Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Bonas and Beyond Press release from SBU :)

St. Bonaventure to host 20 Haitian
students this fall; volunteers needed

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y., Sept. 2, 2015 — St. Bonaventure University will be hosting 20 students from Haiti over three weeks this fall for cultural and educational exchange.

Volunteers from the campus and community are being sought to serve as drivers, campus hosts, tour guides and translators. Donors are also being sought to pay for a meal on campus or at a local restaurant, or for local church groups or community organizations to host a potluck supper.

Jim Mahar, associate professor of finance and founder of the student relief group BonaResponds, is coordinating the program, called “Bona’s and Beyond: Haiti.”

People interested in helping can contact Mahar at or by calling him at 585-376-0231.

“This will be the kickoff of ‘Bona’s and Beyond,’” Mahar said. “The first step will be a series of classes and seminars when the Haitians are here.”  The classes will include a range of business disciplines, as well as environmental science, computer science, political science and leadership as well as seminars on composting toilets, solar power, and other topics that will have an immediate impact in Haiti. 

This is more than just a one-way classroom experience, he said. Haitian students will also be presenting seminars about their own work, from their experiences working in orphanages and schools to their efforts in reforestation and gardening.
“We really want to stress it is a cultural exchange.  This is not just us teaching them, it is a two-way cultural exchange that fits perfectly with our Franciscan heritage and mission of respect,” said Dr. Carol Fischer, dean of the School of Business.

“It is a learning exchange that will also take place outside of the classroom. Haitian participants will go to local businesses and farms, tourist sites, and museums,” she said. “‘Bona’s and Beyond’ will also be making presentations at local schools and to community groups.”

St. Bonaventure student groups are active in many countries.

“BonaResponds works in Liberia and Haiti, Embrace it Africa works in Uganda, and ENACTUS has a long-running business and education program in the Bahamas,” said Dr. Todd Palmer, associate professor of management and adviser for ENACTUS. “What we want to do is to use these ties to bring our model of two-way learning and cultural exchange to more people.”

After the program this semester with Haitian students, Mahar said, “We will be launching an online, not-for-credit learning program to help educate people while also making friends and associates from around the globe.”

“This will be a great way for Bonaventure students to develop a better understanding of the issues facing people in developing nations and also to drive home that Olean is not in the middle of nowhere, but it is the center of everywhere,” he said.

The classes will be taught on a volunteer basis by professors, students, and experts from the Bonaventure community. The classes will be in English and available online for free with a November start date expected.

Haitian students participating are responsible for the costs of travel to and from Western New York, but funding from the Pacioli Scholars program, SBU School of Business and BonaResponds will finance the program when they’re here.


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things.  St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #3 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.    

A huge thank you to Tom Missel for this!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Many of you don't know about the podcast

With school starting, I think it is a good time to remind everyone about the BonaResponds' Podcast.  It is a collection of interviews done over the past year or so.  It is available online at and on iTunes.

Topics include BonaResponds' History, memorable trips, discussions with key volunteers (past and present), groups we work with, updates, and  conversations about how we can make the world a little better.  I am having a great time doing them (and listening to them!).  They are really fun and informative.

The most recent one (maybe not the best quality due to a poor connection) is with the leaders of CYC-Liberia.  A group we have worked with over the past year since the Ebola crisis of 2014.

Here is the iTunes link--please subscribe and listen! :)  you will like it

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Late August Update

Update on many fronts:

BUSY day(s)! As in TIME OUT please!  :)

1. We will need any leaders (basically if you have volunteered with us before, we need you Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30 (can stay longer if you want :)  Much work!  We have 40 volunteers for 2 hours (actually about an hour of work).  Meeting in MURPHY Aud.

