Author Archive | thecef

Technology Without Borders and the Kramden Institute

Towards the close of Summer 2011, Technology Without Borders (a committee of the Campus Y) and the Kramden Institute came together in a joint partnership with CEF to pilot a new program: the Laptop IDA.
Technology Without Borders (TWB) was founded three years ago believing in the power of technology as a force for positive social change. With its initiation, TWB joined the small but growing community of social justice organizations dedicated to bridging the digital divide.
One such organization is the Kramden Institute, which helps thousands of students across North Carolina fulfill their academic and personal potential by providing heavily discounted or free refurbished computers to these students and their families based upon recommendations from their teachers and school administrators.
In its inaugural year, TWB partnered with the Kramden Institute to place computers in the homes of 50 low-income families with students in the community of Abbey Court. TWB supported this effort by developing a free open-mesh Wi-Fi network in the community and partnering with the Human Rights Center to create and maintain computer education classes and after-school programs in the community. The network continues to function in the community and Kramden has graciously provided additional computers.
Today, TWB remains dedicated to programs and partnerships that harness technology for social justice. In collaboration with the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), the Kramden Institute, and the JobLink Skills Development Center, TWB established the Technology Empowerment for Chapel Hill (TECH) Workshops. These workshops help people save for a refurbished Kramden laptop, learn computer and job skills, earn a computer skills certification, and provide the opportunity to apply for funding to return and teach other students participating in the TECH workshops, making it a sustainable community resource.
Through these and other programs, Technology Without Borders continues to utilize technology that many take for granted to bring about social change and work alongside organizations such as CEF to forge creative solutions to today’s problems of social justice and poverty.

Featured Program: Laptop IDA

These days it’s hard to get much done without a computer – they fuel our work, our interactions with the job market, and our communications with those we love, both at home and abroad. Due to the high demand for affordable access to personal computers, CEF – in partnership with the Kramden Institute ( and Technology Without Borders (TWB) – launched a new program at the start of the 2011 academic year: the Laptop Individual Development Account (IDA).

Participants in the Laptop IDA have been asked to meet several critical requirements: attending 2 CEF Opportunity Classes, 2 TWB Computer Literacy Classes, and then 2 additional classes from either CEF or TWB; passing a “laptop diagnostic” test that showcased skills learned in TWB classes; and saving $75. This amount made up half the cost of a refurbished laptop graciously provided by the Kramden Institute, a Durham non-profit that works to bridge the digital divide for disadvantaged populations.

Since the program’s inception, 10 CEF Members have “graduated” with their own laptops. These ten laptops have helped send Members to school or back to school, helped with one Member’s kids’ homework, allowed for extra job-searching, and made possible communication with far-away family members. CEF is hoping to see this program continue and expand in the near future and would like to thank all the partners, Members, and Advocates who have helped make the pilot successful!

If you’re interested in the Laptop IDA program, or would like to learn more about CEF in general, feel free to contact us at


Thrill City Empowers Community

Thrillife is a brand started by UNC student and clothing designer Ryan Cocca in an effort to make “Conscious Streetwear Culture”. Thrill City, the Chapel Hill offshoot of Thrillife, is staying true to its mission as a “launchpad of everything socially positive and creative in Chapel Hill, from concerts to art exhibits to social justice campaigns,” by dedicating 10% of their revenues to the Community Empowerment Fund. That’s a lot of love, and we can’t thank Ryan and Thrill City enough for their support of CEF and the Chapel Hill community. Checkout the insert that ships with all Thrill City merchandise.


A Note of Thanks


John Miller recently came into our office to work on his resume, cover letter and job-searching with us. He sent us a thank-you note after his visit that was just too good not to share! We are so grateful to have had John come in to the office and we hope to have a continuing relationship with him. Thanks for your kind words, John!




I know you felt that what you were doing was just a part of that
organization’s mission, but still I am very grateful for the
assistance. I could of course have gotten Services for the Blind to
help, and if I continue to require further aid I will solicit and make
use of their resources. But the bureaucracy would not have moved
quickly enough to respond to that immediate opportunity, and I don’t
really know if I would have gotten that kind of thorough vetting of my
resume from a team of people. I extend my thanks to all of the
individuals who contributed some form of suggestion as to how that
document could be enhanced, actually.
I have placed the resume and cover letter in the person’s box who
agreed to forward it on, and now I await the determination of whether
I can proceed with preparing to do this job. I will of course keep you
updated as to what happens.
Thanks again for the time and effort put into that. I really don’t
take it for granted.



