June 30, 2010 by Julia Wasson
Filed under Blog, Books, Community, Construction, Donations, Earthquake, Florida, Front Page, Fundraising, Haiti, Homes, Humanitarian, Nonprofits, Poverty, Slideshow, Social Action, Sustainability
There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).
But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities.
“The Tap shows how to sensitize yourself to feel then act on your life’s great ‘Tap Moments,’ embracing the rewards and responsibilities of a blessed life.”
Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), McKinney’s charitable creation, is the embodiment of his acting on the Tap Moments he writes about. CHPF builds homes for the poorest of the poor. And McKinney himself is responsible for raising most of the funds that sustain it.
One of his fund-raising activities includes running the Badwater Ultramarathon. Badwater is a race that he describes in The Tap as traversing “135 miles nonstop through the Death Valley desert and over three mountain ranges, all on black-top pavement.” It’s beyond grueling, and of the 90 elite athletes invited to participate from 16 countries, only 65% typically complete the two-day (or longer) race. McKinney describes one purpose for his participation (and I’m paraphrasing here) as “suffering a little for those who suffer a lot.”
The CHPF website also offers potential donors several options for supporting parts of a village, including monthly payments. Providing half the cost of a community center, for example, requires a donation of $2,292 per month for 12 months.
Or, McKinney suggests, “Let’s say you want to build a house for $2,500. A lot of people can’t afford that. So you make 12 donations of $208 per month. That was at the request of a lot of donors who said to our executive director, ‘We can’t afford a whole house. Can you cut it up into payments for us? We’ll be glad to make it a part of our monthly tithing.’”
Want to purchase an entire village? $125,000 will build 50 homes for 400 residents. Or, break it into payments of $10,417 per month for a year.
While that’s far out of reach for most of us, there are much smaller donation opportunities available. For only $11 per month for a year, you can save a single life by contributing toward a water management project. The full project (“Pumps | Wells | Storage tanks and sanitation units | thousands of lives touched”), for those with greater resources, can be funded for $36,750.
CHPF is also raising funds for earthquake relief. As the foundation’s executive director, Kimberley Trombly-Burmeister said to me, “You can’t be sustainable if you aren’t alive. The need for food, water, and sanitation is continuing long after the earthquake.”
If you’d like to support CHPF’s earthquake relief efforts, you can do so with as little as a $10 donation per month or a one-time contribution of $250, $500, or $1,000.
You can also provide shelter for an orphan for $35 a month, or build an entire orphanage for $80,000. The choices are limited only by your budget and your imagination, as CHPF offers flexible payment plans and a wide range of funding opportunities.
Survival to Thrival
There’s another, far more unusual, fundraising project that is unique to Frank McKinney. As he says, “Let me put on my other hat for a minute, my for-profit hat, my real estate hat. We came up with a very novel way to raise money for our charity. That is, we don’t do black tie events. We don’t do golf outings. We don’t do cocktail parties.
“I either sell a lot of books, and the proceeds from my book sales go to fund the charity, and it’s a wonderful source of income, or we provide experiences. We’ve had various events with names such as “Frank McKinney’s Palm Beach Experience: From Survival to Thrival.” There’s a photo at the bottom of the CHPF website that shows a group of people who were part of one of those experiences in Haiti.
“At the time, I was training to run the Badwater Ultramarathon. I wanted to show our donors and the media metaphorically that, in training for this very, very grueling race, I choose to suffer a little voluntarily for those who are suffering a lot. What I did was I ran across Haiti from a village we had just started. It was a village that had been washed out by 2008’s hurricane, and so there was the survival element. I ran to a finished village, which was 25 miles away that was representing thrival.
“And our donors got to come. First they started here in South Florida. Many of the people in that picture are business people and real estate people, and they aspire to do what I do for a living. They love coming to see the mansions. But to come to an event like that Frank McKinney Palm Beach Experience, they had to donate to build one house.
“So they’re immersed in what they think is the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They get to come to my own personal house and have dinner. They get to see the beautiful homes I’ve built over the years, even the newest house, the world’s largest and most expensive certified green home on speculation at $22.9 million. They get to see all that, and they’re so intoxicated with the sensory experience that they’re having.
“Then, within 12 hours, they’re on a plane and landing in the poorest suburb of the poorest city of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And that is part of their experience. I wanted to move them from rich — what they think is rich — to enriched.
