Feel Good Friday

December 2, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Anti-Demafation League

It’s Feel Good Friday and, continuing my post-election theme, I’m here to tell you about another organization in the US fighting for justice and civil rights. Today, the Anti-Defamation League.

As the description from their website explains, the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, “was founded in 1913 ‘to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all’. Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Their slogan is “imagine a world without hate”, and you can learn more about them by watching the 100 year anniversary video, narrated by James Earl Jones.

With offices around the country (and one in Israel), the ADL’s main areas of focus include:

  • Anti-Semitism – fighting it is still a priority because it’s still an issue. One example is that the number of anti-Semitic instances on college campuses nearly doubled in 2015.
  • Combating Hate – working at both state and national levels to deter and counteract hate-motivated criminal activity as well as tracking cyber hate, monitoring domestic and international terrorism and providing a database of hate symbols for law enforcement.
  • Israel and International – monitoring and reporting hate crimes internationally.
  • Civil Rights – filling amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in legal proceedings protecting religious freedom and preventing discrimination against immigrants, women, Muslims and the LGBT community.
  • Education and Outreach – information, resources and training on anti-bias education and many other topics!

Like the Southern Poverty Law Center,  ADL is tracking anti-Semitic, racist and bigoted incidents. If you are a victim of hate or are aware of an incident, follow this link to #ExposeHate.

Now more than ever, organizations like the ADL can use your support. There are a number of ways you can take action, including making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ADL_national.

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November 25, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Planned Parenthood

Happy Feel Good Friday! I hope everyone was able to spend some time yesterday connecting with family and friends and finding reasons to be thankful. My list of people, experiences and things to be grateful for is long, and since the presidential election, I’ve turned my gratitude and Feel Good Friday focus to organizations standing up for people in the United States. Today – Planned Parenthood.

The motto of Planned Parenthood is “Care. No matter what.” Their website provides the following summary, “Planned Parenthood is a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.” The organization just turned 100 in October and if you don’t have time to read the rest of this post, do yourself a favor and at least spend 1:53 minutes watching their video, #100YearsStrong.

While many people associate Planned Parenthood with abortions, of the 2.5 million women and men that visit Planned Parenthood annually, abortions make up only 3% of services they provide. 80% of clients receive services to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In addition, every year, “Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health care, education, information and outreach to nearly five million women, men and adolescents worldwide.”

To learn more about their clients and their work, you can check out Planned Parenthood at a Glance. There are online resources you can access to learn about sexual health, pregnancy, general healthcare, relationships and more, as well as an extensive video library. You can also find a location near you if you need healthcare.

There are a number of ways you can get involved and show your support of Planned Parenthood, including liking their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @PPFA for Health. For those of you who want to take a political stand you can support the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. The front page of their website states, “We reject your hate. We resist your threats. We aren’t going anywhere. #WeWontGoBack” @PPAct.

Now, I’m going to close with some news that warms my heart. The NY Daily News reported on Tuesday  that, since the election, Planned Parenthood has received over 200,000 individual donations, 50,000 of which were made in the name of VP Elect, Mike Pence. If you too would like to let him know that you stand with Planned Parenthood against his efforts to defund this organization, here is the donation link and here is his address:

Office of Governor Mike Pence

Statehouse

Room 206

Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

Thank you to everyone who reads and supports this blog. May you all have an inspiring and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

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November 18, 2016

Feel Good Friday – ACLU

As I mentioned last week, the outcome of the US presidential election is influencing what organizations I write about on Feel Good Friday. There will come a time when I’m back to panda preservation and art programs for kids but not yet. Last week it was the Southern Poverty Law Center and this week it’s the ACLU.

acluThe American Civil Liberties Union, more commonly referred to as the ACLU, was created in 1920 in response to the “Palmer Raids”. Fearing the Communist Revolution in Russia would spread to the United States, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up so-called radicals and arresting them without warrants. A small group of people banded together to defend them and so the ACLU was born.

Their work is summarized on their website as follows, “For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States”. This includes, denouncing the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII when no one else would, fighting off attacks on women’s reproductive rights and defending free speech. More details on their cases throughout the years can be found here.

The current focus of the ACLU is challenging Donald Trump, should he attempt to enact any of his campaign promises that violate people’s civil liberties. The response from the public has been to donate over 8 million dollars in less than two weeks.

On an ongoing basis the work of the ACLU includes topics such as criminal law reform, national security and religious liberty. You can view the full list of issues and subcategories here. They also have guides to help you know your rights, for example what to do if you are stopped by police, immigration or the FBI. In the upcoming days it will also be useful learn more about anti-Muslim discrimination, what to do if you are detained for taking photographs and your rights during demonstrations and protests.

To support the work of the ACLU, become a member, volunteer with your local affiliate and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ACLU. Because as they say, “freedom can’t protect itself”.

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November 11, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Southern Poverty Law Center

I try to avoid discussions of politics on Feel Good Fridays because I want this space to focus on the good works being done by people around the world. That being said, the rise in hate crimes only days after the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is what inspired this week’s organization.

Once again, we celebrate the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). If that’s ringing a familiar bell it’s because we profiled their school-based program Teaching Tolerance in this post last month. Today we’re focused on what they do to fight hate.

As stated on their website, “we monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement.” There is an interactive map of the 892 hate groups in the U.S. so you can see where they can be found.

In an effort to bring these people to light and to justice, SPLC maintains a extremist files database of prominent extremist organizations and individuals and explains their ideologies. They also “publish investigative reports, train law enforcement officers and share key intelligence, and offer expert analysis to the media and public.”

So what does all this monitoring and tracking do, besides make you depressed realizing how much hate is out there? As the SPLC explains, “over the years, we’ve crippled or destroyed some of the country’s most notorious hate groups – including the United Klans of America, the Aryan Nations and the White Aryan Resistance – by suing them for murders and other violent acts committed by their members or by exposing their activities.” That’s what happens when you tangle with a law center!

In addition to fighting hate and teaching tolerance the SPLC has programs focused on children’s rightsimmigrant justice, LGBT rights, economic justice and criminal justice reform. You can click all these links now or you can wait… this may not be the last time we turn to the Southern Poverty Law Center on a Feel Good Friday.

Support this important work with a donation and by liking the SPLC Facebook, the HateWatch Facebook page following them on Twitter @splcenter.

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November 4, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Hav A Sole

It’s Feel Good Friday! Put your feet up and read about this week’s organization, Hav A Sole.

As they state on their website, “Hav A Sole‘s mission is to provide the homeless and at risk youth population with quality footwear to encourage healthier lifestyles and prevent disease, while fostering a sense of community along the way.”

The organization was founded in 2014 by Rikki Mendias. Having lived in a shelter in Southern California with his mother when he was younger, and going to school in shoes with holes, he was profoundly impacted by a woman who took him to buy two new pairs of shoes. His boost in confidence turned into an obsession with shoes, which led to him owning over 150 pairs. He realized he could encourage volunteerism and build community by giving away new and gently worn shoes. You can see Rikki and here him tell his story in this 2:11 min video.

In the two years the organization has been operating, they’ve given away over 7,000 pairs of shoes in 13 cities and now have partnerships with shoe manufacturers Nike and Saucony. At the shoe giveaways there is always an emphasis on the power of choice. People get to pick shoes that they want rather than having to take whatever is available.

The benefits of this program are listed on the Hav A Sole website: “bringing communities together, igniting the inspiration to give, preventing disease, encouraging healthy lifestyles, instilling confidence and showing that we care.” Kudos to Rikki and his team of volunteers for setting up mobile shops and bringing high quality footwear to people who need it.

You can visit the website to see photos and videos of the group in action. If you’ve got new or gently worn shoes (or cash) you’d like to donate, you can do that here. As always, you can show your support via social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @havAsole.

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October 28, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Janwaar Castle

This week, I turned to one of my sources for Feel Good Friday stories, Karma Tube, and I’m very glad I did. It led me to today’s organization, Janwaar Castle.

Located near New Delhi, India, Janwaar Castle is a community organization founded in 2016 by Ulrike Reinhard with one purpose, “to uplift the lives of the villagers in Janwaar, especially those of the Janwaar children.” The main activity used to bring the children together? Skateboarding!

In this 7:30 min video, the Barefoot Skateboarders of India, you’ll see how skateboarding together brakes down barriers between children, empowers girls to interact with the boys, and increases all of the children’s participation in school due to the rule, no government school = no skateboarding.

Next month (Nov. 12 – 14) Janwaar Castle will be hosting a skateboard challenge that will bring together girls and boys ages 6 – 16 from all across India to compete and to celebrate skateboarding. There will also be trips to the jungle and education about nature and village life.

While the skatepark is the main focus, the people of Janwaar Castle are also fundraising to build an infrastructure to support access to clean water year round. Another project is the Rural Changemakers campaign, the first step of which is “a compilation of photographs of children from Janwaar, talking about the goals they have in life, their passions and their hopes.” You can see those photos here.

The goal is for children to be empowered to move forward with their own learning. That’s embodied by the principles of the organization, some of which include: resilience over strength, practice over theory and we over me.

If you like what you see you can help Janwaar Castle by making a donation. You can also keep current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Janwaar_Castle. Now take off your shoes, get on your skateboard and go make some friends!

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October 21, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Teaching Tolerance

Today’s Feel Good Friday organization is Teaching Tolerance. Why? Because right about now the world (and yes, I mostly mean you, United States) could use a lesson in tolerance.

Teaching Tolerance (TT) was founded in Montgomery, Alabama by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. As explained on their website, the organization is “dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experience for our nation’s children.” Their philosophy is to view tolerance “as a way of thinking and feeling – but most importantly, of acting – that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them. Yes! More of this please.

TT carries out their mission by providing FREE educational materials to teachers and other school practitioners in the U.S. and Canada. Resources include a quarterly magazine (the fall edition is focused on the 2016 election) and film kits that include Oscar-winning documentaries.

The publicationsclassroom resources and professional development aides available can be targeted to specific grades and they cover the following topics: ability, appearance, family, gender expression, immigration, media literacy, race and ethnicity, religion, school climate, sexual orientation, the civil rights movement, gender equity, rights, wealth and poverty. Whew!

For the last 14 years, there has also been a campaign called Mix It Up at Lunch Day, which encourages students to move outside of their comfort zones and connect with someone new (and different from them) over lunch. It happens annually on the last Tuesday in October and the benefits are explained in this short video.

You can learn more about Teaching Tolerance by reading this informational brochure or the current magazine issue, access free resources on their website and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Tolerance_org.

Now let’s all get out there and practice some tolerance!

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October 14, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Pandas International

It’s Friday and it may be hard to feel good with all the election news bringing you down but fear not. Today, for a complete change of pace, Feel Good Friday celebrates Pandas International!

Pandas International is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by Suzanne Braden and Diane Rees after they learned about the plight of the Giant Panda on a trip to the Wolong Panda Center in China. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “despite their exalted status and relative lack of natural predators, pandas are still at risk. Severe threats from humans have left just over 1,800 pandas in the wild.”

The mission of Pandas International is “to ensure the preservation and propagation of the endangered Giant Panda.” They do this by providing “public awareness and education, support for research, habitat preservation and enhancement, and assistance to Giant Panda Centers.”

You can watch an adorable (how can it not be?) 1:47 minute video here to see lots of pandas and learn about the work Pandas International is doing. They partner with Giant Panda breeding centers and reserves in China to provide medical equipment and supplies. Programs they support include captive breeding, reintroduction, environmental enrichment and bamboo reforestation – because 99% of a pandas diet is bamboo! Details of the programs and annual reports can be found here.

If you’d like to support the work Panda International and the reserves in China you have a lot of options! You can adopt a panda, though at a cost of $10,000, you may prefer to sponsor a year of worming medication ($25) or year of bamboo ($300). You can also host a panda party to raise funds, volunteer in China, buy panda schwag, or show your support on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @PandasInt.

And because we all need to keep our spirits up through November 8th, I offer you a parting gift: live panda cam!

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October 7, 2016

Feel Good Friday – League of Women Voters

It may be hard to believe but this Feel Good Friday we’re going to talk about something both election-related and positive: the League of Women Voters.

As explained on their website, “The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.”

The League was founded in 1920 by Carrie Champan Catt, six months before the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified. You can take a deeper dive into their history and click this link to see photos through the decades.

The mission of the League is “making democracy work”. One of the ways they do that is through protecting voters. This includes ensuring compliance with laws like the Voting Rights act, as well as modernizing voting systems and expanding both early voting and online voter registration.

Speaking of which, “The League is one of the nation’s largest and most longstanding community based voter registration groups.” Once they’ve got you registered, they can get you educated. The website http://www.vote411.org/ will populate with detailed information for your area once you input your address.

You can also use this directory find a local league to get information on issues affecting your city and state. For example the League of Women Voters San Francisco hosts candidate forums as well as publishes both an Easy Voter Guide for the California statewide initiatives and a pro/con guide for San Francisco measures. I’m very happy to have found these resources!

Finally, the League directs additional efforts into reforming money in politics, defending the environment, advocating gun safety and more. You can get the complete breakdown of their work here.

The most current information can be found on their blog or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @LWV and @VOTE411 for election info.

While I certainly have an opinion of who you should vote for on November 8th, what will give me the biggest Feel Good Friday feeling is knowing that people are engaged and participating so please, get out there and vote!

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September 30, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Action for Happiness

Today’s Feel Good Friday is a win-win. Not only do you get to feel good about the work Action for Happiness is doing, you can easily get involved and improve your own happiness!

Action for Happiness was founded in Britain in 2011 by Lord Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon, specialists in economics, education, politics and social innovation. Why? Because they want to use the ability to measure happiness “to increase well-being in our personal lives, homes, schools, workplaces and communities.”

As explained on their website, this organization is “a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. We want to see a fundamentally different way of life – where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others.”

The three fundamental values of the group are:

1. We can each affect our happiness and the happiness of those around us.

2. We need to prioritize the things that cause happiness (positive relationships, good mental health).

3. Helping others is essential for a happier society.

If it sounds a little too woo woo for you, fear not. Their approach draws on the latest scientific research, which you can learn more about in the recommended reading list or by checking out the section titled “answers to sceptics.” (I know, skeptics but come on they’re English).

There is a 9:07 minute introductory video about the organization you can watch to hear from Director Mark Williamson. You can also download a guidebook that list the 10 keys for happiness. If you like what you see, you can explore the ideas such as helping others, living mindfully and learning resilience by checking out the online resources. For each key you’ll find facts, articles for further reading and actions you can take immediately.

If you want to join the movement, you’ll be asked to make a simple pledge: “I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me.” I think that’s a pretty good policy whether you make it official or not.

In addition to all the resources on the Action for Happiness website, you can also stay informed by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @actionhappiness.

Finally, congratulations to those of you who made it to the end of this post. One of the 10 keys to happiness is to keep learning new things, which you just did. Well done!

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September 23, 2016

Feel Good Friday – SCORE

Ever dream of running your own business and being your own boss? Today’s Feel Good Friday organization, SCORE, can help you make it happen!

In their own words, “SCORE, America’s premier source of free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs and small businesses, is a nonprofit resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). We have over 300 SCORE offices across the country offering free business mentoring and low- or no-cost workshops.”

SCORE volunteers, now numbering over 13,000, have been mentoring small business owners, and aspiring small business owners since 1964! Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, there are chapters across the United States, including many in the Bay Area.

People who access the services of SCORE do so throughout the lifecycle of owning a small business. In 2014, 33% were considering starting a business, 30% were in the process of starting a business, and 37% were already in business and looking to take it to the next level.

There is a wealth of information on the SCORE website including the benefits of receiving mentoring, a series of training courses and workshops you can take, and reasons to put your own expertise to use and become a volunteer mentor.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can read a variety of SCORE success stories here and even sort them by business stage and industry. As always, to stay in the loop with the national organization, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @SCOREMentors.

SCORE has the goal of helping 1 million clients by 2020. Perhaps one of them will be you!

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September 16, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Touch*A*Life

 

We spent last Feel Good Friday in San Francisco, California. So, in an effort to provide variety, today we go to Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Touch*A*Life is, as stated on their website, “an international humanitarian organization that embodies the principle of loving kindness to serve the world’s poor and displaced.” The organization was started in 2004 by Mavis Ching after being inspired by a man in Indonesia who had been feeding the poor for over 30 years. You can read more about her and TAL’s beginnings here.

While Touch*A*Life keeps some basic medical supplies on hand to distribute and connects people with other aid organizations, the main program of TAL is their Free Meal Program. From the first batch of 52 egg sandwiches, they now serve almost 6000 vegetarian meals a month to people living in and around Siem Reap. The program is “driven by the belief that people in need deserve, and would welcome, a helping hand that also lifts their spirit.”

In this 3:24 minute video, Mavis explains the origins of TAL and you can see many of the children and volunteers involved with the program. If you are planning a trip to Cambodia, you too can be a volunteer! If Angkor Wat is not in your future, you can support the children of the area with a donation.

There are lots of photos posted on the website and you’ll find the most current ones by liking the Touch*A*Life Facebook page.

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September 9, 2016

Feel Good Friday – San Francisco Symphony

I had a feel good Thursday at the San Francisco Symphony last night and that got me wondering if there were any programs that would make them a good subject for Feel Good Friday. The answer? Yes!

The San Francisco Symphony has been a part of city life since their first concerts in 1911 and they’ve been a part of San Francisco classrooms since 1988.

As explained on their website, the Adventures in Music (AIM) program “includes in-school presentations by music ensembles, specially designed classroom curriculum, classroom materials and a visit to Davies Symphony Hall for a private concert by the San Francisco Symphony.” There are two programs targeted to students in different grades and together they reach every student in grades 1-5 in the SF Unified School District. That’s more than 25,000 children in 95 schools! You can watch a 2:20 min video of the program, and see adorable kids playing triangles, here.

In addition, students from kindergarten to grade 9 can attend special concerts which help introduce them to musical concepts and ideas. Materials are sent to the classroom ahead of the concert and teachers can also request a visit by an education docent to help prepare the students. Students from grades 9-12 are invited to attend open rehearsals of the symphony and teachers can find many helpful resources at this link.

