Podsie – A personalized and automated learning tool built by teachers, to empower teachers!

Josh, Jesse, and Chris are three friends who all have a strong passion for education. Chris, a current teacher, and Josh, a former teacher, know firsthand the challenge of helping students remember material and learn well. In fact, when Josh taught middle school math, he didn’t realize that research-backed techniques already exist to improve content retention. After he left teaching, he wondered about the other teachers who still don’t know about these resources. In response, he got together with Chris to create a support tool so that all teachers can access these techniques for their classrooms. With Josh’s new background in software engineering and the rise of technology use in schools, they created their brainchild app – Podsie.  

Podsie guides teachers in figuring out optimal review schedules that help kids actively retrieve learned information. The goal is efficient review so that students expand their knowledge quickly without forgetting it all just as quickly. In fact, the review schedules are tailored to every kid’s needs.  

Each student has a “personal deck,” or a library of knowledge that they currently have. Teachers create assignments and questions, and once the student finishes an assignment, an automated schedule is created for optimal review times. The process repeats itself, generating data that enables teachers to track each kid’s progress. 

Jesse joined the duo a year after the app was made, lending his own software engineering expertise to help rebuild the app. Podsie had a limited beta run last year with 5 teachers and 350 students, including Chris’ classroom. He found that knowledge retention increased with app use, observing that his students scored 88% on a district-level assessment compared to the average 65%. Now, the number of teachers and students using Podsie has grown, and the team is aiming for an official June 2021 app launch date. They’re currently working on receiving more feedback, making any improvements, and coaching teachers in navigating the app’s features. Their goal is to file as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the spring of 2021 so that any school, especially in under-resourced communities, can use Podsie.  

Podsie’s name comes from a play on “seed pod” to represent the team’s desire to nurture kids’ learning and their growth in schools. This app was created by people who understand the struggles of teachers everywhere, and it empowers both teachers and students by serving as a resource for better, more effective learning. Best of luck to Josh, Chris, and Jesse as they send Podsie off into the world. 

How you can support Podsie: 

-Donate here to help Podsie grow: https://www.podsie.org/donate/

-Let your teacher friends know about this incredible resource! Sign up here for the launch date details: https://www.podsie.org/#sign-up 

-Follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/podsieorg/

-Reach out to your school boards so that Podsie can introduce themselves! 

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February Charity Highlight: Invisible Girl Project

Each month, a Zuma Team member chooses a charity to highlight and add to our donations checkout page. For February, our very own Melody Yip has chosen Invisible Girl Project. In India, gendercide – mass killings of girls and women – is a devastating issue. Girls and women are discriminated against and murdered simply because they are female. On average, one girl a minute is aborted because she is female. Infant girls are 75% more likely to be killed than boys. 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population, all due to gendercide.

From Melody: “It breaks my heart to see women and girls refused the dignity and the life that they deserve, and the reasons are terribly unjust. I chose this charity to give these women a bigger voice and encourage others to advocate for them so that these terrible practices end.” 

Here are some other ways you can get involved with Invisible Girl Project:

  • Sponsor a girl – financially support a young girl/woman in India so that she can rise above the discrimination and oppression she faces from family and society
  • Give a one-time contribution – donate to a specific need, whether it’s trauma counseling for survivors or providing school supplies for girls
  • Give monthly to support IGP on a consistent basis

In the month of January, 172 Zuma customers donated to our seven main charities and our January charity Houston Welcome Refugees. By using our donations checkout page and rounding up their order totals, they were able to donate $80.82 in total! Thank you all so much for contributing to these groups and doing good work!

  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • The V Foundation
  • Living Water International
  • Hope International
  • World Vision
  • The Salvation Army
  • Samaritan’s Purse
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January Charity Highlight: Houston Welcomes Refugees

Each month, a Zuma Team member chooses a charity to highlight and add to our donations checkout page. For January, our very own Marie Winker chose Houston Welcomes Refugees. There are an average of 2,662 refugee resettlements in Houston each year, and these refugees step into a completely unfamiliar environment. Houston Welcomes Refugees organizes programs such as Welcome Teams and Welcome Kits to serve those in need. 

