Category: Social Awareness

Companies, brands, and individuals influencing social change and promoting humility.

Missing the Bar: How The Education System Is Killing Potential By Killing Creativity

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing knowledge.” -Albert Einstein

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Ideally, the role of a teacher is to guide students towards intellectual individualism. Student success cannot be determined upon one unit of measurement. In fact, that is an ‘uncommon sense’ approach to teaching. If we want students to be intellectual, then they need to thrive as thinkers. It is imperative that education does not become a vehicle for compromising intelligence and surrendering potential. The current state of many public schools across the nation suggests we are refusing to acknowledge budget cuts mean that schools are providing less and less quality education to students.

One of the problems public schools are facing is that as more professional platforms arise for students to be independent thinkers and creators, schools are being forced to cut programs that generate intuitive, independent thinking. Art and music curriculums unleash creativity and productivity. According to Elliot Eisner, an art curriculum broadens problem solving skills and teaches students to surrender their fixed perception of a solution in exchange for various solutions. It also speaks to the ability to communicate without language. Many great innovators articulated that their ideas needed to be visual before they could prescribe words to their concepts. If so many great thinkers express that art and music led them to their success, then why are schools cutting arts and music programs? This action incites the question, what do we want our students to learn in school? What is considered a valuable education? Are parents and communities apathetic to the growing financial distress that public schools are facing?

Teachers often recognize that music and arts programs may keep the otherwise disenfranchised or non-traditional students in school. Engagement in these core subject areas can build confidence and skills that promote achievement in other subjects. But it is also equally true that these programs thrust students who are already academically successful to new levels of aptitude and creativity. Students who have had continuous art and music classes perform better on standardized tests, exhibit stronger critical thinking skills, social tolerance, and historical empathy. A public education should honor and advocate for what inspires and heightens intellect. Leigh Klonsky, the digital art and photography teacher at East Side Community High School, reminds students that prior to words and numbers people communicated visually and that there is power in the ability to draw as a means of communication. Her students create a multitude of projects that require them to reflect and comment on what they think, feel, and value about the world around them. Music and art facilitates both abstract and concrete thinking. Apple is perhaps the most noteworthy and global example of innovation that is generated when art, science and technology interact. Art programs teach students that with imagination, anything is possible. And that is the American definition of success; if you can imagine it, then it is possible. We are in a world that demands that students have a complete education balanced with fine arts, science, math and humanities. Removing art and music is quite simply robbing them of core subject areas that will expand their minds, abilities, and successes.

East Side Community High School, a District One school, has been burdened with budget cuts and is working diligently to ensure their students have an art and music program.  Currently students can take art, dance, and music. The music program was built on the passion that adults had for music and wanted to share with children. In 2009, The East Side Band Project began; they had a $5,000 budget and none of the students owned instruments. Their space was in a corner in the school’s basement and classes were held after school. In the last few years, band membership has increased and students who were marginalized have become school leaders. Perhaps that is because they talk about what they learn, which again transcends and reaches far beyond common core standards. This summer, the basement was flooded and all the band equipment destroyed. The director, Peter Da Cruz, is currently working to salvage equipment and piece together the band that he has worked so diligently to maintain for the last six years. The reality is not every teacher can or will be able to initiate and maintain an arts and/or music program. There are many administrators who want these programs but don’t have the money to pay for it; parents have to advocate for them. An arts curriculum in schools represents an understanding that school leaders and parents recognize the importance of teaching students different ways to think. We must ensure that education is dynamic, fluid, and reaches as many minds as possible.

Educators often refer to The Harlem Renaissance as a pivotal moment because it infused art, science, and music. It inspired and motivated people to move in a direction that they had not previously seen before. We must commit to teaching our kids to imagine something beyond the realm of the here and now. If we want our students to excel and prosper in schools, then we should support creativity and imagination alongside science and math. Demand that schools reinstitute and/or continue with their arts and music programs. The biggest mistake Americans can make is believing that the arts are frivolous endeavors and continue to treat it as such.

