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Elias Roman Headshot

How To Become An Armchair Activist

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When I was a high school sophomore, with a road test and the SATs
looming over me, making a positive difference in the life of someone
else seemed like a totally impossible task. A friend challenged my
inaction, claiming my attitude was all that stood in my way.

The friend, Craig Keilburger, suggested I start small. So I registered
a chapter of Free the Children, the non-profit that Craig founded when
he was 12, at my high school. I was an aspiring guitarist so I threw,
and performed in, a talent show as a fundraiser to help build a small
school in Calcutta, India.

That felt good, but nothing would compare with seeing that school in
rural Calcutta take shape a few months later, during a service trip to
India with Free the Children. What started as a well-intentioned plan
to have a captive audience for my 'Roadhouse Blues' cover had become a
school that gave impoverished children the chance to learn. Hundreds
of people from the community came out to help us lay the foundation of
the school, very appreciative and genuinely shocked that anyone cared
enough to help their children.

I felt as proud and accomplished on that day as I ever have before or
since, and I decided on the flight home that I would never again take
the easy way out with "I couldn't possibly make a difference, I might
as well not try."

Things change. I work long days now, and I don't have an ounce of
spare time to throw talent shows or build a school in India- I'm sure
you don't either. But we can absolutely still make a difference; if
you are reading this now, you've already got all the tools you need.
To that end, I'm a huge fan of leveraging the web to use the precious
few free seconds we do have to make the world a little bit better. The
last thing I do before I leave work every day is visit
TheHungerSite.com (and its 5 sister sites) and PovertyFighters.com.
Those two sites allow you to make a small difference every day just by
viewing a few ads from their corporate sponsors. When I get home, I go
back to both sites and click again. Since its founding in 1999,
TheHungerSite.com and its sister sites have contributed over 500,000,000 cups of food for the hungry, 1,600,000 books for children
from low income families and basic health care for 2,161,000 poor
children- not bad for a few clicks a day!

But I wanted to do more. So recently, the company I founded with some
buddies from college had the chance to partner with Peter Buffett and
Akon with one goal in mind: make it easy for us to do more. If you've
got a spare minute after clicking around TheHungerSite.com and
PovertyFighters.com, join AmieStreet.com and download Peter and Akon's
new mp3 , "Anything," for free. For each download, AmieStreet.com
donates $2 to a deserving charity.

So that's how I became an armchair activist and those sites are my
tools of choice. To get one more perspective for this post, I asked
Peter Buffett to share his experiences with giving back- what inspired
him to make a difference and what he's doing about it.

"For me, inspiration hit when I returned home from my first trip to
Africa, by way of two countries - Liberia and Sierra Leone. These are
people that suffer from - or took part in - years of war and
displacement. And when I saw them, they just wanted to improve their
lives, give their children something better than they had - they got
up each day and started living. When I got home, I realized that to
many, the images I captured would look like nothing more than another
collection of pictures from some anonymous African country. A story
that's repeated too often in too many places in the world. I had to
write a song to express my frustration. And then I realized that I had
all the footage to help express the song even further. Akon knew when
he heard the song that it was an authentic call. He had many of the
same realizations having grown up for much of his life in Senegal and
then relocating to the U.S. And he understood that music can be a very
effective way to communicate and inspire. The song represented a way
to inspire action in whatever form the listener wanted to take.
IsThereSomethingICanDo.com was born from the collaboration musically
and by our own very personal experiences."

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