Using Social Media for Good to Make a Difference: Fighting ALS, Ebola, and for Child Refugees

​Social Media for Social Good, our annual charity campaign is in its fifth year. Can you believe that? I know I’ve been more absent than not this year, so unlike the previous years, SMSG14 will be more conversational. I promised Lori in 2012 that ALS would be the focus, and I’m definitely including it, but with so much else going on this year, a few months ago I decided to add Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres; MSF) because of the Ebola crisis, ​and then I saw a report on Syrian child refugees, so we’re adding UNICEF as well. *ETA I specifically chose to start SMSG14 on Make a Difference Day. :)

On ALS from Lori:

This year awareness has been increased so much by the #IceBucketChallenge. It’s awesome that so many who didn’t know anything about ALS are sharing and caring. But the real need is for donations. For research for a cure – and we are closer than ever.

I will walk this year with a mix of sadness and hope. My sister-in-law Sue lost her battle with ALS in March 2013, but I am determined to help fund research for a cure or treatment. So many more are still living with ALS, and we must do all we can to support them.

As a respiratory therapist, I took care of my first ALS patient in 1994, when the amazing Mr. Hoang and his family touched my life. Their strength, courage and humor never ceased to amaze me. I was privileged to know them and be a part of Mr. Hoang’s care team.

Fast-forward 15 years, and our own family was devastated to learn that my brother’s wife Sue was diagnosed. Her spirit and fight, and her resolve to beat this disease filled me with awe. She was an amazing woman, and together with my brother, raised two amazing daughters. I am so privileged that she was my sister for 30 years.

You can find information about Ebola and Child Refugees on both the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and UNICEF “Humanitarian Issues/Crisis” pages respectively. You might want to look and the following is why.

Some facts on Ebola and MSF:

  • The Ebola outbreak was officially declared on March 22, 2014.
  • MSF is currently active in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with six Ebola case management centers
  • If contracted, Ebola is one of the world’s most deadly diseases. It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch it.
  • According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued October 15, 2014, the mortality rate for Ebola cases in West Africa is nearly 50%
  • The situation is so dire the first ever UN emergency health mission, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has been set up
  • The WHO also says the situation in Africa is deteriorating.
  • MSF has been the first — and often only — line of defense against Ebola in West Africa.

There is hope.

  • Nigera was officially declared Ebola free on October 20, 2014.
  • In 2007, MSF entirely contained an epidemic of Ebola in Uganda.

They need our help. You can read one MSF worker’s account here. From the beginning I’ve been hearing the most about MSF doing work on the ground, so that’s why I picked MSF over other organizations at this time.

And this is why I also decided to add UNICEF. I saw a report and just cried my eyes out.

I have a major soft spot for children, and seeing ones who are so young – 10 years old or younger – working all day out in the field, then excited to go to school … I had to help make that happen.

  • A UN report back from February found that more than 10,000 children have been killed.
  • Syrian children have been sexually abused and tortured, used as human shields and recruited as child soldiers.
  • As of July 7, 2014, 6.5 million Syrian children—an increase of more than two million compared to last year—now need immediate humanitarian assistance.
  • More than 8,000 children have arrived at Syria’s borders without their parents.
  • More than 37,000 Syrian babies have been born as refugees. You can see more on a UNICEF infographic here.
  • A Doctor's Account
  • That is what a doctor is saying about their situation. From February. I cannot imagine the situation has gotten any better. Especially since they said they were running out of funds.
  • $15 can buy pencils and notebooks for an entire classroom, $4 can buy a text book for a child, $4 can buy a story book for a child

There’s so much more to say and so much more information out there, but I just wanted to share a little bit about each. If you have additional information please feel free to share. I’d love to learn about what’s going on and more charities.

