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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for the Partners for Change Category

On the Frontlines of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Posted by Guest | September 10th, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Personal Reflection

LEBANON_Nabatieh_refugees_May2013.064PS 12.07.16 PM

If it wasn’t for global aid organizations like Mercy Corps, the nearly two million Syrian refugees would have little hope for survival. This month in the Thought Kitchen, Cassandra Nelson, Mercy Corps’ Director of Multimedia Projects, travels to Lebanon to document the work the organization is doing to bring renewed comfort and confidence to refugees like Hannah and her seven children.

August 1, 2013: Cassandra Nelson reporting from Lebanon

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#mybiketakesme – Tell us, we want to know.

Posted by Lindsey | May 14th, 2013 | Filed under Bikes, Partners for Change, Travel

In recognition of National Bike Month and all the awe-inspiring and secret places our bikes take us, we’ve teamed up with our Partner for Change, People for Bikes, to find out what inspires you to get out and ride. Here’s a peek into where we like to go.

Share where your bike takes you on Instagram for the chance to win the ultimate commuter kit— a Tern Joe C21 foldable cruiser and $250 of Nau apparel. To enter, hit the road and tag your Instagram photos—from urban landscapes to alpine vistas – with #MyBikeTakesMe. Don’t forget to include @NauClothing and @PFBcrews so we can check out where you go.

The contest ends May 29. Winner will be announced May 31st. Winner must choose product by June 30th. Full rules here.

Caleb Bushner (Nau Facebook Fan): #MyBikeTakesMe to Bernal Heights Park at sunset.

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On the Border of Syria: A Dispatch from Mercy Corps

Posted by Guest | January 2nd, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Hasna and her seven children fled the civil war in Syria with practically nothing. Mercy Corps-distributed clothes, blankets, mattresses and gas heating supplies will help them through the winter. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

This week in the Thought Kitchen, Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development and Communications Officer for Mercy Corps, one of our longstanding Partners for Change, travels to Jordan to give us a first hand account of the Syrian refugee crisis and what we can do to help.

Mafraq, Jordan — I am sitting on the floor of a cold, crumbling single room dwelling just on the Jordan side of the Syria-Jordan border.  I’m sipping Turkish coffee, surrounded by a family of Syrian refugees.  The coffee isn’t warming me up much: it is December and it is freezing.

My host is a lady named Hasna Erhael.  She’s a 36 year old mother of seven, six of whom are girls and are sitting with us.  Her oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, is out collecting recyclables to make some money.  Hasna and her family fled Syria a few months ago when their town came under attack by the Syrian army.  Her husband is back in Syria fighting the regime and says he won’t stop until they have taken Damascus.

They came over the border with nothing, and nothing is pretty much what they still have.  They rent this room with help from relatives.  No work.  No school.  No toys or art supplies.  No furniture. No electricity or heat.  No running water.

I don’t want to make Hasna sound like a victim — that’s certainly not how she sees herself.  She tells me she and her family just need to be able to eat a little bit and they’ll be able to hold out until the fighting ends and they can return to Syria. But she is nervous for her girls: “They have nothing to do.  They miss school and they are totally bored.”  They are clearly struggling, and that’s where Mercy Corps comes in.

We are working with a local religious leader to identify Syrian refugees — more than 15,000 of them are hunkered down among the 60,000 permanent resident — and help meet some of their basic needs.  Right now, we have the money to help about 1000 refugee families in Mafraq get prepared for winter: that means we’ve giving them winter coats, blankets, kitchen supplies, food packages, gas heaters and gas.  In general, we are a “hand-up not a hand-out” kind of operation, but in times like this we do our best to bring struggling people some measure of material comfort.  Mercy Corps is providing similar support to Syrian refugees throughout the region.

Mercy Corps is proud to be a partner of Nau.  Support from Nau and its customers allows us to meet the needs of people like Hasna and her family.  For more on our response with Syrian refugees, click here.  

