Social Media Advocacy: Five Influential Steps

Today we are able to expand the reach of social good by exponential numbers never dreamed of years ago.  This post is for individual advocates who wish to open up their social networks to a cause and humanize their online world.  These five steps use common social media platforms without the use of html, invites, or applications.  When completed in succession over time, this process will give a glimpse into your soul, as opposed to “airing” a public service announcement.

Two quick notes:

- For professional advocacy organizations looking for an in depth post, the Global Voices Advocacy blog has an excellent summary,  “The Four C’s Social Media Framework” .

- For advocates of human rights and civil rights residing in repressive areas, place your security first. There are excellent resources for online activism that maintain your privacy.  Please visit Tactical Technology Collective “Security in a Box”, Meta-Activism “Better in the Dark”, and WITNESS.org’s “Protecting yourself, your subjects and your human rights videos on YouTube.”

 

FIVE INFLUENTIAL STEPS

 

As you follow each step, keep all tabs in your browser open.  These steps initiate a relationship between your network and your cause, but the repetition of these steps creates a bond.  The ultimate connection occurs when you consistently tell the story of the nonprofits work as events unfold over time. The heart of your cause lives within this story.

1) Newsletter:  For individual advocates, connecting with a nonprofit that champions your cause is an important start. Finding the right nonprofit may require a few minutes of research.  The online nexus of global and local nonprofits is the top notch Change.org.  Click the logo below to read their blogs, find nonprofit profiles and subscribe to a nonprofit’s newsletter. The most powerful tool you can have is an easy link source for your cause. Now the important information will come to you.

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When you receive the newsletter, click a link that strikes your heart to open a browser. Read the page on the nonprofit’s site, complete the action first (donation, petition, etc.), then copy the url in the url box.  Keep this browser open as you continue this process.

Note: If you choose a link from the nonprofits newsletter that involves a petition or email action, your information may pre-populate the field when you arrive.  Be sure to complete the action first and then link to the follow up page. The nonprofit’s website will usually have options for posting to social media sites on the follow up page.

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2) Facebook: Copy the link and open your personal Facebook profile in a new browser.  Under the “NewsFeed”, click on the “link” icon. The link icon looks like a tack holding a piece of paper upright.  Paste the link into the box that opened up and click “Attach” .  A picture from the site and the first few lines of the page’s text should appear.  Click through the picture thumbnail options for an appropriate one.  Most importantly, a second box opens up to “Say something about this link…”. Write a short note about what the link means to you personally.  Click the blue “share” button to send the update into your friend’s news feed.

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3) Twitter: You are going to need a two to three tweets to interact, build your story, educate, and tweet the link.  Be as personal as possible to your branding.  Tweet what the cause means to you, ask your followers what they know about the cause, tweet interesting facts, then tweet the link.  Most importantly, do not hit and run or it will come across as a curiosity piece.

Shorten the link with a url shortener, such a bit.ly or Hootsuite.  Be sure to leave 15 characters in the tweet with the link so it can be retweeted by your friends.

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4) You Tube:  Go to your YouTube channel and do a search for your nonprofits channel, then subscribe to it.  Choose a video that relates to the link you have been sharing on Facebook and Twitter.  Click on the video’s “favorite” tab.  If they do not have a channel, search for one of their videos and then click on the video’s favorite tab.  This will post it to your YouTube “activity” feed on your profile.

Share the video to you other profiles:  Click the “Share” button and then the  Facebook icon.   In the pop up window, write how the video relates to the link you posted in step one for Facebook. Repeat the same process for Twitter.  If you hold an accounts, repeat the same for MySpace and Google Buzz. Videos work wonderfully in Buzz, so write an intriguing comment in the YouTube share box.  If you use Buzz, open another tab to respond to Buzz comments.

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5)   Blog it:   With the previous steps above open in tabs, you now have many references to what you have a passion for.  You have a nonprofit site page, a related video, and the newsletter with additional information and links.  You are also responding to your friends in real-time as they comment on Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, and YouTube.

Because you have wonderful feedback,  your blog post should reflect the comments and questions that your network and friends highlight.  Keep in mind, your strategy is your heart.  You have been posting a link to your profiles for a reason deep within you.  Soul search and let the story flow. The most important part of your post is a strong call to action towards the end.

