March 6, 2014

Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero No. 4: How Hip-Hop is Saving Lives, Creating Humanitarians

What comes to mind when you hear the term “hip-hop?”

You may think of rap, street music and gangs, but probably not humanity.

Hip-hop's roots started in the 1970s with Kool Herc, who believed the music's beats and lyrics were supposed to set a tone of harmony as an alternative to gang and street life.

As a part of Go Inspire Go's 50 heroes in 50 states initiative, I'd like for you to meet our fourth heroes, Chad Harper and Johwell Saint-Cilien. Their program, Kids Helping Kids (KHK): A Hip Hop Experience, is a collaboration of their passion projects, Hip Hop Saves Lives and Negus World. They reach out to hundreds of at-risk youth from New York City schools, incarcerated youth and homeless teen centers. The goal: teaching humanity through hip-hop and creating humanitarians.

Photo by Toan Lam

Hip Hop Saves Lives

Who: Johwell Saint-Cilien & Chad Harper
What: "We don't just teach humanity through Hip Hop, we create humanitarians."
Where: New York
Why: Reinstate the true meaning of hip-hop, entertain and save lives of youth



The Catalyst

Chad with KHK Students. Courtesy: KHK
In 2006, Chad Harper felt like he was on top of the world. Making music, living in the Big Apple, pursuing what he thought was his dream: to become a hip-hop recording artist. He was headed in that direction until a record deal fell through.

Saddened by his record deal situation, he turned to music, hoping to reach a higher note. Little did he know, this would change the trajectory of his personal, professional and spiritual trajectory and along the way, he would inspire, empower and change the lives of hundreds of kids on the streets near and far.

The Act

Chad was bartending in New York when he heard about Charity Water, a nonprofit with a mission to bring clean drinking water to people in all corners of the world. He wrote "If Everybody Cared," a song about how together we can solve big world problems like hunger and poverty. "I would give print out the lyrics and give them to people who bought the CD," Harper said. "One lady started crying. I really felt that, wow, I am really affecting people."

Chad realized, "Hip Hop Saves Lives" and could be a powerful instrument in orchestrating change in his community, especially with lowering crime and violence. He partnered with Johwell and the rest is history.

Johwell and KHK Students. Courtesy: KHK

Here's how it works:
1. Every week, they meet at a school in Brooklyn, N.Y., to research and learn more about everyday heroes on the Internet.
2. They write and record hip-hop songs and choreograph dances celebrating the hero.
3. Johwell produces the music videos.
4. The result: An entertaining, inspiring and fun music video that is gifted to the hero.
5. Every semester, CDs are sold at a FUNdraising party. All of the profits go to schools in Haiti (and soon Africa) for education and clean drinking water.

The Ripples

  • To date, their program "Kids Helping Kids: A Hip Hop Experience" has touched and changed more than 500 kids from New York, Haiti and Africa. They've raised more than $3,200 for education and school lunches in Port-Au-Prince and St.-Louis-du-Sud, Haiti. Attendance, grades and graduation rates have increased among KHK students.
  • Performed at the United Nations on Oct 17, 2013, for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
  • Invited to do a presentation about KHK at Gandhi's Ashram
  • Authors of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" asked KHK to produce and write a song for their national curriculum titled, "The Leader in Me."

  • But to feel the true impact of how this program changes and saves lives, you have to meet the kids and listen to their harrowing stories. Kids like Teriana Justin and Moise Morancy.

    Courtesy: KHK

    Moise enrolled in the program at a critical point in his life. When I met Moise a few months ago, it was hard to believe that just one year ago, he was an angry, violent, out-of-control teen. "I always used to get into a lot of fights and I thought that was a normal thing," Moise said.

    Throwing fits, fists and chairs was commonplace in his everyday life. Things got so bad, he threatened to hurt his high school principal. That's when a teacher told Moise about Chad and Johwell, who became the mentors and father figures Moise never had. They saw through Moise's tough exterior and sensed something special. "You can see it (passion) in his eyes," Johwell said. "He came into the program already an Internet sensation."

    Moise’s most popular YouTube video had more than 12,000 views. Still, Chad challenged him to go back to the positive roots of hip-hop and inspired him to take a positive spin on his music -- to produce from the heart, not what he hears on the airwaves. "There is a lot of negative language in that song but I thought, I want to challenge (him) to do a true hip-hop song," Chad said. The result was "Mommas Secret,” a story Moise was once was afraid to share with his friends about his mom living with HIV.

    When I asked Chad and Johwell why this unique program of using hip-hop to produce humanitarians works, they said, "Youth, they have so much energy and they have so much power and our formula harnesses that and gives it a platform."

    No matter who we are -- isn't that what every human being wants in life? To be seen, heard and felt.

    What's next for KHK? They just launched the program in Africa in Liberia and Ghana. Their next fundraiser is on April 12, 2014, with the goal of raising $3,500 for clean water.

    What can YOU do?!

