HAITI, by foot.

“What are you running from?” was a question that the seven members of Team Tassy heard repeatedly as they ran 230 miles across Haiti over the course of nine days. The team was not running from anything, but rather for Haiti. In fact, the race took place this past February during the 5th anniversary of the earthquake that decimated the country in 2010. Dubbed Run Across Haiti, the route was equivalent to running nine marathons and was an effort to raise $75,000 for non-profit Team Tassy for placing individuals in poverty into jobs and to simultaneously raise awareness of the post-earthquake devastation in Haiti.

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Josh Elkes, FOND Group’s Head of NonProfits

 

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The team ran across a variety of terrain.

In 2010, Ian Rosenberger created Team Tassy, a non-profit focused on unleashing the inherent power in every person by training and placing individuals in poverty into sustainable jobs so that they can pull themselves out of poverty forever. After learning about the widespread destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ian grabbed his camera and flew to the country’s capital Port-au-Prince. It was during this trip that he met Tassy, a young man who was dying of a facial tumor and asked Ian to help him. Back in Pittsburgh, PA Ian and his friends found a doctor willing to do the surgery for free and raised funds to fly Tassy into the States and then back home once he recovered. When Ian and his friends flew back to Haiti with Tassy after his surgery, they quickly realized that they needed to stay with him until he did not need their help. And this sparked the question, “What does it mean for a poor person not to need you anymore?” The answer they came to was by empowering the poor with jobs.

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At times, running well into the night.

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Running through villages of curious onlookers.

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Provisions often came from unexpected places.

The Run Across Haiti team kicked off their adventure on February 21st in the northernmost Cap Haitien and ended in Jacmel, the southern tip of Haiti on March 1st. Among the team was FOND Group’s Josh Elkes, who overseas non-profit relations and partnerships. Josh is a New York native and raced in his fist marathon in 2011 during the NY Marathon, and has since continued to progress his runs. In November of this past fall, Ethan Zohn, the founder of non-profit Grassroot Soccer, reached out to Josh to introduce him to Ian, who happened to be a close friend of his from when they both appeared on the TV show Survivor. Josh and Ian met in late December while Ian was forming the team for Run Across. Just two months later Josh was in Haiti on the run.

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Josh Elkes receives encouragement on his 9 day run from local passers by.

The fundraiser blended two of Josh’s passions, long-distance running and supporting non-profits, and after interviewing him just two-weeks after returning from the trip, the experience was clearly both powerful and transformative, “Seeing a whole new country and getting to see something new with every step I took was incredible. It was all brand new and incredibly fascinating.” Josh felt particularly motivated to join Run Across Haiti because of Team Tassy’s focus on personal empowerment, “They don’t just hand out money, they take the approach, “Teach a man to fish, feed him for life” and that really resonates with me.”

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By Alison E. Berman, founder of Anchor and Leap 

All photos by taylorfreesolo 

To donate to Team Tassy you can visit the Run Across Haiti crowdrise page.

Aloha in Waikiki

FOND Group had the honor of helping to produce the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival celebrating Hawaiian Surf and Cultural Heritage which took place in Waikiki this past fall. Alison Berman caught up with visionary pro surfer Rochelle Ballard to learn more about the memorable day and the inspiration behind the event.

All Photos by Kai Markell
In Hawaii, surfing is more than an activity or a pass time. It is more than a sport. Surfing goes deep into the heritage of Hawaii; it is embedded in the roots of Hawaiian culture. And, nodding to that deep significance was the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival, a one-day Hawaiian cultural surfing event that debuted in Kūhio Beach Park in Waikīkī on September 6th, 2014. The dawn-to-dusk festival was a celebration of traditional Hawaiian surfing and also so much more. It was an effort to bring together and nurture the many at-risk and homeless youth of Waikīkī and reconnect them with their Hawaiian heritage through surf sessions, workshops on Hawaiian traditional practices, and also educating youth on resources available within the community. “It was a really amazing shared day of Aloha, and that’s what Aha Kai Aloha is, it’s bringing earth into the ocean or valley into the sea using all of the elements for sustainability, bringing together the wisdom of perpetuating the land and sea through the love of surfing-Aha Kai Aloha. In Hawaiian culture it is called Ahupua’a -from the valley into the sea of Hawaiian cultural sustainability,” said Rochelle Ballard, professional world-class surfer, who first had the vision for the festival.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with 'Uncle' Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with ‘Uncle’ Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Rochelle moved to Kauai, Hawaii as a child, which is where she later took her first leap onto a surfboard. She is an accomplished professional female surfer and veteran of the Association of Surfing Professional’s (ASP) World Championship Tour, and also starred in the original Blue Crush film. After an inspiring professional career, Rochelle continues to cultivate her love for surfing, one way being through her deep involvement with Living Life Source Foundation (LLSF), the organization behind Aha Kai Aloha Festival. LLSF is a charitable non-profit located in Hawaii’s Manoa Valley and has a beautiful mission, “To restore a system of living by embracing all faiths and modern science; teach concepts vital to creating a life of greater meaning, purpose, and freedom; and, educate the people of Hawaii to become self-sustainable and to perpetuate the life-force spirit of Aloha.” Professor Bruce Keaulani, locally known as Uncle Bruce, is the founder of Living Life Source Foundation and asked Rochelle to create an event that would bring together the organization’s efforts with local youth and the healing aspect of what LLSF stands for. And from this sparked the inspiration for Aha Kai Aloha Festival.

