O 's Big Give winners won $5,000 each to spend on helping others. What they've done so far has given them a feeling money can't buy.
It's been just over a year since we announced the winners of O 's Big Give Contest, which awarded $5,000 each (provided by Target) and a mentor to readers with ambitious, inspiring plans for helping people in need. In time for the giving season, we checked in with three of these budding philanthropists to see how far they've come.
One of the most unusual Big Give proposals came from Kathleen Alves (above, back row, second from left, with residents of Madan, Papua New Guinea) of Chehalis, Washington. A registered nurse practitioner, Alves travels regularly to Madan, an impoverished farming community in Papua New Guinea, to treat children and adults who have been sickened by water-borne illnesses and other ailments. Alves estimated that one Big Give grant would cover the cost of constructing two wells; entrepreneur Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway) advised on engineering details, and the project broke ground last spring. The result: Madan's estimated 8,000 residents now have access to clean water. "This felt so good that I want to do more," says Alves, who will return to Madan next year to begin implementing a latrine system, HIV testing, and other health improvements. "Once you start, it's addictive."
Many Big Give entries were aimed at helping children. It was New York City physician Barry Jaffin's now 13-year-old son, David, who came up with the idea of replacing musical instruments that New Orleans public schools lost in Hurricane Katrina. Mentor and musical legend Tony Bennett introduced the elder Jaffin to arts nonprofits such as the Gibson Foundation (Music Rising), Mr. Holland's Opus, and Bennett's own Exploring the Arts, all of which made additional donations. The total haul so far: $100,000 worth of instruments, some of which made a joyful noise when the KIPP Believe College Prep symphonic and jazz bands performed in New Orleans earlier this year for an audience that included Bennett and the Jaffin family. ( To find out how to donate money or instruments to the Jaffins' project, go to GivetheGiftofMusic.net .)
James Bonds III entered the Big Give Contest to fund his Neighborhood Camera & Graphic Arts Club, which he founded as a creative safe haven for at-risk Memphis teens to learn photography. Filmmaker Zana Briski, founder of Kids with Cameras (a nonprofit that uses photography to build self-esteem in underprivileged children), posted Bonds's wish list on Kids-With-Cameras.org ; the resulting donations of gently used equipment helped Bonds's grant money go further. In July the camera club held its first-ever gallery exhibition. "The kids were so happy," Bonds says. Though the decorated Vietnam War veteran has recently undergone treatments for prostate cancer and other ailments, he continues to run the club. "I just want to keep the kids out of jail and the cemetery, and help them make something of themselves," he says. "I'm not giving up." ( Camera club donations can be sent to James Bonds III c/o Onie Johns, Caritas Village Community Center, 2509 Harvard Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112-2714. Checks can be made out to Caritas Village. )