For kids who want to continue to learn more about music there is a separate website, SFS Kids, where you can read about and try to play a variety of instruments, conduct an orchestra of animals and compose your own music!

If you want more SF Symphony in your life, you can buy tickets to a performance, watch their extensive collection of videos and stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SFSymphony.

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September 2, 2016

Feel Good Friday – La Tortuga Feliz

Today Feel Good Friday is going to Costa Rica for a little Sentries Bien Viernes!

La Tortuga Feliz (the happy turtle) is a volunteer-run organization in Costa Rica focused on turtle conservation. Poaching, fishing nets and pollution have taken their toll on the turtle population and La Tortuga Feliz (LTF) has been working to reverse that decline since 2006.

Volunteers work with people in the local community to patrol the beaches looking for eggs before the poachers find them. As explained in more detail on their website, “These local inhabitants guard/patrol the beach (Caribbean coast of Costa Rica) together with volunteers, collect the turtle eggs and bring these eggs to a hatchery which is manned by volunteers on a 24 hours basis. Volunteers also participate in the care for and study of recuperating adult turtles in the turtle reduce and rehabilitation centre.”

This turtle conservation work provides income for the locals, which the people at LTF hope will take away the necessity for locals to poach the turtles and their eggs. Many of the people working for LTF are former poachers who are happy to earn money saving, rather than killing the turtles.

Volunteers pay $35/day for room and board, which seems like a pretty sweet deal. While you’re spending time learning about, and saving turtles, you can also take Spanish lessons and bond with volunteers from around the world! Not convinced yet? Check out the videos on their home page and view their photo gallery, which both give you a great idea of the work being done.

If you can’t book your plane tickets to Costa Rica just yet, you can follow the work of La Tortuga Feliz by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @latortugafeliz1.

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August 26, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Rubicon Bakery & Rubicon Programs

Today’s Feel Good Friday is a Rubicon two-for-one special!

 

First, Rubicon Bakery.

rubiconLocated in Richmond, California, their motto is “Treat yourself. Transform Lives.” Why? Because they employ people who need a second chance, whether that’s because they’ve done time in jail or have had issues with substance abuse.

The short version of the story is this. Rubicon Bakery was founded in 1993 as a social enterprise by Rubicon Programs to provide job training skills and employment to low-income clients in their program who were the hardest to employ. After 16 years, with the bakery losing money and down to 14 employees, they sold it to Andrew Stoloff, who promised to continue the bakery’s mission.

Now they have over 100 employees, are growing at a rate of 30% per year and their products (made with all natural ingredients) can be found in stores around the country, including your local Whole Foods! You can meet some of the bakers and hear how working at Rubicon Bakery has changed their lives in this 3:50 minute video. You can also read this Berkeleyside article by Alix Wall which gives you a much more detailed version of the story and includes photos!

Rubicon_Programs_Logo_400x400.jpg

That leads us to the second Feel Good Friday group, Rubicon Programs.

As explained on their Facebook page, “Rubicon’s mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping low-income people to break the cycle of poverty. Since 1973, Rubicon has provided employment, housing, mental health and other supportive services to individuals who are very low-income, especially people who are homeless or have mental illness.”

Their programs include a one stop career center that provides workshops, coaching and job placement assistance as well as a host of legal services. They also operate a fully licensed landscape maintenance and installation business called Rubicon Landscape, which provides training and employment to a team of 60-80 people.

You can support the work of both groups by buying some cupcakes, hiring help for your yard work and following them on social media! Remember, treat yourself. Transform lives.

Rubicon Bakery: Facebook page and Twitter @RubiconBakers

Rubicon Programs: Facebook page and Twitter @RubiconPrograms

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August 19, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Project Favela

The 2016 Olympics are taking place right now in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and plenty of medal winners are feeling good. But what happens when the competition is over and the athletes go home? There’s still a reason for a Feel Good Friday and that reason is Project Favela.

projectfavelaProject Favela is located in favela Rocinha, the largest community of it’s kind in Latin America with over 250,000 residents. Project Favela is a non profit organization founded in 2009 by Scott Miles with the goal “to provide a means in which children have access to high quality educational programs that have the ability to move their lives forward and break the cycle of poverty.”

They manage this by recruiting and relying on a team of international volunteers, known as volun-teachers, who teach and mentor over 100 children a day for free.

Programs run from 8am to 9pm. They include the Preschool Project, which focuses on getting the youngest students classroom ready, and an Out-of-School Time Program, that combines classroom learning and project based learning events.

You can get more details by watching this video of Angela Crawford, the Director of Education. She explains the programs in greater detail and you can see scenes from the classroom starting at 6:22. When the after school program is done at 6pm, free English lessons are offered to both children and adults in the community.

If you’ve got plans to be in Rio, or need an excuse to make some, Project Favela is preparing to open a third school in 2017 and they need volunteers! You can hear a message from Scott and get an idea of the volunteer experience at the Project Favela Blog.

Other ways to support the children of Rio? Donate some cash and like the Project Favela Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @projectfavela. Obrigado!

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August 12, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Alzheimer’s Association

It’s Thursday evening and I just came back from a fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association with a great idea for an organization to feature this Feel Good Friday! Let’s take a trip to their website, shall we?

endalzThe Alzheimer’s Association “is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.” Their vision is very straightforward, “a world without Alzheimer’s disease”.

Some statistics I learned tonight are that “an estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease” and it’s the 6th leading cause of death in this country. It’s affected people in my family and the families of my friends and odds are it’s affected someone you know too. This 1:30 min video gives a very good summary of the impact and cost of Alzheimer’s.

Founded in 1980 by Jerome H. Stone, the programs and services offered by the Alzheimer’s Association fall into three main areas:

Support: for caregivers in the form of online resources and referrals and face-to-face support groups. There is education for the general public such as this list of 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and a 24/7 toll-free hotline to provide information, support and assistance to everyone in need. 1.800.272.3900.

Research: as explained on the website, “as the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, the Association is committed to accelerating the global progress of new treatments, preventions and ultimately, a cure.”

Advocacy: developing policy resources to educate decision makers and engaging elected officials at all levels of government.

If you’re inspired to learn more or get involved, you can volunteer at a chapter near you, join a fundraising walk or straight up donate cash. You can also show your support and stay connected by shopping, liking the Alzheimer’s Association Facebook page and following them on Twitter @alzassociation. As they say, they are “the brains behind saving yours” and saving your brain sounds like a fantastic idea.

alzlogo

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August 5, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Street Poets Inc.

Today’s Feel Good Friday group is Street Poets Inc – “Saving Lives One Rhyme at a Time”. Intrigued? Me too!

streetpoetsI learned of the organization from this Daily Good article about their founder, Chris Henrikson. For those of you short on time – 20 years ago, he answered an add to teach creative writing to incarcerated youth in Los Angeles, California. He continued to work with these young people after they were released and Street Poets Inc was born.

Their mission, as stated on the website is broken down into four areas.

  • “Street Poets harnesses the healing power of poetry and music to save lives, create community and transform culture.
  • Street Poets breaks the cycle of violence in the lives of at-risk and incarcerated youth, awakening them to their gifts.
  • Street Poets builds creative community, bringing youth, adults and elders of diverse backgrounds into deep transformational relationships.
  • Street Poets consults and collaborates with other organizations and communities to inspire both individual and systemic change, transforming our culture from one too often driven by fear to one that celebrates healing and the creative process.”

The programs they offer to achieve these goals include: writing workshops in schools and detention centers, performances, a poetry in motion van that serves as a mobile performance venue and recording studio, community open mics, retreats and a reading series which brings published poets and spoken word artists together with the Street Poets. They also create CDs in their recording studio.

These programs serve between 600 – 700 young people each year and make a powerful impact. In this overview video, many of the students interviewed say that Street Poets saved their life. To see more videos and read some of the poetry, check out the media gallery.

And now to leave you with a little poem of my own.

Street Poets Inc is all the rage,

Show your support and like their Facebook page.

Staying informed is not as hard as you think,

Follow them on Twitter @StreetPoetsInc!

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July 29, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Year Up

Today’s Feel Good Friday is all about an organization called Year Up. Why? Because on Monday, an intern from Year Up will be coming to work in my office!

yearupYear Up, was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2000. It’s an organization whose slogan is “closing the opportunity divide”. And just what is that divide? As explained on the front page of their website, “6 million young adults are disconnected from stable career pathways” and “12 million jobs requiring post-secondary education will go unfilled in the next decade.”

“Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.” In a single year.

They do this through a mix of training. Six months of technical and professional skills training taught in the classroom followed by a six month internship with one of Year Up’s corporate partners. Throughout the program, students earn college credit, receive a weekly stipend and get the support of staff advisors, professional mentors and a dedicated social services staff. You can learn more by watching this video.

Results are dramatic. Of the 14,000 young adults who have been through the program since it’s inception, “85% of graduates are employed or enrolled in postsecondary education within four months of completing the program” and “over 90% of corporate partners would recommend the Year Up program to a friend or colleague.”

There are locations throughout the US, including Year Up Bay Area, and many ways for you to get involved. Share this information with a student you know, become a mentor, or make a donation.

I’m looking forward to meeting our Year Up intern on Monday and to staying in the loop with the program by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @YearUp and @YearUpBayArea.

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July 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Raphael House

Have you ever wondered how I keep coming up with Feel Good Friday organizations every week? Well, sometimes I talk about places where people I know work or volunteer, sometimes I try to be topical and other times I see an ad on the side of a MUNI bus. Well played, Raphael House, well played.

Located in San Francisco, CA, the motto of Raphael House is “Inspiring Families. Illuminating hope.” Their mission is “to help at-risk families achieve stable housing and financial independence while strengthening family bonds and personal dignity.”
The history section of their website explains that Raphael House began in 1971 as “an emergency shelter for single mothers and their children” and, after relocating to bigger space in 1997 they became “the first homeless shelter for families in Northern California.”
They offer a variety of programs in the community. The residential shelter program provides not only a family-centered shelter, but also case management, job placement services, mental-health counseling and educational workshops. Up to 60 families per year participate and 85% of those find stable housing. Support for these families continues through the bridge program, which serves over 300 families per year. Children staying at Raphael House can participate in an interactive children’s’ program and an academic enrichment program which includes tutoring, mentoring and scholarships for extracurricular pursuits.
To increase the good feelings on a Friday that could really use it (ooh, vague yet topical), check out the success stories and news pages. From two college-bound teens who participated in the academic enrichment program to two girls who sold lemonade for $0.50/cup and donated their $40 in profits to Raphael House there are plenty of stories to make you feel good.
So now that you love Raphael House, how do you support them? They have both short and long term volunteer opportunities for those of you living in the Bay Area. You can also make a donation no matter where you live.
As always, be sure to stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RaphaelHouseSF. I’ve done both of those things and am now going to the store. I’ve got a sudden craving for lemonade.

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July 15, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Girl Up

I learned about today’s Feel Good Friday group because of the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls and NPR you guys. Stop laughing. Focus on NPR.

The story I heard was about how the UN created a new video version of the Spice Girls’ song Wannabe as a call to action for the Global Goals campaign promoting the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. You can read the article, see the video and learn all about that initiative here.

What I got out of that story, in addition to an ear worm, was an introduction to Girl Up. As they explain on their website, “We’re the leading global community of passionate advocates changing policies and raising funds to support United Nations programs that help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl.”

Why girls? A quick look at the website should convince you. 75% of HIV infected youth between the ages of 15-24 are girls and complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second most common cause of death for girls 15-19. With some help, girls can make big changes. “Every year of schooling increases a girls future earnings 10-20%.”

Just this week the 2016 Girl Up Leadership Summit took place in Washington DC, bringing together 300 girl advocates from around the world to “participate in leadership training, learn from influential speakers, engage in skills-based workshops, and lead an official lobby day on Capitol Hill.”

What’s the impact of all this girl power, you ask? In the 5 years since Girl Up’s creation, they’ve raised $5,600,000 “for programs working to improve the lives of adolescent girls.” Current countries Girl Up focuses on are Guatemala, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, India and Uganda.

Specific programs vary from basic education and health service training in Malawi to increasing the legal age of marriage to 18 in Guatemala. You can read about these and other initiatives here or watch a 2 minute video celebrating 5 years of impact.

Now that you’re all fired up and inspired, you can support the work of Girl Up by becoming an advocatemaking a donation or spreading the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GirlUp. Sisterhood IS powerful!

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July 8, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Free Rice

It’s Feel Good Friday and you want to relax by playing a game on your phone. I get it. Today, instead of crushing candy, connecting dots or killing zombies with bok choy, may I suggest Free Rice?

Free Rice is an online trivia game with a twist. As they explain, “For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger.” Their goals are to “provide education to everyone for free” and to “help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.”

Topics include humanities, math, language learning, sciences, English, chemistry, geography and SAT prep. The categories can be challenging if you pick the right one and, thanks to the sponsors who advertise on the site, every correct answer translates to a donation of 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme (WFP)! Want to learn more about the WFP so you can feel good about wasting time playing games? Of course you do.

“The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency on the front lines against hunger.” (You can tell it’s an international organization because the of the extra “me” in program.) As stated on their website, “The World Food Programme’s mission is to save lives and livelihoods, and to improve the nutrition, food security and self-reliance of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

Their work involves responding to emergencies, preventing hunger by distributing school meals and meals to people living with HIV and AIDS as well as promoting women’s empowerment “as a key to improving food security for all.” They work all around the world and in 2015, 76.7 million people in 81 countries were assisted directly by WFP. Of all these people, 82% were women and children.

You can read more info from their year in review here or browse their collection of stories. They really are living up to their motto of “fighting hunger worldwide”.

To support the work of WFP, you can make a direct donation then stay in the loop by liking both the Free Rice Facebook page and the World Food Programme Facebook page. In addition, you can also follow both groups on Twitter @Freerice and @WFP respectively.


While I encourage you to do all of the above, I admit that the most fun way to fight hunger around the world is by going to Free Rice and answering trivia questions. You’ll be surprised just how quickly you can put together a bowl of rice. Now get out there and rice up!

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July 1, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Sea Shepherd

What does today’s Feel Good Friday organization have to do with the Fourth of July? Absolutely nothing. Let’s move on.

You may know of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) from Whale Wars on Animal Planet, however, I just learned about them from a friend.

As stated on their website SSCS is “an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.”

Established by Paul Watson in 1977, “Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.” They have a variety of campaigns focused on whales, turtles, sharks, seals, sea lions, dolphins, reefs and bluefin tuna. Current efforts include Operation Jairo II, protecting sea turtles in the US, Costa Rica and Honduras and Operation Milagro II, a campaign to defend the endangered Vaquita Porpoise in the Sea of Cortez. Details and videos can be found on their campaigns page.

You can support the work of Sea Shepherd by making a donation to a specific campaign or the organization as a whole. If you’re good on the water you can crew at sea on one of their campaigns or if you’re prone to get queasy you can volunteer onshore with a chapter near you.

Other ways to get involved are to like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @SeaShepherdSSC and buy clothing and other items with their bad ass Jolly Roger logo! That’s my kind of direct action.

 

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June 24, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Human Rights Campaign

Since June is LGBT pride month, and in light of the recent shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, we’re spending this Feel Good Friday with the Human Rights Campaign.

hrcAs stated on their website, “HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.” With 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide, HRC is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans.

Founded by Steve Endean in 1980, and originally called the Human Rights Campaign Fund, HRC was a political action committee designed to provide financial support to political candidates who supported gay and lesbian civil rights issues.

In 1995 they dropped Fund from their name, adopted the current logo and expanded their research, communications, marketing and public relations functions. Victories of the HRC include the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and legalizing same sex marriage.

Current efforts are focused on turning their headquarters into a memorial for the Orlando shooting victims and advocating gun violence prevention policies. Their motto is, “love conquers hate” and they are advocating policy changes to increase the love.

You can join a long list of celebrities, and other cool people, in supporting HRC by making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @HRC. If you don’t like any of those options, you can always go shopping. My favorite item from their store is this hat!

hrchat

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June 3, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Global Shapers – Bishkek

One more Kyrgyzstan-focused Feel Good Friday before I leave – tomorrow!

Global Shapers Community is, according to the website, “a network of city-based Hubs developed and led by young leaders between 20 and 30 years old who want to develop their leadership potential towards serving society. To that end, Hubs undertake local projects to improve their communities.” An initiative of the World Economic Forum, there are currently 453 Hubs worldwide.

Global Shapers – Bishkek is a group of 10 women and men working in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. They are described as “young people who are exceptional in their potential, their achievements and their drive to make a contribution to their communities.” It’s no exaggeration.

I clicked randomly on the profile of Jenny Ensi Tszie. She came to New York to get an MSW from Columbia University then returned to Kyrgyzstan to advise the Minister of Economy on strategic investments, run a consulting company for small and medium investors and co-found a youth volunteering group to help victim families and children in the conflict zone. Oh, and she also speaks Kyrgyz, Chinese, English, Russian and is learning Arabic.

Two examples of projects the shapers organize include Big Brothers Big Sisters, a program that pairs university students with high school students for mentoring and Clean City, Clean Bishkek which involved a flashmob style performance to support the Eco-Education festival.

To keep up with the group, you can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ShapersBishkek. As for me, I’ll be watching for the flashmob when my plane lands.

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May 27, 2016

Feel Good Friday – SOS Children’s Villages

As many of you know, beginning June 4th I’ll be spending two weeks in Kyrgyzstan on a volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity building houses with the people of Barskoon. Habitat is just one of many organizations working in the country. On this Feel Good Friday, we’re going to feature another – SOS Children’s Villages.

Their mission statement from the website is, “we build families for children in need and we help them shape their own futures.” Further reading explains the organization’s history. “The first SOS Children’s Village was founded by Hermann Gmeiner in 1949 at Imst, in Austria. Hermann Gmeiner devoted his life to supporting children in need…” Initially focused on children who were abandoned during WWII, there are now more than 2,100 programs in 133 countries.