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FOND Founder, Nicole Delma, honored to share a moment with legendary shaper Pohauku Stone.

The festival opened with a prayer chant, Oli. Rochelle recounts the moment, “A shower came through, and everyone was facing the ocean, listening to the water and the waves, as to bless the day with safety and the Aloha spirit.” The festival offered a mix of workshops that taught youth about Hawaiian traditions such as pounding Poi, which is the process of pounding taro root into a dough like consistency. A large focus of the day was also to show youth the connection between surfing and Hawaii’s ecology. Local Tom “Pohaku” Stone brought this to life through a hands-on workshop on papa he’e nalu, showing the kids how traditional Hawaiian wooden surfboards are carved. Through teaching these traditional methods it also continues that important aspect of Hawaiian culture, Rochelle explains, “When you stop doing these practices then the culture dies, and people are no longer fulfilling the Aloha, the spirit of where they came from.”

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Aiding at-risk and homeless youth can be a delicate undertaking. On the streets of Waikīkī, it isn’t always easy to identify which kids are homeless, even more so, each child has their own unique story and circumstances. Knowing this, the festival was designed to be as inviting as possible, acknowledging that whether teaching a surf lesson or introducing to a local charitable resource, a critical first step is to earn trust.

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Local groms prepare for the female longboard competition.

Youth Outreach (YO!), which provides medical and social services to homeless youth through YO! drop-in centers in partnership with Waikiki Health and Hale Kipa, Inc., was one of the resources available to the children, as well as Surfrider Spirit Sessions (SSS), a Hawaiian non-profit that serves at risk youth through ocean-based experiential education and mentoring programs.

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Commentator Kaipo Guerrero (left) lent his voice and surf expertise to the day’s events. Guerrero is a well-known announcer in the sport of surfing and a fan favorite.

Surf lessons and an eight-division surf competition open to the public also took place during the day. Competition entry fee was waved for canned food donations and divisions were bracketed by age, not gender, encouraging participating for the love of the sport, rather than for fierce competition.

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Local youth take turns experiencing outrigger canoe rides through the Waikiki surf.

With over 600 arriving for the festival, 100 participating in the surf competition, and 400 healthy breakfast and lunch meals shared, the impact of the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival was inspiring. The festival is committed to continuing to partner with existing organizations to enhance and support their efforts to aid local at-risk youth, both for next year’s event, and also with the possibility of building workshops throughout the year.

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Volunteers teach local youth how to make traditional Poi from locally grown Taro root.

Surfing holds a unique significance within Hawaiian culture, which Aha Kai Aloha Festival gracefully demonstrated by connecting at-risk youth with their heritage, its traditions, and community recourses, all through the shared love of surfing and Aloha.

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Special Thanks to Alison E. Berman for this recap of an amazing event and to the Elkes Foundation for helping to make it possible.

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Alison is a storyteller, marketer, and the founder of digital storytelling platform Anchor & Leap. She has a complex understanding of multi-channel storytelling and gained her roots working at prominent media companies Meredith Corporation as a Marketing Manager and previously at Rodale, Inc.’s in-house content marketing agency. While at Rodale, Alison also facilitated a company-wide social media think tank that was formed by CEO Maria Rodale.

As a consultant, Alison helps companies define and share their own stories through rich content marketing and strategy—all with a focus on aligning messaging with the core values of the organization. Some past clients include Nissan, Applegate, Norton by Symantec, Kraft Foods, and Energizer Holdings.

Alison is passionate about creative cultures, design thinking, and social enterprise. You can follow her on Twitter @DigitAlison

Montauk celebrates Rell Sunn

By Moira Bailey
When legendary surfer Rell Sunn died of cancer in 1998, Montauk surfer and businessman Roger Feit was inspired to organize a surf competition to both celebrate her life and raise money for cancer awareness. On Aug. 2, the 16th Annual Rell Sunn Surf Contest will draw surfers of all ages to Ditch Plains beach in Montauk to continue the tradition, one that’s evolved to help local families navigate the financial rip tides of cancer and serious illness. The funds are disbursed through the East End Foundation, co-founded by Feit, often in modest amounts that can still make a “huge difference,” whether to bridge a mortgage payment or cushion the loss of a job.