    Take Action
    1. Learn more and support HipHopSavesLives.org

    2. To buy an album, go to: http://kidshelpingkids.bandcamp.com

    3. Collaborate artistically or use your talents to help Kids Helping Kids: A Hip Hop Experience.
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    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

    Join us & Go Inspire Go…

    February 25, 2014

    Super-Sizing Community Heroes with a Day of Giving

    By Kala Shah

    I can barely contain my excitement as I scurry around preparing for our big, upcoming Day of Giving event at Sun Valley School in San Rafael, Calif.

    The dreams I had when I started the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes club a little over a year and a half ago are really starting to manifest in so many amazing and unexpected ways. I had hoped that I could offer a platform to contemplate about how lucky we are and perhaps get a few kids involved in some modest service projects.

    The club has been meeting for 3½ semesters now, every other week over lunch break, during which we watch and discuss Go Inspire Go’s inspirational videos and brainstorm ways in which we can all give back -- no matter what our background or circumstance. These videos are touching, stirring, thought- and action-provoking. It is astounding the stories that Toan Lam has been able to produce with his band of loyal volunteers around the world.

    These videos provide the spark for the Community Hero kids, and then we go out and DO things. And we’ve done a lot! Many successful collection drives for coats, clothes, household supplies, toys, gifts and books support several local non-profits (Canal Alliance, Next Generation Scholars, Adopt a Family, Marin Community Clinic) that are serving those in need here in Marin County (believe me, despite what you think, there are plenty of people in need here).

    Every time I’ve put the word out to our awesome school community (with much help from my very supportive Parent Teacher Organization and school principal Julie Harris), the response has been overwhelming, Overflowing bins, checks, loose change, smiles, hugs and words of encouragement have kept me and the Community Heroes kids fueled and driven to want to do more.

    Well, my hopes and dreams are coming alive. The seeds of compassion and empathy have really started to sprout. These kids are enthusiastic, excited and have monstrous and ever-growing hearts! Their aspirations are so big and broad that they’ve been pushing to do even more -- more bake sales, more fun projects to help others. I was beginning to wonder how we could possible do it all.

    It’s funny how they’ve turned the tables on me -- THEY’RE driving ME to do more. So when I ran into my friend and fellow Sun Valley mom Ilene and she mentioned the Day of Giving a local Jewish Community Center conducts annually, we had an ah-ha moment. We could do this at our school! Take Community Heroes family-wide, school-wide and COMMUNITY-wide!

    Fast forward several months and here we are preparing for five awesome community service activities around our town on Sunday, March 2, for a DAY OF GIVING. We’ll meet on campus to rally the troops over coffee and juice and inspirational videos, and then head out in teams for various projects. Each of these projects was inspired by a Go Inspire Go video:

    * Cooking a hot lunch for Marin homeless families served by Homeward Bound of Marin, inspired by Jorge Munoz, Angel in Queens, N.Y.

    * Gardening work party with Canal Alliance’s Community Garden, inspired by Hands on Bay Area Be the Change

    * Making superhero capes for brave kids with cancer at Children's Hospital of Oakland (Calif.), inspired by Amy Pankratz, Wonder Capes, Sioux Falls, S.D.

    * Tidying and beautifying our campus and local parks, inspired by Go Inspire Go’s blog about helping change the ocean litter problem

    * Running multiple lemonade stands and bake sales around town to raise funds to cover expenses for all these great projects, inspired by Vivienne Harr, Make a Stand Lemonade

    After we complete our projects, we’ll reconvene at school to share experiences over pizza. Doesn’t all that just sound amazing?! So excited!

    Here are some pictures of the posters the kids made for the event. And from our sign-waving extravaganza at morning drop-off.








    Stay tuned for more pictures, videos and for more inspirational stories that will come from what is sure to be a GREAT DAY!!

    Watch out world, thanks to our LinkedIn for Good Social Innovation grant, we’re going to take this Community Heroes show on the road!

    Take action:

    1. Think about how to be the change in our own community. Be inspired by 5-year-old Phoebe Russell’s super-sized canned food drive.

    2. Think twice about how much an impact a young person can make. Be inspired by 12-year-old Thomas Ponce, animal activist.

    3. Start your own Community Heroes club at your child’s school. Stay tuned for more information soon on how or contact info@goinspirego.com.

    January 31, 2014

    Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero No. 3: 12-Year-Old Animal Rights Activist

    Did you make any resolutions? If so, how is it going meeting those goals?

    I choose not to make resolutions -- instead, I make aspirations. Resolutions make me feel that I have not met expectations and that's a very uninspiring way to start the year.

    I like to put a positive spin on goal-making, by setting aspirations. I hope to inspire you to challenge yourself to aspire to new heights. Take you to the next level -- YOU 2.0.

    I strive to be more organized, which includes Go Inspire Go syndication, to be more deliberate with carving out time with loved ones and to be less serious and have “fun” with every aspect of my life.

    Last year, I aspired to crowdfund and crowdsource Go Inspire Go stories. My team and I had an innovative and interactive goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states. It resulted in an extremely successful campaign, numerous blessings and new friendships. We traveled to New York, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Southern California to meet heroes through the support of our viewers. Thank you to everyone who made this journey possible.

    Please meet our third “50/50” hero, 12-year-old Thomas Ponce from Florida. He has a special gift of inspiring people to protect animals through his infectious poise and passion. He's the voice for creatures who can only meow, woof and (fill in your favorite animal sound here). Through his website, LobbyForAnimals.org, he teaches his global audience how to lobby for animal rights.


