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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Montage Initiative

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Nonprofit Management

Mission: Montage Initiative connects trusted hearts, minds and hands across world markets and invests in the willingness to give, create, innovate and act. Through a combination of mentoring, microfinance and a Montage of support, we enable women at the heart of our programs to improve their living conditions while transforming the lives of their families, their communities and themselves.

Results: Montage Initiative has partnered with Fairfield University to enhance the university’s International Studies Program through engaging students in service learning related to non-governmental organizations. This project began in the 2011-2012 school year and will continue through the 2012-2013 year and beyond. Montage Initiative involves the students in its practical work and projects by granting them the opportunity to combine their studies with the real world experience in an NGO. Montage Initiative offers internships of varying durations and volunteer opportunities to the students. The goal of this project is to prepare students for work in the non-profit sector and follow their passions for helping others.

Target demographics: Women and girls of all ages in CT (USA), India and Africa.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 300

Geographic areas served: India, USA, United Kingdom

Programs: Montage Initiative’s current projects include: Women of India - enabling women from five villages in Vrindavan to extend their capabilities, finalizing ideas initially explored in better serving their needs; Toilets, Anyone? - supporting the basic human right for access to potable water and sanitation; Film Production - creating Mission-Driven Media, highlighting issues surrounding poverty and tradition while raising awareness to new audiences around the world; Traveling Art Gallery (TAG) - offering the use of space for the less fortunate around the globe to create and exhibit art in many different forms of mediums.

Community Stories

18 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In the stresses of our day to day lives we many times think there are not enough hours in the day to take on one more thing. Over the years I have found a since of purpose, calmness and joy through my volunteer efforts with Montage Initiative. I have learned so much by listening to the stories of those whose lives have been transformed because of the support they have received from this organization. It is such an honor and humbling experience to work with such dedicated and passionate individuals for a greater purpose. Volunteering allows you to look at the “real world” outside of ourselves through the eyes of others. I have learned and received so much more by giving of my time, talent, and treasure than I ever have from any paying job. I encourage you to look at Montage Initiative as your charity of choice. I can assure you, that you too will receive much more than you give.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

If you want to support a great nonprofit who is on the cutting edge of innovation and creativity, then check out Montage Initiative @ www.montageinitiative.org I am so excited to be a part of this amazing organization designed to help marginalized women locally and around the world. It truly is an organization that captures the heart of all those involved. 2013 is off to an amazing start! We were so privileged to present at the parallel event in NYC in support of the United Nations 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March. Our Student Advisory Board spoke on adopting a model of youth empowerment for future leadership and ways to take action. Ambassador Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations also spoke in support of this effort, along with Dr. Giri and others. We also had a screening and panel discussion about the film White Rainbow based on Dr. Giri’s life at Fairfield University. Being a volunteer for Montage has changed my life. It is a humbling experience when you hear the stories and see firsthand the struggles that women still endure today. What is inspiring and rewarding about contributing to Montage, is seeing your dollars truly make a difference in the lives of others. Please join me in giving a 5 star review to this well deserving nonprofit!

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

The United Nations 57th Commission on the Status of Women included Montage Initiative in its parallel events because Montage Initiative is helping to change the status of women! Montage Initiative is propelled by dynamic women implementing programs that bring real results for women and girls. Support Montage Initiative and support the empowerment of women around the world, giving Voice to the voiceless and bringing the contributions of women to a world that desperately needs them.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

Montage Initiative is a wonderful non profit organization that is helping women around the world. I had the privilidge of attending "The History of Women" art exhibit at Fairfield University and was introduced, and very impressed, by the Montage Initiative program. The fact that they are helping women earn a sustainable life and contribute to their families is an admirable way to decrease poverty. I'm hoping I can volunteer wih this very worth while cause!