2. Bonas And Beyond may kill me, but it will be a great way to go out!  Scheduling is a chore!  So many awesome things going on!  Wow.  Confirmed a talk at the Olean Public Library at 6:30 (POSSIBLY 7:00) PM on Wed. Sept 30.  (Plan on being in Swan on SBU campus at

3. Thank you to those who donated the 8 boxes of books that awaited me on my return from Colorado!

4. Thank you to Carol W and her friends and family in Buffalo for making WarmSnugglyBlankets!  Also to Mrs. Martin in Olean for doing the same to be donated to The Pink Pumpkin Project.  Next on that front is to get some people to take over the logistics of delivery and shipping.  I am spread too thin.

5. Thank you to Pearce Steel and Rob Granger for donating a solar electric hook up for our trailer.  It will allow us to have lights and charge our cordless batteries while working in and around the trailer (Old semi-truck body).

6. Podcast interview with Bishop Nelson and Charles from Liberia went well.  Everything in Liberia is more expensive and we do need to figure out a better way to help them.  Shipping to Liberia long term is simply out of the question on cost ($388 per 100 pounds). We will do the first shipment as promised, but in the future I think sending money is more economical.

7. We have had VERY few calls for our 10th year what BonaResponds means to me which leaves me to assume that  either we don't mean much you many people or I have failed to get the message out enough.  So PLEASE CALL!!  whether you volunteer with us or were helped by us or just want to tell us how I mess up, please call 1-800-606-0697 and when prompted, enter your Invitation Number: 15425.  We will then combine them into a video/presentation for sharing!  

8. I am working on a 10th Year Anniversary of Katrina post, but not done with it yet.    I highly recommend you look back on our blog.  Also here is an interview I did with local TV yesterday on the anniversary:

9. VERY excited be working with Sr. Paula (phys ed) and Steve B (Women's soccer), Neil (SBU grad and Special Olympics of NY President and CEO, and Bony in Port Au Prince to help bring Special Olympics to more people in Haiti.  I think Bony's email today summed it up perfectly why I am so excited to be helping:

"I really thank you for your help after the earthquake, and I appreciate your vision to make this world a better place and we share this common vision cause this is what Special Olympics Haiti and the Special Olympics  Movement is throughout  the world. Our program is not only sport, as [some] people think. Special Olympics is based on community building and our focus is to develop the capacity and talent of those that are considered the most vulnerable of this country. We are a movement that uses sport as a vehicle to transform the life of our all societies because the only way to build strong development is to create integration of all human being in the social life and activities and is to create an inclusive society where everyone is counted and is given the opportunity to express themselves. Acceptance is one of our values. If we cannot create acceptance we won’t be able to build a better and inclusive world."

10.  REMEMBER: we need volunteers.  Sat 9:30, Sunday 11:30 (we will be meeting at the trailer on Sunday).  Trail work Saturday, ramps/steps on Sunday (I think--been so busy I have not confirmed with owners, but one way or the other, we have way too long of list of jobs waiting our help.)

thanks everyone!---Jim

Monday, August 24, 2015

Diane from Pass Christian MS on ABC news

Posted on FB first, but the videos are so moving, we will repost here:

As we all look back ten years at Hurricane Katrina, I highly encourage you to watch these videos on the storm. They feature my friend Diane Pontius Brugger and her heroic story. Her husband was killed, her business and home destroyed. She argues she just hung on to a tree but that took great courage. Incredible courage.

A lesser person would have given up. Try to imagine it: you are in a tree, in the dark, water all around you, the Gulf of Mexico now surrounding what only minutes before had been your life. Your husband dead, your life in shambles. But she hung on. And not only then but over the years following.

We had the great fortune of meeting her on a trip down to work with Randy's Rangers in Pass Christian. We were cutting trees (I think for her neighbor first?) when she offered us something to drink and I think cookies. She was (and is) just as nice a person as I had ever met (for those who have been on other trips imagine Georgia from Tuscaloosa or Beverly Twitty from Olean and you have an idea of how kind and loving a person we are talking about).

When she found out we were staying in large tents, she offered her own rooms and shower/bath. We had a late night bon fire on her grounds with some of the branches we had cut earlier. We played with her dogs--especially her large and very playful dog (I think named Ivan). And remember, she didn't know us.