    I was in awe after meeting this accomplished tween, who has the poise of a seasoned elected official and a heart of gold. You just want to do something, anything, after hearing him speak. Nearly everyone Thomas touches says they were inspired to take action by his message: “Don't Just Dream of Change, Lobby for It!”


    See out how he inspired an animal rights lawyer in New York and lawmaker in Florida to help him help animals. Can we give him a high five helping hand? (Or at least a high five social media shout out here?) His goal: to educate people with the power to better and save the lives of animals.

    12-Year-Old Animal Rights Activist

    Who: Thomas Ponce
    What: Educates and Inspires People to Speak Up for Animals via LobbyForAnimals.org
    Where: Casselberry, Florida
    Why: Discovered his passion at age 4, after Mother gave him a chicken nugget




    The Catalyst

    Courtesy: Thomas Ponce
    Thomas Ponce from Casselberry, Fla., discovered his passion for protection animals at age 4. His inspiration? A chicken nugget. That's when Thomas' mom, Kim, served him chicken nuggets for the first time and told him they were made from chickens.

    “I made that two and two connection," Thomas said. "You know a chicken was killed to make a chicken nugget. I just decided I didn’t want to contribute to that cruelty anymore,” explaining his impetus for animal advocacy.


    The Act

    Courtesy: Thomas Ponce
    Thomas joined animal rights organizations and spent countless hours on the picket line -- all in the name of educating about animal protection and inspiring people to do what they can to alleviate animal cruelty.

    He took his passion for animal rights to the next level and is now teaching people how to lobby their politicians to protect animals through his website, www.lobbyforanimals.org.

    When Thomas attended the National Animal Rights conference in Washington D.C., he met animal rights attorney Jessica Astrof.

    "This young man raised his hand and asked us questions like, 'I need to know how I can get funding for my organization,' " Astrof said. "I was shocked to see that he looked like he was only 10 or 11 years old."

    The Ripples

    It's hard not to be persuaded by Thomas' infectious energy. His parents no longer eat meat. One former teacher says he no longer goes to the circus.

    "I chose to be vegan because I choose to live a compassionate cruelty free life, not just because I don’t want to eat meat. I try my hardest to bring as little harm to any living being as possible and that message is important to me to get out," Thomas said.

    Last year, Thomas presented research around shark finning to Florida State Senator David Simmons. The senator was inspired to draft a bill that would prohibit the possession, sale, trade, purchase, shipping, barter, exchange and distribution of shark fins. It is being reviewed by several committees.


    Thomas’ hope is that everyone his story touches will do something, anything in the name of animal rights.

    In the words of Thomas Ponce, “Don't Just Dream of Change, Lobby for It!”

    What can YOU do?!

    Take Action
    1. Learn more and support Lobby For Animals (www.lobbyforanimals.org)

    2. Be the change. Find legislative issues affecting animals in your state, county, city or local community. Call and write your lawmakers.

    3. Do whatever is in your power to take action against animal cruelty, testing and abuse.


                                                                               #   #   #
    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
    Join us & Go Inspire Go…

    December 31, 2013

    Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero No. 2: L.A. Man Loans Homeless Family House for a Year

    Happy New Year! What an amazing whirlwind it has been for us here at Go Inspire Go this year. How exciting is it that we've been getting more story ideas, producing more and creating more inspiring stories that spark action!

    Every year, instead of making resolutions, I prefer to do two simple things.

    First, count my blessings. It may be easier to write them down so you can physically see them. When you do this, you then realize how abundant your life is, no matter the circumstances.

    Here's my list:

    1. Most importantly my breath: We all have this to be thankful for
    2. Connections to people new and old - this is what we all need to be happy
    3. Health, started Crossfit and feeling fit inside and out
    4. Community, all of my 90+ volunteers who spend countless hours to bring you this content, my heart is full! Thank you.
    5. Simple everyday things: food, shelter, my comfy bed, warm laundry fresh out of the dryer, the faith that I am experiencing exactly what I'm supposed to be going through and am in the perfect place in my life (even though there are challenges, pain and growth) and loved ones who care for me, cry with me and laugh with me. (OK, that's more than five -- but there are so many things to be grateful for!)

    I dare you to make a list and check it twice mid-year to see what has blossomed.

    Second, time to take action and do one kind thing for someone else!

    We all can do one thing TODAY to make someone else's life better. Yes, YOU have the power to make a difference both big and small.

    Last year, my Go Inspire Go team and I had a crazy idea that has manifested ten-fold. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our second hero to you.

    This New Year, please count your blessings and do one kind act. Here's a story that will motivate and inspire you!

    Man Loans Homeless Family House for a Year 

    Who: Tony Tolbert, UCLA Lecturer & Attorney
    What: Offered Homeless Woman and her four children home for one year
    Where: Los Angeles
    Why: Inspired by Tony's Father and Family in Atlanta


    The Catalyst

    Many people we know do not believe or know how they can make a difference. "I don't have time" or "I don't have money” are common statements.

