Jaryd

Archive for the ‘Philanthropy’ Category

Minimalism

In Faith, Personal Development, Philanthropy on June 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Recently, as in the past two months, I’ve really been on what I would call a zen minimalism kick. Zen as in balance. When I began thinking about the packing I would have to do at the end of the school year, I began to wonder if I could take everything back to Puyallup in two trips. I’m not sure if I could, mainly because I lack containers for most of the things I have, and I just stuff my car to the brim. I’ve come to the conclusion that at this point in my life I should be able to fit everything I own into my car.

Why my car? Well, mainly because if I can fit everything I own in one car trip, it greatly increases my range of freedom. No going back for more. No worries about what I’ve left behind. Everything I own, and truly need, is with me and nothing else. But alongside the things I truly need are a bunch of other things. Things that I don’t need, and really shouldn’t even have. Things like the extra printer I have, or my 30 t-shirts, or eight pairs of pants, or eight pairs of shoes, or my whole drawer for things I don’t know what to do with. If I don’t know what to do with it, why do I keep it?

While the Dr. Jekyll in me is dedicated to tearing through my consumerism and returning to a simpler lifestyle, my Mr. Hyde is crazy about gadgets. Specifically Apple gadgets. I’m a student, so it’s not really a question of ‘Do I need a laptop?’ but rather ‘Do I need a MacBook Pro when I MacBook would probably do just fine?’ Since I plan on not having cable when I move into my own place (eventually) I have decided that I will just buy shows from the iTunes store and get them that way. Now, it would be a lot easier and more convenient for me to buy an TV, but should I?

I know the answer to the question ‘Do I need it?’ is clearly no? But, as a Christian, are we called to own only that which we truly need? By purchasing an TV, or a MacBook Pro, or iPhone, or anything superfluous for that matter, instead of tithing, or giving that money to someone who truly needs it, am I disobeying Christ’s wishes for his followers?

Let’s see what the bible actually says about this kind of thing.

We all know the story of the rich man in Luke 18:

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'[b]”

21″All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now, did Jesus tell him to sell everything he had because that is the answer that applies to all of mankind, or was it aimed specifically at the young man because he had a love of money? Does Christ expect everyone of us to live like monks? If so, then most Christians are failing to meet this expectation. How can a Christian live in the modern world if this is what Jesus expects of us?

Even if I were to give up everything I owned and gave the money to the poor, what does this mean about savings? Am I allowed to work and put some into a retirement account? If I did that wouldn’t sound like I was following what Jesus said in Luke 18.  Jesus said to sell everything. That means absolutely everything.

What do you think? Can a Christian live in a modern world with modern things and still be obeying what is written, or are we all expected to give up everything and follow Jesus? Do you know of any bible verses that really deal with this subject head on? Let me know in the comments!

Further reading: Check out this Ask the Readers post over at Zen Habits (My new favorite blog) about fitting everything you own in your car’s trunk. Be sure to check out all of Leo’s, as well as his contributers great posts at Zen Habits.

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It’s Been a While (Updated)

In Business, Computers, Development, Internet, Philanthropy, Poverty, Public Education, Technology on December 30, 2008 at 4:11 am

UPDATE: I have decided to try my hand at the Twitter-like micro-blogging service. I have named it Tefilah, the Hebrew word for prayer, to emphasize the focus of the site. Feel free to join and try it out. Hopefully we will be able to grow it to a vibrant community of Christians.

—–

So it has been a while since I have written anything… I’ve wanted to write something for a couple of weeks now, but just couldn’t decided what to write about. I still don’t really have any idea, but I thought I would give it a shot and see what I come up with. I guess I will just go over a list of some possible projects I have been collecting in my head for the past few months:

Twitter-like Site     In case you have never heard of it, Twitter is an online micro-blogging service where you can keep your friends, or “followers” as they are known on Twitter, up to date about what you’re doing, where you are, or anything really. Your status can be updated via web or text, and it places your update in a timeline of all of your followers. For example, if I wanted to tell my followers that I was coming home to Puyallup for break, I could update my status to say “Jaryd is writing.” That would be added to my friends’ timeline, or even sent to them as a text or email if they have set their account to do so. The thing I really like about Twitter is that it is a non-obtrusive way to keep people up to date with what you are doing, thing, or where you are going.

But if Twitter is fine, why start another site just like it? Well it wouldn’t be just like that. The main difference would be that it would be used for prayer support or letting others know you have received an answer to prayer. It would be a non-invasive way to ask others for prayer support, or just keep people up to date on things that God has been doing in your life.

Honestly, it wouldn’t even be that difficult, thanks to the open-source software Laconica. All I would have to do would be to rent a server, install the server, and it would take care of pretty much all of the work. I would have to do a lot of work to get it up to the complexity of Twitter, though. I would love to be able to help people all over the world connect and support each other through the power of prayer.

