Top 5: Anthony Ramos

Anthony Ramos is undoubtedly a triple threat: singing, dancing and acting. You can catch me supporting almost all of his latest projects and tuning into his social media. If you know him, you probably know him from Hamilton as John Laurens and as Phillip Hamilton but he has also been in A Star is Born, Crown Royale ads, the upcoming movie In the Heights by Lin Manuel Miranda and of course, in my heart. His late 2019 album gives me the love-struck and nostalgic vibes that are the soundtrack to my senior fall semester. 

Nonprofit of the Week: Passion Works Studio

Organization: Passion Works Studio

Location: Athens, Ohio

Mission: “To inspire and liberate the human spirit through the arts.”

Regions of Service: Athens and beyond

About the cause:

According to the American Community Survey, about 12.8% of American people had disabilities in 2016. More than half of people experiencing a disability are of the working-age according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People that experience developmental disabilities are often offered assembly-style work if given the opportunity.

About the organization: 

Passion Works Studio is a community arts center located in the foothills of Appalachia. At Passion Works, professional artists with developmental differences create art in a welcoming space with quality materials.

Passion Works strays from art studio norms in the way it encourages the visibility of artists with developmental disabilities and implements an inclusive framework while encouraging schools, adult day programs, and business leaders to do the same.

What they do:

At Passion Works, artists design product lines, create public artwork, collaborate with students and faculty at Ohio University, and produce Passion Flowers – the Official Flower of Athens.

The nonprofit has also developed the “Creative Abundance Model,” which is a 12-stage framework for reforming segregated institutional places (such as universities and art spaces) into inclusive community spaces. The model featured in the PBS documentary “Creative Abundance” includes “shifting organizational culture from control and structure to responsive exploration,” according to their website.

Impact:

Since the beginning, more than 26,000 hand-painted flowers have been made from up-cycled aluminum newspaper printing plates sold internationally.

Nonprofit of the Week: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Organization: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Location: Washington, D.C.

Mission: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provides pro bono representation and other resources to protect the First Amendment and newsgathering freedoms of journalists.  

Regions of Service: The U.S.

About the cause:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment was established during the birth of our nation but in 2020 interpreting those words is more complicated than originally imagined. The internet, libel, and intellectual property laws are all modern First Amendment issues covered by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

About the organization: 

Established in 1970 during a wave of government subpoenas, the Reporters Committee serves news organizations, reporters, and many more that need First Amendment resources. The organization is comprised of staff attorneys, legal fellows, policy analysts, development coordinators, and journalists that work together to champion the First Amendment and promote their work.

What they do:

On their freshly updated website, the Reporters Committee offers state-by-state legal guides for a variety of issues including, but not limited to, the Freedom of Information Act – which provides the public with the right to access federal records or information with few exceptions – and protections against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation lawsuits that maintain that a person could be sued for menial things such as leaving a bad review. Though the organization serves only professional journalists, the website is an educational tool for students.

In the day to day, attorneys draft amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs that provide expert First Amendment knowledge in legal matters. These briefs are submitted to local and Supreme Court cases most often pleading the case of the public’s right to know. Journalists in need may also call the legal hotline for advice.

Impact:

The Reporters Committee has spent the last 50 years serving the American public from Washington, D.C. In the last 50 years, the nonprofit organization has weighed in on cases as notorious as the OJ Simpson trial in 1995 or as simple as freedom of speech in the classroom.

Nonprofit of the Week: Ronald McDonald House Charities

Organization: Ronald McDonald House Charities

Location: Global

Mission:

They keep families with sick children together and near the care and resources that they need. Ronald McDonald House Charities strives to create and support programs that improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families. They provide a home base for families to rest and regroup during medical treatment.

Regions of Service: 65 countries worldwide

About the cause:

When a child is sick, families experience emotional and often financial strains. For children that need long-term treatment, medical bills add up, and for families from small towns, hotel bills can add up, too.

About the organization:  

McDonald’s has partnered with the RMHC since the first Ronald McDonald House was built in Philadelphia in 1974, according to rmhc.org.

What they do:

Since 1974, Ronald McDonald Houses have popped up all over the world, and they offer a home environment for children and families in need. They provide home-cooked meals, private bedrooms, and playrooms near hospitals. In some locations, RMHC might also provide special suites for children with suppressed immune systems, as well as accredited education programs, non-clinical support, and more.

Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles are taking a holistic approach to delivering health care. From New Orleans to Thailand, the RMCM focuses on prevention by educating families to promote healthy lifestyle choices and reduce overall medical costs; treatment by providing a variety of services such as immunizations, dental care, and much more; and they connect families with primary physicians and dentists.

Ronald McDonald Family Rooms offer a place for families to rest at the hospital. This helps parents better communicate with doctors and stay close to their children. These rooms often include shower facilities, sleeping rooms, laundry amenities, and more.

Impact:

375 Ronald McDonald Houses

262 Ronald McDonald Family Rooms

50 Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles

RMHC supports children and families in 65 different countries and regions, and according to RMHC, families saved an estimated $932,626,089 in out-of-pocket lodging and meal expenses.  

Nonprofit of the Week: Building Minds in South Sudan

Organization: Building Minds in South Sudan

Location: Rochester, New York & South Sudan


Mission:

They provide educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for villagers in the Republic of South Sudan. The organization seeks to build schools, provide gender equality through promoting education for girls, provide villages with a central hub and restore a sense of community, improve the quality of education through teacher training, and provide micro-finance grants to women who present viable business plans.

Regions of Service: South Sudan

About the cause:

“It is impossible to realize our goals while discriminating against half the human race. As study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” – Kofi Annan, then U.N. Secretary-General, 2006.

Around the world, millions of girls are left behind in education and financial independence. As of 2015, 59 million children of primary school age are out of school. 30 million of that number live in sub-Saharan Africa and 10 million in South and West Asia, according to BBC.

Roughly 15 million girls are forced into marriage, according to Unicef . Those that study the issue of child marriage insist that women and girls face violence, pregnancy, high costs, and discrimination that prevent them from attending school. Some also believe that the issue is cyclical; girls who face violence, early pregnancies, and discrimination do not become educated, which makes them vulnerable to situations such as more violence and early pregnancies.

About Building Minds in South Sudan:

The seed for Building Minds was planted in co-founder Sebastian Maroundit’s head over the course of many years while he watched women and girls in his home country face fundamental injustices.

In the late 1980s, Maroundit and roughly 20,000 other young boys were displaced from their homelands during the Second Sudanese Civil War. At the time, boys as young as six years old were being murdered by the opposition or drafted into the army. To escape certain death, the silent mass walked first from Sudan to Ethiopia and then were pushed on to Kenya when war broke out in Ethiopia four years later. Over those thousands of miles, half of the boys died of exhaustion, dehydration, and hunger. The ones that survived were named the Lost Boys of Sudan.  

In 2001, Maroundit and a group of fewer than 4,000 men — now in their late teens and early 20s — were selected to resettle in the U.S. Thinking America was in Italy, Maroundit opted for somewhere “colder” than his homeland in the U.S. He was adopted into an American family and flown to Rochester, New York.

Maroundit attended Monroe Community College and SUNY Brockport while his cousin, Mathon Noi, attended Niagara University. Maroundit decided to put his heart and new knowledge together and created Building Minds in South Sudan with his cousin.

In 2007, the cousins returned to their village and were reunited with their surviving parents after 18 years. The village was without clean water, without roads, and without proper educational facilities. This ignited their passion for rebuilding hope and providing educational opportunities in their village and beyond.

What they do:

Intent on providing equal opportunities for women, Building Minds built schools and started initiatives that break down social and physical barriers that keep women from attending school. They oversaw the building of the Ajong Primary School, Majok-keen Girls School, and the Bill Cook High School, and they began the Pads for Girls Initiative and more.

In Sudan, some Dinka parents will not allow their girls to attend a school that also has boys enrolled. Because of this, Building Minds opened the Majok-Keen Girls School.

Girls in South Sudan do not attend school during their menstrual cycle. The Pads for Girls Initiative provides girls with handmade, cotton sanitary pads to ensure attendance and participation. The reusable pads and stylish carrying pouches were first made by volunteers in Rochester, New York and were distributed by a volunteer in 2013. There, the volunteer taught women how to sew the pads while hoping that a cottage industry may develop.

