Amanda James Daily

Bringing Student Activism in Style

Women Breaching Cultural Boundaries

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Mariam and other Afghan, Rwandan women

Afghan & Rwandan Women at the Peace Through Business Conference

In the midst of a war zone, and with no internet access, or even full rights to leave their homes, these Afghan women are working hard to start their own businesses.  And they are succeeding.  This story made me think twice about ever being lazy, or not using all of the resources I have.  It’s also a more useful approach to spreading democracy in Afghanistan than sending more troops…

As it appeared in October 11th’s Boston Herald:

When Nancy Freeman of New Bedford agreed to mentor Mariam Yousufi of Afghanistan about business in America, she didn’t expect that they’d have a lot in common.

Nancy, who grew up in America, attended college and returned to New Bedford, where she opened up a consignment shop/co-op called Penelope’s Loom—“a place for women who don’t have jobs, or who have to stay at home, to sell their handmade art, jewelry, and knitted items,” said Freeman.

Mariam, 31, grew up in a warzone in Kabul and was exiled when the Taliban invaded.  She walked for days with her 9-year old daughter and took refuge in Pakistan.  After five years, she returned to Kabul and started a school that trained 320 Afghan women to weave, sew, and tailor.  She then opened “Mariama Education and Cultural Association,” which sells these women’s handmade items.

Although their backgrounds differ, “we both run small retail businesses in an effort to help other women,” said Freeman. “The difference is: Mariam sometimes has to go to women’s houses to pick up their handmade goods because they’re not always allowed to leave the house.”

Follow the jump to find out how these two ended up together.

Read the rest of this entry »


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October 12, 2009 at 5:08 pm

A Children’s Book Grows Up to Change the World

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As it appeared in the Boston Herald on July 27, 2009:

“Small Loans, Big Difference”

By: Amanda James

A summer program at the Tobin School in Roxbury is revolutionizing the idea of the lemonade stand as a summer business by teaching fourth- and fifth-graders about microfinancing and how to be “socially responsible” entrepreneurs.

 Last week’s program was part of a five-week summer camp taking place in Boston and five other U.S. cities and co-sponsored by One Hen Inc. and BELL, or Building Educated Leaders for Life. The Hub participants include the Tobin School and two other sites in Roslindale and Dorchester.

BELL, a provider of after-school and summer educational programs, began in Boston 17 years ago to offer opportunities to children in poor communities, said Brenda Brathwaite, BELL’s Boston regional director.

One Hen is a nonprofit organization that took its name and developed its vision from the 2008 children’s book “One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference” by author Katie Smith Milway and illustrator Eugenie Fernandes. Based on a true story, the book is about a farmer in Ghana who received a small loan to buy one hen, which enabled him to sell the eggs and buy more hens to produce enough profit to pay for college and then lend money to others in his West African community.

The story evolved into a teaching curriculum this year when the One Hen group partnered with BELL. With rigorous tutoring and positive mentoring, the camp shows children how they can use a small loan to make a big difference.

“Students can learn from stories of entrepreneurs who started with much less than they have that it is possible to build successful lives for themselves,” said Amma Sefa-Dedeh, executive director of One Hen.

In the school program, “scholars” are divided into teams of five and each team signs a loan agreement to receive $10. Then team members sign an employment contract promising to work hard and do their best in the roles they are given.

The loan, with 10 percent interest, is used to make and sell a product, beaded key chains. Every Friday, guest speakers from local companies visit the school to help the students understand how business works.

“They are excited about going to the `marketplace’ to sell their key chains, because they don’t want to be in debt to me anymore,” said teacher Brence Pernell.

One student named Michael, whose company is called “Diamonds and Pearls,” said his team plans on giving its profit to charity.

“(The story) sends a message that needs to be shared, that success in business and in life should always be modeled to giving back to the communities in which we live,” said Sefah-Dedeh.


One Hen, Inc. is still up to big things, like working with Michelle Obama to support her “Let’s Read. Let’s Move” initiative to get kids to stay active and learning during the summer months. The women who made it all happen never cease to inspire me. Check out the website: to see how One Hen’s unique enrichment programs continues to use true stories of micro-entrepreneurs in Africa to inspire students in under-resourced communities across America, Canada, the U.K., and Ghana to become globally minded citizens who want to give back to their communities.

Written by amandajamesdaily

July 30, 2010 at 5:08 am

Putting Down the Books

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Ways to combat the economic recession:

1. Go to a matinee movie.

2. Use free Wi-Fi at local cafes.

3. Check out books from the library.

The Boston Public Library recently disclosed its draft budget plan for 2011 at a meeting open to the public and it uncovered a harsh reality for the future of its 18 branches.

Click to listen to The Full Story, which I recorded for my Broadcast News class.

Some 250 library supporters, organized by the Massachusetts Library Association, rallied outside the State House in Boston in November to protest major budget cuts to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

The next Public Meeting is scheduled for March 9 at the Copley Square Branch.

Written by amandajamesdaily

March 7, 2010 at 7:57 am

What is this Haiti I am helping?

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Reading the reports about the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti—the natural disaster that killed more than 200,000 people in 45 seconds—can be shocking, compelling, and heartbreaking.  It has certainly inspired an outpouring of generous support from businesses who are now donating money, volunteers who are donating time, and even bands that are donating proceeds from their shows to help Haiti.

But Haiti’s history extends much farther than the news that hit recent headlines.

On behalf of Boston University’s Haitian Cultural Association, and with the support of BU’s Howard Thurman Center and several co-sponsoring offices, a team of BU students have united to host an event that’s an introduction to and celebration of Haitian culture. This Sunday from 1PM- 6PM Kampe Ave’m: Boston Stands With Haiti, as the event is titled, will fill BU’s George Sherman Union with Haitian artifacts, Haitian food, Haitian music, even the chance to learn Creole while it  illuminates the importance of first understanding Haiti, in order to really help the country rebuild.