In the post, directly quote the mission statement of the nonprofit in quotation marks and link to their “About Us” page.  Add the video that you posted to your profiles and link to the nonprofits YouTube page.  Remember that it is best to directly quote the nonprofit in regards to exact statistics or scientific information.

Be personally involved, trust your audience and make sure that your audience knows these are your feelings.  Pull from all the resources you have in front of you. You are an advocate with a passion.  The story of your connection to the cause is going to have more power than an informational analysis. If you have questions yourself, you will quickly get an answer if you call up the nonprofit and ask for their media relations department.  They will most likely email you what you need.

Close the blog loop, be grateful, prepare for repetition: If you do not have your blog feed linked to Facebook or Twitter, copy your blog post url and repeat steps two, three and share to Buzz. If you hold an account on MySpace, post your blog link in your stream. Interact and thank everyone in your network who comments, retweets and shares your updates. Everyone!   Because you will be repeating the process weekly, you are a liason to meaningful change. Keeping your network up-to-date with consistent narrative will make a difference.

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Update 1/3/2011: This page is updated to reflect changes to personal Facebook profiles.

The Global Day of Gratitude: Tweetsgiving

Click to Join Tweetsgiving through 12for12k online

Tweetsgiving is a global event to express gratitude for our heroes, our loved ones and those who have changed our lives. On November 24th through 26th, in over 100 cities and online, a wave of “Epic Thanks” will spread around the globe. Thousands will attend local events and thousands more will participate via Twitter, blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

Every year we have this opportunity to say thank you to someone who said, “You can do this” when you thought it was impossible. We have this chance to thank someone who inspired us by building hope for others in the midst of hardship. Gratitude is something we can give when we are far away or we have little ourselves.

The creators of the event, Epic Change, ask “What if gratitude can change the world?”

Click to visit the Tweetsgiving website.

The founder of Epic Change, Stacy Monk, began the tradition of Tweetsgiving to celebrate Mama Lucy, a woman who changed many lives. When I heard Stacy speak of Mama Lucy, it was hearing her define inspiration and hope. Mama Lucy was determined to have education available for the orphans and children of Arusha, Tanzania. She paid for the founding of Shepherds Junior primary school by selling chickens. After a personal tragedy, Stacy met Mama Lucy and was so inspired by her that Epic Change was born.

I found that voice again here. In Africa. In Mama Lucy. In the audacious hope of a woman who believed money from selling chickens would be enough to build a school and transform her community. There is no greater gratitude than that for hope restored when you’ve all but given up.

My work here is no matter of owing or debt; it could never be repayment or reciprocity.  Instead it is my humble beginner’s practice of the lesson she’s taught:  that hope is ours to create, that it never dies as long as we just hold onto it.  ~ Stacey Monk

Epic Change believes there are Changemakers in all communities. The passage above from Stacy Monk’s blog is the undercurrent of their successful philosophy: that stories of hope and change have human value which weave us together. Just by amplifying the story of Mama Lucy, Epic Change raised funds to buy the land for a new school building and an online learning center. With Mama Lucy’s leadership, the children tested #1 in the region this year.

Education is the key to life.  EDUCATION HAS POWER!  This is why I’m among the people who are trying to bring even a slight change to this sector. ~ Mama Lucy


We are all grateful for the encouragement, hope, and inspiration we receive during our lives. Tweetsgiving is here to thank those who have moved us.  My gratitude to those I have come to know through the E-Advocate Network runs deep. You are beautiful souls, signing and passing along petitions, nonprofit alerts, volunteer opportunities and advocating for your own causes. Tweetsgiving is 48 hours, but I could thank you for a lifetime.

Please join us in Tweetsgiving fun this year. For online participants, there is a special way to join that is close to my heart – through the community growing around the fundraising group 12for12k.  Thank you for all you have done for hope and advocacy this year.  I salute you.

Click to join Tweetsgiving through 12for21k.

Click to visit the Tweetsgiving website.