Jeremy Barnicle at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. Mercy Corps drilled the well, which will serve all 40-plus thousand Syrian refugees in the camp, plus tens of thousands who live in neighboring communities.

Partners For Change: Unlimited and Unrestricted

Posted by Josie | December 2nd, 2012 | Filed under Environmental Change, Partners for Change, Positive Change

As the Managing Director of our Partners for Change program, I get the honor of handing over a hefty check to each of our five partners. Twice a year, I gather all of our final revenue numbers, calculate our final donations, and put a check in the mail with a card, signed by everyone in the office. Over the years, I’ve watched the running tally of our donations climb to several hundred thousand dollars.

I understand, first hand, the reality of our impact when I watch the presentations given by Mercy Corps field staff about the work they’re doing to solve the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa or when I hear Obama reference Breakthrough Institute’s research into the history of American clean energy innovation.  Every person at Nau and our sister company Horny Toad would agree with me when I say: We whole heartedly believe that it’s our responsibility as a for-profit company to support the NGO’s that are creating positive change in the world.

Yet every time we make a donation, I am reminded that all donations are not alike. Every time I talk to our partners, they all say the same thing; “receiving unrestricted funds is critical to the success of our organization.” Our Partners for Change rely heavily on donations from companies like us and people like you to reach their milestones. Unfortunately, a large portion of the money they receive is restricted, meaning it can only be spent on specific projects, and it can not be used for every need of an organization–like electric bills or new technology. As Dan Pallota, non-profit advocate and author of Charity Case, said, “Low overhead is not the path to transformation of society.”

So this holiday season, when you donate, I encourage you to give unrestricted and empower the NGO’s that are truly creating positive change in this world.

Welcome Bikes Belong

Posted by Josie | May 1st, 2012 | Filed under Bikes, Partners for Change

When we decided to add a new partner to our Partner for Change program, the decision was unanimous to bring Bikes Belong into the fold.

The Bikes Belong Foundation was launched in 2006 in Boulder, CO. Their mission is simple: get more people on bikes more often.

They have their hands in a variety of bike related projects including: maximizing federal support for bicycling, connecting communities through bike projects, organizing ad campaigns, promoting bikes through the Safe Routes to School partnerships and the program we’re supporting– People for Bikes.

If this motivational poster above Peter’s desk isn’t enough to convince you to choose two wheels instead of four the next time you leave the house, read more about the benefits of biking on their website.

BikesBelongPost

Welcome Bikes Belong, we’re proud to welcome you to the Partners for Change program.

Partners for Change Evolves, Thank You Kiva

Posted by Josie | April 26th, 2012 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Positive Change, Who We Are

kiva

For the first time in nearly four years, we’re expanding our Partners for Change program. Beginning on April 30th, we will launch a rotating partnership which will allow us to have relationships with more NGOs throughout the year. To accomplish this, four of our Partners for Change will remain constant, while our fifth Partner will rotate about twice a year.

Shifting this program means we must part ways with Kiva, one of our dedicated Partners working toward positive change. Kiva was one of our original Partners for Change when we launched our giving program back in 2006. Since Kiva’s founding in 2005, 754,040 lenders from 219 countries have loaned over $305 million to people in 59 different countries.  Impressive.

We’d like to acknowledge them for their many accomplishments and thank them for inspiring us over the last six years. Want to be inspired too?  Check out a few of these facts and stats about Kiva, and learn more about the Kiva Fellows or Kiva’s Green Loans.

April 30th will mark the last day customers can direct 2% of their purchase to Kiva. While this day marks the official end of our partnership with Kiva, their passion for creating positive change will remain a permanent inspiration for all of us here at Nau.

