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Developing New Solutions With Food Recovery Network

by Regina Northouse, Executive Director, Food Recovery Network

File_000 (1)Food Recovery Network (FRN) is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. FRN unites and empowers college students to recover surplus food from their campus dining halls and surrounding food businesses and donate that food to hunger-fighting nonprofits who feed those most in need. With 230 university chapters across the country and growing, FRN’s goal is to support higher education in being the first sector where food recovery is the norm and not the exception. Through the power of highly motivated student leaders, FRN has recovered and donated more than 2.1 million pounds of food since 2011.

FRN positively impacts our communities. Our student leaders support over 350 hunger-fighting partners including homeless shelters, food banks and food pantries, providing them with wholesome, nutritious meals to give to their clients.

The U.S. food system is marked by an alarming paradox: nearly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, while 48.1 million Americans experience food insecurity each year, one out of seven of whom are children (NRDC 2016; USDA 2015).

Food Recovery Network was formed in 2011 by college students at the University of Maryland who wanted to address these issues of food waste and food insecurity, and their social and environmental impacts. These impacts include wasting 23% of potable water and 18% of valuable cropland, as well as emitting methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

What sets FRN apart, is our innovative model which empowers and educates young leaders and breaks down barriers between college campuses by helping students develop new solutions to problems in their communities, to connect with nonprofits in their area and help and build relationships with their neighbors who also happen to be in need. Through our model, our civic-minded student leaders gain confidence in their own abilities to challenge the status quo and fight for what is right.

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Food Recovery Network is a national nonprofit that applies local solutions to specific communities to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it most. I know I speak for my amazing team at FRN headquarters in College Park, Maryland, when I say we are continually inspired by our hard-working student leaders all over the country.

Many of FRN’s students often do more than volunteer with their FRN chapter. Our students pursue other opportunities in the food recovery movement, such as gleaning from local farms, recovering nonperishable food items during the days when students on their college campus move out for the semester, and participate in summer recoveries. The student leaders also volunteer with the nonprofit where they donate their surplus food by tutoring, preparing and serving meals and helping with cleanup initiatives.

We talk to our leaders all the time and there are so many inspiring stories. Actually, when asked about her relationship with her chapter’s partner nonprofit, one student from Michigan said, “Every time I brought food to our partner agency, I would meet one of the residents and they would be so kind and grateful! I loved being a part of this amazing organization and movement! It has made me realize that I want to incorporate more awareness and advocacy in my future career.”

Recently, we were told by an FRN alum that one of her limiting criteria for searching for which grad schools she wanted to apply to was whether that the school had an FRN chapter so she could remain engaged as a graduate student.

At the heart of what drives FRN to pursue the work we do is two things. First, being able to provide a source of nutritious food to those who would otherwise not have access. We’re here to be part of our communities. Second, we want to change behavior to reduce food waste at the source post production. This is one of the highest instances of food waste (versus food wasting on the vine for example). We don’t want to overproduce food in order to donate it, we want to ensure good food isn’t wasted to begin with, and when there happens to be surplus, which, let’s be honest, much of the time there will be, that food should feed our fellow neighbors in need.

In addition to recovering food from their campuses, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time with the hunger-fighting partners and the individuals they serve, highlighted by Lighthouse Outreach Ministries, “Everyone likes to see the college kids ride up! The homeless have families that they are separated from and it makes everyone smile to know they are not invisible.”

FRN is dedicated to continuing our work in the food recovery space and to expand the movement, as we continue to provide support and resources for driven, civic-minded students seeking opportunities to engage with their communities and build their leadership skills. I look forward to collaborating and partnering with individuals and other organizations to move the needle on the issue of food waste and food loss. I hope those reading this post know they can be part of the conversation with us!

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FRN hopes to see our network expand to 350 chapters across the country, and our ability to recover 1 million pounds of perfectly good food year-over-year. We’re working to expand our Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program that recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery. FRV serves as a third party that verifies that food businesses are donating surplus food to hunger fighting non-profits. We list those businesses on our website, we have a communications strategy to give voice to those businesses, and each business receives a window sticker to display on their doors or on marketing materials to tell patrons their business does the right thing with their surplus food. To date, FRN has over 90 food businesses that have been verified including Adidas, Zulily, and Twitter Inc.

Success is when each point within our food system has decreased food waste by implementing better practices to avoid overproduction of food–meaning at the farm level, the producer and purchasing level, at the retail level and individual consumer level. I know that as this conversation takes hold in the consciousness of more people, FRN is part of that behavior change.

Success is having the proper logistics in place for when there is surplus food to properly and effectively distribute that food to those who need it most across the country. We also want our student leaders to be part of the full process. Our students are the future entering into literally every sector in our country as business owners, chefs, teachers, engineers, technicians and farmers who all share the FRN experience. That experience has shaped their thinking about their ability to positively impact the lives of their community members, as well as how to reduce food waste. That’s the FRN lens. We want that FRN voice to continue to speak even once our students have graduated from college.

