November, 2012

  • Meet our YouthSpark Changemaker: Marquis Cabrera

    Along with REI and the Goldhirsh Foundation we’ve been delighted to support The Case Foundation’s Finding Fearless competition.  The competition has discovered twenty fearless changemakers, with the overall winners being announced on December 5th.

    In addition to supporting the Finding Fearless competition, we wanted to showcase a young person who is doing incredible work to make a difference.  Partnering with The Case Foundation we created a special Microsoft YouthSpark prize, designed to recognize a young fearless changemaker.

    That YouthSpark prize winning changemaker is Marquis Landon Cabrera.

    Marquis was in foster care until he was adopted at 15 years of age.  Following his dreams and with support from his parents, he attended Northeastern University, where he graduated magna *** laude, receiving numerous awards and recognition for his hard work and leadership along the way.  While at Northeastern, he gained experience working with City Year, The White House, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and took a juvenile law course where was required to sit on cases at the Boston Juvenile Court.

    After witnessing heart-wrenching care and protection cases, and drawing from his own experiences in foster care, Marquis decided to found Foster Skills with the mission of empowering foster children to beat the odds, follow their dreams, and become successful, productive citizens.

    Foster Skills aims to address the incredible challenges facing foster children. Today less than 10% of foster kids graduate from high school and less than 2% graduate from college.

    Since its founding, Foster Skills has connected with over 150 foster youth to provide social support systems; performed 68 ‘How To’ workshops; and created a Massachusetts-specific Foster Youth Handbook that has been used by over a thousand foster youth.  Along with direct support Foster Skills also advocates on behalf of foster youth and is currently developing a social networking site for foster children.

    Marquis has indeed been a fearless changemaker and we’re proud to present him with the special YouthSpark prize to recognize his amazing work.




  • From friendly competition to helping business save energy

    Amine Chouaieb is the 27 year-old CEO of his own company CHIFCO, and a great example of what is possible when youth have both access to technology and the support needed to develop the skills to help them realize their full potential.

    In partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Microsoft he is attending the International Conference on Productive Work for Youth in Tunis, Tunisia, this week to help inspire other young people to embrace technology and what it can offer them.

    When Amine was 11 years old and living with his family in Tunisia, Amine’s father, who ran a wood import and processing business, surprised him and his brother one day with a computer. The two boys challenged each other to see who could learn the most about the PC, in the shortest amount of time, and prove their expertise by developing tangible outcomes.

    It wasn’t long before Amine, through trial, error and sheer interest, gained a solid understanding of the concept of source code and how modifications changed programs. He went on to learn an array of programming languages and was one of the first technologists building and promoting websites in Tunisia – and he did all of this while still in school studying for his A-level exams.

    “My father gave me the choice of working in the wood processing area of his business or in the office, but the pay was the same, a dollar a day,” he said. “I chose the office so I could continue to work with technology, and soon I knew my skills were quite good when his employees came to me to amend their existing line of business applications to make them easier to use.”

    Amine worked diligently to help spread the power of the web in Tunisia, working with local companies to build their websites for as little as $100 - simply to illustrate the value of the Internet.

    “It was great to be young and technology savvy in a country that was not particularly advanced in that way,” he said. “I spent a lot of time explaining basic things like search, chat, messaging and pioneered the development of dynamic websites and one of the first hosting solutions in my country.”

    After his A-levels Amine studied civil engineering in Paris and joined an Environmental/Energy consulting firm after graduation. Soon he began applying his technology skills in a new way, becoming absorbed in the concepts of smart grids and energy management. It was then that he realized there was still so much that software could do to optimize the smart energy hardware.

    Not long after Amine was studying for his Executive Masters in Strategy at the ESCP Europe business school in Paris, and driving the development of a software energy platform that allows businesses to monitor and manage their energy efficiency.


    Amine pictured with Maroua Dhay who works on the local Microsoft Citizenship team attending the ENERSOL World Sustainable Energy Forum held in Tunis earlier this month.

    “I had heard about the opportunity to become a startup partner with Microsoft and applied,” he said. I was so pleased when we were accepted and what followed was great – access to development tools, training, guidance, expertise and perhaps most importantly networking.”

    Today Amine’s company CHIFCO has offices in Tunis and Paris, and is supporting several customer pilots of their solution. CHIFCO became a startup beneficiary of the Microsoft’s Bizspark program, which is part of Microsoft YouthSpark, and is sponsored by the Microsoft Innovation Center. He speaks with enthusiasm as he explains how his customers are benefitting from real time energy consumption monitoring and management – both the businesses who are reducing their energy consumption and costs, and the utilities who are able to better serve their customers.

    “I had observed there was more talk than action in the environmental sustainability space and it was my goal to help do something tangible” he said. “And as my brother and I challenged each other so long ago to deliver results, it is incredibly rewarding to see our customers reduce their energy bills through the use of our solutions. We hope to empower them through ICT, as we were empowered.”

    UNIDO and Microsoft have worked together since 2006 to help apply ICT for sustainable development. With Tunisia registering one of the highest unemployment rates in the world with more than 14% of the active population being unemployed, both UNIDO through their youth programs and Microsoft through it’s YouthSpark program are working to help address the issue.