Albert Einstein was known primarily as a scientist and genius but he was also a musician. And when he found himself perplexed, he turned to music to help him unpack and express himself. He believed that his imagination and intuition were inherent in his own success. If you want students to intellectually evolve then they must have the space and platform for that degree of development; they need to have the skill set to create.

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If you’d like to learn more about  or support the East Side Community High School or donate to the cause, follow this link: https://www.nycharities.org/give/donate.aspx?cc=3101

 

 

Photography by Adriana Porras, Veronica Vasquez, and Peter da Cruz

Stock photos from Google Images

Video via www.ted.com/talks

Dwan Smith; Spreading Positivity and Making a Difference in Maryland through Leadership

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Over the past several months there’s been an increasing amount of tragedies occurring in various states. It’s become such a daily routine in the media to witness grieving families, national protests and angry citizens combined with race wars that have divided relationships between the community and law enforcement. However, while we all have varied opinions, the fact remains hate does not cure hate, and perhaps there should be a shift in portrayals of positive images with some individuals working in law enforcement who should be highlighted and celebrated.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Dwan Smith knew as a teenager her career would lead on a path to serve and protect. While attending Milford Mill Academy, Ms. Smith served as Commander of the ROTC Program, the highest ranking role which she showcased natural leadership skills. In addition, Ms. Smith was also Commander of the Honor Guard Team where she and her peers traveled and competed in various states. “One thing I was taught, which always stuck with me, was ‘Always give a firm handshake and look a person straight in the eyes upon meeting them.’ I’ll never forget that.”

Upon graduating High School in 1999 without the option to attend college due to family finances, Ms. Smith, she eagerly followed her first passion and enlisted in the US Army where she proudly served her country for four years until she was honorably discharged. It was a very noble and courageous decision to take on such a responsibility of serving ones country with no guarantee of returning home. However, as a higher power saw fit, it was during Ms. Smith tenure in the military where she was blessed with her daughter, Arielle who just a short few months after birth had to undergo a heart surgery procedure which she survived and grew to become a lively and gifted teenager. “Arielle is a miracle child, and as I call her my angel. She’s a fighter, so lovable and the reason I grew a closer relationship to God and became more knowledgeable of the different events happening around the world. I am her role model, therefore, I have to make decisions that’s best for her and be more conscience of my own actions.”

Upon returning to Maryland after service in the US Army, Ms. Smith continued along the path to protect with a nationally accredited law-enforcement agency where she is currently employed. “In law enforcement, we see the worst of what’s going on in the world. It’s not like we’re getting called to locations because situations are great, it’s normally the opposite.” One who takes her role very seriously, Ms. Smith is the recipient of several “Life Saving” Awards for performing CPR procedures during various crisis situations.

When asked about the status of law enforcement in Baltimore City and the community (Ms. Smith is NOT a Baltimore City Police Officer) she replied, “All of these instances that are occurring is heartbreaking. Although the city may be different, what’s common is that behind every situation, whether an officer or community resident, a person’s life is involved.” However, Ms. Smith also confessed, “I don’t think it’s fair that all law enforcement should be looked at in a bad light. I am a human being and mother who’s concerned about the safety of my daughter as well as my own when I depart my home each day.”

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However, Ms. Smith was eager to offer suggestions for more positive resolution. “The focus should be the youth, with more community involvement such as the 300 Men March to produce more positivity and leadership that offers hope for the future of our youth.” Adding, “Destroying your own community is never the answer. Over the years there’s been peaceful protesting that has done wonders in this world.” One who certainly leads by example, Ms. Smith volunteers monthly at the Baltimore Rescue Mission, an organization who serves homeless individuals throughout the city. “It may not mean much to some, but just seeing the smiles on the faces of the people I encounter is a humbling experience. I just enjoy being there.”

In addition to being an advocate for homelessness, Ms. Smith is a supporter of equal opportunities for the LGBT Community. “Usually when a person finds passion in a certain area, it stems from a series of events they have witnessed. The tragedy in Florida was an example of hate and discrimination. For me, being in a particular role to advocate is about growth, expanding knowledge and helping others receive fair treatment within the LGBT community.”