She did rebuild and now runs a B&B in Pass Christian. In this video she is interviewed by Robin Roberts and in the second video she is interviewed by a local reporter at Thursday's screening of the ABC video that aired last night.…/katrina-survivor-describes-c…/story…

And a personal note to Diane, thank you. Your kindness and courage in the aftermath of the storm was a high point of our many trips to the Gulf. I remember volunteers at our then nightly all-hands meetings (Reflections) telling and retelling stories of your generosity and how much it meant for them.

In the video you humbly say you are not a hero as all you did was hang on to two trees. I would argue you are a hero and rolemodel (‪#‎rolemodelhero‬) not only for mustering the courage to hang on when letting go would have been so easy, but also for your life since.

You have shown us all, that life does go on and that kindness and a good attitude can overcome much. You have done this in a manner that also reminds us to honor and never forget what we have lost, but to not let those losses drag us down as well.

Thank you Diane, your example tells a story we all need to know.

Monday, August 10, 2015

BR Newsletter (August)

Hi Everyone, 

Going to try and get the newsletter a bit more active this coming school year so figured we would start today!

1.  Things are going well.  Been very busy this summer with ramps, donations, etc.  But doing well!  Trip to Oklahoma back in June seems so long ago.  

2. NEW PROGRAM!   Bonas and Beyond!  Big plans for fall

Probably the biggest thing we have planned is 20 Haitian Students coming to SBU for Bonas and Beyond!  A series of classes, seminars, and trips.  It is open to all and is going to be excellent!  Get involved and plan on attending!  Kickoff is Sept 24 and it runs through Oct. 12th.

3.   Hard to believe it has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina.  It seems both like yesterday and a 100 years ago.  BR has grown and prospered in so many ways.  From work locally, to 17 states, to Haiti, Liberia, and the Philippines. All centered on a simple motto: volunteer and change the world!  We'd love to know what BonaResponds means to you.  Whether you volunteered with us, were helped by us, or just as an active spectator on what we have done.  You can email us at with a short write-up (and photos!) or call and tell your story (you have 30 minutes).  It is very easy: Call 
1-800-606-0697 and when prompted, enter your Invitation Number: 15425.  We will then combine them into a video/presentation for sharing!

4. New and On-Going Collections: 

   A.  NEW!  Working with a job training program in Leogane Haiti, so we would love to send new or used tools.  Hammers, tape measures, etc.  
   B. School supplies!  Always much demand for these supplies (new or used) Pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, calculators, etc.  
   C.  Gardening tools (gloves, small shovels, clippers, etc).
   D.  Books (some will stay in the US, some to Haiti)--local and to some groups in Oklahoma. ANY book in French or Creole gets extra thank yous!
   E. Shoes--Haiti and Liberia.  (again some may stay in the US depending on needs)
   F. Soccer equipment --We supply several groups across Haiti (great program--here is a video we had made:

The most recent shipment arrived.  Here is what Djemson had to say from Gonaives Haiti:

"Please find some pictures of the kids with the garden materials, books, bag, balls etc! I also attached please find some pictures of the children using the garden tools by planting the seeds that you sent!

A big thank you to BonaResponds, also a big thank you to you Jim for all your supports! I really appreciate that and I really miss words to thank you for everything!

On behalf of all our 17 children, We say a big thank you to you!
With gratitude,

Djemson Jeudy" 

5. We are Launching a "Work with BonaResponds" program where local teams, schools, and church groups can schedule a day a month to volunteer with us!  

6. Looking for donations for solar power and composting toilets in Haiti and Liberia.  (Solar is about $1500 for most schools)  Also Bishop Nelson would LOVE some money for blankets for the 118 orphans they are caring for in post-Ebola Liberia. 

7. Have you listened to our podcast?  It is a series of interviews and tlaks that allow you to relive great BonaResponds moments as well as learn what is happening with us!  Subscribe at
or listen individually at

Ok, that is the VERY fast update.  Really hope many of you take the time to call in a "what BonaResponds means to me".  Remember call Call 1-800-606-0697 and when prompted, enter your Invitation Number: 15425.