I also would like to adapt this cool project called TwittEarth. It displays tweets (the name for status updates on Twitter) on a 3D globe showing the location of the user. It is a pretty cool way to look at the activity of individuals on a global scale. One last thing I would like to do is set up a daily verse for users to meditate on, or let others know what kind of meaning it has for them.

Mideals     I have written about this before in an earlier post, but I thought I would come back to it because I really do like it. The idea is that it is a commerce site in the style of Amazon, but users can set priorities on what aspects of a product or company are the most important to them. A user can set the order of importance of price, environmental impact, where it is made, the organizations the company supports, etc… Then a user could search for products or companies and the site would calculate which products match the user’s priorities and present them accordingly.

People talk about about what they feel is important, but at one point you have to put up or shut up. This could take away an excuse that keeps people from aligning their spending with their values.

University Microcredit Network     This was the focus of the last post I wrote, and I still like it. I believe microcredit will be one of the most fundamental tools the human race has in defeating poverty. As fundamental as the hammer for constructing houses, or the cornerstone of a foundation. Microcredit gives the tools to those that really have the incentive to use them.

I feel that the microcredit model of poverty reduction fits very well with college students. Microcredit is built around the fact that a little money can go a long way, and little money is something that college students do have. According to census.gov, there were 20.5 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States (including under-graduate and graduate). I’m willing to bet that each student could donate $1 to microcredit programs and development programs.

Many microcredit program loans range from as little as $50 into the thousands of dollars. But for the sake of calculation, let’s say the average loan is $100. That makes for 205,000 loans made for the people around the world to better their situation, and most importantly the health of their family and the education of their children.

That’s just with $1 from each college and university student in US. That doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me.

I will keep thinking over these to see if any of them speak to me enough to carve out some time to work on them. Let me know what you think about them, or any ideas you have in the comments!

University Microcredit Network

In Development, Economy, Philanthropy, Poverty, Public Education, Whitworth on November 3, 2008 at 3:51 am

I went to a special lecture last week about microcredit and its powerful impact on the developing world. From wikipedia:

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to the unemployed, to poor entrepreneurs and to others living in poverty who are not considered bankable. These individuals lack collateral, steadyemployment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. Microcredit is a part of microfinance, which is the provision of a wider range of financial services to the very poor.

Basically, the working poor apply for small loans, usually starting around $100, to buy capital and start making greater profits in their businesses. The loans are repaid with very low interest, and then the borrower can then take out a larger loan to grow their business even more.

The reason that the borrowers need a special microcredit bank is because traditional banks will not give them any loans because they lack the usual paperwork, such as deeds and titles, collateral, and even a credit history; Thus, the banks see the poor as a credit risk. But, according to World Vision, 96% of the loans in their Microenterprise Development Program are repaid on time.

Organizations like the Grameen Bank, Kiva, and World Vision are taking the chance to help people escape from poverty. I would encourage everyone to take a look at these organizations and consider donating as much as you feel comfortable with. Even $25 can change the life of farmer.

What does this have to do with the University Microcredit Network? Well, the UMN is an idea I’ve been considering for a few days since the lecture. Since microcredit is all about small sums of money (which is college kids have), why not tap into the vast resource of poor, but activist-minded, age group of college students? If every university in the United States collected enough money for one $100 loan… well, it would be a lot! Better yet, what if universities and colleges built this into their budgets? Just a miniscule $1000 could provide much need start-up money for several businesses. And it is a drop in the bucket for many schools!

The UMN would be the eyes, ears, and hands for organizations like Kiva and World Vision. The purpose: collect money and educate students. There are a lot of lives that could be changed with small donations from poor students.

Heck, if people really couldn’t donate, what about investing. Places like MicroPlace (owned by eBay) offer up to a 3% return on investments. Good way to make a few bucks. (But I like places like World Vision where the funds are returned to the pool – a revolving door fund, if you will.)

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

In Development, Economy, Internet, Philanthropy, Politics, Poverty, Video on August 21, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Just wanted to let you guys know that I will be participating in Blog Action Day 2008 this year.  What is Blog Action Day?  From the site:

Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints and opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues. Each blogger brings their own perspective and ideas. Each blogger posts relating to their own blog topic. And each blogger engages their audience differently.

That’s the basic premise of BAD: to listen to thousands of different perspectives on a single issue in order to understand it more.  Poverty is a complex issue, but after October 15th, I’m hoping to be a little closer to the answer.

Here is a little video summing it all up.  Enjoy!