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And because it’s a local effort, Feit can describe exactly who the money raised this year will help: a widow whose husband recently died of brain cancer;  a man out of work for a stretch while his wife’s been fighting cancer; two children who’ve just lost their father; a single mom whose son’s battling cancer.  Feit works with Alice Houseknecht, an East End Foundation director,  on “due diligence” to assess each situation, often brought to their attention by friends or neighbors. Through the years, Feit guesses they’ve raised some $300,000.

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“Montauk is a special place for a lot of reasons,” says Feit, 68, who credits a connected community for the event’s success. “There’s a lot of goodness in the people,”  he says. “The community has been coming together for years and years.” For kids in the annual surf competition, especially, Feit says there’s fun but also a reminder “it’s really benefiting somebody.” That, plus they see family and friends working on the event, from selling T-shirts and raffle tickets to cleaning up the beach after. And Feit’s seen some happy outcomes: one boy, a cancer patient whose family home was saved by donations years ago, is now “completely healthy.”

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This year’s surf contest starts at 8 a.m.  and features events in various categories  (long boards to paddle boards to “whatever you want to ride or wear”) for both children and adults. “The little kids get into it,” says Feit , who guesses some 60 to 70 surfers will take to the waves this year. Activities on dry land include a raffle (with prizes donated by local merchants including The Atlantic Terrace, Gosman’s Dock and Yoga Lila), T-shirt sales,  and an auction featuring works by local artists.  “It’s a celebration of surfing,” says Feit. “It’s a celebration of life.”

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For more information: http://www.gofundme.com/Rell-Sun-Surf-Benefit or https://www.facebook.com/rellsunsurfcontestbenefit.

TO ENTER, DOWNLOAD THE ENTRY FORM HERE

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Special thanks to Jesse Anthony Spooner and Tyler Brueur for announcing this year’s event!

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Jesse Anthony Spooner with surf student Logan Tarlow, @spoonsurf

 

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Tyler Breuer of Smashsurf @smashsurf

 

 

 

 

KITCHEN CAM FOR A CAUSE

An intimate look at the culinary creativity of the world’s most famous chefs. 

This week the FOND Group unveiled the JBF Kitchen Cam, a real-time video feed streaming the fast-paced culinary action from the James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The project aims to capture creative cuisine in progress, introducing an intimate, unscripted look at gastronomic excellence.

Stepping into this historic culinary enclave means entering the home of the man who can be regarded as the original Celebrity Chef. James Beard may be the original Celebrity Chef, paving the confit-laden path to cooking-show stardom for accomplished cooks whose careers may have stagnated in restaurant kitchens without his trailblazing appetite. Whether you’re a food freak or just someone who likes to eat well, it’s easy to appreciate the amount of edible history steeped into the walls of the Beard House.

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The menu for the evening.

Until now, an inside look at this illustrious kitchen was reserved for James Beard Foundation members or those lucky enough to grab a sought-after seat at a special dinner. With the launch of the JBF Kitchen Cam, the entire world can view the preparation of over 200 dinners a year, crafted by a rotating cast of innovative chefs.

On Monday night, I attended a cocktail party to celebrate the unveiling of the JBF Kitchen Cam. Daniel Boulud helmed the kitchen as the Cam streamed the sights and sounds across the Internet.

Walking into the House, I was hit with an immediate wave of enticing lemony herb-infused aroma and the clamor of the kitchen clanging through the small lobby area. Conducting his focused team like a maestro, the cool and collected Boulud talked to observers while laying down greens that would nest a Citrus-Cured Fluke with Shiso Bavarois and Ponzu Gelée. Pots of thick stock simmered like liquid gold and uniformly chopped herbs and vegetables stood neatly piled, waiting for plates.

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Boulud at work.

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Boulud shows the Kitchen Cam a recipe from his new book.

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The team poses for a celebratory selfie.

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It was truly impressive to see such controlled chaos in the cramped confines of the historically seasoned kitchen. A dozen of Boulud’s sous chefs toiled feverishly – press and general food fanatics filled the tight space while diners ambled through on their way to the cocktail area to enjoy appetizers and sip champagne.

Servers made rounds with trays of Duck Pâté en Croûte, Wild Mushroom Tarte Flambée and Watercress Velouté with Louisiana Crayfish, all drawn from Boulud’s new book DANIEL: My French Cuisine. The dishes both sparked appetites and fueled conversation about the inaugural night of the JBF Kitchen Cam; Boulud perfectly curated the start of this innovative culinary experience.