The Laima Project is focused on empowering women entrepreneurs by providing them with microfinancing skills to establish businesses. Women in the program are selected based on economic need and the submission of a promising business plan. Those that are chosen by the community and established business leaders are awarded a $500 grant from Building Minds to participate.

Impact:

The Bill Cook High School is scheduled to open this month and will push enrollment numbers to over 2,000 students.

Some of the 26 women that have received funding now own convenience stores, restaurants, tea shops, and breweries.

Nonprofit of the Week: Equal Justice Initiative

Organization: Equal Justice Initiative

Location: Montgomery, Alabama


Mission: The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Regions of Service: The U.S.

About the cause: The Equal Justice Initiative addresses a number of injustices in the criminal justice system.

Simply put, the death penalty system treats you better if you are rich and/or white, and you are more likely to die for a crime that you did not commit if you are poor and/or black, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

In the U.S., 165 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973, but 1,512 people have been put to death since then. For every nine people executed on death row, one of them has been exonerated, pointing to a flawed system.

In 2018, 111 exonerations involved witnesses who lied on the stand or falsely accused the defendant. In 50 of those 111 cases, the defendant was accused of a crime that never took place.

Racial injustice plagues the justice system. The EJI found that data shows that 87% of black exonerees from death row were victims of misconduct in the legal process, as compared to 67% of their white counterparts.

About EJI:

The Equal Justice Initiative was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate and Delaware native. Stevenson is the best-selling author of the no. 1 New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy” – now a major motion picture.

This 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization’s over 150 staffers focus on communities that are affected by poverty and unequal treatment by the criminal justice system. The EJI strives to disrupt the narrative around race in the U.S. by addressing the nation’s legacy of racial injustice.

What they do:

The EJI provides legal representation and services to people who have been illegally convicted, unjustly sentenced, or abused in jails or prisons. The organization challenges excessive punishment including the death penalty and represents inmates on death row. They also provide reintegration support to formerly incarcerated people.

The EJI research contributes to policymakers’ push toward criminal justice reform. In its 30 years of existence, the EJI has produced groundbreaking reports, discussion guides, and short films. The nonprofit has also built new spaces that address the history of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation.

Impact:

The Equal Justice Initiative has served an undisclosed amount of people in their vast work with clients and dedication to educating the public.

Nonprofit of the Week: Join the Fight, Water is a Human Right

Organization: Thirst Project

Location: Los Angeles, California

Cause: The global water crisis

Regions of Service: Currently Active in

  1. Swaziland
  2. El Salvador
  3. Uganda
  4. India
  5. Kenya

About the global water crisis:

The global water crisis affects more than 700 million people worldwide. This means that on average, women and children walk 3.7 miles per day to often contaminated water sources for the water that they use to drink, clean, and cook.

Waterborne illnesses kill more than AIDS and malaria COMBINED! According to the World Health Organization, 88% of all diarrhoeal disease in the world is caused by a lack of access to clean, safe water, so if the water crisis ended today, the global disease would be cut significantly!

Consuming dirty water is not the only problem, though. Thirst Project has documented dozens of cases of spinal and pelvic deformities, chronic fatigue, and spontaneous miscarriages from the act of carrying water to homesteads.

About Thirst Project:

Thirst Project was founded in 2008 when seven college students in Los Angeles learned about the global water crisis and decided to make a change. The students pooled their money (which amounted to about $70) and bought cases of water and jerry cans. They headed out to Hollywood Boulevard and handed out bottles of water and challenged passersby to carry a full jerry can down the street. 

After hearing about the global water crisis, people gave back and the $70 investment turned into $1,700. That group of students was invited to local schools and eventually raised over $12,000. When founder Seth Maxwell and friends realized that no one was activating youth around this issue, they created the Thirst Project.

Since 2009, Thirst Project has traveled across North America speaking at middle schools, high schools, and colleges to educate students about the global water crisis.

What they do:

Thirst Project is not doing anything revolutionary. The organization hires Swazi engineers to drill 200 to 300 feet into the ground to existing water tables to build freshwater wells. In countries like India, Thirst Project fundraisers project bio-sand filters that filtrate contaminated water.

Impact:

  1. 3,018 water projects
  2. 413,427 people served
  3. 13 countries
  4. $10 million raised