The Advent Season

As a child, Christmas is a magical experience, and for many adults, it still is; however, more people may start to feel stressed during the holiday season. With all of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and decorating, Christmas can feel like a part-time job, and honestly, sometimes it feels like we’re trying to manufacture the spirit of Christmas when, as we so fondly recall, isn’t it supposed to be something that happens upon us like flu season and 5 o’clock traffic? It shouldn’t be something you have to create. It should be unavoidable, inevitable.

It would be one thing if all of the hard work put into creating the perfect Christmas actually delivered some meaningful results, memories that last a lifetime, eternal, life-changing moments that will always warm our hearts, but, let’s be honest, more often than not, we’re simply surviving Christmas. And who remembers what they got last year?

This is the culture of consumerism that drives us to madness this time of year. However, there is a movement that aims to combat this spirit of consumerism. It’s called Advent Conspiracy. Advent Conspiracy is not anti-Christmas; it’s merely anti-consumerism.

According to the website,

 29.8Million = Estimated people held in slavery today

$601Billion Dollars = Total US holiday retail sales

$25 can provide a family of five access to safe water for a year

Advent Conspiracy urges consumers to spend less on meaningless things and spend more on the things that matter in order to influence the people around us for the better. Many churches and nonprofits are adopting this movement in order to promote their causes, and many of them believe that “Christmas can still change the world.”

Spread Hope

IMG_2142

 

Taylor, a marketing student from UNF invited me to what she calls a “Spread Hope Party” a couple of weeks ago. It sounded cool, but I had to ask: “What is a Spread Hope party?” That’s when her eyes brightened and she went on a rant, and combined with my spastic, selective memory, I could only retain this: “hope,” “party,” “nonprofit,” and “Africa.” She had basically summed me up in four words, so I was already there. Despite the fact that I only knew her, I went because I’m pretty chill and I also have no life.

I wish I had taken better pictures, but the only one I got was of the banner (see above). Taylor designed the whole thing with the help of some other UNF students from a group called Women in Business. It looked like something straight off of Pinterest.

It wasn’t until after a few minutes of being there when I finally understood what it was all about. Taylor describes it as an event to spread awareness of a nonprofit called Outreach International, a nonprofit that aims to help eliminate poverty: “Since 1979, Outreach International has been working with the world’s most marginalized people to create solutions to help end world poverty.”

Taylor’s heart behind the Spread Hope party is to support the people of Malawi, Africa, specifically and “Giving them hope and opportunity to arise out of the cycle of poverty, through sustainable economic development.” During the event, she talked about poverty and how it specifically affects the people of Malawi, and she offered up the opportunity to donate money and to support the mission of Outreach International, ending the night with the bringing together of people passionate about making a difference and ending the cycle of injustice and poverty in the world.

#SpreadHope

Communications Convening Group: Viral Marketing

As an intern for a nonprofit organization, I am able to attend the Nonprofit Center workshops and communications convening groups as a staff member. This month, I chose to attend the Viral Marketing communications convening group.

During the hour, communications representatives from various nonprofits in Jacksonville discussed viral marketing and a very specific viral marketing campaign that shook Facebook this past summer: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In previous posts, I mentioned the scheme, and I’m sure everyone reading this has not only heard of the challenge but may have even participated in it.

If you are one of the rare few, here is a Ted Talks that you may find insightful. Also, here is a link to the ALS Association’s compilation of some of the most notable videos.

At the table, drinking coffee and sampling donuts, we talked about the probability of recreating a viral marketing campaign as effective as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Many agreed that it would be nigh impossible to bottle the magic of the viral campaign; however, there was discussion about why it was so effective.

While to those outside of the communications field may assume its success was by mere happenstance, it is clear, through observation, that the Ice Bucket Challenge was no random fluke. One of the individuals in the group pointed out that, specifically, an ice bucket challenge would not have worked during any other season, and that the timing, not just the season, was perfect because the coming election would have cluttered social media news feeds.

Additionally, it was noted that a challenge forces people to get involved even if they know nothing about the cause. Peer pressure can be a strong motivator, and people tend to look for ways to brand themselves by “liking” pages and “checking in” at certain locations. It tells the world who they are, and it adds to their Internet identity. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was perfect for social media prolific millennials who want to be seen, heard, and understood.

Out of the sixty minutes spent discussing how the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has forced organizations to re-think their marketing strategies, we were also able to share personal viral marketing endeavors involving the nonprofits we serve.

A Local Movement Unites Nonprofit Missions

Closer to Love is a nonprofit organization founded by Jordan Poole, an undergraduate student at UNF. He calls it a “conduit for community,” a way for people to join together in unity for the building up of other nonprofits in Jacksonville. Every month, a meeting called Sanctuary is held in an old church in Springfield. As Christian believers gather in fellowship, worship, prayer, and celebration, a specific nonprofit organization is featured.