 From Marie: “Not only do I love this organization because their work is impactful, but I also have seen friends volunteer and welcome refugees and it be a life changing experience for them. As much as we hear about the refugee crisis in the news, putting real faces to names has allowed them to grow more empathetic and passionate towards others.”

In the month of December, 91 Zuma customers donated to our seven main charities through our donations checkout page. By rounding up their order totals, they were able to donate $45.59 in total! Thank you all so much for contributing to these groups and doing good work!

  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • The V Foundation
  • Living Water International
  • Hope International
  • World Vision
  • The Salvation Army
  • Samaritan’s Purse

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November Charity Highlight: Living Water International

Water is one of the necessary things for life, wellness, and dignity. Every person deserves clean drinking water to thrive, and Living Water International strives to provide that.

This organization began in 1990 after a group of people from Houston, Texas traveled to Kenya and witnessed the dire need for clean drinking water. They wanted to figure out how people can receive clean, sustainable water to restore their dignity and boost their quality of living. Since then, Living Water has established over 20,000 projects so that communities have access to wells and systems. The group has also promoted the education of clean water’s impact on life.

Furthermore, Living Water desires to ensure that the people in these communities feel empowered to sustain themselves. Their staff works with locals to learn about the right systems that they need and the strategies for building those systems. Having clean, sustainable water affects multiple facets of people’s lives. As a Christian organization, Living Water staff partners with local churches to educate people about their health and ways to improve their livelihoods. Hygiene and sanitation programs help raise awareness of disease and germs, which enable people to build healthy habits. The organization also believes that their mission is share the gospel of Jesus Christ, so their work is both spiritual and tangible.

Living Water has accomplished tremendous progress in empowering people with clean drinking water. Water is a necessity for all, but a luxury for many. One day, the goal is for all to have it as a met need.

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September Charity Highlight: Loving Houston

In Houston, Texas, there is an extraordinary partnership between churches and schools that has been facilitated by the nonprofit Loving Houston. The organization was founded with the singular goal of helping churches meet the city’s needs, namely by reaching out to the children in Houston’s school districts. Loving Houston matches churches with the schools in their neighborhood, establishing connections so the two can work together to transform people’s lives through investment opportunities such as counseling, giving, and mentorship.

Marilyn Lee, the executive director of Loving Houston, believes that the nonprofit has grown because of the Lord’s timing and the leadership’s united commitment to collaboration.

“We’re all behind the same goal,” she says. “We want to empower kids and their parents to achieve what they want or need, and we also want to empower churches to come alongside schools in a collaborative partnership.”

The point is to share resources and expertise with each other. Parents overwhelmed by working long hours and caring for their children receive gentle guidance and support. In these COVID-19 times, families in dire need of toilet paper and soap get sent home with the precious supplies. Churches open their doors to children who need reliable Internet so that they can keep up with their education.

Angelica Almaraz, a wraparound services specialist with Houston ISD, attests to the power of these churches and schools working together.

“Moms with not much education are now teachers, and they just need more encouragement,” she says. “And everyone deserves dignity. The lack of self-esteem among children is a big thing, often made worse by struggling with poverty. Any items donated helps restore that dignity.”

One family had to resort to using socks for toilet paper. Because of churches and businesses who rose to the occasion and donated COVID supplies, this family did not have to feel shame anymore. Then there was a woman who spent a week homeless with her two children, a situation she tried to hide from concerned teachers and staff who tried calling and visiting her to check in. The school personnel pooled in money and furniture to provide two-months’ free rent at a new place for her. With their help, she successfully got back on her feet.

These stories are just a snapshot of the good work happening in Houston. Despite the awful effects of the coronavirus pandemic, selflessness and kindness are still making waves. Even though everyone is struggling in their own way and dealing with their own issues, let’s remember to extend a helping hand when someone reaches out.

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July Charity Highlight: Hope International

Zuma always strives to partner with a diverse group of charities. Some, like The Salvation Army, seek to meet impoverished people’s immediate needs. Others, such as Hope International, take a holistic approach to fighting poverty and social injustice. Both are important, good work, just different models of care. This month, we highlight Hope International and their long-term model for overcoming poverty.

