A few years back, I was hanging with some good friends at a music festival called Outside Lands in California when we got into a deep conversation. We all realized that we were blessed and doing well, but really wanted to give back in some way to make it all mean something.
We each had several distinct advantages, but also limitations. For instance, one of my friends, the CEO of a music technology company, had money to donate, but little time to vet charities and make sure his funds were going to good use.
We recruited one of my childhood homies who was already active in philanthropy on a high level and had a certain celebrity, and our Lifted team was complete.
Oh, and me? I guess I added an intimate knowledge of the communities we were aiming to help, since I lived in impoverished countries such as Nicaragua, Cambodia, the Philippines, etc. and traveled extensively. I was to be the “boots on the ground,” so to speak.
As we started the long and arduous process of forming a non-profit (there are A LOT of hoops to jump through!), we had to clarify our vision.
Who would we try to help with Lifted? And what was the best way to really make a difference in the world?
We wrestled with this decision.
After all, there are SO many causes that need our attention. Do we work to eradicate homelessness? Crusade against domestic abuse? Find a cure for cancer? Or, is our environment the most pressing need of all?
Furthermore, do we give $100 to one charity or $1 to 100 charities?
Drawing on personal experience, reading numerous biographies of great men and women, and doing copious research into the nature and function of philanthropic aid, a common theme emerged:
The best way to help any society is by empowering its women.
Furthermore, all research pointed to the fact that providing education for children, and especially girls, was the #1 most effective way of improving the conditions of any community.
Get poor and at-risk girls in school – and keep them there – and the positive changes that ensure are simply magical.
Just look at Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was forbidden by the Taliban to attend school but defied them. She was shot point blank in the face but still wouldn’t relinquish her chance at an education, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and become a global inspiration.
We now had out mission: to empower impoverished youth worldwide.
Intrinsic in that key word – ‘empower,’ education was first and foremost.
But, in desperately poor countries and areas, it’s not as simple as paying for a child to go to school. In many cases, the family resists the idea wholeheartedly, since you are taking a pair of hands out of the workforce when kids go to school, and every penny is needed every day just to feed them.
So, we have to take a wholistic approach to getting these kids in school, including family and community awareness and support and a whole lot of logistics.
Therefore, we added to Lifted’s mission that we’d work to foster the conditions necessary for safe, happy, and healthy childhoods that lead to positive and productive adults, enlivening communities.
After all, I’ve seen a whole lot of shady non-profits out there that pocket an obscene amount of money only to see the majority of it doled out for CEO and employee salaries, fancy offices, and 5-star “business” trips.
Even when you donate to legitimate, well-established charities (which shall remain nameless), only 90, 70, or 50% of your funds actually go to the people and cause you’re trying to help. The rest goes to administrative, operational, and marketing costs.
But, with Lifted International, 100% of your donations go directly to the children and communities we're helping – every time!
We can do that because we keep our overhead extremely low and pay all of our administrative, marketing, and operation costs out of our own pockets.
Once the ink was dry and Lifted International was officially a 501c3 non-profit, we also took our time choosing the first projects we’d undertake.
We’re also not interested in “ego projects,” as I call them, where charities will undergo flashy yet impractical and unsustainable missions just to get their name plastered on a school or a well and the great photo ops it presents.
The great news is that Lifted has found some great programs and people to invest in.
We help Makara, a gifted and hard-working girl who lives at the CIO Orphanage in Cambodia go to school, girls rescued from sex trafficking and taught job skills at the wonderful Connecting Hands Café, and sponsor five children living in the slums of Manila, where their father wakes up at 3 am to work as a trash collector just so they can get an education.
Today, I welcome you to meet a few of these folks, and find out some more about Lifted International.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you; for reading this; for caring; and, if you deem us worthy, for offering your support.