“There’s nothing like it out there. And I’ll tell you, to a person, when CHPF’s executive director, Kimberly, sends out a questionnaire asking, ‘How was your experience? What could we do better?’ et cetera, when 99 out of 100 come back, there’s no reference to the mansions that they saw. Everything is about what they saw in Haiti. So that picture on the website was that event, ‘From Survival to Thrival.’ All of those people in that picture were donors who helped build this village.”
A Life on Solid Footing
McKinney describes his own journey from “rich to enriched,” in his book, The Tap, the proceeds from which benefits his Caring House Project Foundation. It’s an inspiring read that encourages reflection on what is most important in life. Recognizing — and acting upon — what McKinney calls Tap Moments is a large part of the message of the book. But there are other messages as well.
As the author describes in detail the monumental effort it took to run his first three Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathons, he uses his failures and successes to remind readers that we all have the power to change the course we’re on. Here’s a paragraph I found particularly meaningful in the last chapter of the book:
Remember that any of life’s meaningful endeavors follows a course not unlike the physical trials I’ve described to you in this chapter. Think about your relationships, your professional pursuits, your beliefs or philosophy of living, your engagement now with The Tap — anything that you consider important. You probably started out with a kind of giddy infatuation, and in time, you started to encounter difficulties. If you had the discipline and endurance to stick with it, you learned the invaluable lessons of how to deal with those difficulties. You now realize that more of the challenges that you face are created in your mind than in reality, and that this is where you have the most power to change things. Your fears can grip you, or you can overcome them. You can let their hold on you grow tighter, or you can face them and break free. You can succumb to self-doubt and perish, or you can find a way out and flourish.
Frank McKinney’s life looks glamorous — and parts of it surely are. He builds homes for some of the world’s wealthiest people. He has the experience most of us will never know of being surrounded by luxury and incredible beauty as he walks through the homes he’s built.
But his daily life belies the image. He lives in a relatively modest home that he shares with his wife, Nilsa. His 20-year marriage, he says, is sound, his relationship with his daughter, enviable. This man who holds up Evel Knievel, Willy Wonka and Robin Hood as heroes, takes risks, both in business and in life; yet his personal life appears to be on a solid footing. He seems to have figured out how to achieve and maintain a balanced life. And he shares that knowledge in The Tap.
“The Tap teaches the reader to try to dovetail the professional and the spiritual highest calling,” McKinney says. “The Tap is my first spiritual, inspirational book. And I think because its message is so simple, it’s doing really well. As it does well, so does our charity benefit.”
The Tap, as well as McKinney’s four other bestselling books are available on his website, at local bookstores, or by ordering from Amazon. I found The Tap to be an interesting and enjoyable read filled with uncommon wisdom. Though I’ve not yet read McKinney’s other books, if they are anything like The Tap, they will be well worth reading. I encourage you to read The Tap, then share it with others; it’s a message worth passing on.
The Small Print
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End of Part 3
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Part 3: From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap (Top of Page)
Like many of you, I’ve been watching three days of news reports streaming from MSNBC.com and CNN.com. As I sit here in the comfort of a sturdy Midwestern home, I grieve for people I have never known. I watch in frustration as the planes land with supplies, yet reports from the streets are that aid is not reaching those who are most affected and most vulnerable.
What amazes me is the overall calm that has prevailed so far in this desperately poor country, even in the face of a disaster of massive proportions. Men, women, and children alike wait — in an amazingly orderly manner for the most part — for help that is far too long in coming. Yes, there have been occasional outbreaks of violence and looting. But the astonishing thing is how long peace reigned before any trouble began — and that it still reigns still over most of the capital city.
“Give Us … Courage”
Speaking to an MSN.com camera crew, one young man said, “I don’t expect you to get it to us immediately. But at least give us something, so we can have courage.”
Meanwhile, food, water, and medical supplies are arriving by the ton. But as of late last night, they didn’t seem to be reaching the people who need them. And, with power out in the city and most mobile communications down, word of the coming relief isn’t spreading any faster than the supplies themselves. A major reason for the delay is the crushed infrastructure. I watched last night as a reporter showed photos on a high-tech version of Google Earth, updated after the first quake: The main roads are obstructed for miles. Heavy equipment will be required to get aid through to large sections of Port-au-Prince.
