Skip to main navigation

Catalogue Blog

Independent Movie Theatres are the Stuff Community is Made Of

I’ve always loved movies. I come by it almost genetically. My father taught film production at various universities during my childhood, and I grew up on a steady diet of indie, niche, and foreign films: The Last Unicorn and The Point probably being the two most memorable and most watched in our household.

But it was in Argentina, on an academic research grant, that I fell in love with film. Not “movies,” but film itself as a medium.

I went to Argentina with a single, albeit complex question: how does a society heal from trauma on a massive scale? Argentina suffered a brutal military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983, during which time over 30,000 “leftist rebels” were “disappeared” by the regime. In 2007, when I was doing my research, the nation was still grappling with the fallout. For a while after my arrival, I posed that single question to everyone I met, and at first the answer surprised me, until I’d gotten the answer so many times it couldn’t be coincidence. Most Argentines I spoke to directed me to a single film: La historia oficial (The Official Story).


La historia oficial tells the story of Alicia, a high school history teacher who is leading a comfortable life with her husband, Roberto, a businessman with ties to the military, and their adopted daughter. When Alicia begins to wonder about the identity of her daughter’s birth parents, she finds herself suspecting that she may be the child of people abducted or killed by the government. She is faced with an impossible choice: live knowing her child is missed by her real family or give up the thing she loves most in the world.

The film came out as Argentines were first learning that, during the dictatorship, children had been abducted from rebel parents and given as rewards to those loyal to the regime. As a country, they were struggling to cope politically and legally with the issue. But the film gave the country a glimpse into the individual, personal heartbreak obscured by the headlines: that real mothers, both biological and adoptive, were being faced with a no-win scenario. And in making the political personal, the film kick-started a national healing process.

What made me fall in love with film was understanding that it is so much more than entertainment or even education. Film is, to my mind, the most visceral way to tell stories, and humans need to tell stories. It’s how we understand ourselves, our families, our communities, and ultimately, our entire society. Stories define our nation, our religious traditions, and even our most intimate unit: the family. Those stories tell us who we are.

While I have been, from my youth, a great believer in the power of film, after my time in Argentina, I see it as a vital necessity to any community.

But film in the U.S. today has a problem. Our media is evermore mediated, and the stories that need to be told aren’t getting out there. Six companies own almost all media: and that’s not just film, that’s news, television, online portals, and more. The barometer they use on funding film projects is what will make the most money, not what stories need to be told. So they put their faith in what they know: the same old directors and regurgitated plotlines. And since the studios hold all the cards, they can charge gigantic licensing fees, ask for 90 or 100% of a theater’s ticket sales, and even take a cut of concessions sales. The only way to survive in that context is to be a giant corporation with pull of your own, and even then to survive, the multiplexes charge prices so high that film is becoming increasingly out of reach for the average American (whose income is decreasing).


That’s why, in 2015, when I met Dr. Caitlin McGrath, I was immediately hooked on her vision to turn the Old Greenbelt Theatre into a nonprofit, arthouse cinema. Revitalize this a historic gem of a theater by: showing films that make people think; creating a space where the community can come together to digest, unpack, and process these films; and do everything possible to make these films accessible to everyone?regardless of age, income, or ability. It’s what every community needs, and we are beyond lucky to have this resource in Prince George’s County.

The Old Greenbelt Theatre is run as a nonprofit because we are mission-driven, not profit-driven. As a nonprofit, we can solicit the support of our community so that when we lose money showing a film (which we regularly do since studios can demand such a deep cut of our profits) we can still exist to screen more films that our community wants or needs to see. If we were worried about a wide profit margin, we wouldn’t have brought you Transit, If Beale Street Could Talk, Boy Erased or even First Man.

Independent movie theaters are closing down all across the country. They can’t compete in a corporate world that is cannibalizing the very locales that show their films. But there are important movies being made that need to be seen and not on a smartphone (as much as I applaud Netflix and Amazon for picking up the mantle of independent filmmaking). Film is at its most powerful when witnessed in community.