(and the whole BR team!)

PS we are ALWAYS looking for volunteers.  Come Volunteer and Change the World.  We work ALMOSt every Saturday & Sunday

Friday, August 07, 2015

From our FB wall:

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As you know, it was that disaster that led to the founding of BonaResponds. Much has changed over the past 10 years, but a desire to help is still at the core of all that we do.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of BonaResponds, we want to put together an online history that captures the BonaRespond spirit for all of us. It will serve to remind us of our roots, encourage "lost volunteers" to come back and help, and spur future volunteers to get involved.

What do we want? We are asking you to send a brief (or long if you prefer) story or recollection of a BonaResponds trip/experience/impact. It can be emailed to us for inclusion (


 you can call and leave a message at 1-800-606-0697 and when prompted, enter your Invitation Number: 15425.

Be sure to state your name on the start of the call!
Pictures and personal updates (what you are doing now etc) would be great too!

Finally, we'd love to hear not only from volunteers but also (and maybe more importantly) from those we 
helped. Whether in Biloxi or Buffalo, Hinsdale or Haiti, Pass Christian or Portville. In 2005 or 2015 or everywhere in between! This is open to everyone.

PS please share with those you know have been involved with BonaResponds in any way.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bonas and Beyond: Haitians coming to campus

St. Bonaventure University Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am super super excited to announce the Bonas and Beyond program!

This fall approximately 20 Haitian students will be coming to St. Bonaventure to participate in over 2 weeks of classes and cultural exchange. It will be a great way for the Haitians to learn about America and for members of the Bonaventure community (including local residents) to learn about Haiti.

It is going to be GREAT!

Bonas and Beyond Pamphlet

How will it work?

Haitian students will take part in a series of classes and seminars on campus and will make trips to experience local businesses, farms, and regional tourist attractions. In addition to the organized educational activities, the Haitian students will be immersed in the US culture daily. They will also have the opportunity to share lessons with their hosts on Haitian Creole, history, culture, and the Haitian economy.

After the conference, We will also be launching an online- not for credit learning program to help educate people while also making friends and associates from around the globe.

Classes will be taught on a volunteer basis by professors, students, and experts from the Bonaventure community. The classes will be in English and available online for free

What will they do?

Although visiting the US is a dream for many Haitian students, we recognize that it is a massive investment for them. It is our goal, therefore, to keep the students very active during their stay so that they can get the most out of this cultural exchange. Planned activities include:

(1 hour each)


(1-2 hours each)


(tentative; not yet approved)





Environmental Science

Computers and leadership

*These will meet Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Note: Economics and Finance may be combined



Irrigation Kits and Gardening

Solar Energy

Teaching (Standards)

Teaching (Practical Tips)

Project Management

St. Francis Week: We Are All One

NGO Management

Job Readiness and US College Preparation

Political Science

Physical Education


Niagara Falls

State Park
(Allegany, most likely)

Olean Wholesale Group

Olean General Hospital

Canticle Farms

Large Dairy Farm

Local Business -TBD

Police/Municipal Building

Restaurant - TBD

Mount Irenaeus

How can you get involved?

Host a meal (or eat out with them at a local restaurant)

Sponsor a student (food alone will cost over $200 during their stay)

Allow them to present to your class or group on Haiti

Attend presentations on campus

Attend a meal on campus with the students (BBQ or wrap up meal)

Be a community host (assisting with logistics and tours)

Provide transportation to off-site activities

Donate school supplies for the students to take home

Donate soccer equipment to be shipped to Haiti

Other details:

The Haitian students will be responsible for their own transportation to and from the Buffalo International Airport. From there we will pick them up, drive them to campus, and host them in an on-campus dorm. We will also provide their daily meals, through the dining hall and off-site accommodations (including local church groups, picnics, a BBQ, etc).

Approximately 25% of the students will speak English fluently. If you know of a Haitian Creole speaker who would be willing to volunteer to be a translator, please let us know.

Transportation will be a challenge. Please let us know if you would be willing to drive.