A pillar for positive change with great optimism about her future, Ms. Smith demonstrates just how to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world.

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We Know All Lives Matter But…

This post is for everyone who has trouble understanding why #AllLivesMatter is an undermining and dismissive statement that completely ignores the problem we have at hand. 

Imagine you’re sitting at dinner with your family; everyone is getting a share of their food except for you, so you say, “I should get my fair share,” and in response your dad says “everyone should get their fair share.” That’s a wonderful sentiment that works in theory, and is essentially the point you were originally trying to make saying you should be a part of everyone. However Dad’s statement completely undermined your point, and didn’t solve the problem of you not getting any food. 


The statement ‘I should get my fair share,’ has an implicit ‘too’ at the end. I should get my fair share too, like everyone else. But your dad’s statement treated your response as only you should get your fair share, which is obviously not your intention.

That is the situation we are in with the Black Lives Matter movement and people responding with ‘All Lives Matter,’ that message already abounds in our society. Clearly. 

All Lives Matter is true, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way. A black kid being killed is not necessarily news (with the exception of at the hands of police), but a white woman being killed is. That’s, in large part, due to the disproportionate rate at which black kids are killed, so we don’t treat it as new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

So just like asking your dad for your fair share of food, blacks are asking for their fair share of justice. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.

I hope this rings understanding that blacks are not saying we matter any more than anybody else, we are simply saying we want our fair share of justice too. #BlackLivesMatter #RIPAltonSterling #RIPPhilandoCastile

Why is fashion week a great place for freelancers

I recently attended London Collections: Men, the four-day event that kicks off a five-week global showcase of men’s fashion. From London, buyers and press move on to Florence for Pitti Uomo, before heading to Milan and Paris, with things eventually wrapping up in New York in February. Womenswear then kicks off in New York shortly after that, with the whole thing starting over again… it’s crazy.

Fashion week itself is a million and one moving parts made up by everything from makeup artists to photographers, writers to models, events managers to hair stylists. I was super surprised to learn quite how many freelancers were involved in not only the running of the event but also the fashion industry in general.

I guess it makes total sense. Fashion brands change and move forward two to three times a year at least, with some brands bringing out ten or more collections out. The whole industry exists to innovate and not stand still, so I guess it only does brands justice to bring in outside eyes and cutting edge freelance talent at various opportunities to keep ideas, seasonal concepts and the brand, in general, moving forward.

Outside of the brands themselves, editors, publishers and agency types are all in attendance, who, outside of attending presentations and being seen at the right shows, are there with their own very different drivers, objectives and motives.

So where am I going with this? Well, amongst the hubbub and near chaos of each day, the opportunities to network at a fashion week are second to none, at least from my experience in London, anyway. Even as day turns to night and parties begin, people are still talking about work, the shows they’ve seen and of course fashion in general. Free drinks might be flying around but it seems that people stay relaxed but professional throughout the day and night… To a certain time, at least.

Whether you are directly interested in fashion, are a freelancer or are just beginning to pursue a creative field or profession, the opportunities are there. I’m convinced that the relations that can easily be made at the launch of a collaboration over a beer could well lead to work and freelance opportunities down the line. With that in mind, here are some tips to assist in getting stuck into fashion week if, like me up until a few weeks back, you have never attended. I’ve come out of my first time knowing exactly what I need to do next time, so I’m hoping this advice

Apply for tickets to everything, no matter who you are

Individual brands and PR companies handle their own events, so at the most, an agency will have four fashion week events running over the weekend. Each event will have a specific purpose, which is important because it means an agency is looking for a certain audience to attend. Some are far easier to attend, others you won’t have a hope in hell, but the point is you have the opportunity to try. Prior to my first fashion week, I hadn’t touched base with any of the major brands or their PR agencies, and I still managed to get a fair few invites for each day, and that was from completely cold contact.