That’s what we’re doing here at the Old Greenbelt Theatre. As a nonprofit, we bring you films from screenwriters and directors outside the mainstream. We provide a place to experience these films in community, and I truly do mean experience, because we follow up so many of our screenings with guest speakers and Q&A sessions. It doesn’t pay to do guest speakers. It’s something we do because it’s important.

We’re a nonprofit because we serve a vital role in our community. We aren’t providing bread or shelter, that’s very true. But in many ways, we are creating a safe haven. A place where people of all walks of life can come, see themselves on the big screen, and have their experience understood by the community. We’re helping tell the stories our community needs to hear, and stories are the very stuff of which community is made.

By Kelly McLaughlin, Director of Marketing & Development, Friends of Greenbelt Theatre

Shout Mouse Press – Education: A Dream without Borders

“This is the story of how I got out of a hole.”

This is the opening line of an incredible story written and illustrated by Erminia, a young immigrant from El Salvador. At fifteen, Erminia’s mother gave her a stark choice: stay with the family but endure a life of poverty, violence, and a bleak future, or embark on a dangerous journey alone to America in pursuit of a good education and a better life.

Despite her love for her family, Erminia decided her only choice was to leave El Salvador so she could further her education. She spent five days in a detention center in Mexico but persisted. She walked for three days and two nights across the desert– in her socks, with one small bottle of water. After several weeks, she managed to cross the Rio Grande and find her way to the United States.

As Erminia explains, “I want people to understand that we are here because we are fighting for education, for opportunity. We are not criminals. In reality, I’m here fighting for my dreams.”

When Erminia asked her immigration lawyer what she could do to compensate for her services, the lawyer answered with a challenge: become a lawyer herself. Erminia has taken this to heart and is currently a freshman in college, studying to become an immigration lawyer so she can help others find their way out of their own “holes.”



I met Erminia a few weeks ago at our launch event for Voces sin Fronteras (Voices without Borders) — a remarkable book written and illustrated in graphic novel form by sixteen teenage immigrants from Latin America. Proceeds from the book sales support a scholarship fund for Latino youth immigrants.

Amidst today’s highly charged debate on immigration, this book provides a rare chance to hear directly from youth who are often in the headlines but whose stories aren’t told in full. This collaboration between young people from the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Washington, D.C. and Shout Mouse Press, a nonprofit writing program and publishing house dedicated to amplifying unheard voices, has produced a powerful collection of stories about family, loss, ambition, and change that provide a much-needed human connection to the immigration crisis. These moving personal accounts challenge us and inspire greater empathy for the individuals who leave everything behind for an education.

As Erminia, Rosa, and Sebastian — three of these courageous authors — shared their stories in the back corner of a DC bookstore, my eyes welled up with tears more than once as I listened to the hardships and heartache they endured in search of a better life in this country.

Their quest for a better life that hinged upon the opportunity for a quality education has borne fruit. Erminia, Rosa, and Sebastian are all currently enrolled in college, pursuing their dreams of becoming a lawyer, a doctor, and a graphic designer.

I am the daughter of Chinese immigrants. My father left Taiwan with a few dollars in his pocket and journeyed in a cramped freighter for 52 days to further his education in America. His story is not uncommon, as the desire to educate children for a brighter future is universal. Immigrants from all corners of the globe uproot their lives and leave everything behind with this simple goal in mind.

As former UK Prime Minister and Education Commission Chair Gordon Brown has said: “Potential is best developed, talents best unleashed, and dreams best fulfilled at the point a child and teacher are brought together. Most of all, it is education — our ability to plan and prepare for the future — that gives us hope.”


Providing this hope to the world’s children should not require the sacrifices that Erminia and countless others have made. What my own children take for granted — a free, quality education — should not be a matter of life or death for so many others.

Today, more than 260 million children are not in school. If the world does not wake up to this tragedy, by 2030, half of the world’s young people — 825 million — will be unprepared for the workplace of the future. We must recognize the full human and economic costs of an uneducated populace, and find the will in developing and donor countries alike to prioritize and increase the funding of education.

