The devastating news of the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan woke all of us up this morning, and many of us feel helpless, but wanting to help. The feeling is common for many people, and while people have the want to help and do philanthropy, not all of us use the resources, time or money the best we could. For many it’s the lack of knowing what and how to help. One of the great bloggers I know, Nirasha Jaganath, better known as Mommy Niri, isn’t one of those people who stand by, she is one of those who stands up and helps. Niri also uses her online influence to raise awareness for important issues, like helping children born in poverty. I have known Niri for years, and she is one of the most gracious women I know. I think she is the modern day Mother Theresa, the mom, who sets example for her children and the community around her. Read my interview with Niri and hear her big news of the launch of her new site Mommy Niri Cares, which is fully dedicated for philanthropy and combining social media with social good.
Katja : Tell us about your blog Mommy Niri and Mommy Niri Cares site that you just launched.
Niri: Mommy Niri is a magazine style blog featuring news, views, reviews and interviews. Originally it focused primarily on the parenting aspect but as the kids got older the focus veered towards a lifestyle theme. Along the years I had partnered with several brands on their philanthropic arm and during the holiday season in 2010 I opted out of the regular gift guide and chose a charity to support. Brands got publicity for their product donations to Room To Grow (an organization focused on children born in poverty). I loved it so much that I decided to create Mommy Niri Cares – a permanent place where you would find stories of struggle and strength, interviews of people doing amazing things in our community, and news about brands supporting causes.
Katja: What do you think is the future of social media and philanthropy? What are so of the best examples of use of social media for philanthropy that you have seen and what do you think comes next?
Niri: It certainly is an area that has not been tapped for its full strength. Philanthropic efforts have always played catch up with newer trends, mostly due to their lack of funds. The fact that “moms” in the mom blogger sphere hold a special place in their heart for causes meant many were starting to gain attention. Brands have played a major role too. They have started swimming in the social media waters for their regular exposure and have been bringing the philanthropic efforts they align themselves with along. My personal favorite was the KoolAid and Kaboom building of playgrounds in areas that needed them. By taking bloggers with them to actually help build it, yes even mix concrete, you not only pass the message along in blogging but also feel a kindred spirit to the brands involved.
Next I would assume more brands jump on the social media bandwagon, aligning themselves with influencers and interesting campaigns to highlight the philanthropic endeavors. I forsee a mix of offline and online efforts too, offline for community work and online to spread the awareness.
Katja: Many people feel powerless in the front of big issues, yet we know that every vote and every small action counts. How would you inspire people to get started in going social good?
Niri: Start with your neighbor, there is sure to be one that is out of work in this economy. Nobody will want to feel like a handout so be sensitive to their pride. Offer to watch the kids, drop by with a meal. Check in with senior citizens, making sure they are ok. We build the community. Tables turn easily so taking care of our community is taking care of ourselves. When we have children it is even more important that they have role-models that care about others. Get children involved in donating some of their toys and clothing or even some volunteer efforts.
Katja: What are you excited about right now?
Niri: The Mommy Niri Cares is a dream for me. I plan to use it do good online and offline. I am happy to see the Mommy Niri brand easily recognized and supported so passionately right now. I am grateful for experiences I am able to expose my family to. I am excited that my 5 year old who was just diagnosed a year ago with Autism has made leaps and bounds in progress.
Katja: How do you live life to the fullest and what it means to you?
Niri: When I was 12 years old I lost my home which was burned down in political riots, I learned then that you the only thing you have is your experiences. I tend to live my life in a way that I would love to share the excitement with my grandchildren someday. I am not done growing or learning and plan to reach dreams every day. I also want to make sure I help people and my new blog is providing me avenues to do that.
Thank you so much Niri for all the good you do and for sharing your thoughts today.
Today Show in August, 2010