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Mission Critical – Adapting to Meet the “New Normal”, A Report from Our Greenhouse Initiatives

Our fiscal sponsorships, also known as Greenhouse Initiatives, are scattered across the globe and each has had to face unique challenges brought on first by COVID-19 and then by the increased racial tensions. A few of them have provided us with some insight as to how they have been pivoting their work to help meet new needs and reach new audiences while working to stay on course with their mission.

STEAM the Streets

Update from Co-Founder, Ben Gilbarg

The New Bedford Public Schools system is being tested by the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand this is a trying time for our entire community, but we will pass this. We’re resilient, strong and most importantly we’re still all about TEACHING. LEARNING. CONNECTING. in New Bedford. We have partnered with New Bedford Public Schools and Big Picture Anthems (see more below on BPA) to produce a district-wide campaign entitled #NBTLC 

The campaign aims to show that even during this time of extended school closure, the NBPS community is stepping up to the challenge with creativity and resourcefulness to enhance TLC – Teaching, Learning and Connecting.

The #NBTLC campaign will culminate in a district-wide music video to be released on Wednesday, June 17, the last day of the school year. Check back on our Facebook page for the final masterpiece!

Ben Gilbarg is also the Founder of Big Picture Anthems, a multi-media company that produces video campaigns fueled by music and the passion for social impact. Gilbarg comes from a long line of social activists so it’s no surprise that his work is dedicated to moving impactful, important messages through inspiring media. He’s also a talented hip hop and spoken word artist in his own right. Recently, in response to the recent protests and increased activity in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Ben (aka First Be) created this powerful video as a call to all white allies in the fight for racial justice.

The Leadership Brainery

Update from Co-Founders Jonathan Allen and Derrick Young Jr., MPH

When crises arise, we see how the many issues and inequities worsen that disproportionately affect historically marginalized groups. We learned in early March 2020 that students were being told to vacate campus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This unforeseen circumstance presents hardship for many diverse and first-generation students who do not have the privilege to make immediate accommodations for housing, travel, food, storage, and other critical necessities.

Because The Leadership Brainery’s mission is centered on empowering and equipping diverse and first-generation college student leaders, our Executive Director (Derrick Young Jr.) urged that we immediately launched an Emergency Relief Fund providing $100 mini-grants to help diverse, low-income, first-generation, and LGBTQ+ students attending college in the Greater Boston area.   We are so grateful for the over 100 donors who contributed over $13,000 to help us aid over 100 homeless and hungry students! 

Check out one of their moving thank you notes below:

From the bottom of my heart I want to express my immense gratitude. Not only for your generous donation to me, but also for your commitment to help so many students during this incredibly stressful and puzzling time. While it is easy to succumb to the idea of self-preservation during situations such as these, and hoard all aid to oneself, it is the people who use this time to help those less fortunate, that are good people. God bless and thank you.” — Rose, Class of 2022

What’s Next: As always, our goal is to ensure that diverse and first-generation students have the resources and opportunities to thrive. While a $100 mini-grant may not be much to some, many of our grant recipients need aid for rent, food, Wi-Fi for classes, books, bills, personal products, prescriptions, and other essential things. We have received over 2,000 requests and as such, we are continuing our Covid-relief fundraising efforts.

Racial Inequities: COVID-19 Impact on Black America

As Coronavirus spreads across the United States, Black Americans—who are not to blame—are hit the hardest. Black Americans continue to experience multigenerational systematic obstacles to access essential resources, quality health care, good jobs and safe living environments, which makes them much more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Co-Founder Derrick Young Jr., MPH has created a graphic which outlines the COVID-19 impact on Black Americans, organized into categroies: Health, Economic Stability, and Education. This well-sourced, concise graphic is part of a larger analysis of this topic. To view the graphic and obtain additional information, click here. 


Executive Director Nick Reding and his team are doing all they can to mitigate the impact of the virus in Kenya. Below is an update from Nick received in April 2020. For updated news, click here for the Spring 2020 newsletter from S.A.F.E.

SAFE Pwani were given permission to conduct their scheduled WASH performance tour by the Kwale Assistant County Commissioner. He recognized SAFE Pwani’s power to provide public health information and engage communities on the importance of good sanitation, and how important this is to prevent the spread of the virus. The team updated their WASH performance to include coronavirus information and protection strategies. They were able to additionally focus on the importance of handwashing, social distancing and care of vulnerable groups.

There is a great deal of fear of the virus, therefore, the community welcomed the team and the education that they brought with them. The local radio station even got involved in mobilisation – informing the community that SAFE Pwani were there to deliver life-saving health information.