The organization invests in underserved families all over the world to help them fulfill their dreams. Most importantly, they share about Jesus and the Christian Gospel with the people they interact with, praying that Christ’s message of hope empowers them to break out of the cycle of poverty. Their goal is to restore people’s dignity.

            To accomplish that goal, they examine four dimensions in their clients’ lives – social, spiritual, personal, and material. With offered training and discipleship, these individuals can improve in all dimensions, and they’re equipped with tools and resources to help themselves. They don’t need to rely on others; they can provide for their own families.

            Hope International has set up their model into two parts – microfinance and savings groups. They offer loans to clients for starting businesses and bring people together to save money as a community. These systems enable clients to develop independence and build institutions like schools and clinics. They learn to stand on their own feet and thrive.

Hope served over a million clients in the past year, a testament to the effectiveness of their campaign. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve had to pivot and reframe their goals. Still, their desire to empower undeserved individuals to unlock their greatest potential remains the same. Please read the following stories to witness the fruit of their work!

Eckness, a savings group client spent years building up her daycare business in Malawi. The pandemic forced her to close her business for months. Her landlord still required regular rent payments, but she had no income to make them. For years before the pandemic, Eckness had been cherishing a dream: to expand her daycare into a primary school. Weeks into lockdown, she said, “My dreams are still the same. What is holding me back is my financial status, but I am hoping on God that one day this dream will come true.” I am praying with her as she looks with hope to God as her provider.

Another example of resiliency and trust in God comes from our program in Zimbabwe. Peggie, a farmer and savings group member, has lived through a two-year drought and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Farming watermelons, Peggie shares, “has provided for us a means of livelihood and has been helping us to pay school fees for the children. In this time of Covid-19 (and the drought) most people have stopped working on their projects due to low sales and low yields, but we have taken it as a God-given time to intensify our project.” The HOPE Zimbabwe team shares that Peggie and her family have used the lockdown time to deepen their wells (their water source) and widen their fields. They have also looked outward to their community, teaching others what they know about watermelon farming.

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May Charity Highlight: The V Foundation

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

            Those were the words of Jimmy Valvano, renowned college basketball coach and founder of the V Foundation. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 1992, and he said those poignant words during a famous speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards to encourage people to continue the good fight against cancer, disease, and whatever difficulties that may come. His motto has continued to inspire people to persevere through life’s challenges and face hardship with a spirit of joy.

            When Valvano was diagnosed with cancer, he partnered with ESPN to begin the V Foundation, an organization dedicated to championing cancer research and awareness. For the past twenty-seven years, the V Foundation has awarded one hundred percent of its donations to the pursuit of unlocking cancer’s mystery, giving upwards of $250 million to cancer research grants. There are over seventy-one cancer institutes in the country, and the V Foundation supports them all. The organization is also well-known for their meticulous attention to the process of approving cancer research grants and their honesty about where their money goes. The V Foundation targets research on the many different kinds of cancer, thus embracing the diverse groups of people who need treatment and help. What makes this organization stand out the most, however, is their platform of cancer awareness that has garnered a large following and sea of volunteers who want to work together to gain victory over this disease. They have reached a lot of cancer victims and encouraged them and their families to keep fighting.

            There are numerous opportunities for involvement with the V Foundation, including donating, volunteering, and advocating. Their transparency with their goals, mission, and strategy makes them an inviting organization to support in whatever ways possible. Go to https://www.v.org/home to see how you can join in their battle against cancer!

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March Charity Highlight: The Salvation Army

During these unprecedented times, good news is more than welcome. It’s important to remember the men and women who are lifting up communities and advocating for the marginalized in a time where it can be easy to think “every man for himself.” This month’s charity highlight features The Salvation Army, a celebrated organization that has long served people without discrimination.