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As the cocktail hour wound down and guests were seated, Boulud took the floor. He spoke about the inspiration for his latest book and his deep appreciation for the James Beard Foundation. Then he noticed a diner watching the first-course plating via the JBF Kitchen Cam on her phone; he chuckled with delight. The evening lives on, online.  

 

The James Beard House Kitchen Cam Live with Daniel Boulud

By John Figlesthaler

Since 1986, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) in New York City has been the premier institution at the peak of the gourmet high ground. A culinary sanctuary for chefs pushing gastronomic boundaries, reinterpreting tradition and simply cooking the best food out there, there is no place like the James Beard House.

Starting Monday, March 31, 2014, the FOND Group is bringing the world a candid look into this eater’s paradise through the JBF Kitchen Cam. Live streaming from three intimate camera angles, the JBF Kitchen Cam will share true culinary artistry, in real time, capturing the painstaking preparation, calculated intensity and the ensuing splendor.

We invite you behind the closed doors of one of the most celebrated kitchens in the world with the launch of the JBF Kitchen Cam. Offering a rare look into this culinary epicenter, we are honored to be joined by none other than Daniel Boulud for the unveiling of the JBF Kitchen Cam with the sold-out “Dinner with Daniel.”  Boulud will draw inspiration from his latest cookbook and memoir, DANIEL: My French Cuisine.

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Whether an aspiring chef, die-hard gourmand, or someone who simply enjoys fine food, the JBF Kitchen Cam offers an inspiring glimpse into the world of James Beard. On over 200 nights a year, the world will now be able follow the feed to watch celebrated chefs from far and wide as they create unforgettable meals in this illustrious kitchen.

The JBF Kitchen Cam is the brainchild of the FOND Group’s own Josh Elkes and his father, Steven Elkes, who have also created The Elkes Family Culinary Scholarship, supporting aspiring chefs who are pioneering the future of the way we eat.

Get to know past scholarship winners here.

In addition, chef Boulud will be participating on a live Twitter chat on Thursday, March 27th at 11:00 a.m. EST. If you’d like to join in the conversation, use the hashtag #ChefChat and follow @BeardFoundation  @DanielBoulud @fondgroup

See Full Press Release on the JBF Kitchen Cam Launch .

Reforesting Patagonia and the Patagonia Ultra Marathon

5 REASONS WHY WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT THIS RACE, THE CAUSE AND 2 WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

On September 28th, FOND will be down in Patagonia to race an Ultra in one of the most pristine destinations on the planet and to help reforest the region of the Torres del Paine National Park in the process. Take a read on why we are super stoked for this race and ask yourself whether you might want to join… or perhaps just plant a tree (which you can GPS track) for just $4 and pick up some happy earth karma.

WHY WE LOVE IT:

1. IT’S IN PATAGONIA. Contrary to popular belief, Patagonia is more than an awesome gear company – it’s also home of some of the most incredible natural beauty in the world. Because it’s a bit of a hike for us here in the US, a race is a great excuse to get down there and give back. From sailing to sheep shearing, Patagonia is home to lakes, forest and breathtaking glaciers, including Grey Glacier, which is part of the Southern Ice Field, the largest expanse of ice on the planet after Antarctica and the Arctic.

Patagonia Runners

2. THERE’S A RACE LENGTH FOR EVERYBODY.  The race is comprised of a 63k ultramarathon, 42k marathon, 21k half marathon and 10k. The run starts and ends in the Torres del Paine National Park and is a point-to-point run. The event offers runners of all abilities a distance to choose from. 2013 marks the second year for the event and the first year for the 63k ultramarathon.

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3. IT BENEFITS REFOREST PATAGONIA . The event, organized by NIGSA, continues to support the mission of calling the world’s attention to the conservation of Chilean Patagonia and contributing to the sustainable development of the region. For every entry, a tree will be donated to Reforestemos Patagonia, a campaign with the goal of planting 1 million native trees in Chilean Patagonia. What’s cooler, their advanced GPS and mapping technologies will record the exact coordinates where each tree will be planted. Along with a digital Certificate of Reforestation, each individual who plants a tree will receive the coordinates of their tree, as well as a geo-tagged link showing them its location on Google Maps.

Patagonia forest

4. IT’S A NEW RACE. The Patagonian International Marathon is the first of its kind in the Torres del Paine National Park. Because it is a new race, it will be fairly small and will offer an excellent chance to meet other dedicated runners/conservationalists/travel enthusiasts from around the world.  In spite of its youth, the race has clearly been organized by experts as is apparent through the wealth of information available on the Patagonia Ultramarathon Site. The smaller entry pool also means much greater chances of placing well. Small competition = healthy competition 🙂

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5. IT’S A CUP-FREE EVENT. Perhaps one of the coolest innovations in long distance racing, the remoteness of this event combined with the mindfulness and foresight of its organizers led them to the decisions to eliminate the needless piles of waste associated with most endurance events. This means every runner is required to carry with them their own water hydration system- handheld water bottle or bladder system. It’s about time!

