Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cause & Affect in Ethiopia: $20/month Can Save Lives


Abel is a 17 year-old Ethiopian boy whose parents and older sister are all dead. His Aunt Sisko has little to give him, but she allows Abel - and a few other young students in need - to sleep in her small restaurant at night and eat a basic meal or two so they can at least go to school and hope for a better future. When I met Abel and his aunt and told them about Cause and Affect, they did NOT ask for help. Though they definitely need assistance, instead they told me about some others facing more serious predicaments. Faced with such selflessness, Cause and Affect felt obliged to help.

Abel first introduced me to Marisu and Mami, elderly sisters who barely scrape out a living. As the video shows, they live in a ramshackle house in sub-human conditions. Since one sister's son died, these women - 78 and 80 years old- were left to raise the granddaughter. One of them earns $7 a month from her son's military pension. In addition to this, they also go to the weekly market to sell incense, where together, they earn about a dollar. With a weekly income of $4.50 each, these kind women do not have enough money to afford basic food supplies. When I met them, they were eating week-old bread and were forced to cook with farm refuse, as they couldn't even afford normal wheat. They two women and the 9 year old granddaughter sleep on the same bed on a mattress that was in deplorable condition. Their shack is dark, though they do have a single bare light bulb for power. They have no running water and cook over scraps of firewood outside of their house. They are forced to beg for food from neighbors, but since most people in this run-down neighborhood are similarly poor, there is very little to go around.

Though Abel has very little to give, he has been helping these sisters any way he can. They lit up when they saw him arrive and were even more happy when we went out and bought them a real mattress with sheets! We are providing the sisters with $20 each per month to cover basic food and medical needs. Though this is a very small amount of money for most of us, it is a huge boost for Marisu and Mami. They now have money to cook for themselves and get the medicine they need.

Samson and Muluya are two students in Abel's high school, each facing very tough challenges. Samson is an orphan who lived in a tiny village in the mountains. Since there is no future for him there, Aunt Sisko asked a local family in Lalibela if they could allow Samson to sleep somewhere in their house, so he could at least attend school in town. He currently stays in a storage room next to the family's house, sleeping on a bed made of rocks and a layer of goatskin leather. He does not even own a change of clothes. All he wants is to succeed in school so he can improve his lot in life.

Our other student in need is Muluya; his mother has passed away and his father has AIDS. Though his father is too weak to work full-time, he tries his best as a day worker, earning $1.25 a day. As he told me, "All I want is a better future for my son." Cause and Affect purchased mattresses for each of the boys, bought them a set of supplemental textbooks to help them in their studies and gave them some money to purchase some basic clothes. In addition, we are providing them with $12 per month each, to take care of some basic food needs. The boys are very excited to receive the assistance and are actively studying. They are aware that getting an education is their only hope for a better future.

For less than $600, Cause and Affect is providing 6 months of support for these two elderly sisters, these two students and some assistance to Aunt Sisko and Abel as well. It is amazing how far your contributions are able to go in Ethiopia. Cause and Affect will be returning there from June 5th - 9th to search for more recipients, so please donate to the cause.

Thank you for your continued support. Please give to projects like this on our website using credit card or paypal. To see our recent projects, please visit our blog.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Assisting Syrian Refugees

In 2006, while traveling through Syria, I was blown away by the hospitality of the Syrian people. Ever since the civil war started there in 2010, I have wanted to find a way to help Syrian refugees forced to flee from their country. While in Istanbul, Cause & Affect sought a hands-on way to help.

                                        SEE OUR VIDEO REPORT HERE

Nearly half of the estimated 4 Syrian million refugees are currently living in Turkey. While hundreds of  thousands live in refugee camps, around 300,000 of them are living in Istanbul.

While they are granted rights to education and medical treatment in Turkey, many of these families are living in poverty and have not been able to assimilate into the local culture. One of the major impediments to their assimilation is the language barrier, as the vast majority of them speak Arabic, not Turkish.

