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Send in Your Knickers! The Bra Bank Appeal

The mission of The Social Effect is: through the Internet and through Social Media platforms, to help each other connect, learn from one another, and share information to make change in our communities where and when it is needed.
Back in August I came across a Tweet from BraBankAppeal that said:
Determined to make a change for Africa’s females, arm them with bras and new found security need support and advice…
And so I asked BraBankAppeal, what they wanted to do exactly and to see if there was a way to help.
The answer?
At the moment I want awareness of the issue and of my Project so that when the time comes to start collecting underwear people will respond.
So I did a little digging and found out that there was a Facebook Page and what the Bra Bank Appeal is all about.
I also sent a direct message to Beth, the woman behind The Bra Bank Appeal, and we started to exchange emails. In learning what Beth was doing, I wanted to help if I could.
Here is an interview I did with Bethany Staff about her project The Bra Bank Appeal.

What is The Bra Bank Appeal?
The Bra Bank Appeal is a small project I started before I went to Uganda to work in an AIDS orphanage in July. It aims to collect underwear, the new and old, (the decent and the not so decent) to send to countries in the third world (Uganda to start with) to protect their women from sexual abuse.

Why did you start this project and where did you come up with the name?
A few months before going to Uganda I was desperately researching ‘what Uganda needs’ so that I could do my bit, no matter how small to take something with me… I managed to find a website which listed the order of which the containers (full of used goods) that are sent to Africa are emptied: shoes were first (I thought this was fairly obvious) then second was bras… I was intrigued by this and did some further research and found out that women who wear underwear are less likely to be raped. Also, bras sell for roughly three times the cost price (more than any other used item) and so were very much so a luxury item. So I spoke to my amazingly artistic best friend who designed lovely posters, I revamped card-board boxes I was given by local shops in to hot pink ‘Bra Banks’. I got the mums of friends to put posters in their work place and store bras in their car boot and posters and Banks placed all around my college, local schools and the local tourist information office, I had an advert in the local newspaper, I was mentioned on peoples twitter accounts, I walked around local clothing outlets and begged for help and I just watched the message spread. The response was phenomenal!
The name, I knew it would be the bra … something! So I rattled around a few ideas ‘Bras for Uganda’, ‘The Bra Box’ I finally settled on ‘The Bra Bank Appeal’ as I felt it was simple, like the cause, nothing fancy – it’s a necessity that we take so for granted and sexual abuse is a subject close to every women’s heart. So it simply had to succeed! Well, that’s what I had to tell myself during the first few quiet weeks!

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am 18 years old and I am studying the International Baccalaureate in Cornwall (UK). I hope next September to go on to study Economics and Spanish at university. My ultimate dream is to forge links between western governments and successful organization and those in South America to try to improve their economies and give advice to businesses. Basically when I was little, I decided I was going to change the world, now I’m just trying to climb that ladder!

It looks like you want to affect change in our world – why?
This question looks complicated but it’s actually very easy! Someone has to, so why not me?

Do you think this is everyone’s responsibility?
I think everyone should try to do their bit, even if saving the world isn’t on the top of your priority list, there are so many things that you can do to help! For example, it astounds me every time I get on public busses how very few people will give up their seat for the elderly or a child anymore! Little things you do can just keep the world ticking over a little more smoothly.

Is changing the world your goal?
In an ideal world – of course! In reality, so I don’t feel like I’m not achieving anything, I’d prefer to say that making a difference is my ultimate goal. Whether that is to one person or to an entire country, it’s still an improvement! If I protected one girl/woman from a sexual attack with the underwear I took with me then I will sleep easy! But there’s always more you can do…

What do you find most challenging about your project?
I’d have to say before I went to Uganda, were the critics. I know every notion of change will always face criticism, but people said that I was naïve (which with my age, I expected), that I had not researched this enough and that by giving the Ugandan women and girls underwear I would encourage prostitution and rape and men would see it as ‘an exciting challenge!’ Needless to say I was outraged and informed the relevant people that I was incredibly and personally offended that someone would accuse me of encouraging the very thing I set out to prevent!
Today it is the day to day running of the social networking, juggling this project around the floods of college work, a family life, a social life and working part-time is a definite challenge!

