A Learning Curve

Like the sentiments shared by Austin in his blog post, I also felt, as he put it, “thrown into the fire” Although it was a rough first couple of days or so, not know what I didn’t know. Slowly but surely, I’m getting the hang of it. I get to become more proficient with multiple types of software, MailChimp, MemberClicks, Constant Contact, etc. I also get to see how a business might go about marketing itself and it’s events. But the best part is getting to connect and speak with people who make Tallahassee and the nonprofit sector hum. In four weeks no, I’ve made more contacts and learned more than I have in 23 previous years. I’ve always wanted to work on a political staff, and through working with INIE I was able to speak with the honorable Marjorie J. Turnbull, who previously represented our district, the 9th district in the Florida House of Representatives. Getting to speak with someone with personal work experience in the House was as informative and enlightening as all the study that I’ve done on politics since I became interested at age 15.

To summarize, I just wanted to iterrate the pleasure it is to get to be around such impressive people in this community and see how business actually gets done and the types of concerns and interests CEO’s and Directors have. Working with INIE has been very pleasant so far, and I look forward to what’s coming for the rest of the semester.

A Nonprofit Assisting Other Nonprofits

My first day at the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence was an interesting one as I was thrown into the fire a little bit. I was helping work a conference at Tallahassee Community College, the UPHS conference to be more specific. It was an amazing experience right off the bat as I met numerous fixtures in the Tallahassee area.

Since that first day I have been super optimistic about where this internship is going to take me experience wise. INIE is an unique nonprofit as they are a resource center for other nonprofits in the area to take advantage of. INIE is a membership organization so depending on how much an organization who wants to become a member has in their operating budget they will pay dues in accordance to that budget. INIE has roughly 150 paying members, there are over 2,000 registered nonprofits in Tallahassee so there is plenty of room for growth in numbers.

INIE is so worth the membership dues, in fact INIE is just about a no-brainer when any given organization contemplates joining. There is a plethora of benefits, from pro bono legal support to discounted printing there are a ton of benefits that make members their money back very quick. I am extremely excited to be working with INIE, the connections that this incredible nonprofit is giving me, and purely the great experience that I will never forget as well.

“A non-traditional internship”

Hello friends of Social Entrepreneurship,

My name is Jessica Bachansingh, upcoming Junior, and I will be interning under Elpis International, an American/Ethiopian Nonprofit that services children in Ethiopia by providing them education, food, and medical services. I will be doing my internship both domestically at their home office in Jacksonville, FL and abroad in Awasa, Ethiopia at their feeding center and school. My internship is a “non-traditional” because I created it on my own. I will be furthering the sewing program that I developed 2 years ago in Ethiopia by creating a website, deepening and implementing the sewing curriculum, and registering the program itself as my very own 501c(3)! Through the sewing program the girls sew infinity scarves that are sold in the USA to earn a living wage with other funds being invested back into the development of the program.

Above is my scope of work, but since I’m writing this post mid-internship a lot of this work has been accomplished! Which is an amazing feeling.

In the past month I’ve been working 2 days a week at the Elpis office in Jacksonville. I’ve been working on improving their social media presence by creating an instagram and scheduling 4 months worth of posts, organizing their database of pictures and child interviews and I’ve been learning about nonprofit management. This work has been essential experience in learning how to run a nonprofit (which is hopefully what I will be doing the rest of my life).

The other 3 days a week I’ve been working on achieving 3 major goals (website, curriculum, and the nonprofit registration). My nonprofit, Gifts for Confidence is officially registered with the state and the next step is registering with the IRS. I have my Tax ID, articles of incorporation, and my board of directors. I’ve written my mission and vision statements, imperative when starting a company. I have been working on the sewing curriculum and I am about halfway done. Lastly, I’ve been working on my website! It is done, and now I am in the editing stages. I’ve been using the Squarespace platform to tell the full story of the girls and and sell the scarves. I’ve taught myself how to create a website and I’m pretty darn proud of it. The website will launch June 9th, so stay tuned. In the meantime, Follow us on Instagram @giftsforconfidence

So here is where it gets real, being an entrepreneur is consuming. It’s exciting. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my short life. Entrepreneurs don’t get enough credit. Why is that? It’s because the majority of society just doesn’t understand. This lack of understanding has been the source of all my frustration lately.

Why is it that I begin to tell a family friend about what I’ve been doing all summer and they respond with a blank stare…..”They just don’t understand”

Why is it that I try and tell a close friend how I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and they can’t find the words to make me feel better? …..”They just don’t understand”

Why is it people just nod and say “that sounds like a lot of work”?….”They just don’t understand”

So who understands? I guess other entrepreneurs and like minded driven people. People who take the time out of your day to read these blog posts. Thank you for reading. As a budding entrepreneur you fear failure. You fear it so much because if you fail, it’s all your fault. It’s all on you. 1 in 10 businesses make it. Not only am I trying to make it, I’m trying to make it as a nonprofit. Totally a million dollar idea right, ha! Trying to be a social entrepreneur is like putting all the odds against you. So why do it? I’m sure all the blank stares of those who don’t understand probably want to ask me, “Why are you wasting your time working so hard to secure a future that you probably won’t make that much money in?”

Because I’m trying to change the world.  I’m trying to contribute to a bigger movement of education in Ethiopia. My one overarching goal is to provide an opportunity for these middle-school aged girls to learn the marketable skill of sewing. Learning at this age is imperative because after 8th grade, the students take a national exam that if they don’t pass, they don’t move on to high school. Therefore they have to go into the “real world” and begin earning money for their families. My hope is that this versatile skill will help them earn money. They are being taught how to fish! I believe we are all called to serve in one way or another. This is how I want to serve. Changing the world is why I serve. A nonprofit wasn’t always the dream, but it’s surely my passion and I can’t just suppress it so that I can have a decent paying job that pays the bills.

