Well, it must be Tuesday because we just collected another donation from a generous 4th grade class today! This is the fourth consecutive Tuesday that has us sharing the results of kindness pouring into our project. Boxes are really starting to fill up for the Fall shipment and kids are excited to begin the inventory and packing. We’ll keep you posted on our progress in getting supplies ready for shipment. Sparking on…
Project Little Spark enjoyed working with Mr. Coleman’s class at the Bell School for the Deaf to prepare our next shipment of donated supplies.
Mr. Coleman and his kids learned about St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as well as their global peers from The School for Children with Special Needs (SCSN) in SVG. They were excited to send their peers well wishes. When asked to predict how the children might feel when they opened their package and knew someone in Chicago was thinking about them, one of the boys signed, “happy smile happy good”. We decided that sums up the feeling pretty well! We then had fun making art work to include in the Fall shipment.
Thanks to all who donated supplies over the last few months. We collected supplies valued at ~$300 to send to SCSN in this shipment. Your ongoing generosity and support are very much appreciated.
To quote one of our kids : “thanks for the giving”, and, as always, keep sparking on!
Building a Giving Generation
An SLP shows students with special needs how easy it is to help others who live far away but face similar challenges.
Helping others benefits everyone—helper and recipient. And that includes children with disabilities, who themselves receive extra support, says speech-language pathologist Jeanine Jesberg. That’s the thinking behind Project Little Spark (PLS), which she launched last year. PLS matches special education students in Chicago with their peers in the Caribbean.
A frequently quoted line from “The Divine Comedy,” Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, inspired the name of Jesberg’s fledgling nonprofit and serves as its mission statement. The most common translation: “From a little spark may burst a mighty flame.” This founding philosophy is proven each time Jesberg visits another group of students and sees their eagerness to help collect and ship school supplies to other kids who face similar challenges.
“All of us really want to show kindness,” Jesberg says, “and most people just need an opportunity to know how.”
The SLP, grant writer, research administrator and nonprofit consultant worked for years to help other groups figure out the “how.” After running a private practice that employed about 15 other SLPs, Jesberg landed a research position at the University of Chicago’s Early Childhood Intervention Center. She used her business background to make her program financially profitable, while completing training in research administration and nonprofit management. Jesberg soon became the center’s director—the first SLP to hold the position—and eventually rose to executive director for the university’s Institute for Mind and Biology.
Igniting the spark
The job was going well, “but I felt myself searching for what I really wanted to do,” Jesberg says. “What can I contribute to the world?” After some research to find out what might be missing in the realm of supporting children with communication or other disorders, she decided to launch Project Little Spark. Jesberg left her full-time position, but she continues to consult for other organizations as well as perform research administration work for Northwestern University.
Because of her consulting and administration work, she doesn’t need to draw a salary from PLS. Instead, she devotes all grant money, fundraising efforts and individual donor support to pay for packing and shipping. The Chicago-based students and their teachers solicit and collect the new school supplies to fill those shipments.
When Jesberg talks to students in Chicago and explains about the project and who receives the donations, she’s continually stunned by the strong reactions. Many of these children don’t realize there are kids in other parts of the world with the same disabilities, she explains. “It really gives them an idea of the world being bigger than them and their families.”
Once, after giving a presentation and showing photos of children in the Caribbean, a student ran up to Jesberg excitedly making the sign for “same” over and over again. He’d noticed a child in a photo wearing the same hearing aids he wears and couldn’t wait to send her something.
In addition to soliciting donations, the students add drawings, letters, photos, videos and other personal items. Jesberg is especially touched when a student gives something of their own—usually something of significance—like a favorite superhero pencil case or a new box of sharp crayons.
Fanning the flame
Collections of new school supplies flow fairly easily. One anonymous donor regularly gives new books, including textbooks, classic tales and even a series about Caribbean children. Other donors drop off leftover items they can’t use but that recipient schools desperately need, like boxes of unused chalk. Students gather the supplies, count and sort all items, add personal messages and prepare boxes for shipping.
Jesberg lived in the Caribbean for a year and understands how things work “on island time.” This experience guides her as she organizes logistics for PLS. For example, international shipping remains one of the organization’s biggest expenses and most complex processes. However, thanks to her familiarity with island logistics, Jesberg knows how to make sure packages get to partner schools intact and without delay.
Some effects of organizing these student-to-student giving projects surprised Jesberg. She predicted local students would expand their communication skills as their worlds expanded. What she didn’t expect—or request—was for recipient schools to form ongoing relationships with their U.S. peers by sending back letters, drawings and photos.
In addition, teachers from the Chicago schools report improved behavior from the students involved with the project. When they tell Jesberg stories about random acts of playground helpfulness and frequent voluntary sharing, she is determined to continue fanning the flames of kindness ignited by Project Little Spark.
Finding Resources for Your Nonprofit
Jeanine Jesberg launched her own nonprofit, Project Little Spark, and she consults with other organizations to help them find funding, successfully apply for grants, and manage their organizations. She recently started a new initiative called The SHED Project, a Speech and Hearing Early Detection (SHED) clinic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Below she shares her favorite resources to help get and keep an organization funded.
