Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Nov 23
Very Happy News!

At a banquet last Thursday at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, I was named a Microsoft Integral Fellow. Pongo will receive a $25K financial award and has the promise of significant support from the Microsoft Alumni Foundation and from my fellow Microsoft alumni in the coming year. The evening could not have been more happy and humbling for me. Alumni committee members not only expressed their personal appreciation for Pongo, but they conveyed the appreciation of Tom Brokaw and the other judges. Bill and Melinda Gates presented me with a medal. In accepting the award I had the chance to talk to 450 people about the difficult lives of Pongo teens, and could also explain how out of this darkness there can be triumph and joy. As I was leaving at the end of the night, one Microsoft person called out, "We're proud of you." My former colleagues are great!

One of the first benefits I've received from the Microsoft Alumni Foundation is that a very artful video was made about Pongo, set in juvenile detention. Please check it out (only two minutes!). Here's the link


It was an honor to stand with my fellow award nominees, finalists, and recipients. My remarks at the banquet are enclosed, below...

Remarks to the Microsoft Alumni Association 
Richard Gold
November 18, 2010

I’d like to thank the Microsoft Alumni Foundation for naming me a Microsoft Integral Fellow. And I’d like to express my appreciation to Bill and Melinda Gates and to the many of you in this audience who are already doing so much to change our world. Thank you. I am humbled to be with you tonight.

I’d like to share a thought with those of you who will soon be entering the world of nonprofits and making your own contributions – My thought is that out of darkness can come triumph and joy.

In the case of the Pongo youth, they have terrible challenges that isolate them. Traumas at an early age can overwhelm young people and leave them fragmented and confused. Trying to understand your life under these circumstances is like trying to look into your own eyes without a mirror. And the abuse these youth suffer is not just a hit, it is coercive. The victims are blamed for their victimization. For children who don’t receive the love they need, they feel a deep burden of shame. And then there is the social stigma that surrounds trauma and tragedy.

But when Pongo authors write about their feelings, and someone is listening, they are changed. They make a cognitive shift, and come to understand that “This is who I am” and “I am not alone.” It is a wonderful moment to share. The other Pongo volunteers and I know that we receive more than we give in this work.

So to those of you who are about to make your efforts to change the world, I’m happy for the opportunities you’ll have to bring triumph and joy out of darkness. You have my best wishes! Please contact me if you’d like my support.

Thank you.