A great day at FRN features our small but mighty team at the national office working to support and expand the national network. That includes connecting with existing chapters on the phone, social media, emails and getting them what they need to go out and recover, or move closer to achieving their newest goals for the semester.

FRN works closely with our hunger-fighting partners collecting vital information, analyzing it, and then passing along new resources to our chapter leaders. At FRN, we’re constantly refining our work–what can we do better, what have we learned from our previous projects, what didn’t we do well, and where did we knock it out of the park?

As we grow, how we scale has to change, and how are we addressing those needs? Hearing the hum of our feedback loop in the office–during our project planning meetings is important, too. Additionally, our staff works with non-university food businesses that recover food to recognize them for their efforts and inspire other businesses to begin recovering through our Food Recovery Verified program.

All of these variations operations take place in our national office, made possible by our dedicated, passionate, and collaborative staff!

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There are plenty of ways to be involved, and we need you to be involved with us!

  • FRN welcomes all interested volunteers, including non-students, to help out with their local chapters!
  • Non-student volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their local chapter leaders, as many chapters seek the help of additional volunteers as drivers or mentors, if not during the actual recoveries as well. A list of chapters by state and their respective chapter leaders, contact information can be accessed here.
  • The national office is always here to make connections, too. FRN national is setting up gleaning dates throughout the fall in and around the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. We would love for you to help us recover perfectly good food right at the farm!Contact our national office now to put your name on the list for more information.
  • Help us expand! If you’re alma mater isn’t on the FRN map and you know students who attend and would make a great leader, put them in touch with us! Students can start by filling out our very short application.
  • Support our second annual National Food Recovery Dialogue. This is our annual conference that brings together our student leaders, industry experts, and community members to put into context the bigger picture of our work, and is a space to roll up our sleeves to problem solve on-the-ground problems, share resources, and break bread with one another.
  • Have some fun and start a “Zero Waste Challenge” for FRN. That can mean reducing your waste by eliminating plastic straws from your daily use, or paper napkins like our national board member Jessica did, or it could mean trying to go completely zero waste like our other national board member, Claire did. Anyone can do it, and it’s quite the amazing experience!
  • If you have an expertise that you think can help FRN, please reach out to us. We’re growing and need dedicated support in several areas. Please contact FRN headquarters by emailing info@foodrecoverynetwork.org or phone +1 (240) 615-8813 with any questions, or to be involved.

Sorting Fact From Fiction in the Digital Age With the News Literacy Project

by Alan C. Miller, Founder/CEO, News Literacy Project

30971125946_fc15feb0f7_z The News Literacy Project is a national education nonprofit, founded in 2008 and located in Bethesda, Maryland, that works with educators and journalists to teach secondary school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age and to give those students the tools to become informed and engaged citizens in a democracy. We are teaching literacy for the 21st century.

In our first eight years, our classroom, after-school and digital programs reached more than 25,000 students in diverse middle schools and high school students in the Washington, D.C., region (including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs), New York City, Chicago, and Houston. We have formed partnerships with 33 news organizations and enrolled more over 400 journalist fellows in our online directory; our volunteer journalists have delivered more than 750 lessons, both in person and virtually.

In May 2016, we launched the checkology® virtual classroom, the culmination of all our work to date and our primary path to national and international scale. In just over one year, 7,000 educators in every state in the U.S. and in 61 other countries, with a potential reach of more than 1 million students, have registered to use this platform.

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While these numbers are gratifying, we know that there is more to do. In the United States alone, there are 26 million public school students in grades 6-12, as well as the millions in private and parochial schools and in after-school, home-school and library programs — not to mention those students in schools and other programs outside the U.S. We look forward to dramatically expanding the reach of the checkology® virtual classroom among these students.

Even as we improve and expand the current platform, we’re preparing for its next iteration, along with international and Spanish-language versions. We have plans to reach beyond the classroom with a mobile-friendly app, which will likely be a news literacy game. Finally, we are working with Facebook on a public service advertising campaign to encourage millions of the platform’s engaged users to critically evaluate the news and information they share and to share only what is credible.

A healthy democracy depends on engaged citizens who can sort through vast amounts of information, separate fact from fiction, and know what to trust. Today, misinformation, rumor and spin can overwhelm real news, and the News Literacy Project provides the tools to meet this challenge. We’re working to give facts a fighting chance and to create an appetite for quality journalism. You could say that we were the antidote to “fake news” long before the term gained its recent currency.

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We are inspired by these challenges, by the tremendous opportunity to make a meaningful difference and by an urgent sense of responsibility to move as quickly as possible to meet the growing demand for our services. Since the emergence of the field of news literacy a decade ago (a field that we helped to create), we have gone from being a voice in the wilderness to an answer to prayer for many.