Villages operate under the family approach pioneered by SOS. Each village is made up of several homes which are run by a child-care professional, who lives in the house and acts as a mother to these children. The children in the house are raised as brothers and sisters and natural brothers and sisters are always kept together in the same home. The people living in the village support each other and create a community together.

There are two villages in Krygyzstan. The one in the capital of Bishkek was created in 1999 and 142 children live in 14 family houses. There are a variety of personal development programs for the kids, as well as an SOS football (as in soccer) team. The other village is in Cholpon-ata. It began in 2002 with only 14 children and now houses 114. Activities and programs for kids in this village include optional English classes. You can read detailed stories about the kids and the house moms on the website.

There are many ways you can support the work of this organization. You can also like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @Kyrgyzstan_SOS, though if you don’t read Russian, all of your good feelings will have to come from looking at the pictures.

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May 20, 2016

Feel Good Friday – UniversalGiving

I’m spending all my free time preparing for my upcoming volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity, a group I’ve been involved with for the last 18 years. I want to help you find your Habitat and that’s why today’s Feel Good Friday organization is UniversalGiving.

I learned about UniversalGiving through their founder, Pamela Hawley, a fellow improviser, who created the organization in 2002. In their own words, “UniversalGiving is an award-winning website that helps people give and volunteer with top-performing projects all over the world.” The best part about this is these projects are reviewed for their finances, management team, acheivements and many other categories AND “100% of each donation goes directly to the cause”!

It may sound impossible but it’s true. UniversalGiving helps for profit companies scale their corporate social responsibility programs and fees for those services cover operations costs. That means any money you donate really does go directly to the organization you choose. This supports the vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life.”

So how do you make this a part of your everyday life? Visit the website and see the current opportunities! You can give a gift, such as books to support children’s literacy, fund a project, like earthquake relief in Nepal, or volunteer! Anyone else want to go to Thailand to help elephants?

To keep current with organizations vetted by UniversalGiving and new volunteer opportunities that arise, you can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @UnviersalGiving. As for me I’m off to find my convertible pants!

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May 13, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Junior State of America

With the current U.S. presidential election season being so crazy interesting, how in the world do we convince young people to get involved in politics? Feel Good Friday knows how… the Junior State of America!

What is JSA all about? As stated on their website, “the mission of the Junior State of America and the Junior Statesmen Foundation (JSA) is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society.”

They do that with civics education and leadership programs for high school students. What began in 1934 at the Montezuma Mountain School for Boys in the Santa Cruz Mountains, has become a national organization with chapters all across the country and 500,000 alumni!

During the school year, students organize all aspects of this school-sponsored extracurricular club. That includes planning and executing political-awareness events, conventions and conferences at the local, state and national levels.

When the school year ends, there are a variety of pre-college summer programs for high school students. Activities include student debates, excursions to historic places, and presentations from influential leaders. You can read this breakdown of programs to see the costs and the offerings. For those of you with high school students (or who are high school students) in the Bay Area, there are classes at Stanford!

I feel good knowing there are young people who are interested in developing their leadership skills and making a difference in their communities. If you want to feel good about this on days of the week other than Friday, like the JSA Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @jsajuniorstate #bethepeople.

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May 6, 2016

Feel Good Friday – SF SPCA

I’ve been watching a friend’s kitten all week and we haven’t talked animals here in awhile so, today’s Feel Good Friday is all about the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals!

The SF SPCA was founded in 1868 and, as I learned on the website, it is “the fourth oldest humane society in the U.S. and the founders of the No-Kill movement.” Their mission is “to save and protect animals, provide care and treatment, advocate on their behalf and enhance the human-animal bond.”

Services they provide include what you might expect such as adoptions (over 4,000 cats and dogs each year) and veterinary care (over 9,000 spay/neuter surgeries – free for pit bulls and feral cats). They also include dog training classes, online behavioral resources for dogs and cats, and youth programs like animal summer camps and volunteering opportunities.

The SF SPCA’s focus on overpopulation, barriers to veterinary care and behavioral issues are part of the Vision 2020 a “plan to end animal abandonment in San Francisco by 2020”. You can learn more by watching the four-minute video Vision 2020. If you’d like to see something a little less serious (and yet serious about feral cats), check out this spoof, Catlandia, which stars my friend Rebecca!

Support the work of the SF SPCA by trapping feral cats, volunteering or donating some money. If you want to stay in the loop, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @sfspca. Now I’m off to search the online resources to find out how you get a cat to stop climbing up your leg like a monkey in a tree.

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April 29, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Nothing But Nets

Feel Good Friday question: What do basketball and malaria have in common?

Feel Good Friday answer: Nets and Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

Here’s how they go together.

nets.jpgWashington DC-based Nothing But Nets is “a global grassroots campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa.” Statistics on their website state that a child dies from malaria every 60 seconds. 

Nothing But Nets began in 2006 with a challenge from Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly. He encouraged his readers to send in $10 donations to fight malaria. As explained on the website, “Your $10 contribution goes towards the cost of purchasing a long-lasting, insecticide-treaded bed net, distributing it, and educating communities on its use.” Nothing But Nets partners with UN agencies and other organizations to purchase and deliver the nets across Sub-Saharan Africa.  They’ve delivered over 7 million bed nets to date!

So you see how nets tie in to both basketball and malaria, but what about Stephen Curry? He’s helped lead the Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals and is clearly connected to basketball, but malaria?

warriors.jpgAs I learned from a San Jose Mercury News article earlier this month, Stephen Curry created his own Nothing But Nets campaign in the 2012-2013 season, the 3-for-3 challenge. He donates 3 bed nets for every 3-pointer he scores. At time this article was written on April 14th, that was 402 3-pointers (or 1,206 nets) this season alone. There you have it, basketball and malaria prevention, together at last.

Regardless of your basketball skills, you can support the work of Nothing But Nets. Advocatedonate or become a fan on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @nothingbutnets

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April 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Harlem Children’s Zone

Today’s Feel Good Friday is inspired by Prince.

Like many people, I spent time reading all about him online after his unexpected death on Thursday. I learned about his philanthropy from this Bustle article and want to pay my respects by sharing the story of one of the organizations he supported.

In 2011, Prince donated $1,000,000 to the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). Yes, you read that right, one million dollars!

A review of their website will tell you HCZ is “a national model for breaking the cycle of poverty.” What started as a one block pilot project in the 1990s has grown to cover 97 blocks in Central Harlem. The goal of HCZ is “to give our kids the individualized support they need to get to and through college and become productive, self-sustaining adults”.

To do this HCZ offers comprehensive educational and social service programs that involve the whole community. These programs cover children from before they’re born, with parenting classes in The Baby College, through their school years and finish with job placement assistance provided by the College Success Office. In 2015 HCZ served 13,083 youth between the ages of 0 and 23.

Other offerings include help with applying for public benefits and tax preparation, community centers with exercise classes for adults and family game nights and a program focused on “nutrition education fun fitness activities, and parent encouragement” called Health Harlem.

The 2015 results are impressive: 7,000 kids participating in Healthy Harlem, 913 HCZ students in college, 99% of Harlem Gems tested school ready and $5,300,000 in tax refunds given to 3,504 families that participated in the free tax preparation services.

Also impressive, a complication of HCZ President Geoffrey Canada’s TV appearances. So Oprah knew about HCZ before I did. That’s cool.

You can support the work of HCZ with a donation or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @hczorg. Do it for His Royal Badness.

 

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April 15, 2016

Feel Good Friday – IRS

What?!? Why is the IRS the focus of Feel Good Friday, you ask?

First of all, this is a friendly reminder that your taxes are due on Monday (you’re welcome). Second, and more importantly, the IRS runs two programs where volunteers provide free tax preparation for qualifying individuals!

As explained on their website, “The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.”

There’s also assistance designed for people over 60. “Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.” You can click this link to find a VITA or TCE site near you.

Now maybe you’ve already done your taxes or you don’t fit in either category. Well, you can still feel good by passing this information on to the procrastinator in your life who may need the assistance OR you can sign up to be a volunteer next year.

As you can see in this brief volunteer recruitment video, you will receive free training to teach you how to prepare taxes. You can also volunteer as a greeter/screener, interpreter or computer specialist. Whatever your role, you’ll be helping other people maximize their credits, get refunds and generally make tax time less traumatizing.

You may still hate doing your own taxes but you can show some love for the IRS and its volunteers by following them on Twitter @IRSnews.

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April 8, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Bread & Roses

Happy Feel Good Friday! I learned of today’s group, Bread and Roses Presents, through my friend Gemma Bulos who volunteers with them. You may remember Gemma from her Inspiration Safari video interview in 2014 and if you don’t you should check it out!

Yes, yes but what exactly is Bread and Roses, you ask? Luckily for me, they provide a paragraph on their website that gives you a quick explanation:

“Bread and Roses mission is to uplift the human spirit by providing free, live, high-quality entertainment to those who are institutionalize or isolated.  Since its founding in 1974 they have produced over 10,000 performances for more than 300,000 individuals of all ages and ethnic groups. Every year they produce more than 600 shows in 125 facilities. More than once a day, on average, a Bread and Roses show is creating hope, healing and joy somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Established by singer-songwriter and activist, Mimi Farina, a pool of 1400 volunteers donate their time as performers, hosts or event and office staff. Concerts take place in children’s day care centers, senior day programs, drug rehab programs, detention centers and more. You can check out the full list of facilities served and get a detailed breakdown of the shows and audiences here.

As they point out on the website, “there is no other organization in the San Francisco Bay Area that systematically brings live entertainment to seniors, adults and children in need.”

Is there any way to see what a show is like if you’re not a resident of one of these institutions or a volunteer? Of course there is! You can watch short videos on the Bread and Roses Facebook page.

To support the work of bringing “hope and healing through live music”, become a volunteer, attend the Spring Benefit Concert on May 26th or show your love with a like on the Facebook page and a follow on Twitter @BreadAndRosesCA.

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April 1, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Faithful Fools Street Ministry

Happy Feel Good Friday and Happy April Fool’s Day! I can’t think of a more appropriate organization to share with you today than the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco.

Founded on April 1, 1998 by Unitarian Reverend Kay Jorgensen and Sister Carmen Barsody, the mission statement of the organization is, “We discover on the streets our common humanity.”

Located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, Faithful Fools seeks to “meet people where they are”. They advocate for people facing displacement as well as register, educate and mobilize voters in the neighborhood. In their offices at 234 Hyde Street, they offer meditation space as well as writing, clowning and art classes.

The most unique programs they offer are Into the Streets and Street Retreats. The first program is a mid-day walk through the neighborhood that happens the 2nd Friday of each month and is designed to show people that, “when we walk the streets, the life around us is a mirror, reflecting back to us our humanity, our frailties and our strengths.”

The second program is a one day retreat that happens the 4th Saturday of every month. It starts with reflective readings, songs and an orientation, then you spend the day on the streets of the Tenderloin before coming back to share your experience with others from the morning group. There is also a 7 day, 6 night version. To understand why people with homes choose to sleep on the streets you can read this blog.

If you want to learn more about the Faithful Fools you can read their annual, downloadable magazine called Fools Fables which will answer all your what, why, how questions. You can also visit the website to participate in their programs and like their Facebook page, because you know Facebook is full of fools.

 

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March 25, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Women and Girls Lead Global

This will be the last Feel Good Friday entry for Women’s History Month and I sure hope you’ve finished reading through the list of 100 Inspiring Women because now I’ve got some amazing videos for you to watch! 

Women and Girls Lead Global (WGLG) is a public media initiative of the San Francisco based Independent Television Services, ITVS. As explained on the WGLG website, “We use the art of storytelling to create social change.” They believe in the power of documentary filmmaking and focus on stories and issues that affect women and girls, as evidenced by their tag line, “Her story is unstoppable.”

Every year WGLG curates “ten films about women and girls triumphing over adversity” which become their Women of the World series. Next steps include creating a social impact campaign for each film and training facilitators. The films are used to spark conversation, community action plans and social change.

From 2011 to 2015, the organization was focused primarily on the United States and collaborated with public television stations around the country to bring 60 films to over 59 million Americans. There were also over 1,000 live screenings and facilitated events which encouraged conversation and inspired people to take action, donating both time and money to WGLG partner organizations and NGOs. You can find details in the online impact report.

In 2013, Woman and Girls Lead Global expanded their program to include Bangladesh, Colombia, El Salvador, India, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi and Peru. Early efforts are focused on promoting education and fighting child marriage (Bangladesh), building a pipeline for women leaders (Kenya) and reducing teen pregnancy (Peru). You can read interviews with women in these countries in the Her Stories section of the website. 

To get an overview of the program watch the latest sizzle reel. You can also go to the Women and Girls Lead YouTube Channel and find a variety of clips and trailers or explore their full film catalog here. There is also an educator toolkit for teachers that includes lesson plans and film modules.

The easiest ways for you to support the work of creating social change through storytelling is to become a funder and/or to be a fan. Super fans help spread the word on Facebook and follow the latest happenings on Twitter @WomenGirlsLead. I’m a super fan, are you?

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March 18, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

Today’s Feel Good Friday is focused on girls! Why? Because it’s still Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating women of all ages and the people who love them.

Speaking of women we love, let’s talk about Amy Poehler. Whether you watched her on Saturday Night Live or became a fan of Parks and Recreation here’s another reason to invite her to become your new BFF. She, along with Meredith Walker and Amy Miles, founded Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, an organization “dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves”. Their motto is “change the world by being yourself”!

They have a variety of shows online including Modern MannersBook ReportBoys Minute (featuring many of the boys from Parks and Rec), Girls of the World, (a great way to learn about other cultures) and Ask Amy (a show where people send in questions and Amy answers them in a short video).

In addition to all the video content, there’s an entire take action page sorted by topic. If you don’t have a specific topic you want to learn more about, you can just pop by to read interesting, inspiring articles like this one on the women of Hamilton.

As they explain in the about us section of their site, “We celebrate curiosity over gossip. We are a place where people can truly be their weird and wonderful selves.”

So take your weird, wonderful self over to their site for a visit. Watch some videos, send the link to a young girl in your life and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @smrtgrls!

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March 11, 2016

Feel Good Friday – 100 Inspiring Women

International Women’s Day was March 8th and this is Women’s History Month so today’s Feel Good Friday is all about the ladies!

Salt is a new magazine that is also “a platform for Positive Change Agents”. As they explain on their website, “Our goal is to make the world a better place by promoting compassionate business practices.” When you buy a magazine, they plant a tree!

To celebrate International Women’s Day they published a list of “100 Inspiring Women“. The list includes a variety of women from around the world including authors, actors and activists. When you take a look through the list, you’ll see names you likely know.

Politicians such as Senator and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton (#82); Angela Merkel (#3), the first female German Chancellor and Mary Robinson (#6) the first female President of Ireland. Actorvists (can I make that a word?) such as Amy Poehler (#89), comedian and founder of http://amysmartgirls.comAngelina Jolie (#55) a UN Goodwill Ambassador who campaigns against sexual violence; and Emma Watson (#13) representative of the UN gender equality campaign He For She.

As you continue to search through the list you’ll find it’s full of Nobel Peace Prize winners! Rigoberta Menchú Tum (#38), Guatemalan activist who brought attention to the plight of indigenous people during that country’s civil war; Malala Yousafzai (#11) Pakistani activist who campaigns for girls education after surviving being shot by the Taliban; and the woman in the number one spot this year, Burmese democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi (#1).

It’s fun to read about people you know and be reminded of why they are influential, inspirational and all around awesome (yeah, I’m talking to you Jane Goodall). Even more fun is to click on the names you don’t recognize. How else would you learn about Chinese LGBT activist Li Tingting (#9), Scottish lawyer and environmental activist Polly Higgins (#35), Liberian peace and women’s rights advocate (and Nobel Peace Prize winner!) Leymah Gbowee (#2), Estela Barnes de Carlotto (#99), the 85 year old leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo who search for children taken away by the military dictatorship during the Argentinian Dirty War, Senegalese rapper Sister Fa (#51) or Niloofar Rahmani (#77), the first female Air Force aviator in Afghanistan?

If you want to read about more women than I’ve highlighted here but don’t have time to go through all 100 profiles, you can check out this curated list of 23 women provided by Daily Good.

To bring more positive news like this to your feed, like Salt’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @SALT_now. Who run the world? Girls!

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March 4, 2016

Feel Good Friday – NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, more commonly known as NASA, has a simple vision: “We reach new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of mankind.” I mean, it’s a pretty simple sentence, though perhaps not so simple to reveal the unknown.

Established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, their first major milestone was sending men to walk on the moon in 1969. Now the Washington, DC based agency is aiming to send human missions to Mars. In addition to the space exploration NASA is known for, they also study climate change and work to improve air transportation right here on Earth.

Why I’m talking about them today is because of all the educational and inspirational information available on their website. The resources for educators are broken down by grade. There is a section for students which includes:

  • a video explaining what you’ll see in the March skies
  • Kids’ Club page full of information and games (I’m thrilled to say I got a 95% score when loading my rocket for its mission to Mars)
  • a section devoted to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)

An additional Women@NASA site has a variety of outreach programs such as:

  • a video series designed to empower young girls and interest them in STEM careers called  Aspire to Inspire (I only watched one video and am now kind of bummed I’m not an engineer)
  • a program for middle school girls and boys to be mentored by NASA employees via Skype
  • a five-day Summer Institute in Science, Engineering and Research (yes, that sure does spell SISTER) for the purpose of increasing awareness and providing opportunities for middle school girls to explore non-traditional career fields with research scientists, mathematicians and engineers
  • fact sheets, handouts and video introductions of 64 women working at NASA in all different areas of the organization

NASA’s vision is to benefit mankind and the information on their website and the programs they offer go a long way towards making that vision a reality. Once you’ve finished clicking on some (or all) of the links, make NASA a more permanent part of your life by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @NASA and @WomenNASA. Now go load a rocket for your Mars mission and let me know how well you do!

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February 26, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (again)

I’ve written over 100 of these Feel Good Friday posts and, with the exception of the AAA Tipsy Tow New Year’s Eve reminder, I haven’t had to repeat myself. Why? There are thousands of groups doing work to make the world a better place and it will be a long time before I run out of organizations to profile. However, I’m repeating myself today because people keep shooting each other!