The students will be attending men’s and women’s soccer games, watching a MNF game, etc. Participating in tailgate events would be a great cultural experience for them.

Bonagany and Francis Week will both take place during their stay.

Depending on the budget, students would ideally be provided with “goodie” bag, as well.

A pamphlet is available here:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Essence Festival Day of Service Offers Snapshot of New Orleans Recovery | TIME

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of Katrina BonaResponds will be looking periodically back at Katrina and our founding.  This will likely continue through the 10th anniversary of our "Big Trip" in March.  We kick it off with this current look at New Orleans.

Essence Festival Day of Service Offers Snapshot of New Orleans Recovery | TIME:

"The day of service at KIPP Renaissance High school was like a snapshot of the work that has taken place across New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the 10 years since the levees broke and flooded 80% of the city, 94% of metro New Orleans’ 2000 population has returned. The economy is on the rebound with big businesses and startups popping up all across the area, though poverty remains pervasive in pockets of the city. The city’s all-charter school system has been held up by local officials as a potential model for the rest of the country, though reports from Mother Jones and Think Progress have found there is cause for concern in some areas, namely standardized test scores. Ask anyone—from the Mayor to Thursday’s volunteers—and they’ll acknowledge how far the city has left to go, but they can’t help but note how far it has come."

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

BonaResponds Podcast now on iTunes

The BonaResponds Podcast is now online!  It has the video interviews (some of them) as well as new audio-only interviews.

Our podcast is now on ITunes :) will upload others soon.
Posted by BonaResponds on Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Another update...all good!

I know I just did an update a few days ago on FB, but so much has changed since Monday I will do another and share it here too:

Been a very good day/week on several fronts! Too soon for a full update, but a quick update:1. Heard from Rochelin...
Posted by BonaResponds on Thursday, June 25, 2015

here was Monday's:

Update on a few things:1. Last week we sent money to Monrovia, Liberia for a used solar electric system for the CYC...
Posted by BonaResponds on Monday, June 22, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Interview with Jerry Godbout

Jerry has been with us from the (almost) start--he came on the "big trip" and has been active since.  We finally got together for an interview earlier this week:



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Two interviews about our trip to Oklahoma

Two interviews about our trip to Oklahoma.  One is a video interview with the family we built a ramp for:

The other is a podcast interview with Greg and Jim speaking about the trip.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

5 years ago...a look back to a NON BonaResponds trip and why it is still relevant

Physical Location map Haiti with departements,...
Physical Location map Haiti with departements, Equirectangular projection, N/S stretching 105 %. Geographic limits of the map: N: 20.2° N S: 17.9° N W: 74.6° E O: 71.5° E (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is from Jim's Facebook page, but many of you are not friends, so we will share here too:

5 years ago I made my first trip to Haiti and arrived on Flag Day. This year Wesley a good friend of mine from Leogane shared pictures of the day there.

5 years ago, parades, earthquake damaged roads, and traffic made it a 7 hour trip from Port au Prince to Leogane (usually about 90 min). The 7-hour drive (and I use that term loosely) showed me enough of Haiti that by the time we arrived at camp (after lights out) I knew for certain that the Haitian journey for both BonaResponds and me had just begun.

So much has changed since that trip both good and bad. People have come and gone, my mom (my largest supporter) died, @BonaResponds has grown in many ways while struggling to replace its great leaders who were lost to graduation, and so much more. But many of the friendships forged on that first trip are still rock solid.

English: Overflight of Leogane, Haiti followin...
English: Overflight of Leogane, Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We worked with All Hands Volunteers in Leogane. In my goodbye talk on that first trip I remember saying that the work in Haiti was far from over and that the long run work needed would last decades. From infrastructure and basic needs to schools and education, there remains much to do. Fortunately many Haitians are taking the lead this time and doing incredible work. I have been exceedingly fortunate to be able to meet (and work alongside) many of these modern day nation builders. I encourage you all to get involved and help raise the standard of living for all.

