It’s that time of year again when every company under the sun (yes, even OWC) is seemingly encouraging you to spend, spend, spend! First, it was Black Friday. Then, with the advent and popularity of online shopping came Cyber Monday. Ironically, even companies not based in the United States are on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bandwagons (which is funny because both dates are tied to the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving). In the wake of these two days, I love that a new tradition has arisen—Giving Tuesday.
As the name suggests, Giving Tuesday is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving where you are encouraged to give. And today, we encourage you to give, give, give! Ideally, this would be a mindset you would adopt throughout the entire year. And one person who has spent nearly twenty years reminding people of that mindset is Andy Stein.
Making “magic” and a difference
Andy Stein, founder and executive chairman of the Orphaned Starfish Foundation (OSF), likes to refer to himself as a recovering banker. After twenty-five years in the field of finance and big business as an investment banker and development financier, Andy decided there had to be something more to life. He always had a passion for working with kids. Throughout his entire life, he would participate in Walkathons, Bikeathons, and help with Special Olympics. So just over two decades ago, when various country managers were clamoring for him to come to work his “magic” as a financier in their respective countries, Andy made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“I told them to find me an orphanage and put two hours on my schedule so that I could go play with the kids.” They did, and Andy found himself performing literal magic—as in magic tricks for orphaned kids in countries like Chile where one orphanage affectionately named him “Tio Mago” (Uncle Magician).
There is perhaps no better fulfillment in life than that of making a difference in the lives of children. Having had the opportunity myself to participate in such programs, I know the overwhelming feeling that accompanies work that helps rescue children from slave labor, sex trafficking, or gives them educational opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Andy recently had the opportunity to share his experiences at the annual FCPX Creative Summit (held virtually this year due to COVID-19). His presentation focused on the power of technology to provide avenues of freedom and empowerment to orphaned children all over the world.
It was on one of his trips to that aforementioned orphanage in Chile where OSF was born. One of the nuns in the orphanage told Andy something he never previously knew. “She told me, ‘Tio Mago, I don’t know if you know this, but when the girls here reach the age of 18, if they are not adopted, they are forced to leave the orphanage. When they do, 100% of them end up on the streets or as prostitutes.’ That broke my heart.”
Six months later, Andy raised $40,000, returned, and set up a technology center where the children were able to learn Microsoft Office programs, typing, how to use the internet, and other computer-related and job skills. Acquiring these skills gave these children the ability to go to college and eventually get jobs in industries like banking, technology, the arts, and hospitality. In the twenty years since setting up the center, only one girl has fallen into prostitution.
The power of technology to make a difference
Andy realized the power of technology to make a difference in these childrens’ lives and set up OSF to establish technology centers in orphanages around the world. Today OSF serves over 15,000 kids in countries like America Samoa, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and twenty others.
Technology centers need technology; and in OSF’s twenty-year history, OWC became its first hardware partner, not only providing refurbished Macs and storage for the foundation but also committing to create OWC media centers at numerous existing OSF sites. Seven official OWC media centers will be created over the next year, four in under-resourced communities in the US, and three abroad in Haiti, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.
Additional technology partners include LumaTouch (providing their mobile editing program LumaFusion), the social media management firm TSMA, and Apogee, the audio equipment and software company. They’ve recently also partnered with We Make Movies and Apple to educate kids in select cities and empower them to tell their stories through video production. They hope to expand and offer this latest program to all 15,000+ children they serve. But that takes significant investment, which for an organization like OSF, is largely raised through their annual fundraising events. Needless to say, their fundraising plans were drastically changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the COVID pandemic, OSF was still able to put on a fundraising event with an impressive and star-studded “cast” that participated in varying ways to let the children of OSF know that they were not alone. Jennifer Lopez, Jon Bon Jovi, Carol King, Sasha Cohen, Skip Marley, Giancarlo Stanton, Mario, Malik Yoba, and more all took the time to give a special message to the OSF children for the gala. Through the technology partners mentioned above, OSF was able to virtually host and broadcast the gala and raise over $900,000! This will give them the ability to build many more media centers.
The marriage of Marisol
There was perhaps no story as powerful as that of Marisol from Chile. “Marisol was one of the worst victims of abuse I had met. Her mother had been killed and her sister suffered brain damage. [Through the program] she was able to learn valuable skills and taught herself English reading the Harry Potter books. She got a scholarship from OSF, went to college, and graduated sum cum laude. She was destined for prostitution, but is now an executive in a local bank.”
The crowning achievement and glory of Marisol’s story was that two years ago, Andy, her “Tio Mago,” was able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding and give her away. “After the wedding, she told me, ‘Tio Mago, because of my abuse, we thought I would not be able to have children, but we were wrong.’ She then pulled out an envelope with a sonogram photo of her as yet unborn son. He was born a year later.”
There are literally thousands of stories like Marisol’s. Children whose futures were previously destined for trauma, abuse, heartache, or loneliness, are now bright and bound for a better tomorrow. All because a banker with nearly half a million miles on Continental Airlines flying around the world helping to build literal bridges, instead chose to build figurative bridges from poverty to posterity, and from hopelessness to happiness.