Children should not have to choose between their families and an education. They should not have to risk their lives and walk across the desert without shoes to get a place in a decent school. The world must recognize education as a human right, a civil right, and an economic imperative — and act accordingly.

The hopes and dreams sparked by educating hungry young minds know no bounds. As Rosa, the young immigrant from Guatemala studying to be a doctor, writes:

“No matter where you start from, those who dream of the impossible can achieve the unthinkable.”

Lana Wong is the Community Impact and Partnerships Director at Shout Mouse Press.

Around Town: May 4th!

Get out of the house this weekend and spend some time getting to know some great, local nonprofits. Whether you are running, seeing a show, touring the embassies, or just having fun with your family and friends, Catalogue nonprofits are ready to show you a good time! If you head out to an event, let us know! We would love to hear all about it.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Fairfax CASA’s Run for the Children 8K Race & 3K Run/Walk

Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Planning has already begun for Fairfax CASA’s third annual event, which will again bring the community together to raise funds for our advocacy work with Fairfax County’s abused and neglected children. As always, the race will be held at the Fairfax County Courthouse complex and feature music, delicious food, great prizes, and giveaways.
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (08:30 AM – 11:00 AM)
Where: Fairfax County Courthouse, 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
Fee? yes 8K $35, 3K $30, *8K or 3K Special* $20 for all participants under 18
Volunteer Info: Volunteers can assist with postcard distribution, packet pick-up, bag check, set-up/clean-up, course marshalling, and water stations, etc.
Contact: Christina, (703) 273-3526 ext 15
For more information: click here

Family Day

Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture
This Park-wide FREE public festival celebrates the opening of the historic Dentzel carousel for the 2013 season and offers day-long activities for families. The event features many free activities including magic shows, dance performances, exhibitions, open studios, craft activities, National Park Service tours, face painting, and much more.
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (09:00 AM – 6:00 PM)
Where: Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD 20812
Fee? no
Volunteer Info: We need volunteers (age 13 and older) to help supervise and direct the many activities. Volunteer opportunities are available between 9 am and 6 pm. You can choose what you would like to do: Be a face painter! (13 yrs and older) Supervise the T-Ball Extreme game (15 years and older) Organize the face painting line (13 yrs and older) Supervise the hula hoop play circle (13 yrs and older) Supervise the carousel line (16 yrs and older) Help children create art projects (13 yrs and older) Manage one of the performance stages (16 yrs and older) Help with parking (must be at least 18 years old) Help with set-up and clean-up (15 yrs and older) These are just a few of the volunteer opportunities, and all of the jobs are rewarding. Family Day also provides a great opportunity for students to earn community service hours!
Contact: Donna Barker, (301) 634-2231
For more information: click here

Passport DC – Around the World Embassy Tour

Cultural Tourism DC
Passport DC is our annual journey around the world coinciding with the Mayor of the District of Columbia’s proclamation of May as International Cultural Awareness Month. Now in its sixth year, Passport DC highlights the international community–a vital part of DC culture–with month-long international programming presented by cultural institutions throughout the District. With tours of more than 70 embassies and hundreds of other international cultural activities, it is easy to travel around the world without ever leaving the city!
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (10:00 AM – 4:00 PM)
Where: Embassy Row and International Court, Washington DC, Washington, DC 20005
Fee? no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will have a variety of roles at welcome tents, participating embassies, shuttle stops and more.
Contact: Inez Douglas, (202) 661-7581
For more information: click here

LAMB Community Day – Dia de la Comunidad de LAMB

Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School
Join us on Saturday, May 4 from 12:00 – 4:00 pm for an afternoon of fun at LAMB’s Community Day, including games, face painting, food, music, a mini-museum, and many other activities. Free fun for the whole family! More details will be posted on our Facebook page and on Twitter @lambpcs. LAMB PCS, 1375 Missouri Ave. NW,, 202-726-6200.
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (12:00 NOON – 4:00 PM)
Where: Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School, 1375 Missouri Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20011
Fee? no
Contact: Anna Marie Yombo, (202) 726-6200

