Monday, December 20, 2010

Repairing Cleft Palates for Guatemalan Babies

Approximately 1 in 700 children worldwide are born with one or both congenital facial deformities known as a cleft lip or cleft palate. In most developed countries like the United States, babies born with this condition are operated upon within the first 2-3 months after birth.
But here in Guatemala, most of the rural families are too poor to afford the surgery. As a result, their babies' cleft lips and palates go untreated, which in many cases leads to malnutrition and death, as the babies often have trouble breast-feeding. Those babies that DO survive are often marginalized from society and become outcasts in their villages. I have seen fully-grown teenagers that rarely leave their house or always wear a bandana in front of their mouth to avoid shame. What a sad reality knowing that for $200, their deformity can be easily corrected.

With that desire in mind, Cause & Affect searched out a Guatemalan organization that conducts this procedure for families in need. T.E.S.S. Unlimited, founded by Tessa de Goede de Ordoñez, locates babies in rural Guatemala whose families cannot afford the surgery. They bring them to a social-welfare clinic to be diagnosed and operated on by a team of Canadian doctors that volunteer their services for these (and other) operations. $200 covers the costs of transport, medicine, follow-up care, speech therapy and the surgical procedure. Based on the needs presented by T.E.S.S. Unlimited, Cause & Affect stepped in to sponsor the three babies whose surgeries needed to be funded.

As you can see from the video, it is incredibly easy and cheap to completely transform a baby's life and opportunities. Looking at the before & after shots, keep in mind just how far $200 can go.
In the holiday spirit, please contribute to wonderful projects such as this on our website. Simply click here to donate via Paypal or credit card. As you can see, every dollar goes a long way towards improving peoples' lives! Thanks for your continued support!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Continuing Fight Against Malnutrition in Guatemala

Last year, we reported from Antigua, Guatemala where we addressed the epidemic of malnutrition in Guatemala. Our contributions were important in helping Guatemalan children recover from this condition, which manifests itself due to their family's lack of medical care and insufficient income. It is hard to fathom that half of the country's children suffer from chronic malnutrition - imagine if half of the kids you knew simply did not have enough sustenance to develop in a healthy manner!

Malnutrition manifests itself in stunted growth and lowered IQ scores. Half of Guatemalans are of Mayan descent and due to poor land distribution and a variety of other social, economic and political factors, most of these people live in abject poverty. In these indigenous areas, chronic malnutrition affects 80% of children under five years of age!

(When interviewed on Capture Your Flag program earlier this year, I spoke about the debilitating effects of malnutrition on childrens development and the most effective ways to address this epidemic. To watch the interview, click here.)

Last year, one of the ways Cause & Affect helped address this issue was by providing assistance to Casa Jackson, an amazing clinic that was created to house and rehabilitate babies that are severely malnourished. The babies receive around-the-clock care from medical professionals and are put on an intensive feeding schedule in order to regain their health. Once their weight has improved, their families take them home again and receive nutritional guidance as well as visits from social workers to assure the children develop in a healthy manner. Though the diapers and milk formula we purchased have been used up by now, the industrial blender we purchased is still being used around the clock to liquefy food for the older babies.

Upon our return to Guatemala to check up on Casa Jackson, we discovered the clinic still had some urgent needs to address, so we jumped to action. The first task was to buy new mattresses for the babies’ cribs, as the old ones had been donated a long time ago and since they were very thin, they were not very comfortable for the babies, nearly detrimental to their physical development. We sought out the thicker, sturdier variety and ordered 16 of them for the center. Our second task was to repaint the cribs, as the paint has been peeling off. Lastly, we were asked to provide curtains for the center, so as to keep the sun out of the babies’ eyes.
As you can see from the video, we bought the fabric, contracted a tailor to sew them and then hung them ourselves. For the paint, the curtains and the 16 mattresses, Cause & Affect spent a total of $1,283. I think you will agree the clinic is much better-off after our two visits!

Another follow-up project this year involved the welfare of a darling little boy named Jose Anavesca. When Jose was admitted to a social welfare hospital in Antigua (Obras Sociales) 18 months ago (see top photo), he was a year and a half old yet only weighed five pounds! He was close to death but in the last two years, he has fought back with force and his magical smile has broken the hearts of nurses, doctors and volunteers like my mother (see photos here).

The good news is that over the past two years, Jose has finally put on enough weight (now about 15 pounds) in order to go back to live with his family! For a boy that spent over half of his life in a public hospital, this home-coming is the greatest thing that has happened in his life! The downside is that Jose still faces health challenges. He was recently diagnosed with diabetes insipidus, which is caused by the inability of the kidneys to conserve water, which leads to frequent urination and pronounced thirst. If inadequate fluids are consumed, the large amount of water lost in the urine may cause dehydration and high sodium levels in the blood.
In order for Jose to be able to survive at home, he needs to take a special medicine on a regular basis and the sad fact is that his family cannot afford this medicine. So, in order to reunite Jose with his family, Cause & Affect has teamed up with a number of volunteers in order to raise funds to purchase the medicine to allow for Jose’s homecoming. We purchased $400 worth of the medicine which we presented to the family when they took Jose home.