I wondered, as MSNBC’s Kerry Sanders had wondered aloud, Why can’t the medical workers just set up their stations in the places where most of the people are located and start treating them there? He answered that question with a comment from an aid worker, which was roughly as follows: It’s too dangerous to set up without security. We’d be overwhelmed by so many people demanding help at once.
Maybe. But if they had started distributing aid as soon as it arrived, wouldn’t that have done a lot to give people the “courage” that the young man had asked for? I wonder, too, how many more lives could they have saved? But, I’m not there. I can’t possibly know what’s right to do or how best to help.
“Me First” Doesn’t Cut It
Speaking of helping — or not — MSNBC.com showed a large gathering of foreigners, quite a few of them Americans, waiting at the airport for flights out of Haiti. After seeing the videos of the inner city, I felt some shame at what I heard from my fellow Americans.
One woman held a sign that said, “I’m an American” followed by some comment like “Get me out of here” or “I want to go home.” I really don’t recall the exact words, but that’s not the point. So what if she is an American? Does that entitle her, with her good health and able body, to special privilege? Could she not set aside her feeling of entitlement long enough to comfort an orphaned child, clean a wound, or show some measure of compassion?
Even two days after the quake, a few people were still being pulled out from the rubble alive. Others are still being found, but the numbers are dwindling. There must be thousands still left buried alive, slowly losing hope. They will die, if rescue does not come immediately. So, I wonder, how many of the people waiting for a flight out of the country are able bodied? How many of them could have helped try to save even a single Haitian from a slow, agonizing death?
I’m fighting to give my countrymen the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they had important reasons to hurry home: children who need them, elderly parents to care for, their own health at risk. Or perhaps the US government had urged Americans to leave; I honestly don’t know.
Another would-be passenger complained, “They told us they’d bring us water. That was six hours ago!” Of course these people were thirsty and hungry and tired; it’s no fun waiting at an airport in the best of times. But it crossed my mind, as it may have crossed yours, How long had the real earthquake victims been without potable water? A day or two perhaps? I may be wrong about the timing of that, as I was watching a stream of news reports that had been recorded earlier. I was focused on learning about the disaster and relief efforts, not on recording words for this post. In fact, this post arose from my frustration and anger after watching the news reports.
Still, as I said at the beginning, I’m sitting here in Iowa in comfort. I’m not in Haiti. I’m not lifting rubble to search for victims. I’m not suffering in heat while bodies rot all around me. So, you may argue that I have no right to chastise others for their ego-centric behavior. I just hope, if I am ever confronted with helping in a disaster, that I do better. And if I do not, then I will live in shame for the rest of my days.
Give to Save Lives
My friend Sam Griswold posted this quote on Facebook today:
“Whatever God’s dream about man may be, it seems certain it cannot come true unless humanity cooperates.” — Stella Terrill Mann
For those of you who, like me, cannot go to Haiti to help in person (and authorities say we shouldn’t go there now, unless we are part of an organized rescue effort), we can still “cooperate” in helping our fellow humans caught in this catastrophe. There are several legitimate charities to consider supporting. Their work in Haiti is costly and vitally necessary. I invite you to choose one or more of the following — or suggest another you trust — and send a contribution as quickly as possible.
Partners in Health: This small NGO has been doing incredible work in the mountains of Haiti for 25 years. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder profiled the organization in his book Mountains Beyond Mountains. You can read reviews of the book that provide vital information about PIH on Amazon.
Charity Navigator awarded Mercy Corps four stars — the highest rating — for their organizational efficiency. Here’s how Mercy Corps describes itself:
Mercy Corps is a team of 3700 professionals helping turn crisis into opportunity for millions around the world. By trade, we are engineers, financial analysts, drivers, community organizers, project managers, public health experts, administrators, social entrepreneurs and logisticians. In spirit, we are activists, optimists, innovators and proud partners of the people we serve.
Médecin Sans Frontière/Doctors Without Borders (from their website):
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters.