Turn up and try anyway

I didn’t register any interests for a lot of events I ended up attending. I found that by turning up and simply explaining who you were, what you did and that you hadn’t reached out for an invite would secure you entry. This isn’t about blagging because if they want you there, they would have invited you. This is more just being straight, down to earth and explaining that you want to attend to cover the event for whatever reason. As for the bigger shows, turn up and hang around outside to try and get some good pictures or something, or join the standing room queue; they will let in the general public without question if there is space, it’s not just about who is invited to sit in the front row.

Understand what you are trying to achieve

Not something I had thought about one bit, but “I’m a writer” when you’re stood in a room of press, PRs and whoever else isn’t exactly enough. To be honest, going out and speaking to people was the only way I got to the root of understanding what I am even trying to achieve as a writer. Sometimes when you do something for passion in your spare time, you forget to think about it formally, which st some point you might have to, when you meet a fellow writer or even someone who is a bit of a personal hero.

Learn your pitch

Someone said to me after a long chat “okay then, how can I help you?”. I managed to get an answer together but if I’m honest, I didn’t have a clue outside of “give me a job to write about nice clothes”. Think about what you’ve done and the direction you want to take things in and equally think about who you would like to meet – you might just run a blog but you could well meet someone in exactly the same position as you with a different talent who wants to collaborate.

Instagram is your portfolio, resume and follow up

Letting anyone walk off after a great conversation is a waste, and that’s not because I’m some money hungry beast, it’s just the age we live in and how millennials and creative industries communicate by default. Instagram feeds not only provide people with a literal snapshot of who you are but also what you do and how you think and present yourself. It also provides the opportunity to follow up with a message, which might be inappropriate for a few months or so, but after all, the feature is there and when the time is right, it should be used.

Upon finishing this piece, I’ve realised how this doesn’t just apply to fashion week, this applies to all sorts of freelancers and all sorts of events. I’d never been one for networking but I guess I’d never been properly in and around an industry I want to be involved in until London Collections: Men. It sounds simple but wherever you go, talk to people, think with your creative endeavour first and never feel dazzled by the lights or like you shouldn’t be somewhere – it’s your job to make sure you are invited back.

The Jubilee Project: Be The Good You Wish To SEE

Be the good that you wish to see in the world.
This old adage takes on a new form in the Jubilee Project. A not for profit organization founded during the colossal aftermath of the earthquake that Hit Haiti in January of 2010, Project Jubilee wasn’t even a project. It was just three friends trying to raise a little money to aid the Haitian relief efforts. Five years later, Jason, Eric and Eddie have created an impressive social media video platform. A platform that produces short films and documentaries, along with PSAs that raise and consequently change the perception of a bevy of causes. Project Jubilee has but one ultimate goal; stir to action the onlookers, while bringing light to numerous philanthropic efforts.
It’s undoubtedly amazing how a goal of one hundred dollars turned into a mega dais for organizations of all kinds, aimed to people of so many different types, tackling issues that range from wellness to economy to humanity. Project Jubilee has most definitely taken notice of the social media video boom and capitalized on it in the best way possible. However, it’s essential to remember that it was born in an era where video and sharing go hand in hand. It was bound to happen, but like all other things, it could have been used for good or evil. Lucky for us, Project Jubilee is simply comprised of really good, really genuine guys that want to save the world.
The projects cover issues and efforts that range from battling Alzheimer’s to blindness, natural disaster devastation and a few plain old feel good videos. Important issues that are so heart wrenching will always pull at your heart strings through these viral worthy documentaries, always aiming to ask one question; Now that you know something has to be done, what will you do?

IG: @JubileeProject
Twitter: @JubileeProject

Kiwani Tapper & The Bowtie Kids

There is a distinct difference between your success and your legacy. Success can be defined as all that you can acquire while on Earth, and a legacy being all that you leave behind. But you’ll find that as you work towards a legacy, success will tend to follow.

That’s undoubtedly the case for Kiwani Tapper and the Bowtie Kids. Tapper is a twenty-six year old communications therapist who always wanted to pursue fashion. But having been raised by a Jamaican mother, let’s just say fashion design was not a typical point of discussion when talking about career goals. Like many other young adults preparing to leave the nest for the first time. Tapper started of pursing a more stable career field.