Aperture: Becoming Invisible

Posted by leighann | April 10th, 2012 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Positive Change
Toni Greaves Burqa

Toni Greaves, award-winning documentary photographer, unveiled in Afghanistan (Photo by M. Ashraf Wahidi)

We’re not sure what’s more impressive: her list of accolades or the stunning beauty of her work.  In just three short years since being selected as one of PDN magazine’s “30 Emerging Photographers to Watch,” our good friend and documentary photographer, Toni Greaves has graced the pages of TIME magazine, The New York Times, Communication Arts, The FADER, and Marie Clare (to name a few).

She has traveled to Paraguay and rural Nepal as part of projects for Outside magazine and The Gates Foundation. Most recently, she returned from Afghanistan where she photographed for an organization dear to us—Mercy Corps, one of our Partners for Change. We were lucky enough to sit down with the award-winning photog to talk about the art of becoming invisible and what it’s like to shoot behind a burqa.

OTG: You’ve been shooting professionally for a little less than four years and you’ve already won numerous awards and have been published in an impressive list of publications.
Toni: Yeah, I feel very blessed. But I have a 15-year background in art direction, design, and creative direction, so I understood SEEING before I was professionally trained in photography. And I was always doing it as a hobby. But there came a point when I realized that I wanted to make it everything I was doing. So I made some major life changes and personal sacrifices to go back to school. I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. And I feel very lucky it’s working out.

Can you give us some insight into some of the projects you’ve enjoyed the most?
I have a long term project called Radical Love that spans the course of three years, which is about a community of cloistered nuns. I have spent a lot of time with these women, being in their monastery, being around their lives, and I love it. One of the great things about documentary photography is getting to experience different worlds.

Radical Love

From Radical Love: The Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey are a Roman Catholic cloistered monastic community. In this photo, the youngest nuns enjoy playing basketball during their half hour recreation period. (Photo by Toni Greaves)

So when you’re on assignment, do you have an idea of what you want to see behind the camera or do you let things organically unfold?
The thing about documentary photography is that you never know exactly what’s going to happen and you can’t plan anything. That’s one of the things I love about it—this dance of figuring it out while it happens. There is a kind of magic of getting into the moment of everything…of developing relationships with people you engage with and being able to help them feel comfortable. Because their level of comfort, as well as yours affects the quality of images that you take.

Do you ever coerce your story?
Here’s the thing, in your job as a writer, you’re asking questions right? And the simple act of asking questions, you’re helping to initiate something that helps guide and direct….

Exactly. Like leading the witness.
But in documentary photography, you can’t do that. I get to be aware and observant of everything that is around me, and my job is to take all that in and process it, in order to be in those situations when they happen. Of course, there are different approaches, but from my background and training, if you start influencing things, you’ll lose your credibility and honesty in what you’re doing and you’ll immediately be dismissed.

But you have to make people feel comfortable with your presence, so there has to be some level of influence.
That’s true. But in the same way if you, as a writer, were sitting there watching somebody and taking notes, they are aware of you sitting there, so to a degree that will changes things. However, I’ve also had clients tell me I become “invisible” over time.

Dikha Village, Doti District, Nepal // August 2009 -- An aid worker examines Maheshwori and determines that her unborn baby is also in a breech position. Because of the dangers associated with such a delivery, the aid worker makes a case to the village elders that a skilled birth attendant should be brought in to assist with the birth, rather than relying on an untrained traditional birth attendant. Nepal has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Each year, more than 6,000 women die during childbirth. Most of them give birth at home, without the help of a skilled or even a trained attendant.(Photo by Toni Greaves/Getty Images)

From Birth in Rural Nepal: An aid worker examines Maheshwori and determines that her unborn baby is breech. Each year in Nepal more than 6,000 women die during childbirth. (Photo by Toni Greaves/Getty Images)

So there’s got to be this sweet spot in documentary photography where you’re constantly trying to capture the moment, but also have the perfect eye. Obviously, you can’t set up your shot.
No you can’t. So it all comes from your training and background and they way that you SEE.  In studying documentary photography you learn to SEE differently. And when you’ve been doing it long enough, it becomes a part of you. Recently, I photographed a friend giving birth. Since I’m close to her, I noticed when sorting through the images, that I had removed myself from the photographer role at times and the images weren’t as strong in those moments. So there’s a balance: you have to be comfortable with people, but you still have to maintain a level of disconnection in a way that you are more active in your SEEING.