Luckily some local civil society organizations have sprung up to assist these refugees. The Refugee Support Center is a Turkish non-profit organization based in the capital of Ankara. provides a variety of free services such as: nutritional assistance to mothers, day care for working parents, a health training program for women, legal assistance and language classes in Turkish and English.

They are also the only organization in Istanbul with a kid-friendly space where refugee children come for art classes, language classes and day care. 100 kids per week come to Upon arrival, we learned that The Refugee Support Center needs additional space to accommodate for the increasing numbers of Syrian refugees.

Based on their needs, Cause & Affect sprang to action, providing $1,000 worth of supplies to make the new space into a kid-friendly and educational environment. We purchased: tables, chairs, toys, easels, art supplies, floor mats and a slew of paper and art supplies. This photo is the finishes space, which is already providing a healthy space for Syrian refugee children to learn, play and dream of a better future.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Connecting with Egyptian Students to Help the Poor of Egypt

As part of our new initiative to inspire a new generation of micro-philanthropists, Cause & Affect partnered with students from Schutz American School in Alexandria, Egypt -- where C&A Founder Adam Carter is currently teaching middle school social studies -- to launch their latest project to provide blankets to the urban poor of Alexandria.

To carry out this "Blanket Distribution Project," students:
1) Researched poverty in Egypt;
2) Created their own posters to raise awareness;
3) Raised funds to provide blankets to impoverished residents;
4) Traveled to the Ras es-Soda community to distribute the blankets and smiles

Working with a wonderful local company called Transformational Textiles that produces blankets from fabric scraps, students raised enough money to purchase 350 blankets ($7 each). Cause & Affect Foundation chipped in $350 to reach our $2,800 goal because a Canadian donor agreed to match our funds. So in total, this initiative provided 800 blankets to help our recipients - many of which live in homes without roofs - get through a cold winter. 

Students then went to Ras es-Soda to deliver the blankets to the people in need. As you can see from the video, we also provided the $55 an elderly man in the community needed to purchase medicine to treat his Hepatitis C. The students had an amazing experience seeing how they were able to make such a profound difference in peoples' lives. This successful project is a model for how service learning can lead to positive change and global citizenship at the same time.

Please help us continue wonderful projects like this by making a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donation with PayPal or credit card here

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cause & Affect in Korea: Vitamin Program Launched to Assist North Korean Refugee Children

Cause & Affect is a 501-c-3 charity with full tax-deductible status!

Watch our video field report here.
While in South Korea researching well-run non-profits to support, Cause and Affect learned about the amazing work of Helping Hands Korea (HHK). Founded in 1990 by an American man named Tim Peters, Helping Hands Korea focuses their efforts on  delivering food and other basic necessities to the most vulnerable North Koreans, especially orphans, impoverished school children, the disabled, the elderly and single parents. 
Natural disasters and economic mismanagement have resulted in hunger, which has killed millions of North Koreans.

Aid agencies estimate that up to 2 million North Koreans have died since the mid-1990s due of acute food shortages caused by natural disasters and economic mismanagement. Though the leadership always looks to blame foreign governments, the truth is that the country relies on foreign aid to feed millions of its people.
     Please give here and spread the word to friends and family!

 The police state of DPRK is also accused of repeated human rights abuses, torture and public executions. In addition, slave labor, forced abortions and infanticides in prison camps are also becoming practiced. Amnesty International estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are held in detention facilities, where torture is rampant and execution the norm.'
Malnourishment has become a sad fact of life for many N. Korean children

This is the dire situation that Helping Hands Korea has inserted themselves. They also provide shelter, food, very basic health and hygiene assistance to North Korean refugees in China and assist these refugees in their flight from North Korea and eventual settlement in South Korea. 
Tim Peters, Founder & Director of Helping Hands Korea

Much like the “Underground Railroad” that provided American slaves with a support network to escape their oppressors, HHK has established a similar network of safe houses and hosts that accommodate and feed the refugees on their journey. As Mr. Peters points out, "When we look back at this era, at what [the North Korean government] has done to its people, I'm convinced the civilized world will be shocked and also shamed. In the meantime, we do what we can."