The American Red Cross: You can donate through the ARC website or punch in 90999 and text “Haiti.” You’ll be asked to confirm your donations (as well as whether you care to receive future text updates from the American Red Cross, says Rachel Maddow). In the first two days after the earthquake, says Maddow, the American Red Cross raised $6 million dollars. That’s now up to more than $8 million at the time of this writing. Here’s a bit about the American Red Cross from their website:
[I]n addition to domestic disaster relief, the American Red Cross offers compassionate services in five other areas: community services that help the needy; support and comfort for military members and their families; the collection, processing and distribution of lifesaving blood and blood products; educational programs that promote health and safety; and international relief and development programs
Save the Children: Among other activities, “Save the Children works for and with children at risk of hunger and malnutrition and those affected by natural disaster, war and conflict. … One of our key priorities is protecting children in emergencies around the world. We’re on the ground now, in Haiti delivering assistance, often with local staff in advance of a disaster, and we stay on the scene long afterwards.”
There are, of course, many more relief organizations. Some of them are doing important work. Some of them are scams. If you choose to donate, please check into the organization that will be handling your gift. Make sure it is a reputable group that uses its funds wisely for the benefit of the victims — not to line the pockets of the organizers.
If you choose to text a donation to Haitian relief on your mobile phone, please note that, though your response is immediate, the relief you send is not. Here’s Tony Aiello, CEO of MGive, speaking on The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC.com):
If you and I both give today, we might be paying our mobile bill on a different … monthly billing cycle. The carriers have to collect all of that money and then distribute it to the 501c3 clearinghouse and then distribute it to the charities. Everyone in the chain wants to get the money to the Red Cross as fast as possible. … In traditional day-to-day fund-raising, it’s about … 90 days between the time that the mobile user presses the buttons on the phone and the dollars arrive at the charity. We hope to streamline that for this disaster based on the size and scope of this situation. … That said, because this is such a major disaster, I think people are going to be needing dollars for quite some time.
And let’s all remember that a disaster of such catastrophic proportions will not be healed in a few weeks. The Haitians who survive this crisis will continue to need our aid as they rebuild in the months and years to come. If we give wisely, we can make a long-term, positive difference.
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February 5, 2009 by Julia Wasson
Filed under Blog, Books, Books on Kindle, Climate Change, Deforestation, Easter Island, Environment, Forest, Front Page, Habitat, Haiti, Iowa, Natural Resources, Sustainability
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond addressed a crowd of about a thousand at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on February 3. Dr. Diamond, a professor of history at UCLA, held us in rapt attention while he talked about the subject of his 2005 book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. “That doesn’t seem like the most cheerful subject to write about,” he wryly pointed out, causing a fair amount of laughter among the crowd.
“The real question,” Diamond said, “is, why do some societies collapse, having failed to solve problems that other societies succeeded in solving?” He outlined five factors that negatively impacted the survival of some of the societies he had studied for his book: the Anasazi, the Easter Islanders, the Pitcairn Islanders, the Maya, the Vikings who had once lived in Greenland, and the Haitians of today. These five factors include:
- climate change (caused solely by natural forces, until now)
- conflict with neighbors
- dependence on trade partners
- environmental problems
- the society’s response to those problems
“Today we’re struggling with all the same problems of forest, water, fish, topsoil, climate change,” he said. Even in Montana, “the most beautiful, pristine, underpopulated, least-stretched state of the lower 48… if you scratch the surface, you find … all the environmental problems with which the rest of the world is struggling.” These include toxic waste, climate change (“as a result of which Glacier National Park will be Glacier-less National Park by 2020″), soil erosion, air quality, and population shift.
Not all factors equally affected each society Diamond studied, but every single society that collapsed experienced environmental degradation and destruction. For me, two examples stood out because of the role of deforestation. The first was the island of Hispaniola, which Diamond called “a natural experiment in history.” On one side of the island is the Dominican Republic, a lush environment and a stable, if not wealthy, economy. On the other side of the border, over the wall, is Haiti, a nation that has been deforested to the point of barrenness. The citizens are desperately poor and their side of the island is overpopulated. While deforestation alone was not the cause of Haiti’s economic and social problems, it was a deciding factor.
Another society whose fate was determined largely by deforestation was the “statue-building society” that once inhabited Easter Island. This remote island, some 2,300 miles west of Chile, in the south Pacific Ocean, is the home of “gigantic stone statues, up to 30 feet tall and weighing up to 9 tons, that were somehow transported up to 12 miles, hitched into a vertical position, and erected by people without draft animals….” According to Diamond, the first European explorer, who arrived on the island in 1722, described Easter Island as “the most barren island in the Pacific.”