So let’s switch gears. You just returned from Afghanistan where you were on assignment with Mercy Corps. How as your trip?
It was one of the most interesting trips I’ve been on. Fascinating, actually.

Did they give you a burqa?
Yes, they did for security reasons. But I always respect cultural norms when I travel. I was in full head scarf, starting from the airport, and only took it off in my room. Whenever we would leave, I would be covered in a burqa. If not, I could put their projects at risk if anyone saw me and my photography gear.

So what exactly where you doing?
I was photographing a women’s and girl’s education program called INVEST. They teach computers, embroidery, sewing, and English. It’s an incredible program that is changing the lives of these girls and also the women who teach there. I interviewed five women who were teachers in this program. In fact, Mercy Corps just put together a multimedia piece of my work that is now live on their website.

A woman takes a tailoring classes in Mercy Corps INVEST program, Afghanistan, to learn how to design and sew garments. (Photo by Toni Greaves)

A woman takes a tailoring class in Mercy Corps' INVEST program in Afghanistan to learn how to design and sew garments. (Photo by Toni Greaves for Mercy Corps)

You know, most of us only experience Afghanistan through the media as this kind of vapid, hopeless, almost apocalyptic place. What was your experience?
It’s mind boggling to learn about what Afghanistan was like in the 1950’s. It was this beautiful, tourist destination. Then Kabul was severely bombed from the late 70’s. But there’s a sense, with the youth that I was around, that there is potential for something for the future. Nobody wanted to talk about anything being bad. Maybe because there is danger in talking about what is going on or maybe it’s just a cultural norm. But they were very happy and excited about school, about what is to come.

I guess you just never know how a society might react under dire circumstances, eh?
If you’re put in the worst situation, you have two choices: you can give up or have hope. Which one would you choose? These are human beings living in this place of war. And they are choosing to have hope in the midst of often very difficult situations.  It’s an incredible demonstration of the strength of the human spirit.

To view more of Toni’s work, visit her website at www.tonigreaves.com.

Mercy Corps: Letter from Tunisia

Posted by Guest | February 28th, 2012 | Filed under Partners for Change

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Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development Officer at Mercy Corps, one of our key Partners for Change, recently journeyed to Cairo for a global leadership conference to discuss the seminal changes that have occurred in the region over the past year. He spent most of January traveling through Tunisia and meeting with local activists who, with support of Mercy Corps, are trying to build a vibrant civil society in a place that never really had one. Below are his reflections on the brave protestors of the Arab Spring and what we can learn from them.

A year ago, not far from where I sit writing this, a massive group of protesters forced from power a dictator who controlled their lives for 23 years.

The overthrow of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali sparked a wave of anti-authoritarian uprisings unlike the world had ever seen: Egypt, Libya, Yemen and now Syria.

Over the past two weeks, as part of my work with Mercy Corps, I have been lucky enough to meet some of the people behind the changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and I have two reactions.

The first reaction is deep admiration. The courage people have shown is stunning. Going to Tahrir Square in January 2011 meant accepting a very real possibility that you might be arrested, beaten, injured or killed. One Egyptian activist told us how he said goodbye to his young children at night before heading out to Tahrir, warning that they might not see him again. It’s hard for me to imagine what would drive me to take that kind of risk, and yet thousands of people stayed in Tahrir until Hosni Mubarak was gone for good. Now that activist works in Parliament.

