Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seeds For Change

Michael Trainer's vision for See Change Global came to fruition on a 9 month journey to document the work of individuals and organizations creating sustainable solutions to grave social problems. After meeting with dedicated people, Micheal wanted to share, with the world, his glimpses of a humanity determined to lift itself up. See Change Global transformed into a way to communicate this through media.

But he knew that "action" needed to follow the communication. It is the critical component in his cause, and to inspire action he not only tells engaging stories about social change, but also wants to build a community, a community where people create meaningful work. See Change Global thus became a campaign to connect the individuals and organizations devoted to solving deep-rooted social problems.

Michael started traveling in South East Asia, where in Cambodia a visit to the remains of the victims of the Pol Pot regime left him feeling helpless. But it was this devastation that marked a critical point in his consciousness. He could continue feel disheartened or he could channel his energy productively. He chose the latter, and raised money alongside Charity:Water, an organization that builds wells for communities in need of water systems, to build one in Cambodia. It was with this same spirit of service that Michael was ready to document the shapers of social change in another part of the world. His next stop was Africa.

In Africa, Michael connected with an organization that is forging an organic renewal of Kenyan communities: the Greenbelt Movement. Started by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, the GBM is an example of how to reinvigorate a community by involving Kenyans in their own sustainable development.

The GBM pays local communities to plant seeds in forest catchment areas, private farms and public spaces. As a holistic development organization, GBM trains communities in good governance, advocacy and environmental justice through seminars; shares approaches with development workers in Africa; creates opportunities for eco-tourism, a program by which travelers learn about conservation in Kenya and contribute to the work themselves; and facilitates the involvement of women and children in income generating projects.

Machakos, one area in Kenya where Greenbelt Movement works, suffers from tremendous drought. Many people in the community are dying because of lack of water.

For only an inch of dirty water people dig into a dried out riverbed. This young girl in the picture has come to siphon the little bit of water she can from the ground. Juxtaposed by the five gallon water can, the cup full of water she will get is the only source of water for an entire community of people.

The best way to communicate the value of the Greenbelt Movement's work is through stories about the people whose lives have improved dramatically because of its efforts. One family went from struggling to eat enough every day to having a perpetual source of revenue, allowing three daughters to get an education. Staring in the 80's this family regenerated a deforested area.

Through this project they acquired enough money to buy a chicken house - a production of 170 eggs a day - and a bee hive that they harvest 4 times a year.

Now this family can subsist entirely on its own. The only time they need to leave the house is for wheat and oil.

The idea started with a seed and grew into something that transcends the challenges of poverty: healthy and empowered communities with the ability to subsist independently. The Economic benefit, for example, is clear; compared to the children in the slums of Nairobi, communities touched by GBM had better clothes, were better nourished and healthier overall.

The Greenbelt Movement is now one of See Change Global's partners, one model of many that social entrepreneurs are using to battle the systemic causes of poverty, hunger and disease. Can you imagine how you might become part of this movement? or perhaps how your skills - whether they be medical, technical, entrepreneurial or artistic - can help? Well, even if you can't, that's where See Change Global can. And See Change Global will take you past imagining to banding together to make it happen.

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