We’re particularly inspired by the educators and journalists who partner with us to deliver our curriculum and by the students who find it transformative. Those students include Christian Armstrong, who said of his experience with NLP as a student at Leo Catholic High School in Chicago: “This class has definitely changed my life. We prioritize news literacy over all else. The newspaper is considered to be our Holy Grail.” And Jenari Mitchell, a recent graduate of KIPP DC College Preparatory in Washington, who wrote in an essay about her NLP experience: “Learning how to distinguish between false and factual information allows us to control the news we consume, instead of allowing the news we consume to control us.”

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The News Literacy Project aspires to see news literacy embedded in the American educational experience, inside the classroom and outside of it. We want to teach many millions of young people how to know what news and information to believe, share and act on as students, consumers and citizens. We also hope to begin to change the culture so that people will take personal responsibility to stand up for facts and for quality journalism.

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Our website is www.thenewsliteracyproject.org. Anyone who wants more information or has questions can email us at info@thenewsliteracyproject.org. We welcome volunteers, including journalist fellows who can play various roles with us. People can engage with us through social media, as educators and journalist fellows, and as financial supporters. Please let us know your interest and we will respond. Finally, educators can register for the virtual classroom at www.checkology.org.

Skills for the Future with Washington Youth Garden

by Crystal Williams, Communications and Events Manager, Washington Youth Garden
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Washington Youth Garden (WYG) is a program of Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) on the grounds of the US National Arboretum and uses the garden cycle to enrich science learning, inspire environmental stewardship and cultivate healthy food choices in youth and families. WYG has three subprograms within the organization; SPROUT (Science Program Reaching Out) – field trip program, Green Ambassador Program- high school internship program, and Garden Science – school garden development program.

In 2016, 3,140 students visited the garden on nearly 100 SPROUT trips while 90% of SPROUT participants tasted something new from the garden.

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This year from April through June, we’ve already served 2,500 students through our SPROUT program and 15 new high school Green Ambassadors joined us for the busy summer ahead!

Gardening and carpentry skills are not the only thing our students gain in the garden, as illustrated by the following quote:

“The Green Ambassador Program] gave me a lot of skills for future jobs and helped me grow as a person as well. A lot of my peers come from very different backgrounds, so it gave me a lot of new perspectives.”
-DeWayne Walker, Green Ambassador Program 2016

This year we celebrate our new education pavilion. The new pavilion at Washington Youth Garden’s demonstration garden is the result of a partnership between the Weissberg Foundation, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations working together to benefit school groups and families from underserved D.C. neighborhoods and other communities in the region. The pavilion is dedicated to the late Judith Morris, who was passionate about sharing nature and the Arboretum with surrounding communities and underserved youth. The pavilion provides a much-needed outdoor classroom space for young people coming to our demonstration plot to learn about environmental science and nutrition.
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We encourage the community to be a part of Washington Youth Garden by either attending an event such as Family Garden Day on August 12th or volunteering with us. Volunteer as an individual or bring a group. Individuals should sign-up for an orientation here. Volunteering as a group with Washington Youth Garden is a fun and active outdoor experience that is sure to build staff cohesion outside the office. For more information visit our website at www.washingtonyouthgarden.org

Compassionate Care with Culmore Clinic

by Allison Colby,Interim Executive Director, Culmore Clinic
7881CF48-A700-4DA5-AEAF-A5262C8DF3AEAccess to healthcare continues to be a crisis. An estimated 50,000 people are still uninsured in Fairfax County, Virginia, alone. Barriers to accessing medical care are legion. Affordability, language, and documentation are just a few examples. Dedicated individuals and congregations thought something should be done. In 2007, they opened Culmore Clinic.

Culmore Clinic is a 501c-3, non-profit healthcare clinic serving low-income adults in the Bailey’s Crossroads community at little to no cost. Supported by a diverse group of interfaith volunteers, healthcare providers, and donors, Culmore Clinic offers compassionate medical care, counseling services as well as specialty referrals. Their commitment to care for all is displayed with their top-notch medical interpretation services to ensure effective treatment to the culturally diverse community in which they work. Volunteers founded The Clinic in 2007 and to this day it is still significantly volunteer run, allowing more resources to go toward patient care.

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I was drawn to The Clinic because of its unique and meaningful mission and am impressed by the way it is lived out in daily practice. Culmore Clinic is, at it’s core, an interfaith compassionate health care center. By naming and claiming these words in our mission it ensures that all will be treated with respect, diversity will be celebrated, and care will be patient centered and culturally competent. Personally, I come from a family rooted in faith and have been drawn to serving those who may have been overlooked. I value not only tolerance but true collaboration between faith groups and cultures to enrich the lives of the entire community. The Clinic does not just provide healthcare, it is a neighborhood beacon. A safe haven for all. A forum for dialogue and catalyst for change. This is why I serve here.