TWO WAYS TO GET INVOLVED – ONE EASY, ONE FUN!

1.  GIVE A TREE!  for only $4 and help reforest a precious part of the earth. This small step will leave you feeling good for several hours – possibly even weeks and will give you a nifty Facebook share opportunity to prompt your friends to also plant a tree. Together, we can help reverse the devastation of the forest fires that ravaged this area.

2. RACE! As we mentioned above, there is a race distance for every runner and plenty of accommodation options available near the park ranging from camping to luxury. What an amazing destination to put on your calendar for fall Travel than Patagonia! Also, as far as races go – the fact that the Ultra is less than the NYC Marathon is pretty epic. If you sign up, be sure to let us know so we can brag about you on our site and say hello while down there.

We hope to see you there!

FOND

RACE DETAILS AND REGISTRATION
FAQ

Travel + Leisure talks to FOND about Voluntourism

THE LUXURY OF HELPING OTHERS

When I quit my job last year to found FOND Group , I wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of support I received from friends, colleagues and total strangers. While I knew that working with the intent to truly help others felt SO much better than just doing work for the sake of work and earning a paycheck,  I wasn’t so sure others would agree–especially not NY, the epicenter of the manic rat-race.  Within days of launching, any doubts I had were quickly quelled as I was immediately welcomed in to what felt like a secret society of inspiring people who had similar experiences and goals as I did and were amped to offer their guidance. Many of these people (ex-cubies, as I call them) were much further along on their paths but quick to share similar tales of career re-evaluation after reaching some level of traditional ‘success’ in the big apple and then mindfully deciding to pull the plug and reroute.

Hillary Kaylor was one such amazing person.

Today, Hillary shared her experiences and mine in an article she wrote for Travel and Leisure titled Voluntourism 2.0. I’m thrilled T+L, a publication I have respected for years (even when I worked for its competitor Conde Nast shhh), had the foresight to cover this rapidly expanding market. Perhaps they too realize that luxury travel isn’t always about extreme self-indulgence but sometimes its about the luxury of feeling awesome having helped someone else reach their goal or the luxury of gaining a broader perspective of the world. It’s a luxury to be in a position to help other people and its important we remember that.

I’m not sure if was the hurricane last fall or a cosmic shift of the stars of maybe just a lot of first-world early midlife crises going on but I’m finding that others — MANY others– seem to also be shifting their points of view as to what it means to be successful, what it means to get ‘paid’ and what it means to have purpose in their work. Eight months in to FOND, it is apparent to me that there is a tuning of sorts happening and a lot of ‘successful’ people I knew who could easily have followed the traditional corporate climb are bucking it entirely to find work that matters.

Please take the time to read Hillary’s article in T+L and think about your skills and where they might have the most positive net benefit. It’s not about having the time – it’s about designing a life where your time is best spent. If you are stuck, reach out to us and maybe we can help.

A note on Hillary…

I’ve said before what a gifted writer she is but she is also just an amazing force of a person who believes she can (and is) able to make a difference in the world. It’s inspiring.  The fact that she exercises her gift of writing to artfully and passionately articulate her point of view and her experiences to inspire others is, in itself, a huge act of paying it forward. A former colleague of mine at RCRD LBL, Hillary and I linked up earlier this year and she agreed to put her skills to use to help FOND accomplish its mission. What an important part of the team she has become. Thanks Hillary!

Mahalo From Kauai-

Nicole

Small Steps and Slumdog Children of the World

BY HILLARY KAYLOR –

Where did your feet take you today? Mine padded across my apartment, into my work shoes, out to the pavement and onto the subway. There was more pavement, and then a carpeted office. Maybe, if I’m lucky, they’ll later take me to a bar, a club, a movie. This mundane route is actually a revival of one I took before I left for Cambodia to volunteer. It feels different now, because before, each step I used to take I felt connected to my feet, when in reality, they never even touched the streets at all. In that sense, I was never truly grounded: never connected to the earth, never connected to anything. So, on this morning commute did my feet actually take me anywhere at all? Did they touch the world; did they really choose my path? My answer after my time abroad is no.
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I was protected by the barrier of my shoes and my routine. In New York City, trash is strewn about, vomit, discarded food containers and dog shit. And though I walked those avenues every day, my feet did not touch them. For that, I was less thankful than I was complacent. I mean, who even thinks about such things as gratitude for shoes when living in New York? I did have the sense to notice that when I was barefoot, it was special; in sands, thick grass or plush rugs. To be barefoot meant a privilege–a sacred thing reserved for vacations and safe spaces. Then, and only then, was when I was truly connected to my steps, my path, my feet and the imprints they left as I made my way.