Tell me about some of the people you have met doing this that have had an effect on you.
Being in Uganda itself was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life! For me the most memorable people along the way were some of the ladies I gave underwear to, I asked all the orphans of bra wearing age, the ‘mamas’ (a women is in charge of each orphan house on the village) their daughters and the women of the village to come and choose themselves some underwear one afternoon when we covered our ‘Mission House’ with underwear. The women who were unable to attend that afternoon I invited to come any time before then. One girl who was my age came to me excitedly one afternoon, bringing with her, her mother and the mama who had been cooking for us during our stay. I showed them all to my room and opened some of the massive bags of underwear, the mother stripped off down to her knickers and proceeded to try as many bras on as she could, the mama looked down at her chest then grabbed my boobs, thought for a second then said: “Yes, I think I’m your size help me find things that would fit you!” And the girl burst into tears and told me that God had finally had mercy and that may I be blessed. Unforgettable!

What do you do when you are not working on the Bra Bank Appeal?
Generally, college work! I do also work in a wine bar, sing, meet friends, play the guitar, spend time with my family spend time with my boyfriend. To be honest I’m just your average teenager!

Is The Bra Bank Appeal full time?
I wish it could be but I’m strong believer in education and it being the key to everything else I want to do with my life.

What networking do you do to help get more goods?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter, I’m probably a disappointment to my generation but I really don’t know where to start with these things! My heart’s in the right place though!

Did you have a strategy when you started this project?
Ha! This is where I wish I could regurgitate some very complex strategic plan to you… No I really didn’t at all, it was a cause that I believed spoke for itself so just went for it and kept my fingers crossed! (This probably is not recommendable to others thinking of starting something similar!)

What is your greatest fear?
Failure. Failure in anything and everything, when I choose to do something I put so much of myself into it, I really put my heart and soul into everything I do!

What is your mission?
To have done everything in my power, to arm as many woman and girls with underwear, to help to protect them in the never-ending battle against sexual assaults.

What is your goal?
To forge links with organizations that are able to help me to transport bras and knickers across the globe, safely and directly into the hands of those who need them most.

What has been your greatest challenge so far?
Besides carrying home bin bags full of underwear (which are very heavy I’ll have you know) every day? Definitely dealing with the criticism, I remember bursting into tears when I was criticized, it makes you doubt everything you are doing!

You had an idea to help others, what gave you the push to take that first step, what would you suggest to anyone else who had an idea to help others?
Definitely, having a brilliant cause for doing it! If I had an obscure issue that not many people could relate to then it would have crashed and burned. My advice would be to do your research, be able to fire back answers to any questions you could be asked and above all else, have a damn good cause that you are passionate about – and don’t be ashamed to show how important the cause is to you, people will follow a worthy cause!

Do you ever feel like giving up?
Not give up, but not bother to do more… yes everyday! We all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and have a seemingly never-ending list of things to do, but then I remember the overwhelming feeling of crying with woman after woman while they pray and thank the lord for the underwear I brought them. I have never been a theist myself but their faith was astonishing. Also I remember playing with a tiny little boy on a woven mat; his mother was kicked out of her home after falling pregnant due to being gang-raped on the way to collecting water for her family. She was 14 years old. So no, I won’t let myself give up.

What do you consider your greatest achievement (s) so far?
Getting over 2000 items of underwear to Uganda without exceeding baggage allowances!

Who are your heroes?
The 14 year old girl I have previously mentioned who had to mature beyond her years to live alone, caring and providing for her little boy. She is a beautiful mother.
Also an elderly woman I met in Uganda who has a paralyzed torso and walks on her toes and knuckles, she cares for her four grandchildren in a small mud hut. All of her children died due to AIDS.

What would you like to be remembered for?
For helping people when they needed help, for making people happy when times are hard, for giving, advising and for being someone that people would turn to.

Where do you see The Bra Bank Appeal in 6 months or a year from now?
I would love for ‘The Bra Bank Appeal’ to be a flourishing charity with underwear being sent all over the world with various organizations who would offer to help. Not making a penny but making a difference.