Our projects here in Antigua were spearheaded by my mother, Linda Champagne, who has been volunteering at Casa Jackson and Obras Sociales since our initial visit in 2009. Now retired and living in Antigua, her compassion and devotion to the babies of Guatemala has served as a guiding light for Cause & Affect’s operations in Guatemala and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with her in the years to come.

Please help support wonderful projects like these through our website by donating here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EMPOWERING AT-RISK YOUTH in Inner-city Chicago


--------------------->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>WATCH THE VIDEO:
Being a product of Chicago's public schools, it saddens me to see how
gang violence and the drug trade is taking so many young lives in my hometown. With so many kids victimized by the violence and the hopelessness, I have been eager to find a way to make a difference on behalf of Cause & Affect.

John Dudley is one of the "local heroes" I recently discussed in my interview on the "Capture Your Flag" program. As a social studies teacher at Collins High School in Chicago's rough-and-tumble Lawndale neighborhood, Mr. Dudley started the "Warriors With a Future" boys club. Now in their second year of operation, this group of at-risk youths have been engaging in service projects, tutorial programs and even traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild houses destroyed by Katrina flooding. Bravo!

--------------------->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>WATCH THE VIDEO:
Before the school year let out last June, I spoke to the Warriors
about my philanthropy projects around the world. The boys were fascinated by the videos and stories; in fact, they took such an interest in the work, that they expressed a deep desire to engage in a similar project. We discussed the problems facing their community and decided to devote our attention to Pacific Garden Mission, a local homeless shelter. The boys designed the project: they called the shelter, set up our visits and explained our objectives. We met with the director in person to assess their immediate needs. When we were told about the budget shortfall and need for food supplies, we jumped into action and returned to order $1,000 worth of needed food. A few days later, the Warriors came in to volunteer. They helped make the food, set the tables and serve the food to the homeless people.

Once you watch THE VIDEO, you will see what a formative experience this was for the boys.
"I just wanted to show we care."
"It made me feel good about myself."

The homeless shelter and their hundreds of recipients benefited from our involvement, and the "Warriors with a Future" have been enriched beyond words. Overall, this domestic project was a huge success for Cause & Affect and everyone involved. Thanks for your support. Please help support projects like this by donating here.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Watch the video!

Sometimes most of the pieces are in place to change people's lives - but ONE thing is lacking....
This was the case when Cause & Affect arrived at Projeto Afeto in Pipa in northern Brazil. Founded by a wonderful former teacher named Tania, this center provides physically and mentally-challenged kids with a place where they can: 1) Receive medical treatment (mostly from doctors providing free services) 2) Learn and play (most kids would just be locked in their homes) 3) Receive enriching educational support from professionals 4) Get a hot, nutritious meal every day.

Watch the video!
The only part of this puzzle that was lacking was the last one, as the center had recently been moved to a location that offered a lot of outdoor space for the kids but lacked one important feature: a kitchen! So, when Cause & Affect arrived and asked what their needs were, it was a no-brainer! "I can't believe you are here asking me this! We have no means to feed these kids right now and were hoping to somehow raise the money needed to buy a new kitchen." As the video shows, we jumped into action and just like Oprah and her dream kitchen, we headed to the nearby city and purchased the refrigerator, stove, blender, pots, pans, plates, silverware, etc. needed to cook hot lunch for 40 kids a day. A few days later, when everything had been delivered and installed, our fully-functional new kitchen was in operation. Now, everyday, these kids (all of whom come from very poor families) are receiving a nutritious hot meal everyday at Projecto Afeto. All this for just $1,200!
Why? Simple - because of generous donations from people like you!
Please continue to fund the important work of Cause & Affect by donating here.
From the wonderful children of Pipa and from C&A, thank you!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Brazilian Capoeira as a Tool to Aid Childrens Development

Cause & Affect recognizes the importance of promoting art, music and sports as a way to improve the social and physical development of children around the world.
Here in Brazil, capoeira represents the perfect mix between all three!

