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A Home Away from Home

10 Oct

Today we present the final profile of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Last but certainly not least, here is an organization that has been supporting families with seriously ill children since 1988.

Many families with seriously ill children are forced to travel long distances or endure extended stays in the hospital to ensure their children get the best treatment. The emotional trauma of a sick child is enough to bear without the additional stress of life on the road.

This is where The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill comes in. This organization understands that providing comfort to families with seriously ill children can truly make a difference in their lives.

The Ronald McDonald House believes hope can be found in the comfort of a home!

Each year, they open their doors to more than 1,800 families with children in the hospital. When the weary travelers arrive at  the Ronald McDonald House, they find a home with a fully stocked kitchen, home-cooked meals, a cozy living room, hotel-style guest rooms, and outdoor play areas.

Families get the chance to take their minds off of the stress of hospital life and relax by participating in the Healing Arts Program. This program sponsors family-oriented activities each night, giving everyone in the house a chance to relieve stress and have fun while interacting with other families. These activities include craft nights, therapy dog visits, cooking, music performances and even massage therapy.

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and give families in need a home away from home!


Shrinking America’s Education Gap

8 Oct

Today we present the twelfth in our series of profiles of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Here’s an organization that works diligently to give every teen the chance to attend college. 

The U.S. is facing a major problem: 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs today require a post-secondary education, yet the U.S. lags behind other nations in young adults enrolled in higher education. This is disproportionately true for low income students.

The National College Advising Corps (NCAC) strives to fix this problem by closing the gap in access to education and opportunity. They hope to accomplish this goal  by providing low-income, first-generation-college students with the advice and support needed to enroll in and complete college. NCAC approaches the education gap in a unique way. They lessen the non-academic barriers to applying to college, for example, helping students tackle the timely financial aid application.

Advising is key: Many students do not apply to college because they are deterred by the lengthy and sometimes confusing application and enrollment process. NCAC matches counselors with prospective college students to help them choose the right college and complete the required paperwork .

NCAC counselors are unique in that they are required to be 25 years old or younger. Sixty percent of counselors are from low-income families and all of them recently graduated college. Being close in age and origin to their mentees is important for counselors because it helps them relate to and develop a strong mentor-mentee relationship.

Today, U.S. high school counselor caseloads reach as high as 500 students, leaving counselors less time to dedicate to each student’s success. NCAC advising addresses the issue by providing full-time one on one counseling to low performing high schools around the country, ensuring that students receive plenty of attention.

How does NCAC measure success?

Since its start in 2004, NCAC has partnered with 18 colleges in 14 states. They have helped 12,000 students enroll in college and the high schools they are partnered with have seen an 8-12 percent increase in students attending college, compared to schools not partnered with NCAC.

By fostering the spirit of community and public service in young adults throughout the country, the Advising Corps aims to improve college-going and graduation rates, thus creating a more productive workforce for future generations.

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and help NCAC close the education gap!

Bringing Local to the Forefront

5 Oct

Today we present the eleventh in our series of profiles of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Here is an organization that is taking the food and farming industry in North and South Carolina by storm — literally.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a leading advocate for local and organic farming in North and South Carolina. They have set their sights on creating a region where sustainable agriculture is the norm.

How does CFSA  go about mainstreaming this grand idea?

They start by inspiring the communities closest to the issue.

Educate the community: CFSA focuses on increasing the understanding of sustainable food and agricultural systems. They promote the importance of organic and local food to the general public and farmers at their Sustainable Agriculture Conference and through programs like their Growing Green Farmers initiative which helps new farmers grow a sustainable business.

Advocacy:  This summer, CFSA  promoted fair farming and food policies by launching the Local Food Barn Storm Tour of the Carolinas. The Local Barn Storm travelled to farms across the Carolinas to provide farmers with the resources grow to their industries. Along the way, CFSA collected stories that demonstrated the importance of local farming, inspired support for sustainable agriculture and raised awareness about the 2012 Federal Farm Bill, a series of reforms to agricultural policy that prioritize farmer’s needs.

