Most people feel sad when they see injustice in life: starving children, parents who are unable to take a proper care of their kids. We see that on TV, read about that in the media, admire the celebrities who give to charities, suddenly feel grateful for what we have, recognize how in fact lucky we are. Then we tend to forget about all that until someone else mentions about the poverty and sufferings in the world. So some of us quickly put together an article on poverty, talk about it, perhaps even give something to a charity, then go about our business, feeling good about ourselves for raising awareness and “shaking the web”.

It would be hypocritical of me to say that there is something wrong in getting together and collaboratively discussing the issues and the reasons why in the XXI century we still have children dying of starvation, people dying from diseases that can be cured with the modern medicine, how come that even in civilized countries there are still people living on the streets and something as essential as health care and education is still considered a luxury for many.

By all means we must talk about it every chance we get, even if it’s once a year. But there are a few others amongst us who take it much more seriously and closer to heart and dedicate their entire life to the fight against poverty and injustice. Perhaps what the world needs is more people like Mother Theresa amongst us. This article I’m inscribing to one of such people, a remarkable person, artist, designer who devoted his life to a special project by becoming a father and brother figure to 40 kids in Zambia, thousands of miles away from his native Germany.

careforkidsfarm

The first time I came across Care For Kids Farm project was a couple months ago while browsing one of the CSS galleries, and was pleasantly surprised to see such a beautiful site dedicated to such an honourable cause. Since the site was in German, I checked a couple pages via Google translation that it linked to, but then forgot all about it until a month later I stumbled upon a site dedicated to GAG—Get and Give project, soon after I discovered another beautiful GAG site, which looked very different but with a same distinctive feel to it and as it turned out was simply a September version of the site I saw in August.

gagaugust

That’s when my curiosity took over me and I started digging in deep to find out who is producing these amazing web sites that were featured in every imaginable CSS gallery, what GAG is all about and how is it related to Care For Kids Farm project? All I could find out about the designer was his name: Ronny Jander, no personal web sites, no bio, no social networking profiles. By then I was so enthralled by his work that I filled out a contact form on GAG web site and asked to answer some of the many questions I had. I was so happy to receive an almost immediate response from Ronny himself, but I didn’t want to just send him some questions by email, I needed to talk to him in person. So I asked for a chat and fortunately he agreed. The next day we talked for a couple hours or so. Since then we constantly keep in touch with each other, and the more I learn about him and his projects the more grateful I feel for his existence in this world and in the lives of his kids at the Care For Kids Farm orphanage.

Ronny is only 31, but he’s already managed to leave a life long legacy behind. There are forty children (ages 2 to 17) who were rescued and whose lives were forever changed because of him and his boss Joachim Schiffer, the founder of the Care For Kids Farm.

Joachim Schiffer founded a nonprofit organization Care for Kids in Zambia in 2001 by opening a small orphanage in a poor district, three children in a little house. Afterward he went to Germany and Switzerland looking for sponsors, and when he returned to Zambia he got a surprisingly big donation, which he used to buy an old house with a land and completely renovated it into a big farm. Now they’re able to grow some fruits and vegetables there, though they still struggle and could use any possible donation to feed, dress and educate their kids.

Four years ago Joachim invited Ronny to visit him in Zambia. That visit has changed Ronny’s life. He realized then that’s where he belonged, so he wrapped up his life and affairs in Germany and moved to Zambia.

So now there are four of them: Joachim Schiffer with his wife, Ronny and a maid. There are also three teachers during the day who come to teach children. There was another maid who has passed away from malaria only a few weeks ago, leaving a two year old son in the orphanage. The October version of the GAG site Ronny dedicated to her, Eunice Mwando (you can see her name inscribed in the site’s footer).

gagoctober

“Some of the children here still have a mother but are either very young or old and sick, unable to take a proper care for the child”, says Ronny. “But whenever they [family, parents] come to visit, they all ask the child if he/she would like to come with them and they [kids] always answer: NO, no way! That’s heartbreaking in a tearful nice way. That’s what makes me proud in life. Really! No sponsor talk. To have someone who loves you so much that you can never imagine being able to give back. We are not really an orphanage, we are like a family. We can’t go away from each other. Sounds like honey but it’s true, it’s a home”.