On October 9, 2015 I featured the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Despite all their efforts, gun violence in the US is still a problem so I’m posting this story again in hopes we can all find a way to get involved.

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In the almost 3 years I’ve been writing these Feel Good Friday posts, there have been a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the most recent at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. So today we’re going to focus on an organization with the goal of “cutting gun deaths in half by 2025”, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
You may remember Jim Brady, Assistant to the President. He was shot and paralyzed during an assassination attempt on Ronald Regan in 1981. It wasn’t until 1993, the Brady Bill, which required a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases, was signed into law by President Clinton.

Today the Brady Campaign is “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence.” Their mission, as stated on the website, “is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries.” You can go there to read shocking statistics on gun violence.A few highlights are below:

Every day, 89 people die from gun violence:

    • 31 are murdered
    • 55 kill themselves
    • 2 are killed unintentionally
    • 1 is killed by police intervention
    • 1 intent unknown.

Every day, an additional 208 people are shot and survive.

In order to reduce these numbers, the Brady Campaign focuses on policy and legal changes, as well as a public awareness campaign. They ensure that all of their programs and efforts have an opportunity for impact, that no one else is doing similar work and that the actions fit into their core values. You can read their full list of solutions here or watch a 16 minute video Pathology of Gun Violence, which explains their strategy in great detail.
Support the work of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence by visiting their take action page, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Bradybuzz. Enough is enough.

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February 19, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Sustainia

Ready to get some bang for your buck? Me too, so today’s Feel Good Friday is more than just two for one, it’s hundreds for one!

Sustainia is a think tank and consultancy founded in 2012 by Scandinavia’s largest independent think thank, Monday Morning. They are headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. “That’s nice”, you say, “but what are they thinking about?” As they explain on their website, “We identify readily available sustainability solutions across the world and demonstrate their potential impacts and benefits in our work with cities, companies and communities.”

They believe that seeing some inspiring examples of how to live sustainably is more motivating than watching a polar bear trapped on a melting piece of ice floating in the arctic. I must say, focusing on the positive is the Inspiration Safari way!

As part of their efforts to spread the good word, they publish a series of guides to sustainable solutions for cities, transportation, energy systems, fashion, food, health and education. Each year they create a guide to the Sustainia 100 and a committee led by Arnold Schwarzenegger declares an award winner for the year! (I am as surprised by this as you are.)

The winner for 2105, chosen by the committee ,was the Chennai Street Design Project, a group designed to address safety concerns and air pollution in the city of Chennai. The Community Award winner for 2015, chosen by the Sustainia online community, was the Plastic Bank, an organization featured on Feel Good Friday, March 20, 2015!

If you want more than a weekly dose of inspiration, you can check out their solutions page, submit an idea for the 2016 Sustainia 100 or just keep in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Sustainia. Thanks for being awesome, Denmark!

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February 12, 2016

 

Feel Good Friday – American Heart Association

 

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday and hearts are on my mind, both the chocolate and the beating varieties. That’s why today’s Feel Good Friday is all about the American Heart Association!

You may know about them from their CPR classes, fundraising walks or heart-healthy cookbooks. Public health education is just part of what they do. As stated on their website, “our mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. That single purpose drives all we do.”

There’s a good reason for their focus. Heart disease is the number one killer of people in the world.

The American Heart Association is working to change those statistics. Some history from the website  explains they are “the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Founded by six cardiologists in 1924, our organization now includes more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters. We fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide critical tools and information to save and improve lives.

If you haven’t been tempted to click the website link yet, do it. It’s full of information on healthy living for adults and kids, it also includes resources for researcherscaregivers and educators.

Since heart attacks kill more women each year than all cancers combined, there’s a special site called Go Red For Women. And for those of you who prefer to get your education in a fun manner, go to YouTube and watch short videos about CPR with Ken Jeong and heart attacks with Elizabeth Banks!

All of this public education is fantastic and, as I mentioned before, that’s only part of it. The AHA also funds cardiovascular research, including 13 Nobel Prize winners, trains health care professionals and sets scientific treatment guidelines.

My Valentine’s gift to you is to list out the Simple 7 ways to lower your risk of a heart attack, no link clicking required (unless you want more details): get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, lose weight, reduce blood sugar, and stop smoking.

To get tips like this and stay current with all the news, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @American_Heart and @GoRedForWomen

Now go out and enjoy those chocolate hearts! Just not too many.

 

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February 5, 2016

Feel Good Friday – Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)

You probably know February is Black History Month but do you know who founded it? Well, happy Feel Good Friday, you’re about to find out!

ASALH is the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Their mission, as explained on the website is “to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.”

They’ve been doing it since the organization was established in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson. He’s known as the “Father of Black History” because it was his idea to publicly recognize African American achievements back in 1926! What began as a weeklong celebration 90 years ago became a monthlong event in 1976.

In addition to setting the annual theme for Black History Month, creating a resource package and hosting an annual convention and luncheon, ALASH is active year round. They manage a professional speaker’s bureau, promote local history projects and produce a variety of educational publications including the Journal of African American History and the Black History Bulletin, which is designed as a resource for teachers.

To stay in touch with ASALH all 12 months of the year, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ASALH.

 

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January 29, 2016

Feel Good Friday – La Cocina

Two things I enjoy are hearing stories of people doing what they love and food. (Mmmm, food.) That’s why today’s Feel Good Friday organization is La Cocina!

Formed in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2005, La Cocina’s mission “is to cultivate low income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities.”

Rental rates at La Conina’s kitchen are $15/hour, versus a more typical $45, and provide people who are running informal businesses out of their homes an opportunity to scale up. As they explain on their website, “We focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities. Our vision is that entrepreneurs gain financial security by doing what they love to do, creating an innovative, vibrant and inclusive economic landscape.”

Kitchen space isn’t the only thing La Cocina has to offer. There is also an incubator program that helps women create self-suffcient businesses in the food industry. Participants go through a 4-step process:

  1. Application and enrollment.
  2. Pre-incubation, focusing on business areas such as marketing and finances as well as the product.
  3. Incubation, which includes technical assistance and mentorship for their business along with access to the kitchen.
  4. Graduation.

The program works! Statistics from the video below state that, “In 2013, La Cocina businesses generated 4.1 million dollars in revenue and created 155 jobs.”

Those of you in the Bay Area may recognize some of the current participants and graduates. You can check this map to find a La Cocina business near you or visit their kiosk in the Ferry Building.

No matter where you live, you can learn more and meet some of the women involved by watching this SFGovTV video Quick Bites: La Cocina or visiting their press page. They also have a Facebook page to like and you can follow them on Twitter @lacocinasf. As for me, I’m inspired to go eat some food from the La Cocina participants. See you next week!

 

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January 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday – ArtTEK Tanna

One of the things that makes me feel good no matter what the day of the week, is the fact that I know so many people involved in Feel Good Friday activities! Today, we take a look at an organization run by my friend Janna Olson – ArtTEK Tanna!

TEKTannaTEK stands for Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Tanna, Vanuatu may sound familiar because in March, 2015 the island was hit by cyclone Pam, one of the worst in recent history. The people of Tanna are working to rebuild their communities and TEK Tanna – a presence before and after the cyclone – is helping.

As explained on the website, “TEK Tanna is a non-profit based in New York City working with the Lume Rural Training Center and five South Pacific tribes to build and operate a Resilient Societies Center located on Tanna, Vanuatu in the Melanesia. Its mission joins traditional and modern solutions from the world’s most sustainable communities to fortify climate and cultural resilience.”

Two of the community members are in the United Arab Emirates right now because one of their projects, a youth and community training lab, was a finalist in the Zayed Future Energy Prize! Although the team didn’t win the cash prize this year, TEK Tanna still has the goal of creating the Naihné Resilient Societies Center (named after the founding tribe). It will offer youth programming which includes:

  • Renewable energy systems
  • Permaculture for food security
  • Construction with rapidly renewing materials
  • Cultural perpetuation in a country with 110 languages

All of the projects at the Lume Rural Training Center focus on developing cultural skills, renewable energy skills and professional skills for global citizens. The group really embodies their motto, “Creativity is the ultimate renewable resource.”

To learn more about TEK Tanna and stay current on their activities, sign up for the email newsletter here or Tweet your heart out! #TEK Tanna

 

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January 15, 2016

Feel Good Friday – One Warm Coat

It’s raining in California, which is great news for the state but not so great if you don’t have the proper attire. Today’s Feel Good Friday highlights One Warm Coat, a San Francisco based organization whose mission is in their name.

Nearly 15% of people in the US live in poverty and for people struggling to get by, a warm winter coat is often considered an extra expense. To address this problem, people in San Francisco held a coat drive in 1992 and One Warm Coat was born. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to provide anyone in need with a warm coat, free of charge.

They facilitate this goal by providing instructions and materials for anyone who wants to hold a coat drive, and partnering with organizations to get them the needed coats.

Since their inception the coat drives have expanded to all 50 states and 10 countries and they’ve collected over 4,000,000,000 coats! Yes, you counted the zeros correctly, 4 million coats.

There are a number of ways you can help: host a coat drive, donate a coat, donate cash, volunteer and spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @onewarmcoat

If you’re short on time but want to support the work One Warm Coat is doing, text “COAT” to 80100 to give a $5 donation – enough to provide 10 coats. If you’re not in a rush, why not spend some time cleaning out your coat closet to see if you’ve got any coats you can donate. What else are you going to do on a rainy day?

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January 8, 2016

Feel Good Friday – KIOO Project

Happy Feel Good Friday! It’s a new year and no doubt you took some photos during this holiday season to document your experience and create a memory for your future self. Today we’re going to talk about an organization that teaches photography to vulnerable children around the world.

The KIOO Project was founded by photographer Babita Patel after a trip to Haiti brought her in contact with children who had never seen photographs of themselves before. The mission, as stated on their website is a simple one, “to teach photography to children from communities with limited creative resources.”

Right now KIOO Project offers workshops in Kenya, India and Haiti and their vision is “for every child to develop self-confidence by discovering who they are through photography.”

You can hear and see how this is affecting the children by watching this video of students in Kenya or this video of students in Haiti. In their workshop in India, girls were taught about photography during the first week of the program. They then developed leadership and presentation skills by teaching photography the boys who came in the second week of the program.

If you like the work KIOO Project is doing you can support them by buying some of the student photos, straight up donating money, or liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @kiooproject.

Now get out there and do something with those photos of yours!

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January 1, 2016

Feel Good Friday – New Year’s Manifesto

Happy Feel Good Friday!

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the previous 12 months and to set goals for the future. Many people do this in the form of New Year’s resolutions but I’m recommending writing a manifesto!

Wikipedia defines a manifesto as “a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government” and links to a ton of examples as only Wikipedia can.

January 1st is a great time to declare your intentions and it’s easy to get started. This article from the Huffington Post gives details on what to consider when writing a manifesto and breaks it down to five simple steps:

  1. Get inspired.
  2. Make notes.
  3. Write a rough draft.
  4. Put it away, then proofread.
  5. Live it.

If you’re too busy at the gym to write an original manifesto, there are plenty already out there that can provide you with some inspiration. One of my favorites comes from a company called Holstee whose mission is “to help people live a reflective and intentional life” and I’ve included the picture below.

Happy writing and happy new year!

holstee-manifesto

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December 25, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Merry Christmas!

xmas2015

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December 18, 2015

December 18, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund

Last Feel Good Friday we went global with the work of UNICEF so today we’re going local.  Well, local if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is.

Those of you who read this blog and read the San Francisco Chronicle are most likely familiar with the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund. For those of you who aren’t, the summary from their website explains it best. “The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund provides temporary assistance to help people living in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties. Over the last 29 years, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has raised more than $105 million to help individuals and families in need.”

Twenty-nine years and over $100 millions dollars! So far their 2015 – 2016 campaign fund has raised over $5 million dollars and the best part of it is 100% of this money goes to people in need. Donations are split between individuals and families (85%) and nine local food banks (15%). Although the success stories are only published in the Chronicle between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, distributions are made to support people year round.

In 1986 this was a charitable fund sponsored by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to help individuals and families in crisis. Since that time, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has collected millions of dollars in private donations from people like you and me and is now “one of the largest private sources of emergency financial assistance in the Bay Area.”

Whether you need assistance from the fund or you can donate money to help provide it, you can always show your support by liking their Facebook page and following them Twitter @SoSFund. Happy Feel Good Friday!

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December 11, 2015

Feel Good Friday – UNICEF

It’s Feel Good Friday and time for a quiz!

Q: What do Susan Sarandon, Jackie Chan, Angelique Kidjo, David Beckham and Shakira have in common?

A: They’re all UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors.

Q: Why am I talking about UNICEF at this time of year?

A: Find out at the end of this post!

Q: What is UNICEF anyway?

A: The United Nations Children’s Fund (originally the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, hence the acronym.)

Created in 1946 by the United Nations to provide food, clothing and health care to European children facing famine and disease after World War II, “UNICEF believes all children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – to the benefit of a better world.”

Children around the world are disproportionally affected by poverty, war and instability. Statistics from the UNICEF website state that “16,000 die every day mostly from preventable or treatable causes” and “every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girls dies as the result of violence.”

For almost 70 years UNICEF has been “working globally for the rights of every child. Child rights begin with safe shelter, nutrition, protection from disaster and conflict and traverse the life cycle: pre-natal care for healthy births, clean water and sanitation, health care and education.” You can learn about specific programs on the what we do page and read a summary of their story here.

UNICEF works in 192 countries and this year will be “providing a package of assistance for 2.6 million Syrian children inside Syria and across the region.” You can learn more by watching some of their YouTube videos, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @UNICEF.

Yes, yes, this all sounds good but it’s the holiday season and you’ve got cards to send and presents to buy. Guess what? You can support the work of UNCIEF by buying cards and gifts for all occasions at this link. As they say, “Every gift you purchase helps saves children’s lives”. I call that a Feel Good Friday and holiday win-win!

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December 4, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Hip Hop for Change

With the multiple mass shootings that have happened this week, it’s important to me to keep posting the Feel Good Friday stories to remind us all that wonderful things are happening too.

Today, we’re talking about Hip Hop for Change. I learned about the Oakland, California non-profit from this news story on KALW. Established in April, 2014 their website explains that Hip Hop for Change (HH4C) “uses grassroots activism to educate people about socio-economic injustices and advocate solutions through hip hop culture. We raise funds for local causes that enrich marginalized and historically oppressed communities.”

As this video interview with founder and MC, Khafre Jay shows ,he is motivated to inspire young people that they can rap about their actual lives and social justice issues, rather than the misogynistic and materialistic topics that dominate current popular music. His goals and vision for HH4C include:

  1. Change the perception of hip hop perpetuated by the mainstream industry.
  2. Create an empowering organizational culture.
  3. Build infrastructure for justice in the Hood.
To achieve these goals, employees of HH4C go into schools to teach the history and importance of hip hop culture and into the community to have dialogues with people in their neighborhood. They promote shows with progressive music by local talent, and produce cds which you can buy for $15, and they support other community non-profits like East Oakland Community ProjectPhat Beets Produce and Habitat for Humanity.
You can learn more about their featured artists and watch videos here. If you live in the Bay Area you can check out some of these upcoming events. No matter where you are, if you like what they do and want to support the original hip hop principles of “peace, love, unity and having fun” like the HH4C Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @hiphopforchang3. You see, there is something you can feel good about after all.

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November 27, 2015

Feel Good Friday – SF-Marin Food Bank

Happy Feel Good Friday!

I hope everyone enjoyed Feel Good Thursday yesterday, more traditionally known as Thanksgiving. In between your free trips to the park or the stores today, take a moment to learn about the year-round work done by Feel Good Friday subject, the SF-Marin Food Bank.

At a time of year when most of us come together to eat and celebrate, it’s easy to forget that “one in four residents faces the threat of hunger each day”. Therefore, the mission of the Food Bank, as stated on their website, “is to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin.”
Statics show they’re having a huge impact. 25,000 volunteers each year help distribute over 47 million pounds of food to the community, 60% of which is farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s over 147,000 people served per week!
They have programs focused on children, seniors, and helping people access California’s food stamp program. 70% of the food they collect goes to supply other organizations you know like GlideSt. Anthony’s and Project Open Hand.
If you want to support the work they do, there are many ways to give your money. You’ll be happy to know that 96% of donated resources go directly into programs, meaning “for every $1 you donate, we can distribute $5 worth of food.” You can also donate food or your time.
Learn more about their work by watching short videos and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @SFMFoodBank. The rush for Thanksgiving turkeys is over, but the need for food still exists. I’m grateful to the SF-Marin Food Bank for helping to meet that need. #FeelGoodFriday

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November 20, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Active Change Foundation

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut make it hard to imagine there’s anything to feel good about, but crisis situations often bring out the best in people. Today’s Feel Good Friday looks at the group behind the Twitter trend #NotInMyName, the Active Change Foundation.

First things, first. There is a website, Not In My Name created to show that “ISIS does not represent Islam” and it’s now a trending hashtag on Twitter. Muslims who condemn the attacks by ISIS can let the world know that ISIS doesn’t speak for them. You can follow this group @NOT_INMYNAME and read or contribute tweets using #NotInMyName.

This is just one project of the Active Change Foundation, a youth leadership organization created in 2003 by Hanif Qadir as a response to the violent street crime he saw in his east London neighborhood.

The flagship project of the ACF is the Young Leaders Programme (we are in London after all). As the website explains, the program “enables young people to spend seven months exploring a cause that they feel passionate about through workshops, community events and a residential course. Its aim is to turn young people into community leaders by teaching leadership skills, crisis management and critical thinking within a problem solving environment.”

The skills they learn in the program “help them combat street, drug and gang crime, domestic violence and bullying, as well as being given the tools to assist them in preventing radicalisation (sic) and violent extremism.”