I definitely understand giving, and giving quietly. I know it’s not about the adulation you get. I’m making this public though, and encouraging more to do the same because I believe it does spur people to give. (Like the opposite of public shaming!) I also explain why we’re doing a comment drive. I know it’s still tough for so many. If you can’t afford to give, you can still help! Each comment raises money, so comment away. Send your friends, family, enemies. Your pets, anyone! *ETA: Also if you donate but don’t want your name or amount given listed would you please email me to let me know so I can add the amount to the tally? Thank you! <3

I’m down for $1,130. (My break down is $500 for Doctors Without Borders, $315 to the ALS Walk, and $315 to UNICEF)
Amara Royce is making a pledge of 25¢ per comment
Katje is giving $25 + 1¢ per comment to Doctors Without Borders
Melanie and Loupe are going in together for 25¢ per comment
Lucy Monroe is down for $500, and she’ll give an additional $100 when we reach 500 comments
Ayelet Waldman is matching dollar for dollar donations to Doctors Without Borders across all her social media platforms up to $2,000
Laura K. Curtis is donating $10 per comment up to $100

You can donate to ALS at various places, such as the ALSA. This is Lori’s Walk Page.

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I contacted Doctors Without Borders about setting up a campaign but have yet to hear back, so if that changes, I’ll update here. For now though, donate here. You can also donate through UNICEF and right now (at least for those in the USA your donation will be matched dollar for dollar by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.)

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UNICEF donations to Syrian children can be made here. For those in the USA, this is a direct donation page.

Won’t you join us? We can do so many amazing things!
And thank you all for your generosity and support.

(I’d also like to note since all of these are non-profit charitable organizations, your donations are tax deductible. Also, considering seeing if your employer will match your donation!)

Let’s do this!

*ETA: SMSG13 We Can Help Stop Human Trafficking & Give Typhoon Relief Aid

SMSG13 is Social Media for Social Good 2013. This is our fourth year, and the target is to stop human trafficking. A lot of these facts are alarming. And I have to let you know if you research statistics – even your state, it might trigger trauma. But I think that’s why this is so important. Some of the things I read made me a bit queasy.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or forced labor. They are young children, teenagers, men and women. Trafficking in persons occurs throughout the world, including in the United States.

  • There is a total estimate of 29.8 million people in modern slavery.
  • Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
  • 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. More than 70% are female and half are children. - U.S. State Department
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked each year  - UNICEF
  • An estimated 26% of all forced labor victims are children. This means there are 5.5 million child victims at any given point in time. It is also estimated that children make up 21% of forced sexually exploited labor in the private economy. - The International Labour Organisation
  • People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every type of economy
  • Estimated global annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labour are $31.6 billion USD
  • In 2006 for every 800 people trafficked, only one person was convicted.
  • Only 0.4% of victims are identified.
  • Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting.
  • An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.
  • According to a 2009 Washington Times article, the Taliban buys children as young as seven years old to act as suicide bombers. The price for child suicide bombers is between $7,000-$14,000
  • Human trafficking occurs in all fifty states in the U.S. (You can check your state “grade” which might be alarming.) The FBI estimates that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from nine to 19, with the average being age 11. Many victims are not just runaways or abandoned, but are from “good” families who are coerced by clever traffickers.
  • After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world.
  • In the European Union alone, about 880,000 people are in forced labour, according to ILO estimates. That’s 1.8 in every 1,000 persons.
  • Human trafficking is a $9.8 billion domestic industry, with at least 100,000 children being used as prostitutes in America each year.
  • Two children are sold every minute.

And a testimonial of sorts:

They forced me to sleep with as many as 50 customers a day.  I had to give [the pimp] all my money. If I did not [earn a set amount] they punished me by removing my clothes and beating me with a stick until I fainted, electrocuting me, cutting me.

-Kolab, sex trafficking survivor from Cambodia

The charity I settled on is Love 146. I’m still debating on how – let me know if you have an opinion re: paypal or me setting up a Crowdrise campaign. (It may also depend on the handling fees of either.) I really like that Love 146 acts to prevent, but also provides aftercare.

Love 146

I’m pledging $1 per comment for the first day, maybe the first week. (I have to max out at $600. I’m hoping we hit 600 comments before the first week is over. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’m all in.) I definitely don’t expect everyone to make large donations. Any amount is helpful. $10, $5, $1. 50¢. Whatever you can give. Or if not, hit up your rich friends to donate. Parents, relatives. Have them comment because here’s the kicker with SMSG – even a comment on this blog post helps raise money. Amazing!