Board Member

Rating: 4

Montage Initiative is not just another NGO, it is an invitation to help lift not only the women of India out of poverty and change their lives, but an opportunity to change your own. It is hugely humbling yet incredibly inspiring to sit and share not only food with the poorest of women but also their dreams. That's when you realise that the only difference between their situation and yours is geography. Women the world over want the same for their children, their families and their communities - the best. To feed, clothe and educate them. The reality, however, is that even the basics are hard enough to achieve in the developing world and the best is sadly a stretch to far for too many. Montage Initiative works to transform that, bringing those dreams closer, enabling and empowering women by providing training, education and access to markets and helping them to create sustainable livelihoods. The Montage team are a powerful, passionate group of dedicated professionals and volunteers who get things done. As Gandhi urged: they are being the change they want to see.



Volunteer

Rating: 5


Montage Initiative is an organization that seeks to help give a voice to those who have not been given the opportunity and chance to speak out and be heard. The work it does in terms of empowering women and creating a sustainable living condition for them is something that shows they are not only concerned about helping women on their feet but also teaching them to make it on their own in the long run.

Having worked with Montage through a service learning class has given me a chance to step into the lives of the women they reach out to. Their mission to give women around the world expanded opportunities uses every thing it can from Media, Art, and Volunteering to help spread the world. It is often said that if you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family and a nation. That is what Montage is doing with their vision. By helping the women to stand on their feet and also creating a sustainable future for them, Montage has not only educated a family, but also helped a nation back on their feet.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." -Anne Frank. This quote is something that has been instilled in my heart as a child and I have grown to act upon it. When I first heard about Montage Initiative and what they aim to do, I knew it was something special and that it was something that would change my life. It is great to see a non-profit focus on, not just providing aid to women, but to provide them with opportunities to earn a sustainable living. The passion and sincerity I saw in the eyes of the board members is the same look and emotion I have when I talk about the difference I want to make in the world which made me realize how genuine Montage Initiative is. Their motto "Montage Initiative will build peace, one woman at a time," shows exactly the drive they have towards making a difference around the world. I am excited to see their growth all over the world.

rozanne_ho

Board Member

Rating: 5

Montage Initiative's mission to empower women, expand minds and unleash potential is admirable. I've gained so much just by working on the recent initiatives through Montage in conjunction with Fairfield University. Our service learning project with the students of Fairfield brought us to the United Nations as we attended the conference on the Commission of Status of Women in early 2012.

1 Imran M.

Board Member

Rating: 5

i am honored to be on the board of Montage initiative. It's mission resonated with me immediately. I worked at the International Organization for Migration for 10 years in Geneva and then 11 years at Save the Children. After losing my first husband at a young age, I sought to find an organization that would help widows in the developing world. The pilot project of Montage Initiative to help destitute widows in India and its mission to empower women, especially, some of the most vulnerable - the widows, was an amazing opportunity for me to help other women who have not been as fortunate as I have been. i'm pleased to write this review to let others know about this amazing organization.

Donor

Rating: 5

It is a unique experience in these times to find an organization that is so well focused in its pursuance of their mission. I have been an active board member on many internationally known charities and this is my first foray in supporting a growing concern. Montage Initiative is worthy of your support.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Montage Initiative is a dynamic and blossoming INGO destined to touch and improve the lives of many. My favorite story is when founders Joanne and Ingrid left on a trip to India, and they did not just instigate programs they believed the women of India needed--but instead Joanne and Ingrid lived with the women, gained their trust, and then asked--what do you need? Montage Initiative is born from trust and friendship. The group of individuals leading the INGO are always popping with novel ideas, purposeful and realistic planning, and unbelievably quick implementation. You could not go wrong contributing to this NGO--their hearts are right on their sleeves, they are incredibly transparent, and undoubtedly inspiring.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Montage Initiative is a unique non-profit organization with powerful leadership, vision, keen awareness of art, and strong drive to help people. Only a few years old, it has already grown so much and touched the lives of many, especially by helping to improve the quality of life of widows in India. As I found out, one major way in which Montage Initiative does this is through its feature film project, stunning photography, film footage and videos, and artistic designs for fundraising events.