    It’s refreshing to meet people who seek ways to make a difference. People like Tony Tolbert, a UCLA lecturer and attorney in Los Angeles. Tony read an article that inspired him to think, "What can I do?" and decided to loan his house to a homeless family for one year.

    Tony says the seed of generosity was planted early on by his late father, James Tolbert, who always welcomed people (who weren't friends) to stay in their home. "I don't remember a time when there wasn't someone in need, staying in our home."  Tony says the story of Kevin and Hannah Salwen of Atlanta sparked action. The Salwens sold their 6,500 square foot house, downsized to a house half its size, and donated more than $800,000 from the proceeds. They wrote a book and named their project "The Power of Half."

    “It struck a chord, a visceral emotion," Tony explained. He posed the same challenge to himself that we ask at the end of all of our Go Inspire Go videos and blogs: "What can YOU do?"

    Tony's response will inspire you to ask yourself this question and take action.

     The Act

    Tony decided to give his home - no strings attached, to someone in need for a dollar a month. At age 51, Tony moved back with his mom and gave up his home to a homeless woman and her four children for a full year. "I thought he was out of his right mind," Tony's mom Marie said emphatically.

    The lucky recipient, Felicia Dukes, a single mother of four, couldn't believe that a stranger could be so generous. Her youngest daughter was one when they were living on the streets. Dukes explained that she fell behind on her bills when she gave birth to her daughter. She turned to Alexandria House, a transitional shelter, but her eldest son, Kima, was unable to live with them because of an age limit. Tony felt Felicia and her family were a great fit because they could live together in his home.

    He offered the fully furnished three-bedroom, two-bath home in southwest Los Angeles. “Let this be home for a year," Tony said. "It’s yours do what you want, decorate it, enjoy your space.”

    Tony says this experiment in generosity taught him many life lessons. See how Tony’s gesture taught him and Felicia the real meaning of "home."


    The Ripples

    Stories of giving are infectious and so are the ripple effects. Both Tony and Felicia grew personally and spiritually from this experience. We are excited that Felicia is ready mentally and fiscally to move forward. When people heard about Tony's kind act, they also asked themselves, “What can I do?”

    Here are just a few ripples that continue to billow out:
    - Felicia and her family have moved out of Tony's home are now living in an apartment on their own.
    - Personal performance coach Orlando Bishop with Align Performance voluntarily meets with Felicia to help her identify and achieve her personal and professional goals.
    - A dentist learned about this story and donates dental services to Felicia and her family.
    - Charysse Tia Harper, with Xplore the World, was inspired to create a documentary on Tony's story. Her crew followed Dukes and her family around for a year.

     Tony says he will give his home to another homeless family in 2014. He hopes his story will inspire you too. “Most of us want to contribute to something beyond ourselves. Sometimes it requires a reminder that the way we treat people and what we do in the world actually matters,” Tony said.

    He hopes even more people will be inspired to give what they can this new year.

    "You don't have to be a billionaire to make a difference." Tony explained. "We all have something to give to make a contribution to someone else's life. What we do does matter."

    Yes, YOU matter. YOU can make a difference. The first step is doing something. All big ripples start from a single action. What can YOU do in 2014 to better the world? We hope this story hit home in your heart. We want to hear about it in the comments section.

    Meanwhile, we leave you with this quote from the late Nelson Mandela: "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

    What can YOU do?!

    Take Action
    1. Learn more about Alexandria House and support its great work in helping women and children move from a transitional shelter into permanent housing.
    2. Consider what you can contribute (time, skills, resources) that might make a difference in someone else's life.
    3. Give or share something (little or big) with someone today.

                                                                               #   #   #
    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
    Join us & Go Inspire Go…

    December 20, 2013

    Community Heroes Adopt a Family Holiday Initiative

    By Kala Shah

    As a mother of three, I try my best to maintain perspective around the holidays and not lose track of what they’re really all about. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the year-end hustle and bustle — last-minute gift buying, parties, parking hassles, travel logistics and yes, inevitably STRESS.

    I feel so fortunate to have the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes club to remind me to be present and keep focused on the important stuff — gratitude for family, friends and taking care of those who need a hand. I started the club at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif., back in the fall of 2012 along with Toan Lam of Go Inspire Go to provide a platform for kids in my community to foster compassion and act to give back locally. Oh my, what a wonderful ride it’s been ever since!

    For our holiday initiative, we teamed up with Adopt a Family of Marin, a great local organization that helps stabilize struggling families in Marin County, Calif., going through difficult circumstances. AAF provides essential safety-net services to these families — short-term financial assistance for housing, food vouchers, counseling. Around the holidays, they match families with those in the community who want to help ease their burden.

    Santa's minivan ready to deliver to Adopt a Family. (Photo by Kala Shah)
    The Community Heroes kids were so excited to adopt two families: the Abundants and the Angelics (names changed). Dulce Abundant wears many hats. As a hard-working mom of a 3-year-old daughter, Bella Danielle, she holds down a full-time job AND is a full-time student. Needless to say, the Abundants live on a very tight budget. Dulce is making her way toward a brighter future, waiting for the day she graduates and is able to provide a better life for her daughter.

