Archive for June, 2012
This week the Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit took place in New York – an exclusive gathering where some of the world’s richest entrepreneurs get together to discuss global issues. Among those attending were Warren Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway, who is giving away 99% of his $39 billion fortune to charity, and charitable musician and Huff Post blogger Jon Bon Jovi, who recently qualified as one of Forbes’ “most charitable celebrities”, for his JBJ Soul Foundation. Bon Jovi recently opened a pay-as-you-can Soul Kitchen and has done a lot to help homeless veterans: he is also dedicated to providing opportunities for youth. Both philanthropists contributed to the discussions of how to resolve the world’s problems. But what drew far more attention was a musical performance that the duo shared with the illustrious company. With Buffett on ukulele and Bon Jovi on guitar, the pair performed the Bette Midler song ‘The Glory of Love’, as shown in the following video.
By definition, altruism seeks no reward. But it’s always satisfying to hear of someone’s unselfish deed bringing them good fortune.
Thirty-year-old Delroy Simmonds from Brooklyn, who had been unemployed for more than a year, was on his way to a job interview, earlier this week, when he saw a baby stroller roll onto subway train tracks. Mother of four, Mrs Zamara, preoccupied with her other three kids failed to notice that she hadn’t put the brakes on, and that the wind had blown nine-month-old Daniel’s stroller into the path of an oncoming train. Quick-thinking father-of-two Mr Simmonds jumped onto the tracks and rescued the toddler just in time. Sadly, as a result of the incident he missed his interview. But another potential employer – Guy Rodriquez, of ABM Janitorial Services, at Kennedy Airport – heard of the heroic act and the following day hired him as a maintenance worker. Mr Simmonds’ new boss says that the incident showed that he had “heart…character…[and] a very good attitude”, by acting without hesitation. Although the new job (which starts in two weeks’ time) will pay only $9.50 an hour, Mr Rodriguez apparently expects that before long his latest recruit will qualify as a supervisor. And meanwhile an online fundraising campaign has started, to reward Delroy for his selflessness. (Update, 11 August 2012 – this campaign seems to have vanished over the horizon now.)
Today has been the third annual Social Business Day. With its showcase event taking place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this celebration of social business – the brainchild of Professor Muhammad Yunus – was attended this year by many key figures from around the world, including NASA astronaut Ron Garan and the Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Shiro Sadoshima. The theme for the day was ‘Transforming Societies through Social Business’, and panel discussion topics included health, the environment, disabled people and youth. The day ended with a cultural performance. Tomorrow there will be a follow-up forum on ‘Evaluating Impacts’. Virtual events have also taken place simultaneously in various other parts of the world, and there have previously been actual, physical events of a similar kind in Vietnam and Austria (a few months ago), to mention just two. June the 28th was chosen specifically for today’s celebrations, as it is Professor Yunus’ birthday. The Professor currently runs the Yunus Centre, which has a “poverty-free world” as its ultimate goal. ‘Social business’ (in common with the related business model of ‘social enterprise’) is generally recognised as being a commercial activity undertaken with a social goal in mind: it also aims to be self-sufficient.
An afterthought, following on from my post this evening on the bullied bus monitor… lest I might have given the wrong impression, I need to emphasise that I am aware just how much of a problem bullying is, both in the USA (where all of this took place) and here in the UK: no doubt, many other parts of the world experience similar issues. And of course, the recent film release on the topic has rightfully drawn attention to this. I may well devote a post or article specifically to this topic, at some point. However, I do wish to reiterate that there are many good role models and inspirational young people out there, who more than make up for the few ‘bad apples’. Let’s try to concentrate on them, rather than the negatives. (‘nuf said!)
Photo Credit: YouTube
I don’t know whether anyone has noticed that until now I’ve studiously avoiding any mention of the ‘bullied bus monitor’ issue that has been hitting the headlines for the last week or so? There’s a good reason for this. Even though it would have been easy to ‘slipstream’ on the wave of interest in the issue, I was anxious to avoid drawing further attention to the behaviour of the kids involved. As our recently published report on Young Philanthropists makes clear, my fellow Chreda trustees and I believe passionately that there are loads of really good, altruistic kids out there in the community, who are genuinely trying to make the world a better place. So when there’s an outbreak of hooliganism such as this we try not to get swept along by the hysteria and stereotyping. In any case, the wave of (no doubt largely altruistic) donations has inevitably attracted some criticism – as have the death threats reportedly received by the perpetrators. So I felt it best to stand back.
But I could remain on the side-lines no longer, when I read today of the emergence of the previously anonymous benefactor who created the website that raised well over $½ million for the lady at the centre of the row, 68-year-old Karen Klein. Last night, Max Sidorov, a Ukrainian immigrant from Toronto (who was once bullied himself), was welcomed into Mrs Klein’s Greece (N.Y.) home, so that she could personally thank him for his generous efforts on her behalf. His campaign resulted in the video of her problems (with abusive behaviour by seventh-grade boys) going viral on YouTube, and generated an unprecedented level of support. Even CNN and The Walt Disney Company have chipped in, with offers of trips for her young family members. The online fundraising campaign will be closing in just over three weeks’ time. Although she plans to ‘pay forward’ much of the money to charity – in particular, research (she herself has a grandchild with Down syndrome) – Mrs Klein admits that if she pays off all her bills and renovates her house a little she could take a well-earned retirement. But whatever the final outcome, she says she is grateful to young Max for helping make something beautiful out of what had started out as a painful situation. His response… “If everyone gave each other support and kindness, none of this would ever happen anywhere.”
Finally, a fascinating postscript to the whole affair – something of a ripple effect, as predicted by Rachel Joy Scott – is that Max Sidorov himself is now the recipient of a fundraising effort, in recognition of his philanthropic efforts. It’s wonderful how one good deed can inspire another!