My second reaction is shame. Watching the 2012 campaign unfold from a distance, it is clear to me that the American political system has become ridiculous at a time when we really need it to work. Our system has become ridiculous because we have let it, because many of us — myself included — have come to take for granted a set of political rights and responsibilities that people here in Tunisia and elsewhere in the region are willing to die for.

We Americans have lapsed into disgraceful complacency, allowing super PACs, talk-radio hosts and a hysterical 24-hour news culture to control the way we govern ourselves. Government has become a zero-sum game that rarely rewards moderation and compromise.

In a December 2011 Gallup poll, 86 percent of Americans disapproved of the job Congress is doing — the worst since Gallup started asking 30 years ago. And yet fewer than five percent of Congressional seats are really competitive in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Cook Report.

In presidential election years, just over half of all voting-age adults actually turn out to vote. In the off-year elections that choose every U.S. House member, a third of U.S. senators, a dozen or so governors and countless state legislators, a little more than a third of voting-age adults take the time to cast a ballot. More Americans log on to Facebook in any given month than bother to vote in any major election.

We Americans like to think we are modeling democracy for the rest of the world. But next to the brave protesters of the Arab Spring, most of us look lazy and spoiled.

The Arab Spring movements have their flaws. They have venal politicians, rigid ideologues and apathetic voter segments of their own. But everyone I talked to was proud and hopeful. “Now, if the government we elect doesn’t do what we want,” a young Tunisian lawyer told me with a wide smile, “we can just vote them out.”

Future generations of Egyptians and Tunisians will see the leaders of their 2011 revolts as founding fathers and mothers. And yet for all of the idolatry American politicians demonstrate for Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, do we really think we are living up to the ideals of the American Founding Fathers?

“That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part,” Jefferson wrote. Tunisians feel part of their government; they seized that right and are holding on tight. A young guy in the town of Tataouine told me if they felt the ideals of the revolution were being ignored, they would go right back out on the streets. If polling and voter turnout numbers mean anything, few Americans feel part of the government and that needs to change.

As usual, Alexis de Tocqueville has a sharp and relevant observation on our democracy, and it makes me hopeful:

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

If we want to live up to the vision of our founders and be the great country we aspire to be, we Americans need to learn from the Arab Spring, repair our faults and take back ownership of our system.

sahara_600pxReprinted from the Huffington Post courtesy of Jeremy Barnicle.

How do you end Hunger?

Posted by Alex | October 25th, 2011 | Filed under Partners for Change

As a hunger crisis spreads across East Africa and the Somalian Peninsula, famine—and the efforts to stop it—are once again in the news. Celebrities are raising their voices and politicians are offering bromides. In short, this crisis seems in many ways like so many before it; it’s victims suffering from a cycle of poverty, conflict and ineffective aid going back generations.

Because solving famine is so much more difficult than simply providing food to the hungry. It requires solutions to regional conflict, the establishment of strong institutions and the education and empowerment of local communities. It takes a system wide approach: the kind of approach that our Partners For Change at Mercy Corps bring to alleviating suffering around the world. Check out their film for World Food Day, above, and learn how you can help Mercy Corps fight the worst famine in Africa in 60 years.

Look behind the label

Posted by Alex | November 12th, 2010 | Filed under Design, Partners for Change, Personal Reflection


An amusing parody from designer Lunchbreath, lampooning so much of what passes for ‘social responsibility’ and ‘environmental stewardship’ in the corporate world. Just a reminder to dig a little deeper when someone tells you they’re doing good things with your money.

Of course, when you order from nau.com, you get to decide where 2% of the purchase price goes. To learn about the (not vague at all) group of non-profit partners Nau donates 2% of every sale to (none of which have line-items for mistresses, escorts or dominatrices), check out our Partners For Change: they’re the real deal.

(Also, be sure to check out Lunchbreath’s other stuff, including the fantastic Killer Jellyfish of Graphic Design Favors. Those of you with illustrator CS5 open 14 hours a day will appreciate it.)

(via Treehugger)