SAFE Maa and Samburu have had to significantly change their activities due to the virus. Although both areas are fairly isolated from busy urban centres, the close quarters at which the community lives and lack of medical facilities puts the community at extreme risk. But both are well placed to help their community at this time. The team has been permitted by the local government to continue their work due to their trusted position in the community and their experience giving out public health information.

The activity plan for the next few months, although reduced, will provide fact and dispel myth around the corona virus, as well as maintaining the momentum that the team has worked so hard to create around FGC abandonment.  We have had to postpone all performance tours and any activities which involve the older and more vulnerable members of the community. However, the teams are taking advantage of schools closing in order to focus their work on the youth in the community who are less at risk of the virus, and can help educate their elders about hygiene and social distancing.

Due to the generous support of The Brown Source Trust, SAFE Maa have been able to distribute facemasks and soap to some of the most remote and vulnerable people in Loita. Not only has helped people who had been unable to access this protective equipment, but it has meant they can safely attend SAFE Maa’s activities, continuing the conversation about FGC and protecting girls during this extended lockdown.

Additionally, the youth are an increasingly important and powerful group in SAFE’s FGC and land campaigns, especially the educated youth who have a respected voice in the community, so this is a great time to engage them with the aftermath of the declaration, and the upcoming land demarcation. All activities are taking place outside and will not be held with groups larger than fifteen. The teams are providing handwashing facilities at every activity.

We have also written a new Corona song for the teams, which they have now translated into Maa and Samburu. It’s being distributed on social media/whatsapp etc to help spread the education as widely as possible. We have been using our small amount of unrestricted funds to support this so far. But we urgently need to find additional funds to continue. There are multiple requests for us to provide soap and face masks and we are actively looking for support for their purchase, and for the salaries to ensure delivery, and the continued education and song distribution.

The Mastate Charitable Foundation

Update from MCF Vice President, Tim O’Hara

Our community is fortunate.  As an agricultural region, we have food.  As a rural community, we have fresh air.  As a community committed to the environment, we have clean water and dense forest cover.  As a united population, everyone has shelter.  As a contained/isolated community, we have the freedom to be outside and interact with our neighbors, albeit from a distance.  I hope that this situation encourages many to see the value of our rural communities and protected lands.  If will unfortunately come with a lot of anguish, loss and pain.  We will be here as a model and an alternative for those wanting or needing to look and learn.  We send our love and solidarity as we co-imagine a more harmonious future for our children.

The Mindful Collaborative

Update from Founder, Julie Paquette

As far as the work of The Mindful Collaborative, with the closure of schools, our work has shifted pretty dramatically. I like to say that me and my girls (Lindsay and Nikki) have taken on new careers in film as we’ve been teaming up with The New Bedford school district to create videos and projects to keep mindfulness relevant while students are home. It has been a lot of fun putting together thoughtful videos to remind our students about practices they have learned while hopefully engaging/teaching their families as well. (not to mention it has felt so good to somehow still connected to “our babies” while we’re not able to be in the classrooms.)

We haven’t forgotten about the educators either. I ran a Zoom “professional development” for all staff at Taylor School and it sounds likes there will be many more happening soon for other schools in the district.

We have received a lot of positive feedback regarding our efforts with the students and teachers.

It’s been a beautiful thing to see the district really prioritizing this type of “inner learning”  – for adults and students in this time of uncertainty. If the schools do go back into session on the proposed May 4th date, we have been asked to return to the classrooms immediately and for an extended amount of time. It feels like such a thoughtful ask – a balance of easing students back in to academics while side by side prioritizing social and emotional needs.  It makes me hopeful not only for the future of the program but more importantly for a future (and a now) where we are assisting in the development of compassionate self aware human beings.

Taktse International School

“This is how technology keeps Sikkim, Arunachal students up-to-date amid covid crisis”
Article from The Northeast Today, April 18, 2020
By Phuntsog Namgyal Bhutia & Nitesh R Pradhan

It’s 9:30 in the morning and somewhere in the foothills of Mount Everest, in the tiny villages of Bomdila (Arunachal Pradesh), Solukhumbu (Nepal), Paro (Bhutan), and Yuksom(Sikkim), Taktse International School students opened their mobile hotspots, connected their laptops and joined their teachers and classmates for a class over Google Meet. This is how Taktse students have been learning for the past one month.

Given the circumstances, this could quite easily be the scenario for most of the students and schools around the globe, but what makes this different for Taktse is the continuous and conscious effort every member of the organization is making to turn this into an engaging learning process.

