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What’s the next big idea? Young Social Entrepreneurs Pitch at LearnServe

by Emma Strother, Development Manager, LearnServe International
cfpdc2015-LearnServeInternational-5955-1840Immigration. Gentrification. Environmental issues. Teen mental health. Where will the next big idea originate? They can’t yet vote. They are years from becoming credentialed doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They may compete for jobs that have not yet been invented. But today they can begin as changemakers. In a moment when adults often feel powerless – overwhelmed by daunting social, environmental, and political challenges – how can we set a different tone for our young people? How do we challenge them to empathize, innovate, and persist when others say it can’t be done? How do we remind them that social change begins with them?

LearnServe Community 3 (1) At LearnServe, middle and high school students are not just the leaders of tomorrow. They’re the leaders of today. And in 30-second “elevator pitches” on December 7th, they will debut their plans to make a positive impact in their communities and schools.

LearnServe International believes in the power of young people to create change, and in the power of change work to shape young leaders. Through interconnected in-school, after school, and summer abroad trip programs, we train DC-area middle and high school students to be social entrepreneurs and global citizens, equipping them with the business skills, vision, and tenacity to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.
#StartsWithMe 2018 Fellows 1The LearnServe Innovator’s Coffee House is an opportunity to witness the start of our students’ social venture projects, meet the LearnServe community, and promote youth-led social innovation in the DC area. The event was held Thursday, December 7th at Impact Hub DC. Here is a video of the event. A special thanks to Impact Hub DC for providing the space for this event.

This is video from last year’s LearnServe Coffee House and some of the students most inspiring stories:

If you are inspired by what you see, we would love to meet you at the Coffee House! To learn more, visit our website at, send an email to, or connect with us on social media #learnserve @learnserve.

Around Town: 10/18-10/24

With Fall in full swing, our nonprofits are getting busy! See what great events you can head to in the upcoming week. Are you a current Catalogue nonprofit with an event to promote? Make sure to put it in your portal so you can see your event in an upcoming Around Town! Continue reading

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.

What the Coffee Means

By Matt Bright, Earth Sangha’s Tree Bank Coordinator

Earth Sangha Tree Bank / Hispaniola is a partnership with a group of small-holder farmers who live along a section of the Dominican Republic-Haiti border. Our goal is to create a system in which tropical small-holder farming is more compatible with native forest. Such a system, we hope, could one day benefit small-holders in the many parts of the rural tropics. This guest post is an excerpt from First Hand, a series of essays and videos intended to show you what it’s like to do small-scale “green development” in a rural, developing-country context.

Our Rising Forests Coffee is, to our friends in the DC area, the most visible and tangible achievement from our work in the Dominican Republic. Drinking our coffee is not just a delicious way to start your morning (now available in dark roast: order here!); it’s also an important way to support our conservation efforts. Our coffee supports our Tree Bank, provides much-needed income to our farmers, and encourages conservation.

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5 Year Plan

by Adam Tibe (Philippines, Class 8 serving at Operation Smile)
Reposted with permission of Atlas Service Corps, Washington DC

At 27 and ambitious, I have sketched my life’s plan in the next 5 years.

I guess soon after you hit the quarter life, that’s when you start seriously to rethink about your life and make a mental note reflecting circumspectly about your direction both personally and professionally.

I have arrived in the United States last January to join an 18-month professional fellowship program. This has been part of my “5-year plan” and being able to tick it out in my list excites me more than anybody. It was also a sweet bonus to learn that I will be serving with Operation Smile International as one of their Program Coordinators. The organization works in more than 60 countries and brings free medical surgeries to children with facial deformities especially those with cleft lips and cleft palates. Another box is set to be marked off — trip around the world! I went on my first mission last month in San Cristobal, Mexico and had a real awesome time with some of the most amazing in-country and international volunteers. It was incredible to see an unmatched level of professional skills coupled with passion and dedication to serve the children in that part of the world that otherwise may not have had the opportunity to have a normal smile and life if not for Operation Smile. Without a doubt, I more convinced that I made the right decision to volunteer. The happiness I felt to be there was simply irreplaceable.

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Come Forward

In a Politico op-ed, “Violence against women is no ‘women’s issue’,” Women Thrive Worldwide co-founder & President Ritu Sharma writes:

This lesson has been learned by longtime activists, who have been battling this scourge that affects one in three women globally. Gender-based violence can take many forms: rape and assault used as weapons of war, domestic violence, acid burnings and female infanticide. The list is long.

But ending this violence has one common element: The men who are political leaders — village elders, pastors and mullahs, fathers, brothers, husbands and boyfriends — need to come forward and say stop. [...]

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In The News …

Not Enough Qualified Workers in DC? (Washington Post via DCentric): “Unemployment in some DC neighborhoods is as high as 25 percent. At the same time, cranes fill the skies in pockets of the city, signaling economic activity. So why not encourage hiring unemployed DC residents for those projects? That was the intent behind tightening the District’s hiring rules for projects receiving city money. But now builders and contractors say that the new hiring standards are impossible to meet because the city simply lacks qualified workers.” To learn about a Catalogue nonprofit focused on construction training, head to DC Students Construction Trades Foundation.

3 new private conservation reserves established by communities in Peru (Mongabay: environmental news): “Three new private conservation areas in the Amazon-Andes region of Peru will help buffer the country’s national park system while offering new opportunities for local people to benefit from protecting ecosystems. The new private conservation areas cover 18,882 hectares (46,659 acres) of habitat ranging from high elevation grasslands to cloud forests to rain forests [...] The new reserves are also significant in that they are part of a broader initiative by the Amazon Conservation Association, an NGO with offices in Washington DC and Peru, to support sustainable livelihoods in a region that is traditionally very poor.” A Catalogue nonprofit, ACA preserves miles of wilderness through sustainable use of resources, research, and education.

Housing costs trouble many Arlingtonians (Washington Post: Local): “The biggest problem facing Arlingtonians, by many measures, is the cost of housing. If you don’t have it, and you’re not financially well-off, you can be in for a long, painful search. “Affordable” housing options usually are targeted at those who make 60 to 80 percent of the median income,” which is $110,000 in the county. “Further down the income ladder are those who are already homeless. A-SPAN, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, recently received a $93,000 grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide housing and case management for six chronically homeless adults in Arlington.” Also a Catalogue nonprofit, A-SPAN also operates Opportunity Place, where homeless individuals can take a shower, wash clothes, secure a health-care referral, and obtain an address.

International Volunteering (part 2)

By Jade Floyd

This is the second post in a two-part series by Jade Floyd. Ms. Floyd works in international public affairs in DC and serves on the Board of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative. Follow her on Twitter: @DcThisWeek. Read the first part of the series here.

Preparing for an international volunteer experience can be daunting. But paying for it is the hardest part — and once you have tackled that, you are well on your way. (And remember: keep all you receipts because many of these expenses can be tax deducible.) My program required nearly $6,000 when you factored in program fees, flights, buses, immuniztions, taxis, supplies, gifts for family and friends, hotels, guest houses, and gifts for myself. Luckily, I had a very good friend who worked for an airline, which made a major difference. You can also consider using your Airline miles or those of a family member or friend if they will donate them to your cause. Continue reading