I leave for Ethiopia, June 12th, and I will be there for 3 weeks. While there I will be implementing the new sewing curriculum. I will be evaluating the existing program and further developing it. I will be paying the girls for the scarves that have sold. My other main goal is to work on marketing. I want to take nice portraits of all the girls and the sewing teacher, Friwot. I also want to interview them so I could put together that information for the website and for the Product Packaging. It all ties together!

Next time I write, it’ll be from Ethiopia!

Jessica Bachansingh- Post 1

silly big group shot
My girls!—–2016

 

 

South Florida’s Hidden Hungry

In South Florida, retirees are struggling to feed themselves on a regular basis. According to a report by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, one out of every seven people age 60 and older living in Florida faces the threat of hunger. There are a number of factors involved with this growing issue: the growth of the “old-old” segment of the senior population (consisting of people age 85 and older), the strain on Social Security, the increase in the cost of living, and the decrease in individual mobility (Lade). Similar to Frenchtown, the food deserts of South Florida  are sprawling with disparity, health issues, and general negligence of community members’ needs.

After realizing the importance of community engagement to not only my academic, but also my personal growth, I began to research food deserts in my home of South Florida. It was so eye opening to learn about the silent struggle of those in my community. There are several programs in place already to help alleviate the issue of elderly hunger in the South Florida area. For roughly six months in 2015 my mother volunteered with one of the established organizations in the area. Simply shopping for one’s own groceries is more than a matter of convenience; it’s a matter of maintaining one’s own sense of self. In an interview with the SunSentinal, a South Florida newspaper, retiree Linda Kaplan, 76 conveys this same sentiment. Kaplan summarizes, “I don’t want to just exist. I want to live” (Lade).

Lade, Diane C. et al. The Hidden Hungry. 2015. http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/senior-food-deserts/

Laying Roots

I entered my parents room, hands on my hips and chin jutting towards the sky. “I know what I want to
be when I grow up,” I declared, “I want to be a doctor.” What was it about the field of medicine that led
my six year old self to plan her entire future around? Besides the endless supply of Snoopy Band-Aids, I
was enthralled with the idea of a career focused on helping others. As I grew older and quickly veeredfrom my medical pursuits, I discovered the many other ways I could communicate my empathy for
others, all while continuing to pursue my other interests. Volunteering and community service have  always been a big part of my extracurricular activities. Additionally, I began to become more engaged in
domestic/international human rights and social activism.  

When I came to college, the scalability of my involvement grew exponentially. I am now faced with
opportunity to research, travel, and engage myself in the global community. I could explore foreign  cultures and learn about their conflicts and structural, economic, and health deficiencies. Frankly, I was
overwhelmed with possibility. What I learned though, as I enter the final leg of my first year in college, is
the best tools are often found in our own backyard. Before I can begin to think about exploring foreign
cultures and offering international relief, I first must understand and develop my own community.  

My experience with Heritage Hub has expanded my world view in more ways than I could have ever
imagined. What I have found though, is the deep connection between my involvement in my community
and my own personal growth. Involving myself with first hand experience so early on in my college  career proved incredibly helpful in planning my future educational and career paths. I am grateful that I
now know better where I would prefer to see myself in the professional world. Additionally, working in
the nonprofit sector will provide me a solid base for any future work in the field of social  entrepreneurship. I hope to continue to explore the other sectors and add on to this first, foundational
experience. 

TAC Experience Concluded

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With finals approaching and assignment deadlines getting closer, it is time to wrap up and say goodbye to TAC and the wonderful staff that make it such a great organization. It is hard to believe that the semester is already over, since it seems like we have only just begun our work during this highly productive semester. I have had the pleasure of working alongside very hard-working interns, and being mentored and supervised by Linda Alexionok was nothing short of amazing. Linda’s drive and dedication to making the lives of Florida’s children and families is inspiring, and being able to contribute to her work as made my internship very rewarding.

During my time at TAC, I contributed to the development of Linda’s new organization known as Voices for Florida.  The problem we focused on is the declining quality of life for Florida’s children and families. The solution VFF is working towards is system reform and social change,  and the goal is to produce new norms and enhance quality of life for all of Florida’s children and families. I was able to apply my knowledge of social entrepreneurship into developing Voices for Florida. Linda pushed my partner Jaqueline and I to be absolutely creative and innovative in developing the framework for the organization. After may hours of critical thinking, my partner and I were able to successfully develop a logic model for VFF, and a strategy that is operationalized through the logic model.

Although the organization is still in the works, I can say that I am very satisfied with the progress we have made in only a few months. The connections I have made and the friendships I have built during  my time at TAC will follow me into my future endeavors. I am grateful to Linda and TAC for providing me with such a great experience, and to the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at FSU for making it all possible. Although the semester is almost over, I look forward to continuing my work with Jaqueline and Linda in days to come.

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TAC Experience Contiued

My time at TAC is coming close to an end, and everyday I feel more and more happy to be part of such an amazing organization. My internship at TAC continues to provide me with valuable experience that I am going to carry with me on my future endeavors. Through TAC, I have been given the opportunity to make connections with the staff, and to build new friendships with the rest of the hardworking interns.

Linda has been a fantastic supervisor, mentoring me and advising me on my work. Linda’s driven personality and passion for helping Florida’s children and families is inspiring, and makes me want to push myself and do my best to have an impact during my time at TAC.

I continue to work with my partner Jaqueline, a sociology student at Florida State University, and together we continue to make progress with Voices for Florida. Linda’s method for mentoring is to give us complete control and creativity with our projects. Thus far we have completed a logic model for VFF, and we continue to work on the infrastructure for Voices for Florida with diligence.