Perhaps this is your experience too. You walk from place to space, your shoes carrying you all the way. Protected and safe. But what if they took you somewhere else? To a prison, to a war zone, into a burning garbage dump? And what if you didn’t have shoes? And had to navigate your scorched soles through piles of glass, syringes, and toxic waste?
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In the documentary short Next Steps, a group of ‘slumdog’ Khmer children–those living shoeless on toxic garbage dumps to forage for food–are asked, “What’s the best thing you’ve ever found?”

The kids alight, their sooty faces grinning, and then shout, “Plastic!”

“And the worst?” Probes an off-screen speaker. For this, the kids are quieter, unsmiling.

Finally one answers.

“A dead baby.”

This film, one of many documenting the plight of destitute populations living off garbage in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Romania, Guatemala and more, is a devastating look into the mission of the Small Steps Project, headed by Amy Hanson: reformed celebrity reporter with a closet full of Louboutins-turned philanthropist and that voice off-screen. Peruse the many short films, testimonials and pictures on the charity’s site, and see a post-apocalyptic world where children roam in rags, eating and collecting trash all the while choking back thick black smoke from tire fires and other blazes. Their parents, if they have any, are impoverished and considered societal misfits: suffering from alcoholism or HIV, and have found a home here because there is literally no other place for them to go. The dumps are more attractive than the streets: they provide a community of sorts, sometimes with organized chiefs of modern tribes, and the influx of garbage trucks provides a consistent and reliable deluge of material to sort through.

Sometimes the parents have jobs within these tribes as collectors. Other times? The parents stay inside their trash shanties all day, drunk. Inside their homes fashioned from plastic beams and vinyl beer adverts, drawing stagnant water from a sulfur-stinking pool. In those cases, and in the case of abandonment, it’s the children as young as four who trudge forth with two-foot-long metal hooks–instruments better suited for medieval torture than trash collection. They do not go to school. They do not see anyone outside their dump community. They do not know of a way out; they cannot comprehend another life. Their feet take them nowhere, and they are connected deeply to their lot in life, physically and psychologically. More than you and I, they are connected to what this earth has become.

Before I met Amy this year in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, I wanted to help heal the world, but I was overwhelmed. Even paralyzed at times. There were too many options, too many people in need. I was just one person, with limited resources. How to choose anything: a country, an epidemic, a cause? I took a leave of absence from my job for three months, in no small part to my mentor’s shocking death and my realization that those who seemingly have it all can end up in a headspace where they believe they have nothing at the end. But was three months even enough time? Would I make a lasting impact? Or would it just be a speck in the overall scheme of things? I was too protected by my shoes, and my small world, to really understand what I was doing, and why.

But there was something about Amy. There was something about the name Small Steps. And there was something about their mission that put it all into sharp relief:
Small Steps aims to put shoes on the children across the world that live on trash dumps. Small Steps is unique in its way because of its shoe-based efforts and two-pronged plan of action. Stage one is to get shoes on the feet of the kids in the dump so they are no longer standing in glass, animal remains and raw sewage and give them immediate aid in food, medical supplies and other necessities. Stage two is to empower the dump-living community with the tools to relocate: transportation, job placement, and other expansion efforts.

Naturally, there are many implications and hurdles in solving this problem at one dump, let alone across several countries and cities. The first problem is: no one on the dump wants to leave it. It’s their home, after all. And their livelihood, however insufficient. The second is with unemployable parents, the children more or less follow the same path. Without school, without outsiders, without skills that could be translatable, the kids are often painfully shy or terribly ashamed of their soil and their smell. There is poor and then there is a child who roams barefoot on a garbage dump. Among the economic hierarchy, there is a difference and that difference is palpable when interacting with them. They ask for nothing, they avert their eyes. Their smiles emerge faintly when joked and played with and then are gone instantly as they gauge your reaction. Are you here to help or to hurt? And how are you going to help anyway?

But it’s about starting small to get big results. As Amy says “Sometimes poverty feels like such a big problem that what you do to help or donate feels like a drop in the ocean and you can’t tell what impact it has. But if everyone takes a small step, the impact is huge.”

The idea of mattering to just one is at the heart of successful philanthropic movements.

When faced with the question of why volunteering or donating matters, at any step or stage, I think of this.

This is a mantra that may ring true for those who, like me, had not yet heard.