            An English preacher named William Booth began the organization in 1865, starting in East London. He was dubbed the group’s first “General,” and his army of volunteers grew throughout years of history and change to become one of the world’s most established charities. They’re well-known today for the Santa Clauses ringing merry bells outside grocery stores at Christmastime, but they also have a diverse range of programs that aim for long-term progress. They’re leaders in fighting homelessness by providing services that enable the homeless to secure independent lifestyles and freedom from poverty. The Salvation Army offers children’s camp programs that educate, nurture, and encourage the younger generation to reach their greatest potential. This organization even holds events like Donut Day, which remembers the nurses who made donuts at the frontlines for soldiers during World War I. There’s something for everyone to get involved in, and that’s part of the beauty of The Salvation Army.

            One other illuminating aspect of The Salvation Army’s work is their adherence to staying up and running because of people’s generous donations. They don’t receive any government funding, and all donations go straight to their direct services. Supporters can trust that every single penny is funneled into helping local communities thrive and find hope when the world feels dark.

            The Salvation Army’s mission is to serve those in crisis, whether in a local community or on a global level. Donating monetary support or volunteering at a homeless shelter are just some of the many ways for people to get involved. Everyone is offered the opportunity to reach out to their neighbors and help restore dignity to the marginalized. It’s time to invest in a mission that seeks to give hope to the hopeless.

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Monthly Charity Highlight

We at ZumaOffice.com believe that business also involves doing good work within our community and the world, where we use our capital to help others and champion the marginalized. It’s important to us that we constantly highlight the charities that we support so that our true mission and vision are not forgotten.

This month, we want to highlight our charity partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This well-known hub of medical research and advocacy for children’s cancer treatment began with a young man’s desperate prayer. Danny Thomas, a young entertainer, asked the patron saint St. Jude Thaddeus for guidance and help. When he found success, he built St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to pay homage to the patron saint who helped him. The hospital’s doors opened on February 4, 1962, exactly 58 years from today. Thomas’ vision was to create an environment where any child – no matter their race, color, creed, or socioeconomic status – would be able to receive treatment.

Today, St. Jude remains as one of the most celebrated and respected institutions that focuses on groundbreaking research for curing pediatric diseases. We look forward to seeing how they continue to progress in their tireless pursuit of eradicating childhood cancer!

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With the beginning of the new year, it’s time to introduce the updated list of charities that we support. When we launched in December of 2009, our vision was to build a business that makes a difference and meets the needs of the people around us. Thanks to our loyal customers and the hard work of the whole ZumaOffice.com team, we have steadily continued to give half our profits to our selected charities community and cultivate our passion for serving others.

Below is a list of the charities that we will support going forward. We encourage all our customers and website visitors to check out these great organizations. You might even consider helping them through donations or volunteer work in your area.  They are all very highly rated charities with causes that give people back their dignity and care for them well.

To learn more, please visit our “Do Good Work” page.  Click on any of the charities below to go to their websites and explore. 

St. Jude Children’s Hospital – This hospital brings awareness to childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases that no child should have to suffer through. Their research and treatment programs shed light on the ways we need to advocate for children’s health.

The V Foundation –Founded by renowned basketball coach Jim Valvano, this organization proclaims victory over cancer. Their dedication to save lives from cancer has resulted in major progress with cancer research and advocacy.

Living Water International – Bringing clean water to developing countries is a major need, and LWI exemplifies the posture of serving the poorest of the poor. They emphasize the importance of finding water solutions that involve both volunteer participation and communities so that everyone gets the chance to make an impact, no matter how small.

Hope International – This Christian organization aims to equip under served populations with practical tools and training for thriving lives free of poverty. Their motivation of love and concern for these people has enabled many families to pursue their dreams.

World Vision – Individuals and families get the chance to build powerful, moving relationships with children through monthly sponsorships. Through these connections, they not only provide for children’s needs, but they also gain awareness of the world’s injustice and learn to empower these children and their communities.

The Salvation Army – This organization has a hand in multiple avenues of change, ranging from fighting poverty to giving back dignity to the hurt and lost. Their main mission is to lift up the marginalized and show the world how to do that.

Samaritan’s Purse – As a Christian humanitarian group, their goal is to help victims who have endured tragedies such as natural disasters, war, disease, and famine. The organization focuses on bringing spiritual and physical aid to them.

To all our Zuma customers – thank you. Without you, we do not exist. We would not be able to support all these charities as much as we are now without your work alongside us. Together, we can continue to Do Good Work.

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