We felt that this TED talk hit home for our current project. Please watch, then see how you can get involved!
Today’s blog is from guest-writer, Herm Olsen, who has served as an attorney on the Navajo Tribal Council and the Navajo Legal Services (DNA). His connection with the Navajo began when he served there as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the age of nineteen. His unique perspective provides valuable insight into this project.
Why am I passionate about helping, serving and loving the Indian people? Partly, I suppose, it’s the generic guilt I feel about the raw deal Anglos gave them starting in 1492 and continuingtoday. And partly because I lived with the Navajo for 2 years in 1969-1971. Then again when I took [my wife], Norma back to the Reservation in 1976-1977.
Whether we call them Indians (the preferred name of many), Native Americans or Lamanites, it is no secret that they still need our help. While a handout is tempting for both the giver and the receiver – it’s unavoidably short-term. What they really need (beyond love, support and acceptance), is education.
One of the strongest advocates for this delightful but struggling group of people was Spencer W.Kimball, he noted:
1. The chasm between what he the Indian is and what he will be is opportunity. It is ours to give. Basically the Indian is intelligent, affectionate, responsive, honest, stable, and is of believing blood.
2. If there ever was a people in the world who needed friends – sympathetic, understanding friends – it is the Lamanites. They are trying now to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, but it’s a rather difficult thing when they have neither straps nor boots. It isn’t enough just to give them freedom to grow and develop; they need nursing fathers and mothers; they need friendly hearts; they need understanding.
3. Too often too many of us love the Lamanites at a distance, as long as we don’t have to wait on them or teach them or wash them or feed them. We like them as long as we can just read about them or if we can see them in their colorful costumes as a museum piece.
4. The Lamanites have been carrying their burdens – mental, spiritual, physical burdens for hundreds of years. It is now time that we must lift their burdens from their backs, their heads, their minds, their hearts. We, the Gentiles, must help to bear their burdens; their poverty must be eased; their opportunities enlarged; their ignorance replaced with knowledge; their limitations reduced by opportunity.
5. There are still many among us who hiss and spurn and do little to advance the cause of the Lamanite.
6. Education is the sure way.
7. The many ignored treaties of the past furnish ample evidence that you must attack the problem in the white man’s way, through the ballot and the courts and Congress. Universal education of the Indian is the answer.
8. The Lamanites must rise in majesty and power. We must look forward to the day when they will be… sharing the freedoms and blessings which we enjoy; when they will have economic security, culture, refinement, and education; when they will be operating farms and businesses and industries and shall be occupied in the professions and in teaching. So whatever we can do to help, we must. The Ganado Project is great. Scholarships can be next.
It’s time to feel good again about the guys who are always shown as losing in the Cowboy and
It is a common belief that we are products of our environment. To varying degrees, that environment defines every aspect of our lives. Those born into homes of privilege tend to live a privileged life. Those born into poverty tend to struggle under the weight of scarceness and perpetual want. Generally speaking, Catholics beget Catholics, and Yankee fans beget Yankee fans.
But what about those children who are robbed of their identity? What about the child who can’t say that she’s a product of her environment, because her environment itself is as transient and foreign as the cars on the Autobahn? For these children, the process of self-identification is a laborious and often painful task. Not knowing who they are or where they stand in the world, many of these children are caught in the violent riptides and undercurrents of our society.
That this happens anywhere is a tragedy. That this happened forcefully and systematically to hundreds of thousands of Native American children at the hands of the federal government – that’s downright deplorable.
In the wake of Manifest Destiny and the Indian wars that followed, the United States Government struggled to simultaneously assimilate and fairly deal with the country’s native population. Indian Reservations, often quarantined to the most undesirable, untenable land, were created as a peace offering and symbol of cooperation (although most Indians saw them for the insult they were). Taking its assimilation efforts further, the federal government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) began establishing Indian boarding schools where young Native Americans could be schooled and trained in the “white” world that had choked the life out of their tribal legacy.
Native children were forced from their homes for several years, sometimes without breaks or visitation rights. The goal of these schools (or the churches contracted by the government to run them) was to “take the ‘Indian’ out of the child.” Their hair was cut, their beads and feathers seized. Their names were changed and their native language was strictly forbidden. All children were forced to speak in the Anglo-tongue of their oppressive schoolmasters. Punishments were crude and medieval. Starvation for disobedience. Needles to the tongue for speaking the native language.