If it matters to just one person, you have actually changed the world.

Especially if, like Small Steps, you concentrate on global projects, like showing documentaries at Glastonbury (June 26-30) documentaries about their efforts across the world, including Cambodia, Nicaragua and India with expansion plans for Romania, Laos, Guatemala and Africa. Or auction shoes from the likes of Ben Stiller, Morgan Freeman, Coldplay and The Rolling Stones, who are donating the shoes they perform in at Glastonbury to the cause.

This is how Amy starts small to get big results. Today it’s shoes, tomorrow water filtration, next week, nurseries and Mommy programs that employ parents within schools and centers. Expansions, outreach programs, investors, celebrity philanthropists and world tours are just some of the many paths Amy is spearheading to bring Small Steps to a truly global scale.
Through my work with Amy, I met mothers and children affected. Beautiful children, dark-complected with almond eyes, whose smiles can light up a life, let alone a room. We fed them, we played hand-slapping games, we took them to the beach for the first time in their short lives.

There the kids learned to swim in our arms. Stripped down to their underwear, and others naked, there was no shame among them; they had lost any they had long ago. Shame is life to them.

They screamed in the ocean, they squealed. The burnt rubber smell left their skin. Some whose skin was very dark in the morning is lighter now, more attractive according to Cambodian culture. With the dump washed away temporarily, they transformed into flashing beacons. Their initial shyness fell away, they smiled, they played, and they pretended to sneak up on us. They took turns with water goggles, undone by the luxury of this, the most magic piece of plastic they have ever encountered. They don’t have to trade this one in. And they are considerate with one another, gentle. Passing the goggles around and showing each other the truth beyond what they ever imagines. They are not in fire, they are in water. And in the water, they can see.

The children come to school with us. They are fed more rice then they have seen, bits of sweet egg, garlicky morning glory, fish heads with the flesh still on. There are toys, there are bathrooms. They shower and then stand naked together, as we dry them. We wrap them in big red towels and hold them close. We comb the lice from their hair. Gently. One girl with hair cascading down her back waits with a blissful smile on her face as I take a half hour to turn her tangles back into strands of silk. I hold a section with one hand away from her scalp so that when I attack the knots she won’t feel the rip. The first time I do it she looks at me in shock. She is not used to getting her hair brushed. And certainly without yanking the hair from her head. She sits still and watches the other girls watch her. She winks at them, and when I am done she bows to me.

I try to bow back, and she runs away. But when I see her later she hooks her arms through mine. Another wants to borrow my sunglasses. Her brother has a mouthful of rice that spills from his mouth in delight at a joke known only to him. A girl of three bursts into giggles when I pretend her tiny new shoes, given to her by Small Steps, are mine and I walk away like an elephant in them, strutting like a beast on a runway. In turn, she steps into mine and models for me, my moccasins slapping against the dirt floor in huge comic effect, until she reaches me, wraps her twiggish arms around me, hugs me and doesn’t let go until I pry her off and bring her back to her mother.

She abandons my shoes, as she is more comfortable barefoot in the safety away from the dump. And that day, when I left the school, I left mine too. I walked back to the volunteer house in the sidewalk-melting sun. I stepped in pools of stagnant water. I cut my feet on glass. I tended to my wounds in my hotbox room with swipes of stolen paper napkins from restaurants and a foul-smelling salve I’d come to rely on for everything from sprains to headaches. After a few weeks of this, my soles became yellow and black: hard and strong, like slabs of rocks. And with each step, I felt the ground beneath me; I felt my feet carry me instead of the other way around. I began to run faster and lighter. My toenails turned black and my feet became my own protection from the elements. It was against the rules to be shoeless at the NGO where I worked, and of course at the trash dump that Small Steps serviced during my time there, because it was so dangerous. But whenever I could, I was without them. I wanted to feel everything beneath me, my path. I wanted to feel where I was going.

Now, back in my New York office months later, my feet have softened, my nails pretty once again, my soles pink as I am compelled to wear shoes like everyone else or face reprimand from HR. It feels like a personal failure. Under my desk, in meetings, and whenever I can, especially outside, I take them off. It aligns me with my time away; it reminds me of the kids who do not have them. And it lets me dream about where my moccasins are today, months after being left in Cambodia. If someone has taken them. If they are protecting someone else. Someone who needs protecting far more than me.

And as for my thoughts on the world and how we can change it; I’ve come to this. Giving is an endlessly replenishing resource. The more we seek, the more we find. This trip to Cambodia for me was something, but not nearly enough. I’m currently speaking to Amy about a Canadian fire truck convoy to deliver supplies to slumdog children in need in Nicaragua. And Guatemala. And anything else I can do. Because it really doesn’t matter if I have shoes or not, as long as I am connected to my path.