BHNV’s 2nd Annual Garden of Light reception

Bethany House of Northern Virginia
Bethany House of Northern Virginia will host it’s 2nd Annual Garden of Light event on Saturay, May 4 on the Rooftop Terrace of the Holiday Inn and Suites in Alexandria, Va. The event will feature delectable refreshments, live music, a client speaker and a silent auction with many one-of a kind packages donated by local area businesses. Tickets are $55.00 per person and can be purchased online at
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (3:00 PM – 6:00 PM)
Where: Holiday Inn and Suites (Old Town, Alexandria, VA), First Street, Alexadria, VA 22314
Fee? yes $55.00 per person
Volunteer Info: Volunteers are needed to assist with: 1- Set up for the event to include unloading supplies, setting up auction tables, registration tables and other decorations 2 – Clean up volunteers to assist with packing up supplies, disposing of trash, assisting guests with transporting auction purchase to their vehicles, etc. 3 – We are seeking a volunteer with an interest in photography to capture the elegance of this outdoor event. Volunteer must have their own camera equipment.
Contact: Jasmin Witcher, (703) 658-9500
For more information: click here


Constellation Theatre Company
Show runs from May 2 – June 2, 2013. Part god and part man, King Gilgamesh races the sun & journeys to the ends of the earth on his epic quest for immortality.
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (8:00 PM)
Where: at Source, 1835 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Fee? yes – tickets start at $25.
Volunteer Info: Usher
Contact: Lindsey, (202) 204-7741
For more information: click here

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Dance Place
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble presents a mixed bill of modern dance pieces. The Denver, Colorado, based company is inspired by the African-American experience and its repertory is rooted in contemporary and ethnic dance and multi-disciplinary traditions worldwide. The colorful program includes the 2012 premier of Fusion by Jeanguy Saintus. Funded in part by NEFA and the NEA.
When: Saturday May 4, 2013 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017
Fee? yes $22 General Admission; $17 Members, Seniors, Teachers and Artists; $10 College Students; $8 Children (17 and under)
Contact: Carolyn Kamrath, (202) 269-1608
For more information: click here

Stimulating Change: LearnServe International’s 4th Annual Panels and Venture Fair

The Figuring Out College Success team after their big win at LearnServe's 4th Annual Panels and Venture Fair

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of being a judge at LearnServe International’s 4th Annual Panels and Venture Fair at the School Without Walls. LearnServe International empowers high-school students from around the DC area who have the motivation (but perhaps not the means) to make a difference. Through their Fellows Program, LearnServe helps guide students through the creation of their own “social venture.” This year’s Venture Fair featured 60 young entrepreneurs who represented 30 high schools in 4 different counties. What do all of these young entrepreneurial minds have in common? They all helped to design 45 different social ventures with the goal of serving their schools and their communities.

In the cafeteria of the School Without Walls, LearnServe fellows set up their presentation boards and prepared to discuss their ideas with leaders from both the business and community worlds. Students were split into 4 groups: DC Public and Charter Schools/PG County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Independent Schools. Students were judged based on three different categories: innovative ideas, presentation boards, and their venture pitch. Awards were presented to the one group from each category that received the overall high score from the judges. Winners won a certificate, a book, and a pro-bono consulting service session with business leaders from different companies in the area.

As a judge, I reviewed five different ventures, each one as impressive as the next. It was extremely inspiring to see high school students who were all so motivated to make changes within their communities and beyond. Of all the ventures, one group that I judged not only caught my eye, but had the highest score in their geographic region, and therefore, won. Figuring Out College Success (FOCS) is a venture started by Nancy, Zora, Yousef, and Spencer, all sophomore students, with a goal of making the college preparation and application process easier for students. Whether they are students from international backgrounds, working class families, or first-generation college goers, the mission of FOCS is to help effectively transform the frustration and discouragement of the unknown into motivation to pursue the college path. As four young students who have not yet been through the college preparation or application process yet, their goals proved to be one of the most impressive portions of their venture proposal.