Initial pledgers are:

Shiloh Walker will donate $50, and if we hit 100 comments on the charity drive post, another $50, for a total of $100.
SpazP will donate $50
has pledged $100 once we reach 500 comments
Amara Royce
Rissatoo

Remember - every comment helps. As part of this being a fundraiser it’s also a comment drive. We want to raise awareness and spread the word. Together we can make a difference. <3

*ETA: The fundraising page is now live:

**Second ETA: I know we’ve all heard about the tragedy and devastation left by Typhoon Haiyan. It’s horrifying, so what I’ve decided to do is do a 25/75 split with the funds raised.  (25% will go to Save the Children to their specific Typhoon Relief Fund.) This is because yes, aid is greatly needed in the Philippines … and I know we all want to help. But the world is watching. I asked people who had donated, and they felt it was important to also bring attention to human trafficking. And … that’s true. I personally have met three suspected victims of human trafficking the past two weeks, and learned about new recruiting places. It’s terrifying, so I really hope you’ll join me. Just the cost of a cup of coffee or lunch out would really help. Even 100 people giving $1 would make a huge different. Please consider contributing.

Thank you!!!!

Water Changes Everything

It’s my third annual Social Media for Social Good (SMSG) fundraising drive. Today is Make a Difference Day, and this is how I’m choosing to do it. Some of you might have heard of charity:water when Rachel Beckwith’s tragic story made the news. She was an amazing little nine year old, and you can read more of what happened here. I dare you not to cry.

I spent a lot of time researching reputable international charities, and I love that charity:water is so transparent. I think it’ll be fun to check what our little ALBTALBS drive does too.

Did you know that:

  • 100% of all public donations directly fund water projects, and they prove every dollar using photos and GPS coordinates on a map
  • 800 million people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water
  • That is one out of every nine people
  • More people die from lack of clean water and sanitation each year than are killed by all forms of violence, including war
  • 90% of the deaths that result from diarrheal disease occur in children under five
  • About every nineteen seconds a mother loses her child to a water related illness
  • In sub-Saharan Africa 16 million hours each day are spent by women collecting water. This takes time away from work, school, and family.
  • 10% of disease could be reduced with improved access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene education, and water resource management.
  • $1 invested in water becomes $4-12 dollars for the local economy
  • Communities choose a small group of people to oversee each completed charity: water project. Equal numbers of men and women are encouraged to be included. These Water Committees are often the first chance women have to take on elected leadership roles.
  • The WHO reports that over 3.6% of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene.
  • Feeding our world takes up to 90% of our freshwater withdrawals but many people in developing nations still don’t have access to enough water for irrigation.
  • Just $20 $65 can provide one person with a clean water project in his/her village

We can make a huge difference.

I know it’s difficult to give, but I’m asking everyone to do what they can. And if you can’t – help spread the word. This is a comment drive, so even just leaving a comment and having one friend do the same helps. Believe me – I know it’s hard out there. I know what it’s like to make well under the poverty rate. I still do. Which is why I’m doing something where everyone can get involved.

These people have already given:

Pledges:

  • I’m going to give $300 if we reach 1,000 comments.
  • Cecilia Grant will give $1 per comment up to 100 comments
  • The Romance Man will give $50 when we reach 250 comments will match my $300 if we get to 1,000 comments!!!
  • C2 will give $150 when we reach 500 comments
  • Farrah Rochon will give $10 for every 100 comments

You can see who all the wonderful, generous people who donated are on the campaign page. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Won’t you join us?

And in the spirit of friendly competition … I’m asking – challenging – 50 bloggers to donate. Even if it’s $1. I think we can do it. (In fact – I’d love to see more bloggers donate than authors. How’s that for competition? But a concrete goal of 50.)
And if privacy is a concern, you can donate anonymously. *coughs* Someone *coughs* already donated $50 to check that out. :)

Let’s do this!

*ETA: I have a specific campaign created for the romance community: http://mycharitywater.org/albtalbs if you’d like to donate. Also, if you’re donating, I would love to add you to the list, to let other people know (peer pressure! :D ) and to give you a shout out. Please feel free to email me with any questions, or to talk about whether or not you want your name/amount to be listed. Thank you!!!

Also, for clarification, my SMSG drives go on for a month. I figure that’s enough time for word to be spread and people to budget what they can to donate. For all of us in the states, it’s a tax deductible charitable donation! (For our international friends, I would look into that too.)

You can check out the numerous giveaways here. To enter, just use your comment url and you’re done!

Planning for Social Media for Social Good

Hi friends! Some of you might remember my annual Social Media for Social Good drive. (SMSG) – I started it in 2010 because I saw talk of “Make a Difference Day” where (RED) and maskable had a big project. I then saw blogs that said something like “I’ll donate $1/comment on this post up to X amount.” And I thought about it, then said to myself, “I can do that.” So I posted to TGTBTU (where I was a reviewer/blogger at the time.) It was incredible. In less than twelve hours, the romance community raised more than $1,337.

I couldn’t let this opportunity pass, so in 2011, I researched charities for a long time. I wanted to find something I cared about, and that would be reputable, and international. There was sadly a humanitarian crisis going on in the Horn of Africa – so I decided to choose Save the Children. (Regardless of your politics, or how you feel about your country’s involvement in the area… I can’t se how you’d hold it against children.) I decided to go for a full month, and we raised $8,484.50.

For the past year I’ve been considering at the back of my mind which charity to chose. (It is incredibly difficult to find a reputable organization that is international, and won’t cause offense to anyone.) I decided to go with charity:water.

Everyone needs water to survive. Everyone. And it’s something every person can relate to, and sympathize with. We take water for granted. Some of us refuse to drink anything but filtered water. I can’t even imagine what life would be without easy access to clean water.

So starting on Saturday, October 27, Make a Difference Day, I’m starting a charity drive. Social Media for Social Good is a way to get everyone involved. It’s a fundraiser, and an attempt to raise awareness.

How can you participate? Give money. Spread the word. I know it’s hard out there right now. Some of us can give a lot, some of us can give a little. Believe me, as someone who is making painfully less than the poverty rate, I know it’s difficult. But this is my pet project. I’m asking you to give what you can. Even a dollar makes a difference. Imagine, if a group of people can spare a dollar, that’s huge. 10 people, 15, 25, 100. Whatever.

Some of you might wish to have a correlative rate. E.g. $5 for every 50 comments. Whatever you think is best, or you can afford. A flat rate is fine too. I’ve had people say they’d pay $100 for 100 comments – at different levels. Because remember, the idea is to get as many people involved as possible. (E.g. One person will donate X amounts when we get 100 comments. Another person will donate Y amount when we hit 200 comments, and so on.) I’ve also talked about why I decided to go with a comment drive, and not something else.

I’d love to have something in place before the “official” post goes live.

So – tell me – are you in?

Helping and Social Good

Remember when I talked about the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation a few weeks ago? Well we gave at least $725.00 to various charitable organizations that help there! Fantastic! (I’m saying at least because I don’t know all the amounts and I’m pretty sure others gave as well.) And, just as fantastic, I know a number of you donated books, clothes, and other items as well.

I was really touched to see how many of you already knew about the situation there. I’m totally behind the curve! It’s insane how things like that are happening in the United States, isn’t it? And yet so common. I remember one of my extremely privileged friends was shocked when he started volunteering in college. I was part of this program called Healthy Asian Youth – where we tutored/mentored at-risk underprivileged Cambodian children, grades K-12. I never went inside their homes, but I know there was one family that couldn’t afford … well basically anything. They only had one light bulb, and moved it from room to room as needed.

Sadly it’s only gotten worse in the past few years with our economic turmoil.