Eric De La Cruz: The Heart of Healthcare Reform

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In Memoriam:  Eric De La Cruz,  July 4th, 2009, Rest In Peace

Eric De La Cruz raised the bar on American courage.  His family continues to shine a light on love.  Due to strength of will, he and his family would overcome obstacles few could navigate, lead an international community of thousands, and ignite others admiration and heroic passions.

The need was singular:  a heart transplant to save Eric’s life.

Please get the word out about my brothers plight.  He needs a heart transplant.  Healthcare red tape.  Please help save #Eric

Their story is profoundly American.  Only in the United States do we develop the rapid technology needed for the De La Cruz’s triumphant and inspirational campaign, but also the unacceptable healthcare system leading to their heartbreak.

Eric’s sister Veronica De La Cruz built a humanitarian Twitter community for Eric’s heart with some of the strongest bonds I have seen in a live or online campaign.  Supporters experienced in real time each blockade the De La Cruz family faced.  Despite the crisis, her continual dignity and love for her brother reminded many how to love. Eric pushed on.

It began when Eric was 22 years old, in school part time and working entry level.  These rarely offer health insurance or pay that can cover premiums.   He was one of the 30% of our millenial generation without insurance.  He was healthy, played hockey. He then grew fatigued and was diagnosed with severe dilated cardiomyopathy.

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Eric’s condition worsened in the years after his diagnosis, leading to the eventual recommendation of a heart transplant. Every day Eric survived was a victory to him and the family since then.

Nevada does not have a heart transplant center. This unleashed a black hole.  With a pre-existing condition, Eric’s only insurance option had been Medicaid.  Medicaid is not federally controlled or portable across state lines due to state’s self-determination.  The transplant was not covered.

Pleas for Eric’s life were Tweeted from celebrities such as Demi Moore and P. Ditty.  As the healthcare red tape reached nightmare proportions, the community grew stronger and faster. Beautiful friendships were forged.  Hundreds of photos and cards were sent to Eric.  Together supporters created videos, Facebook groups, and Flickr streams. Touched by Eric, supporters created the “No More Red Tape” campaign and petition.

Eric even inspired one of the toughest internet personalities to sing:

Eric had applied and was rejected twice for Social Security Disability status for coverage under federal Medicare, which represented his best hope of coverage that would permit his transfer to an out-of-state transplant center. And, worse yet, his next appeal was set a year in the future, time he certainly did not have.

My friends, … Senator Reid needs to know that there should be a change in our flawed health care system. We are praying that in this instance Nevada and California will work together so that Eric can get on the transplant list.

New champions were inspired whose interventions where heroic if not legendary.  Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails is now one of our great humanitarians for his emergency fundraising work for Eric.  He came to the rescue when Eric finally received Medicare, yet Medicare was deemed insufficient by their transplant center of choice.  Hospitals can inflate any price and turn away any private or public plan they feel will not pay the entirety.

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Eric’s situation shines a bright light on a broken healthcare system, and his particular set of problems are being addressed on the political front, aiming for reform in addition to the need for immediate financial help to keep him alive TODAY. I think we can help with the latter. ~ Trent Reznor

The De La Cruz family was left to raise the remaining cost of the heart transplant.  Trent launched a feat of brilliant fund raising ingenuity that raised close to $500,000 in two days and over to $900,000 in a few weeks.  His fans were moved by Eric’s story in monumental form. Janes Addiction and Tony Hawk came on board.  Eric was transported and admitted to a hospital in Los Angeles.  NIN’s gracious fanbase went above and beyond and joined Eric’s campaign with passion. The top donors received VIP NIN pre-concert access to the show of their choice.  The tour sold out of VIP packages. These are at one:

Hanging in there, Eric wrote a thank you note to Trent.  It encapsulates what we all believe about Trent and Eric, “Words can not describe..”

Despite devastating complications leading to VAD surgery to keep him alive, Eric remained mentally strong and Veronica remained positive:

He even says he wants to try to play Scategories! HUGE improvement. He hasn’t had energy so I am happy to hear.

Their love was a light:

With one miracle after another. Thanks to everyone who has stood by our side and supported us. Its been a lovefest on the web. We are grateful.