  • increase enrollment in Honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes by 10%
  • ensure participants, by mid freshman year, have a developed relationship with their counselor and have a plethora of extracurricular activities under their belt
  • have participants by mid sophomore year create a pool of teachers for recommendations
  • have junior year participants who by their second semester have a full resume and have visited multiple 4-year institutions up the East Coast
  • ensure that by senior year participants have applied to multiple colleges and have set up permanent financial plans for the school they’ll be attending

As a first time judge for the LearnServe Venture Fair, I was blown away by the original and transformative ideas that these young people had come up with. It’s refreshing to see so many young people willing (and able) to change the world, and LearnServe provides them with a great platform to do so. Congratulations to all of the winners, the participants, and everyone at LearnServe who helped to put on an extremely stimulating event. To learn more about LearnServe International and all of the programs that they provide, click here.

Positive, Sustainable, Change

by Eleanor Aldous, Catalogue Intern

This year, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) awarded Catalogue nonprofit Pueblo a Pueblo the prestigious 2013 Sustainability Award for their Organic School Garden Project. Created in 2003, this award is bestowed on organizations, individuals, and businesses who dedicate their efforts to innovative, sustainable practices. Pueblo a Pueblo’s Organic School Garden Project goes above and beyond such criteria through their implementation of sustainable gardens that serve thousands of community members in Guatemala. The Project was created in 2010 as a way to ensure the nourishment and health of children living in rural villages near Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Funded by the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the Organic School Garden Project provides hands-on experience in garden-growing and teaches Guatemalan students and teachers how their choices affect their health, communities, and environment. The project diversifies the local diet of these rural, coffee-growing communities while simultaneously providing an opportunity to learn how to independently flourish in the future. Only three years after its creation, the Organic School Garden Project now serves over 1,000 Guatemalan teachers and school children and thrives in six different Guatemalan primary schools.

Pueblo a Pueblo’s Executive Director, Rosemary Trent, elaborates on the issues facing these communities:

In a region of the country where the production of coffee has become an increasingly important income generating crop and means for families to earn a livelihood, food security has become increasingly challenging…Coffee growing families are often unable to buy the daily staples they need for a healthy and nutritious diet. The impact of the lack of resources is severely felt in the rural areas of Guatemala, where chronic malnutrition is widespread. Local families commonly consume only staple grains like rice and maize. Good health depends on dietary diversity having access to nutrients like protein, as well as vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. Food insecurity worsens during the ‘thin months’ los meses flacos, when money earned during the coffee harvest runs out, work is scarce and families can’t afford food.

As the Organic School Garden Project primarily operates in areas heavily dependent on coffee production, the SCAA Achievement Award is more than fitting. Established in 1982, SCAA is now the world’s leading coffee trade association, having contributed to the expansion and success of the coffee industry for over 25 years. The SCAA values innovation among other organizations where the production of coffee greatly influences their work; Pueblo a Pueblo demonstrates this through its program with rural, coffee-growing communities in Guatemala and their commitment to sustainability.

Founded in 2001, Pueblo a Pueblo formulates and establishes long-term solutions and projects dedicated to child education, health and nutrition in Latin America, with specific emphasis on Guatemala. Pueblo a Pueblo believes that meaningful and lasting change occurs through the direct involvement of those communities benefiting from such change. This belief allows these Guatemalan communities to provide a brighter future for generations to come independently and proudly after Pueblo a Pueblo’s initial helping hand. For more information on Pueblo a Pueblo, check out their Catalogue page here, and learn more about other Catalogue nonprofits working to improve the relationship between people and their environments here.

Guest Post: Women Thrive Worldwide

Women Thrive Worldwide works to create a world in which women and men work together as equals so that they, their families and their communities can thrive. They advocate for change at the U.S. and global levels so that women and men can share equally in the enjoyment of opportunities, economic prosperity, voice, and freedom from fear and violence. Their work is grounded in the realities of women living in poverty, partner with locally based organizations, and create powerful coalitions to advance the interests of the women and girls we serve.

What’s It Like to Really Live on $1 a Day? More Than 1 Billion People Can Tell You

Around the world, more than a billion people live in extreme poverty, defined as $1 or less per day. The majority of these people are women and children. They face challenges most of us can barely imagine.