Other projects run by ACF include a youth center offering a range of activities for 12- 24 year olds, an outreach program that educates young people and their parents about radicalization and gang crime, outdoor activities that connect youth with authority figures, a program that focuses on women affected by extremism and violent crime and a website, See it, report it where people can report extremists posts they see online.

You can read more details on their project page, stay current by liking their Facebook page and following the founder on Twitter @HanifQadir. No matter how terrible the situation, there are always people doing something to make it better. #FeelGoodFriday

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November 13, 2015

Feel Good Friday – National Alliance to End Homelessness

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, Feel Good Friday is focusing on things you can be thankful for and feel good about, like having a roof over your head, and how to extend these privileges to more people.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a Washington, DC based organization that “works toward ending homelessness by improving homelessness policy, building on-the-ground capacity, and educating opinion leaders.”

The Alliance focuses their work on four specific groups that experience homelessness: families, youth, veterans and chronic homeless. A blog entry from their website, 10 New Facts About Sheltered Homelessness in America, shares information from the Housing and Urban Development 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, including the following:

  • In 2014, 1,488, 465 people used homeless shelters in America.
  • 70 percent of people in shelter were in major cities.
  • Nearly 9 percent (131,697 people) who used shelter last year were identified as veterans.

Solutions offered by the Alliance range from focusing on providing housing first, then other needed services, to intervention and family reunification programs for homeless youth. You can read about all their solutions focus areas, ten year plan and local progress on the “Solutions” page of their website. You can also learn more about their work by watching videos on YouTube.

If you’d like to get more involved, visit “What You Can Do” and keep yourself informed by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @naehomelessness

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November 6, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Unwanted Project

The last few months of Feel Good Fridays have been focused on people so it’s time to check in on our animal friends.

At first glance, they’re not doing so well. Approximately 150,000 horses are sent to slaughter every year in the United States, which makes for a feel terrible Friday until you learn about Unwanted Project.

Started by photographer Christy Whitney, the mission is explained on the website: “Unwanted Project documents horses that were once ‘unwanted’ bi-products of irresponsible ownership and overbreeding from pharma organizations, meat producers, and the racing and horse show industries. We connect viewers with cause based fine art photography and finely crafted goods that educate the public, raise awareness about the plight of American horses and provide funding for horse rescues.”

Her photographs of the horses and scarves made with prints of the photos are sold in her pAra Apothecary store. Not only do these items create a conversation around the issue, but a percentage of the sales is donated to various horse rescue organizations.

You can view the image gallery, like their Facebook page or follow Christy on Twitter @Christymwhitney.

I learned about Unwanted Project from this Daily Good article, which has a a lot more information than this feel good summary. I often go there for inspiration and if you’re ready to up your feel good news from once a week to once a day, I would encourage to sign up on their mailing list by visiting their website.

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October 30, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Humanitas (Nursing home/dorm)

For most of us living in Western countries, gone are the days of multiple generations living in the same house, but that doesn’t make a very compelling Feel Good Friday story. Here’s what does… a nursing home in the Netherlands that gives college students free rooms in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month!

I learned about Humanitas by reading this Daily Good article. The arrangement was inspired by the  combination of a student housing shortage and a decision to stop funding continuing care for citizens over 80 not in dire need. The result was less older people being able to afford nursing homes and rooms going vacant – enter the students.

Always on the lookout to save money, these students are able to live in the nursing home rent free by interacting with their neighbors. Some of their volunteer hours are spent teaching the elderly residents how to email, Skype and use social media. Not only does this keep the residents engaged by learning new skills, but they also gain the tools needed to communicate with their families. The model has gained in popularity and now there are two additional nursing home/dorm combos in the Netherlands, one in Lyon, France and one in Cleveland, Ohio!

If the program continues to be successful, I hope the students will help the residents set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. For now if you want to follow what they’re doing, your best bet is a plane ticket. 🙂

 

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October 23, 2015

Feel Good Friday – The Salvation Army

You guys… this is my 150th Feel Good Friday post! To celebrate I looked for an organization that’s been around 150 years and found The Salvation Army.

Odds are you’re familiar with the red kettles you see outside grocery stores during the holidays and you may have even gone to the Salvation Army to donate, or buy, a couch, an outfit or some household goods. Yes, but what were they doing 150 years ago?

It started with William Booth preaching to poor congregations in 1865 London. According to the history section of the website “Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity” and soon began preaching to others. It wasn’t until 1878 that Booth renamed his “Hallelujah Army” the “Salvation Army”.

Their religious beginnings can still be seen in their mission statement today, which “is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination” but their work isn’t focused on religion. As their tag line says it’s focused on “Doing the Most Good”.

Again from their website, “Each year, thanks to generous donations, The Salvation Army serves nearly 30 million Americans – or one person every second – from a variety of backgrounds. People who come to us for assistance will be served according to their need and our capacity to help – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

Their services include those you might expect: hunger relief, housing and homeless services, adult rehab and assistance for the elderly, veterans and youth. They also provide prison ministries, missing persons services, emergency disaster relief and work to combat human trafficking! Money you drop in the red kettles goes to support all of these programs as well providing “Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for families in need, including families of prisoners.” You can get details on any of these programs here.

There are tons of inspiring videos you can watch on The Salvation Army YouTube channel. Then, if you want to support this organization that’s been going strong for 150 years, you can donate your money, items or time.

As always you can stay in the social media loop (certainly not an option in 1865) by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS. 150 years, 150 posts… thanks for celebrating this Feel Good Friday with me and The Salvation Army!

 

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October 16, 2015

Feel Good Friday – EveryoneOn

I’m writing today’s Feel Good Friday post from Oregon, which I can do thanks to the Internet. That did, however, get me thinking that not everyone in the US has easy access. In fact, 1 in 5 American households do not have home Internet. There’s a group that’s working to change these statistics for the better, EveryoneOn.

As they explain on their website, “EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy training accessible to all unconnected Americans. We aim to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans – regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level.”

That’s important because low income and minority communities are least likely to have access to the Internet. High cost, lack of digital literacy and not recognizing the relevance of being connected are the main culprits. Those of us with Internet access know it’s not all cat videos on YouTube, it’s also a way to find a job, stay connected with your friends and family and access basic information on an infinite number of topics. Yes, including cat videos.

EveryoneOn relies on philanthropic support and Internet providers who offer $10/month plans to qualifying families. They also provide low-cost, refurbished computers and tablets and links to computer training around the US that you can discover by typing in your zip code on the home page.

Since you’re reading this, I know you’ve got an Internet connection which you can use to read some EveryoneOn success stories. After being inspired, you can stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Everyone_On.

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October 9, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

In the almost 3 years I’ve been writing these Feel Good Friday posts, there have been a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the most recent at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. So today we’re going to focus on an organization with the goal of “cutting gun deaths in half by 2025”, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.


You may remember Jim Brady, Assistant to the President. He was shot and paralyzed during an assassination attempt on Ronald Regan in 1981. It wasn’t until 1993, the Brady Bill, which required a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases, was signed into law by President Clinton.

Today the Brady Campaign is “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence.” Their mission, as stated on the website, “is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries.” You can go there to read shocking statistics on gun violence.A few highlights are below:

Every day, 89 people die from gun violence: 

    • 31 are murdered
    • 55 kill themselves
    • 2 are killed unintentionally
    • 1 is killed by police intervention
    • 1 intent unknown.

Every day, an additional 208 people are shot and survive.

In order to reduce these numbers, the Brady Campaign focuses on policy and legal changes, as well as a public awareness campaign. They ensure that all of their programs and efforts have an opportunity for impact, that no one else is doing similar work and that the actions fit into their core values. You can read their full list of solutions here or watch a 16 minute video Pathology of Gun Violence, which explains their strategy in great detail.

Support the work of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence by visiting their take action page, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Bradybuzz. Enough is enough.

 

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October 2, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Girls on the Run

I learned about today’s Feel Good Friday organization, Girls on the Run from my friend Una, who is a volunteer coach at her local council.

What I love about Girls on the Run is the mission posted on their website, “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” The program began in Charlotte, NC in 1996 with a group of 13 girls and grew into the non-profit organization Girls on the Run International (GOTRI) in 2000.

Now GOTRI serves “over 168,000 girls in 225+ cities across North America each year”. So what exactly do the 120,000 volunteer coaches do? They facilitate the curriculum with groups of 8-15 girls.  The programs last between 10 and 12 weeks and are designed for girls in different age groups. All of the programs end with a Girls on the Run 5k event.

The after school program for 3rd – 5th graders focuses on “helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them. Then we look at the importance of team work and healthy relationships. And, finally, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world.” Physical activity is woven into all the lessons to help build healthy habits.

Girls from 6th – 8th grade can choose from the Heart and Sole program, which is similar to what’s offered to their younger counterparts and also includes help with other issues such as boundary setting and decision making. Girls in this age range can also participate in the Girls on Track program, which includes discussions and guidance around more mature topics such as “eating disorders, internet safety, relationships, cyber-bullying and tobacco and alcohol use.”

All of these programs are designed to support the vision of Girls on the Run, “… a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”

If you want to support this vision, you can! Volunteer as a coach or running buddy or donate some money. As always you can provide your support through social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GOTRI. You go, Girls on the Run!

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September 25, 2015

Feel Good Friday – UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency

These days there is a lot of news of refugees from Syria and other countries trying to make their way towards Europe and meeting with varied amounts of resistance and success. Since it’s Feel Good Friday, we’re going to take a closer look at the The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more commonly known as UNHCR.

As explained in the “About Us” section of their website, UNHCR “was established December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.”

While they may be most well known for their emergency preparedness and assistance to people fleeing wars – they have teams of people and stockpiles of food ready to be deployed at a moments notice – this is just one of many services they offer. Others include advocacy on behalf of refugees, providing alternatives to camps and guidance for countries accepting asylum seekers and migrants, and helping refugees with repatriation and resettlement.

Violence and economic hardship are not the only reasons people put their lives at risk to relocate. “In 2013, 22 million people were displaced by disasters brought on by natural hazard events.” That’s why the UNHCR also focuses on climate change and minimizing the environmental impact of refugee operations.

Being such a well-established organization, their website is full of statistics, resources and videos. They post new videos on their website every few days and most are under 3 minutes long. If you want to see something inspiring, rather than depressing, watch this video of immigrants being welcomed in Austria.

If you want to make a difference, there are various ways you can get involved – donating money, volunteering time or supporting UNHCR online by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Refugees.

 

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September 18, 2015

Feel Good Friday – FactCheck.org

Odds are this will not be the last politically inspired Feel Good Friday post of the election season, but for now it is the first.

While watching a portion of the GOP 2016 Presidential debate last night, I was dubious of some of the claims being made. Where does a person go to learn the truth when it comes to political posturing? FactCheck.org.

FactCheck.org is, according to the mission statement on their website, “a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. policies.” Hooray!

But how, you ask? “We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.” They already have information posted about last night’s debate and they have an entire section dedicated to the 2016 elections.

If you’re doing you’re part to stay engaged with politics in the United States, let FactCheck.org do some of the difficult work for you. As they explain, “Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”

The website has a lot of articles you can read and you can even write in and ask a question. For those of you more visually inclined, you can check out their YouTube channel, Flack Check. It has a number of videos calling out current presidential candidates on misinformation they’ve shared. Donald, Bernie – no side is spared. (Though Bernie’s video was 0:52 min long and only mentioned one statement while Donald’s was 3:35 min. Just sayin’.) They also have helpful videos that explain, among other things, how to spot a false viral rumor in their section, Viral Spiral.

If that all feels a little too serious and you want to take a quiz to test your knowledge, ala BuzzFeed, you can do that too! Though these are a lot more difficult that determining which presidential candidate is your soulmate.

They get their funding from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and now, from people like you and me. Whether you choose to donate or just stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @factcheckdotorg, you’ve now got a place to go when you want “just the facts ma’am”.

 

 

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September 11, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Student Diplomacy Corps

Every time September 11th rolls around, I think about how much nicer the world would be if people took the time to learn about and appreciate other cultures rather than assume different means bad. In today’s Feel Good Friday, we visit an organization in New York City that offers a way for students to bridge the cultural divide.

I learned about the Student Diplomacy Corps (SDC) through this article on the Christian Science Monitor People Making a Difference page, a place I often go on a web surfing safari for a bit of inspiration.

Anthony Allen, Chris Frantz and John Meislin, used their 30 years of experience running cross-cultural education programs to conceive of and found SDC. According to the website, “The Student Diplomacy Corps (SDC) provides opportunities and scholarships for high school students from across the nation and around the world to access dynamic international education summer programs that build college readiness, deepen understanding of global issues and unleash the potential and creativity of youth.”

These programs place groups of 10-12 students in Chile, China, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and Uruguay! Whether you’re interested in The Importance of Being Basque or Sushi Dreams and Sustainability, there’s something for everyone. You can get all details about their programs at this link but be warned, it will make you want to fill out application paperwork.

Of all the people that applied last year, 123 Student Diplomats were selected to participate in SDC and they received scholarships covering 85% of the tuition and travel costs. As the founders point out, insights and skills come not only from the program content but also from the application process.

Application Process:

  • Prepares you for the rigors of the college application process.
  • Develops writing and interview skills.
  • Teaches you how to create a personal statement.
  • Orients and prepares you for the program.
Program Content:
  • Helps develop critical thinking and independent living skills.
  • Increases cross-cultural competencies.
  • Deepens civic engagement.
  • Raises confidence and personal expectations.

All this while meeting new friends, seeing new places and making memories that will last a lifetime? Yes!

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world as an adult but oh, how I wish SDC was around when I was in high school! To support their work, you can donate online. To get the latest and greatest info, like their Facebook page.

Happy Feel Good Friday and may all your sushi dreams come true!

 

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September 4, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Creating Better Communities

Today, Feel Good Friday gets personal. Why? Because the President of Creating Better Communities, Becky Murray, is someone I met when she came with me on a Habitat for Humanity trip to Madagascar in 2007!

So what is Creating Better Communities, aka CBC? As stated on their website, “CBC is a non-profit organization providing food to homeless and hungry neighbors in Venice Beach, CA.”

Volunteers prep food Friday evenings and Sunday mornings for distribution at 7:30pm and 9:00am respectively. Right now much of the food is donated by Food Forward, an organization that “rescues fresh local produce that would go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same.”

Becky has certainly been inspired. In addition to the weekly food distribution, plans for CBC include starting a community garden and a donation based restaurant!

You can get involved by volunteering if you live in the area and donating if you don’t. To see pictures of the volunteers in action and keep up with the latest, greatest news – like their Facebook page.

Me, then Becky on the left. First she built houses, then she built lunches.

 

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August 28, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Zen Hospice Project

I like Feel Good Friday to be a wide variety of stories from all around the world. Since we spent the last two weeks with talking trees in Australia and six year old superheroes in Singapore, it’s time to bring it back to the United States and get serious.

zenhospiceZen Hospice Project in San Francisco offers direct care, educational programs and inspirational support to both the dying and the living. As stated on their website, “Our mission is to help change the experience of dying. We create space for living that offers the opportunity for individuals, their loved ones and caregivers to find comfort, connection and healing in this shared human experience. Through our pioneering model of care, we inspire each other to live fully.”

They operate a 6-bed licensed residential care facility for the chronically ill known as the Guest House. It first opened in 1990 “as a community-based model to attend to those dying and in most need of support. As an early responder to the AIDS crisis, we provided care when others would not during this era of fear.” Now they have a partnership with UCSF and host healthcare students and residents in addition to providing two beds for UCSF patients.

Zen Hospice also offers classes in mindful caregiving and has trained 1500 volunteer caregivers to date. They have 125 active volunteers who work both at the Guest House and also with hospice patients at Laguna Honda Hospital. Since they’ve been in operation, Zen Hospice has served more than 31,000 people in the Bay Area.

To learn more about the impact they have had over the years you can listen to short stories told by people involved with Zen Hospice. You can also watch a 2 minute video and hear from the Executive Director BJ Miller or read a San Francisco Chronicle article about him from 2011.

As always, to stay in the loop, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @zenhospice

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August 21, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Superhero Me

You know what makes me happy on Feel Good Friday? Little kids in Singapore picking out superhero powers and names and then creating costumes for themselves. It’s almost too adorable to handle.

As explained on their website, Superhero Me “is a values-based craft movement inspiring children to develop a stronger sense of self through costume crafting. It aims to create awareness for early childhood education in Singapore and trigger children to discover the joy of creative confidence.”

The goals of Superhero Me are to build character, celebrate imagination and affirm doing good. It all began on Children’s Day 2014 to empower preschoolers from less privileged families and is a part of Startwell, “A national movement that seeks to give Singapore’s children the best possible start in life.”

Deciding on what superpowers they will possess and creating their costumes from start to finish gives the children a sense of power and pride – and it looks like a ton of fun! If you click the “meet the superheroes” section of the website, you can use a sliding tool to transform children in matching uniforms into superheroes with names such as Lady Rain, Singing Tornado Boy, Master Chef and Electro Claw.

If you want to inspire a child in your world to become a superhero, you can download the toolkit here.  Even more information and craft cutouts can be found at the website of the Superhero Me festival that was held in June, 2015.

To up the adorable factor, you can watch the full 11 minute documentary about the program here or check out the 6 minute version included in an article from Our Better World.

To support the work of the Superhero Me project, like the Startwell Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @StartwellSG. And, since you’ve still got over 2 months, perhaps this will inspire you to Superhero You for Halloween!

 

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August 14, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Melbourne Urban Forest

I learned about the Melbourne Urban Forest Visual from this Daily Good article by Adrienne LaFrance. Two years ago, the City of Melbourne gave an email address and ID numbers to the 70,000 trees they maintain so that people could report any problems with the trees. Here’s why.

A quick read of the FAQ section of the City of Melbourne Urban Forest Precinct Plans provides the following information:

“Thirteen years of drought and water restrictions have now accelerated the severe decline of our trees. In addition, many of Melbourne’s trees were planted at the same time, so they are now reaching the end of their life at the same time. Our research shows that we will lose 27% of our trees in the next 10 years and 44% within 20 years – that’s almost 30,000 trees.” In addition just three species (eucalyptus, planes and elms) account for 35% of all the trees, a lack of diversity that makes the tree population more vulnerable to future threats.

