January, 2013

  • Eyewitness to the Future

    By Andrea Taylor, Director of Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs in the U.S.

    Washington, DC - Today the nation inaugurates Barack Obama or “44” for a second term presidency as we also commemorate the 84th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The juxtaposition of these events has generated much reflection in the media as well as other milestones later this year. In August, for example, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the precursor to passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and the Civil Rights Act in 1965.

    As a teen, my family’s legacy of civic activism allowed me to join that historic 1963 March, along with more than 250,000 nonviolent protestors. Five years later when Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of a Memphis hotel, I was a co-ed at Boston University (where Dr. King earned his PhD in 1955) studying journalism and eager to pursue a career at The Boston Globe chronicling education and community change. His murder deeply affected an idealistic generation, now baby boomers. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, we’ve seen societal shifts foreshadowed in Dr. King’s dream about equality and justice that have advanced civil and human rights, women’s empowerment, marriage equality and growing support for key issues like the environment, economic justice and health care.

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    Relic from the past: Andrea’s button from her participation in the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom.
    Once again, I’ll be on the iconic National Mall to celebrate an important American event. Dr. King’s prescient vision as articulated in the “I Have a Dream” speech will resonate in my thoughts. I was also there for the inauguration in 2009 and for the 20th anniversary of the March in 1983. There is a powerful link between Dr. King and President Obama, barely two years old when Dr. King spoke of “a nation where children would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” These reminders may bring tears to my eyes.

    However, I will not dwell on these memories but rather devote my energy to the realities of the 21st century world in which we live, where today’s youth constitute nearly 1.4 billion of the world’s population – the largest cohort ever. Young people need and deserve our support as they collect new memories and identify timely priorities about what really matters.

    Glimpsing the future, a privilege I share daily with colleagues at Microsoft and in the technology industry overall, the rapid pace of change is remarkable. However, such shifts present tremendous opportunities. Microsoft’s recently launched YouthSpark initiative is a great example. This global initiative provides resources to help empower youth to imagine their full potential and connect to improved opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. Ironically, similar concerns characterized the March on Washington which was, fundamentally, about jobs and freedom for all people. It’s a fact that unemployment in the U.S. and globally is incredibly high and the fiscal crisis facing many communities threatens freedoms often taken for granted.

    In my career, community and family, I’m obsessed with the future. Indeed, as a mentor and philanthropy professional, I’m always seeking greater understanding and wisdom about ways to inspire creativity, imagination and innovation among youth and people of all ages. This follows directly in the footsteps of Dr. King’s legacy and President Obama’s message of hope and ability to forge a new American coalition that has given wings to his leadership and offered a model for public service to a new generation.

    As we honor the inaugural tradition of our democracy, and the newer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, we are all beneficiaries of a rich, complex history and eyewitnesses to a future ripe with possibilities for changing the world and living a purposeful life.

    AndreaTaylor headshot Andrea L. Taylor is director of Microsoft’s Citizenship & Public Affairs in the U.S. focusing on the YouthSpark initiative and working with nonprofit organizations across the country. She is a trustee of Boston University, her alma mater, New York Public Radio, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
  • HelpBridge: a new mobile app to get help and give help during a disaster

     

    Microsoft is today announcing a new mobile app called HelpBridge that is designed to help you connect with the people that matter to you most during a large scale natural disaster. It also enables you to give your money, time and resources to support relief and rebuilding efforts.

    HelpBridge is available as a free download on Windows Phone, Android and iOS today.
     

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    You can get HelpBridge here

    So once you’ve installed HelpBridge, how does it work?

    Get Help with HelpBridge

    • HelpBridge enables you to build a list of people who you would want to contact in an emergency. With one swipe you can let all those people know if you’re OK or if you need help via SMS, email and/or Facebook. The alert can also optionally provide your exact location via your phone’s GPS capabilities.

     

    Give Help with HelpBridge

    Helpbridge provides three easy ways to support relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of a disaster.

    • Donate money: You can use the application to easily donate funds to a broad range of relief agencies assisting victims of a disaster including the American Red Cross, CARE, Global Giving and many more.
    • Donate goods: You can discover what goods and resources relief agencies on the ground need, and the application makes it easy for you to get the right goods to the right place.
    • Volunteer your time: HelpBridge provides you with a list of real-time volunteering opportunities posted by relief agencies, enabling you to directly or indirectly support relief efforts with your time.

     

    We’ve worked with a range of relief agencies and nonprofits during the development of HelpBridge.

     

    “We are grateful to our partner Microsoft who understands the importance of connecting loved ones after disasters and provides ways for individuals to donate their time and dollars to help those in need through the Red Cross,” said Neal Litvack, Chief Development Officer of the American Red Cross.

     

    “Mobile phones have become one of the key tools for people in disaster affected areas to communicate, not only with their friends, but also with first responders. The simpler we can make it for people to let others know if they are fine or if they need assistance, the more likely they are of being able to get that information out,” said Gisli Olaffson, Emergency Response Director, NetHope. “Microsoft’s HelpBridge mobile app is a great addition to the tools people have for reporting their needs and their status following any disaster.”

     

     

    HelpBridge is a mobile app with the application back-end running on Microsoft Windows Azure which provides a rich and reliable web, application and data platform in the cloud.

     

    Home Screen

    I Need Help Screen
    Quickly let people know how and where you are

     

     

     



    Second level TexttoGive Screen


    Opportunity Details Screen

    Make donations to relief agencies from your mobile device

     

     

    The key to responding to a disaster is being prepared

    HelpBridge is a useful part of your disaster preparation but you also need to think about what other ways you can get prepared ahead of an unexpected event.

    For example, what are the key documents that you should back up online so you can access them from any location? Have you thought about completing a family emergency plan? What about your pets? There’s some good tips and resources here.

