Help the Boris

April 5, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

Grouporation = Group + Collaboration

[Noah’s Note: Boris is one of my best friends and he gives great hugs.]

Background: I am volunteering this May to go to a small village in the jungles of El Salvador to help some former-revolutionaries that defended their villages from the death squads of the ARENA party in the late 80’s and early 90’s. While there I will be helping the peaceful-villages-turned-revolutionaries-turned-peaceful-villagers rebuild their communities. I am going on this trip with a group of people and this trip is organized by the AJWS which has a 5 year relationship with this village (and many others like it) in helping them rebuild and fight poverty.

Problem: This trip is not free even though I’m volunteering. There are many organizations through which you can come and volunteer in developing countries, virtually none of these volunteer opportunities are free of cost.

Questions for you:
1) If people like you and I from the Western world are willing to donate their time and energy to volunteer to help others in need, should we be able to do it without paying out-of-pocket expenses? How can someone wishing to volunteer for such a cause get sponsorship?

2) What if companies or individuals sponsored people to go and volunteer in 3rd world countries, sort of like micro-sponsorship, would this work as a business model for an organization? Sort of like a Kiva except for people to go directly and help.

If you’d like to or can, please contribute your pennies or dollars via ChipIn below. Cheers!

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23 responses to “Help the Boris

  1. Will Kern Reply

    First off, kudos for you for your willingness to give back to those that are in greater need!
    In my experience, the out of pocket expenses are usually supplemented with private sponsorships/donations/fund raisers. I know that some people have had success in corporate sponsoship, but that is usually reserved for larger group related endeavors.
    I really like the idea of a Kiva like site, it would be a fresh alternative to just donating to say the Red Cross and wondering where you money is actually going. This way, I could sponsor and individual who is volunteering for something that I am personally interested in. This idea really has legs, and I am sure it would not be too hard to get some celeb / big business buy in or backing.


  2. Joel Mueller Reply

    My question is this: How much of the money you’re trying to raise goes to yourself just to cover your own travel expenses, food and shelter VS. how much of it goes to the people, the total center and object of you going? And if it’s money just to cover your own expenses, then why did you set it up that way? Would there be more purpose in raising “N” $$, with a goal that aligns well with the people there as your objective?

  3. Sri Reply

    It is great what you are doing….but charity always begins at home. I am a strong believer of that.

    Here are some questions I have:

    1) Is there more work to be done in the Katrina area?
    2) Is this in any way related to any religious affiliations?
    3) Are there any other areas in the United States that may need your help? Habitat for humanity?
    4) Can you volunteer your time in hospices? and reap the same moral benefits?

    Sorry, I dont mean to sound like an ass hole, but the flight alone costs around $1000. Can this be better used within the United States?. Many people find it ‘cool’ to go to some 3rd world country and help out. But charity always begins at home.

    Do you work for any corporation? Perhaps they should be the first ones helping you.

  4. Boris Reply

    Joel: The money I am raising is not just to cover my travel expenses. The costs include the fees I will be paying to the AJWS that to set up the volunteer program.

    With this money they provide me with

    -a direct, monetary donation to the rebuilding project for this village. This is a large chunk of the amount.
    -the organization and structure for the learning component that we as volunteers will receive on this trip. A huge part of this trip is to educate us, the volunteers, on the current state of need in developing countries so that we can come back home and share this message (which I hope to do as a follow-up post to okdork).
    -a week’s accommodation in dorms in the village alongside with a group of other people who are also volunteering.
    -meals with local families where the volunteers can sit and learn their story.
    -air tickets.

    My direct intention with this post is to present the situation with which I’m faced and ask advice about my idea, a potentially interesting model for a micro-sponsorship organization. Until such an organization exists, I still need to collect funds the old-fashioned way 🙂

    But that is why my chip-in widget comes last, as an afterthought. Funding me is not the main point of this post, but still is necessary for me to get to do this.