Success for us is when the care and resources we have worked hard to establish, meet the needs of the community we serve. We are far from “doing it all” but when we are able to connect patients with the services they need, in an otherwise expensive and confusing system, we are successfully serving our community. This matching of need with relief can take many forms at The Clinic.

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Some days it means we are able to send a female patient for a free mammogram and prevent breast cancer. Some days it means we are able to help a patient navigate the pharmacy system and teach him how to use insulin for the first time. Success at The Clinic can take the form of countless volunteer hours spent making sure that a necessary surgery will be possible and affordable. It can mean connecting a patient with established programs in the county for much needed case management and housing support. Impacts, both large and small are the success stories that keep us pushing forward.

We are in the “business” of providing accessible, quality healthcare to all, but we certainly cannot do it alone. Our best days happen when we partner with neighboring organizations to provide an even more comprehensive network of support. For example, the generous Food Pantry volunteers, on site from Columbia Baptist Church @ Crossroads, have taken to providing our patients with seasonal fresh produce, in addition to assisting with nutrition bags at our Diabetes Group Visits. We have “great days” that involve visits from members of a local retirement community who set up our exam rooms and deliver dental care packages. Our partners in diagnostic and lab testing continue to provide us with free and reduced services to meet our busiest of great days! Culmore Clinic is committed to using resources wisely and putting all we can back into improving delivery of care. With partnerships like these, we are able to provide even more great days for our patients to come.

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I invite you to check out our website at www.culmoreclinic.org where you can find more about our volunteer opportunities. We’re always looking for RNs, healthcare providers, and those with administrative, data collection and interpreter knowledge. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter too where we send out updates on Open House events where you can take a tour of The Clinic. Also, we encourage you to spread the word about Culmore Clinic to your doctors and healthcare professionals as we are always looking to expand our specialty referral network.

Bringing Summer’s Bounty to Our Older Neighbors with We Are Family

By Tulin Ozdeger, Co-Executive Director, We Are Family
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Summer is one of my favorite times of year. I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the chance just to spend more time outside. As an avid gardener and cook, I also love the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that arrive in my garden and at the farmers market this time of year.

My background is Turkish and I grew up tagging along with my parents at the amazing farmers markets in Turkey, marveling at all of the delicious foods we would soon bring home to cook and eat. I know that good ingredients make really good food.

I am Co-Executive Director of We Are Family, an outreach and advocacy organization that serves low-income older residents of the North Capital, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods of DC. When I got a call from Dalila Boclin at Community Foodworks two years ago to discuss collaborating with their Columbia Heights Farmers Market, I jumped at the chance.

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We Are Family serves over 700 seniors each month, with year-round monthly non-perishable grocery deliveries, visits, transportation, Thanksgiving and holiday gift deliveries, and a whole lot more. Most of our seniors are living at or below the poverty line and many are isolated, lacking any nearby family. So, We Are Family walks beside them to help them age in place with a good quality of life.

IMG_4489I know how popular our monthly grocery deliveries are with our seniors, as each month the list grows and grows right now we deliver to over 725 seniors each month. Given our seniors’ meager incomes and the fact that DC recently ranked as the 4th worst place in the nation for older adult food insecurity, the great need for free food deliveries is hardly surprising.

I had long dreamed of bringing free, high quality farmers market produce to our seniors, as I know that many simply do not have the money or the mobility to get the fresh produce they desperately want and need. I also loved the idea of supporting local farmers and the Columbia Heights Farmers Market, given how important they are to our local food systems and to the health of our community and environment.

IMG_3436The response from our seniors to the produce deliveries has been tremendous. They love getting such delicious, healthy food each week! After our very first delivery, I got several calls from seniors raving about the produce and telling me how excited they were to cook with it. One of them said she eagerly got up extra early the next day to start cooking the greens she had gotten in her bag.

In 2015, we started out serving 35 seniors each week with our produce deliveries and, as of this week, we are now delivering bags of fresh produce to just over 160 seniors. Through our partnership with Community Foodworks, We Are Family is able to purchase the produce for our seniors from the Market at a wholesale price.

Community Foodworks orders the food and makes the bags for us each week. With help from our volunteers, We Are Family picks up the bags from the farmers market and delivers them to our seniors in three nearby buildings we serve in Columbia Heights.

One bit of feedback we got from some seniors last year was that they were not always sure what the vegetables were in their bags or how to prepare them. So, this year, I decided to include a flier from We Are Family listing the bag’s items with pictures, along with some simple recipe ideas each week. Like many of us, sometimes our seniors aren’t quite sure what to do with the produce when they get it. Coming up with recipes has even helped me get a little more creative in my kitchen. (My 7-year-old son was surprised when he actually liked the swiss chard omelet recipe I put on one flier!)