While most boarding schools have been closed and the number of students attending them today has diminished almost entirely, the devastating effects of this methodical injustice cannot be overstated. Entire generations of Native Americans have lost touch with who they are, and where they come from. They do not know their own sacred rituals. They do not know the songs of their tribe. They cannot pray to their ancestors in their native tongue. As a result, the language and culture of hundreds of tribes are slowly, steadily dying.
That is why the Sparrow Alliance is taking action to right this wrong before it is too late. Click here to see our plan for revitalizing the Navajo language, and how you can get involved.
As of October 2012, Project Nico has enjoyed a six-month run. This project fulfilled The Mission of Sparrow Alliance to “improve quality of life on a local scale” through a program designed to “empower communities and individuals”. While this fundraising effort was focused on a young boy located in the local community of Sparrow’s Headquarters (Logan, Utah), it was a vibrant campaign that involved people from all over the globe!
Meet Nicolas: Better Known as “Nico”
The recipient of this project is six-year old Nicolas Oakeson who is better known as, you guessed it, Nico! In March of this year, a potentially life-threatening tumor was discovered behind his eye. After a traumatic series of surgeries and a number of long hospital nights, Nico began chemo to help rid his body of the invasive growth. As many can understand, six-year-olds don’t exactly know how to articulate the pain they feel … so they cry. As brave as Nico is, he is no exception. Going through chemotherapy is tough even for adults. For kids, it just doesn’t seem fair!
An only child to a single mother, there was a lot of factors that heightened Nico’s loneliness:
Being quarantined from cousins and friends from visiting
Not being able to attend school
Driving 300+ miles a week to get treatments at a Children’s Hospital
Watching his favorite summer season approaching without the ability to enjoy his favorite activity: swimming
Extended medical treatments required for surprise side effects of hundreds of kidney stones, and a failing kidney
What Made This Project Unique
This project was the brainstorm of a Sparrow Volunteer, Jake Steele. Thank you Jake! While fundraising for severe medical needs are common, this project was special because of the focus it gave to the severe isolation and the social fallout that is a natural side effect to these type of treatments. The simple mantra of this project was this: “The doctors may have the power to treat the tumors, but we have the power to cure his loneliness”.
The plan was simple.
Design a cool t-shirt
Sell shirts far and wide
Instruct buyers that they need to wear their new threads, take a picture, and post it (with words of encouragement) on the Project Nico Page on Facebook
How This Project Affected Nico Personally
When new messages and images began to appear on Nico’s Facebook Page, at first Nico was a little confused. ”How do these people know me?”, he would ask his mother, Wendy Oakeson. After she explained that these people bought a shirt because they wanted him to feel better, he was excited.
“We would check the page every day,” Wendy recounted, “Nico always wanted to know how they knew us.”. Sometimes she would have an answer of a social connection, even if it was a distant one: “I think they are friends with your Aunt back East”. While there was lots of support from neighbors, church members, school buddies, and friends, Wendy estimated that roughly 80% of Project Supporters were total strangers.
When asked how she felt that so many complete strangers reached out to her son, Wendy paused, then stated “It has increased my faith in mankind.” She elaborated about all the crazy things you hear on the news, and the despair they can foster. ”People’s hearts are HUGE” she exclaimed, happy to debunk the myths of a planet going sour that could be interpreted from the news.
Speaking of strangers, where were they from?
Project Nico had supporters far and wide. Imagine the delight of little Nico when he received words of support from the following:
Utah Governor Gary Herbert
Utah Jazz Mascot Bear
Utah Jazz Legend Thurl Bailey
Supporters from Japan, Denmark, and the UK!
Shirt wearers from Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Washington, and California (to name a few!)
We sold around 950 shirts! 100% of proceeds benefitted Nico. Many volunteer hours were dedicated to printing, packaging, and shipping these shirts.
The Sparrow Alliance has been honored to help in this Project. This Project could not have happened without the brain spark (and shirt design!) by Jake Steele. The Logo Shop in Logo, Utah, was amazing as well. They donated all the printing costs for this project. Thank you so much!