July 5th, 2009: A day of shock that will not be forgotten by thousands.  Veronica posted her goodbye to Eric after he died on our nation’s birthday. He did not survive recovery from the VAD surgery, which was his only hope to stay alive.  The De La Cruz family’s pain was felt and candles were lit for them around the world.

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What is most uniquely American about Eric’s story is that in other developed countries, more than Eric’s courageous memory would be alive.  In America, the true heroes in the battle for healthcare are the 18,000 uninsured who die per year. They have fought hardest, just to live.  The De La Cruz family continue to fight so other families do not suffer as they did. They just returned from the Washington D.C. to discuss healthcare reform and Eric’s story.

According to a Harvard think tank other countries spend half of what we do on healthcare and have higher survival rates. Any single one of these regulations of other developed countries would have saved Eric’s life:  Premium costs attainable to entry level workers, an accessible federal plan, or the elimination of pre-existing exclusions.

There are two ways to grasp this.  Statistics:

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Or by opening your heart:

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With one third of our younger generation uninsured, a circumstance similar to Eric’s could strike down many young hopefuls in college.

During Eric’s life, Veronica lovingly called Eric’s supporters “Eric’s Twitter Army.”   After witnessing first hand what the US healthcare system did to the De La Cruz family,  Eric’s Twitter Army is there to fight for change in his name.  They are there so a healthcare failure of this magnitude will not happen to another family.  They believe in his memory and life.

Join us.  Follow @VeronicaDLCruz on Twitter.

“Eric, like many others, have fallen through the cracks. Our leaders need to be made aware that we need change and they need to do the right thing.” ~ Veronica De La Cruz

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The Tweet Heard Around The World #iranelection

This is what we want:12665468#iranelection

Before June 13th, 2009 we viewed the world outside the west through a media window that we did not know was there. That window has now been broken forever. The protesters in Iran are fighting an under-reported attack on their constitution and human rights, and at the same time garnering international support while turning media on its head.  In the course of a weekend, their courage swept and inspired the internet. They also showed us how distant traditional western media has become to global experience.

The situation in Iran is now CRITICAL – the nation is heartbroken -suppression is iminent – #Iranelection

For those fortunate to have followed the protests via social media, the story is truly a masterpiece of the movement’s will to have the truth be known. They want their constitutional right to a truthful election. The brutality and censorship they face has not extinguished their hopes, it is what turned them to the streets and the internet.  Despite their latest estimate of over 1,000 arrests, 28 deaths, and hospitals running out of blood, they have yet to stop standing up to their regime.

Much of what occured in the first 48 hours after the election results was missed by media outlets. But via social media and Twitter, we knew the gravity of each situation before it happened.  They debated with each other whether to go to the march with Mousavi when national television announced to the country that it will be met with gunfire. That did not stop over 10,000 Iranian protesters.

IRG threaten to open fire at people if they try to participate in Mousavi’s rally.  State TV right now: rally is illegal and Police will use iron fist against law breakers.

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The throng at the rally in the picture above is telling.  Aside from risking gunfire, a different strategy was used to stop organised protests the night before. Mousavi’s core support are university students, so the Iranian government launched an attack and round of arrests in universities.  There, Twitter was also used as a SOS for injuries, reporting how others could avoid harm, and reporting who died.

We have now some students with urgent need of medical attention.  I’m calling out to all ppl who can come here don’t leave us.  All university’s own security and personell have been evacuated by the police.

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The University raids were obvious messages of state force. Their estimated aftermath is 100 arrests, 15 badly wounded, and 5 dead. When Basij and police lined the only entrance of one university with police vans, other students drove their cars in to block them. The Basij ended this with smashed car windows, tear gas and any students that fought the raid were met with metal chains. The students were then imprisoned in the buildings overnight. Everything was destroyed. When one badly injured student was allowed to leave for the hospital, he was arrested from his hospital bed.

Tired & beaten. we couldn’t break through their wall, they were too many & we were no match for an entire army of special forces.

