CRS Rice Bowl Fights HungerIt’s that time of year again for Catholics all over the world. With Lent starting this past Wednesday, Catholics are prompted to spend the religious season reflecting upon their own lives and giving up a little something to prepare for Easter Sunday. Many people give up the classics: chocolate, television, swearing, etc. Yet, there is a bit more to the season. A big part of the Lenten season isn’t just giving up, it is giving. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has launched this year’s Rice Bowl project, formerly known as Operation Rice Bowl.

The project involves distributing small, cardboard bowl containers to parishes and the parishioners take them home or to the office and continuously give a bit at a time by simply putting their gifts into the box and returning the bowl later. Wary about where this money is headed? Don’t worry, CRS is one of the most transparent organizations around.

The funds are handled responsibly and they are used in a very interesting way. About 25 percent of a person’s gift is used to help the hungry in their own community while the other 75 percent go to CRS humanitarian efforts around the world. With about 23.5 percent of the U.S. population donating to CRS, that could add up to be quite a large collection.

One certainly doesn’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the intentions and effects of all the CRS is doing to help the hungry.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: CRS Rice Bowl, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Catholic News Agency

FreedomProject
It was in 2010 when Emmy-award winning TV producer Kimba Langas partnered up with pastor and social entrepreneur Dave Terpstra to make a difference.

Dave had moved to Mozambique with his family to help rehabilitate women who were survivors of sex trafficking. He wanted to help the women find jobs in order to ensure themselves a sustainable income, thereby lessening their vulnerability. Trafficking is all about vulnerability, he explains; people who are desperate to work and make money are taken advantage of.

“He found his answer in the bustling used clothing markets of Mozambique,” writes CNN producer Lisa Cohen.

Selling bras seems like a unique, new and interesting idea, but it wasn’t based on a random decision. Dave noticed that these women could make a profit that was higher than the minimum wage by selling second-hand clothing, and bras are well-demanded. He went on to team up with Kimba Langas to address this idea, and they created the Free the Girls charity, which collected bra donations from all over the U.S.

Langas created a Facebook page to publicize the start-up fundraiser, and the bras started pouring in. She explains that a majority of women have a large collection of bras that don’t fit well anymore or bras that are not being used anymore. However, after a few months, Langas ran into a new issue concerning the 20,000+ bras she had been sent – the shipping alone would have cost her $6,500, well outside her budget for the project.

“That’s when the story was featured on CNN, and everything changed.”

Paul Jarzombek, Director of Operations at LR International, reached out to Langas since he has a shipping company in Chicago. A domino effect of kindness then occurred as a truck driver, Rick Youngquist, offered to deliver the bras from Denver to Chicago.

Rick had recently joined an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking where truck drivers learn about how to spot and respond to signs of human trafficking on the road. Although it took three months, the bras did eventually reach Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

According to Lisa Cohen, the success of this bra charity led the Free the Girls organization to target other places within Africa and beyond. For now, women survivors in Mozambique express their gratitude. One survivor has said, “I just want to tell the people in America, they’ve given us the strength we needed. Thank you very much.”

And that is how bras helped human trafficking survivors; anything is possible.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: CNN Freedom Project


The Bazaar Stars Charity Night (BSCN) is the first charity auction party in China and also goes far in illustrating a new model of charity in China, which integrates fashion, charity, celebrities and the media while doing fundraising in the form of auctions.

Many national celebrities, including famous singers, actors, entrepreneurs and artists, attend the auction party and bid on luxury items each year, the funds of which go to those in need. The media and merchandise brand names are also very supportive.

Over the last 10 years, BSCN has collected about $25 million, sponsored 13 charity organizations and supported people and families in need. Moreover, in 2007, this event was the only charity event awarded with National Charity Award in China.

As more and more celebrities join the event, BSCN has become the biggest and most influential, non-governmental charity event in China.

Mang Su, the executive publisher of Harper’s Bazaar, initiated the event in 2003 and organizes it every year. In fact, Su is a leader in Chinese fashion and one of the top philanthropists in China. Her idea, “Making Charity Fashion,” has, moreover, created a new approach to philanthropy.

Su explained that philanthropy is not about living frugally and saving money for others, but about creating a more valuable society as a whole. “I want to contribute to charity in an innovative and fashionable way,” Su said. “Just like pursuing fashion, such as a gorgeous hairstyle or a beautiful lipstick. Everyone asks, ‘have you given to charity?’”

The purpose of the BSCN event is to help people to understand the importance of advancing society while creating their fortunes. “Not everyone can help others at the cost of his (or her) career, but everyone has a kind heart,” Su stated. “I hope this event can encourage people to express their kindness while fighting for their career and dreams.”

Xinyu Zhao, an investor of Gold Palm Club, bought a Dior sweet-smelling perfume for about $7,246.38. “I would never buy perfume for this amount normally, but this time it is for the charity. I feel very happy,” Zhao said.

Furthermore, Bingbing Li, a Chinese actress and singer, explained that the ten-year persistence of philanthropy is also a form of attitude.

At present, BSCN is not only an auction but also includes in its bag of delights, an evening banquet with dancing, which make the event even more fashionable. “With the development of society, more rich people are emerging. They have their own lifestyle,” Su said. She considers charity activities an elegant lifestyle and exclusive entertainment for the wealthy.

As more and more fashionable activities are related to some form of charity, Su believes charity events similar to the BSCN can bring wealthy celebrities closer to the idea of charity and bring them a deeper understanding of it.

“Some day, behind the rich lifestyle, people will find that it’s only by offering their love and generosity that they can realize their true class,” Su said.

Compared to China’s past charity activities, which were low key and mainly held by private individuals, current charity activities, such as the BSCN, have allowed the rich and famous of the Chinese nation to personally get involved to give back some of their fortunes openly and freely. More and more Chinese philanthropists are emerging, thus representing a new class of Chinese citizens who are on the way to understanding the concept of sharing.

Liying Qian

Sources: Harper’s Bazaar, SINA, Trends, Women of China