Take just a few minutes to think about what you would have to give up to live on less than $1 a day.

Personally, I’d have to give up my coffee, eggs for breakfast, a mid-morning cup of tea, that bag of chips after lunch, lunch in general, my bus money to get to work — practically everything that gets me through the day. Maybe worst of all, I’d have to give up medicine that helps to keep my asthma under control.

To live on less than $1 a day, I’d have to give up nearly everything. And that’s exactly what Ritu Sharma, Co-founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, did on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, where she lived in a rural village with a woman, Prahansa, and her three beautiful nieces Chinthi, Kamala, and Manuka, on just $1 a day.

As the head of an organization that advocates for policies and programs that benefit women living in poverty worldwide, Ritu understands just how important it is to really know these women’s realities if she’s going be to a good advocate on their behalf. She also knows how critical it is for decision makers in Washington to hear these women’s voices. So she put her money where her mouth is and hopped a flight to Sri Lanka to live side-by-side with Prahansa, hoping to be able to understand — if only a little bit — what it’s like to live in extreme poverty.

Living with Prahansa, Ritu learned that she took the girls in when their mother left and their alcoholic father was sent to prison, and she now works every single day to make sure they’re cared for and living with family, rather than in an orphanage far away from home. To keep the family together, Prahansa’s sacrifices never end.

According to Ritu, “Prahansa stirred about 4 AM to go make her ‘rice cups’ to sell in the little market kiosk down the road from the bus stop. A teacup worth of yellow rice, a little chili and onion sauce, inside a baggie, and tied up in a neat little knot. Morning commuters would pass by, drop 10 rupees into the basket, grab a portable breakfast, and hop onto the bus into Galle. Prahansa might earn about 100-120 rupees that day, just under one dollar. Sometimes she sells them all and gets 130 rupees, if she’s lucky. Often, only a few sell. This is ALL the income she earns.”

As a result, everything from school supplies for the girls, public transportation, medical costs for Prahansa’s arthritis, clean water, household items, electricity, and clothes are up for negotiation. If she doesn’t sell enough cups, one — or most of these things — fall by the wayside.

This is just one woman’s story.

This year, Ritu will embark on two more trips to get just the slightest glimpse into what a lifetime on less than $1 a day feels like. She will meet women and their families in Honduras and Burkina Faso who, like too many, are in extreme poverty, and share their stories of survival and perseverance.

You can read the entire diary of Ritu’s trip to Sri Lanka here, read about her trip on the Huffington Post, and follow the “Living in Her Shoes: Three Countries on $1 a Day” campaign by visiting Women Thrive Worldwide’s website.


For more information on Women Thrive Worldwide, and similar Catalogue organizations, check out the following links to nonprofits working to improve the lives of women and girls (at home and abroad), as well as several Catalogue nonprofits primarily serving communities across the world.

In The News …

Plan to close VA institutions stokes worry for families of the developmentally disabled (Washington Post): “Virginia is among the last states to begin dismantling its large institutions for the developmentally disabled, a decision that was made as part of a year-old settlement agreement with the Justice Department [...] All but one of the commonwealth’s five training centers, as the state calls them, are to be shuttered by 2020.” Judith Korf, the mother of a resident of the Northern Virginia Training Center, points out that “I think the past has shown that is the only thing that works.” While Virginia officials remain “confident that the training centers’ residents can be properly cared for in the community, [..] there is deep concern that the state is rushing the process to meet unrealistic, arbitrary closure deadlines.”

Leaders of metro counties urge Congress to act on budget (Gazette: Prince George’s): “Impending federal sequestration could damage the fiscal stability of Maryland’s metro counties and leaders of those counties are urging congressional action [...] county executives Isiah Leggett, Rushern L. Baker III and Kenneth S. Ulman gathered Tuesday to call on Congress to compromise and stop sequestration.” Montgomery County executive Leggett argued that “the the federal job loss piece alone could cost the county as much as $500,000 a day in local income tax revenue” for his county and Prince George’s county executive Baker “said about 10 percent of Prince George’s jobs are federal.”