After the rally the students came back to more Basij at the university. Names of the dead were read on Twitter:

There is no need to hide their names anymore Mobina Ehtrami, Fateme Borati, Kasra Sharafi, Kambiz Shoaee & Mohsen Imani; all killed by ansar

During the 24 hours after the election results were announced and before the university arrests, there were two media realities in the West. On social media, you had the heartbreaking flood of YouTube videos with police brutality and violent arrests, stunning images of courage and detailed testimonies on Twitter and blogs. If you went by television in the US, all you knew is that their were protests in Iran over an election. Time magizine online did cover it with an excellent article.

Police Brutality Clips from June 13th from YouTube:

 

The day after the election, this stunning photograph emerged of an Iranian woman showing the courage of a people standing up for their rights. It was one of the most talked about items on FriendFeed.com on June 13th.  US television had yet to report on the crackdown in Iran.

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Twitter users volunteered their servers as proxies to keep Iranians online while SMS, cellphone, landline and social media sites were blocked or cut in Iran.  A much larger base of Twitter users changed their cities to Tehran and added green icons. Combined, this very broad network of global volunteers hoped the state regime would have to play online “whack-a-mole” versus more traditional and sudden censorship.  It did not go unnoticed, and someone was attacked in the US.

Government now attacking people who provided proxy for us, I don’t know exactly how, but it’s confirmed. To all friends who are providing proxy / tunnel / vpn!  Please be careful!  Do not provide them in public & to all who seems to be from Iran.

Social media users in Iran documented events and uploaded them to YouTube, blogs and Flickr like award winning reporters. Through the real-time and lightweight structure of Twitter, the videos and pictures were woven together as events occurred. The testimonies and reporting occured even though some are running for their lives.

Thanks to someone (probably gov) we’re are now also spies of Israel and to be shot on sight

The stories spreading from Iranian to Iranian through word of mouth are what matter, as this is what they are living right now. As much as Iranian state media wants to spew propaganda, or our national media wants to create their own footage, it is the protesters stories and belief in freedom that moves their fellow countrymen. It moves us.

 

And the movement’s support comforts them:

It is a miracle to have 25,197 people around the world supporting us! Thank you all out there.

This post was published before the harsher severity of the crackdown escalated. The Green Briefs were then organized and issued each day. Readers may begin here with Brief #1. These briefs are based on witnesses in Iran on Twitter. They report a much higher injury, death toll and number of arrests than Western media or Iran state media.

HEAL Africa: Woman’s Voices in the Congo

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Although the Congolese war has been described as the bloodiest since World War II, the holistic hospital HEAL Africa is able to reach victims and remain stable due to its strong local ties.  Manuevering under the radar inside the territory, victims of what has been called “the Rape Capital of the World” come to the hospital for trama surgury, healing and a renewed spirit.

The film LUMO was created by the Goma Film Project to highlight one womans journey through the healing process at the HEAL Africa hospital in the Congo. The films trailer (please watch below) gives us a sense of the strong purpose of HEAL Africa.  Lumo received numerous awards including the Human Rights Watch Official Selection and has been featured on CNN, the New York Times, and NPR.

The Goma Film Project summarizes the critical and life changing purpose of HEAL Africa to Congolese women:

“The agonies of war torn Africa are deeply etched in the bodies of women. In eastern Congo, vying militias, armies and bandits use rape as a weapon of terror.

Recently engaged to a young man from her village, 20 year-old Lumo Sinai couldn’t wait to have children and start a family. But when she crossed paths with marauding soldiers who brutally attacked her, she was left with a fistula— a condition that has rendered her incontinent and threatens her ability to give birth in the future. Rejected by her fiancé and cast aside by her family, Lumo found her way to the one place that may save her: a hospital for rape survivors set on the border with Rwanda. HEAL Africa.

Buoyed by the love of the hospital staff, and a formidable team of wise women known to all as “the Mamas,” Lumo and her friends keep the hope of one day resuming their former lives, thanks to an operation that can restore them fully to health. A feisty young woman with a red comb perpetually jutting from her hair, Lumo faces the challenge of recovery with remarkable courage and sass. As she and her friends recover from surgery, they pass the days by gossiping and sharing their dreams of one day finding love.”

The E-Advocate Network interviewed Harper McConnell, the Director of Development with HEAL Africa.  I am deeply moved and inspired by her knowledge and 24-7 dedication to the health of rural Congo and ending the rape epidemic.