When Easter Island was first settled by Polynesians, “roughly 1,000 years ago, the island was not the treeless wasteland that we see today, but it was covered with a lush, sub-tropical forest of dozens of species of trees, including the world’s biggest palm tree. The settlers of Easter Island proceeded to chop down trees for the same reason that we and all other people chop down trees: They chopped them for fuel for cooking. Chopped them for firewood to warm themselves. Chopped them down for construction… Chopped them down to make levers to transport and erect the giant statues. They chopped them down to make dugout canoes with which to go out to sea and fish for … tunas and dolphins….
“Roughly around 1680, they chopped down the last tree on the island… Without trees, the landscape of Easter Island was exposed to wind and water erosion. Without trees, they couldn’t build canoes to obtain their main protein source from tuna and dolphin. And with a large population and shrinking resources, Easter Island society collapsed in an epidemic of civil war.
“Rival clans on Easter Island fought each other for pieces of this shrinking resource pie. Victorious clans would tear down and wreck the statues of rival clans. And in the absence of what had been the largest source of protein — tuna and dolphins — people turned to a protein [from] the only big animal left on the island… Easter Island society collapsed in an epidemic of cannibalism.”
Certainly deforestation wasn’t the only problem for Easter Island, but it was a pivotal factor in the society’s collapse, according to Diamond. Deforestation also plagues Haiti, leaving the residents without wood to burn for cooking their food or for warmth.
Environment vs. Economy
After describing the societies and the reasons for their collapse, Diamond took the opportunity to help his audience understand the lessons that we can draw from the collapse of other societies. His goal in doing so was not to lead us to despair, but to “guide us in becoming a success story rather than one of the failures. The most obvious lesson,” he said, “is to take environmental problems seriously. Environmental problems did destroy some of the most advanced societies of the past. They could well destroy us today. “
He warned against the objection that “we have to balance the environment against the economy.’ Just listen to that phrase, ‘Balance the environment against the economy.’ The tacit assumption is that the environmental measures impose costs that detract from the economy, and that one can afford the luxury of environmental degradation. … If you don’t deal with [environmental problems] early on, when they’re soluble, they’ll become insoluble, or prohibitively expensive to deal with later on.”
As an example, he described the refusal of local, state, and federal agencies to spend $200 million to repair the levees in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, the cost of repairs has been “several hundred billion dollars, not to mention a couple thousand dead Americans, all because we had ‘balanced the environment against the economy.’ ”
Diamond further warned, “[W]hen a collapse comes, it happens very quickly,” pointing not only to the long-ago societies that failed, but also to the sudden demise of the Soviet Union.
He also warned against the insulation of the wealthy and powerful from the problems of the masses. In his view, gated communities today are similar to the walls of the temples, behind which the powerful Mayans were shielded from the very problems that destroyed their nation and their power. “When the elite of a society insulate themselves from the consequences of their action, that is a recipe for disaster, because then the elite can make decisions that are good for themselves in the short run, but bad for the whole society, including themselves, in the long run.”
A Global Risk
The eminent historian explained that we can learn from the past, though we must acknowledge differences. “One obvious difference is, we have far more people in the world. And we have far more potent destructive technology than at any time in the past,” he said.
“When the Eastern Islanders, around 1580, were chopping down the last tree, that was roughly 10,000 islanders with stone tools, and it had taken them something like 600 years to deforest their island of 64 square miles. But today, we have 6.7 billion people with chain saws and nuclear power deforesting the whole world far more rapidly than the Easter Islanders with their stone tools deforested Easter Island. That combination of much larger population and much more potent destructive technology than at any time in the past makes our present situation far more dangerous….
“Today in a globalized world, when any society gets in trouble, it affects the rest of the world…. [I]t’s no longer possible to have local collapse. Instead, the risk we take is global collapse.”
But Jared Diamond did not end his talk with despair. He gave us a message of hope. “The situation is, I think, hopeful, because of another difference between the present and the past, which gives us a big advantage…. [W]e are the first society in world history with the opportunity to learn from societies remote from us both in space and in time.”
We have the technology to not only know about, but also to learn from, other societies’ tragic mistakes. We don’t have to go the way of the Easter Islanders or the Haitians or the Mayans. It’s our choice. Let’s choose wisely.
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