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Meme artist raises more than $2 million in 5 hours to rescue Afghans on Taliban kill list

Meme artist raises more than $2 million in 5 hours to rescue Afghans on Taliban kill list

We've all spent several days watching the news from Afghanistan with a mixture of horror, sadness, and frustration. Images of crowds of people clamoring to get onto planes at the Kabul airport, human beings clinging to a flying jet before falling to their deaths from the sky, hordes of men, women, and children desperate to escape a violent, extremist regime crammed like sardines into U.S. cargo planes—it's all too much.

We know there are so many people we can't help. That's the tragic reality. But there are people we can help. And that's happening, right now, on the internet and on the ground in Afghanistan.



A humanitarian mission has been pulled together by former U.S. military and special operations personnel to get hundreds of people on the Taliban's kill list out of the country as soon as possible. The mission includes two planes, deep connections on the ground in Afghanistan, and the logistical know-how to get a group of 300+ women's rights activists, translators and their families, as well as other high-value targets who are in imminent danger out of the country.

Several collaborators are coordinating the mission.

Sheffield Ford, a U.S. veteran with 24 years of service within the Army's Special Forces, runs the private special missions company Raven Advisory, LLC. Ford was deployed in Afghanistan during his active duty time and has extensive knowledge of how things work on the ground there, as well as connections to the people in need of rescue.

Karen Kraft, an Army veteran who runs VME, a professional association of U.S. military veterans working in media and entertainment, also has connections to Afghans on the Taliban kill list. She is coordinating with people on the ground to get them out. Ford and Kraft have been working together for about a week to get specific people on the flight manifest who have been thoroughly vetted and known to be targets of the Taliban.

As GOOD's Head of Content and Innovation Gabe Reilich (who also served as an adviser for the mission) says:

"Afghanistan is heading down an uncertain path - and for some, that uncertainty could potentially be a matter of life and death. So many people have been watching this tragedy unfold, wondering what they can do to make an immediate difference. And now that's possible. We're hoping this effort can make a real impact, can save real lives, can help those who need help immediately."

"Let there be no mistake, human decency and action make it possible to change the world—and we at GOOD and Upworthy are deeply moved to be a part of this urgent, life-saving campaign. We ask that you join us -- because together we can be a force for good."

The planes, being supplied by a defense related products trading company, have pilots who are dedicated to carrying out this humanitarian mission. Two piloted aircraft are ready and prepared to go in within the next day to bring the people on the manifest to a country of asylum. The cost is the only real hangup, as each plane full of passengers (including fuel, crew, security, clearances, etc.) costs $225,000. (Looking at it another way, it costs $1500 per life saved, which seems a lot less daunting.) The hope was to get at least one planeload of people out, but mission operators were pushing for two or more.

Now here's the really incredible part. The money for the mission is coming from everyday people who care and want to do something to help. Through a GoFundMe campaign, the incredible online community built by meme artist/fundraiser extraordinaire Tommy Marcus (aka @Quentin.Quarantino) showed up big time.

The funds for the first planeload were raised injust 38 minutes.

And in a little over an hour, people had donated the full amount needed for two planeloads. 11,000 people donating $550,000, for an average donation of $50 a person, just like that. Amazing.





The goal has now been increased again to $2.2 million in the hopes of getting more planeloads of people out. Any funds raised that do not end up being used for the rescue will be donated to the International Women's Media Foundation, which is helping protect women journalists who are at high-risk in Afghanistan.


Things are moving fast in Afghanistan and there are lots of moving parts in such a rescue mission, but this is what people can do when we rally together, look for able and willing partners to team up with, and invite others to contribute.

"For everyone out there who is tired of the finger-pointing, tired of the virtue-signaling without acti"on—this is for us. The opportunity to make a real impact, save real lives, help those people who need help immediately," Reilich said. "It's felt hopeless sitting on the sidelines watching this tragedy unfold, and now it's possible to actually help."


Indeed. Read more about the mission and the fundraiser here.


CORRECTION: The original publication of this article contained the wrong name of the company that owns the planes being used. That information has been updated.

All images provided by Prudential Emerging Visionaries

Collins after being selected by Prudential Emerging Visionaries

True

A changemaker is anyone who takes creative action to solve an ongoing problem—be it in one’s own community or throughout the world.

And when it comes to creating positive change, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective can hold just as much power as years of experience. That’s why, every year, Prudential Emerging Visionaries celebrates young people for their innovative solutions to financial and societal challenges in their communities.

This national program awards 25 young leaders (ages 14-18) up to $15,000 to devote to their passion projects. Additionally, winners receive a trip to Prudential’s headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, where they receive coaching, skills development, and networking opportunities with mentors to help take their innovative solutions to the next level.

For 18-year-old Sydnie Collins, one of the 2023 winners, this meant being able to take her podcast, “Perfect Timing,” to the next level.

Since 2020, the Maryland-based teen has provided a safe platform that promotes youth positivity by giving young people the space to celebrate their achievements and combat mental health stigmas. The idea came during the height of Covid-19, when Collins recalled social media “becoming a dark space flooded with news,” which greatly affected her own anxiety and depression.

Knowing that she couldn’t be the only one feeling this way, “Perfect Timing” seemed like a valuable way to give back to her community. Over the course of 109 episodes, Collins has interviewed a wide range of guests—from other young influencers to celebrities, from innovators to nonprofit leaders—all to remind Gen Z that “their dreams are tangible.”

That mission statement has since evolved beyond creating inspiring content and has expanded to hosting events and speaking publicly at summits and workshops. One of Collins’ favorite moments so far has been raising $7,000 to take 200 underserved girls to see “The Little Mermaid” on its opening weekend, to “let them know they are enough” and that there’s an “older sister” in their corner.

Of course, as with most new projects, funding for “Perfect Timing” has come entirely out of Collins’ pocket. Thankfully, the funding she earned from being selected as a Prudential Emerging Visionary is going toward upgraded recording equipment, the support of expert producers, and skill-building classes to help her become a better host and public speaker. She’ll even be able to lease an office space that allows for a live audience.

Plus, after meeting with the 24 other Prudential Emerging Visionaries and her Prudential employee coach, who is helping her develop specific action steps to connect with her target audience, Collins has more confidence in a “grander path” for her work.

“I learned that my network could extend to multiple spaces beyond my realm of podcasting and journalism when industry leaders are willing to share their expertise, time, and financial support,” she told Upworthy. “It only takes one person to change, and two people to expand that change.”

Prudential Emerging Visionaries is currently seeking applicants for 2024. Winners may receive up to $15,000 in awards and an all-expenses-paid trip to Prudential’s headquarters with a parent or guardian, as well as ongoing coaching and skills development to grow their projects.

If you or someone you know between the ages of 14 -18 not only displays a bold vision for the future but is taking action to bring that vision to life, click here to learn more. Applications are due by Nov. 2, 2023.
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This validates my burn out, right? #momtok #momsoftiktok #sahm #boymom #toddlermom #toddlersoftiktok #3under5

@jothemama

This validates my burn out, right? #momtok #momsoftiktok #sahm #boymom #toddlermom #toddlersoftiktok #3under5

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