E-Advocate Network: HEAL Africa works towards the vision of a holistic medical health in the rural regions of the DR Congo. How are your volunteers and staff on the ground in the Congo working to advance your vision?

HEAL Africa: HEAL Africa has sat at the epicenter of the genocide and war since HEAL began as a hospital in Goma in 1994, founded by a Congolese surgeon, Dr. Jo Lusi and his wife Lyn. Health problems are often the symptom of greater societal ills, so we work outside of the hospital walls.

We are one of the few aid organizations that can cross all rebel territory lines to deliver medicines, train rural nurses, and educate communities through public health seminars. We adamantly believe we must address the root causes provoking poor health.

E-Advocate Network: What approach has HEAL Africa utilized to equip conflict-ridden communities with health strategies?

HEAL Africa: The utter lack of infrastructure makes supplies and services incredibly difficult to deliver. As most people cannot come to the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma, we collaborate with over 56 other rural health centers and larger international health organizations, through training health workers and providing supplies to set up relief action plans for major outbreaks and health crises.

The rural health centers are supplied with training, equipment and medication including malaria treatment, HIV prevention and orthopedic operations and HIV transmission at birth through HEAL Africa.

E-Advocate Network: What are the key health issues that HEAL Africa is currently addressing?

HEAL Africa: At the hospital in Goma, HEAL Africa specializes in fistula repair surgery for women who have developed the condition from either complications during pregnancy and labor or from brutal rape. HEAL Africa addresses orthopedic issue as well. The hospital performs over 1000 operations per year.

In the rural areas HEAL Africa does outreach training and surgery where the surgeons at the hospital in Goma take a several week trip to a remote area to operate and train the nurses and doctors.

The HIV AIDS clinic at the hospital monitors 500 HIV positive children and administers anti-retrovirals. In the rural areas, the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission program administers medicine to women who are HIV positive when they are giving birth to reduce the chance of transmission.

E-Advocate Network: How is HEAL Africa affected by the current upsurge in military action in the Congo?

HEAL Africa: Due to the crisis, HEAL Africa prepared for a cholera outbreak and has been administering cholera treatment in refugee camps and surrounding areas.

The conflict greatly affects HEAL Africa’s development programs in the rural areas. HEAL focuses on development rather than relief, but in times of crisis the focus must be shifted towards relief. This can be discouraging as many of the staff members have seen their hard work torn away in a matter of days, but at the same time they are able to assist the communities in an efficient and relevant manner as they have been connected with them long before the recent upsurge in fighting.

E-Advocate Network: How can we support your vision?

HEAL Africa: You can raise funds and we have two rewarding ways to do this. The escalating conflict has placed a large financial strain our organization as the majority of the medical work is done for free or below cost. You can also just donate on our website.

With your friends, or community organization you can host a party and watch the documentary “Lumo”. This award-winning and engaging documentary follows a women on her journey to the HEAL Africa hospital. Procedes of your purchase of the DVD from the LUMO website will go to us when you use the code HEAL0808 We can equip you with informative materials to teach others about us.

You can also order beautiful Healing Arts products. The Healing Arts program at HEAL Africa teaches patients at the hospital how to sew, read, write, and weave. Healing Arts also collaborates with widows and disabilities groups to produce products that are sold locally and internationally. All participants are paid a good, fair wage, which allows them to support their families. You can go to the Healing Arts website to order.

Learn more about HEAL Africa: HEAL Africa’s Act center has more information and ways to get involved. Readers can also connect with Heal Africa on their Facebook page.

Chris Klug: Ride of His Life

After years of training as a professional snowboarder and exteme sport athlete headed for the Olympics, Chris Klug developed Primary Sclerosing Cholangitits.   The clocked ticked for six years while he waited for a liver transplant until July 28th of 2000.  His sport and his drive then took on a new purpose when life gave him a second chance.  In 2004, Chris founded the Chris Klug Foundation for Organ Donor Awareness.

E-Advocate Network: When you received your Olympic gold medal you became a champion to athletes around the world. Now you help save lives as well. What was you inspiration?

