Sometimes it feels like the world is spinning out of control and it is easy to get discouraged. And yet despite all of the problems, there are people out there that are working tirelessly to make a real difference. They not only give us hope but they also provide the impetus for all of us to try to make change in our own way. So whether that means signing a petition, volunteering at a local food bank, or creating a non-profit to help children in need, each person can find inspiration to contribute in their own unique way. The people profiled below have decided that maintaining the status quo is not an option and hopefully it will encourage the rest of us to follow their lead.
Emmanuel Pratt – Executive Director, Sweet Water Foundation
A farm in the city of Chicago? While it may not seem obvious, urban farming was the first project of the Sweet Water foundation and it became a gateway to community development, job training, civic arts and economic revitalization. The next project was a workshop where high school students learned carpentry and sold custom furniture. Then, they built an aquaponics lab out of a donated shipping container and hosted food demonstrations for local families. “Our goal is stitching and reconstructing the urban fabric,” Pratt says. From a place some see as barren, Pratt summoned abundance. “There grows the neighborhood” is Sweet Water’s tagline. It’s a tagline that speaks to their ultimate goal: Don’t just feed people; give them ground to grow. See more on the Sweet Water Foundation >
Fred Heinrich – Inner-City Filmmakers
A recent report published by UCLA's Center for African-American Studies highlights the lack of minority employment in Hollywood. This was unacceptable to longtime film editor Fred Heinrich so he decided to do something about it. He started a non-profit to teach minority youth the skills needed to succeed in Hollywood. Heinrich's nonprofit, Inner-City Filmmakers, not only provides free hands-on job training but it also helps with job placement. Heinrich says, "We hire industry professionals to teach different classes in filmmaking. We bring in guest speakers like motion picture cinematographers and directors to share their knowledge with our young people. We do this so that our kids can decide what it is that they really believe their skill set is and narrow down what jobs in the industry they'd be most interested in pursuing.” At the end of the program, every student makes their own film with other students from the program. Nominated as a CNN hero, Heinrich has assisted more than 600 young people in Los Angeles County. See more CNN Heroes >
Laura Benedict – Small Business Owner
Laura Benedict has a small restaurant in Augusta, Maine and she does more than just feed people -- she feeds the soul of the community. To date, she has donated over 2 million dollars to philanthropy. She contributes through matching funds, gifts to local organizations and through support for individuals in the community going through tough times by supporting GoFundMe campaigns to pay medical bills. She also works with organizations to provide school supplies to children in the local area. Benedict says, “If you give, you will never need.” She believes in creating a memorable environment not only for her customers but also for her employees. “I want them to feel ownership over our mission, too,” Benedict shares. In a world that is getting more divisive by the day, perhaps the most important thing that Benedict can give to others is her commitment to making everyone feel welcome in her restaurant.
While the three people profiled in this blog have certainly gone above and beyond to make a difference, we can all do our part to bring about positive change. While we seem to be bombarded by negativity, it is important to remember that there are many individuals and organizations that are committed to improving the lives of others. So the next time you feel frustrated about a problem, try to help find a solution.