To combat this loss, the city has developed Melbourne Urban Forest strategies designed to:

  • increase canopy cover
  • increase urban forest diversity
  • improve vegetation health
  • improve soil moisture and water quality
  • improve urban ecology
  • inform and consult with the community

Citizens certainly have sent emails to the city to report problems with the trees as expected, but those emails have been far outnumbered by people sending love letters and other messages of support to the trees. Even better, the trees are writing back! Messages from the trees include educational emails about tree gender and comments on the Greek debt crisis. Not only are the trees wise (as I’ve always imagined trees to be) but they’re also funny! You can read some example emails in the Daily Good article.

To send your own message to a tree in Melbourne, use melbourneurbanforest@melbourne.vic.gov.au and don’t worry, if you select a tree from the visual map, the tree ID number will be automatically added to the subject line.

You can also show your love for the City of Melbourne by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @cityofmelbourne.

 

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August 7, 2015

Feel Good Friday – She Is ______ Project

It’s Feel Good Friday and time to fill in the blank! Today we go to San Antonio, Texas to visit the “She is ________ Project : Empowering Girls Through the Celebration of Extraordinary Women”. 
This public art initiative founded by marketing professional, Cassandra Yardeni and photographer, Kat Carey gives young women the chance to determine their own adjective by dressing up as real-life female heroines. 

Formerly known as The Isis Project, the website best explains the process: “The Isis Project… invites all girls, age infant through 18, to participate and pose as one female trailblazer. The photographs will be accompanied by a description of the heroine and shared via social media.”

The girls are encouraged to pick a woman who inspires them and they’ve chosen a variety of women in science, the arts and history. You can view photos of the girls and their heroines in the gallery and meet some of the participants by watching this short video from KSAT news. 

If you live in the San Antonio area you can make an appointment here. Sitting fees are only $20! For those of you who don’t, you can get the most current info by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @sheisprojectsa

 

 

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July 31, 2015

Feel Good Friday – The Unusual Suspects 

I often perform improv on Friday nights, which makes me feel good, so for today’s Feel Good Friday, I’d like to introduce you to The Unusual Suspects Theater Company in Los Angeles, California. 

Their mission, found on their website, is “to empower youth in underserved and at-risk environments with the means and methods necessary to explore personal and social conflicts and develop self-esteem, communication and coping skills to make positive life choices and become productive members of the community.”
Since 1993, The Unusual Suspects has worked with children between the ages of 9 and 21 who are in foster care, the juvenile justice system, gangs and/or low income communities providing a variety of theater programs. The main focus is on two consecutive 10-week workshops. The first is a playwriting workshop, which results in a staged reading by professional actors. The second is a performance workshop that readies the youth to perform the play they wrote in the previous workshop.
A review of the impact page explains that some of the changes experienced by the 300 kids who go through the program each year include improved self-esteem, communication and teamwork skills and decreased physical confrontation, drug use and gang involvement.
If you want to learn more, you can watch a segment about the program on NBC Los Angeles or a handful of other videos they have on the home page. You can support their work by donating cash or, if you live in the LA area, becoming a volunteer mentor. As always, for the latest and greatest, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @UStheatreCo

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July 24, 2015

Feel Good Friday – OneSight

One more Feel Good Friday for my mom. I took three pairs of her glasses to LensCrafters where they have a donation box for One Sight, today’s profiled organization.

Over 500 million people around the world suffer from vision loss and as I learned on the OneSight website, “Since 1988, OneSight’s volunteers have helped 8.5 million people in 40 countries. We won’t stop until the world can see.”

Their program is not just about free glasses, though those certainly are a part of it. Volunteer’s with OneSight provide training to local partners (so they can provide a sustainable infrastructure) as well as comprehensive eye exams and a new pair of glasses for every patient.
They have charitable clinics all around the world, from Nicaragua to New York City, Rwanda to Richmond, VA. You can find a complete list of clinics here and read stories about people whose lives have been changed through better vision here.
I feel better knowing the donation of my mom’s glasses can help another person out, especially as a person who wears glasses myself.
To see what’s currently happening with OneSight, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @OneSightOrg

 

 

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July 17, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Peninsula Humane Society (PHS/SPCA)

For those of you who follow this blog regularly (and keep track) you’ll know that in the 2 years and 8 months it has existed, there have only been two times I haven’t posted an entry on Feel Good Friday. Once when FGF fell on my birthday and again last week, when my mother passed away.

As I deal with my grief and the logistics of shutting someone’s life down, there are a few things I can feel good about. One is the support of my remaining family and my family of friends, the other is the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS/SPCA).  My mom was an animal lover all her life and she liked to do her thrift store shopping at Pick of the Litter because the proceeds benefit PHS/SPCA.

As stated in the “about us” section of their website, “PHS/SPCA is a private, independent, non-profit, and our scope of services goes beyond that of a so-called no-kill, or limited admission, facility. As an open-door shelter, PHS/SPCA accepts all animals brought to us, regardless of age, breed or size, and we’ve rehomed 100% of the healthy dogs and cats in our care since 2003 and promise to do this going forward.”

Their programs cover just more than finding new homes for cats and dogs. They accept, treat and release 1,200 – 1,400 birds and other mammals each year and have a “feral cat package” that helps San Mateo county residents trap, spay and neuter feral cats then offers discount services for future care. Some of the more typical program offerings include: obedience classes, cruelty investigations, spay/neuter and euthanasia services. They also have volunteers who foster animals while they wait for adoption and a program that pairs dogs with limited adoption potential and minimum-security inmates who provide care and training to prepare the dogs for adoption.

But wait there’s more! Pet assisted therapy where residents bring their animals to visit hospitals, rehab centers and correctional facilities,  a pet loss and grief support group,  30 days of free housing for pets of domestic violence victims, educational programs, a resource library and birthday parties on site for kids 7-12! You can get more details about these and other programs at this link.

Because of her love for animals, and a good thrift store bargain, my brother and I have decided to donate my mom’s belongings to Pick of the Litter. This way she can continue to support the fantastic work being done by PHS/SPCA. To learn more about the current happenings at the organization and see videos of some animals up for adoption, visit and like their Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter @PeninsulaHumane.

 

 

 

 

 

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July 3, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Wounded Warrior Project

As you get ready to celebrate Independence Day in the United States, take a Feel Good Friday moment to learn more about an organization that supports injured service members, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

Founded in 2003, the purpose of WWP, as stated on their website,  is “to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members; to help injured ser

ice members aid and assist each other; and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.”

They do this by offering 20 different programs focused on mind, body, economic empowerment and engagement. All programs are free of charge for warriors, their families and caregivers. Some examples include resources to help warriors access VA benefits, employment and educational opportunities; outdoor activities such as Project Odyssey and Soldier Ride; and the Combat Street Recovery Program.

Wounded Warrior Project has helped over 70,000 warriors to date and they are on track to help 100,000 by the year 2017. You can read about some of these individuals in the Meet A Warrior section of the website and make a donation to support the work that WWP is doing. As always, to stay in the loop like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @wwp.

 

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June 26, 2015

Feel Good Friday – LYRIC

This Sunday is the 45th annual Pride Parade in San Francisco and Feel Good Friday is starting the celebration early with a visit to the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, aka LYRIC!

As stated on their website, “LYRIC’s mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities.”

Founded in San Francisco in 1988, the first event was a dance. Since then, services have grown to include:

  • School-based initiatives – a three part program LYRIC brings into middle and high schools that focuses on a gender and sexuality social justice course for students, professional development training for the staff and support groups for the families
  • Workforce development – providing support and assistance for youth job seekers
  • Case management – free services provided by youth advocates who can help with issues including housing applications, school enrollment counseling and more
To date, LYRIC has served over 1500 youth in the Bay Area! You can help keep it going by becoming a LYRIC champion with a $10 monthly donation and/or like their Facebook page to stay in the know and look for them in the parade on Sunday. Happy Pride!

 

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June 19, 2015

Feel Good Friday – 826 Valencia

From all the literacy-related organizations that get profiled here, you know I love reading. But what would I have to read if not for the writers? Today, Feel Good Friday goes to the Mission district in San Francisco to find out how 826 Valencia brought together students with a need for tutoring and writers with flexible schedules.

826 Valencia is not only the name of the organization, it’s also the address. Since writing is their speciality, I’ll let them explain what they do in their own words. “826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resources students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.”

826 was founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari who wanted to support teachers by providing a space where adults and kids could come together for free one-on-one tutoring. Their plans were to have the publishing company McSweeney’s in the back of the space and the tutoring center in the front, but they learned the building was zoned for retail use and in order to keep it they’d have to sell something.

 

While renovating the space, they discovered hardwood floors and exposed beams which inspired the creation of a pirate supply store. Whether it’s because of the San Francisco location and our love of pirates or just because it’s awesome, sales of pirate supplies generate enough income to keep the center going.

All their programs are free. FREE! They include the after school tutoring as well as bringing classes of students to the center on field trips during school. 826 also sends volunteers into classrooms to work with teachers and students on special projects. You can find the complete list of programs here.

This idea is so popular and the need so great, six more chapters of 826 have opened in cities around the country – New York (fronted by a Superhero Supply Store), Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angels (fronted by a Time Travel Mart), Boston and Washington, D.C. San Francisco will be getting a second location in the Tenderloin which is scheduled to open by January, 2016.

You can hear how the original idea for 826 came about and get a virtual tour of the stores by watching this Dave Eggers TED Talk. If you want to get more involved by donating your money or your time, click here.

As always, like the 826 Valencia Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @826_Valencia and if you live in, or visit, San Francisco by all means go see the pirate store. Argh.

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June 12, 2015

Feel Good Friday – National Center for Transgender Equality

By now, you’ve most likely seen the current issue of Vanity Fair introducing the world to Caitlyn Jenner. This debut, and the fact that June is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender pride month, makes it a great time to spend Feel Good Friday talking about the T in LGBT!

Since 2003, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has been providing a transgender advocacy presence in Washington, D.C. As explained on the website, “The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people. By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation’s capital and around the country.”

Much of their advocacy work focuses on:

  • ending discrimination in the workplace
  • ensuring transgender people have access to healthcare
  • ensuring transgender people have access to accurate identity documents
  • ending mistreatment in jails and prisons

They also work on issues such as aging, housing and immigration. A complete list of issues can be found here.

Not only is NCTE working to affect public policy, they also provide practical “Know Your Rights” guides for transgender people having to navigate what can become complication situations such as employment, public accommodations and airport security. All the available guides can be found here.

With people such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox helping to raise awareness of the transgender community, it’s good to know there is an organization working on both awareness and equality.

For more information you can listen to The Diane Rehm show (52m), to hear from several transgender advocates, including Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy at the NCTE.

If you’re short on time, watch an introductory 3:38 minute video and keep current by liking the NCTE  Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TransEquality. You may also enjoy reading about #MyVanityFairCover where a variety of transgender people introduce themselves to the world ala Caitlyn.

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June 5, 2015

Feel Good Friday – ArtBridge Houston

The world is full of Feel Good Friday stories. Since we’ve spent the last two weeks out of the country, it’s time to bring it on home with an art program in Texas. Yeehaw!

The organization featured today is ArtBridge Houston. Founded in 1999, their mission statement from the website reads, “ArtBridge Houston provides therapeutic and expressive arts programs to homeless and at-risk children within a supportive and creative environment.”

Last fall they offered 14 weekly classes in 9 local facilities. As explained in their vision, the hour long group sessions encourage “self-expression and nurtures imagination, hope and self-esteem while reducing the despair of homelessness and the effects of poverty.”

Therapists and volunteers have reported seeing children improve their communication, focus and cooperation with others as well as increase their ability to tolerate frustration. Since the start of the program, over 5,800 children have participated!

You can watch a short video about the program here and hear directly from co-founder Jo Ann Williams at this link.

If you live in the Houston area you can sign up to volunteer and no matter where you are, you can always make a donation of cash (or crayons!) to support homeless youth and the arts. For the latest and greatest, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ArtBridgeHou

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May 29, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Stitches of Hope

It’s Feel Good Friday and once again I’ve spent my Thursday evening in search of a story that will put a smile on your face. What inspires me is how many of the organizations I find began with the good intentions of one person. Today is no exception.

Stitches of Hope is a group founded by Kay Eva with the simple goal of “Bringing hope to Cambodia”.

In 2004, Kay traveled from her native Australia to Cambodia on an awareness trip. During that time, she met parents who sold their baby for $20 to buy food to feed the rest of their family. Deeply affected by this story she wanted to do something to support the community but was unsure of what she had to offer. After discussing it with a friend, she returned to teach underprivileged women and young girls how to sew so they would be able to earn an income. As stated on the website, “Since Kay’s first trip to Cambodia, she has returned more than 20 times, working tirelessly to help Cambodian mums and dads, boys and girls to gain a better way of life.”

A lot has happened in those 20 visits and Stitches of Hope has expanded well beyond the original sewing center. The program now includes housing and education for children, monthly food packs for the elderly, an agricultural project that supports HIV widows and funding for the medical treatment of cancer patients!

You can learn more about Kay and Stitches of Hope by reading this article on the Daily Good website and find details about the various programs offered at this link.

Program fundraising events take place in Australia. If that’s where you live, you should go! If not, consider making a contribution or liking their Facebook page to support the people of Cambodia.

 

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May 22, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Rainbow Reading Gardens

If you’ve been following Feel Good Friday, you know I love stories about literacy, libraries and the like (alliteration too). Today, we’re going to visit a group that has established 29 children’s libraries across 14 islands in Eastern Indonesia – Rainbow Reading Gardens! Or Taman Bacaan Pelangi, for those of you who speak Indonesian.

It started in November, 2009 when founder Nila Tanzil brought 200 books to a small village called Roe. As explained on the website, “Our goal is simple: more books and more libraries means kids in remote areas in Indonesia are given access to books and stories that will open a whole new world of opportunity.” The original library in Roe now has over 3,000 books!

These are not the libraries I grew up with in the United States. Many times, these libraries are located in people’s homes. You can watch a very short video of a fisherman named Pak Baco, who agreed to host a library in his house in hopes that the kids in his village, including his own, will expand their horizons and even go on to get a university education.

These hopes are shared by the people working for the organization. “At Taman Baccan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), we encourage children to dream big. And books will inspire, broaden their horizon and motivate them to reach their dream.” In the last five years, over 6,000 children in Eastern Indonesia have had access to the books in the libraries.

If your summer travels take you to Indonesia, you can volunteer at a library and meet some of the children in person. If you’ll stay closer to home this summer, you can always donate some cash, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @pelangibook. If you don’t do it for me, do it for LeVar Burton.

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May 15, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Confections with Convictions

Chocolate is something that makes me, and I suspect a lot of you, feel good any day of the week. But this is Feel Good Friday so we can’t just talk about chocolate, we’re going to talk about chocolate with a purpose!

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor’s People Making a Difference series profiled Dale Anderson and his chocolate shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Confections with Convictions. (You can read the full article here.)

Dale is a counselor who works with juveniles involved in the court system, a licensed builder, and now, after years of training, a chocolatier. What makes his chocolate shop so special is that he hires young people whose felony convictions make it difficult for them to find employment.

He wanted to find a way to help the youth he was counseling become productive members of society. The idea of the chocolate shop was inspired by the play on words in the name, Confections with Convictions. Not only would he employ young people with convictions, the shop operate with the following convictions (taken from the website):

  • Making wholesome, delicious, high quality confections;
  • Utilizing organically grown, Fair Trade, & locally sourced, ingredients whenever possible;
  • Treating our customers, employees, and suppliers in an honest, friendly, and professional manner;
  • Supporting environmental stewardship through our choices of ingredients, processes and packaging;
  • Providing fair compensation for our employees, and for those whose labors provide our ingredients and supplies;
  • Hiring people who have barriers to regular employment; and
  • Working to make our business, community, and world more peaceful, just, joyful, and environmentally sustainable.

Since Confections with Convictions opened in 2010, 12 teens have fulfilled their community service by working at the store and 5 have gone on to other careers.

To learn more you can watch this short video to see Dale and some of his employees, read an article about the shop on the Huffington Post and like their Facebook page to hear the latest news.

Of course, if you’re ever in Kalamazoo, stop by the store and pickup some chocolate so that you can feel, smell and taste the goodness!

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May 8, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Bay Area Proud

We’ve spent the last few weeks out and about in the world so this Feel Good Friday we bring it home to the San Francisco Bay Area!

My goal for Inspiration Safari, and the Feel Good Friday series, is to share stories and videos of people making a positive difference in communities around the world. One NBC station is sharing similar stories with a local focus in a series called “Bay Area Proud”.

“Each week NBC Bay Area’s Garvin Thomas profiles the people, the groups, and the companies making the Bay Area, and the world, a better place to live. Bay Area Proud stories are success stories; inspiring profiles of those making a positive change in our communities.”

Having just highlighted people cleaning up from the earthquake in Nepal last week, this story (and video) of a man who has been cleaning up the streets of Oakland for 36 years caught my eye.  36 years! Watch it here.

You can learn about other members of our community who will make you proud by searching through the stories at this link: Bay Area Proud You don’t need to own a TV to stay inspired by your neighbors!

To make sure you always know what the latest and greatest story is, like the Facebook page and follow the reporter, Garvin Thomas on Twitter @garvinthomas. I wonder if he’ll ever want a co-host…

 

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May 1, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Women for Human Rights, Single Women Group – Nepal

It’s been almost a week since the devastating 7.8 earthquake in Nepal. The death toll has risen to over 5,000 and an estimated 2.8 million Nepalese are displaced from their homes.

It’s difficult to find a reason to feel good under these circumstances and yet, there’s always hope. Today’s Feel Good Friday is focused on Women for Human Rights, Single Women Group. Since last Saturday they have been mobilizing volunteers to distribute food in different areas of Nepal. While there is more need than this group can possible address, they are doing what they can and updating social media with calls to action tagged as #HelpInAnyWayPossible.