Interestingly, it was one of the first moves in getting the Distance Learning Model (DLM) started for its students. The plan has been led by Ann M. Lindsey, Head of School, Academic, who is deeply committed to use of technology in education.

She says “We rolled out the DLM within five days of the initiation of lock-down. We made a segmented plan for Lower, Middle and Upper School based on the comfort of the children with online learning. We tested various tools for communication and collaboration and we started delivering classes from Monday, 23 March itself. Our teachers have done a great job in ensuring that the students did not have any gap in the schedule of learning plans”

The  upper school staff is delivering 98 classes per week through Zoom, Google Classrooms and Google Meet. Students in the lower and middle sections have read 650 books within three weeks, spending hours reading via Scholastic Online Reading and Reading AtoZ programs, and learning math and science via Khan Academy.  Beyond these online tools, students receive weekly lessons and activities from each of their teachers, along with feedback and notes about how they are progressing with their learning.

The teachers, to keep the students engaged, are simultaneously engaging in intense professional development to learning how to deliver high quality education online.

“I am building experience of developing new ideas and growing as a creative thinker,” Ms. Smriti, Kindergarten teacher quotes, as she works with renowned Prof. Mitch Resnic from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I am learning how to identify, address and reflect upon my teaching through writing collaboratively with educators around India,” Ms. Donka, Middle School Math Teacher quotes, as she gets mentored by Dr. Neeraja Raghavan, PHD Princeton University, author of the Reflective Learner and creator of

Taktse parents are also spending a daily average of two to three hours with their students, doing read alouds, helping with assignments, and learning how to use online resources.

The Alumni of Takse have also taken lead in this regard. Kitsho and Sonam Phuntsho from Bhutan have started online creative writing workshops for students (Taktse and non-Taktse) and parents called ISBN975(find them on Instagram and Facebook). And several other alumni, both in the USA and Bhutan, have started tutoring math and science to current students, and Simrin is working on an educational incentive project for education in Sikkim.

The administrators of the school have deployed a survey to ask parents, students, and teachers about how the Distance Learning Model could be adapted to their needs and context.

The school has learned that there are real challenges to implementing the DLM: Teachers, many of whom are taking care of their own parents and grandparents during the shutdown, have a tremendous amount of work to do to keep students up-to-date. Parents, many of whom are serving vital roles in government or taking care of family members, are also stretching themselves to keep students healthy and happy. Students are missing their friends and “the Taktse style of learning” that comes from working on problem solving collaboratively and, of course, the wide open space of the campus. Internet connections are an issue for many.

But the school presses on, knowing that if they continue to listen and learn, the students will gain important skills and knowledge even in this global crisis. The Taktse teachers are the heroes of this DLM, trying to  touch base with every student, identifying those who need more support, and generating strategies to support them.

‘I am able to assess my ward’s aptitude and take part in her studies’ as quoted by one of the parents.

‘It makes us much more Independent’ as quoted by a student.

‘It is flexible. Students are being able to pursue their course and complete their coursework despite the barrier caused by this challenging time.’ as quoted  by a teacher.

“There will be many changes in the lives of our students. But if we can make them life-long learners, if they can keep connected to friends and family (especially your wonderful grandparents) and of course, if they keep reading,they will come out of these hard times stronger. We are committed to helping our students through the hard times. This is what it means to be part of the Taktse Family. In fact this is what all of us can teach our children during this challenging time.” says, Mr. Phuntsog Namgyal Bhutia, Admin and Student Life Officer.

It’s 8pm at night and somewhere in the foothills of Mount Everest, in tiny villages of Bomdila (Arunachal Pradesh), Solukhumbu (Nepal), Paro (Bhutan), and Yuksom(Sikkim), Taktse International School students close their manga, their novellas, their sketchbooks and the visual science encyclopedias they have been pursuing for pleasure, go and wish their families good night, get the nightly blessing from their grandparents and start heading to bed for a well deserved rest.

Taktse Distance Learning Model Recommendations:

  1. Scholastic Reading Program
  2. Khan Academy
  3. Facebook Pages: Edutopia, Free Technology for teachers
  4. Learning platforms:Audible, RAZ Kids, BrainPop, Twinkl, Mathletics, Entrepreneurship, Family Learning Activities (free trials offered  during COVID)
  5. Mindfulness and Meditation:
  6. MIT course for teachers:
  7. Online Creative Writing Workshops: Sign up on through Instagram by searching for ISBN975 (With inputs from Takse DLM Team)
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