Chris Klug: I’ll never forget my six years on a transplant waiting list, hoping and praying for a second chance. My life was put on hold and I did not know what lay ahead. 100,000 people across the US are currently waiting for solid organ transplants, sadly seventeen die daily waiting. Chris Klug Foundation’s goal is to “Eliminate the wait.”

In a fun way we’re hosting events across the country to educate everyone about the importance of organ and tissue donation. I always loved snowboarding. Through snowboarding I’ve been provided a tremendous platform to help make a difference to those waiting for a second chance. Every chance I get, I wave the banner of organ donation. I hope to compete in my third Winter Olympics in 2010 and help represent the transplant community and encourage everyone to register as an organ donor and provide hope to those going through the transplant process.

E-Advocate Network: Was there a key point after your surgery that you remember knowing you were going to rise to such incredible athletic heights?

Chris Klug: As soon as I awoke from my six hour liver transplant surgery I felt like a new engine got dropped in me. I knew I was going to make it back. Ironically the competitive snowboarding season following my transplant was one of my best. I was on the World Cup podium four times and won a National Championship. I attribute this to the fact that I was racing for my life just a few months before and now I was racing my snowboard again. It truly put things into perspective for me and made me realize how fortunate I was to have received a second chance to do what I love.

E-Advocate Network: What are the primary goals of the Chris Klug foundation and how did your personal experience shape those goals?

Chris Klug: Sharing the life-saving message of organ and tissue donation with everyone. Through our Donor Dudes events on every high school and college campus across the country, CKF hopes to educate young people about the importance of sharing their donation decision with their family.

E-Advocate: Signing up to be a donor can impact the lives of many. How can someone help spread this message through your foundation and sign up?

Chris Klug: Get involved, team up with CKF and host a Donor Dudes event at your workplace or on your campus. Share the message with your friends and family. Together let’s eliminate the wait.

E-Advocate Network: Your key event is the Summit for Life. How does this event further your personal message?

Summit for Life Logo

Chris Klug: First, the Summit for Life is an awareness and educational event. Secondly it is the primary fund raiser for CKF, so we can continue our organ donation outreach through our Donor Dudes events.

E-Advocate Network: When someone becomes a racer or sponsors a racer, how does this impact the lives of those in need of a transplant?

Chris Klug: Sponsoring a racer is an opportunity to share the message of organ donation. The funds raised from S4L racer pledges help CKF continue our important donor education outreach. CKF will host twenty-five donor awareness events in 2008 promoting donation at events such as the Winter X Games, Vans Warped Tour, FIS Snowboard World Cup and high school and college campuses across the country. We hope to double the number of Donor Dudes events in 2009.

Summit for Life, Aspen, Colorado.

The Summit for Life is an annual event with over 500 climbers making their way up Aspen Mountain at night.  They climb 3,267 vertical feet, in the dark and through fairly treacherous  terrain.  The following pictures are from the mountain top finish line during my visit to Summit for Life in 2009.  It was one of the most inspiring charity events I have attended in Colorado. All abilities were welcomed, championed and celebrated.

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Summit for Life finishline 3

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Visit the Chris Klug Foundation and learn more about donor awareness.

1/7/2012 – updated to reflect pictures from the event.

Be the Sea Change

The breathtaking footage of the ocean in this video shows the majesty of what ironically is dying.   It is the ocean as it should be and through large scale action, could remain.  But, it will take an overhaul in how we perceive the water that makes up 71% of our planet and the health of creatures that live in it.

At the end of this beutiful video, there is an alarming statisic.  Our oceans are down to 1% of the population of whales that used to swim its waters.

Over the summer, I interviewed the Wild Dolphin Foundation, as well as participated in their adopt a dolphin program.  It was an interview that opened my eyes.  I live in Colorado, as land-locked as they come, having no idea that what I poured down my drain or let drip from my car was partly responsible for killing off the species of dolphin I adopted.

The $20.00 I donated to the Wild Dolphin Foundation may have undone some of the damage I had done over my lifespan.  The Wild Dolphin Foundation works hard to get this through our heads.  What we do on land is a big part of the conservation problem- our consumerism and waste.

Another issue is captivity.  It is through this lense that we get a feel for what are the larger issues of ignorance and disrespect.