Originally brought by the African slaves to Brazil, capoeira was once prohibited by colonial slave-owners uncomfortable with the sight of their slaves "preparing for battle." As a result, the slaves adapted the art form, setting it to music and trading elements of fighting for dance. Today, capoeira is recognized as one of Brazil's most important cultural traditions; since people of all ages, genders and ages participate together, it's an important means to foster childrens social development.
On the northeastern coast of Brazil in Pipa, Rio Grande de Sul, a wonderfully-run community project uses capoeira instruction as a way to keep local kids off the street,
while training them in this martial art/dance that has become such an integral part of Brazilian culture. C&A assessed their needs and jumped into action! As the video shows, the instructor, director and kids were in need of mirrors to help refine their technique and improve their practice.
Cause & Affect contracted a company to install them and just a few days later, the capoeira studio at Projeto Das Criancas (Children's Project) was complete!
As the professor told me, "Capoeira is much more than a sport; it provides much-needed discipline for these kids, many of whom come from broken families." Seeing the smiles on the kids' faces and watching them display their skills with pride, it is obvious that
this $915 will go a long way towards helping these 40+ kids achieve a positive self-image, while exercising in a wholesome, culturally-enriching activity.
Your donations make a difference - you can aid the cause by clicking here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Supporting Challenged Kids in Rio's "City of God"

Here in a shanty-town of Rio de Janeiro called Cidade de Deus ("City of God"), life for the 40,000 residents of is a daily challenge, as they are faced with a lack of jobs, medical attention and high food prices.

Even more challenging is the plight of the physically- and mentally-challenged kids in the favela.
Thankfully, some local heroes founded a community center to provide education, nutritious food and a nurturing environment for these kids, providing them with the mental and physical stimuli they need to develop in a healthy manner. Cause & Affect traveled to this favela shanty-town (now well-known due to the highly-acclaimed 2003 film City of God) in order to provide material and financial support to this wonderfully-run project.

Laura Muniz helped found the Projeto Resgate ("Rescue Project")
over ten years ago and now receives financial support from the wonderful Dutch-Brazilian organization IBISS. As she explains, "Since most kids here come from single-parent homes, these physically- and mentally-challenged children are often locked into their homes when their mothers go off to work. We provide them with a healthy environment and thanks to our physical therapists and teachers trained in dealing with kids with their conditions, we are able to help the kids improve their condition and also help their parents understand and deal with their childrens' disabilities."

Cause & Affect arrived to discover that the facilities of the center were in need of a serious make-over, so with $730, we were able to re-paint the walls and purchase a wide variety of art supplies for the project. Thanks to Aspire Inspire, we also distributed 50 backpacks to the kids of the project and the adjoining pre-school.

With the help of donors like, you Cause & Affect is creating positive change in places like City of God. To help the cause, please donate on-line here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Saving Kids from Drug Trafficking in Rio's Favela Shanty-towns

Rio de Janeiro is known for its pretty beaches, carnaval excitement and sultry lifestyle. But for millions of Rio's residents that reside in the favela shanty-towns, life is a daily challenge as inhabitants struggle to earn a living and provide for their families.

For children here, there exists another challenge: staying alive. Lured by the glamor of gym shoes, money, status and girls, local kids are being wooed into the drug trade, sometimes as young as 8 years old. With only 4 hours of school per day, kids are left out on the street, often with nothing to do but get involved in the alluring drug trade. 12 year-old with a .357s are an all-too-common sight on these streets, as kids lack positive role-models to encourage them along a more healthy, wholesome path. The violence of the drug trade, coupled with the heavy hand and quick triggers of the local police, has created a situation in which "an entire generation of impoverished Brazilian youth is being decimated."

Luckily, in many of these favela communities, there is hope. Local community centers provide these kids with a safe haven while teaching them skills and providing them with the stimuli needed to keep them off the dangerous streets. With high rates of malnutrition and broken homes, it is essential to these kids' development to provide them with a place where they can go after school to learn, play and eat nutritious food.

In an effort to provide safe haven for more of these children,
Cause & Affect has supported two of these successful projects.
1) Terra Encontada is a neighborhood in the Jardim America favela located in the Northern Zone of Rio and home to about 5,000 inhabitants. When a Dutch organization IBISS arrived to help a decade ago, they asked the parents and kids what was their most important request. The answer was unanimous: a soccer field where the kids could play futbol, exercise and get off the dusty, dangerous streets. In the years since, a soccer coach has been hired to give formal lessons and a team created that competes with other local favelas. With their minds focused on soccer, these kids look up to their coaches and the project staff. A few of the kids told me about friends of theirs that took the other path; all too often, the friends died violent deaths once they became involved with the drug gangs.

Upon our visit, C&A could see the field had fallen into disrepair. Due to years of wear and tear, coupled with heavy rains, much of the field had washed away and had been inundated with frequent flooding. Seeing a direct way to assist, we swooped into action, first hiring workers to clean out the clogged drainage pipes. We then contracted a huge truckload of sand to be delivered to provide that powdery-soft field the kids enjoy. Next we bought new soccer balls and nets for the goals. Beyond these cosmetic improvements though, we wanted to find a way to increase the access to this field. Much to the delight of the project directors (and the kids), we decided to install four strong lamps to allow the kids to play at night. Now, thanks to the $1,500 C&A invested to improve this field, hundreds of kids can stay off the streets and instead play well into the night in a safe, wholesome environment.

