Monday, December 31, 2007

A Plan for 2008

I've read resolutions, wish lists, and need lists for the coming year. I'd like to put forth a plan for my next year. Thanks to Chris Brogan for the motivation to put together this simple but practical plan.

Create at least two original works for non-profits or specific causes, in the digital media space. After taking a Digital Storytelling class at Portland Community Media, I'm excited about applying my skills to help make the world a better place.

Complete a Field Production class and volunteer on two productions to develop my film-making skills. A side-goal is to enroll in yet another PCM course, just not sure what that will be right now.

Create a podcast series dedicated to technology for a better world. Technology is a broad term and in this case I want it to be since I want to be able to interview people involved in many facets of using technology to make the world better. I don't want to mention people at this point since I haven't talked to them, but some of the topics I'd like to cover include

- using mobile technology to improve the lot of people in developing countries
- the social networking sites and their usefulness for non-profits
- digital storytelling

Help the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon: this may come in the form of volunteering on an event and/or working with digital media to promote the organization.

Promote myself as an expert in using digital media and software technology to make the world a better place.

Well, that's all I've got for now. It's a manageable list and practical, just like it should be. My final, but certainly not the least, thanks go to Kilong Ung, my co-worker, friend and super inspiration for all that I do to help others. This past year Kilong and I cemented our friendship through daily walks during our weekday lunch time. I learned a lot about philanthropy and leadership from Kilong who is himself a born leader. Kilong has just stepped down after several years as President of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon although I believe he will still be very involved in helping the new leadership. Thanks Ki, and Happy New Year to all!

Cambodian Children's Education - thank you Nhuong Son

Beth sent me a link to Nhuong Son's blog and in particular the entry about his support for the Sharing Foundation. After reading this you will see why even a little bit of aid for children in such a poor country means so much. Truly inspiring! Thanks Nhuong and Beth! If you agree, consider giving to the Sharing Foundation using the widget on the right side of my blog.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sharing Foundation

I've added a widget on the right side of my blog (down there, see it?) for accepting donations to the Sharing Foundation which provides a lot of help for children in need in Cambodia. Whichever organization receives the largest number of unique donors will receive $50,000. as part of America's Giving Challenge.

I learned of the challenge and the Sharing Foundation from Beth Kanter's blog. Beth, who is on the Executive Board of the foundation, is a tireless advocate of the use of social media in non-profits and provides educational and consulting services as such. Her interest and dedication to the children of Cambodia is awesome.

Please consider the Sharing Foundation as you decide on your year-end (or January 2008) charitable contributions. If enough people donate, we will have helped the Sharing Foundation get an additional $50K to help Cambodian children.

Podcasting with the H2

Part of this week off I've spent researching where to host an audio podcast and playing with my new Zoom H2 mobile recorder. There are plenty of good hosting sites from what I can see but (Liberated Syndication) seems like a good place and it's hosting some very popular podcasts. I like their pricing: you pay for a maximum disk space usage each month starting at 100MB for $5.00 and incrementing from there. So if it looks like you're going to surpass your limit you can just upgrade another $5.00 and get a lot more space per month. Easy.

The H2 is pretty cool. Although I'm no pro when it comes to these devices, I can see that it is packed with a lot of functionality in a small package and at a good price. I recorded my voice at different settings, downloaded the wav files to my pc using the USB interface cable and listened. I'm impressed with the quality of the recording as well as microphone options: 2/4 channel stereo. I recorded to a 4GB SDHC card (that's the largest the H2 supports, but it's plenty given that it reported I had well over six hours of remaining audio space after just recording for about a minute).

So I now know that I can do either in-studio recording (that would be in my home office) or field recording. The H2 comes with a wind sock and a detachable handle for convenient interviewing. I'll have to do some practice to get the sound right, as well as brush up on journalistic interviewing skills. But the real hill to climb for podcasting is going to be getting an audience. Right now my blog is not widely read (but you, dear reader, I do thank you for your attention!) and the blog and podcast topics are not aligned with my full-time career in software engineering like some other technies I know.

But that's no reason to not do it. As one of my heroes, RFK, said

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."

I would like my participation in Social Media (i.e., blogging, podcasting, social media sharing sites like FaceBook) to be used to make the world a better place, not just to have online friends and a place to go to when I'm alone in a coffee shop with my computer. I don't mean to imply that that's not okay for someone. But I've passed the half-century mark and I feel that I can more effectively use my remaining time. Ughh, that sounds gloomy, but it's not meant to.