Tim Peters, on cover of
TIME magazine

Though Cause and Affect was not able to travel to North Korea, founder Adam Carter did make it to the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) and was able to work out a great way to provide assistance to the cause. 


 Speaking with Mr. Peters, we discovered that one of the unmet needs relates to the terrible malnutrition so many of the North Korean children experience. Having worked on several occasions to battle malnutrition in Guatemala (see field report here and here), Cause and Affect was eager to make a positive difference so we have created a brand-new Vitamin Program.

With an initial investment of $500, we have purchased 15,000 high-quality vitamins (from a bulk supplier) that are already being distributed to hundreds of children. Though most of these children are inside North Korea, many of them are refugees in China and South Korea. 

As always, we would like to thank our wonderful donors for making this - and all of our other projects - possible. Your help is making a real difference in peoples' lives! 
     Please give here and spread the word to friends and family!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chicago fundraiser on Sat., Aug 2nd, 3-5pm / Korea Project / C&A in the press in Japan!

1. Save the date! Cause & Affect will be holding a summer fundraiser in downtown Chicago on Saturday August 2nd, from 3 to 5pm. Details to follow. If you cannot attend, please make a donation to help us continue our worthy projects around the globe! Easy to make a Paypal or credit card donation here. As you know, every dollar counts!!

2. Cause & Affect recently began a project assisting North Korean refugees in association with our partner organization Helping Hands Korea. We have created and funded a vitamin program for the malnourished refugee children being rescued from horrible conditions in North Korea. Details coming soon! 

3. Cause & Affect's recent project in Fukushima highlighted in March 2014 issue from Japanese magazine Connect.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Helping Tsunami/Nuclear Disaster Victims in Fukushima, Japan

Please join the cause by making a paypal donation here.


Like many concerned citizens around the globe, I was shocked to see the scale of destruction that followed the Tohoku Earthquake of March 11, 2011. The ensuing tsunami killed over 19,000 people and damaged over a million buildings. The region of Fukushima was devastated by the disaster and over 400,000 people lost their homes.

The explosion at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant created an ecological disaster, forcing more people from their land. The evacuees initially sought shelter in community centers and were then relocated to temporary shelters.


Nearly three years later, most of these people still live in these shelters.  The lack of jobs and income means that many are living day-to-day, forced to accept government assistance and help from family members in other parts of Japan. This is a very tough adjustment for the proud, hard-working Japanese people.

When I arrived in Japan to teach English in a high school in August 2013, I reached out to a variety of organizations that were helping the victims of the Tohoku earthquake in order to assess what forms of aid were being delivered. In searching for a real hands-on approach addressing the everyday lives of those displaced by the disaster, I was directed to a project called the Save Minamisoma Project (SMP), founded by a New Zealander businessman living in Japan. Every two weeks since March of 2011, SMP has been shipping truckloads of food and supplies (much of it donated) to the evacuees in and around Minamisoma, which is one of the cities of the Fukushima Prefecture.

With only $1,000, Cause and Affect financed the delivery of more than 3,000 lbs. of food and supplies. We collected donated food, purchased more and loaded up a giant truck in Tokyo. We then drove 6 hours north to Minamisoma and distributed the goods to the residents in need, most of whom lost their homes to the tsunami or were forced to move due to radiation.

In each of the six communities, we the recipients who had received their coupon a month before, lined up to receive their food and supplies. By the time we were done, more than 800 people living in 355 households received onions, potatoes, mushrooms, apples, water, cereal and soup to more. While very pleased to have been able to lend a helping hand, the sad reality is there are upwards of 290,000 people still living in evacuation shelters or temporary shelters in these communities.


We spoke to some families that have been shuttled from one community to another. They just want some stability in their lives. Many have lost faith in the Japanese government and most doubt they will ever be allowed to return. Entire communities have been torn apart, as the shelters have thrown random people together. While it is obvious they have managed to help each other out, it is clear that they yearn to go back home. Sadly, most will never be able to rebuild.