Gates, Buffett push Giving Pledge international (Seattle Times): “British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and his wife Joan are among the newest philanthropists who have pledged to give away half their wealth to charity.” This year, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett-initiated Giving Pledge, has grown to include “its first international members, including 12 wealthy individuals and couples from Russia, South Africa, Australia, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and Malaysia.” Since 2010, over 100 individuals and families have signed the Pledge.


by Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

For the past decade or so, microlending and microfinance have been a hot topic in international aid and development — and through microlending organizations like Kiva, an easy way for concerned global citizens from higher income countries to offer a helping hand to their brethren in lower income countries. Kiva is one of many crowd-sourcing organizations that lets donors lend amounts as small as $25 to collectively support micro-entrepreneurs around the world, who pay back those funds (through Kiva) to the original lenders. Nowadays, small business creation and entrepreneurship are very much at the heart of the conversation about kick-starting the United States economy, and Kiva has responded with an interesting solution: bring the international microfinance model to American cities.

This week, Kiva City launched its DC program, in partnership with Capital One Bank and Catalogue-nonprofit Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). Kiva City DC is a new online portal connecting small business owners in our nation’s capital with Kiva’s global network of over 870,000 lenders. By providing loans to these entrepreneurs, lenders can help them start, sustain and grow their businesses — and even create new jobs. Kiva City DC is the fourth Kiva City site across the country — along with Detroit, New Orleans, and Los Angeles.

Capital One is helping to provide financial heft for the project — matching all loans made to businesses posted by LEDC online through Kiva through 2013. LEDC provides the borrower base, bringing its expertise in financial and small business skill building to the table, as well as its connections to the Latino community in Washington, DC. LEDC’s Community Asset Fund for Entrepreneurs works to identify qualifying borrowers in the D.C. area, administers the loans and posts profiles of each small business owner online at According to the Kiva City DC website, “Kiva lenders’ funds are used to ease the loan requirements for borrowers, including decreasing collateral requirements, interest rates and fees associated with loan disbursement. With Kiva capital, LEDC will reach out to borrowers that may not have met all of LEDC’s existing criteria, allowing the organization to grow its lending program.”

For more information on borrowers currently seeking loans through Kiva and LEDC, check out borrower profiles online here, and for information on recommending the lending process to potential borrowers, check out LEDC’s online application .

Guest Post: Empowered Women International

Empowered Women International creates entrepreneurs and community leaders through women’s empowerment. Marga C. Fripp, the Founder and President, shares Three Reasons to Mentor a Woman, while EWI’s Media and Outreach Intern Jeremy Brandt-Vorel shares the stories of two women active in EWI’s programs. Both articles were originally published on EWI’s blog.

Why mentor a woman? Well, there are many reasons, but I want to share 3 compelling aspects that move most of our mentors.

Passion is infectious.

I often hear our mentors and even donors finding EWI’s passion for social change real and infectious. It’s true that once you meet our women entrepreneurs and experience the passion behind their work, you too will catch the bug and be transformed. We’re in the business of changing lives, but doing this without passion we wouldn’t be the same organization.

Once empowered, women give back.

It’s truly remarkable to see our immigrant or low-income women students struggling to recover from difficult life circumstances, yet working on business models that aim at social change. Income or profit is important for women. But what is most important is the change these women want to see in their communities. And their business enables them to do just that.

Mentoring is inspiring and rewarding.

We all want to feel good about being of help to someone in need. We love to support and invest in people who passionately believe in what they do. We love champions, and being part of their journeys is as rewarding as seeing them reaching the final destination.

Continue reading

After the Olympics

“I always loved running … it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”
– Jesse Owens, four-time Olympic gold medalist, 1936

Time and time again, the sprints and endurance tests of the 2012 London Olympics reminded us of the power and excitement inherent in such a wide variety of sports. (Just check out these racing moments on Runner’s World for some fun examples.) But as numerous athletes mentioned in their post-race interviews, success often begins with one great coach or class or neighborhood game. So today, we’ve highlighted a few Catalogue nonprofits who are working (and running) to ensure that local kids have the chance to jump into sports and stay active:

Continue reading