The philosophy at The Social Effect is it only takes one person to affect the world and that person is each one of us. We must make a cultural shift to see the possibilities we each hold and to learn first to give and to help each other, which in turn will help those around us. Beth and her project illustrates this perfectly. Thank you Beth for all that you are doing to help others.

If you would like to help Beth and her Project I would encourage you to ‘LIKE’ The Bra Bank Appeal Facebook page, click here.
If you are on Twitter, follow the BraBankAppeal, click here.
You may also contact Beth at ourbras@hotmail.co.uk

(All photos are the property of The Bra Bank Appeal)

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Silence is Golden

Every morning I get on my iPad and I read the newspapers, go through Twitter and then check Facebook – first my personal page and then the other pages that I am administrator for, one of which is The Social Effect. About a week ago, as I was scrolling through the Newsfeed for The Social Effect I came across a post about a Flash Mob Meditation in London. I happen to be a fan of Flash Mobs. I have wanted to take part in one or stage one for years. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched the Oprah Flash Mob in Chicago or the Sound of Music Flash Mob in the train station in Belgium. I am not sure exactly what it is about them, the reference to old style musicals when everyone would break into dance, the simple joy of the onlookers, or is it just that they are a lot of fun! When I saw this idea of meditation and a flash mob THAT caught my intention. Yes, meditation is part of my life. When I am consistent it is morning and night, and when I am not, it is when it is. That simple. To put the two together seemed genius to me. I checked out the site for Med Mob Inquire Within that was the parent organization to see if there was a Meditation Flash Mob in Montreal and found there was only one in Ottawa.
It was almost before I knew it that I had typed and posted an inquiry on the MedMob page to ask how I could go about setting this up in Montreal. By noon that day I had spoken to Patrick in Austin Texas and heard his story about how the first Mediation Flash Mob had started, and by noon the next day, with Patrick’s help, I had a Facebook page and a Facebook event set up. If that does not show you the power of the Internet when we are willing to take action, I don’t know what does!

Is this not the time to create the world we choose to live in?

On July 28th, over 94 cities around the world will meditate in highly visible public spaces. The intention is to expose the world to meditation and expand positivity to every walk of life.
It is an event that is open to everyone, from every path, experienced or not. This is a movement that is happening throughout the entire world so we come together as one unified force to set the momentum for the future of our planet.

Right Here Right Now

Meditation Flash Mob - Montreal

The future of our planet?
Those are big words.
Huge words.
But think about it.
What if.
All over the world.
At the same time.
Everywhere.
We just.
STOPPED.
All of us.
Just for an hour.
And we sat in meditation.
Or silence.
Or as quietly as we could.
What would happen?
What would we hear?
We will never know until we do it will we?

“I can’t meditate!”

That is what I thought. But that is why they call it the practice of meditation. It is not something we perfect; it is something that we do.  And when I do it, I am surprised at what I hear or learn about myself. Not always what I want to hear, and often I don’t learn anything. I always do come away a little quieter, with a little more space and patience and a lot more love for whom and what is around me.  I started meditation as I went down a Buddhist path a few years ago, but mediation is part of all religions, some of our western religions just hide it better than others.  Now it is part of my life and has no religious implications for me. It doesn’t need to for you either.

So why don’t you join us as we mediate on Thursday, July 28thfrom 12 to 1 in Dorchester Square in Montreal?

Dorchester Square - Montreal

You aren’t in Montreal?
Then see if your city is having a Med Mob and mediate there.
There isn’t one?
You are working and can’t make it?
Sit in silence wherever you are. That works too.
Or do what I did: START ONE. Contact Patrick at inquire@medmob.org.

Spread the Word

Now, I have a favour to ask. I would like to get more people out to our first mediation next week. I have shared the event with all of my friends and many of those attending have done the same. If you are on Facebook, would you share it with your friends? Even if they are not in Montreal. Maybe they have a friend that is, or it will pique their interest and they will find the MedMob going on in their city.

Here is how you do it.

  1. Click on this link: Meditation Flash Mob Montreal 28/07/11
  2. On the top right click: I Am Attending
  3. On the left under the photo you will see a box that says +Select Guests to Invite – click on it.
  4. A box will pop up with all of your friends. Click on their photos, add a personal message at the bottom if you like and then click submit. It’s that simple.