    HelpBridge is a useful tool to help you get help and give help during a disaster. Download the app today as part of your disaster preparedness.

    As Petra Nemcova, a disaster survivor and founder of Happy Hearts Fund noted:

    “We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.”

     

    Note:  HelpBridge is only available in the United States.

  • How you can do GOOD for your favorite nonprofit

    Microsoft and GOOD have teamed up to give you the opportunity to help your favorite youth-focused nonprofit. Today we are announcing the Microsoft Give For Youth Challenge, a contest where you nominate and vote for nonprofits who support young people around the United States.


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    We’re launching this joint effort because young people are facing unprecedented challenges. For instance, the youth unemployment rate around the globe is more than double the rate for the rest of the population.

    That’s why we launched Microsoft YouthSpark, an initiative to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.

    It’s why we’re working with GOOD to help nonprofits that help youth. While nonprofits are often at the frontlines of the issues facing youth in America -  from providing food and shelter, to donating backpacks and clothing, providing afterschool tutoring, training and employment support – they’re often underfunded.

    So come and help us.  The twenty nonprofits with the most votes will have their projects featured on our YouthSpark Give For Youth micro-giving site.  In addition to encouraging people to support the projects, we’ll match funds raised for the projects up to $100,000 across organizations.

    Here's how you can get involved:

    1. Take action! Go to http://nominategfy.maker.good.is/projects/new.

    2. Nominate your favorite youth-focused nonprofit by February 1, 2013 (12pm PST deadline!).

    3. Spread the word to your friends and family to vote for your nonprofit.  Voting begins February 18th.

    4. Use hashtag #YouthSpark on Twitter to see updates as the contest progresses.

    Please review the full contest rules and eligibility here.

    Find out about how Give For Youth is helping nonprofits raise funding for youth-focused projects.

  • From woolly worms to a world of opportunities: Jeremy’s story

    How do you bring Computer Science education to students in schools that don’t have the resources or budget to provide it?

    “Technology is where he wants to be … he learned what he could on his own, but then he didn’t know where to go from there. He didn’t even know how to go from there.” This is how Tammy Moore described the challenges her son Jeremy faced as he tried to turn his interest in computers into something that might help him in the future.

    Jeremy is a high school student living in Beattyville, a small town in Lee County, Kentucky. Beattyville is home to about 1,200 people and an annual Woolly Worm Festival every October. (The Woolly Worm is a type of caterpillar that folklore holds may have the ability to predict winter weather, similar to the groundhog).

    Like many rural areas across America, Beattyville has struggled in recent years. “The economy here is very bad … it’s not where you want to go for work,” said Moore. But there’s a real sense of community pride, too. “You take the good with the bad. I just love it here and this is where I wanted to raise my kids,” she noted.

    In the past, Jeremy didn’t think much about attending college. According to his mom, his grades were “less than stellar.” All that changed when he started taking computer science classes through TEALS, a Microsoft YouthSpark program. TEALS – Technology Education And Literacy in Schools – brings computer science learning to classrooms that don’t have the resources to do so. Instruction is delivered by volunteers who work in the IT sector including Microsoft employee volunteers.

    In Beattyville, Jeremy’s third period computer science class is taught remotely using Microsoft Lync by Isaac Wilson, a Microsoft engineer in Redmond, Wash.

    Why is Microsoft putting engineers in schools to teach computer science? Because we recognize the urgent need to provide more qualified talent in computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields in the United States. The TEALS program, which originally started in Washington State, has now expanded to support schools in California, Kentucky, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia and the District of Columbia this academic year.

    “People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith told the New York Times recently, speaking about the shortage of computer science graduates. The shortage impacts technology companies and the global economy. In a recent speech at the 41st Annual Economic Forecast Conference, Smith pointed out that of 42,000 high schools in the U.S. only 2,103 offer AP computer science courses.

    TEALS and other programs that are part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative are designed to give young people access to education, employment and entrepreneurship.

    As for Jeremy, he’s now on his school’s honor roll and is thinking about attending college and becoming a software engineer. On TEALs and his YouthSpark experience, he said, simply: “It’s changed my life.”

    Learn more about Jeremy’s story on his YouthSpark Stars profile. And be sure to check out the 30+ free programs for young people offered on our YouthSpark Hub.

    You can also find out more about Microsoft’s National Talent Strategy by downloading our whitepaper.

  • YouthSpark Star of the Week: Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project, Rural Uganda

    Editor’s note: this is the first in a regular series of posts featuring projects on Give for Youth, a micro-giving site focused on empowering young people around the world.

    “It takes children to raise a village.” – Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, founder & executive director, Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project

    In Uganda, over 2.2 million children have been orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Without their parents, many of these children go without an education or in many cases, having basic needs met. The Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project fights poverty by empowering these children, especially girls, through free, quality education, school supplies, healthcare and more.

    What makes this project special is the support for the students' caregivers and 7,000 area grandmothers through access to clean water, vegetable seeds, counseling, health care, micro-finance and more. The effort heralds the “unsung heroes of Nyaka” – the thousands of grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren after losing their own children to AIDS.

    Nyaka AIDS Orphan project

    "I grew up in rural Uganda where my parents sold goats, cows, & land to educate me. Despite not having parents to make such sacrifices, the students at Nyaka still have a chance for a bright future,” said Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, the executive director and founder of the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project.

    Spark Change Today!

    Find out how you can help change lives and spark change via this cool project on Give for Youth. Just $10 can provide a young girl with school supplies to help her complete her education.

    Give for Youth is a Microsoft YouthSpark program.

    Learn More:

    Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project on Facebook and twitter

    A School for my Village” – by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri

    Jackson Kaguri, CNN Hero profile

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