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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Hometown Heros - Inspired Activists for Change

Feb 28, 2010 11:56PM
By Lisa Moore

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman, an influential American author, theologian and activist, made this statement in the mid 1900’s and its message is more pertinent that ever.

With underlying motivation rooted in compassion and fortitude, more individuals are following their spirit and passion to awaken the world to oneness. By integrating their values with focused and aligned actions, they are bringing positive change to their communities and the world.

We honor three local agents for change who are an inspiration for us all to use what makes us feel alive as a means of service. Their activism is love and spirit set in motion for the highest good.

Peter Chasse: Potable Water for All

In August 2006, Peter Chasse heard a Kenyan pastor and development worker explain the problems they faced in the rural communities where they served: poverty, HIV/AIDS, hunger and lack of education. Each issue was exacerbated by the lack of access to clean, safe water - the most basic need, enabling or preventing development at every step. The pastor went on to say that $10 could supply clean water to someone for 10 years.

Chasse instantly pictured the artesian well in his backyard that simply overflowed with more water than his family could ever use. “That was the moment when I finally got it,” said the father of three.

“Those of us living in the west have an overflowing abundance of everything. Measured against the rest of the world, let alone East Africa, it is startling.”

Inspired, Chasse started The Water Project, a non-profit that funds both the technical assistance and supplies needed for communities to build wells, small dams, rain catchment systems and/or water filters. The Charlotte-based organization has helped over 60,000 people improve their access to clean water.

“If you don't have water, you spend your days looking for it instead of working. With no work, there is a cycle of poverty,” explains Chasse. “When treating the sick, you can have all the medicine in the world, but if you hand a patient antibiotics with a glass of diseased filled water, what have you accomplished? And when children, especially young girls, spend hours of their day trekking back and forth to a water source that is neither clean nor safe, they simply can't get a decent education.”

Chasse was moved seeing the first video of schoolchildren playing in the water flowing out of their brand new well. “I believe a number of those students figured out what a blessing that new well was.

They saw an end to countless trips to collect water from a river shared with the cattle. No more stomach aches, diarrhea, missed school and hobbled futures.”

The Water Project is currently looking for teams made up of local labor who have a good track record and show the potential to expand their work with more reliable funding. 

“Often times, these local organizations lack the ability to tell their story very well - that's where we come in,” states Chasse. “We work hard to help them share their good work with the world. We remember every day that it was a simple story told in less then five minutes that started this whole thing!”

For more information, visit

Barry Sherman: The Peacemaking Power of Inclusion

Barry Sherman has long been a champion of diversity - within us, between us and among us. With nearly 20 years of songwriting experience he has given his feelings and passions musical expression in a new CD entitled Inclusion.

Inspired by the peacemaking ideas of his mentor Chris Saade, a teacher of heart-centered self development programs, Sherman sings about living from the heart, embracing paradox, respecting "otherness,” connecting the personal with the global and stewardship of the planet.

“With this collection of songs, I am attempting to explore, and hopefully inspire, deeper and more mature expressions of our humanity,” says Sherman, a CMS school social worker.

He says the songs on Inclusion are both individual and global. “On one hand, I'm suggesting we must fight against the personal/psychological forces of shame and oppression that deny us the full expression of our humanity. We live in a culture that continues to bombard us with polarizing messages.”

Sherman says thought patterns such as “Joy is to be expressed, grief is to be denied,” and “Strength is a sign of power, vulnerability a sign of weakness” exemplify these negative messages. He says the work of individual inclusion is about re-claiming the full expression of who we are as human beings -- passionately celebrating our wholeness. 

“On the other hand, I sing about life lived in a social, political and global environment that imposes oppression through its continued exclusion and demonizing of the ‘other,’” Sherman notes. For example: “Religion A holds the truth, religion B is deeply flawed” or “My political view is correct, yours is wrong.”   The work of global inclusion, says Sherman, is about fervently championing difference and celebrating our vast global diversity as humanity's greatest strength and gift.

Sherman’s rhythmically interesting and stylistically diverse music is a blend of contemporary folk, acoustic rock and jazz with smart lyrics to inspire personal, social and global change.

“I'm very concerned about the psychological, societal and political means of oppression that continue to bind and stifle the human spirit and keep us at odds with ourselves, each other and our planet,” says Sherman.

A concert to launch Inclusion will be held March 13 at 7pm at the The Great Aunt Stella Center. For more information, visit

Sharon Ford: Social Capital and Service

Sharon Ford believes that everyone can make a difference regardless of socio-economic status, race or background. “I thought if we created a simple structure for people to follow then we could truly have a groundswell of kindness erupt on the planet,” says the Wells Fargo retail sales supervisor.

In 2008, she spearheaded the launch of the beCause calendar, a tool that helps build social capital while making a difference personally, locally and globally. The calendar gives non-profits and schools the opportunity to earn $10 for every calendar sold while providing the consumer a tool to spread 365 days of human kindness.

BeCause offers simple daily tasks to forward humanity such as Day 131: Take new toiletries to a homeless shelter today or Day 153: Call someone and let them know they have made a difference in your life.

“I wanted this project to create kindness and to show people that there are common elements that run through each of us that yearn to be ignited and expressed,” states Ford.

For every calendar sold, $5 goes to Humans Helping Humans, a local non-profit that mobilizes and connects a socially-minded lender with rural village projects and working poor entrepreneurs with micro credit loans using the Internet. The system provides those in need the opportunity to be authors of their own lives.

Every 15 calendars sold funds one $75 micro-credit loan for the working poor in Africa. Over time, the lender collects repayments and may withdraw or re-loan the money.

“The challenge the working poor continually face is the availability of credit to build their business,” Ford says. “These entrepreneurs have little choice than to borrow at a very high cost. They have been and many still are, at the mercy of moneylenders.”

Sales of the beCause calendar have raised over $2500 for loans in Kenya and over $3000 for non-profits in Charlotte. Ford believes beCause is a great way to connect the local community to a global cause. “We are learning to expand what is possible for humanity through service.”

Learn more at and

Want to Be a Local Hero?

Want to dedicate your talents or time to a local cause but don’t know where to start?

Hands On Charlotte leads volunteers in service projects for the whole family that benefit local nonprofit agencies, schools, neighborhoods and community organizations.

With a mission to strengthen our community and enrich lives they mobilize a diverse corps of citizens in direct, volunteer service.

A long-term commitment is not required and you can volunteer for as many hours as you choose. Sample many different projects and find out which ones are right for you. Visit for more information.

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