Status Report: Nico’s Current Health Status
Nico has made amazing strides since this spring. Among his major milestones:
Nico is attending school on a part-time basis. Special accommodations have been made for rest periods, classroom sanitation, and lots of missed days when it’s “chemo week”. Even with all of these setbacks, Nico recently tested in the top 10% academically in his grade. Way to go Nico!
Chemotherapy treatments officially end November 1st! The initial forecast was for one year of chemotherapy, so this date cuts that schedule in half!
With these milestones, some unexpected setbacks have included:
A difficult reaction to treatment that has affected Nico’s kidneys. Hundreds of kidney stones have clogged up his kidneys and bladder through the course of his tumor management.
Surgery to repair his ureter and check the status of one kidney will take place just before Thanksgiving. This surgery will give more answers that aren’t obvious with scans and tests. There is a risk that he could lose one kidney. The hope is that this surgery will stop that from happening!
What can you do?
If you would like to continue to support Project Nico, please visit the “Project Nico” Link located in the right hand sidebar. The Sparrow Alliance has enjoyed their involvement in this project, and could use this as a template for other fundraising efforts in the future.
A lot of folks want to help the world (ourselves included), but hundreds of ideas and sparks of inspiration can come and go without anything happening. Lack of support and funding end many great ideas before they ever get a real chance to develop. This post explores different avenues of funding; feel free to post your own ideas in the comments!
In the past, the Sparrow Alliance has experimented with several methods for raising money and/or collecting items to help a project. For example, we’ve hosted several events at local restaurants, a local dance club, held auctions, solicited friends and family for donations, sold t-shirts, sold greeting cards, and more. Some ideas worked marvelously, but other methods have left us all wondering if we could withstand ever taking on another project. Sometimes it feels like you have to exhaust every favor that was ever owed to you, and by the end you wonder how other organizations make it look so easy. For us, raising money has occasionally been not at all fun and depleted the stamina of the organization.
Here is a quick list of possible ideas to raise money that don’t include bugging all of our personal acquaintances into helping us (we’d gladly take their help of course, but we want people to WANT to join in the cause, not to feel obligated to do so). Some of these we’ve already tried with success, while others we have yet to attempt.
- Fun runs or local races
- Penny drives at schools
- Bake sales
- Art auctions
- Private Donors: They can be attracted to your project through word of mouth and awareness of your past projects, but more often than not you’ll need to actually contact these people and see if they will donate. That’s right, cold calls and elevator pitches. Remember, it never hurts to ask. Best of luck!
- Businesses: Document what you’re trying to do and provide an execution plan that helps them gain confidence in your organization. Also, demonstrate how donating may be beneficial to their business. Will you let them advertise or be listed as a sponsor?
- Family Foundations: Believe it or not, some wealthy families set aside certain amounts of their income to donate to charity. These may be the biggest bang for your buck. They are actually LOOKING for people to donate to.
A grant is an award of financial assistance from a private foundation or federal agency to a recipient in order to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation. Grants are not entitlements, federal assistance, or loans to individuals.
There are a number of fabulous resources available which allow you to search for grants applicable to your project. Here is a short list:
- www.grants.gov - Find & apply for federal grants
- The Foundation Center (foundationcenter.org) – This requires a monthly subscription to access different grants and foundations. You can check their website and look at their free resources to see who grantors have funded in the past. It can give you a clue as to whether or not they would take your project seriously.
- SMARTS – A searchable collection of grantors. You can also customize your search settings so it will search keywords and send you a daily email of what’s new. If you are a student at a university, you usually have this resource available for free.
- Support an already established product or service that will donate a portion of their proceeds to your foundation (example: Dinner at a restaurant on a certain night, they donate 15% of their profits to a local charity)
- Spearheading the production and sales of an item that donates 100% of the proceeds to your cause (example: NICO t-shirts, Livestrong bracelets, Breast Cancer awareness products, etc.)
To summarize, if your nonprofit organization is seeking funding opportunities for a project, try to gain community support for your project from distinguished community members or solicit donations from well-known supporters of the cause. It would also benefit you to seek out family foundations to fund your projects, host fundraising events, and enter competitions. Finally, seek grants through internet portals with an array of various keywords that apply to your project, and subscribe to services like SMARTS which will to search and scour grant databases for you.