  5. Boris Reply


    I am not working for any corporation right now, that is why I am opening myself up on Noah’s blog. I’m doing this because I see a genuine need to contribute my time and efforts directly.

    I know there is a need to help Katrina victims, and there’s a need to help the homeless in San Francisco, and also there is a need to help El Salvadorian villagers. This is an extremely important point: poverty is everywhere, there are people near and far that could use our help.

    It isn’t easy to decide which cause to support, as there are many. A huge part of my decision is the reputation of the AJWS for providing a great structure for learning in their volunteer programs. This is not a program where I simply build a house and go home. This program helps the local people rebuild a sustainable infrastructure with our help. We will come there with the intention to “teach a man to fish” not just to give them fish. Also, this is an opportunity for me to witness first-hand the conditions of poverty in a developing country and hopefully spread the message.

    I think that what happens in El Salvador, or in the Amazonian forest, or in the Arctic affects us directly today. So, the notion of “think globally, act locally” takes on new meaning. If we can directly help curb the burning of old-growth forests in the Amazon, we will help slow down the rate CO2 emissions being expelled into the atmosphere and hence slow global warming. Through globalization we have access to the resources of the world, but also we take on the responsibility of its stewardship.

  6. Boris Reply


    from their main page:

    “American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality…”

    Although this trip is motivated by Jewish ideals, I am not going down there on a mission to preach or convert people to Judaism, nor any other religion as I am myself secular. We are there to help them see their own goals through and learn about them and their struggle.

  7. Will Kern Reply

    I am glad you said it, charity does begin at home. We have enough cleanup in our own house to keep us busy for a LONG time. With that being said, if this is where his calling is, at least he is getting out there and making a difference in the world, so hats off.

    Now all I need is 6 more comments and I will regain my number 1 spot 😉


  8. Kevin Reply

    You should include a short bio of Boris along with a photo. People like to see the person they are helping out and get to know a little bit about them.

  9. Sarah Reply

    I agree with Will and Sri that there is a significant need for service in our own communities.

    However, people are suffering throughout the world.

    I suspect that those who choose to spend their free time volunteering in another country would also be the ones to volunteer in local community projects.

    I think that volunteer work, wherever it may be, needs to be more embraced and financially supported within our culture.

    Even national service projects, like Americorp, require volunteers to supplement the stipend from additional sources because the monetary compensation and food stamps provided by Americorp is insufficient to live on.

    I think the underlying question is:
    What responsibility (if any) do we have (as young successful Americans) to improve the conditions or opportunities of those who are less fortunate than ourselves?

  10. sri Reply


    Sorry if my earlier posts were kinda harsh. I did not mean to question your deeds. Now that I have had time to digest it, I think what you are doing is wonderful. Sorry for the initial response.

  11. Cap Reply

    Sri: I wouldn’t worry about your comment as I doubt Boris was offended (although I’m presuming here heh). Either way you made a valid point too, and as Sarah said, people that are willing to give their time abroad have most likely put in time at home too.

    A micro-sponsoring-like site (ala Kiva) for volunteers may be neat, but in my opinion it would be difficult to pull off. Sponsorship in itself requires people to know the person they’re sponsoring better, so it may be harder for potential sponsors to filter out the people that really wants to help, or those that just want to do it because it’s “cool.”

    I mean I’ll admit I had stupid fleeting thoughts like “it’ll be cool to do this” when I was browsing Kiva’s site, and they had this volunteer program where they require people to commit to 6 week to help their micro financing partners across the globe. When I continued to read and realize that of course, many of the travel and living expenses will be the responsibility of the volunteer — my thought of “it’ll be cool” turned into “man this takes commitment.”

    So kudos to Boris for trying to raise fund, kudos for Sri on making a good point. Good luck Boris!

  12. Noah Kagan Reply

    Boris Bio:

    Boris Korsunsky is a semi-young hapless vagabond-entrepreneur looking to etch a silhouette of meaning into the fabric of space-time. When he’s not occupying himself with web-based client-side logic and design, he finds joy in dangerously biking down potholed hills alongside angry car-estrians.