A few weeks ago, I began to interview Shelby Proie, a dedicated ocean activist who recently appeared on CNN advocating for the orca Lolita, housed in an illegal sized tank at the Seaquarium in Miami.  Shelby volunteers for numerous ocean conservation nonprofits and is a wealth of knowledge on marine mammal conservation.  She currently advocates for the Orca Network, who tracks the remaining orcas.

I began researching for the interview.  I found million dollar requests for Lolita’s release, major movie star involvement, awareness concerts, major media articles, and years of protests.  I saw pictures of the illegal size of her tank - it is a ratio that equals a human  body inside a closet for forty years.   But, unlike an Orca, people do not swim up to a hundred miles a day on average in the wild.

Over 40 years of her captivity and there has not even been a fine.  The following is from the US Animal Welfare Act, which covers animals in captivity, transported animals, and domesticated animals.  The painful word below is ‘annual.’

“To ensure that all licensed and registered facilities continue to comply with the Act, APHIS inspectors make unannounced inspections at least once annually. If an inspection reveals deficiencies in meeting the AWA standards and regulations, the inspector instructs the facility to correct the problems within a given timeframe. If deficiencies remain uncorrected at the unannounced followup inspection, APHIS documents the facility’s deficiencies and considers possible legal enforcement.”

The Seaquaruim and Lolita seem to have missed their annual inspection for forty years under the Animal Welfare Act.   Ironically, there is a link to report an incidence such as Lolita right on the same page where I read the Act so they can be inspected.   As we know, Jonny Depp and a million dollars can not make that button work.

We have an ocean that is in poor health due to centuries of neglect and disrespect for its creatures.   We need to completely turn the tide.  We are down to the last one percent of the ocean’s population of whales, and in my eyes that means the clock is ticking.

The Wild Dolphin Foundation, Shelby Proie and I got together and came up with an Idea for America to bring to the Obama administration.

The answer is to do more and ask for more than just taking part in any one campaign of plastic bags or stopping drainage.  We need to take part in a campaign that covers ocean conservation as a whole.  We need a government body that actually implements its ocean and marine animal policies, responds to ocean related nonprofits and takes action on issues.

How many aspects of ocean health will have to be down to one percent before we campaign for real, permanent change?  How many ocean creatures will struggle like Lolita before we see the symbolism of our country’s failure to respect ocean life?

Ocean and ocean species conservation needs to come to the forefront instead of remaining buried within the current government system. Our government bodies that can take action for ocean protection, management and conservation are saddled with many other concerns.

The hierarchy begins with the US Department of Commerce, under which is the top-notch National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  NOAA’s mission:  “NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.”

Under NOAA, the body whose primary concern is ocean related matters is the National Ocean Service.  This quality scientific agency is greatly concerned with ocean conservation, but again has increasing responsibilities, one of which is to maintain the ocean’s productivity and “grow our nation”s coastal economy.”  The ocean is responsible for 60% of our gross national product already with overfishing as one of ocean conservation’s primary concerns.  The National Ocean Service has plenty to bear.

What needs to happen is the creation of a government body whose primary reponsibility is advocacy for ocean conservation and ocean species in captivity.  With 71% of our planet dying, it will take more than a compromised focus of a service, within an administration, within a department.  It will take an idependent commission with a clear focus and we can create it.

We can be the change.

First, I will take you to Change.org.  I am a firm believer that everyone who plans on creating change should have a free account there.  Secondly, there is currently a campaign created by Change.org called Ideas for America. Vote for the ocean. BE THE CHANGE. VOTE FOR THE OCEAN.

2011 Update:  Moving toward success! This 2008 call for an independent ocean commission was part of a broad based chorus of voices reaching back to 2000. I received an email in 2009 from the Wild Dolphin Foundation that the Obama Administration had invited ocean conservation related nonprofits to make recommendations to a new inter-agency task force for ocean stewardship and policy. The result is the dual Principal- and Deputy- level National Ocean Council and National Ocean Policy. Readers can learn more about their work on the website of the National Ocean Council and the framework behind it in this PDF. I will report back on any outcomes related to the original call to action when  information is available.