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The Carletonian

NEED Magazine Co-Founder shares stories of hope amidst poverty

<hanie Kinnunen, CEO and Co-Founder of NEED Magazine, articulated her desires to spread people's stories of hardship and everyday miracles on Friday Jan. 21. To do so, Kinnunen and her husband started NEED, the first independent, non-profit, global magazine of humanitarian issues.

Kicking off the convocation with a string of Finnish, Kinnunen modestly commented on her grasp of the language by recounting the years she lived in Finland with her husband and two sons, one of whom she adopted.

As the youngest of four children, Kinnunen recalled her first volunteering experience as a small girl. Despite being raised by a single mother in poor living conditions, Kinnunen found herself helping out once a week at nursing homes. When asking her mother why she enjoyed volunteering, her mother responded that because her own life was so difficult, she had to help someone else improve their own.

Kinnunen decided she too wanted to devote her life to helping people. After her children married, she and her husband, an industrial designer, pooled their skills to see how they could go about achieving this shared goal. Being a catering director herself, the two of them were unsure of how to begin.

First they travelled to Russia to visit a shelter that cared for young girls ages seven to nine who were abused by the brutal sex trade there. Reflecting upon the sight of the dilapidated exterior of the shelter, Kinnunen’s expression brightened as she described the pristine inner classrooms, rows of desks and how watching young girls just enjoying being kids “made her feel so small.”

Kinnunen and her husband decided that the best way to help those in poverty or in need was to spread awareness of their situations. Selling everything they had and putting together their savings, they began NEED Magazine, focusing on printing and distributing these stories with the help of volunteering photographers and writers.

There were financial challenges to keeping the magazine afloat. Sponsors refused to help because “97% of magazines fail within the first year,” said Kinnunen.

They did survive the first year and published four issues. Further crises emerged, however, when they were burglarized in January 2008.

Kinnunen considered quitting but was stopped short by one phone call from a reader who thanked her for the work she was doing and hoped that the magazine would continue. The confidence that she received proved how just a single person can make a difference.

“People of poverty are the most creative, hardworking people you will find” because they are forced by their unfortunate circumstances to live on the bare minimum and to use the scarce resources accessible to help them survive, Kinnunen said.

She commented that since NEED Magazine’s first issue, calls have streamed in, applauding Kinnunen and her husband for the power of their story-telling and how it has directly led to awareness and donations, and how it has ultimately saved lives. As dictated by their motto, “We are not out to save the world, but to tell the stories of those who are,” Kinnunen cannot doubt the power and impact that these stories of hope have had on other people.

Note: NEED Magazine will soon be out of print. Kinnunen and her husband are planning to begin a new project, focusing on raising awareness of the philanthropic efforts of corporate institutions.

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