Given our lean paid staff of only 2, We Are Family relies tremendously on the help of volunteers. There is no way we could deliver food to over 700 seniors each month without them! We will be delivering produce each Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 through October 11th and welcome you to join us.

We also have regular Saturday morning volunteer events all throughout the year, including grocery deliveries, visits, and grocery bag assemblies. (A calendar and sign up for our events can be found here: www.wearefamilydc.org/events.)Ms Glover produce pic

The volunteer experience can be a powerful, even transformative one. My life is a testament to that truth. I came to DC for law school a little over 20 years ago and started volunteering with older DC residents several years later. The seniors I have met have had such a profound impact on my life. When I first moved here, I didn’t think I would stay, much less find myself co-directing a group like We Are Family – but here I am! We know how much your volunteer time will mean to our seniors, but you might well be surprised how much it will mean in your life too.
We hope you can join us in spreading good food and caring community!

Docs In Progress: Small but Mighty!

by Erica Ginsberg, Executive Director, Docs In Progress
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Everyone has a story, and almost everyone has the potential to tell those stories through a tool you probably have in your back pocket or purse. Documentary video production has expanded enormously in the past decade with reduced costs of technology and the ease of sharing video. Yet simply having access to tools to make and share videos does not automatically make one a great storyteller. That is where Docs In Progress comes in. Our mission is to give individuals the tools to tell stories through documentary film to educate, inspire, and transform the way people view their world.

Our programs started in 2004 when we started organizing “docs-in-progress” screenings so local documentary filmmakers could get feedback on their films when they were at the “rough cut” stage. It was a way to help filmmakers step back from projects they’ve been living with for so long — often years — in production and editing, and see their films with new eyes by hearing what audiences thought was working really well and where the storytelling lagged or was confusing. While we presumed these screenings would attract other filmmakers, we were pleasantly surprised to see other folks coming as well, including people who were interested in the topics of the films and those who were experts on those topics.DocsInProgress_CommunityStoriesFestival

We became a nonprofit in 2008, and increased our programming to include programs for filmmakers to share and discuss works which might be at an even earlier stage, as well as training classes and professional development workshops in all aspects of documentary filmmaking for both adults and youth. Since then, we have expanded to offer an array of filmmaker services (fiscal sponsorship, fellowship programs, and a residency) and an annual Community Stories Film Festival which showcases short documentaries produced by our students and others about local stories from across the Washington DC Metro area. We have also worked to foster professional development for nonprofit organizations in the areas of video communications through seminars and workshops.

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Audio-visual storytelling used to be the domain of filmmakers who went to film school or spent years apprenticing to develop their craft mastering expensive and complicated cameras, sound recording devices, and editing systems. Now all of these tools are much more accessible through low-priced cameras, high quality imaging on our phones, and editing systems on our computers. However, technology is just a means to an end. Good storytelling is still at the core. While we have embraced the reality that many people have stories to tell without the time or money to dedicate to film school or apprenticeship, we still want to arm them with the skills and community to be able to develop those stories to their fullest potential.

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Success is all relative. I quit a comfortable job in the federal government to devote myself full-time to Docs In Progress back in 2009. Many people thought I was bonkers to go into the great unknown of a start-up arts organization in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression. And I probably was. The early years of Docs In Progress were very hard, but it made us scrappy and determined to ensure that we had a good mix of income streams – grants, individuals, and earned revenue from our programs.

After a few years, we began to receive grants from local, regional, and national sources, including the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Being accepted into the Catalogue for Philanthropy convinced me that we could continue through the long haul.

I would still consider Docs In Progress a “small but mighty” nonprofit. Last year, more than 1000 people participated in our programs. People are often surprised to learn that our staff consists of only me and two part-time staff. A cadre of talented teaching artists and an enthusiastic board of has helped us continue to grow. Seeing the impact we were making on the field and being a part of fostering what has become the third largest non-fiction filmmaking region in the country (after New York and Los Angeles) has been what has kept us going, even as we want to keep building our capacity.

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I am inspired every day by the folks in our community. Yes there are the films which have seen traditional markers of success. Let The Fire Burn, The Lost Dream, Fate of a Salesman, The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan, and City of Trees all screened on public television. Indivisible has been playing at film festivals and community screenings across the country, building dialogue about immigration policy. There are some incredible films coming down the pike which deal with just about every social issue you can imagine — labor issues, autism, water pollution, human rights, and the state of our divisive politics. There are also some humorous films which go against the grain that documentaries are all doom and gloom, asking us to reflect even as we laugh.

