Category Archives: Humanitarian Aid

Helping to Launch MacHub

I’m finished backpacking for a while so I have some time before I jump back into the IT world of higher education. This gives me the opportunity to volunteer full-time in support of a worthy non-profit that is based on selling donated items online so that the proceeds can go to a designated charity. It is called MacHub and it was all made possible because the successful online sales business, Swedemom, transitioned into this non-profit version. I had no idea that I would end up helping MacHub, it could be that  God had His hand on this and maybe He is calling in a favor for saving my life on the Lost Coast Trail earlier this month.

There is no doubt that this MacHub venture is a great idea, but success will take some hard work and discipline. There are all kinds of charity selling models that work for the local demographics. But what if you had an option to get top value for your donations by selling it online to an international market. Of course this concept was made possible by the eBay online selling model, but anyone who has sold on eBay knows that it is not that simple. MacHub has been discovered rather quickly here in McMinnville, OR, which means that managing growth has already become a problem. MacHub benefits include more then just cash for charities, jobs for the homeless is also an outcome. But it is a business that must control expenses so that the realized proceeds for the Charity will justify the effort.

Success for MacHub does appear to be inevitable. The transition of assets from Swedemom and the use of their sophisticated database and sales processing software is invaluable. Combine that with a community that immediately rallied around the concept thanks to strong support from the local Newspaper, a small grant and a parent organization, Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission, YCGRM, plus dedicated people and you have a winning formula. And as my departed mentor, Bill Mitchell, used to advise, the goal only needs to be to “Do Good”. 

What is really cool about this business model is that the donors can become partners. The simplest option is for a donor to just drop off items similar to the Goodwill model so that the proceeds can help cover the costs of the MacHub expenses. But a donor typically will designate the charity to receive the proceeds from the sale of their items, and they can get an account to actually check the status and validate the donation value for IRS purposes. Any organization can qualify to be a partner of varying levels based on the the amount of item preparation work they want to provide.

We are now working out the details for establishing an umbrella organization that will handle the administrative duties to ensure that the software continues to be developed and is maintained. The need for an umbrella non-profit is due to the interest by other organizations around the country wanting to start their own version of MacHub. We currently have a pilot version in Chicago that is more of a single charity supporting a large homeless shelter and one near St. Louis that is a community model like Mac Hub.

We can do more Good in Cameroon

GeoAid crew in Lomie, Cameroon

It is time for me to document my experience here in Cameroon. I leave for the US on a red eye tonight with a day layover in Paris. Cameroon is referred to as “Little Africa” because it has a bit of all Africa throughout this small country located in the hinge of Africa. The country is half English speaking and half French which is primarily where I was visiting. I experienced the city and the jungle and both are unique but really not desirable. The best thing that can be said about Cameroon is that the country is politically stable and free of violence. But it is a country that does not have a lot going for it nor does it appear they care. The power players in the city are either government or NGOs dominated by UN aid organizations. The jungle or the Eastern province where my GeoAid is focused is the backwoods of any Cameroonian concern. Aid from any entity trickles to nothing by the time you reach the edge of civilization. The last outpost is the town of Lomie where GeoAid resides thanks to our partnership with the rapidly downsizing GeoVic mining operation.

People of Lomie

I explained briefly why I am involved with GeoAid in my previous post, after this visit I am better able to evaluate our situation and advise our Board about the future strategic direction for GeoAid. That strategy, with respect to Cameroon, is focused on new corporate partnerships which is coming together just fine. Those partnerships will be about social responsibility for communities affected by their corporate activity, for which GeoAid is positioned as well as any NGO in Cameroon. But I have also been touched by the work that we have done in the Lomie area and realize that we need to maintain that base regardless of a local corporate connection. We have a connection to the people there and unfortunately they desperately need our support. There are some religious based missions and some Peace Corp type organizational present but none have resources of the caliber that GeoAid holds. So I leave Cameroon knowing that not only will I be advising GeoAid’s future but that I will be protecting GeoAid’s heritage. It is a great privilege to be allowed to “do good”.

Photos of visit to Lomie, Cameroon

Why I’m Going to Africa

I have occasionally mentioned other areas of my interest which don’t exactly qualify as Higher Education Technology, one of which is my involvement with GeoAid International. I am traveling to Cameroon, Africa, this Friday to represent GeoAid for my role of Chairman of the Board, so I feel that a blog post is the easiest way to explain how this relationship came to be. You can find out about GeoAid at http://www.geoaid.org. But now I will attempt to explain the rest of the story.