There are so many things that we could be doing to support the work of our Haitian friends if we had more involvement: a car wash fundraiser to fund more partial scholarships through HaitiScholarships, solar for schools and businesses through PositiveRipples, funding more gardens through Bona Responds, or making donations to any of the many groups we have worked with.

English: Satellite image showing deforestation...
English: Satellite image showing deforestation in Haiti. This image depicts the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Their success is amazing. From garden projects, to wells, composting toilets Haitians are doing the necessary work. Groups we have worked with (and helped fund) planted well over 2000 trees in the last month alone to reduce deforestation. We have now shipped nearly 130 pallets of school supplies (and medical supplies) to groups and schools on the ground in Haiti (with the next shipment going out Saturday), and via our spinoff HaitiScholarships) have given partial scholarships for scores of students to attend school.

But (and there is always a but), the work is daunting. So many people do not have access to clean water, electricity, or a good education. We can make a dent in this.

A trick in behavioral finance/economics (a class I teach) is to publically make the statement which then becomes a binding constraint. It is paradoxical from a rational perspective as you are giving up flexibility, but it works (see, but it works. So let me publically state that my goal is to have at least 4 more scholarship winners in Les Cayes, 6 more in Leogane, as well as two solar electric systems installed by the time schools start in Fall. (and for the first time, some of these new scholarships will be set aside for female students to increase their opportunities).

To conclude, I want to wish all of Haiti a belated happy flag day and ask everyone to get involved and to help make the world (and in particular Haiti) a better place!

(long list of names of people and organizations deleted)

Finally, please let me address the ubiquitous "But there are poor people here" comment that is bound to come. "YES YES YES" there are many poor people everywhere and I encourage you to work at home as well. BonaResponds does local work almost every week of the year. Unfortunately, I have been on way too many BonaResponds local work days with no volunteers to believe that this type of comment is anything more than chafe to distract from the real issue: there are too many poor people in the world. Too many who are not given the same opportunities as others. We are all one human race. We live in on the same planet. We did not choose where (or when) to be born. As those of us who won the "birth lottery" we owe it to everyone to help raise their standard of living whether they live in the USA, Haiti, or anywhere else.
Don't forget Haiti! THANK YOU everyone on this list and the many others. Just thinking back to each of you has given me more hope and encouragement! We can do this. We can (and will) make things better! I hope many of you agree! We'd loev to have you involved!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Volunteer with BonaResponds this weekend

With the school year winding down, we have many jobs waiting. The next few weekends will be very busy and we really need more volunteers than we have been getting. If you have been thinking of helping out, it would be a great time to do so! This weekend we will be cleaning up along the Allegheny River Trail, cleaning up a home/yard for a physically challenged individual, packing school supplies and soccer equipment for Haiti and Liberia, prepping a ramp (if we get enough volunteers we will begin putting up a wheelchair ramp), adding handrails to an existing ramp and maybe doing some trail work.  

To give us an idea of how many people will be helping, we are asking you to sign up here (next two weeks are listed)

Times: 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Collections for Haiti, Liberia, and the US

Our next shipment is being readied!

Items will mainly be going to Haiti for schools. soccer, and garden programs.  However, we will also be shipping some items to the CYC-Liberia group and their orphanage there.  We will also be giving books (pre K- 12th grade) to local school children in NY and PA.

We will be packing supplies for Haiti and Liberia this Saturday. 

Please drop off new or lightly used soccer equipment (balls, shoes, whistles, etc), school supplies (paper, pens, pencils, calculators, backpacks), small gardening tools/work gloves, toys, or children's books to 104B in Swan or bring them to the lower parking lot (by the BonaResponds Trailer this Saturday between 10:35 and 11:15. (earlier is better as we will be able to sort and assign the donations to various groups.
Also we'd still love someone to sponsor shipping of a barrel (we fill each barrel with about $1000 of value--it costs us about $120 to ship) or to sponsor the water for the soccer practices ($30 a month) or to pay for a student scholarship (remember the last count was 23/60 in school, we want it up to 100%) at $20 a month (via HaitiScholarships)