Right now we are at 40 Attending, 48 Maybe and 466 Awaiting Reply. It would be amazing to see 100 attending and 1000+ Awaiting Reply!

Silence is Golden

You can bring your kids or you can bring your parents, or: BRING EVERYONE! This is going to be a beautiful event that we will all remember. You are welcome to come to the entire event or for part of it. You can meditate the entire time, or you can sit and bask in the peace.
Come experience the power of collectively exuding peace and feel the impact we are having by sitting together, silently radiating happiness and grace in all directions. Simple acts can stimulate major paradigm shifts in thinking and with all we have going on in our world, I am not sure that would be a bad thing.

If you would like to join the Mediation Flash Mob Event on July 28th, click here.
If you would like to join the Montreal MedMob Facebook page, click here.
If you would like to learn more about MedMob Inquire Within, click here.

The Human Network

We talk these days a lot about networks, platforms and technology, but what are we really talking about? Are we talking about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube or are we talking about what goes on behind these networks?

Down by the river

I finally understood what these networks were all about after being on holiday in Dominica. Dominica is an island in the Caribbean where there are a reputed 365 rivers, one for each day of the year.
Let’s go back a few years when there was no running water, or washing machines and no cell phones and texting for sure. Let’s go back to when the river was the social network, when it was the meeting place for everyone. The women would go to do the washing there and meet everyday. They would talk, share stories and gossip. If you couldn’t go you would miss the news of what was going on, and risk being the centre of the gossip. The men would fish or go to meet the women there, and the children would play in the water. A complex social network developed where families and friends would meet and share. I am no anthropologist, I am giving you a very simplified story of what the rivers meant on Dominica and you could substitute a market place in Morocco or Paris or a village in Africa. Or let’s come closer to home to a front porch, a coffee shop, a church on Sunday, or the baseball diamond or hockey rink; when our extended families were not so extended and we lived in the same house, same neighborhood, or at least the same city.
When we met what did we do? We told stories. We told each other what had happened to us, what we thought was going to happen to us and what we hoped would happen to us. That started to change as we went away to school, we went away for jobs, we travelled more and we settled all over the world. The telephone helped keep us connected and then eventually the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

At first of course this thing called the World Wide Web was for transmitting data. Then those computer geeks started to talk to each other. Then they let us join in and we did. As computers and the Internet became more accessible, business started to see it as an opportunity to reach more people, make more money, market themselves. They took the same marketing materials they had always made and put it on the web; and it didn’t work. Products didn’t sell; people didn’t stay on their sites. They had to learn how to talk to us. We had to learn how to talk to each other again, and we did.

What did you say?

The social network started long before there was Facebook or any of the other networks we know today: YouTube, Twitter, Stumble, LinkedIn etc. What these social networks have done is bring us back to the river, to the market to the souk, to a family-get- together to each other. They bring us back to community. They bring us back together: period. These networks allow us to tell each other stories, to give and share and to inspire; to have conversations with each other again.
When do these networks work? When they allow us to tell stories and share conversations that are real, when there is meaning behind them and we know, see and feel that they are authentic. Everything works when there is a human network, and when that network is 10% of the solution and the people are the rest.

One to many becomes many to one

Activate Summit - King's Place London

My trip to London ends today and I head home tomorrow. To say that it has been an awesome trip would be an understatement.

awe·some
adjective /ˈôsəm/

    1. Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear

▪       – the awesome power of the atomic bomb

    1. Extremely good; excellent

▪       – the band is truly awesome!

It has definitely been like an atomic bomb going off in my head because of everything that it has released in there. What I would like to do here is give you a short recap of what I learned at the Activate Summit. The idea being that in my sharing what I have learned, something may inspire or encourage you to do something with this information to affect change somewhere in your life, your family, your community, or on a larger scale.

Activate is all about examining the influence of technology on global society in areas as diverse as media, commerce and economics, the environment, energy and sustainability, citizenship, democracy, governance and accountability, the developing world, healthcare, education, science and humanity.