Christ’s Words in Action

In Africa, Economy, Philanthropy, Poverty on April 15, 2008 at 3:58 pm

This is Christ’s words in action  Please watch and comment on this amazing video.  8:06

An Unexpected Question

In Philanthropy, Poverty on April 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Two days ago, I got a message from one of my friends on facebook (in the interests of anonymity, I’m not going to use their name).  It was nice to hear from them, but in their post they wrote:

Is you being conservative a joke? Or are you serious? I would think you to be a liberal or maybe a moderate[.]

I was fairly surprised, and a little disappointed – more in myself than anyone else.  I suspected that I knew why they might consider me moderate, or God-forbid a Liberal.  But I wanted to to hear their reasoning for why they thought my being conservative was a joke.  So I wrote back:

Nope, it is most definitely not a joke. Conservative through and through. I’m curious, why would you think me to be liberal or moderate?

I wanted to see exactly why they thought me to be a leftist.  They replied:

because liberals usually believe that people who need help are in that place because of environmental factors, and reasons beyond their control and conservatives tend to feel that people are in the positions they are because of how hard or not so hard they work… Like homeless children. NOT THEIR FAULT. Homeless crack addict, maybe grew up with no family and started using to not feel the pain at the sad age of 12. THEN liberals also usually believe that the government shoudl provide programs liek homeless shelters, rehabs, etc. to help all these people. Where as conservative believe that everyone should pick themselves up by the boot straps… even if you don’t have any boots.[…] hahah i’m actually kind of conservative on a lot of things but kind of liberal on a lot of things as well…. But I heart you no matter what you are. hahha.

That is pretty much what I expected to hear (well, read, actually).  The old myth that conservatives don’t want to help anyone and that liberals have a monopoly on humanitarian work.  At first, I drafted up a long, well-thought out response, but in the end I decided against sending it to them.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. You can tell by the posts from the other party that they aren’t interested in debating (I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; this is only facebook after all).  Their first message was just general wondering.
  2. I was worried that my response might come off as arrogant or long-winded – I wouldn’t want to read a three page response either.
  3. I didn’t want them to feel like I was attacking them or their beliefs.  It’s not my place to to barrage them with my own opinions.
  4. A short response would probably work best.

So, for these reasons, I wrote this shorter response:

That is one of the myths that I hope I am dispelling by example. It isn’t the amount of humanitarian aid that Conservatives and Liberals disagree on (the exact amount is controversial, yes, but they both agree there should be some amount), but rather the way in which money should be collected. Liberals are (usually) more for government programs set in place that gets its funds from taxes, while Conservatives usually support organizations through personal donations, such as a church. That is the big difference.

And I believe your view is too narrow. When it comes to Americans, I would say that a large portion of the people on welfare (or other comparable programs) are lazy. Disregarding children and the disabled, many people in America have ample opportunity to improve their situations, but choose not to do so. Regarding other parts of the world, I think everyone can agree that they might not be as blessed as the US is.

Just a thought to ponder: Who does a vast portion of the humanitarian work overseas (and in America as well)?

Christian organizations. And in my experience, Christians tend to lean a bit to the right.

I tried to address all of their points without going overboard.  Too which they replied:

well… i’m throwing out there that according to my social work book people on welfare lack opportunities to better their situation. My teacher said that the REAL myth is that people on welfare are lazy and the TRUTH is that people just WISH it was that way. Or something. Take what you want from it…. I was just surprised that’s all. Plus, I think their should be government run programs for people rather than organizations. Because, what if you’re not christian? or something…

I thought that they might disagree with my welfare point more than any other, so I kind of had my response in hand:

I totally agree that there should be programs in place to help people in bad circumstances out, but that we need to not get too carried away. And I know that not all, or even most of people on welfare are ‘lazy,’ but there is a big enough portion to screw it up. I don’t see why anyone should be on welfare for two years, but there are plenty of people who are.

And I believe that most organizations don’t require the people being helped be Christians. World Vision is a Christian organization, but they help anyone regardless of race, sex, religion, etc…

My response is the end of this discourse so far, but I am sure that they will respond shortly.  But I have a few questions for you.

  1. Do you think I handled this situation well?  Was I too critical?  Should I have maybe been more conversational, and less debate driven?
  2. Do you agree with my case or theirs?
  3. Any general thoughts on the issue?  What’s your stance on the balance of humanitarian work?  Does either side of the spectrum get it right?

Also, sorry for such a protracted post; but I thought I owed it to you after such a lengthy cessation in my posts.

Letter to Bank of America Corporation

In Philanthropy on March 3, 2008 at 10:44 pm

I am going to try something new. I am drafting a letter the Bank of America officials – such as Kenneth D. Lewis (the Chairman, CEO and President) – and would love some helping ironing out clarity issues and any errors via Teach a Man to Fish rather than by individual emails. If you’d like to offer some changes, you can leave them in the comments or send me an email.