  • Let the Giving Begin! Microsoft’s #GivingTuesday 1:1 Match is Live

    Donate to youth projects on Give for Youth on #Giving Tuesday and we’ll match your donation 1:1 – up to $100,000 worth of matched donations 


    We’ve all seen the pictures and TV footage over the past few days – hordes of holiday shoppers running into stores, racing to fill their carts with toys and electronics and jockeying to get the best deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a big deal here in the U.S.

    Now imagine this: hordes of people rushing to their favorite charities to volunteer their time and money. People competing for the biggest and best “give.” Families gathering to create new traditions around helping others during the holidays.

    That’s the idea behind #GivingTuesday – it’s a national movement to shift the focus of the holidays from buying and getting more “stuff” to giving back. Microsoft is a founding partner of this new day of giving, and today only, we’ll match any donation 1:1 on Give for Youth, a micro-giving site that makes it to fund and follow the dreams of young people around the world, up to a total of $100,000.

    Here are three simple ways you can participate in #GivingTuesday:

    • Give – There are hundreds of life-changing Give for Youth projects, and on #GivingTuesday, you can double the impact of your donation through the Microsoft 1:1 match. Even a small donation can make a huge difference a young person’s life.
    • Share – Share what you’re doing to give back on #GivingTuesday with your circle of family and friends, your community, and your company or organization to encourage them to join in acts of generosity. Here’s a Tweet to get you started: “To support #GivingTuesday, this holiday season I am …”
    • LearnGive for Youth is a program in partnership with GlobalGiving and it’s part of Microsoft YouthSpark, an initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years by connecting young people with education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. There are many ways to get involved and help us achieve this goal to close the opportunity divide for youth around the world.

    This holiday season, Microsoft wants to help you give as good as you get. We hope you’ll join us in giving back on #GivingTuesday.


  • Thank you from us: Your donations to youth are making a difference

    Editors note: Don’t forget that next Tuesday, November 27th is Giving Tuesday!


    On the day before Thanksgiving in the United States, we wanted to take this opportunity to give thanks to so many of the generous people that have donated to Give for Youth since it launched in September as part of our YouthSpark program. Your donations have helped young people around the world and we thought we’d share some of their inspiring stories.

    image   Meet Annitah. Annitah is a 14 year old Primary 7 student at Nyaka Primary School in rural Uganda. Thanks to donations to Give for Youth, Annitah gets to continue her education at this accomplished secondary school. This school not only provides Anita with knowledge she needs to be academically successful, but with essential materials she needs to thrive.

    Photo: project sponsored by The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project



    Meet Abigail. Three years ago when Abigail was just 10 years old, she was abused and exploited as a child prostitute in Liberia. With the donations to Give for Youth, Abigail was rescued from the slums in Liberia and enrolled in school. Today she is one of the top students in her 7th grade class. She also knows how to bake, which is a skill she can use to earn an income.   image

    Photo: project sponsored by the More than Me Foundation



    Whether it’s funding a child’s education, providing basic necessities, or rescuing a girl from a life on the streets, your donations are making a valuable difference.

    Thanks to your generosity, Give for Youth has already raised more than $400,000 for 313 projects to date. Give for Youth is just one element of Microsoft’s Youthspark program, a companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years, connecting young people with education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. You are helping us achieve this.


    Matching your donations on Giving Tuesday

    Next Tuesday, November 27th 2012 is #GivingTuesday a new, national day of giving intended to transform the giving season by helping communities in need around the world.

    To celebrate, Microsoft will match any donation to Give for Youth, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $100,000. There are still hundreds of life-changing Give for Youth projects that you can support including, bringing electricity back to a village in Nigeria, ensuring safe drinking water for girls in India and creating a brighter future by trying to stop bullying in New Jersey.

    Together we can double the impact and continue to help dreams come true for youth this holiday season.

  • Giving Back: A New Post-Thanksgiving Tradition

    By Microsoft Citizenship Team


    The holiday season is quickly approaching and like many, you are likely already thinking about upcoming holiday activities, family gatherings, and yes – shopping!

    But the holiday season is about more than just getting ‘stuff’. It’s also about giving thanks and giving back. And that’s why we are proud to be a founding partner of #GivingTuesday—a movement that will transform the giving season by helping communities in need around the world.

    What is #GivingTuesday?

    #GivingTuesday is a new national day of giving that will kick off the holiday season. This year, it will be on November 27. On that day, charities, families, businesses and individuals will change the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. #GivingTuesday will support hundreds of nonprofit organizations helping people around the world.

    How is Microsoft involved?

    Recently, we launched a companywide initiative called Microsoft YouthSpark. The goal of YouthSpark is to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years by empowering young people to imagine and realize their full potential. As part of YouthSpark, we created Give for Youth, a micro-giving portal that makes it easy for people to fund and follow youth around the world.

    On #GivingTuesday, when a donor (somebody like you) makes a donation on Give for Youth, Microsoft will match that donation dollar for dollar, up to a total of $100,000. In this way, we hope to play a small part in transforming the holiday season into the giving season for those with the greatest needs.

    Wondering how to get involved?

    It’s simple. On November 27th your family, community, company or organization can all get in on the giving. Please tell everyone you can about what you are doing this giving season and why it matters. If you want to get involved with what we’re doing at Microsoft, simply make a donation to your favorite youth project at, and we’ll match your donation—you give a dollar, we give a dollar and we fund a lot of dreams. You can also follow the conversation online by tracking #GivingTuesday.

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