A little over 2 years ago, Bill Mitchell, who I knew of through my church, was engaged by the founder of GeoAid, Bill Buckovic, to review the current state of his Humanitarian Aid Organization that was created to serve the needs of the community affected by the GeoVic mining operation in Cameroon, Africa. Turns out the GeoAid that Bill Mitchell evaluated had some serious issues and he was asked if he would actively step in to steer GeoAid back on course. There was obviously a greater plan that brought Bill and I together and over the next year I offered advice and support as Bill converted GeoAid to a proper non-profit, Non-Government Organization, NGO, serving the Corporate Social Responsibilities, CSR, of the GeoVic Cobalt mining operation in Cameroon.

Great progress was made and much good was accomplished. Bill and I used to wonder why we had been put in this situation, but we were satisfied to know that God had a plan and if we were being given a chance to do “Good” then we just needed to run with it as long as we could. So the initial funding model for GeoAid was almost entirely based on a grant type commitment from GeoVic Mining Corporation, but that model has shifted to funding from various corporations and grants. This is somewhat novel for the Corporate entity to partner with an NGO but I believe we have proven that this type of arrangement may be far more effective.

GeoAid grew, we formed a Board of Directors on which I took on the role of Chairman. All was moving rather smooth until the unexpected death of our Executive Director, Bill Mitchell, see my post Tribute to Bill Mitchell. Then the role of Chairman of the Board took on a whole new meaning. Luckily we had begun the implementation of a succession plan about 6 months earlier but our plan was supposed to play out over a number of years. We did replace Bill with his son, Bryce, who is doing an amazing job filling his dad’s shoes. So the opportunity now presents itself for Bryce and I to go to Cameroon for official recognition of GeoAid accomplishments by various Cameroonian government and service organizations. A major event will be coordinated by the Chantal Biya Foundation scheduled for on February 24th at 11:00am.

GeoAid Cameroon is a highly effective organization with a great staff that is dedicated to the mission, our US Embassy in Cameroon just posted a great article that helps to document this success. This Cameroonian asset has proven itself and we will be discussing many new ventures while I am there for GeoAid to assist in serving the needs of other communities affected by the new development taking place in the country.

2/25/12 – About to head to Lomie – the week has gone incredibly well – I will do a post when I return. The Chantal Biya event was more then I expected, see photo link

Tribute to Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell, GeoAid International

I have another post that is not exactly Higher Ed Tech Talk but it is worthy of this audience. I am the Chairman of the Board for the humanitarian aid organization, GeoAid. This all came about because of Bill Mitchell, the Executive Director of GeoAid who recruited me about 3 years ago. GeoAid was created to provide humanitarian aid typically in the form of community development to the community affected by the Geovic mining operations near Lomie, Cameroon, Africa. Lot’s more to the story but basically we were given enough funding to setup programs to help the Cameroonian people that would be affected by this Cobalt mining operation. So we were allowed to do “Good” as “God” would lead us. And we have, shipping 3 large containers full of medical equipment and numerous shipments of medicine delivered with health fairs and clinics. We have laid the foundation for many successful micro enterprises with an effective Cameroonian presence. We have earned the loyalty of the people and the Cameroonian government. This year we plan to expand into New Caledonia and Papa New Guinea. All of this because of the leadership and drive of Bill Mitchell. 

Unfortunately this post now turns to a tribute to Bill since he died last Friday. But how he died exemplifies how one gets the most out of their life. Six years ago Bill, then 65, experienced a mild heart attack wake-up call that has forced him to deal with an at risk heart condition. Many people would have backed off an active lifestyle in order to live longer. But Bill jumped into GeoAid, travelled many times to Africa, worked long hours, etc. Bill also loved to play golf and his ideal script for how he would exit his physical body would be while playing golf. Last friday this is how the script played out in the form of a massive heart attack at the 9th tee. And he could not have been happier, not because of dying while playing golf but because as a Christian he looked forward to this day with great anticipation. Bill packed more into those six years then some of us do in a lifetime. While working with Bill on world humanitarian development issues he instilled in me his slogan: “Change is Inevitable, Growth is a Choice“.  We at GeoAid are definitely dealing with change now and I am confident that it will lead to Growth. It was an honor to know and support Bill’s efforts. The world will miss you him.

Obituary Link