The Pollination Project Foundation exists solely to help people start their own nonprofits by making seed grants of $1,000 each. Jesberg used one to found Project Little Spark.
The Foundation Directory shares searchable details on more than 100,000 U.S. foundations, including their funding interest areas, to help organizations find a funding match.
Non-profit Guides provides grant-writing tools for nonprofit organizations including a sample grant proposal, inquiry letter, proposed budget, applications and links to grant-writing resources.
GrantProposals.com gives information on the elements of a proposal, general guidelines and steps to take before writing your proposal. The website also lists funding resources.
The Foundation Center developed a free online course on finding the right donor partners and submitting a successful funding proposal.
The Minnesota Council on Foundations offers a detailed outline on how to write a successful grant proposal.
Preparations are in the works for The SHED Project, a Speech and Hearing Early Detection (SHED) clinic, and we’re excited to share that we recently received our first shipment from SHOEBOX audiometry. SHOEBOX generously offered a significant discount for our project; consequently, we are now able to provide two audiometers for the first clinic set up in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). More updates to follow…
The SHED Project:
1. Provides speech & hearing screening as well as hearing aid wellness clinics in Kingstown and Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG)
2. Provides caregiver and teacher training at the School for Children with Special Needs in Kingstown, SVG and the Sunshine School in Bequia, SVG (two partner schools with Project Little Spark)
3. Trains local persons to serve as audio-techs to ensure project sustainability without needing to rely on experts from abroad
The SHED Project is supported in part by funding from The Ella Lyman Cabot Trust.
Project Little Spark enjoyed a fun day with special needs students from St. Croix, USVI (United States Virgin Islands). We’ve collected supplies valued ~$100 in the USVI and learned about our Caribbean neighbors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
The children made cards for inclusion in our New Year’s shipment to The School for Children with Special Needs in SVG. Thanks to our donors for the funds to cover shipping costs and best wishes for 2016!
Our recent move to St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands (USVI) rendered us “radio silent” for the last few weeks but all communications are now back online! We’re touching base with a few behind-the-scenes updates…
- We recently submitted a progress report about our project’s work to date to The Pollination Project and are happy to report it was approved! We are grateful that we received the second installment payment to support the growth of Project Little Spark as a non-profit organization.
- Project Little Spark received a check for $84.07 from our supporters who changed their shopping for good at iGive. THANK YOU!! Please consider supporting Project Little Spark when you shop online after downloading the iGive button. Every dollar helps offset the cost of shipping supplies to partner schools After you download the button, be sure to also bookmark http://www.igive.com/amazon in your browser to make shopping at Amazon.com easy.
What is iGive? It’s a free service to causes and members. Since 1997, iGive has grown to 350,000+ members supporting 50,000+ causes and raised almost $8Million!
iGive really is as simple as it sounds.
iGive members can generate donations by shopping at any of our 1,500+ Stores.
There are no costs, obligations, nor any hidden fees.
You don’t need to enter any codes, notify the store, or iGive. It’s all automatic!
Shopping via iGive is essentially a store rebate program where iGive members have the opportunity to donate their rebate to their chosen cause. When iGive members shop via our special links, an “iGive Cookie” is assigned to your browser. This tells the store, “Here is an iGive Member” using a meaningless member ID number. The store reports back with this number and the amounts for the donation to your cause. iGive never have access to any payment information.
Once you have downloaded the iGive Button:
You should see the tiny iGive Button that looks like a seed in your browser.
Next, visit any iGive store, such as QVC:
You will see the “iGive On” Button the lower right corner.
This means you are good to go! Shop as you normally would.
Some stores require a confirming action that you want to donate. If you see a large red iGive drop down telling you that you need to confirm your donation, please click it to continue. When you successfully link to a store via iGive.com, your visit will be immediately posted at http://www.iGive.com/html/storevisits.cfm and visible in the “You Recently Visited” header box on the iGive.com site (you may have to refresh the page).
Click on the “iGive On” Button for available live feed of coupons and to review any exceptions.
Can I use iGive to support Project Little Spark on Amazon? YES
Use the Amazon link in your iGive Button drop-down:
Bookmark this link: www.iGive.com/Amazon
- Supplies are being collected in Chicago for our next shipment to our partner school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are also happy to report we’ve established a new relationship with a school in the USVI and they have already provided school supplies to include in the next shipment. Sparking on across the sea!
Mr. Coleman and a few of the first (soon to be second) graders
Mr. Coleman and his kids collected supplies that we’ve included in our Summer shipment to The School for Children with Special Needs (SCSN) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Thanks to @PollinationProject for funds to cover shipping costs!
Thanks also to all of our supporters for contributing to a successful academic year. We’ve collected ~$1,000 of in-kind supplies donations and sent three shipments to SCSN this year. Your ongoing generosity and support is humbling and very much appreciated. Stay tuned for an announcement about another upcoming project…
Enjoy summer and keep sparking!