Graduating in 2010 with a degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Florida, Kiwani began work as a speech therapist. She specifically concentrated on children who had been impacted by communication diseases and disorders. But we all know, when you truly want something, rarely does that want disappear. In Kiwani’s case, her love for creating was no different.

Then three years after graduating from university, Tapper had a dream about what would come to be the Bowtie Kids. It was a rather simple dream where she saw herself making bow ties. Consider it divine intervention because that image stuck with her. She combined it with her drive to educate others and magic happened.

 “I’d never written anything down, I wrote this down. This dream I had to see, I needed it to be real.”

She began building in house. Literally funding all projects and merchandise production on her own. Trial and error have become her method of grooming the business.

“I lose big and have yet to establish a system that works a hundred percent,” she says. But she’s learning as she goes, picking up hints from people (and google) along the way.”

Two years after that dream of building a business that combined fashion and awareness, Tapper saw it come to fruition. The Bowtie Kids would grow into a fashion brand dedicated to spreading information on numerous disorders that affects thousands of children around the world. She’s grown a solid clientele mostly by word of mouth. She’s even dressed the babies of celebrities such as singer, Omarion and reality star, Yandy Smith.

Each bow tie or garment is custom made, either by color or design, to generate mindfulness towards disorders like, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Spina Bifida. However, the list continues to grow as she customizes designs for new disorders and diseases brought to her attention. Those she might not know about.

“I learn too, so I’m continuously adding to my list of what I want to bring to the forefront, as far as awareness.”

Now providing custom clothing as well as awareness bracelets and earrings, Tapper doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. She has meticulously combined all that she loves and that is a major accomplishment in and of itself; while it took just over a year for consistent sales of her products, production and clientele are now steadily increasing.

“I’ve found a way to do all the things I love doing, while giving back to the kids that inspire me daily.”

Most of us are faced with this obstacle during the quarter life crisis. Choosing between the things you love, and determining which should be sacrificed. But if you think outside of the box, a choice doesn’t necessarily have to be made! You’ll find that tapping into your passions and finding a way to combine them almost forces you to work harder, because every part of you is working.

Tapper credits her daily motivation to the positive feedback from her kids and customers, knowing that she’s educating as she creates.

“It’s quite amazing, knowing that people are learning, and knowing that it’s because of you.”

That’s what creating is about, after all. There really is no better talent than teaching others, no matter how we decide to do it. It’s about leaving them with something greater than ourselves, something far more important than our persona. Because who we are here, will never mean anything if not for what we leave behind.

Andiamo Finds Child Healthcare Solutions W/ 3D Scanning & Printing Technology

3D printed back brace by Andiamo

Andiamo is a startup based in the UK that builds healthcare solutions for children with disabilities using 3D scanning and printing technologies. The healthcare solution they are currently focusing on and fundraising for is orthotics – supports, braces, or splints used to support, align, prevent, or correct the function of movable body parts. The founders, Naveed and Samiya Parvez, have first-hand experience of the difficult process of getting orthoses for a child. Their son Diamo was born in 2003 with cerebral palsy due to medical negligence. He was also diagnosed quadriplegic and had very little head movement. A part of his treatment required a back brace, two wrist splints and two ankle splints.

“His orthoses had a big impact on his quality of life,” Naveed said. “Without his back brace, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t eat, and he couldn’t get into his wheelchair.”

The process of getting the orthoses took a toll on Diamo. He had to be covered in plaster and kept still to ensure the mold would fit accurately later. Then they had to wait 4 to 13 weeks for the brace to be made from the mold. Because of this wait, Diamo had grown and it had to be adjusted accordingly. This process was repeated every 6 to 9 months after he outgrew his orthoses.

3D printed back brace by Andiamo

3D printed back brace by Andiamo. Photo by Claire Gaul.

