Volunteering at ‘Al Abrigo de Dios’ Orphanage

June 10, 2013 at 10:01 PM

During all of 2005 in my first year at University I volunteered at a local orphanage in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico called “Al Abrigo de Dios” where I took on a very active role as an administrative assistant, team manager for volunteers and generally took it upon myself to improve the quality of life for the fifty or so children that lived at the orphanage.

Al-Abrigo-de-Dios-2005-las-4-alegres-comadres

Al Abrigo de Dios Orphanage

My lasting contributions to the orphanage were:

1. Administrative support

  • Streamlining and general improvement of administrative processes and organization.
  • Designing, hosting, and updating of a Blog.
  • English/Spanish written and oral translator.

 

2. Managing teams of volunteers

I recruited and organized over 20 volunteers from the student community into teams that achieved the following goals:

  • Setting up of a computer lab with computers and tables kindly donated by Baxter International Inc.
  • Designing of a computer and internet class curriculum and imparting IT classes at 3 difficulty levels.
  • Creation of homework and study support groups.
  • Offering of sports and cultural after-school activities.

 

3. Acquiring donations and other help

  • Procured a state health and vaccination campaign visit to the orphanage.
  • General raising of awareness and support for the orphanage in the community.
  • Received donations and organized drives for school supplies and food.
  • Helped the orphanage to receive donations from Canadian foundations.
Al-Abrigo-de-Dios-2005-los-3-alegres-compadres

Al Abrigo de Dios Orphanage

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

June 2, 2013 at 12:33 AM

Google Books – Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens (Thomas Nelson & Sons 1907 Edition)

This classic book captures the spirit of the Industrial Revolution through an ironic tale that brilliantly presents the mixed blessings and turns of fate that sudden wealth bestows on a young man from the British countryside. When I read it I remember thinking that the characters all seemed desperately clinging to something or someone to find stability; because of the rapid and violent social changes occurring at the time some characters sought stability in tradition while others in modern and practical values. A fun story not so removed from the times we live in today.

“They may not be worth much, but after all, they’re property and portable. It don’t signify to you, with your brilliant lookout, but as to myself, my guiding star always is: Get hold of portable property.”
– Chapter 24.

great expectations

 

Great Expectations 1907 edition

Amikoo Social Networking Startup

May 23, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Amikoo.com was a Web 2.0 social networking startup for high school and college students in Mexico, we were the first truly local social network in the country.

amikoo-reforma-newspaper-business

Newspaper clipping about Amikoo in the business section of the Reforma national newspaper

From idea to launch, I was the driver and oversaw all decisions behind Amikoo. I acted as founding partner, project manager, application designer, web designer, as well as brand, marketing and PR manager.

The project started in 2006 with meticulous research into all aspects of the emerging field of social networking, followed by the first drafts of the site which drew inspiration from similar examples present around the world. After some difficulty in finding the right people to work on the project and securing the right funding, we moved on to the development stage in the first quarter of 2007.

The development stage was strenuous; marked by over 6 months of complicated interactions between the feature requirements and designs put forward by me and the programming challenges faced by the 2 expert programmers hired to build the application. At the time, “all-purpose” web development frameworks were nascent, so the application was developed from scratch in PHP and hosted on our own servers (there was no cloud available at the time). The design and features were considerably influenced by fellow Social Networks Bebo and the original Xuqa. Our use of the recently popularized Asynchronous Javascript or Ajax made the design fast and cutting edge.

Amikoo user profile

Amikoo user profile

After many setbacks and missed deadlines the social network was launched in July 2007. Afterwards, the team focused on making improvements by listening to user feedback. I concentrated my efforts in executing a web marketing and PR strategy aimed at getting Mexican students to sign up and share the site, our biggest competitor was Hi5. Nurturing word of mouth was the most effective tactic for getting new users but we also used email marketing, SEO, an in-house blog and offline press.

 

Amikoo suspended operations in the first quarter of 2008 owing to considerably slowing user registrations which we believe were caused by:

a. Facebook booming and leaving everyone behind thanks to three key strategic moves: Opening up to people other than their original student target (while securely owning that base), translating the site into many more languages (including Spanish as one of the first), and the launch of their “game changing” f8 application platform.

b. A very crowded and quickly consolidating Social Networking market.

Newspaper clipping  about Amikoo and an interview of me in the technology section  of Reforma.

Newspaper clipping about Amikoo and an interview of me in the technology section of Reforma.

c. Barrier to new registrations caused by the “all my friends are already on another site” syndrome – making it hard for people to switch from a site they had already invested considerable time in.

d. Investor support was withdrawn after registered and active user targets among other milestones were not met on agreed time.

e. General timing. When it comes to Internet startups, a few months sooner to market can make all the difference.

 

Despite Amikoo not gaining serious traction as a social networking platform, it was a successful proof of concept that generated a small fan base and enough buzz to be noticed at a national level in Mexico.

Amikoo virtual gift shop with virtual currency

Amikoo virtual gift shop with virtual currency

A few highlights:

Gift shop with virtual currency called “koo”. The idea was to develop the shop into a mobile micropayment platform similar to those prevalent in Asian social networks such as CyWorld.

User uploaded and maintained public media gallery for enhancing profiles (A content app store for profiles, if you will). Each item in the gallery was a widget or other embeddable content and users could rate and comment on these “Kubos”.

Amikoo introduction and tutorial video titled “Amikoo te va a Encantar” (You’re going to Love Amikoo). Written and directed by my good friend Yahayra Juárez.

Secret admirer/crush feature. You could try to “fish” for someone you fancied, then if the other person “fished” you back, a private “connection” would be made between the two.

Public pages for schools and cities to discuss topics, publicize events, vote on polls, share media and carry out other “socializing” activities.

 

Amikoo te va a encantar
Amikoo introduction and tutorial video

 

Amikoo "Kubos" public media and widget gallery for embedding into profiles.

Amikoo “Kubos” public media and widget gallery for embedding into profiles.

Amikoo home page

Amikoo home page

 

The Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

May 22, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Google Books – The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of The Meditations
by Marcus Aurelius, translated by David and Scot Hicks

The stoic emperor-philosopher recorded his personal thoughts and musings to improve himself. History has been kind to our civilization for preserving his inner mind for anyone to explore. Here is a book full of timeless wisdom, especially in the field of leadership and personal growth. His calling is one of raising ourselves to express our full and best potential as human beings through universal virtues and values that ennoble our thoughts and actions.

“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.”

“A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man desires.”

Google Books - The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of The Meditations