Even as I feel proud of these successes, I also see success in the confident smile of a shy 13-year-old at the Community Stories Festival after answering questions from an audience of strangers about a film he helped create in our summer camp. I have witnessed the “a-ha moment” a first-time filmmaker experiences when she moves from being creatively stuck to figuring out a solution to the structure of their film. I feel it when I learn that two filmmakers met at one of our roundtables and decided to collaborate on a new project together. I notice it when someone who didn’t think he was all that important becomes a rock star to the audience watching his life unfold on the big screen. In a world where we are asked so many times to provide measurable outcomes, sometimes it is these small observations which remind me why Docs In Progress exists.

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There are lots of ways to engage with Docs In Progress. We hold free or pay-what-you-can screenings just about every month. Some of these are works-in-progress where you can provide the filmmaker constructive feedback on what is working and what can be working better in their films (even non-filmmakers can be helpful because we all consciously or sub-consciously can sense where story development is strong and where it might be slow or confusing).

Like many other nonprofits, we are always on the lookout for great board members. Being a filmmaker or part of the film industry is not a pre-requisite. Being passionate about our mission and having some skills (fundraising, accounting, public relations, etc.) are.

For our fellow nonprofits, we also have two ways your work could be spotlighted. When we are teaching first-time filmmakers how to make a short documentary, we have them work on doing a profile of local people, small businesses, or nonprofits. While these are primarily learning exercises for our students and not professional works-for-hire, some of them turn out very nicely and have actually been used by the profiled nonprofits for their own outreach. One thing we realized, as we have interacted with other nonprofits through professional associations and having our students document their activities, is how much impactful stories can be conveyed through visuals. If a still image is worth 1000 words, then a moving image might be worth a million. Not just metaphorically either. Some funders, including our local arts council, recommend applicants provide a video with their proposals. Find out more about the parameters for being spotlighted by our students at http://www.docsinprogress.org/doc_production_stories

Since 2015, we have also offered a video production workshop specifically for nonprofit staff to expand their visual communications skills. This workshop is offered two mornings a week over the course of a month at a much lower fee than our regular production classes. The 2017 workshop will take place July 11-August 1. The deadline to apply is June 19. Find out more at https://eventgrid.com/Events/33604/hands-on-video-production-for-nonprofits-ie1-1113/Dates/45168

Expanding our DC Leadership Team

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The board of directors of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, celebrating its 15th year, is pleased to announce the selection of Bob Wittig as its first executive director. The Catalogue recognizes the region’s best small charities, is a leader in developing their capacity, and has helped raise over $37 million since its inception in 2003.

“This is an important step in ensuring the Catalogue’s longevity,” said board member Lauralyn Lee. “As the Catalogue expands its reach, and adds popular Learning Commons training and development programs, Bob’s 25 years of experience working in philanthropy and with small nonprofits makes him an ideal fit for our work going forward.”

After 15 years of overseeing the exceptional growth of the Catalogue, founder Barbara Harman has decided that it is time to move to the next phase of her presidency. She will focus on the Catalogue’s creative work, on partnership development, external relations, and future initiatives. “During this anniversary, it seems particularly important not just to celebrate the past but also to ensure the Catalogue’s future by strengthening its leadership team. As a founder-led organization that represents and supports nearly 400 community-based charities, we want to be a model for how nonprofits can remain vital and how transitions can be effective and powerful,” Harman said.

Wittig has a long record of leadership and commitment to the nonprofit community in the DC region, including a 14-year history as a reviewer of Catalogue applicants, and a facilitator in its training programs. He has been executive director of the Jovid Foundation in Washington, D.C. since 2002. Prior to that, he served as executive director at Academy of Hope, Development Director at Joseph’s House and Direct Marketing Manager at Special Olympics International, all D.C.-based organizations. In 1992, he was part of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Ukraine. Wittig is an author and expert on nonprofit capacity building and board governance.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with Bob to ensure that the Catalogue continues to serve the needs of donors who want to invest in our community and nonprofits whose strength and passion we admire and seek to support,” said Harman.

“I am thrilled to join the Catalogue and its talented team, both to continue and to build upon its impressive achievements,” Wittig stated. “I look forward to working with Barbara, with the Board, and with the donor and nonprofit communities that the Catalogue so successfully brings together.”
The executive search firm LeaderFit worked with the board of directors on this search.

LearnServe Helps Young People Find Their Voice

By Scott Rechler, Learn Serve International

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LearnServe believes in the power of young people to affect social change, and in the power of social change work to shape young leaders.

Youth have the energy, creativity, and passion to identify injustice and drive innovative change,yet often feel powerless to act on that potential. LearnServe helps them find their voice. We envision a new generation of young leaders standing up for the issues that matter to them most.
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A basketball tournament designed to bridge DC teens and police officers. English classes for immigrant and refugee students in northern Virginia. Support for girls building self-confidence and a healthy body image. A fleet of electric school buses. Meet the high school students behind these dynamic new ideas and more at the 8th Annual LearnServe Panels and Venture Fair on Thursday, April 27 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm at Washington Latin Public Charter School (5200 2nd St NW, Washington, DC 20011).
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Students teams will present their ideas in short pitches to panels of business and community leaders, and in a science-fair style exhibition with the opportunity to win up to $200 in seed funding for their projects. RSVP online at http://learn-serve.org/programs/fellows/2017-panels-venture-fair.