Luckily, Cause & Affect was able to provide some much-needed assistance to the people of Minamisoma. They are VERY appreciative to know that people from all over the world had united to help them recover from this disaster. Thank you to all of our donors and please join the cause by making a paypal donation here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Assisting Urban Refugees in Bangkok: Helping the "Forgotten People"

Though there are officially 5.5 million urban refugees who have fled their home countries to settle in foreign cities, the actual number is much higher. In most cases, these refugees have fled political persecution or ethnic violence in their home countries. This population, most of which are women and children, represent one of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Most lack access to services like education, health care and government assistance. In addition, they are often subject to xenophobia and daily discrimination.
In Southeast Asia, due to the ongoing ethnic tension in Myanmar (in what has been labelled the world's longest-running civil war), over a million people have fled their homes. Hundreds of thousands of these people (especially those from Karen and Shan ethnic groups) have fled their country seeking protection and refugee status. While most are living in United Nations-sponsored refugee camps in northwestern Thailand, those families that have applied for official asylum status can settle in Thailand's capitol city of Bangkok, where there are more educational and work opportunities. While they wait for their paperwork to be processed, they are provided with 6 months to one year's worth of assistance from the UN: money for rent and food and assistance getting their kids into school. But these families face many challenges:                                                                                   WATCH SHORT INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO HERE
1) Due to their inability to speak good Thai, they are discriminated against and the kids have trouble adjusting to school, both academically and socially
2) They face discrimination on a daily basis, which makes the children feel inferior and makes it very hard for the parents to find work to support the family
3) After the UN assistance runs out, they are left on their own, often with no income to buy food
4) Since they do not have official refugee status, they are technically stateless people and are often randomly stopped on the street by Thai police, who throw them in jail if they do not have papers. In many cases, this means the sole provider for the family (on their way to or from work) squander in jail for months before being deported.
Seeking a way to help these "urban refugees," Cause and Affect searched for an organization that was effectively assisting these "forgotten people" in Bangkok. Thanks to the help of our mentor Marc Gold (founder of 100 Friends Project), we discovered the amazing In Search of Sanuk Project. Founded by Atlanta native Dwight Turner (who has been living in Bangkok for 4 years), this project supports numerous refugee families from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other countries in a myriad of ways.

The first way is by providing accommodation and food assistance, what they call the "Survivor's Project." Last year, Cause and Affect visited some of these families and was treated to a very special home-cooked dinner by Mary, a Sri Lankan mother of three who has been in Bangkok for three years. We pledged to return to help.

They also help victims of trauma and torture through their "Esteem Project." By providing life-skills training and job placement assistance, they are able to help these overlooked, abused and often discarded women and girls, helping them find the courage to rebuild their lives and restore their dignity.  On our most recent visit, some of these teenagers showed their culinary skills as they prepare to become professional cooks. With great local cooks guiding the way, these young chefs seem to be on the right path! Cause and Affect has assisted culinary projects in the past and recognizes the value of encouraging under-privileged youth to become professional cooks.
Another great project is the "Thrive Project" which addresses the lack of engaging educational activities many of these urban refugee children face. Basing their approach on using play and reading, teachers are able to better prepare these kids for Thai schools and ensure each child develops self-confidence and a sense of achievement they can draw upon as they grow.

Upon our second visit to In Search of Sanuk Project, Cause and Affect learned that the project was looking to supplement their "Thrive Project" with art supplies and children's books, so we jumped to action, purchasing a myriad of supplies (crayons, markers, scissors, glue, paper, glitter, etc.) as well as children's books we got a great deal on.  Seeing as how the food and toiletries stocks were low, we also purchased lots of soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, female sanitary pads, cooking oil, rice, noodles, etc.                          

With only $500, we were able to make a profound impact. This is the beauty of the "micro-philanthropy" model: a small amount of money can accomplish so much!

Special thanks to my father Allan and step-mother Gina for their generous donation that made this project possible. You have made a big contribution to help these wonderful but forgotten people. Much love from Bangkok!

To support projects like this, simply click here to make a Paypal donation on our website.