Friday, January 18, 2008

Amazing organiztion-- please support it!

This organization is amazing, I highly recommend that you support it financially, as I have done :)

Miami-based Executive Turns to Social Entrepreneurship to Help
Educate Children in Latin America’s Poorest and Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

Developing Minds Foundation operates like venture capital firm to address poverty,
Launches five educational programs within first year.

MIAMI, FL – January 17, 2008 – When Philippe Houdard first walked into Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro’s largest shantytown slum, he immediately encountered his first obstacle – a 15-year old soldado in flip flops, shorts, no shirt and armed with an Uzi submachine gun. After a few moments, the teenage lookout for one of the violent gangs in Rio’s drug wars gave Houdard a thumbs-up to go ahead and meet with a teacher living in Rocinha.

Negotiating the favela’s danger zone is a long way from handling boardroom zingers during a PowerPoint presentation, but it’s a decision Houdard opted for last year when he stepped away from a successful career in corporate America to take a one-year sabbatical to pursue his long-time dream of helping children escape poverty through education.

In early 2007, Houdard’s dream became a reality when he announced the launch of Developing Minds Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that builds schools and sponsors educational programs in impoverished, deeply troubled and frequently violent areas of the world. To date, Houdard has raised $75,000, and is aiming to raise another $50,000 within the next six months, all of which will go directly to educational projects in Brazil and Colombia. With five projects already underway and several more expected to launch in 2008, Houdard’s been raising funds at a feverish pace by tapping into South Florida’s vast population with links to Latin America, as well as a global network of successful people and companies he has built up over the years.

Houdard is among an emerging class of social entrepreneurs applying best practices from the private sector to address the complex social problems linked to poverty. According to the Skoll Foundation, a leading organization dedicated to advancing the work of social entrepreneurs around the world, profit is measured not in dollars and cents but in lives transformed and dignity restored.

Bolstered by his mission of transforming lives through education, Houdard operates Developing Minds Foundation more like a Venture Capital firm than a charity. “However, in this case, the venture is not for maximum financial return, it’s for the highest return in human potential,” said Houdard, president of Developing Minds Foundation. “Sitting on the sidelines and just hoping things will get better by themselves is pointless. We have to engage and find solutions to help bridge the enormous gap that exists between those of us fortunate enough to have been born into a land of opportunity, and the people living on two or three dollars a day.”

Developing Minds Foundation seeks out the best education projects being operated by locals working in the trenches of Latin America’s poorest communities. After extensive due diligence and deciding which organizations to support, Houdard collaborates with the local team for strategy and measurements in building schools or running projects. When he returns to Miami, Houdard packages the projects and seeks funding in the United States.

After graduating from Harvard with a Masters degree, he spent nearly 10 years based in Miami climbing the corporate ladder in the ultra-competitive technology sector, working for companies such as Lucent Technologies and Concerto Software. Since leaving his job in early 2006, he has spent much of his time inside some of the world’s most notorious neighborhoods, planning out projects that would directly help children in need, from a computer school in Rio’s City of God to a project in Medellin’s comunas to keep Colombia’s war refugees in the education system.

“At first I thought I would take my sabbatical and start just a single school,” said Houdard, who was born in France to a French father and American mother. “Once I met all of these amazing kids in Brazil and Colombia, living in extremely difficult circumstances, I immediately knew I had to do much more. With the help of some friends, I know we can impact a lot of children who need it the most, and for relatively little money.”

With funds already raised, Developing Minds Foundation immediately put five projects in motion in Brazil and Colombia. Houdard’s meeting with the teacher in the Rocinha favela in Rio proved fruitful, and earlier this year the school launched a technology class that is educating nearly 100 children on computer and Internet usage.

“This school is so important for helping our kids in the favela stay out of the drug gangs," says Márcia Ferreira do Costa, a long-time resident of Rocinha and head of the school project. "This opens up their world and actually gives them a chance in life.”

The Foundation also initiated its sponsorship of the Academia de Amigos da Dona Marta, a sports program located in the Dona Marta favela of Rio de Janeiro. The program uses martial arts – primarily judo and jui-jitsui – as a way to help 250 children in this community develop self-confidence, discipline and a focus on success.

In Rio’s notoriously violent City of God favela, the Foundation launched a technology school teaching 300 children basic computer skills: Internet, word, power point, excel and other basic applications.

In Colombia, Developing Minds Foundation has already sponsored a school in Bogotá’s La Cazucá neighborhood, which educates 75 child refugees with vocational skills, and it has also adopted a rural county in a conflict zone near Medellin by sponsoring a literacy program to teach 500 families how to read.

“My own life circumstances were transformed as a result of a great education, and people out there deserve the same,” Houdard said.

About Developing Minds Foundation
Developing Minds Foundation is a Miami, FL-based 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit that builds schools and sponsors educational programs in impoverished, deeply troubled and frequently violent areas of the world. The Foundation’s model is to partner with successful and proven organizations in the local communities to initiate education programs intended to break the cycle of poverty, hopelessness and violence. Developing Minds includes sponsors such as Continental Airlines, Amicon Development Group and other companies. Visit, or call (305) 205-0595 for further information.

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