LearnServe International is a non-profit organization that equips students from diverse backgrounds with the entrepreneurial vision, tenacity, confidence, and leadership skills needed to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.

Each year LearnServe brings together 100+ students from public, charter, and independent schools in the Washington, DC area. We strengthen their academic and professional success through three complementary programs. The LearnServe Fellows program guides students as they design and launch entrepreneurial ventures with social goals. LearnServe Abroad introduces social innovation through a global lens, as students volunteer with entrepreneurs overseas. Seeding Social Innovation offers curriculum materials to bring social entrepreneurship into the classroom.

We invite you to join the community of individuals, businesses, and schools committed to sparking a new generation of social entrepreneurs across the DC region. Get involved and learn more about our programs at www.learn-serve.org.

Defend Waterways of the Potomac with Potomac Riverkeeper Network

By Nathan Ackerman, VP Communication & Creative, Potomac Riverkeeper Network

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a non-profit environmental organization fighting to keep pollution out of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers through grassroots organizing and legal advocacy.

We believe experiencing our rivers builds appreciation for them. We defend and enhance public access to the waterways of the Potomac watershed through Riverkeepers, who identify and address threats to the Potomac, Upper Potomac, and the Shenandoah.

We serve the 6 million people who rely on our rivers as the source of their drinking water, the thousands of recreational users of the rivers, and the many more who may never spend time on our rivers but appreciate their beauty, and the vital role they play in our economy and the ecosystems they sustain.

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Photography: Lindsay Bernal, courtesy of Potomac Riverkeeper Network

We protect and defend our rivers because they sustain life. Our rivers supply our drinking water and put food on the table. Keeping our rivers healthy keeps the Chesapeake Bay healthy – which generates 33 billion in recreational and economic benefits each year. But beyond the economic benefits, we believe our rivers have intrinsic value that merits protection.

The work we do is important because our country still allows industry, municipalities and agricultural operations to externalize significant costs by using our rivers to dispose of their waste and pollution. Proposed rollbacks of federal clean water protections make our work more important than ever – local vigilance, citizen action, public education and engagement are the last lines of defense.

Our work in Alexandria, Virginia kept nearly a billion gallons of sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the Potomac by exposing the extent to which the city was polluting our nation’s river. Generating pressure through the media and raising public awareness cut over a decade off of the original plan for fixing the problem.

When we discovered families in Dumfries, Virginia were being poisoned by toxic coal ash leaking into their drinking water, we organized the community, and worked to get a law passed to address the situation.

We are inspired by the belief that people have a fundamental right to clean water. We are inspired by single moms working two jobs who find time to speak up for the environment at public hearings. We are inspired by the fact that nearly 50 years ago President Lyndon Johnson called the Potomac River “a national disgrace” but today long lines lead to the Key Bridge boathouse filled with people who can’t wait to get out on the river, thanks to the Clean Water Act.

Here in Washington, we’re seeing a dramatic change in the public perception of the river – urban planners see it an an amenity, not an afterthought.

“Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss.”

(David Bolling, How to Save a River: Handbook for Citizen Action)

Our biggest outreach event of the year, RiverPalooza, kicks off June 3rd with a day of paddling followed by a BBQ and Bluegrass party in Harpers Ferry. RiverPalooza runs most weekends through the summer and will feature 14 river adventures for all ages and skill levels – kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoe and camping trips. For those looking for ways to experience our rivers, this is the way to do it.

On the campaign front, we just committed to taking a leadership role in fighting a pipeline project that would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania through the Maryland panhandle, and under the Potomac River. The company proposing this doesn’t have a great safety record. There’s no need for Maryland to risk their natural resources, tourism and recreation dollars on a pipeline that does nothing for them – the gas isn’t going to Maryland, it’s going through Maryland. Banning fracking in Maryland was the first step. Keeping pipelines out is next.

  • Success for Potomac Riverkeeper Network is a healthy Shenandoah and Potomac River, made possible by holding polluters accountable and building public awareness and appreciation for the role rivers play in our lives.
  • Success would be never reading another headline about how the swimming portion of the National Triathlon was cancelled because the water was unsafe for human contact.
  • Success is stopping cities from dumping raw sewage into the river. Success would be building the next generation of advocates for our rivers, setting their expectations high, and giving them the tools to win.
  • A perfect day is bringing a group of people to a scenic stretch of the Shenandoah for the first time and seeing their faces light up as they discover what we fight for and why – without any explanation.