To donate to Small Steps, please visit here.

To purchase Glastonbury tickets and for more general information, click here.

Post by Hillary Kaylor – to read more on Hillary, click here.

James Beard Gala Kickoff

FOND GROUP TEAMS UP WITH JAMES BEARD
FOUNDATION 
TO PLAN 2013 GALA

This week marked the kick-off of the most delicious FOND Group project yet. As members of this year’s James Beard Gala Host Committee, we were invited to join in an incredible culinary treat of the southern kind.

The “Hot and Hotter” themed dinner was served this Wednesday at the Beard House and featured the impeccable work of JBF Award-winning Chef Chris Hastings, Chris Harrigan, Rob McDaniel and Chris Newsome.

The meal did a great job of whetting our appetites for what is sure to be a tasty road ahead as FOND works with JBF to ensure this is their most successful gala to date.  We will be tackling the digital promotion and supporting sponsorship and donations for the gala as well as working through the details of VIP experiences, entertainment and community outreach. We are already full of ideas we can’t wait to share over the next several weeks. Partnered with a team of talented folks including returning event chairs Zachary and Lori Pomerantz, this year’s Gala will be one to remember.

Set to take place on Friday, November 15 at the Four Seasons Restaurant, the Gala has pinned down a killer theme this year (to be announced soon) which FOND is thrilled to get behind. The annual event serves a key fundraiser for JBF so they can continue to carry out their important work nurturing, celebrating and inspiring America’s diverse culinary heritage through their outstanding programs. More on JBF.

Planning is underway and FOND has already begun hitting the pavement to identify the best partners for the Gala. If you know of brands or businesses that might wish to get involved as sponsors or donors for the uber popular silent auction, please send them our way at info@fondgroup.com with James Beard in the subject.

And to make you jealous in the meantime, below is our menu from Wednesday’s Meal along with a shot of the southern-inspired goodies we were sent home with. I’m still dreaming about the Vanilla Custard with Wafer Crumbs and Brûléed Bananas. Yum.

FOND Out!

Nicole

Alabama Reserve Craft Brewed Beer and Gourmet Herb Salts were among the goodies we were sent home with.

Alabama Reserve Craft Brewed Beer and Gourmet Herb Salts were among the goodies we were sent home with.

James Beard “House Hot and Hotter” Menu
June 5, 2013
Special thanks to Chefs Chris Hastings, Chris Harrigan, Rob McDaniel and Chris Newsome for an unforgettable meal:

Hors d’Oeuvre
Bourbon-Braised Pork Belly with Brie and Thai Basil Crisps
Fried Point aux Pins Oysters with Collard Green Kimchi
Smoked Catfish with Lemon–Herb Crème Fraîche and Sunburst Trout Roe on Oatmeal Hardtack
Chicken Liver Truffles with House-Smoked Bacon
 
DOMAINE MITTNACHT FRERES PINOT BLANC 2011
DOMAINE ROBERT SÉROL LES ORIGINELLES CÔTE ROANNAISE 2011
 
Dinner
Southern Escabèche with Gulf Seafood and Farmers’ Market Summer Vegetables
FRANCK & JEAN FRANCOIS BAILLY CUVÉE CHAVIGNOL SANCERRE 2011
 
Ham Hock and Farmer Cheese–Filled Agnolotti with Petite Vegetables and Sweet Corn Broth
PHILIPPE ALLIET CHINON 2011
 
Shallot and Parsley Mousse–Stuffed Rabbit with Pickled Peaches, Field Peas, and Farro
DOMAINE LA RÉMÉJEANNE LES ARBOUSIERS CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2011
 
Roasted Border Springs Lamb Shoulder with Petite Summer Vegetables and Herb Broth
BACK FORTY BEER CO. BIERE DE GARDE
 
Hazelnut-Crusted Churro with Espresso Semifreddo; Alabama Peanut Génoise with Olive and Sinclair Chocolate, Salted Peanut–Praline Ice Cream, and Wild Strawberries; Summer Stone Fruit Crostini with Sweetened Stone Hollow Farmstead Goat Cheese; and Vanilla Custard with Wafer Crumbs and Brûléed Bananas
ALABAMA MOONSHINE

Boston With Love

FOND team members Nicole Delma and Josh Elkes were in Boston to race the Marathon on behalf of Grassrootsoccer.org. We are thankful that they were not directly near the site of the tragedy and made it out safely along with all of their teammates. While the day was catastrophic, the outpouring of kindness and support from the Boston community following the events was truly touching. We invite you to show your support for the victims and their families by purchasing a Boston Stands as One t-shirt from the Adidas website by clicking here. 100% of all profits donated to The One Fund Boston.

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