Good luck and don’t forget to leave your ideas in the comments!
We are excited to re-launch the Sparrow Alliance Blog, a place where we hope to showcase what we are working on, reflect on past projects, discuss related topics or projects, and generate ideas for future projects on a weekly basis. To get started, I thought it would be appropriate to summarize some of the things that we have accomplished so far.
Summary of Sparrow Alliance Projects:
Textbooks for Africa -We sent books, money, and supplies to Africa. Efforts included a gathering at the Alumni House at Utah State University with a special performance by the African Drummers.
Union Preschool: We raised funds to help underprivileged kids attend the preschool. We also help raise funds for supplies, and we raised awareness about the school and what it stood for (Bilingual Education).
Homelessness Project – We did a lot of research about homelessness issues in Cache Valley. We made info cards to be passed out to the homeless in Utah (not just Cache Valley). We raised awareness about the issue, and let people know how they could help out.
Project NICO – We are helping to cure Nico’s loneliness and aid with the accumulating medical bills with t-shirts and an online campaign. All proceeds from the t-shirts go to his medical bills. … and by the way, he is doing well!
Sparrow Project on the Horizon:
Navajo Project – We are working with a school on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona where we plan to visit sometime next summer to offer them the Navajo language Rosetta Stone software among other supplies, which will enable them to teach more Navajo to their students. More details to come.
All of us who have been involved in the Sparrow Alliance have learned so much. I consider it a privilege to have a vehicle to accomplish the things that we have accomplished, and it is an honor to work with everyone affiliated with this group.
Every year over 12,000 children are diagnosed with some form of cancer or malignant tumor. That means every hour, about two kids are getting the scariest news of their young lives. And it’s not just the kids who suffer. Everyone close to them must deal with the hardships such tragic news brings. Parents, siblings, cousins, schoolmates, neighborhood friends, and the list goes on and on.
We’re experiencing what it feels like to be part of that large number of caring individuals affected by such a diagnosis. Our friend and co-worker has a son named Nicolas. We call him Nico. He’s six years old, sharp as a tack, loves root beer and Angry Birds. In all respects, he’s a pretty normal (but incredible) little dude.
But back in March of this year, a potentially life-threatening tumor was discovered behind his eye. After a traumatic series of surgeries and a number of long hospital nights, Nico began chemo to help rid his body of the invasive growth. As many can understand, 6-year-olds don’t exactly know how to articulate the pain they feel … so they cry. As brave as Nico is, he is no exception. He struggles to walk, so he was given a wheelchair. He struggles to eat, so he was provided a feeding tube. His kidneys have started to malfunction, so a tube was surgically placed in his back to help them drain. The list goes on.
The Sparrow Alliance is currently developing a service project on the Navajo Reservation that is aimed at increasing access to Navajo language tools for school children. It is expensive and difficult to teach the Navajo language in schools, and many Navajo children grow up speaking only English. The Navajo language, which has played an important role in our nation’s history, faces challenges because the children of the youngest generation have difficulty communicating with grandparents, who speak mostly Navajo. In an effort to bridge this linguistic gap and help preserve the Navajo culture, The Sparrow Alliance is partnering with schools to provide needed supplies and curriculum materials. We hope to have this project completed by the summer of 2013. To donate to this project or to learn more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few weeks ago, Katey Fielding, a part-time librarian in Southern Utah, discovered that hundreds of used textbooks were headed for the dump. It seemed so wasteful to her that she started looking for other options. Her high school formed a service club and teamed up with the Sparrow Alliance to send the books to Africa. One of the challenges for the education system in many African countries is the lack of textbooks. Apparently, in Utah, we have too many textbooks. So, it’s a perfect match.
Now we just need to raise some money to send them over. That’s where you come in. We’re throwing a benefit concert featuring the amazing folk band Leaping Lulu on Nov. 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Bullen Center in downtown Logan. There will be music, dancing and food as well as a silent auction featuring local art and goods and services from local businesses. Suggested donation is $15 per person and $25 a couple.
For the younger crowd, we’re throwing a dance party on Nov. 19 at Club New York on Main Street in Logan. There will be a live D.J. and all the fun you can legally have while supporting a good cause. Suggested donation is $3.
Here are the posters for the events. Download them, print them out, and pass them around. See you there.