2) Cinco Bocas, located in the Braz de Pina neighborhood, is infamous for its drug wars and homicides, often at the hand of the local police. But a percussion project here is changing the lives of many of these kids. The local community center here, founded by locals and supported in part by IBISS as well, provides day care to over a hundred kids. In addition, many of the adolescents in the program take part in an amazing drumming project. They are trained in the rich art of Brazilian percussion and as this video shows, they are incredibly skilled! They have toured in Holland a few times, which gives these kids a real boost of confidence and inspires them to devote their lives to this project. As the video shows, these kids know that their lives have been transformed - it is powerful to see firsthand!

Cause & Affect loves this project but When we watched the older kids playing with their incredibly genuine smiles, we could see the younger ones looking on in awe. It was clear that these positive role models needed to be encouraged to pass along their skills and wisdom to the younger kids. We asked the Director why more younger kids weren't involved and she replied, "There is one simple answer: we can not afford the drums needed to teach them." Acting upon this need, we compiled a "wish list" and headed to the instrument store to purchase the $1,500 needed to expand the project to 50 additional kids. We delivered the drums, set up the classes and for $30 per kid, young lives are being spared from the violence of the drug trade.

Mission accomplished. As the video illustrates, 5o of the younger kids are now a part of the project and the teenagers are very enthused to act as teachers and role models for this "new generation of Brazilian drummers."

As one 18 year-old told me, "We have been so lucky to have this life-changing opportunity. Now we can give back by teaching the little kids."

So simple, so true. Once again, Cause & Affect's micro-philanthropy model proves its efficiency. We do the background research, make field visits, choose a project to assist, find the most effective way to make a difference and then act quickly to purchase the supplies or contract the service needed to directly impact peoples' lives. FIND A CAUSE & AFFECT A CHANGE - this is the C&A mantra and once again, we see it's success.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harnessing Micro-credit for Guatemalan Women

In order to start a business or improve one's financial well-being, people need access to banking services and credit. Sadly, the vast majority of poor people in the world lack this access to credit.

Recognizing this shortcoming, visionaries like Muhammad Yunus have developed micro-credit institutions (like his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh) that have gone on to help millions of families climb out of poverty. In many cases, these "micro-loans" (often just a few hundred dollars) are coupled with business training classes to allow local entrepreneurs to create and run their own business.

In September, Cause & Affect Founder Adam Carter was invited to speak at a Micro-credit Symposium at the College of Lake County (CLC). (Excerpts from his speech included in Field Report video). Joined by CLC Alum and C&A President Tim Summers, Carter explained to students and faculty why this development approach has become so widely embraced throughout the developing world. He then invited students to participate in funding a micro-credit project, urging them to raise money so they could see micro-credit in action.

Thanks to Liz Clark, the Alpha Alpha Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, a local women's group and the rest of the CLC team, the students were able to raise over $1,300! C&A took this money down to Guatemala to fund a micro-credit loan for Santos Dominga Chiroy García de Camajá, a single mother that lives in the El Quiche region of Guatemala. Santos Dominga, like most rural Guatemalans, is an indigenous Mayan that has been completely excluded from conventional banking institutions. Without access to credit or banking services, she is left on her own to support her five children. She and her family live in a delicate balance, as she is left tending to the fields all day and also preparing food for her children. All she can rely on is her meager onion crop, which does not provide enough income for her to address the food, educational and medical needs of her family.

But, with this micro-loan (administered through our local partner, a very-highly reputable micro-credit institution called SHARE Guatemala), this hard-working mother will be able to purchase additional inputs in order to increase the yield of her onion crop. She will also be able to purchase supplies to weave baskets, using her skills to foster her entrepreneurial spirit. Her older children will be able to assist her in this income-generating opportunity. The loan will be repaid over the course of 12 months, at which
point the money will be re-generated into another loan for the next worthy recipient.

Yes, it is that simple! American students learn about the wonders of micro-credit, they raise money to alleviate poverty and they are able to see the fruits of their labors through Cause & Affect's work in action. Meanwhile, in the middle of Guatemala, a family is provided with the means to pull themselves out of poverty. A family has more food, access to educational opportunities and money for medical treatment. Everyone wins. [C&A is looking for other colleges and universities to participate in this sort of program, so please e-mail any leads.]

Keep those donations coming - every dollar is instrumental in changing lives for the better!
Donations can be made on-line here. ¡Muchas Gracias!