One exciting result of this tour is, CFSA’s new food-finder blog where you can easily search for local food, farms and restaurants.

Fostering growth: CFSA has a variety of programs in place which aim to establish a  world class organics industry in the Carolinas.  Like the small-scale Carolina Ground project that builds up local farming by supplying bakeries with high-quality organic supplies to create delicious, local and organic baked items.

We asked CFSA’s Alice Alexander to share her thoughts on working with Catchafire, “As a small but smart regional organization with a proven track record, we are ripe for expert consultation to help us raise our visibility and influence. As with most nonprofits just reaching adolescence, we do not have the luxury of deep pockets to invest in strategy development that would kick us to a new level. Catchafire serves as an angle is making these leaps possible!”

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and help people in the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic foods.



Helping Young Artists Find Their Voice

3 Oct

Today we present the tenth in our series of profiles of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.  Here’s what happens when an organization unites young poets from the North Carolina Triangle to help them build self-confidence and become leaders using the spoken and written word. 

Sacrificial Poets (SacPoe) has been challenging young people to find their voice and discover new ways to empower themselves through artistic expression since 2005. Students are chosen from local slam poetry competitions in the Triangle and are invited to join the organization to hone their artistic skills and find their way in the world.

Internationally: This past year, SacPoe launched Poetic Portraits of a Revolution, a program to inspire young people to use art as an element of agency. Recently, four of their young poets traveled to Egypt and Tunisia to document the popular uprisings using poetry and photography.  A series of their poems were broadcast on NPR.

Back at home: SacPoe created a local alternative to the Poetic Portraits of a Revolution, called Painted Voices. This program teaches young people to look for groundbreaking stories close to home.

When the Sacrificial Poets are not slamming down rhymes or travelling the world looking for inspiration, they are educating their community.  YouTh ink is a SacPoe educational program that uses spoken word poetry to introduce students to tools that aid them in strengthening not just writing and public speaking skills, but their emotional literacy as well.

Executive Director Will Inerney is excited to start working with us, “Catchafire allows our local non-profit the ability to connect with skilled professionals across the nation with the click of a button. The diverse skills, opinions, and experience [Catchafire] experts bring will help Sacrificial Poets continue to be a more efficient, effective, and impactful organization.”

SacPoe is doing something right if their poets are this inspiring:  

There’s more where that came from! Take a look at more performances here.

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and help young artists  find their voice!

Change comes from within a community

1 Oct

Today we present the ninth in our series of profiles of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.  Here’s what happens when a $26 loan and a few determined hearts have the power to change an entire community.

In 2000, an unlikely trio formed: Rye, a UNC student, Salim, a community organizer and Tabitha, a nurse and Kiberian local. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, a common goal united them. They each dreamed of changing the community of Kibera. $26 doesn’t sound like a significant sum, but it was a starting place for Tabitha. After borrowing the money from Rye (the now co-founder of Carolina for Kibera), she  who worked diligently to save up and launch a community health clinic in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums.

In 2001, Carolina for Kibera (CFK) was launched to further the efforts of the clinic and quickly realized they had much more to offer.

Challenge: Kibera is a densely populated urban settlement, housing roughly one million people in one square mile. Lacking access to education, healthcare and basic services, inhabitants of the slum are no strangers to struggle. They are faced with the consequences of gender inequality, ethnic violence and extreme poverty on a daily basis.

CFK accepts this challenge. Using a localized and youthful approach they broke down the larger goal of empowering an entire community to focus on three areas.

Healthcare: CFK prioritizes health in Kibera by providing top quality medical services at their community based Tabitha Clinic. Their multiple health focused programs offer HIV/AIDS and sexual health education using a de-stigmatizing “edutainment” and offer safe places for young women to learn about reproductive health and women’s rights.