Anyway, my point though, isn’t to drag us all down – it’s to say that every little thing makes a difference. And it matters, and that you’re all lovely, awesome, and wonderful for caring. So much so, that… well I’m going to ask you to do something else.

Author Melissa Schroeder has a charity post up at her blog. It’s a “Veteran’s Day Fundraiser” for Fisher Hope. All you have to do, is leave a comment, and Melissa will donate to Fisher Hope. Simple as that – she’s giving up to $250, and this is only going until Monday at 8 AM Central time, so please take a minute to go there now! I’ll wait.

Veteran’s Day was yesterday (and I only post on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday “technically” – have you noticed that?) but I hope you all had a nice holiday, whether you were off work or school or not. All my uncles served, and my mom’s side of the family all the guys have been in the military as well. Hats off to all of them, as well as the men and women who serve, and have served their country. <3

Oh and bookwise? Yesterday I bought SEAL of my Dreams an anthology that eighteen authors contributed to, for a great cause.  All proceeds from sales of SEAL of My Dreams go to the Veterans Research Corporation, a non-profit fundraiser for veterans’ medical research. You can, and should get it too. ;) The book is available in both print, and electronic format.

Last Call and a Winner!

“I hope you find something that just changes the entire notion of what it means to be human.”

-That’s actually a quote from Bones (the tv show) – Angela says it to Temperance before she goes to Indonesia. But I think it’s kinda great, and really fitting. Remember when I talked about the need at Pine Ridge Reservation? Also since it was National Make a Difference Day not so long ago.

So a quick update – a number of you said that you’d donate, or have been donating, which is incredibly heartwarming and amazing and generous. Thank you!!!

As for my little post… I know for sure we raised at least $675 for the organizations that help. (Some people didn’t leave or let me know numbers, which is of course, totally fine.) I’ve also got more Box Tops to send in – thing I’ll do that at the end of the year to mail a large pack of them.

Clothes, books, baby items – diapers, etc, are all needed and you can check the various pages listed for things needed.

This mini-drive ends on Thursday. So, hopefully we can get a little bit more by November 3rd. :-)

And now… remember when Paula Roe shared an excerpt with us? :X Sorry I’m a bit tardy with this. The winner is Diane Sallans! Please email Paula (Paula@PaulaRoe.com) to claim your prize! Enjoy!

And of course, just a little update, Vivian Arend is guesting today, on Thursday we’ve got Sarah Mayberry *squee* and on Saturday, debut author Joanna Chambers!

Another Plea, Another Need, Another Way to Help

This time my cause is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and specifically… as always, the children who live there. I saw the ABC News 20/20 special – A Hidden America: Children of the Plains. Just the evening news clip had me in tears. I can’t embed the ABC video, and I looked for pictures, but there just aren’t any that fit. They seem too manipulative, or out of place. There is a slideshow you can click through, or videos to watch. I do hope you’ll look at a few. (*Note, the video is the episode, so it might be available only to those in the US. You might be able to watch the clips though.)

I don’t see how you can read some of these things and not be touched. For example, a six-year-old girl, who wants fresh water. You guys! Fresh water. Water. This from a little girl who lives in South Dakota.

“If she could, she’d ask President Obama for ‘Fresh water…and bubble gum…and a backpack.’”

  • Forty-seven percent of the Pine Ridge population lives below the federal poverty level
  • It is the poorest county in the USA. The average family income is just $3,700 per year.
  • 65  to 80 percent of the adults are unemployed
  • 80 to 90 percent of adults suffer from alcoholism
  • There’s an obesity epidemic
  • The director of the sole substance abuse program on the reservation said children have their first drink as young as five or six
  • Pine Ridge has the highest teen suicide rate in the US

I don’t even have words for that situation. You can read more about it here, and here.

And then there’s this. If you can believe it, Subway was their best bet for nutrition. I scoffed, until I heard the rest. In fact, this is something that happened shortly after the first Subway opened. A customer – an elderly Lakota woman.

“She came in here and literally was crying because of what having this kind of a store or food restaurant in the community meant,” Banks said. “Not only because you see people investing in our own community, but also because, she said, ‘I haven’t eaten a cucumber in years because they’re so expensive.’”

