HONY: How giving can truly change lives

Benojo humans of New York

If you don’t already follow the Humans of New York (HONY) blog or Facebook page (which has over 12m Likes), here’s why you should...

In the beginning

Back in 2010, Brendan Stanton, after being fired from his finance job, decided to start HONY, his plan was catalogue NYC’s many inhabitants by photographing 10,000 of them. Somewhere in its early stages he began to ask each subject a quote or story about their lives. It was an appealing combination which saw HONY fast become a well-known and much-loved site.

One seriously happy snap

Fast forward to January 2015 and Brendan takes a photo of a 13-year-old student by the name of Vidal Chastanet near his home in a housing project in Brooklyn. He asks him: “Who's influenced you the most in your life?"

Vidal responses, his principal, Ms. Lopez, explaining: "When we get in trouble, she doesn't suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter."

HONY vidal

Magic happens

Three days later Brendan visited (and took a photo) of Ms Lopez, the principal of Vidal’s school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville. They brainstormed how they could collaborate together for the greater good  of the kids and eventually settled on the idea of showing the children somewhere new. And that new place was Harvard. A fundraiser was then established to provide each incoming sixth grade class a chance to see where they could eventually be studying.

“I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez.

Ms Lopez HONY

What ensued was amazing. While the campaign had an initial goal of US$100,000, it has – to date ­– raised around US$1.2m and generated feel-good press the world over (Watch Brendan, Vidal and Ms Lopez on Ellen)

A scholarship fund has been created from the donations for all future Mott Hall Bridges Academy graduates. The first recipient is Vidal – fitting, as the scholarship has been named after him.

The take-outs

It’s a wonderful lesson in the importance of inspirational leaders, the power of social media in reaching people, and how the giving of many can combine to create truly positive change.

Talk to Benojo about how your corporate giving program can create change.