Naveed was looking for a better solution than the plaster-based orthoses for Diamo and saw potential in 3D printing. Sadly, Diamo passed away in March 2012. But Naveed saw the potential in 3D printing come to fruition at a conference in 2013 where a man, Chris Thorpe, had a 3D scanned and printed piece of metal – a replica of a piece from a steam train.

“It was truly a light bulb moment,” Naveed said. “I even tweeted, ‘Is anyone doing this in health?’”

At a dinner after the conference, Naveed sat next to the conference organizer, James Governor, and said he would have a prototype for a 3D scanned and printed child’s orthoses in two years. Governor encouraged him to push for next year.

“We met a month later and got the ball rolling,” Naveed said. “We did a lot of research and realized not a lot of people were doing it and that only people that could solve the problem were the people going through the problem. Everyone was looking at it from the cost, the manufacturing point of view. It was the experience that needed to be fixed.”

3D printed wrist splints by Andiamo. Photo by Claire Gaul.

3D printed wrist splints by Andiamo. Photo by Claire Gaul.

Andiamo is changing the experience by working with families from day one until completion, making sure the orthosis fits and looks good. Andiamo is also changing the experiencing by cutting down wait time and costs. Instead of the 4-13 week wait, it will take just 2 days to get the orthosis printed and fitted. The 3D scanning gets rid of the plaster and takes a few minutes instead of hours. The cost of one ankle splint, traditionally made, can range from $1,300 to $1,800. A back brace is about $2,000. Insurance companies, both US and UK, tend to cover the costs. But if a child needs multiple orthoses like Diamo, it can range from $60,000 to $80,000. In three months, Andiamo reduced the costs from $1,000 to $450 (excluding design costs).

And why is design so important?

“The looking nice bit is kind of a side effect of being designed right,” Naveed said. “Orthotics currently fix the mechanical problem: your back, your wrist are in this position, it needs to be in this position. But if the thing is ugly and you don’t want to wear it, it’s not going to solve the problem.”

Andiamo is working with a 19-year-old girl who wears heavy, pink plastic orthopedic boots. She said she has to choose between walking and feeling ugly.

3D printed leg brace by Andiamo. Photo by Claire Gaul.

3D printed leg brace by Andiamo. Photo by Claire Gaul.

“That’s not a choice anyone should have to make,” Naveed said. “There’s no reason medical conditions, wellness, and beauty need to be separated.”

Andiamo is currently working with three families to get children fitted for orthotics. The company has a waitlist of more than 20 families. If their Kickstarter is fully funded, they will be able to work with at least another 3 to 5 families. They have plans to take their service worldwide in a few years.

For more information, visit Andiamo’s website at www.andiamo.io.

 

Dr. Webb Beat The Odds From The War On Terrorism To Giving Back To West Africa

Born and raised in the world’s prison capital of Louisiana, Dr. Antonio J. Webb, M.D. was determined to beat the statics of becoming incarcerated and instead, charted a path that would reveal his strength, perseverance and purpose. A story of his life’s journey, “Overcoming the Odds: From War on the Streets of Louisiana to war on terrorism in Iraq, how I successfully overcame the odds”, the physician shares intimate details of his troubling childhood. Dr. Webb hopes to show leaders of tomorrow that they too can lead a life of purpose despite a difficult upbringing.

Dr. Webb shares, “I started writing the book five years ago, because as I looked back over my life I realized I had an inspiring story to share. Despite sleepless nights and headaches I kept writing and stayed dedicated until the book was complete.”

As a child Dr. Webb was all too familiar with the violence and crime that surrounded his environment. However, under the strict guidance of his father who raised him and three other siblings, he chose to stay on the right path graduating from high school and entering the United States Air Force in his senior year of high school.

After serving eight years in the United States Air Force, Dr. Webb pursued a career in the medical field and began studies at Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies Program, which worked to prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for success in medical school. Dr. Webb continued with his education having earned honors in the fields of Renal, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry and Critical Care ICU leading to his Doctorate of Medicine degree in 2014. . However, Dr. Webb contributes his work in Liberia, West Africa while attending medical school as a profound milestone of his career. “Going to Liberia to give back to the people in West Africa was a humbling experience. To serve the patients and connect with those who were very grateful for our presence was so eye opening and life changing.”