    Abrenna Angelic, mom to energetic twin 2-year old boys (bless her heart, I remember those days!), recently lost her job and is waiting for unemployment benefits to kick in. She had no idea how she was going to pay her rent, much less get winter coats for herself or her sons. Being accepted into AAF’s holiday program has given Abrenna hope that she’ll make it through this rough period in her life and even have a merry Christmas with her boys.

    The Community Heroes kids really want to know these families’ stories and understand what they’re experiencing. They care so much! We’ve talked about how these are real people, living in our very own town, and how we can all go through tough times and need a hand. My heart swelled when one of the kids said with conviction, “That could be ME. It could be any of us.” Yes, this forum is working! It’s not about us and them. We’re ALL human beings who need to look out for each other — especially when times are tough.

    Coach Chad and the Community Hero elves hard at work. (Photo by Kala Shah)
    I shared the Abundants’ and Angelics’ wish lists with the school community and WOW!!! What an overwhelming response! Every time I checked the collection bin, it was filled to the brim with everything from household essentials like detergent, lotion and pots and pans to warm and fuzzy coats, hats and mittens, new clothes for the moms and some great toys for the three little toddlers. Way to open your hearts and your wallets, Sun Valley families! You have shown once again what an amazingly generous and kind-hearted community in which I am blessed to live.

    The day of our end-of-semester party, the kids burst into the multi-purpose room, so ready to wrap presents and make cards for these families!. Many didn’t even want to eat lunch (I made them do so, anyway). The Ho-Ho-Ho paper and bows were soon flying — such a happy buzz in the air! Our awesome principal Julie Harris walked in, took a deep breath and summed it up. “WOW, this is amazing!” she said.

    More kids than ever before showed up — at least 70 kids gave up their lunchtime to be a part of this happy celebration. We talked again about these families and how lucky we are to be able to help and how we will continue to help others throughout the year. Thanks to the great parents who showed up to pitch in as well as our beloved physical education coach Chad, we had all these presents wrapped and ready to deliver in our Santa minivan!

    Happily, the Abundant and Angelic families will have gifts under their Christmas trees! (Photo by Kala Shah)
    The Community Heroes club has been going gangbusters for a year and a half now. We’re getting bigger and gaining traction as more kids participate and more parents help out. I’m thrilled and honored to report that we’ve just received a LinkedIn for Good Social Innovation grant to replicate and scale the Community Heroes program! Watch out world, very soon our Community Heroes are gonna be making the world a much better place near YOU!

    This stuff is contagious, I tell ya! It’s clear there’s a hunger these young kids have to give back. Just imagine the impact these kids will be making by the time they’re in high school. I’m so proud to be able to shepherd these wonderful students and to grow along with them. I can’t wait for all the great things to come in the new year. Happy Holidays and many blessings to you and yours!

    Interested in starting your own Community Heroes club? --Stay tuned for a curriculum and tool kit to get one started in your school! Thanks again, LinkedIn for Social Good! --Check out these videos for inspiration about the power kids have to start movements in their communities: Matthew Kaplan and the Be O.N.E Anti-Bullying Project and 5-year-old Phoebe Russell’s super-sized canned food drive.

    November 19, 2013

    Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero No. 1: The Be O.N.E. Project

    Drum roll please... What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our first hero to you!

    The Be O.N.E. Project

    Who: Matthew Kaplan, 16-years-old
    What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools
    Where: Phoenix
    Why: It's cool to be kind!


    The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

    Two years ago, when Matthew Kaplan's kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. "One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken," Matthew said. "He started to withdraw and wasn't himself anymore."

    Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like "you suck". What made things worse -- he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible," Josh said. "I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

    Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be O.N.E. (Open to New Experiences) Project.

    The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

    But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that "the damage" is done by that age. "It's been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school -- that's when they're figuring out their sense of self," Matthew said.

    Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. "What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. "What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

    The Be O.N.E. Project is a "positive peer pressure" program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There's joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

    The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: "When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____."

    “The Be O.N.E.” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and "Be One" to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

    At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

    Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action -- you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:



    The Ripples: Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program.

    We spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

    "If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it and delete it and say something nice." -Sam, 14, 8th grader

    "A group of 6th graders that didn't go through the program, they're like the popular kids, now they're bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways." -Kayla, 11, 6th grader

    "I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new friends this way." -Anonymous

    Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

    What can YOU do?!


    Take Action:

    1. Support The Be O.N.E. Project
    2. Be the O.N.E. to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school: thebeoneproject@gmail.com
    3. Learn more about what YOU can do!


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    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
    Join us & Go Inspire Go…

    November 14, 2013

    50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey

    What started out as a crazy idea is about to become a reality. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our first hero to you next week. But read on, and we'll give you a sneak peek.

    The seed of this journey was planted five years ago with a gut feeling. You know, that nagging feeling that you should've, would've or could've done something to solve a problem that you’ve observed in your community?

    While reporting for a San Francisco TV news station, that pang continuously nudged me and I responded by creating stories that inspired people to action. The idea was so audacious, ambitious and effervescent.

    Change is scary. How would I pay bills, bridge the professional gap in my resume and explain to others?