I was fortunate to become involved with Montage Initiative through service learning at Fairfield University because I have learned so much, gained great experience, and met wonderful people, all the while helping to make a difference through the various projects of Montage Initiative. I have enjoyed working with projects like the Travelling Art Gallery and service learning because they have given me the opportunity to really expand what I can do and truly become involved, things which I didn’t really have much confidence in myself about before Montage.

The CEO and leadership of Montage Initiative do a fantastic job at educating all the volunteers on tasks, events, and more. With the leadership’s attention to detail, care for all their volunteers, and dedication to teaching us and making us part of the family, Montage Initiative has succeeded in building a strong team of supporters. It struck me how the heads of Montage Initiative are always working tirelessly with Montage participants and partners to make sure that events and projects turn out the best possible. Montage translates this same attitude of care towards all with whom it engages: the leadership, volunteers, partners, and of course the people whose lives it works to improve.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Women want the same wherever they are – to feed, protect and educate their children and take charge of their own destiny. The only difference between the women we met in India and the women we are is geography. As our trip to Vrindavan drew to a close, we knew our world would never be the same again, and we pledged to one another that we would do all we could to make a lasting and sustainable difference in theirs: Our pledge is Montage Initiative.

9

Donor

Rating: 5

Working with the gals at HeartShare was terrific - they love what they do and have endless compassion while maintaining a great sense of humor.