Not a very tall order is it? It succeeded as far as I was concerned because a seed was planted, many seeds, not only for the possibility of change, but also for the possibility of sharing of ideas, successes and failures. The underlying message was: we must do something with what we have learned; at the end of the day that is key.  It is wonderful to have all of this knowledge, but our responsibility is to make it actionable.

Talking and doing

We have all kinds of content out there now, but what is the service that is going to go with it? We have learned to make our physical world accessible to those around us, now we must make this informational world accessible as well. Content for content’s sake has no value.

Life is a story

With all the information that we have, we need to decide what to do with it if we are to affect change with it. This information must be searchable and accessible, but we need to be able to have storytelling around this data so that we may ask the right questions to be able to come up with the right answers. What am I talking about?
Jonathan Simmons from Public Zone explained it very clearly:
Information (data) is fuel.
The technology, apps and social media platforms are the vehicles.
The people (you and me) are the drivers.
This information that is out there is the new oil (the fuel) , and we need to be able to protect and look after it, as in the end, it will be this information that lets us save ourselves and our world.

Anyone can be a Think Tank

The underlying message in each and ever conference or break out session that I went to was that it all comes down to people, you and me, to make a difference. Did I have to come all the way to London to hear that? You are thinking, “I could have told you that!”
I wonder.
It seems to me that these days we are all so tied up with technology, myself included, that we forget that the real power comes from each and every one of us. What I saw here and what I am hoping to be part of is change on a global scale, but let’s step back a little to our own lives and our own small worlds. What if we looked at our individual actions and the power they have to affect change with those around us?  If we remembered to keep our principles and values true to ourselves; the rest will follow.

One to many becomes many to one

Agency is the capacity of an agent (you and me) to act in our world. How we act affects those around us. If we think small, we will live small, if we open ourselves to the possibilities that are out there, the realities become very different.
If technology, the Internet, Social Media, and apps are simply tools to bring us all together, only tools, they will not solve our problems. If we use these tools to connect, to remember we are global citizens, then the opportunities we may create are endless.

For more information on the Activate Summit and to watch the videos of the keynote speakers, here in the link: Activate Summit London 2011

Knowledge is responsibility

We usually hear that knowledge is power (Sir Francis Bacon). It is the idea that if you have knowledge, then you will have power; the acquisition of knowledge results in social power. The person who holds the knowledge, holds power over others. I would challenge you on that one.
I say: those with knowledge have a responsibility, a responsibility to share that knowledge to give all of us the power to do something with that knowledge.

Today I am heading off to the Activate Summit in London at the Guardian’s head office to hear leaders in their fields share their knowledge. I am one of hundreds who will be there who believe that through the use of technology and the Internet, we can make the world a better place. Sharing is what the Internet is all about, but it is becoming more and more important for us to do something with that knowledge besides just share it, we need to act on it.

The list of speakers at the conference is impressive. They are going to be there today to share what they know because they believe there knowledge only has power when it is shared. What happens with that information is going to be up to us who are attending, and then as we pass it on, what will each one of us do with it? Will we read the info in blogs, on Twitter and in Facebook posts and shake our heads with concern, or will we take action?

For any of you who want updates along the way, you may follow me on Twitter @thesocialeffect or if you join the social effect Facebook page I will be making updates there.

Here is the program for the day:

09.00 – 09.05
OPENING REMARKS AND WELCOME FROM THE GUARDIAN

Kate Bulkley, media and technology analyst and commentator
09.05 – 10.20
OPENING KEYNOTE PANEL DISCUSSION 
How do we employ the power and the principles of the web to tackle the world’s biggest challenges?

Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation, US State Department
Ricken Patel, co-founder and executive director, Avaaz 
Aleem Walji, practice manager for innovation, The World Bank Institute
Jeremy Heimans, co-founder and CEO, Purpose
Ory Okolloh, manager, policy and government relations, Africa, Google
Keynotes followed by interactive question and answer session facilitated by Activate chair Kate Bulkley
10.20 – 11.00
INTERACTIVE ENTERPRISE PANEL DEBATE 
For profit, for good?: How do we create sustainable and effective models for tech-led social innovation?