    Fast forward five years later… I made the leap and started Go Inspire Go, which keeps growing and going.

    We've produced more than 60 videos, more than 90 people or "GIGSTERS" globally have contributed to sharing stories of heroes and impact. Through our life-changing stories of viewers who discovered their power to help those we've featured. Collectively, my team and I have spent countless volunteer hours researching, coding, designing graphics and producing more than $1 million dollars worth of story content.

    There's a lot more work to do.

    After many conversations with family, friends and mentors, I saw patterns and created an algorithm: find everyday heroes, spend time to get to know them, tell their stories in an authentic way and leverage social media to inspire action (there are action items at the end of all of our blogs and videos).

    Earlier this year, my team and I had an organic idea to take Go Inspire Go to the next level: leverage the power of the people through crowdsource funding to produce and highlight more stories. Our goal: to uncover 50 heroes in 50 states, where we shine a spotlight on everyday heroes. Our 50/50 campaign will spotlight an inspirational symbol of inspiration, kindness and generosity.


    The target was to raise $25,000 to create the first batch of stories. Thanks to you and our fabulous team and volunteers (about 45 people), we raised $35,000.

    I'm overwhelmed and humbled as I count the miracles and blessings that continue to unfold: the story ideas you send to us, the people that show up to volunteer just when we need them, and the energy you’re sending our way.

    Through Twitter we met Alissa Hauser with The Pollination Project (TPP), an innovative organization that gives seed grants -- $1,000 to individual change-makers every day of the year. Yup, every day! We just had to join forces to hook up our first hero. Oh the power of 140 characters!

    What's the story? Well, you’ll have to wait and see, hear and feel all the details. We launch on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Here's a tease: It involves a teenager, peer pressure for good, anti-bullying and the battle against teenage social media mayhem.

    This story will change lives. It will save lives. It will also inspire some fun and compassion.

    This journey could be summed up in two of my favorite quotes:

    "Once you know, you can't pretend you don't." - Oprah

    I know that there are everyday heroes out there who need a little boost. Likewise, viewers like you need a nudge to discover your inner superhero so you can take action. Go Inspire Go bridges the gap by entertaining, empowering and inspiring action.

    "Oh the places you'll go…" - Dr. Seuss

    So what are you waiting for? There are too many heroes to ignore. Won’t you join us now? You’ll somehow discover how. Hit share if you care, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment won’t you dare?!

    Now that you know… Wontcha join us? Go Inspire Go…

    October 19, 2013

    The Power to Change Lives by Sharing Your Life Story

    That's me 2-yo (#12) digging for gold!
    Everybody has a story. And oh boy did they come out this week.

    It's a bit ironic that the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership team asked me to come speak at their Summit in Atlanta, Georgia to more than 500 outstanding high school students and past Coca-Cola Scholars about storytelling (and about my story, how I started my non-profit Go Inspire Go, and how to discover YOUR story and tell it in an impactful way) because my own story had a sordid start.

    Growing up, I never thought my story mattered. My parents had a bustling construction business in Saigon, Vietnam, but just after the fall of Saigon in the late 1970s, my parents left everything behind to bring me, my two sisters, brother and other family members to America with the hope that we would one day achieve "The American Dream."

    With four dollars in their pockets and a wealth of hopes and wide-eyed dreams, we ended up in an undesirable south Sacramento neighborhood. Our first home was the epitome of a humble abode. All 10 of us crammed into a trailer in a trailer park. When I tell people this story, they gasp. On the contrary, "We were so happy!" my mom says in her broken English with a smile. "You have chance for education and freedom."

    That said, I was flummoxed when I got so much backlash from my parents when I told them I wanted to study journalism. I didn't feel free the freedom to express my love for reading, writing and telling stories.

    Insert mom's broken English voice in my head: "Be doctor, lawyer, engineer. You make good money." That was my parents' wish for me. I chose option No. 4 -- failure in their eyes. Against their behest, I became a journalist.

    I would read everything I could get my hands on. I remember reading the back of a shampoo bottle in my best broadcaster's voice as the droplets of water beat against my back in the shower. "Rinse, lather, repeat."

    In elementary school, I won a reading contest -- the prize, a lunch date with Judy Blume, my favorite author. I devoured every single children's book I could borrow from the library and read them aloud, pretending that I was the characters -- each one of them had a unique voice created by my imagination. Books were my passport out of the daily realities of life.

    I didn't think my story, my voice or I mattered until college. (See video below for the validation and inspiration to pursue my passion.)

    Me speaking at the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit

    Back to my talk at the leadership summit… my session quickly filled up so I was asked to give the same presentation twice. I later found out that more people wanted to attend the talks, however each session was booked!

    I conducted an exercise on how to discover your passion (or at least start to find that spark). The goal of this talk was to reach inside their hearts and minds, tap them and say, “I see you. Your story matters. Sharing is caring. Then, be brave enough to share it to the world in a streamlined, interesting and memorable way.”

    Thanks to my volunteer Barbara Grandvoinet, who shot and edited this video of the presentation for those of you who missed it:



    My goal and intention for this talk was threefold -- to serve the audience by:

    1. Awakening their passion
    2. Inspiring them to discover their power (and eventually use it to help others)
    3. Empowering them to be vulnerable and courageous enough to tell their story.