It broke my heart that she not only considered cucumbers and expensive food, but that she hadn’t had one for years because she couldn’t afford one.

You can read the article and see the video. The average life expectancy is 58 for men, 66 for women. Fifty eight. … If I and my family lived there, not only would my dad, and all my uncles be dead… some of my cousins would be dead too – assuming they made it to the maximum life expectancy. It’s the lowest in the entire country. Some sources have an even lower number.

Sixty percent of all households in Pine Ridge qualify for public assistance. Eligible households can get monthly “commodity boxes” – which only contain “canned meats, cheese, with limited options for fruits and vegetables, and a lot of starchy carbohydrates.” Mind, the Lakota are only about ~150 years from being hunter/gatherers. (Which explains the obesity problems.)

I wanted to say “if you can believe it…” but I’m actually not surprised. Al Jazeera reported about the area well over a year ago. You can see the news clip. And yes, this made me cry. And this… well… it’s just tragic. Over a year ago the international community has known about this situation. It’s already been brought to the attention to the United Nations. I’m a little ashamed, and upset that I didn’t know about this until now. As in, this particular place, and just how bad it is.

And yet, there are some incredible, amazing, and inspiring children.

What’s the point of this?

Well, there are numerous ways to help. In fact there are numerous organizations you can look into here.

One thing I think pretty much everyone can do, is collect the “Box Tops for Education” – at least in the states. They’re on probably half the household items you buy regularly.  I don’t know if products internationally have them. I checked the Red Cloud Indian School site and they’re trying to save up for resources for the children. For the box tops – check the last bullet point here. I’ve got a pile I’d been saving, and it’s perfect that I can mail them in.

I wanted to do something, but wasn’t sure what, or if you guys would be receptive to it considering I just had the “Social Media for Social Good 2011” drive not long ago. But as you’ll remember, I try to bring up worthy causes when I hear of them.

To be honest… I’m not in a great financial position either. In fact, the SMSG11 total is more than quadruple what I made in 2010. :X Nevertheless, I know I’m lucky, and I’m not in dire need of anything in particular. I also want to raise awareness – so, I’m asking for you to read this, to share it, comment, and possibly see what else you can do. You can also give monetarily to Red Cloud School  – which I like because it’s a 501c3. If you’d like to join me in a monetary donation, they have a site here. Or you can write them a check. I looked into the school as much as I could. They’re not on Charity Navigator, but they do have a BBB rating. I spent days looking over these things, trying to find information on charities, and which would be the best most responsible one to donate to. I did see the school spent 63%, instead of the required 65% of total expenses on program service activities. If any one of you can find a better organization, with the financial etc information, I will be happy to donate my money there. (I’m in for $25. I’d say $25 for 50 comments… but we all know I’ll give regardless.)

Lastly, full credit to Sarah M. Anderson who gave me this final nudge to write this post/ask all of you to give a little too. With this tweet, my mind was made up. How could I resist spending $500 of someone else’s money for charity? Well, I couldn’t and I can’t. Sarah has decided to give to Lakota Pine Ridge Children’s Enrichment Project, Ltd.  which is also a 501c3. They also collect toys, clothing, books, and school supplies. For all the readers in us, the books part is very appealing as well. And it also means anyone who can’t give money, can still give in other ways. Perhaps instead of the local good will, ship one bag over to LPRCEP. Or a similar organization. (*I looked LPRCEP up on Charity Navigator, and the BBB, but they aren’t listed – I’m guessing merely because they’re a small and relatively new organization.)

I’d love if you would join us. Let me know what you’re planning to do – donating money, items, to which organization, etc. Thanks so much for your generosity, and for always letting me get on my little bleeding heart soap box. <3 I’m going to say let’s make this a two week push, okay? And see what we can do between now and November 3rd.

Life is a circle and we as common people are created to stand within it and not on it. I am not just of the past but I am the past. I am here. I am now and I will be for tomorrow. – Lakota Saying