I'm going to try to narrow the focus of my blog (maybe I'll create a separate blog for personal news of interest mostly to my family and closest friends) and align the podcast with it. So I've got to get thinking about how to do this. Any advice from readers is very welcome!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Homecoming and a Digital Media Holiday

I'm looking forward to my time off from work after Christmas. The best part will be having my daughter (right) back with us in Portland after a semester in Quebec where she has immersed herself in the French language, both Quebecois and native French. It's a nice feeling to see your children reaching out into worldly spheres where you yourself have not been (in this case, the language immersion) but there's no substitute for a hug and a smile and hours of good conversation with them as you see them growing up in front of your eyes. Ken and Laura have given us so much to be proud of in the last few years and we look forward to celebrating the (immediate) family reunion. Laura will be graduating in June from Portland State University while Ken has just achieved second in the district in personal banking sales at Wells Fargo.

The other part of my holiday vacation will be all about digital media. As I've said in an earlier post, I completed a digital storytelling class this fall and am actively seeking out projects to practice the craft. I'm putting a proposal together to develop a story about the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland. For the past half year, as a volunteer, I have been scanning thousands of the Arboretum's photographic slides for digital storage. It's been an incredibly tedious task but I'm one to two hours from completing the project. The digital story I'd like to tell would ideally be told, in voice-over, by the staff and maybe former staff of the Arboretum.

I'm also hoping to work with some NGOs doing good work in Cambodia, as a way to continue perfecting my craft, as a way to promote their work or cause, and as my continuing education on that developing country's history and progress.

Another part of my digital media holiday will be devoted to research into setting up a podcasting program dedicated to social causes. I'd like to interview people involved in specific issues such as the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), Cambodian development, microfinance and sustainable approaches used in developing countries. I'm hoping that I can develop an audience for such a podcast and possibly tie in an online donation process that will allow listeners to contribute to the various causes promoted by interviewees.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Stopping human trafficking

KI Media, a great blog whose subtitle is "Dedicated to publishing sensitive information about Cambodia," has posted a guest commentary by Laurence Gray, a World Vision Regional Advocacy Director, in which he points out that the Mekong region of southeast Asia "has a reputation as a hotspot for the trafficking of young people, most notoriously into the underage sex scene." The article refers to a report commissioned by World Vision and the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater-Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP) and called "Sex, Sun and Heritage: Tourism threats and opportunities in South East Asia." The report makes recommendations for prevention and awareness-raising campaigns, as well as recommendations for protection of children and prosecution of criminals. One recommendation was for stiff economic fines applied, for example, to bars which hire under-age girls.

Tourist dollars being spent in Cambodia and other south east Asian countries is increasing. One way that we can fight this problem is to contribute toward meaningful employment of adults in these areas. Another is to support the organizations that rehabilitate children who have suffered in human trafficking. My suggestion is that whenever you plan on vacationing in south east Asia, do some web research beforehand on organizations which you can visit and donate some of your vacation funds to their causes. It's the least we can do if we're enjoying the history, culture and natural beauty of these countries.

Of course you don't have to travel to make a donation. Two organizations I've become familiar with recently, and which I plan on supporting, are Transitions Cambodia (see my last posting), and Digital Divide Data, of which I've also recently written.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Transitions Cambodia and the film, Holly

There are over two million children being trafficked for sex around the world. Last night I saw the important film Holly along with many members and friends of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon. It tells the story of a Vietnamese girl of around 12 years old who is sold into slavery by her family. Shes ends up in a hotel/brothel in Phnom Penh. Ron Livingston, the star of Office Space, plays an American who is disgusted when offered Holly for sex by the hotel manager. He befriends the girl and with that learns how the world of sex trafficking is ruining the lives of so many children and teenagers.

This was a well-written and directed film, the reviews of which should help to get more people into the theaters to see it. Our audience was fortunate to have Azi Ezroni, the film's producer, and James Pond, founder and Executive Director of Transitions Cambodia, available after the film to speak and answer questions. Azi told about the threats to their lives in filming this story in Cambodia and how she was detained for several days before being allowed to bring the film with her out of the country. James, who I briefly met at the Cambodia Backstage fundraiser a few months back, created Transitions Cambodia to assist victims of sex trafficking, providing counseling, a safe home, education and adult life skills training. Here is a snippet of their mission statement:

At TCI we believe that the imperative goal is not to remove a girl from one form of abuse, only to place her into a situation that will further her abuse or trauma. While shelters provide some necessary services to a small percentage of trafficking victims, it has a limited application. Research and experience has shown that young women coming from sexually exploitive situations are in need of being involved in making decisions in regard to their own futures. They need to have a broader scope of expression in their living situations, community, and family environments. We work with our clients to help them discover themselves, explore their possibilities, and begin the process of crossing from one place to a better place.

I was fortunate enough to sit next to someone who is doing some marketing work with Transitions Cambodia and I hope that, with the film and digital media education that I'm getting, I can create something of promotional value for the organization.

If you're in the Portland area, I strongly recommend you go to see Holly at the Regal Fox Tower. If you're not in this area, check out the film website for locations.