    Like me, many people don't think their story mattered at all. You matter. Yes, YOU!

    Gettin' real. Amazing dialogue. Stories start pouring out. Get the tissues.

    I could feel the audiences' energy and through their facial expressions and body language, I was sure they felt mine. It was like seeing many lightbulbs illuminating brighter within the audience. I will never forget the effervescent vibes in the air --  the courage, strength and hope from the stories people shared with me in the hotel lobby, during breakfast and on the bus lifted me.

    One woman told me, "Thank you for sharing your story. It made me realize how important it is to share my story." I asked her what her takeaway was from the talk. She said it was the part where I encouraged them to "be vulnerable" and be brave -- share your story. She told me she used to have a brain tumor but didn't tell many people.

    She continued telling me why she kept tight-lipped and why she now feels empowered to share her story with others. I felt the liberation as she continued telling me her story, each word spoken with more confidence. I asked her if I was the first stranger she told her story to. She said, "Yes," smiling and proud. We hugged. With a sense of her newfound courage, she said, "Thank you for inspiring me to share my story. I will always remember your words and stories for the rest of my life."

    At breakfast the next morning, a young Hmong woman approached me. She was a bit timid and very soft-spoken. "Thank you for telling your story," she told me, wiping away a tear behind her black-rimmed eyeglasses. "I really connected with your story about hiding your passion. I've been running away from my community for as long as I can remember."

    She explained that she is proud of her culture, but believes that many people she's met in her culture/community don’t share the same sense of pride. "My people hate on each other. I want to help, but I don't know why I keep running away. I want to find a way to help them."

    I was touched that she shared her story with me and was brave enough to admit that she didn't have all the answers. I realized that she too had an "ah-ha!" moment. I was honored that I was the first person to whom she admitted her shame and confusion. I told her that telling her story was a start to this journey. She was on her way.

    What's YOUR story? We want to know! Share in the comments section.

    Every single Coca-Cola Scholar I met was dynamic in his or her own unique way. All of them seemed to share the spirit of service, education and community.

    While en route to the closing night dinner at the Coca-Cola Museum, I met a young lady from central California who was bummed that she didn't get to attend one of my sessions. I recapped some highlights of the talk and she shared her story about her love for telling other people's stories. I didn't realize the impact that I had on her. The next morning, I awoke to an email:

    "Meeting you on the bus was the most incredible privilege I had this weekend. Your words ministered hope and faith in my life and set the tone for a great night. Thank you for taking the time."

    This weekend was #epic! I realized that through the audience's stories, my story mattered more than I could even fathom.

    I felt lifted by the words you all shared.

    Please share YOUR story below.

    Onward!

    *   *   *
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    October 3, 2013

    Calling ALL Heroes! Are You Our Thanksgiving Hero?

    Bravery and courage come from not dwelling on what there is to fear.

    Had I known what I know today or had a glimpse into how my life has unfolded, I would have been scared of change — afraid to step up to my calling.

    My dream was to be a TV reporter in a large market, report/host a show on PBS (that's what sparked my imagination and how I learned to speak English) and the end goal… to teach at the university level.

    Little did I know, my goals would be fast-tracked and met before age 30. After eight years of reporting the news, I gave it all up and through a series of “mistakes” led me to a unique career path.

    When I started Go Inspire Go five years ago, I was disillusioned by my TV news reporting job and took a huge leap of faith and quit what I thought was my dream job. I wanted to use my power of storytelling and connecting people to inspire others to discover and use their power to help others.

    I am humbled that one by one, an amazing global team of more than 80 volunteers has joined our movement… and the impact has rippled out from the U.S. and beyond the pond.

    This past summer, Go Inspire Go successfully launched its 50/50 campaign to profile 50 everyday heroes in 50 states and we are scouring America to uncover a real life hero in your state.

    We're inviting you to join us on this next leg of our journey, to uncover 50 inspiring heroes in 50 states.



    Along the way, we found The Pollination Project on Twitter. We just knew we had to cross-pollinate the amazing energy – so we joined forces to kick off our 50/50 journey to hook up a deserving everyday street-corner style hero with a supersized grant and shower him/her with lots of social media love. #WonderTwinOrgsActivate

    We plan to unveil the first hero this Thanksgiving holiday so we need your help!


    That’s what the true spirit of Thanksgiving is all about. We are looking for an everyday hero (or group of heroes) whose social change work is rooted in gratitude, generosity and love.

    We're excited to announce that our friends at The Pollination Project have stepped up and will give a $1,000 grant to our first Hero. The Pollination Project has had a banner first year of funding a grant each day to individual social change-makers.

    Will that hero be YOU? Will it be someone you know? HELP! Here's what we're looking for … apply now… time is running out.

    Are you our Thanksgiving Hero?

    50/50 Hero perks:
    • A $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project to use for your social change project
    • A local and national media push to promote your grant
    • A three to five minute video that highlights the person or organization and their project. This video can be used for future grant applications or promotion on your website for crowdfunding campaigns and other creative uses
    • Widespread video distribution via The Pollination Project and Go Inspire Go's blogs and social media platforms
    • Home page placement on The Pollination Project's and Go Inspire Go's websites.