It’s been a long journey from a troubling childhood to becoming an honored soldier and award-winning medic. Dr. Antonio Webb, MD is aware of his amazing journey. “I don’t take anything for granted.” He says. “I know I am incredibly blessed.”

His amazing story, “Overcoming the Odds” is available at Books-A-Million, barnes&noble.com as well as amazon.com or visit: www.antoniowebbmd.com

 

 

 

 

 

Uber To Employ 1 million Women by 2020

Uber has partnered with UN Women in an initiative to employ 1 million women by 2020. UN Women, is a United Nations organization committed to global gender equality. Currently, Uber has over 160,000 drivers in the U.S. and only 14% of them are women. It was suggested that driving for Uber could be ideal for individuals who need a flexible schedule. Drivers can work as many or as little hours as they like from day-to-day. The announcement is evidence of Uber’s steps toward becoming a more socially responsible company.

Valued at $40 billion, Uber expanded to over 290 cities since 2009. The company did go through its share of controversy over regulatory issues and allegations against several male drivers for sexual assault and harassment. No company is immune to its fair share of controversy, Uber is fighting back with positive change.

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For The Good of Creaciones Ecológicas La Colonia

As a part of my Interactive Media graduate program at Elon University, my class of 31 was divided into five groups and was assigned to work with five different nonprofit organizations in four different countries from January 3 – 10, 2015. The goal of the project was to create a web presence for each nonprofit. Two groups went to the Dominican Republic to a city called Cotuí. I was in one of the Dominican Republic groups and we had the opportunity to work with a group of women known as Creaciones Ecológicas La Colonia (CRÉELA). This group of about 25 women handcrafts purses and beach bags from plastic bags you would put your groceries in at Wal-Mart or Food Lion. The video below, shot and edited by my group’s photographer and drone pilot, Brandon Booker, features aerial shots of all the areas we visited and worked in. We were in the city and the mountains of Cotuí located near the center of the island.

CRÉELA operates under Uniendos Manos Dominicanas (UMD), a NGO based in Cotuí that is a sister organization to the Dominican Republic Projects, a nonprofit organization based in the United States. Rita Severinghaus founded all of these organizations. She is originally from the Dominican Republic and is currently based in Vermont. She travels to the Dominican Republic several times a year to check on these organizations. We had the opportunity to work side by side with her during our time there.

We met all 25 women and got to know a few of them even better through interviewing them. Each of the women had a unique story, but Ysabel’s always sticks out. She cleaned tripe for about 20 years to take care of her seven children. Her neighbor was a woman named Ana Mercedes who was already a part of CRÉELA. Ysabel began helping her crochet the bags and then she was invited to join the group. From the money she has earned making the bags, she has completed building her house and continues to make improvements. Hearing her story really showed our group how much making these bags improves their lives. Many women also use money earned from the bags to either get an education or further their education. See Ysabel’s interview below.

Video shot and edited by Sam Kahle. Interview by Kate Robertson. 

While we in the Dominican Republic we did a lot of content gathering – taking photographs, filming interviews, etc. We didn’t start building the website until we got back. We had two weeks to finish it. It took a lot of hard work, but we all rose to the challenge and ended up with a great project. In the end, it wasn’t just about the grade; it was about creating something the women would be proud of. Before I give you the link to the website, I have to give a shout out to my group. It was comprised of: Ashley Pugh, project manager; Brandon Booker, photographer and drone pilot; Sam Kahle, videographer; Kate Robertson, writer; Emily Yarborough, graphic designer; Tyler Ballentine, web developer; and myself, the information architect. Our faculty and staff advisors were Dr. David Copeland and Katie Williamsen.

To see how all our hard work came together, visit www.creeladr.org. Also check out and like CRÉELA’s Facebook page. To see all the other group’s projects, visit http://www.elon.edu/e-net/Article/107143.