Whenever Ronny talks about his children, you can sense how proud he is of them, how sincere his love is for those kids. He doesn’t have his own children but considers himself as “a father and big brother to my children”. What he finds most amazing is “how they look when they come and how they look after a half a year” living at the farm—changed and happy.

In August Ronny thought of starting a GAG project. He got interested in Web Design only a year and a half ago (he was an artist in past), and thought that it “could be fun, a possibility for the kids and maybe bring in something”. He asked his boss who didn’t mind trying it out. So now every month Ronny is designing new versions of GAG web site in hopes of building up his portfolio and attracting some clients. He already built two client sites and is constantly looking for more projects to take on. His initiative is so simple yet so powerful: get a web site and give to kids at the orphanage. All the money he makes from designing web sites go straight to their fund at the Farm.

What I liked the most about Ronny’s designs is that soul-grabbing feeling they invoke. All his Care For Kids Farm and GAG designs feature one or more emotionally powerful images, with a big dramatic background and built as single page sites. When I asked how would he identify his style, he answered: “Playful. I can’t call it clean, minimalistic. What fits that fits. But when I design something then there must always be a THING, something special to me. In the September gag it’s the upside down header image. And I try saving spaces: I don’t like icons very much and prefer to let the site talk with words and very few pictures”.

gagseptember

What’s most amazing about it is that Ronny manages to make that Thing, so special to him, feel special to us as well. I will never forget the black & white image with two dozen kids, standing in groups (since that photo was taken, the number of children in the orphanage has doubled), or those child legs hanging down on the August version of GAG, or those slides with a girl, eagerly eating something green, but obviously something very delicious, and of course that big background image with children enjoying their creative side with colourful paints on the Care For Kids Farm web site.

Fortunately, Care For Kids Farm project has some very loyal donators from Switzerland, Germany and Zambia. Without their generous support this project could’ve not lasted all these years and provided shelter for so many kids and families in need. But I’m hoping that this article would bring more awareness and supporters to this incredible organization. So if you’re looking for a charitable organization to make a donation to, please consider Care For Kids Farm. And if you’re looking for a talented designer to build you a web site or help with your web projects, please contact Ronny and get something from GAG by giving something back to all those kids who desperately need any support they can get.

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4 Insightful Bits in response to “GAG: Get and Give”

  1. Hey Vivien!

    I think it’s great that you contributed to the Blog Action Day with this post. This is a great cause.

    This post is especially interesting to me because I think this is a great example of using your skills, talents and knowledge to benefit a good cause. Giving to charity in financial contributions is great, especially if you give it in a well-thought-out manner with the best of intentions from honest earnings. Still, there is something uniquely special about a professional using their trade to serve a good cause such as an artist volunteering to paint a childrens’ play room at a hospital, or a builder renovating a poor family’s home, or a web developer creating free (or very affordable) websites for a charity organization. It goes to show that while money is important, it is only one of many ways in which you can serve. You can serve through prayer, through ideas, through leadership and inspiration, and also through skilled work.

  2. Very nice article combining a bit of design with a social conscience.

  3. Kulpreet, thanks for your insightful comment. I completely agree with you, sometimes it’s the non-monetary service that is much more meaningful and precious than what money could bring.

    Jennifer, thank you.
    I did hope though that this article would bring much more awareness to this cause than it did. Still, at least it’s online now and the more people read it and learn something from it and pass it on, the better.

  1. Results from the Blog Action Day 2008 Group Writing Project } Group Writing Projects

    [...] GAG: Get and Give [...]

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on