Thanks for the help!

Sunday, March 2, 2008
Kenneth D. Lewis
Chairman, CEO, and President
Bank of America Corporation
100 N. Tryon St., Bank of America Corporate Center
Charlotte, NC 28255

“We believe, very simply, that it is the actions of individuals working together that build strong communities … and that business has an obligation to support those actions in the communities it serves.”
– Kenneth D. Lewis, Chairman and CEO

Mr. Lewis,

My name is Jaryd Madlena, I am a student at Whitworth University, and I am writing to you to propose a new customer service based entirely on your company’s wonderful philosophy. We all know that change can be a long and difficult process, and sometimes it can be as simple as enabling others to do work together. This is why I would like to propose a new customer service called Change for Change. It is based on your innovative Keep the Change program, and requires little alteration to achieve a greater end. Let me explain how this program will work:

1. Bank of America customer buys something.
2. The charge to their checking account is rounded up to to the nearest dollar.
3. The percentage of the difference – chosen upon enrollment in the Change for Change program – is donated to a philanthropic organization of their choice, and the rest is put in their savings account.

For example: A customer buys a cup of coffee for $3.25. The charge to their checking is rounded up to $4.00. 25% of that $.75 (the percent they chose when enrolling) is donated to World Vision, Inc. (the organization chosen). So, $.19 is donated to World Vision, Inc and $.81 is moved into their savings account.

Change for Change is a pertinent example of Bank of America’s philosophy of giving. It would perfectly demonstrate Bank of America’s ideology that it is up to individuals to build a strong community, and it is your job to support them in that endeavor. I think Change for Change would be the most ideal way in which you could bring about real change in local and global communities.

Sincerely yours,

Jaryd Madlena

Another Christmas Gift

In Philanthropy on November 12, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Hey guys. I came across another great company TOMS Shoes. It was founded by Blake Mycoskie, an Amazing Race contestant. When in Argentina, he was impacted by the extreme poverty he saw, so he set out to change that. The shoe is based off of the Argentinean style shoe. For every pair of TOMS Shoes you buy, he donates a pair to a child that needs them. It’s pretty simple: You get some cool shoes, a child gets his or her first pair of new shoes ever. I would encourage you all to also consider giving this great Christmas gift to someone you love.

Also, here is a short video about the TOMS Shoe Drop ’06 in Argentina. Enjoy!

Christmas List

In Philanthropy on November 8, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Operation Christmas ChildHey everyone. Sorry about my lack of posts over the last two weeks. I’ve been very busy with school (studying and doing homework, my mother will be happy to know).

I hope some of you tried out the game I mentioned in my last post. In case you didn’t, you should. Ayiti: The Cost of Life. It is very entertaining, and puts a new perspective on impoverished nations. I recommend giving it a whirl.

I also recommend checking out the One Laptop Per Child project. It has amazing potential, and with enough support, could start eliminating the appallingly severe wealth and education gave that has a stranglehold in some countries.

Here is my specific request to you, my readers. I know it is a bit early, but this Christmas, as a present for your favorite son/nephew/grandson, instead of spending money on me, spend it on someone who really could use a Christmas miracle. Donate what you would spend on me to World Vision, or donate a laptop from the OLPC project to a child in real need. Or buy a bed net or two (or more) for Africans at Malaria No More, a great organization dedicated to ridding Africa of malaria. Or how about donating my Christmas gift to Habitat for Humanity. Or better yet, donate some time to a build day with Habitat, or volunteer to work at the Habitat ReStore in Tacoma. Or donate money to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. St. Jude is an amazing facility that provides FREE treatment for children with catastrophic illnesses.

Any and all of these ways would be a great way to spend your time or money on. And one last request for a Christmas gift, remember to pray for these organizations and the people they help! Everyone of these organizations are carrying out God’s will, whether they know it or not.

I have it pretty well off. I’m in a great school, I have a family that I love with very ounce of my being, I’m happy, I’m healthy, and most of all I have a future, which is not something that can be said about many people in the world today. So instead of giving me just a little bit more of what I already have, we should give that same little bit that will be everything to a person with nothing.

Believe me, it’s not as if I don’t appreciate your gifts. I would love a few choice gifts from the family that I love, but I have pretty much everything I need, and more. Actually, there is one thing I would like. If you choose to donate your time or money instead of a Christmas present for me, I would love for you all to tell me what you did! There are so many ways that you can make miracles happen, and I would love to know how each of you did it.

Knowing that there are a few happier and healthier people in the world be the best Christmas present I could ask for.

Jaryd

PS Don’t forget Operation Christmas Child!