Two Feature Stories

From Reese News, featuring CEF’s own Michael Wood:

“In the world of addiction, according to Michael Wood, you ‘recover, die or go to jail.’

“Wood battled a decades-long cocaine addiction before quitting at the age of 59.

“Watch a video of his story here.

Reese News published a news article, “Addiction: A cunning adversary,” profiling Michael Wood. Since recovering from his addiction, Mike has joined the staff at CEF and currently teaches weekly job readiness and financial education classes, and provides ongoing peer support to individuals recovering from homelessness, economic crisis, or addiction.

The Community Empowerment Fund is blessed to have Mike on our team. Read more about the impact his leadership has had on CEF.

Thank you, Mike, for your continued commitment to helping others succeed, and the many ways in which you empower. And thanks to the folks at Reese News for covering this story!


Lend for America

The Community Empowerment Fund will be one of three nationwide host organizations for “Lend for America,” a new summer internship program for college students to start microfinance organizations in campus communities.

You’ll spend your summer at Lend for America working with real people, real businesses, and real money. You’ll get to meet entrepreneurs, review loans, and see how microenterprise works in the U.S. You’ll be working with people who’ve chosen careers with a conscience.

CEF and our initiative here in North Carolina was “selected for being leaders in the campus MFI movement.” We’re honored by the opportunity, and encourage any students from other campuses who are interested to apply for this 8-week summer internship program. Visit the Lend for America website for more information.
Thank you to our partners at the Campus Microfinance Alliance and Lend for America for making this internship available to students from across the country, and for advancing the field of microfinance in the U.S.

Thanks, Chapel Hill RBC Bank!

Jochen Schwarz, Chapel Hill RBC Branch Manager, presents a celebratory check to Maggie West (Coordinator), Amanda Abbott (CEF Member), and Audrey Boyles (Advocate Coordinator).

Thank you for your donation, RBC!

The RBC Bank in Chapel Hill has been a great supporter and strong partner for CEF’s work since the very beginning. From donating our first office space to hosting our initial savings program, the branch staff’s collaboration has been essential to our progress.

This holiday season, we’re glad to send the staff our gratitude — for this generous donation and their ongoing partnership! Happy holidays to all of the staff!


Equashia’s Powerful Story

Michelle Hanes, a student at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, produced and filmed a beautiful multimedia project featuring the story of Equashia Mumeen, a CEF member and co-chair of our Alumni Association.


View the project here: Equashia’s Story

Thank you, Equashia and Michelle for sharing this powerful story with all of us.

And a big thank you to Housing for New Hope for coordinating this initiative and sharing stories with our community.


Member Story: Mike

photo by: Jonathan Kasbe

We met Mike in the men’s shelter in early 2010 through Talking Sidewalks, and today he’s in housing and on staff with CEF teaching the weekly Opportunity Class held in the Campus Y on Saturdays.

Mike has an incredible history. He used to run his own small business, Woody’s BBQ, has been a professional chef, a restaurant manager, a banker, and more. He was a successful business man, with a special gift for marketing, or as he puts it, ―getting butts in the seats. Mike says that back in those days, “by all appearances anyone would have thought I was doing real good in life, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.” Unfortunately his financial success began a cycle of addiction to drugs and alcohol that eventually led to his downfall, loss of his business, foreclosure on his family home, and landed him in prison.

In prison, he developed a love for teaching–sharing his knowledge as a former employer to train fellow inmates in interview and job readiness skills. Since leaving prison, Mike has been in recovery from his addiction, saved with CEF, and gotten back on his feet during his stay at the IFC. By all appearances anyone would’ve seen me on the bench over there at the IFC, and thought I was down on my luck, but they couldn’t be more wrong either,” says Mike. “It was the first time I was doing anything worth doing.”

After he moved out and was well on his way in his job hunt, he was hit by a speeding vehicle, breaking both of his legs and seriously handicapping his search for employment. He has physically recovered the use of his legs since then, reunited with his family, and now dreams of becoming certified as a substance abuse counselor.

Mike’s presence at CEF has been invaluable. As the teacher for CEF’s Opportunity Class, he can justifiably say, ―been there, done that and empower current shelter residents to learn how to overcome challenging financial and social circumstances. He’s been absolutely critical to the success of the class and continues to inspire CEF members to keep working and fighting for their goals.

Mike has also learned a lot as a teacher; He says, “it’s helped me more than it’s helped the rest of them, being of service is the most helpful thing.”

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233