We can be reached by calling 202 888 2037 or by emailing nathan@prknetwork.org or maria@prknetwork.org. Our website has information about our priority issues, links to take action, to volunteer and to join our organization. A great way to engage with us is to participate in one of our RiverPalooza trips, which are led by our Riverkeepers or liking us on Facebook.

“Keep your rivers flowing as they will, and you will continue to know the most important of all freedoms – the boundless scope of the human mind to contemplate wonders, and to begin to understand their meaning. “

(David Brower, The Foreword to Oregon Rivers by Larry Olson and John Daniel)

 

 

 

 

Saving the Amazon Rainforest with Science

By Ana Folhadella, Development and Communications Associate, Amazon Conservation Association

The Amazon rainforest is under attack. While the region still maintains vast tracts of intact, megadiverse, and carbon-rich forests, it faces escalating threats from illegal gold mining, illegal logging, illegal drug plantations, unsustainable agriculture, cattle pastures, and road construction. At current rates, more than half of the Amazon rainforest may be destroyed or severely damaged by 2030.

Keeping the Amazon standing is crucial for our survival as a species. The Amazon has long been recognized as one of the most biologically rich regions on Earth. It is home to millions of species of animals, plants and insects, essential not only to the indigenous communities living in the region, but also to the overall health of our planet. The rainforest is not just some far-away land that gets showcased at National Geographic specials from time to time, and deforestation happening there affects us right here in the U.S.A. This forest stores 80 to 120 billion tons of carbon, which helps stabilize the Earth’s climate. Destroying such a large storage of carbon will have devastating effects on all of our lives.
ACA5 The Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) was established for the sole purpose of protecting the Amazon rainforest and all those who call it home. Since 1999, we have been pioneers in conservation, focusing our efforts on a key area where the Amazon rainforest meets the Andes mountains in Peru and Bolivia.

Our founding program provided financial and technical support for Brazil nut harvesters in Peru, as an incentive for helping protect the Amazon rainforest. We now work with more than 100 communities in the Andes-Amazon to help them make a living in ways that also sustain biodiversity in the forest and have widely expanded our conservation efforts into other areas. Moreover, now we:

  • Protect over 3.8 million acres of Amazonian rainforest through the creation of legally recognized protected areas and other conservation strategies;
  • Plant tens of thousands of trees every year to help restore damaged habitats;
  • Use innovative satellite imagery to monitor deforestation in near-real time and alert key stakeholders of potential illegal activities;
  • Host hundreds of researchers annually, who advance our understanding about biodiversity, conservation methods, and the impacts of climate change;
  • Partner with indigenous communities to develop forest-friendly livelihoods;
  • And much more!

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A vital part of our conservation approach is the use of cutting-edge science to inform projects on the ground, promote rational discourse on tough policy questions, and educate and inspire the next generation of conservationists. To this end, we manage some of the best biological research stations in the tropics where each year we host hundreds of scientists and students from all over the world, conduct biological monitoring, and provide workshops and educational opportunities for local communities.

To this date over 200 research projects have been conducted at our stations, including studies on the effects of climate change on amphibians, the impact of overgrazing on threatened high altitude wetlands, the dynamics of mixed-flocks of birds, the diet of Andean bears, and the diversity of orchids in the region.

Dr. Miles Silman, Professor and Director at the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability at Wake Forest University stated that ACA’s field stations are our laboratories and windows into the future of Earth’s highest biodiversity area. They are important not only to understand biodiversity now, but how it will survive in the future.

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Our scientific approach can also be seen in our Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), where we use high-resolution satellite imagery from sources like NASA to track deforestation in the Amazon and analyze its causes. Not only do we use science to track this deforestation in near real-time, we also have formed closed alliances with local authorities who now use this data as a key piece of information to stop deforestation before it gets to a point of no return. The information we publicly post on MAAP is strictly scientific and unbiased, which helps authorities and lawmakers utilize it to further conservation efforts.

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Not only do we use science-based conservation in all of our protection efforts, we also strive to train the next generation of conservationists who will be at the forefront of environmental conservation years from now. We believe that supporting new conservationists early in their careers will be key in ensuring the Amazon is protected by trained experts for generations to come.

ACA’s very own General Science Coordinator, Sandra Almeyda, started off as a scholarship recipient and is now a full-on biologist contributing to the protection of the Amazon. “I started my scientific career thanks to a scholarship granted by ACA to develop my undergraduate thesis,” she says, “now as the General Science Coordinator, one of my main motivations is to inspire young scientist and provide them with opportunities to follow their passion, to experience science first hand, and to fall in love with their profession, like I did.”

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We hope you will join our conservation journey to keep the Amazon rainforest safe and our climate in check. You can make a difference by:

Learn more about how your support is helping protect the Amazon and how you can become a conservation hero at http://www.amazonconservation.org/.

PS: All the beautiful images in this post were taken at our biological stations in Peru and have NOT been photoshopped! Come experience this magical place in person!