Here, from Bill Clinton, is a call to action. Giving is an inspiring look at how each of us can change the world. First, it reveals the extraordinary and innovative efforts now being made by companies and organizations—and by individuals—to solve problems and save lives both “down the street and around the world.” Then it urges us to seek out what each of us, “regardless of income, available time, age, and skills,” can do to help, to give people a chance to live out their dreams.
Bill Clinton shares his own experiences and those of other givers, representing a global flood tide of nongovernmental, nonprofit activity. These remarkable stories demonstrate that gifts of time, skills, things, and ideas are as important and effective as contributions of money. From Bill and Melinda Gates to a six-year-old California girl named McKenzie Steiner, who organized and supervised drives to clean up the beach in her community, Clinton introduces us to both well-known and unknown heroes of giving. Among them:
Dr. Paul Farmer, who grew up living in the family bus in a trailer park, vowed to devote his life to giving high-quality medical care to the poor and has built innovative public health-care clinics first in Haiti and then in Rwanda;
a New York couple, in Africa for a wedding, who visited several schools in Zimbabwe and were appalled by the absence of textbooks and school supplies. They founded their own organization to gather and ship materials to thirty-five schools. After three years, the percentage of seventh-graders who pass reading tests increased from 5 percent to 60 percent;'
Oseola McCarty, who after seventy-five years of eking out a living by washing and ironing, gave $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to endow a scholarship fund for African-American students;
Andre Agassi, who has created a college preparatory academy in the Las Vegas neighborhood with the city’s highest percentage of at-risk kids. “Tennis was a stepping-stone for me,” says Agassi. “Changing a child’s life is what I always wanted to do”;
Heifer International, which gave twelve goats to a Ugandan village. Within a year, Beatrice Biira’s mother had earned enough money selling goat’s milk to pay Beatrice’s school fees and eventually to send all her children to school—and, as required, to pass on a baby goat to another family, thus multiplying the impact of the gift.
Clinton writes about men and women who traded in their corporate careers, and the fulfillment they now experience through giving. He writes about energy-efficient practices, about progressive companies going green, about promoting fair wages and decent working conditions around the world. He shows us how one of the most important ways of giving can be an effort to change, improve, or protect a government policy. He outlines what we as individuals can do, the steps we can take, how much we should consider giving, and why our giving is so important.
Bill Clinton’s own actions in his post-presidential years have had an enormous impact on the lives of millions. Through his foundation and his work in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, he has become an international spokesperson and model for the power of giving.
“We all have the capacity to do great things,” President Clinton says. “My hope is that the people and stories in this book will lift spirits, touch hearts, and demonstrate that citizen activism and service can be a powerful agent of change in the world.”
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A few years ago Sheri Saltzberg and Mark Grashow of New York, recently retired from public health administration and teaching, went to Zambia for a wedding. Their son suggested they go to Zimbabwe to visit a family that had befriended him and to see Victoria Falls. While they were there, they visited several schools and were appalled to see that there were no textbooks, empty libraries, no science equipment, no basic school supplies, and often no school breakfast or lunch.
When they got home they founded their own NGO, the U.S.-Africa Children's Fellowship, and formed a partnership with the Zimbabwe Organization of Rural Associations for Progress, which had been working since 1980 to help improve the economy and education in individual communities.
Over the next two years, they located thirty-five U.S. schools to partner with thirty-five schools in Zimbabwe, and they've shipped four forty-foot containers to the schools, with more than 150,000 books, school supplies, toys, games, sports equipment, bicycles, clothing, sewing machines, agricultural tools, and other items. They raise funds for items needed but not donated–school uniforms, locally printed books, and educational materials and scholarships.
In the U.S. partner schools, Mark and Sheri try to give students an appreciation for what life is like for their counterparts in Zimbabwe. American kids learn that the kids in their partner school often get up at 5 a.m. to walk several miles to school, may well have nothing to eat, and may have lost one or both parents to AIDS. They also learn that many kids don't go to school at all because they can't afford the school fees, uniforms, or even a notebook and pencil; they have to work to support or stay home to care for a sick parent or younger sibling; or they don't have shoes and can't walk long distances in winter. The American children are empowered to take action—collecting donations and writing letters to the Zimbabwean students.
Mark and Sheri themselves fly to Zimbabwe as each shipment arrives and help distribute the donations to the schools. "The effects of the shipment have far exceeded anything we dreamed of" says Mark. "For the first time, students can take books home to read. Five percent of the kids in the seventh grade used to pass reading tests; now it's 60 percent. Three years ago, only one student in his district passed his A-level exams for university. This year, thirty-eight students passed. There are now art and sewing classes. Soccer flourishes because there's an abundance of soccer balls. Attendance in many kindergartens has increased threefold due to the introduction of toys. In September we'll increase the schools we partner with from thirty-five to fifty." The program has proven so successful, there's now a waiting list of three hundred schools.
Why did they do this? Mark says, "I believe that each of us has an obligation to level the playing field of life. Schools that have no books, communities without water, and people without access to medical care are not someone else's problem. We all have a capacity to make a difference somewhere. We just have to decide if we have the will to do it."
To be connected to hundreds of nonprofits and organizations doing great work, view the resources guide at www.clintonfoundation.org/giving
Its inspiring to hear how individuals can change the world. President Clinton writes about innovative philanthropic and social action by individuals and corporations that effect change both down the street and across the globe. He offers specific ways that individuals can make a difference in their giving and in their actions. In addition to sharing his own experiences since his presidency, he discusses a range of activists--from Bill Gates to ordinary neighborhood leaders. Clintons reading style is engaging and easy to listen to without being pedantic. But his delivery is rushed. Also, he makes reference to illustrations in the print version that are not included with the audio version. R.C.G. 2008 Grammy Nominee © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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