7

Board Member

Rating: 5

Women want the same wherever they are – to feed, protect and educate their children and take charge of their own destiny. The only difference between the women we met in India and the women we are is geography. As our trip in November drew to a close, we knew our world would never be the same again, and we pledged to one another that we would do all we could to make a lasting and sustainable difference in theirs: Our pledge was HeartShare International. We left our lives under the banner of HeartShare to make this journey, made our own sacrifices to get here along with the help of a handful of women, many of whom we had never met and whose stories we didn’t know yet who donated anonymously, generously and spontaneously, all in the space of just twenty-four hours, so that we could make this trip for them and that they could make a difference too. An unforgiving wind swept through the open sides of our rickshaw carrying the rain deep inside our cab. “It’s not normally cold like this,” shouted our guide above the engine noise, grinning over his shoulder and bouncing wildly in his seat as we hit crater after crater in the road. The traditional Indian clothes we wore in honor of the women whose stories we had come to share gave little comfort from the cold and no protection from the elements, though being wedged tightly against one another did create a kind of “seatbelt stability” in the back, for which I was grateful as we had none. The dirt roads, which were no more than narrow tracks in places, became a sea of mud in a matter of moments, seeping into our open-toed sandals each time we stepped out. The last time I felt mud like this was making mud pies as a child in the garden. Back then I was making my dolls eat it; sticking my bare feet in it wasn’t part of the game until my shoe slipped off when my mother called me in for lunch. This was no game though. This was real, and neither the guide books nor our lives back in our native countries had prepared us for this. It was meant to be warm; we had no coats, no sweaters, no boots or umbrellas and no idea of the depth of poverty we would see or of the height of inspiration our hearts would soar to. And so we carried on. Our first mission to buy socks for the widows at Vrindavan, requested by one donor, was one of many lessons learned and an example of how a small item of such seeming inconsequence in our lives can make such a big difference in theirs. For a woman who has lost her husband, her home and her life, warm feet are a great comfort and a pair of socks a luxury. With the generous help of Dr. Mohini Giri, herself a widow, and the tremendous organization she created, The Guild of Service, born from her own painful experience, we were able to encounter one of the many faces of India that outside the country few really see, at her widows shelter Ma Dham and some of the surrounding villages where the Guild helps. It is hard to comprehend how an entire society can reject a woman simply because she has been widowed, much less her own family. There are approximately forty-one million widows in India. Of the twenty thousand living on the streets that make their way to Vrindavan, the holy birth place of Lord Krishna, Ma Dham houses only one hundred twenty. In or out of the shelter, however, these women lose their status to invisibility and pray for the same thing-- an early release from this life and an end to their suffering. A woman could be married at seventeen, be a mother at eighteen, and a widow at nineteen. Now considered ‘bad luck’ by her family, her life would be a long and difficult one, alone. Among the women we interviewed at Ma Dham, which offers them shelter, sisterhood, safety and sustenance, fate had taken its toll on their spirits and their faces, aging them prematurely, yet still they kept on smiling. Toothless, some of them, and poorly sighted, I found their loss of value to the world was a doubly harsh sentence to swallow. If they are widowed without children, the stigma is not the same, and society accepts their remarriage; but once she is a mother and a widow, it’s a different story. “Since when did motherhood become such a crime,” I wondered, “and women become so worthless?” One lady we interviewed, a widow in her sixties suffering from osteoporosis and a former employee of India’s Ministry of Finance, widowed for over twenty years and at Ma Dham for three, was asked how she thought India treated its widows. Articulate and in excellent English, her response was damning and evident: “Terrible,” she said, with a defiant strength in her eyes far greater than that of her frail body, “Terrible.” The Guild helps not only widows, but also women in local villages, to form empowerment groups, and it offers computer lessons for some of the children. Though internet connection was haphazard and the computers were aging, their teacher and Ma Dham’s head, Mr. Dastagir Ali Azam, was eager to show us just what the children could do, ranging from Excel spread sheets to complex pictures. Without printers, however, parents never got to see their children’s efforts, but then, printers needed paper, and paper, like socks, was a luxury. At one primary school we visited, run by the Social Outreach Foundation in Nodia, headed by one of Dr. Mohini’s colleagues, Prabha Grover, and set up for children of rickshaw drivers who couldn’t afford the cost of their child’s education, we heard well-disciplined and well-educated children tell us their hopes and dreams. Many of the boys wanted to be computer programmers or lawyers. The girls wanted to be teachers, nurses or doctors. To show recognition to students, instead of awarding them with children’s gift vouchers, computers or IPods, we gave them bars of soap, pencils and pads. As with socks and paper, we were back to basics, and it was impossible to imagine the kind of poverty these children returned to each day or their simple struggle to be more educated than their parents. The pride and ambition of these children were both humbling and inspiring, and it was clear that the greatest gift of both Ma Dham and the Outreach School was giving not only knowledge but pride, things many children in the developed world have yet to encounter. We turned a corner and entered our last village, Ramtal Ka Nagla, about three miles from Ma Dham, to meet another women’s empowerment group eager to hear what we had to say and give their permission to be filmed. By now we were running so behind schedule that some women had returned to market where they were selling jars of pickles they had made but came hurrying back to join us. We met in the crèche, a room with a rug but no glass in the windows, just bare concrete and care. Such tiny tots, so well behaved, sitting on the floor like the rest of us, all in a row; their little hearts touched mine and I wondered what their future would be. All that these people have is each other, and they use that strength to their benefit. Each woman, with the approval of her husband, saves fifty to one hundred rupees a month, just over a dollar; they are about to open a bank account so that if anyone in the village needs financial help, they will have access to money they could not otherwise receive. That these women, mostly uneducated and illiterate, had organized themselves in this way because they wanted to take charge of their own lives, and improve them, was inspiring. With no running water in the villages if the tanker doesn’t come, and it usually doesn’t, these women have to walk miles to bring some back. While we were there to assess the opportunities for work, microfinance, and training, it was clear that the most immediate need for all the women we met in the villages was water and toilets. Water, the source of life and a basic human necessity that we more often than not take for granted, is often lacking, and proper sanitation is impossible. Through the sea of mud women came. Women dressed in such bright colours as to make your heart sing. Carrying themselves with such dignity and grace, wearing smiles that seemed in total contrast to the struggle they faced. The women’s empowerment groups did more than just empower or inspire these women – they empowered and inspired us --to do all we could and be more than we were. This is the real face of India. It is the face of humanity, and she is beautiful, bold and determined.