    We look forward to meeting you and/or your hero, sharing your story and inspiring other heroes to use their power to uplift you and your cause. We are grateful for you! #ThankYou

    Take action:
    1. Learn more & Apply here
    2. Share your story
    3. Get your friends and supporters involved: Email, tweet, Facebook away. Remember to use #SeedTheChange and #gig5050

    Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

    September 10, 2013

    GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT: Inspiring All Girls to Be Strong, Smart & Bold

    Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

    GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT: Girl's Inc. of Alameda County - Inspiring All Girls to be Strong, Smart & Bold

    Compiled by Koshi Sandrasagra

    What is Girls Incorporated (Girls Inc.)?
    Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire all girls to be strong (through healthy living), smart (through education) and bold (through independence). Founded in 1958, Girls Inc. offers academic enrichment activities, skill-building programs and counseling services to girls and their families.

    Girls Inc. of Alameda County provides year-round academic achievement and skills-building programs, as well as counseling services to more than 7,500 girls and families.

    Photos courtesy of Girls Inc.

    What’s the inspiration behind the organization?
    Girls Inc. believes that generations are transformed when girls are equipped with knowledge, information and confidence. Girls ages 5-18 are engaged in a continuum of award-winning programs, developing the essential skills and tools they need for college, career and life success.


    How does it work?
    The process: Girls Inc. begins with teaching the foundations of literacy and they support girls developmentally with each milestone along the way. This includes focus on academic achievement, positive risk taking, health and fitness, advocacy, leadership and more. The organization is unique in that they focus on serving the whole girl and her family as well, by providing on-site mental health counseling among all of the other programs offered. Their nationally-developed programs are the result of studies conducted by the Girls Incorporated National Resource Center – the largest and most comprehensive research center on girls in the country.


    Spotlight on Major Accomplishments (to name just a few!):
  • 100 percent of Girls Inc. seniors graduate from high school (compared to less than 60 percent of their peers) and in the last five years, 98.2 percent of seniors have enrolled in college (most of whom are the first in their families to do so).

  • More than 1,500 girls across the country have participated in technology and literacy curricula initially developed by Girls Inc. of Alameda County.

  • Named by the Clinton Global Initiative as one of the 13 programs that “will improve the lives of girls and women around the world.”

  • Received the United Nation’s East Bay’s 6th Annual Global Citizen Award

  • Personal Victories:
  • In Spring 2012, Arooj Haq, who was an active participant in Girls Inc. programs from early elementary school though high school graduation, was inducted into Alameda County’s Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in public health and advocating for human rights. In Girls Inc. Arooj, at 17, promoted nutrition, smart choices and healthy relationships to her high school peers, and helped run her school's annual blood drive. The daughter of two Pakistani immigrants, Arooj has long aspired to be a nurse. A recent trip to the Middle East caused her to expand her aspirations, however. Her goal now is to one day open a charity helping women in her parents' native country. As a young Muslim woman, Arooj has had some negative experiences due to others' ignorance and stereotyping. The experiences only bolster her determination to be a positive role model and to redefine cultural assumptions. She now attends U.C. Santa Barbara!

  • Two Eureka! Teen Achievement Program high school participants were invited to the 2012 White House Science Fair based on their solar bus design and met President Barack Obama.

  • The New Girls Inc. Simpson Center for Girls
    Girls Inc. of Alameda County has unveiled new headquarters to become the region’s first and only resource center for girls. The new center is located at 510 16th St in Downtown Oakland, and will effectively allow Girls Inc. to respond to the increasing demand for their critical programs.

    The genius of the design for the center is not just that it revitalizes a historic building, but that it began with Girls Inc. participants!

    Girls from the Eureka! Teen Achievement Program met with Berkeley-based Anne Phillips Architecture and spearheaded the project – getting regular project updates, providing design input and ideas to create a green, sustainable facility and making key decisions on efficient fixtures and design.

    The end result is a flexible design concept that will support expanded programs and services, including:

  • Learning and education – Expanded space for high school girls to build skills in leadership, advocacy and peer education.

  • Physical and mental health – a vibrant health and wellness center and teaching kitchen, with a focus on cooking, nutrition, a yoga center and the Pathways Center for counseling.

  • Academic Achievement and Enrichment – Early learning, tutoring, college prep and career guidance, a library, study areas and Internet cafĂ©.

  • Take Action:
    In the media era where young women are bombarded with conflicting messages and values (think The Notorious B.I.G. singing about “Nasty Girl” and reality TV stars and pop idols making sex tapes to get famous) – there is a very real need to give young women a sense of pride, self-worth and purpose. Girls Inc. is providing a very real service in communities that need it; giving young girls the building blocks to create their futures, rather than having a future thrust upon them through poverty and a lack of education or opportunity.

    Get involved by joining the Girls Inc. strong, smart & bold campaign and help them change the world: one girl, one family, one community at a time.

    Become a volunteer, join our Girls Inc. Friends & Family and donate, become a Women of Impact member or partner with Girls Inc.!

    There are so many opportunities to help us change the world, one girl at a time. Get involved!