Photo Cred: Matt Richter, COM ’11

Figuring out the floor plan. The event, with an expected attendance of 5,000 people started out as a 10-student production.

With an interactive museum exhibit to walk through Haiti’s history, a panel of speakers to explain what the earthquake means for Haiti’s future, and performances from over 20 student groups, including a Haitian orchestra, the event has attracted the talent and energy of student groups, musicians, and professors, who have likely never collaborated before to benefit guests who have likely never seen what Haiti was really like before.

Along with raising money for Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization who’s been working in Haiti for the past 20 years, the event aims to raise awareness for a more long-term commitment to helping Haiti, said Santiago Gomez, one of the student organizers.

A fashion show called Haute for Haiti will debut pieces inspired by Haitian culture from student designer Kat Schamens, who has created a line of clothing inspired by Haiti’s vibrant Karnaval festival.  Two BU student designers, Emily Gasda and Cassie Loscin are also donating pieces, along with Betsey Johnson. Toms shoes, a company committed to giving to charity by donating a pair of shoes to a child who needs them for every pair of shoes they sell, is donating shoes for the models.

Photo Cred: Matt Richter, COM ’11

After seeing what Haiti was like before and after the earthquake, guests, including Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick and Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino, can decide how they would like to help: There will be a silent auction with donations from David Yurman, the Red Sox, and even paintings by students in BU’s College of Fine Arts.  There will also be a place to buy a square of a quilt to decorate that will become a part of the large quilt: BU <3’s Haiti that will be sent to Haiti along with the money raised for Partners in Health.

All money raised will be matched up to $25,000 by an anonymous donor and all performances, speakers, and displays of Haitian culture will be documented by film majors in BU’s College of Communication who are collaborating to publish a documentary of the event, which will actually make it unforgettable.

Written by amandajamesdaily

February 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm

The Empowerment Project Enlightens Me

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For now, a picture to illustrate my holiday internship:

An Oscar and a Farmer Statue of almost equal height on Barbara’s Coffee Table

The Empowerment Project produces and distributes its own documentary films and videos, and provides facilities, training and other support for independent producers, artists, activists and organizations working in video and other electronic media. Its purpose is to work towards democratizing access to the media, and to provide the resources necessary to put the power of media in the hands of individuals and organizations working to further important social, political and artistic purposes.

Read more about the Empowerment Project.

Listen to Maggie’s Farm – Bob Dylan mp3

How I spent my Christmas Break (Part III: Finding the Farm)

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That’s when I decided to expand my search of good ways to spend my time, and I remembered my friend once told me how she lived with a French family outside of Paris by responding to a listing on  HelpX.Net (It’s a good website for people who want to travel around for little money and have the opportunity to live with locals and get to really know a place, rather than just be a tourist. )

I was shocked to stumble across a journalism/ organic farm listing that advertised the opportunity to work with an Oscar-winning filmmaker on a farm in Carrboro, NC.  There’s no way I could’ve found this match if I’d been looking.

The next day, and the next day, I called the farm and volunteered to help out.  It took about 5 phone calls to convince them that I had no expectations, lots of free time, and I didn’t mind if they were about to leave the country, so I might be doing non-journalism work to help them get ready.

(More to come. Class for now…)

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January 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm

How I Spent My Christmas Break (Part II: North Carolina)

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Welcome to North Carolina

Blisters from bass guitar made the plane ride unbearable but by the time I landed in North Carolina, I’d forgotten what it was like to have a finger not throbbing.  Plus, I had a whole new audience to share the news with, so I was excited that I had something to show for my hard work.

After the holiday festivities ended, including Moravian Love Feasts, a Happy Birthday Jesus Party, and several non-Jesus parties with friends from highschool, I needed a new way to spend my time besides relaxing on different couches in my house and spending too much money running unnecessary errands.

That’s when I starting researching late one night. I wanted to find something fun and difficult to do that would make me feel exhausted by the end of the day, so I’d know I’d done all I could do in a day.  Plus, I’d been sitting in front of a computer for what felt like the past year, since I spent the summer interning and writing, instead of working outside, so organic farming seemed perfect.  I had saved up all the means to travel to Costa Rica to do it, but skepticism from e-mail responses with farm owners there had plunged the energy out of my pursuit…

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January 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm

How I Spent My Christmas Break (Part I: The Blizzard, The Band)

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After missing the last plane to leave the ground before 15 inches of snow covered it, I was trapped in Boston for an extra two days.  A beautiful and blisteringly cold white blanket some might call a “blizzard,” kept me hostage from my family, but I felt lucky to have the unplanned free time to spend with my friends.

Without heat or plans, the four inhabitants (some real residents, some visitors, including myself) of a loft in Lower Allston decided to make music.  Although there was a steep gradient of experience levels that typically divides the four into– the two who are talented musicians who go to music school at Berklee and the two who are always impressed when they attend their shows– the snow was a great equalizer.

This time, everyone grabbed an instrument.  (I chose bass guitar.) Together, we made up a response to the weather’s attempt to make us stop living our lives, just because 15 inches of snow had interrupted our travel plans.  The sound that sparked from the spontaneous show echoes the harsh riffs of Monotonix with the heavy bass lines of Deerhoof and eery atmosphere of Grizzly Bear.  So, upon realizing we could actually be good together we were stunned.

No Problem.

We decided to call our response to the weather and our reaction to the holiday season’s expectations to be “merry,” a band.  This is Beardeer.

Written by amandajamesdaily

January 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm