Category Archives: News

Verista forges ahead

In the six months since the organization was renamed Verista, with a new mission, the board has taken concrete steps toward fulfilling that mission.

Verista has:

  • Registered on Dun and Bradstreet, on the U.S. System for Awards Management, and on, making the organization eligible to apply for grants from the U.S. federal government.
  • Applied June 25 for a grant from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, to produce a multimedia exhibit of Indian Americans practicing their faith in the United States.
  • Become a fiscal sponsor of News Lens Pakistan and transitioned out of its sponsorship of Herb Bus, in June.
  • Adopted a Conflict of Interest Policy, on June 5 (see Documents page).
  • Redesigned the website, logo and header.

New sponsorship, new board members

In its board meeting today, the Verista board elected two new members, Ann Ravenstine and Arnold “Skip” Isaacs. Their biographies are on the Board of Directors page.

The five members voted unanimously to:

-Offer sponsorship to News Lens Pakistan, an independent news organization which Board President Lisa Schnellinger launched in her role as President of NearMedia LLC. News Lens is owned by the Pakistani nonprofit Media Foundation 360.  Verista will accept contributions via PayPal on behalf of News Lens and will pass through any fees from PayPal.

-Clarify the fiscal sponsorship of Herb Bus to ensure that it meets legal standards.

-Write and adopt a Conflict of Interest policy.

Baraka Foundation is now Verista

Baraka is a name we’ve used and loved since 2007. It means “gift” or “blessing,” and that seemed especially appropriate for our fundraising mission then.

As our mission evolved, we needed a name that would encompass the story better. All the standard words to describe it have been misused and abused into meaningless oblivion.

So we decided to make one up.

We believe that the pursuit of truth underlies high standards in any profession. Verify, verity, verifiable, verdict, veracity – all come from the Latin root ver meaning “truth.”

We also wanted to convey that our outlook is 360 degrees. We aren’t limited by culture, geography, or other traps of the mind that limit our thinking. The word that best captures that sense is “vista.” The root is vis meaning “to see.”

Ver-vis didn’t have much ring to it, but we tried other combinations – and Verista emerged. It carries the spirit of meaning in a new word that is easy to pronounce and spell. It also has a  vitality that we hope will communicate how we feel about our mission.

A new mission

Culminating a discussion that has been ongoing for the past year, the board of Baraka Foundation unanimously approved today a new mission statement for the organization.

The mission reflects a broad definition of “media,” to include media development, arts projects, public information and education, particularly in assistance to emerging media overseas, but also in the United States:

Our mission is to promote best practices in media worldwide. Our activities are to provide training and administrative and technical support for emerging media, including public information, education and artistic ventures, in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as well as in the Southern Appalachians, home of its regional headquarters. We specialize in using technology to engage and assist colleagues, in particular via distance learning methods. People who work for us are professionals who uphold the highest standards of quality and integrity.

Herb Bus update

For 2014, Baraka Foundation disbursed more than $4,300 in earmarked donations to the Herb Bus through its fiscal sponsorship program.

Building community through herbalism, this mobile herb clinic provides herbal first aid and earth-based constitutional medicine to underserved populations.  We are currently hubbed in Atlanta, Georgia. The Herbalista Free Clinic, traveling via the Herb Bus, also serves as a mobile classroom.  We share the Herb Bus model with communities and herb schools around the country.

Source: Herb Bus


After 10 years, the girls school in Afghanistan, supported by Baraka Foundation,  has graduated its first students.

Eight girls finished high school this month, at the end of the academic year.

Five of them will sit for university entrance exams. Higher education in Afghanistan is free by a provision in the constitution.

A book scholarship fund will be set up for those who do go on to university.

[The girls were not photographed by request of their families.]

Baraka Foundation and its founder, Lisa Schnellinger, have been raising money for the school since 2003. Among the girls graduating are several who have attended since that time.


Suicide attack blasts school windows

Sad news: All the windows at the girls’ school were broken on Dec. 2 from shock waves when a truck laden with explosives blew up in front of a nearby military complex.

The insurgent attack took place on a Friday, the day off, so none of the students or teachers were injured. But dozens of civilians closer to the blast were hospitalized with injuries, and district officials estimated that the blast caused some $700,000 in damage to area buildings.

The school is just down the road from the provincial headquarters of the multinational security force. Full details of the blast can be read by clicking here.

We hope to replace all the windows – this time, with blast-proof tape to prevent injuries – at a cost of about $1,200.

Featured on Martha Stewart

A handmade bag from Zardozi was featured on the Martha Stewart “Giving” show on Wednesday Dec 22.
One of Martha’s guests was Betty Londgren, who wrote about Lisa’s work with the girls school in Afghanistan on her “What Gives 365” blog.
The show also showed photos of the school during that segment.
The bag is made from six separate sections, each embroidered by a different family in the village where they are sewn. It is designed to carry jewelry, but can also be used as a wallet.
Watch the video here:

Betty Londergan Interview on Martha Stewart! from Betty Londergan on Vimeo.

New books at the library

A load of 60 new books, purchased with donations from North Georgia residents, was delivered in August to the library of the village school for girls in Afghanistan.
The girls and teachers were enthralled by the books… some had never had hardcover books with color illustrations before.
The new library is fully furnished and in use. The plastic wrap is still on the chairs – a proud sign of their newness.
Last year’s fundraisers saw the completion of the library with a solid roof, plastered walls, and hand-trimmed doors and windows, as well as paint inside and out.
The project was paid for by donations and individual purchases from the people of North Georgia and other Americans.
A fundraiser was held at Bears Oh My gift store in Big Canoe, Georgia, on Feb. 12 and 13. Despite the snow, more than $1,500 in Afghan goods were sold. Thanks to the generous support of store owner Barb Maslyk, ALL profits from this sale go directly to the school.