“The ordinary… is the part of our world where beauty is interlaced in each detail… It’s the part of our world that can knock our socks off… but so many of us walk by everyday, never knowing, never caring… But some see…” narrates 18-year-old filmmaker Dietrich Ludwig in his first production, hopefully of many to come. The video, which was shot on a digital SLR and an iPhone with a $25 budget for a pair of prop sunglasses, asks the viewer to contemplate what’s extraordinary about the ordinary.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a few thousand dollars to give to your favorite charity?
Wouldn’t it also be nice to clear out that all the clutter in your garage–those toys your kids grew out of years ago, that couch you can’t find room for in your house?
Hm. Both of those scenarios sound nice. And you know what? Thanks to Web Thrift Store, both of those scenarios are now possible! According to consumer research group NPD, the average American household has $7,000 worth of stuff the owners don’t want. Web Thrift Store provides a platform for anybody and everybody to sell their belongings to others who want the stuff. All proceeds go to a charity the seller picks, making a smooth donation of the profit from the sale. Another benefit: it’s all tax deductible.
We love Web Thrift Store because it is the perfect embodiment of turning lemons into lemonade: you can take the stuff you don’t want anymore, sell it to somebody who will use it and love it, and give the money to a charity you care about. It’s a wonderfully stress-free way to give because no cash leaves your bank account. You can also feel great about de-cluttering your life and uniting your objects with people who need them. It’s a win-win-win!
Inspiring Person: Deb Eiseman is the founder and artist behind Art That Heals, an inspirational brand of paintings and products.
Where She Came From: For 14 years Deb was a successful television executive, working as Joel Siegel’s producer on Good Morning America. All that changed with a taxi accident in New York City, which left Deb in debilitating chronic pain.
Lemonade Moment: With the purchase of a $2.98 watercolor paint set, Deb intended to bide time with a new hobby while she healed. Instead, she discovered untapped talent. “Halfway through the painting session, I looked down and thought to myself, ‘It kind of looks like I know what I am doing here!'” she says.
Make Lemonade Today: “After the accident, I came to a fork in the road where I could choose to either get bitter or get better,” says Deb. Whether the situation you’re in is huge and life altering like Deb’s, or the annoyance of being stuck in bad traffic when you’re running late, make the choice to see the light rather than the darkness (warning: it’s always easier to focus on the darkness).
Inspiring Person: Rachel Lloyd, 37, is the Executive Director and Founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS).
What She Does Now: GEMS is an organization that serves girls and young women who have been victims of the commercial sex trafficking industry. By providing a safe place for young women to stay, as well as a community offering education, guidance, and help with life skills, Rachel has helped hundreds of girls, ages 12-24 to exit the commercial sex trafficking industry and realize their full potential.
Where She Came From: A survivor of the commercial sex trafficking industry herself, Rachel is a U.K. native who came to the United States at 22 after spending her teenage years in what she calls “The Life.” She dropped out of high school to support herself, and by the time she was 17 became sucked into the world of stripping and prostitution in Germany.
Her Perspective: An excerpt from Girls Like Us, Rachel’s memoir about her past and the work she has accomplished since starting GEMS. Here, she talks about her first year at GEMS:
“I cry for hours at home and have fitful nights of little sleep. My nightmares resurface as my own pain is repeated to me, magnified a thousand times. It feels insurmountable. How can you save everyone? How can you rescue them? How do you get over your pain? How do you ever feel normal?
I don’t have many answers, for myself or for the girls. So I listen and listen, doing my best to learn as much as I can, to make the connections, to be open and honest about my own experiences, to be sincere, to love them and not judge. And while that isn’t much to offer, it becomes the basis for some amazing relationships.”
Get Inspired: You can read more about Rachel and GEMS by purchasing or checking out her book, Girls Like Us, from the library. The GEMS website also offers a variety of ways to get involved.
Make Lemonade Today: Rachel emphasizes the importance of language when speaking about this sensitive topic. She says referring to these young women as “child prostitutes” isn’t accurate or appropriate, since it denotes choice in the matter. Rather than saying “child prostitute,” say that a girl was “in the commercial sex trafficking industry.”
It all started one day on the outskirts of Phnom Penh at the foot of a massive
The scorching Cambodian sun backlit the plastic garbage bags that were being
carried by small children as they scavenged through garbage for something to eat or
As we stood and watched the smell was overwhelming and bits of garbage blew
through the air getting stuck in our hair and eyelashes burning our eyes. This was
these children’s every day reality.
Then we learned that these kids could go to school if only for school supplies.
A few years earlier Pymean Noun built a school at the Dump called the POI school
and gave the families rice in exchange for letting their children attend school
instead of working the dump to feed their families. The money earmarked for school
supplies was used up with the rice program and they had no supplies.
Wanting to make a difference in these children’s lives we went shopping! We
bought cases of school supplies and donated them to each and every student at the
PIO School plus more for those waitlisted so more children could attend.
It was a wonderful and joyous day but I was haunted by it.
When was the next group of American women going to be driving past a garbage
dump outside of Phnom Penh and decide go shopping for school supplies? It was
such a random act. I wanted to find a way to keep those supplies coming on a
regular basis. On the plane ride home I wrote the business plan for The Pencil
Promise. Our Promise: For every backpack you purchase we deliver another, filled
with school supplies, to a child in need.
Since that first trip in November 2009, I have had the privilege of traveling the
world working with many marginalized communities delivering school supplies and
opening access to education. We work with Tibetan refugees escaping tyranny and
living in exile in pursuit of the right to an education. We work with Laotian orphans,
slum children of Indian, the Maasai and Samburu tribes of Kenya, and of course the
Cambodian children of the PIO school where this journey began. Education is the
only way to break the cycle of poverty and it is working.
When we educate one child there is a ripple effect. They not only learn to read and
write but they then teach their families. They learn the importance of drinking
clean water and that vaccines are not the government trying to hurt you. They learn
AIDS awareness and the importance of prenatal care. This knowledge elevates the
standard of living for every member of the community.
Since those first few trips when we brought backpacks from the US to deliver, The
Pencil Promise has started our Women’s Empowerment program. We work with
some of the worlds most marginalized women doing jobs skills training and then we
offer them employment sewing our backpacks. This has been a source of so much
pride to me personally, and it gives these women a jobs skill and an opportunity for
financial independence, as well as creates beautifully made backpacks for children
That day squinting into the sun at that garbage dump outside Phnom Penh I never
could have imagined that this foul smelling rat infested setting would transform the
trajectory of my life, bringing immeasurable joy and purpose, and along the way
transforming the trajectory of the lives of so many women and children in need.
Susan Barron Trenk founded The Pencil Promise 2009. You can contribute to her amazing cause by purchasing a backpack that will help children in need get an education that could turn their lives around, or helping your child engage in a rewarding cultural exchange by becoming a PencilPal.