Moderator: Zaw Thet, founder and chairman, Palindrome Advisors
Chris Smart, partner, Acacia Partners
Michael Birch, founder, Jolitics and chief monkey, Monkey Inferno 
Perry Chen, co-founder and CEO, Kickstarter
David Edelstein, director, The Grameen Technology Centre
11.00 – 11.30
MORNING BREAK
11.30 – 12.30
BREAK OUT SESSION – ACTIVATE LIGHTNING PRESENTATIONS 
Eclectic sound bites and visionary insights from some of the brightest names working with the web

Stream one – HALL TWO
Tom Thirlwall, founder, Bigballs Film
Sarah Dyer, director of new media, Beatbullying
Rakesh Rajani, founder, Twaweza
Gregory Titeca, creative director and head of research and ideas development, Happiness Brussels
Jonathan Simmons, managing director, Public Zone and Jon Alexander, project manager, National Trust’s MyFarm project
Stream two – HALL ONE
Perry Chen, co-founder and CEO, Kickstarter 
Christian Sarkar, co-founder, $300 House Project 
Salem Avan, chief information systems officer, UN Peacekeeping 
Dr Joel Selanikio, CEO and co-founder, DataDyne 
David Edelstein, director, The Grameen Technology Centre
Zaw Thet, founder and chairman, Palindrome Advisors
12.30 – 13.40
KEYNOTE VIDEO INTERVIEW AND PANEL DEBATE
Global governance, statecraft and citizenship: The future of democracy in a networked world

Moderator: Stephen King, partner, Omidyar Network
Keynote video:
Pierre Omidyar, founder, eBay and Omidyar Network 

Panel line up: 
Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation, US State Department
Michael Birch, founder, Jolitics and chief monkey, Monkey Inferno 
Dr Vanessa Neumann, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute 
Kulveer Ranger, director for Environment and Digital, London
13.30 – 14.40
LUNCH
14.40 – 15.40
BREAK OUT SESSIONS
STREAM ONE: INTERACTIVE PANEL DISCUSSION – HALL ONE 
Global development: Creating tech-led development solutions through collaborative innovation

Moderator: Jamie Drummond, executive director, One
Mariéme Jamme, president, Spot One Global Solutions
Salem Avan, chief information systems officer, UN Peacekeeping 
Christian Sarkar, co-founder, $300 House Project 
Andrew Lamb, chief executive, Engineers Without Boarders UK 
David Edelstein, director, The Grameen Technology Centre
STREAM TWO: INTERACTIVE PANEL DISCUSSION – HALL TWO 
Mobile first: How are innovations in mobile changing the world?
Moderator: Kate Bulkley, media and technology analyst and commentator
Dr Joel Selanikio, CEO and co-founder, DataDyne 
Rakesh Rajani, founder, Twaweza
Herman Heunis, CEO and founder, MXit
Anna Kydd, director, SHM Foundation
15.40 – 16.00
AFTERNOON BREAK
16.00 – 16.50
INTERACTIVE PANEL DISCUSSION 
Digital access: Why must we ensure everyone can use the Internet and how do we ensure equitable access?

Moderator: Caroline Dewing, group media relations, Vodafone Group
Eirini Zafeiratou, head of EU affairs group public policy, Vodafone 
Adele Waugaman, senior director, technology partnership, United Nations Foundation 
Martha Lane-Fox, digital champion, UK Government 
Jonathan Simmons, managing director, Public Zone 
Nadège Riche, policy officer, European Disability Forum
16.50 – 17.40
(H)ACTIVATE AWARD, WINNING DEVELOPER PRESENTATION AND PANEL DISCUSSION 
Can data save the world? How do we capture data and combine it with innovation to build applications and responses that provide a positive social impact?

Moderator: Matt McAlister, director of digital strategy, Guardian Media Group
Aleem Walji, practice manager for innovation, The World Bank Institute
Sobia Hamid, co-founder, DataGiving 
Daniela Torres, head of climate change office, Telefónica 
Matt Biddulph, head of data strategy, Ovi Product Development, Nokia
17.40 – 17.45
CLOSING REMARKS

Matt McAlister, director of digital strategy, Guardian Media Group and Kate Bulkley, media and technology analyst and commentator

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