    Boris hails form the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. He immigrated to the US at the ripe age of 7, and has since been wreaking havoc on conventional thinking and those who perpetuate it.

    Recently, Boris has been given a second chance at life. By being laid off from a snug position at a crumbling silicon valley start-up and given time and space to reconsider the nature of sentience, he has set himself upon a mission to dispel the myth that all software engineers are cynical, anti-social misfits. Upon scratching his chin one hollow eve in considerance about the next big web 2.1 idea, he realized that if his intention with a web-service is to create something useful to others, he ought to understand what sort of need for help there is in the world first-hand. He soon decided to embark on a volunteer trip to Central America where he plans to directly contribute his time and efforts to battling poverty in a country where there are hardly any social services available. In the process he hopes to educate himself on the state of need and effects of globalization that are taking place in developing nations.

    If you have questions, gripes, concerns or shout-outs, please contact him at

  13. Joe Budde Reply

    Fundraising… I love it.


    You had a good list of things that the money goes towards… Why not have 4 or 5 chip in widgets where the money goes toward a specific item on your list…

    Your donation to chipin widget ‘A’ helps pay for the portion of the cost of the trip that is the direct donation to the community in El Salvador (smaller goal, more chance for people to relate to that exact goal). Random people would be more likely to support this direct donation than they would to support paying for your air ticket or your accommodation.

    If you wanted to break it down even further, have donors sponsor a night’s sleep. Have thank you notes ready to go and every morning when you wake up send a thank you note to the individual that sponsored that night. The amount is tiny, people are able to sponsor 20 bucks and feel like they actually contributed to something. It prevents the, “yea I helped him out for a quarter of a percent of his trip.� That’s not nearly as marketing friendly or exciting as “I donated a night’s sleep for Boris on his trip to el Salvador!�

    Also, that same technique could be applied to the meals, this way after the meal you send a thank you note and explain the family’s story that you learned with the donor, strengthening your relationship with the donor.

    Giving is a relationship; the donor and the donee have responsibilities for one another. If you want to continue to give your time with the help of others money, let those people know the impact their money had enabling you to give your time and energy.

    Good luck Boris.

  14. Rachel Reply

    Hi Boris,

    I took a look at the AJWS website and was quite impressed with the work they do. I came across Rabbi Grater’s D’var Torah on Poverty and it’s certainly inspirational. The quote from Robert F. Kennedy gave me goose bumps… “It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man or woman stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” If you haven’t read through it, you should take a look at:'var_Torah_%20Poverty.doc

    I’m so proud of you for taking on this new endeaver. Good luck my friend.

    Shabbat shalom!


  15. Boris Reply

    Thank you all for your support!! The whole process is a learning experience.

    Do you guys think a micro-sponsorship site would work if the user seeking sponsorship would employ some of the ideas that Joe suggested?
    For instance, using my volunteer trip as an example, I as the seeker of sponsorship would enter my volunteering schedule into the service, including a description of the each event and price (dinner with a local family, or one nights stay in the dorm) and what I will do for the donor in return for sponsorship. Then the service would create a visual timeline for my trip with a “sponsor this part” button beneath each portion. Then, anyone can see which parts have been paid for, which weren’t, and I can add pictures and descriptions (accolades and acknowledgments) to each part on the site as it happens. Essentially anyone can track the progress of trip.

    any thoughts?

  16. sri Reply

    I think Joe is a smart guy! I think that would be a great approach. I love it.

    For example, if you broke it down like this:

    June 18: Breakfast: $2 [done. Thank you Will Ferrel]
    June 18: Lunch: $2 [ still open]
    June 18: Night Stay: $20 [done. Thank u Sarah Mclauglin]
    June 19: Equipment: $50 [done. Thank you Rudolph]

    Maybe not as detailed as the above but somthing like that.