And what do they do when they are not providing earthquake relief? Provide support to widows in the country, both young and old. They refer to the widows as “single women” because the term widow has such a negative connotation in Nepal.

According to their website, “Discrimination against women in Nepal is prevalent, due to the structure of the society deeply rooted in Patriarchal thoughts. Women are constantly marginalized and single women (widows) are in a (sic) even worse state. Single woman are considered as symbols of ill-omen and the cause of the death of their husbands.” You can hear more about this by watching this 5:49 minute video.

Their mission is a simple one, “To empower women economically, politically, socially and culturally in order to live dignified lives and enjoy the value of human rights.”

To accomplish this they divide their areas of focus into five pillars, which you can read about in detail here. Briefly, they are as follows:

  1. Create awareness of victims of cultural torture and provide a scholarship fund and school supplies for children of these single women.
  2. Train women in the development of different kinds of income generating activities, provide micro loans and education on effective ways of saving money.
  3. An advocacy campaign for the human rights of women as well as counseling and skills development to help conflict affected women recover from traumatic experiences and reintegrate back into society.
  4. Improvement of single women groups to articulate demands to improve their situations by securing rights from their local bodies of government.
  5. Building networks at the South Asian regional and global levels to increase awareness of the rights of single women.

Since the creation of WHR in 1994 they’ve changed laws ranging from increased property rights for single women to being able to get a passport without a male relative’s approval. They now have a membership base of over 100,000 women in 73 districts!

To follow their progress on earthquake recovery and their work with single women, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @WHRNepal.

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April 24, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Sughar Empowerment Society

We’ve spent the last two weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area learning about organizations that help kids get on stage and get outdoors. Well, the pendulum is on the move and we spend this Feel Good Friday with a young woman working to prevent honor killings and child marriages in Pakistan. Hey, when it swings, it swings.

Khalida Broni founded the Sughar Empowerment Society in her native Pakistan to give women wings. Sughar translates into “skilled and confident women” and reflects the mission of the organization.

As explained on their website, “Sughar is a non profit social enterprise organization based in Pakistan. Operating in the most tribal and rural areas of Pakistan, Sughar provides socio-economic opportunities and empowerment to women by giving them trainings, resources and opportunities to grow as as leaders within their communities.”

The goal of the empowerment programs is simple. “At Sughar Women Program we aim to create a society where women are not killed for honor, but are honored and given equal status.” Offerings include a program to help women mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change as well as a one to help them buy land and learn how to generate income from that land. The most popular program is 6 months long and trains women on basic education, life skills, traditional embroidery and enterprise development.

Recent initiatives include creating a hub that houses the 6 month training program with other local non-profits, a fund to raise money to help the programs continue AND a fashion line called Nomads which sells the clothing that the women make. Your purchases will directly support the Sughar Empowerment Society which, to date, has worked with over 900 women!

Want to learn more? You can listen to Khalida Broni’s recent 14 minute TED Talk, like Sughar’s Facebook page for photos and updates and follow them on Twitter @SugharWomen.

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April 17, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Bay Area Wilderness Training

Happy Feel Good Friday! We spent last week in Marin learning about kids in the performing arts and we’re going to keep it in the Bay Area this week by going to Oakland and learning about kids in nature.

Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) provides teachers and group leaders with wilderness training and access to a gear library with the goal of getting young people out into California’s wilderness areas.

The mission of BAWT, as stated on their website is “to create opportunities for youth from the San Francisco Bay Area to experience wilderness first hand. To achieve our mission, we train teachers and youth workers, provide outdoor gear loans, give financial support and foster community collaboration.”

Their main course is the Wilderness Leadership Training, a five day backpacking course in which you learn all the skills you need to lead youth on a multi-day backpacking adventure. You learn these skills by backpacking in Sierra Nevada mountains and role playing with your fellow educators. There are also one day courses in subjects like water safety, map and compass reading, and games.

Once you’ve completed a training, you have access to the gear libraries where you and your students can rent all the equipment you need for an overnight trip (backpacks, tents, cooking supplies, shoes, etc.) for FREE! There are also opportunities for grants and scholarships to help with the cost of a trip.

The idea is that there shouldn’t be any limitations on you, as an educator, bringing your students into a natural environment where they’ll be able to learn things other than what can be covered in an indoor classroom.

If you want more information about BAWT you can read this article from Bay Nature or watch a 7 minute video and hear from kids who’ve gone on the trips. As always, like their Facebook page to stay in the loop. Who else is ready to make a plan and get outside!

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April 10, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Performing Stars

Today we’re going to celebrate Feel Good Friday with a song and dance while we learn more about Performing Stars!

 

 

 

As summarized on their website, “Performing Stars of Marin is a non-profit organization founded in 1990. We provide access to professional training in the performing, visual and literary arts, as well as social skills and various enrichment opportunities to youth who are underserved due to economic, cultural or social barriers.”

Programs for children include ballet, zydeco music and theater classes, among others. Not only do the children learn the artistic skills, they “build pride, character, discipline and self-esteem.” As a person who has been involved in the performing arts since I was little, I agree with the mission statement: “Our programs help youth develop good work habits and positive social skills, enhance academic performance and professional readiness, improv critical thinking and communication skills, and gain the confidence they need to overcome the limitations imposed by poverty.”

You can watch this CBS report on local musician Narada Michael Walden, who recently won a Jefferson Award for his support of Performing Stars, and see some of the kids singing. You can also see young zydeco musicians in action in this short video. (How do I get one of those musical metal vests?)

Performing Stars will celebrate 25 years of service in Marin with a tribute to Motown fundraiser on September 26th! If you’re unable to attend, you can send a donation at a time that is convenient for you and your wallet.

As always, be sure to like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @PerformingStars to keep up with the latest classes and performances. Maybe that’s how I’ll find out how to get one of those musical metal vests. Seriously, they look so fun!

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April 3, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Nowzad Dogs

You may be reading today’s Feel Good Friday subject and thinking, say what now? Zad?

If you’ve never heard of Nowzad dogs you’re not alone. Nowzad is not a breed of dog, Now Zad is a war-torn town in Afghanistan where soldiers from around the world are stationed to keep the peace. So what’s with the dogs? In 2006, Royal Marine Sergeant, ‘Pen’ Farthing was befriended by a stray dog and he realized that it wasn’t only the people of Afghanistan who could use some stability. He also saw how the animals provided the soldiers much needed comfort and company. In 2007 he founded Nowzad Dogs.

Their mission, as stated on the website, is “To relieve the suffering of animals in Afghanistan; including companion animals, working equines, stray and abandoned dogs and cats and all other animals in need of care and attention, and to provide and maintain rescue, rehabilitation and education facilities for the care and treatment of such animals with no voice but ours.”

Nowzad runs the first and only stray dog shelter in Afghanistan. Just outside of Kabul it houses 100 dogs and 30 cats (separately, of course). The animals are fed, exercised and cared for by vets. The goals are to return the animals to their homes in Afghanistan, or fly them to the home country of the soldiers who adopted them.

Soldiers patrolling in Afghanistan often come upon stray dogs and cats who they adopt and bond with during their tour of duty. Nowzad raises funds to reunite these dogs with their soldiers, sending them to the soldiers’ home countries. To date they’ve reunited over 700 companion animals to their soldiers!

Finally, Nowzad operates a clinic (funded solely by donations) that cares for the animals and spays and neuters them to try and curb the population of strays and stop the spread of rabies. The clinic is staffed by four Afghan nationals, including Afghanistan’s first two female veterinarians. You go girls!

You can meet some of the soldiers and their dogs by watching this short CNN Heroes Video. As always, you can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @Nowzad for all the latest and greatest news. That and pictures of dogs and cats. Feel Good Friday!

 

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March 27, 2015

Feel Good Friday – US National Park Service

Happy Feel Good Friday! Spring is here and summer is coming – what a great time to get outdoors and visit one of the many parks run by the National Park Service!

Many years ago, I was an NPS volunteer spending my weekends on Alcatraz telling visitors all about the history of the island and where the bathroom was. Spending time with passionate park rangers and volunteers, along with climbing to the top of the lighthouse, were highlights of my experience. The great news is, you don’t have to volunteer with the NPS to enjoy a park! Although if you’d like to, follow this link.

All this excitement about parks and I haven’t even watched the Ken Burns documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”. Here’s why I love NPS.

As explained on their website, the mission is simple, “The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.” While Yellowstone National Park was the first park to be established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, it wasn’t until 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson signed an Act to create the National Park Service.

And now? From the FAQ page, “The national park system comprises 407 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.” If that doesn’t make you want to start planning your summer vacation, I don’t know what will!

You can search for a park at this link by name, location, activity or topic and start planning. There are also great links to discover historyexplore nature and resources for teachers and kids. In 2014 there were 292,800,02 visitors (to be exact). Will you visit a park in 2015?

To stay in the loop, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @NatlParkService. You’ll be the first to know about plans to celebrate the 100 year anniversary on August 25, 2016.

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March 20, 2015

Feel Good Friday – The Plastic Bank

At least once a year, Feel Good Friday focuses on a plastic waste story and today is that day.

In 2012 we introduced artist, Tess Felix, who made portraits from items she found on the beach. In 2013, we learned how plastic bottles became surfboards in Brazil, thanks to the Eco Surfboard Project. And in 2014 we went to Oregon to see sculptures made from plastic ocean debris that had Washed Ashore.

Today we visit The Plastic Bank, an organization who states on their website, “We make plastic waste a currency to help reduce global poverty, while stopping plastic from entering the ocean.”

Based in Vancouver, BC, The Plastic Bank was the brainchild of David Katz who wanted to start a business that benefitted people and the planet as well as bring in profits. He partnered with Shaun Frankson in 2013 and they have taken David’s idea and turned it into a thriving company.

As stated on their Facebook page, “Our mission is to remove plastic waste from the land, oceans and waterways while helping people ascend from poverty and transition to entrepreneurship. We call harvesting and repurposing plastics like this ‘Social Plastic’.”

The first Plastic Bank is in Lima, Peru and a second is being opened in Haiti. Local people collect plastic on the beaches, or wherever else they find it, bring it to the Plastic Bank and then exchange it for health, education or 3D printing services. That’s right. The plastic is transformed into the raw material needed for 3D printing!

Companies like LUSH are using Social Plastic to package their products – you can watch a short video here then check their website for a store near you.

One of the best ways you can support the Plastic Bank is through social media. It’s easy to like their Facebook page, which lists the company’s name as, “I Demand Corporations Use Recycled Ocean/Social Plastics: The Plastic Bank”. If demands are not your style, you can always take a more low key approach and follow them on Twitter @PlasticBank. Either way, you’ll be by spreading the word and stop spreading the plastic!

 

 

 

 

 

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March 13, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Peace and Reconciliation Group

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us! Before the festivities begin, I want to use this Feel Good Friday post to let you know about The Peace and Reconciliation Group (PRG) in Northern Ireland.

Most likely you know of the decades-long conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, commonly referred to as the Troubles. If not, you can read a very quick summary here. In 1976, the PRG was established to “build bridges and promote a peaceful and inclusive society for all in Northern Ireland.”

Specifics of their work can be found on the website and primarily focus on getting people to talk to each other. In addition to providing training programs focused on “community relations, community development and conflict management”, they also mediate disputes. Some of their larger projects include a training program that guides people in dealing with the past and shaping the future and another that aims to education young people on democracy and elections.

PRG also works with the police to “manage and mediate contentious situations. This includes parades, bonfires, football matches, elections and other events.” They’re international as well, working on projects in Africa, the Middle East and Belgium.

While they’ve got a waitlist of volunteers, you can help them out and stay informed by liking their Facebook page.

Now that you know there are people working for peace, you are all clear to put on a green shirt and try to convince strangers to kiss you!

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March 6, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Global Fund for Women

Sunday, March 8th is International Women’s Day and Feel Good Friday is a perfect time to start the celebration! Based in San Francisco, Global Fund for Women is a group that provides support to women’s organizations all around the world.

Founded in 1988 by Anne Firth Murray, Frances Kissing and Laura Lederer, the mission of Global Fund for Women, as stated on their website is this: “We advance the rights of women and girls worldwide by increasing the resources for and investing in women-led organizations and women’s collective leadership for change.”

In practical terms, they fund organizations that are women-led, connected with their communities, underfunded, and using a rights-based approach that supports the larger women’s movement. Three areas they focus on, in order to achieve lasting change for women and girls, are technology, education and leadership.

As stated on the website, “Gender inequality will have been addressed when women can fully, freely and safely participate in political, economic and social life and in choices over their bodies, sexuality and reproductive health.” We certainly have a long way to go but take heart because Global Fund for Women is identifying and supporting groups that will help get us there.

You can watch videos from a few of their grant recipients here, including: the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement which encourages women’s political participation, Strey Khmer, a group in Cambodia that helped women set up a mushroom farm in their village so they don’t have to migrate for work and Urban Poor Women Development, another Cambodian program that teaches women how to organize their communities to improve their living conditions.

Having supported groups in 170 countries, you can see which parts of the world are current priority areas now. You also can support women around the globe by making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GlobalFundWomen.

Global Fund for Women reminds us that Sisters are Doin’ if for Themselves!

 

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February 27, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Lion Guardians

I learned about today’s Feel Good Friday organization by checking out the 2014 CNN Heroes. A lot of inspiring people and today we’re going to talk about Leela Huzzah, the founder and executive director of Lion Guardians.

When I traveled to East Africa, I saw lions but I had no idea how lucky I was. The Lion Guardians website states that “In the last 50 years, an estimated 50% of Africa’s lions have disappeared.”

Lion Guardians is doing something about it. As they explain on their Facebook page, “Lion Guardians is a conservation organization that promotes the coexistence of people and lions. Our more than 70 conservationists, biologists and local leaders work in collaboration with pastoralist communities to protect lions over 4,500 square kilometers (over one million acres) of prime lion habitat across Kenya and Tanzania.”

So what does that mean in practical terms? Since 2007 they have recruited Maasai warriors (for whom it is a point of pride to kill a lion) and trained them to track and monitor lions in Kenya and Tanzania. They also provide the guardians with literacy training, conflict resolution training (to deal with farmers who kill lions to protect their cattle herds) and data collection techniques. Not only do the guardians track lions but they also find lost livestock and lost herders.

 

Lion Guardians attributes their success to collaboration with local communities and using indigenous knowledge in combination with conservation science to determine the best ways for people and lions to coexist. They also provide project management training for others interested in starting a similar organization.

You can get a great summary of Lion Guardians by watching the CNN Hero video about Leela Huzzah and keep current by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @lionguardians

Seeing lions in their natural environment is a fabulous experience and thanks to the work of Lion Guardians, when you travel to Africa, you’ll be able to see lions too!

 

 

 

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February 20, 2015

Feel Good Friday – The Oscars 

In anticipation of the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday, today’s Feel Good Friday takes a trip to Hollywood!

When you think of the Oscars, you may think red carpet, beautiful dresses and speeches or the fact that you haven’t seen all of the nominated films. After today, I hope you’ll also think of the educational programs the Academy provides.

As stated on their website, “The Academy supports other film-related organizations and institutions, provides opportunities for high school students – and movie fans of all ages – to further their understanding and appreciation of movies and the moviemaking process, and works to encourage interaction between public filmmakers of all types.”

One of the offerings is a Media Literacy Program which, twice a year, sends 800 high school juniors from the Los Angeles Unified School District to visit the Academy, analyze film clips and meet filmmakers in order to “become aware of media messages encountered daily, improve analytical skills to evaluate those messages, and encourage provocative and thoughtful interaction with the media.”

The Academy also produces a series of free teachers guides to “explore the art and science of motion pictures” and “to teach valuable lessons in critical thinking and creative writing and to develop literacy skills.”  They sponsor visiting artists in order to create opportunities for direct contact between students and working film professionals.

There is also the Academy Film Scholars program that grants $25,000 to two individuals each year to research and write about various aspects of film – often  historical, cultural or scientific. And just when you thought they couldn’t do any more, the Academy also supports film-related non-profits, individuals and film festivals through educational, internship and film festival grants!

So as you watch the Oscars on Sunday (or not), keep in mind there is a lot more to feel good about in addition to beautiful people making beautiful movies! Now get out your list of nominees and follow all the action on Twitter @TheAcademy!

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February 13, 2015

Feel Good Friday – St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring Center

So far, all the Feel Good Friday posts in 2015 have focused on organizations in the United States so today we’re taking a trip to Gulu, Uganda.

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe has been the Director of St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring Center in Gulu, Uganda since 2001. Her story has been transformed into a book and a documentary film, both titled Sewing Hope. The website provides this background, “For 25 years Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorized Northern Uganda. They abducted children and forced them to commit atrocities against their own families and communities. Girls as young as thirteen were degraded to sex slaves for Kony’s officers.”

When these girls return home with their children, whose fathers are rebel commanders, they are often shunned by their communities. Sister Rosemary wanted to provide these girls a way to accept, forgive and support themselves. She made an announcement on the radio inviting all former Kony captives to come to St. Monica’s for refuge and training. In the first year, 200 girls signed up and since then over 2,000 have been through the program.

She started with a sewing class for the girls and, after seeing how it boosted their self esteem, added additional classes in jewelry making. In 2012 she cofounded Sisters United as a for-profit organization to sell the products the girls were making.

Sister Rosemary was selected as a CNN Hero in 2007 (video) and named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time Magazine in 2014. You can learn more about her and the program by reading this detailed article from the Christian Science Monitor or buying the book. 100% of the net proceeds from the book go to Pros for Africa, a US based group that supports Sister Rosemary and her work at St. Monica’s.

You can watch the trailer for the documentary here then stream the full movie on Netflix. If you like it, adding your comments to the page will encourage others to watch the film and learn about the work Sister Rosemary is doing at St. Monica’s. It’s only 53 minutes long and (having just watched it myself) very inspiring.

Finally, you can keep up with this dynamic woman by liking her Facebook page and following her on Twitter @Sister_Rosemary. That’s what I’m doing!

 

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February 6, 2015

Feel Good Friday – BATS Improv

This Feel Good Friday, I’m going local and talking about an organization I work with, BATS Improv.

