.com/cans-are-good-socks-even-better-hear-moochs-recommendation/
    Mooch | 28/04/2011 3:57 AM

  • Video offers Incredible access for Donors « Operation Church Video offers Incredible access for Donors « Operation Church

    [...] Mark started the project when he found himself homeless, and when asked why he launched the site Mark said (excerpts taken from an interview by Kevin D. Hendricks): [...]
    Video offers Incredible access for Donors « Operation Church | 27/10/2011 1:44 PM