Community: Half of Kibera’s population is under the age of 15, a statistic that provoked CFK to set up a scholarship program to help families in the area afford sending their children to school. CFK also has set up sports programs to empower young Kiberians by building confidence and teaching life skills while promoting peace and cultural understanding.

This video tells the story of Innocent, a local CFK jump-rope coach who is dedicated to the CFK mission.

Economy: CFK  advances businesses in the community by offering entrepreneurial and business training to locals. Their innovative approach to dealing with waste management is outlined in this impressive video.

We applaud CFK as this year their leaders and volunteers supplied 40-45,000 patients with quality medical services. In addition, their mobile health effort educated 7,000 people! As the needs of Kibera change, CFK’s programs adapt quickly and accordingly.

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and help a community reach its highest potential.

Enter the Dream Construction Zone

28 Sep

It’s Friday! We want to celebrate by presenting the eighth in our series of profiles of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill- Carrboro.  What happens when you combine every  color of poster paint under the rainbow with a little glitter glue, the occasional garden gnome, a miniature kitchen set, fairytales and clay sculptures? 

You get a hands-on museum dedicated inspiring young minds!

Kidzu is the place, a museum where children ages 0-8 are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild as they learn about the world and turn their ideas into original creations.

Children are invited to discover new talents in sculpting, painting and crafting classes. Their imaginations are put to the test as they play make-believe inside the many touring exhibits and their creativity is celebrated at Kidzu’s original exhibit.

Enter into a museum of possibilities

On a typical day at Kidzu, artistic creations by local artists dangle from the ceiling, authors from the community can be heard telling their stories in the puppet theater and kids of all ages are getting the  chance to make their wildest fantasies a reality in the dream construction zone of Kidzu’s original exhibit, KidBoom: The Power of Creativity! Opportunities for little minds to wander are seemingly endless at Kidzu.

Kidzu has been busy lately

Executive Director Pam Wall says, “just two weeks ago, Kidzu began the concept design phase of our new museum with our world renown team of architects, Frank Harmon, The Porticos Group and MIG.  We engaged our community advisory group for input on how we will make this the best children’s museum in the state and country.”

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and let your imagination run wild!

At Volunteers for Youth, Every One Counts

26 Sep

Today we present the seventh in our series of profiles of our 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.  We are excited to work with an organization that was created when a group of caring individuals decided that giving up on their community’s juvenile delinquents was simply not an option.

Twenty years ago the city of Carrboro faced a rising juvenile crime rate with no solution in sight. Enter Volunteers for Youth (VFY). The organization offers a variety of youth-focused programs all geared towards preventing delinquency.

Question: Is it possible to change the course of a  child’s life?

Volunteers for Youth believes the answer simple —  just give them a chance!  VFY wants every child they work with to know that they are important and to help them grow into strong, contributing members of society.

Here’s how they do it:

High-risk kids are paired with responsible mentors who devote many hours a week to fostering year-long (or in cases life-long) relationships. Mentoring focuses on building positive relationships and encourages children in the community to realize their strengths.

Juvenile Community Service

Youth who have committed crimes in Orange County are assigned community service hours. The young people are then placed in nonprofit work sites where volunteer supervisors oversee and evaluate their work on projects including  park clean up projects and arts & crafts projects that benefit the community. Young people learn valuable life and job skills in the process.

Teen Court
When a first time offender is brought to Volunteers for Youth, they encounter an innovative justice model: Teen Court, run by teens for teens. First time offenders enter into an alternative court program where they are tried by fellow students who take on the roles of prosecutor, defense attorney, clerk, bailiff and juror and sentence them accordingly.

Despite major cuts to funding at the state and Federal level, Volunteers for Youth has never failed to empower young people through these programs. With the support from Carrboro and surrounding communities, they continue to serve at-risk youth in Orange county.

We think Volunteers for Youth is on to something!

Sign up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and give every child a chance.

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