How do Instagram photographers make a difference? Here's one way.
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When scrolling through Instagram, you may come across a captivating image like this:

Europe is currently facing one of the biggest migrant crisis in recent history, with over 400,000 migrants this year having already reached Europe as they brave the dangerous and arduous journey to flee from war and dire economic conditions in their various homelands. 2,800 of them has lost their lives attempting to reach Europe this year, while many others are stuck in limbo as European countries decide how to handle the influx of migrants. To help support the migrants, we have partnered with the International Association For Refugees (@iafr_media) to fundraise for their refugee relief efforts. On October 3rd, join us in Jersey City, NJ, or Austin, TX, for a walk to raise funds and awareness for IAFR's efforts in Europe. Visit @iafr_media to learn more about what they're doing to help, and sign up here (http://on.fb.me/1LdNowa) for the fundraising walks. 📷: @saunakspace #gramforacause #refugeeswelcome #openheartsus

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Or this:

Or this:

Maybe it catches your attention; maybe it even intrigues you enough that you want to learn more about the subject featured in the image.

That's what Gramforacause is counting on.

But let's back up a little bit.

A few years ago, digital storyteller Denise Chan found herself engaging more and more with Instagram. And she noticed a few interesting things about it.

One was that it had a really passionate community of creatives — on and offline. Chan started attending "Insta-meets," in-person meet-ups where she and fellow Instagrammers would take photos together around a certain theme or style. She was inspired by how passionate and engaged the community was.

She was also intrigued by how Instagram was accelerating as a marketing tool — particularly when it came to influencer marketing.

And then she noticed one more thing: Many nonprofits were, well, missing the Instagram boat.

From the intersection of those three things, Gramforacause was born.

Members of the Gramforacause crew. All images via Gramforacause, used with permission.

How it works is simple:

1. Nonprofits that have a cool story but no one to tell it — or rather, show it —  submit a project request.

2. Gramforacause has a database of more than 200 (mostly volunteer) photographers around the country, dubbed "storytellers." When they get a request from a nonprofit, the team carefully reviews it and chooses a storyteller who would be a great fit for that specific project.

3. The storyteller and nonprofit each receive an email with project specs. If both parties are interested in working together, Gramforacause makes the introduction.

Projects range from photographing one-off, offline events to online campaigns where the storyteller posts images over a series of weeks. They've also done Instagram takeovers, with storytellers directly accessing the nonprofit's account and posting on its behalf for a few days. Many of the storytellers are Instagram influencers, so they crosspost on their own channels as well.

Gramforacause has only been around for two years, but in that time, it's done some pretty awesome things.

Whitney Tressel, Gramforacause's community manager, photographed the Salvation Army's Divisional Star Search event.  

Image by Whitney Tressel/Gramforacause.

Storyteller Cathy Lee snapped some photos while in Haiti visiting friends she'd met on a previous mission trip.

Photo via Cathy Lee (@cathyslee)/Gramforacause.

Storyteller Karen Heredia shot a volunteer/sponsor party put on by Reveal, an organization that puts on workshops and experiences that help empower women who have experienced domestic violence. At the party, attendees shared moving experiences they've had while volunteering with the org.

Image by Katen Heredia (@khere)/Gramforacause.

They also held an event with Big Brothers Big Sisters where they taught mini photography workshops to the "bigs" and "littles," and then sent them out along with storytellers on a mobile photography scavenger hunt.

"The kids came back, and they were really inspired by it," Chan says. "We had a few kids that said they wanted to pursue photography professionally."

In 2016, Gramforacause partnered with CWS (Church World Service) to put on a fundraiser called Hello, Neighbor.

The goal was to raise funds to support resettling refugee families in the Jersey City area.

The event offered food, music, local vendors, and a photo booth by Pursuit of Portraits (a portrait photography magazine that actually started as an Instagram account). Refugees from the area who work with CWS also came and shared their stories.

"It was a great community bonding and a very educational experience for a lot of people who came out," Chan says. And it was a success; they surpassed their fundraising goal and raised nearly $3,000 for CWS.

Another neat thing that's come out of these project is that many storytellers find themselves wanting to learn more about the nonprofits' work.

"We've found that actually ... a majority of our photographers that sign up said that they're interested in using or joining Gramforacause in order to learn more about causes and ways that they can get involved," Chan says.

She adds, "Social media has really made it so easy for people to find their platform. Just using these channels to connect people and build their own ways of giving back."

If you are an Instagram whiz, Gramforacause can always use more storytellers and brand ambassadors. If you're interested in joining them — or donating  — check them out.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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