As explained on the new website, “This ever-growing community is dedicated to accomplishing the Great Commandment and Great Commission within their local expressions of the body of Christ. CTL’s passion is partnering with these local expressions by making an intentional effort to showcase them on a variety of platforms. Whether it be through social media, organized events or word of mouth, CTL is dedicated to proclaiming the work of Christ in any way possible. The primary form of showcasing these expressions will be through our monthly feature of a particular ministry, organization or business on our website. In addition, the feature ministry will also be showcased at a monthly worship night called Sanctuary.”


In November, the highlighted nonprofit was Kim’s Open Door. Kim, the founder, was given the floor, and she explained the purpose and mission of her nonprofit, which “was created to fund, train, and mobilize those dedicated to serve kids at risk in their communities.” Through Closer to Love, Kim was able to share a bit about her testimony and mission and the impact of Kim’s Open Door on at-risk children in Jacksonville.

The Closer to Love logo

 

Just this month, the CTL website was launched, and it provides loads of information about Jordan’s vision for the Closer to Love mission. As it states on the “Mission” page, the core values are “Transformational Living, Humility of Heart, Serving the Marginalized and Authentic Community.” As it builds a following and support from like-minded individuals in the community, Jordan hopes to grow his nonprofit even more in the coming year.

Thanksgiving Harvest Festival

World Relief has so many exceptional supporters, mostly including local churches in Jacksonville. In particular, Church of the Redeemer stepped up to host a Thanksgiving Harvest Festival for World Relief’s refugees. While World Relief only had to supply four buses of refugees from various communities in the city, Church of the Redeemer provided a free meal, coffee and drinks, activities, an inflated bounce house, and a clothes closet packed to the brim.

Travis Trice, World Relief’s Church Mobilizer, first conducted a briefing for all of the volunteers, almost all members of the church, and Lita Amin, the Orientation Specialist for WRJ, explained cross cultural communication.

Then the buses rolled in carrying hungry and excited refugees and their families. Teams of church volunteers rallied groups of refugee kids to take part in games and face-painting in one room, while the adults were shown the bountiful clothes closet.

There were Burmese, Iraqis, Afghans, Congolese, Sudanese, Eritreans, and more, and they filled the church with their laughter and conversation in various languages. Most of those who attended the festival have only been residing in the US for, at the most, three months. A smaller portion of the guests were old friends and clients current staff members of World Relief.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was incredible and humbling to volunteer with such a supportive and loving church partner. World Relief couldn’t impact as many lives as it does without partnerships such as this, and they may not fully understand how much of a blessing they are to each refugee. The relationships with fantastic sponsors and partners is one thing I know World Relief Jacksonville is thankful for at all times but even more so during this Thanksgiving.

Rethreaded Combats Modern-Day Slavery

Florida ranks #3 in human trafficking states. Following California and New York, Florida contributes greatly to the 9-12 billion dollars in annual profits from forced labor or commercial sex, and considering the global annual profits reached 31.6 billion in 2013, this number proves staggeringly high for one state. Moreover, Jacksonville ranks close to the top of the list of human trafficking cities in Florida, and according to Terry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, “Human trafficking rivals Microsoft in what it makes annually in sheer profits. It’s one of the greatest growth industries that we currently have in the world, which is a sobering statistic for all of us.”

In light of these disgusting statistics, the issue of modern-day slavery resembles an unscalable mountain for small, resource-lacking nonprofits to challenge. However, one Jacksonville nonprofit has experienced considerable success in its three years of existence.

Rethreaded, an organization that combats human trafficking specifically in the area of the sex trade, employs victims, teaching them life skills, sewing, and providing the support they so desperately require. Their vision is better stated on their website:

“Rethreaded provides a four-month holistic training program for women in the Jacksonville, Florida area who are coming out of lives of addiction, violence, human trafficking, and prostitution. Many of these women leave prison with felony records, creating significant challenges to employment. Rethreaded is a safe place where women are paid a living wage to become artisan seamstresses and “upcycle” donated t-shirts into new creations for sale.”

In 2013, Rethreaded was voted one of the OneSpark winners, and this year, it expanded with a new retail store to display and sell their products, such as the most popular famous “Grace Scarf.” The proceeds of any purchase go towards facilitating the end sex trafficking and aiding these women in their journey to restoration. In the future, Rethreaded aims to develop a program that targets at-risk girls in order to help stop this vicious cycle.

With the development of social media, viral marketing, and a better public awareness of social issues such as human trafficking and the sex trade, organizations, such as Rethreaded, influence more immediate change. The industry of modern slavery has never been okay, but with the increase in awareness of the efforts from nonprofits through the city’s unique crowd-sourcing opportunities and powerful nonprofit community, Jacksonville may someday stand a chance against the statistics.

 

morpheus (2)

 

Interview with Yesha’s Special Events Coordinator

Yesha Ministries is an Olympic sanctioned Taw Kwan Do school that offers free classes to the community. My sister, Hannah Trotter, has grown up with the school, working her way through the ranks from white belt to third-degree black belt, and now she is the special events coordinator for Yesha; in my interview, I asked her a few questions regarding the nonprofit and her role in this company.