Founded in 1986 and located in San Francisco, BATS Improv is “a professional theatre company and an artistic community that cultivates and innovates the craft of improvised theatre through engaging, playful, creative performance and training.”

If you live in the Bay Area and have the opportunity to go to a BATS show, I would recommend it as an entertaining way to spend an evening. But BATS is more than just shows.

Right now, three other BATS coaches and I are in the middle of a 7-week program teaching improv to 4th graders. Each hour with them is spent playing improv games and we all have a lot of fun. While we’re laughing and making up stories, we’re also teaching the kids how to create a reality together by saying yes, building on what your partner created, not putting any limits on your ideas and failing graciously. Lessons that make an improv scene work? Yes. Lessons make a life work? Also yes.

It’s no surprise that these are the lessons we want to share with 9 and 10 year olds when you consider BATS’ vision. As stated on their website, “We envision a world where everyone is comfortable in their own skin, where ideas and flights of fancy are encouraged, respected, and given wondrous, unimaginable form through spirited, skillful collaboration. Where life itself is recognized as improvisational and the skills of improvised theater are embraced as life skills.” The full vision statement can be found here.

While all of this makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, the most classic “Feel Good Friday” aspect of this organization is the Laughing Stock program, which has been running for the last 15 years. Through Laughing Stock, BATS offers free improv classes to people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Their caretakers are also eligible to take the classes. The sessions “focus on improving quality of life through humor, easy physical activity, group interaction, gentle risk-taking, and imagination games.” If you, or someone you know, would benefit from one of these sessions call (415-474-6776) or email (laughingstock@improv.org) the office.

Working with BATS in particular, and being an improviser in general, has helped me become a better listener, stay focused on the present moment and find a way to accept and build on whatever situation I find myself in. Not only that, I get to become a variety of characters on stage I’m not allowed to be in real life!

So how do you support BATS Improv? See a show, take a class, like the Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @BATSimprov. You’ll be glad you did!

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January 30, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Locks of Love

This Feel Good Friday we’re leaving New York and heading to Florida! I swear this had nothing to do with the big storm this week – I write these blogs from sunny California.

On to the group at hand, Locks of Love. Many of you will know this organization as the “public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.”

You can watch this short video for an overview and/or keep reading. The mission statement from their website is “to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantage children.” The most common reason for hair loss among the clientele is alopecia, the second is treatments for cancer.

The focus is on children because growing up and making it through your teen years can be challenging enough without having to add being bald to the list. Also most wigs are manufactured for adults and don’t fit smaller heads without a lot of tape and glue that can be very irritating to the scalp. The hair prostheses provided by Locks of Love are custom made for each child and form a vacuum seal on the head so their is no risk of them being pulled off by someone else or coming off during activities like swimming, showering and riding roller coasters. The creation process takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months and children can apply for a new hairpiece every 18 months.

Want to help? Cut off your hair and send it in a ponytail or braid to their Florida office. Minimum length is 10 inches and it takes 6 to 10 ponytails to make one hairpiece. Hair donations of shorter amounts are also accepted though you should know they will be sold to offset production costs rather than be incorporated into a hairpiece.

If you’re still not convinced, the website has a page for both donor and recipient photos.

While I couldn’t find a Facebook page for this group, you can definitely follow them on Twitter @LocksLove

 

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January 23, 2015

Feel Good Friday – The Doe Fund: Ready, Willing & Able

Ready, willing and able for what you ask? Read on, my friends.

Last week Feel Good Friday took us to New York City and the inflatable couches of FreeConvo. Since this is the city that never sleeps, it’s no surprise there’s another fabulous organization in town to profile, this one The Doe Fund.

The summary of their work from their Twitter profile – “breaking the cycles of homelessness, incarceration, and substance abuse.” You can watch a 30 second spot on the group here.

A bit more detail can be found in their mission statement, as written on the website. “To develop and implement cost-effective, holistic programs that meet the needs of a diverse population working to break the cycles of homelessness, addiction, and criminal recidivism. All of The Doe Fund’s programs and innovative business ventures ultimately strive to help homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals achieve permanent self-sufficiency.”

The organization was founded in 1990 by George McDonald and Harriet Karr-McDonald. Moved by the story of a homeless woman who froze to death outside Grand Central Station where she was not allowed to spend the night, the McDonalds wanted to create change.

The flagship offering of the organization is Ready, Willing & Able. This 9- 12 month program “provides homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals with transitional work and housing, case management, life skills, education assistance, occupational training, job readiness, and graduate services.” They also have a non-residential version of RWA, a veterans program, affordable housing, supportive housing and an initiative focusing on youth.

You can learn more about the various offerings and meet some of the program graduates by reading  this article by Patty de Llosa from Parabola.

The Doe Fund serves over 1,000 people a day and their website is filled with success stories! Videos can be found on their YouTube channel and if you’d like to support them you can always make a donation, shop at their store, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @TheDoeFund

Start spreading the news!

 

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January 16, 2015

Feel Good Friday – FreeConvo

Free what now?

Conversation! Online communication has become the default way to connect. While it’s extremely handy and a way to reach many people at once, it’s just not the same as talking to people in person. On this Feel Good Friday I want to let you know about a group of people that’s encouraging us to sit down and talk to one another.

FreeConvo is a group created in 2013 by Michael Scotto and Tony Cai. Their goal is “connecting real people in the real world.”

It started when the founders sat on an abandoned couch in Brooklyn and wrote “free conversations” on the back of a pizza box. 7 hours of conversing later, they realized they were on to something. You can read more details of the origin story here.

Now the people of FreeConvo, which includes many volunteers, set up inflatable couches around New York, hold up their “Free Conversation!” signs and start talking. To get an idea of what it’s like, you can watch this 3 minute intro video or go to their video page to meet the people on the couches.

As stated on their Facebook page, “Each FreeConvo session turns into hours of sharing ideas, forming connections, and gaining new perspectives – all with people who have never met before. We love what we do and hope to meet you soon!”

If that doesn’t make you want to take a trip to New York, I don’t know what will! Before you go, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @freeconvo so you’ll know where to find them. You can also always strike up a conversation with people you encounter in your world, no inflatable couch necessary.

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January 9, 2015

Feel Good Friday – Committee to Protect Journalists

With the recent murders of journalists from the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it’s hard to imagine there is a reason to feel good this Friday, but there is. There always is.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide.

As explained on their website the organization “was founded in 1981 by a group of U.S. correspondents who realized they could not ignore the plight of colleagues whose reporting put them in peril on a daily basis. The idea that journalists around the world should come together to defend the rights of colleagues working in repressive and dangerous environments led to CPJ’s first advocacy campaign in 1982.”

The group conducts research worldwide, documents cases in which journalists have been censored, harassed, threatened, abducted, jailed or killed for their work and provides high-level advocacy working with news organizations and governments to release imprisoned journalists and provide more freedom of the press. In 2014, CPJ secured the early release of 41 journalists. A full report on the impact of their work in 2014 can be found here.

In addition to their reporting and advocacy work, CPJ provides “legal, medical, and relocation assistance to journalists at risk, along with support for families of slain and imprisoned journalists.” Their website also has an extensive Journalist Security Guide with advice on how to prepare for armed conflict, natural disasters and health epidemics and more.

We need journalists to share stories from around the world that we don’t have access to as individuals and we need an organization like CPJ to advocate on behalf of these journalists.

To support press freedom you can make a donation, like the CPJ Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @pressfreedom. Those of you with 24 minutes can watch this informative, short documentary film made for the CPJ 30th anniversary.

 

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January 2, 2015

Feel Good Friday – 21-Day Kindness Challenge

Happy New Year!

Many of us use the beginning of the year to set goals, resolutions and intentions for the upcoming year. On this Feel Good Friday, as you consider your options, I wanted you to know about KindSpring’s series of 21-Day Challenges.

First, a little about KindSpring from their website, “KindSpring is a place to practice small acts of kindness. For over a decade the KindSpring user community has focused on inner transformation, while collectively changing the world with generosity, gratitude, and trust. The site is 100% volunteer-run and totally non-commercial. It is a shared labor of love.”

The 21-day challenges focus on kindness, mindfulness and gratitude. To get started, “you can join an existing challenge, or you can host your own challenge and invite your friends, organization or school to be a part of it. Each person gets a daily email with a suggestion for a small act for the day. You can share your reflections online with others and where possible, meet in-person with your group.”

You can go here to join an upcoming challenge. For those of you who want some scientific support on how a challenge like this can be beneficial, there are tons of articles and videos at this link.

To stay in the loop all year long, follow KindSpring on Twitter @Kind_Spring and like their Facebook page. Here’s to a new year filled with kindness, mindfulness and gratitude!

 

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December 26, 2014

Feel Good Friday – AAA Tipsy Tow 

For those of you who have been following this blog for over a year, you’ll recognize that this is a Feel Good Friday flashback!

Why in the world is there a repeat blog, you ask? Well, New Year’s Eve is upon us and I want you to know about a way you can have fun and still stay safe. The original blog post from 2013 is below.

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The American Automobile Association, really?

Yes.

AAA makes me feel good every day, not just Friday. They can assist you with travel, buying a car and connecting you with tons of discounts. If you’re me, they’ll also jumpstart your car, change your flat tire and tow you when you blow a head gasket, burn out a clutch or otherwise breakdown on the side of the road. As a side note, I swear I spread these (and other) distress calls over 22 years and two cars.

 

The reason they are the topic of today’s Feel Good Friday post is because of their Tipsy Tow program. New Year’s Eve is this Tuesday and a lot of people will go out, celebrate and ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. This can be problematic if you’ve driven to the festivities. Research from the CDC states, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impared drive. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.”

 

AAA is here to help. From 6pm on December 31st to 6am on January 1st, AAA will provide a free ten-mile tow home for drinking drivers and their vehicles – whether your an AAA member or not!

If you need this service, call 800-222-4357 (AAA HELP), tell the operator “I need a Tipsy Tow” and they’ll send a tow truck out to get you and your car and drive your drunk butt home. Even if you don’t need a tow but you’re happy that it’s an option, show your support by liking their Facebook page.

For those of you living and celebrating in San Francisco, MUNI is FREE from 8pm Dec. 31st to 5am Jan. 1st. Most other Bay Area public transportation companies are offering free, and extended hour services that night as well so do yourself a favor and use them!

Thank you for all your support of the Feel Good Friday blog in 2013. I can’t wait to share 52 more reasons to feel good in 2014! Have a fabulous, safe and happy New Year!

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 All of that and here’s to a fabulous 2015!

 

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December 19, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Last Minute Gift Guide

Happy Feel Good Friday! Hanukkah is here, Christmas is coming… if you’re like me, you’ve waited until the last minute to do your shopping. Don’t worry, there’s an upside!

For today’s Feel Good Friday, we’re going to take a look back at companies we’ve profiled in 2014 that have a feel good product to sell. Given how last minute this list is, you may need to make these presents for the new year or save them for someone’s birthday in 2015. But hey, now you’ve got your birthday shopping taken care of too. You’re welcome.

Click on the links below to go to the original FGF posts and get all the details!

Guardian Princesses – books about “super heroines who work together to protect the people and the planet.”

GoodWeave –  rugs made without child labor by a group that also provides “education and opportunities to rescued and at-risk children.”

Thistle Farms – beauty products made and sold by women in Tennessee “who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets.”

luminAID – a solar-powered, waterproof, inflatable light. When you buy one for yourself, take a moment (and get a discount) to buy one for a person liven in a country without reliable access to electricity.

ChopChop Magazine – a magazine full of recipes to teach kids how to cook real food with their families.

GoldieBlox – engineering toys designed for girls to get them interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Wonderbag – “a non-electric, heat-retention cooker that allows food that has been brought to a boil, to continue cooking after it has been removed from the fuel source.” For every Wonderbag you buy, one is sent to a family in Africa!

If you’d rather make a donation to another organization in someone’s name or buy a goat for a family in Guatemala, you can scroll through the Feel Good Friday archives to get ideas or just to feel good.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

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December 12, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Homeless Prenatal Program

I learned about today’s Feel Good Friday organization from a friend. Located in San Francisco, Homeless Prenatal Program is celebrating their 25th anniversary!

As summarized on their Twitter page, a great place for summarizing, “Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP): a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood poverty and family homelessness. We serve over 3,500 families every year.”

Founded in 1989 by Martha Ryan, HPP’s mission is a simple one, “In partnership with our families, break the cycle of childhood poverty.” You can watch this video to hear Martha tell her story and/or keep reading.

The services of HPP have evolved over the years from prenatal care for 72 women in the first year to a more comprhensive set of services provided to over 3,500 families each year. These include; housing assistance, prenatal education and parenting classes, community health worker training, mental health counseling, domestic violence support, substance abuse resources, child care, emergency food and SRO vouchers, a Community Technology Center, income tax assistance and a resume and interview workshop!

What has been the impact of these services? From their website, “More than 90% of children born to HPP clients are born healthy (of normal weight and drug free). More than 80% of our Community Health Worker Training Program particpants graduate, and more than 90% of the graduates secure meaningful, family-sustaining jobs in community based organizations within 30 days. In addition, more than 400 families each year are able to obtain permanent housing with our assistance.”

Ready to support this organization? If you live in the Bay Area, you can volunteer in the Community Technology Center, Wellness Center or Low Income Tax Clinic and no matter where you live, you can always donate a little cash.

In the month of December HPP is celebrating 25 years by sharing 25 success stories. To keep this Feel Good Friday feeling going, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @HPP_SF.

If you’ve got a suggestion for a FGF story you’d like more people to know about, tell me! I’m always on the lookout for a reason to feel good.

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December 5, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Our Better World

Can you think of a better way to spend Feel Good Friday than giving a non-profit organization $10,000 that isn’t yours? I can’t! How is that even possible? Our Better World.

The “about us” section of their website explains it best. “We think stories are magical. And we think people are powerful. Both have the ability to touch the heart, challenge the mind and spark the soul. So we tell stories, with a focus on Asia, to bring together the magic of stories and the power of people, to inspire change – to make it our better world. Along with featuring people who are changing lives and whose lives are changed, we pull together a range of tangible, useful actions for you to join the journey.”

It’s like taking an Inspiration Safari through Asia! The basic idea is, the more people that share these stories, the more people will learn about, and potentially help, the profiled organizations. You can browse their entire catalogue of stories here.

“Yes, but what about giving away $10,000”, you ask? Great question. For the entire month of December, Our Better World is asking people to vote for the “good story of the year”. You’ve got 12 entries to choose from and you can vote for one video each day. Voting ends on December 31st at 10:00am Singapore time, so do yourself a favor and start watching these videos and voting now. I’ve got a few favorites so I’m glad I can vote more than once!

The reason I created Inspiration Safari was to help share good news stories from around the world and I’m very happy to support an organization that’s doing the same! I also relish any opportunity to give away other people’s money.

The best way to get the message about about Our Better World and the voting is using social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @obetterworld

 

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November 28, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Giving Tuesday

Happy day after Thanksgiving! Many know today as “Black Friday” and spend their morning running  from store to store to get the super bargains. For me it’s still a Feel Good Friday and here’s why – Giving Tuesday!

In 2012, 92nd Street Y in New York (92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association) joined forces with the United Nations Foundation to create Giving Tuesday, “inspired by the core Jewish value of tikkun olam, ‘repairing the world’.”

The day is meant to counterbalance Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s focus on consuming and celebrate the holiday season by giving. Although this is only the third year, the idea is catching on and now over 10,000 organizations worldwide participate. Non-profits create unique goals, corporations double employee matches, individuals find ways to give what they have whether that’s money or time. Last year the city of Baltimore set a goal of becoming the most generous city in the United States and raised 5.7 million dollars in one day!

Not sure how you can get involved? There’s an entire tools page with case studies on giving, tool kits, ideas, examples and videos. You’ve got the whole weekend to figure something out!

This campaing has a huge social media focus so while you’re coming up with your Giving Tuesday goal, be sure to like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @GivingTues. Once you’ve got a plan, let the world know by using #GivingTuesday in your posts. The best part of this is you don’t have to get up early or stand in line to participate. Now that’s a tradition I can support!

 

 

 

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November 21, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Global Sisters

You’ve heard that sisterhood is powerful. Heck, you may have even said it! Today Feel Good Friday is taking a quick trip Down Under to learn about the power of Global Sisters.

As stated on their website, “Global Sisters is a unique online platform and e-marketplace which provides a ‘start to finish’ approach in assisting socioeconomically disadvantaged women in Australia to develop an income stream via micro business or social enterprise.”

The goal of the organization is “financial independence for female micro-entrepreneurs.” This will be achieved by having an online marketplace where women can sell their creations as well as to providing business advice and micro loans to fund these women.

Those of you in Australia can become Big Sisters and support the women in the program by taking their photos, helping them tell their stories or providing business advice. The rest of us can help out by bookmarking the shopping page, currently under construction, or liking their Facebook page, which has the latest and greatest news. Sisters really are doing it for themselves!

 

 

 

 

 

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November 14, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Global Women’s Water Initiative: Update

It has been my goal to share a new inspirational story every Feel Good Friday and I’ve been doing it since November 30, 2012.

Today I’m going highlight an organization I first told you about in August of 2013, the Global Women’s Water Initiative. Think of this as less of a repeat and more of an update. For those of you who are recent followers and/or don’t keep meticulous track of this blog, you can find the original post here.

Rose Wamalwa

Rose Wamalwa

In brief, GWWI trains women in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to bring sustainable water solutions to their communities. Women in these countries can spend up to 8 hours a day fetching water and doing water related chores. If the water is not clean or good sanitation and hygiene practices are not followed, people in these communities suffer from preventable water borne diseases. The women involved in the GWWI program become water, sanitation and hygiene technicians, trainers and entrepreneurs. More details can be found on their website or by watching the Inspiration Safari video interview with GWWI Executive Director, Gemma Bulos. (That’s new since the original post!)

Last night two of the trainers from East Africa spoke in detail about the impact their work has. Rose talked about a clinic in Kenya that could not deliver babies because they had no clean water, forcing pregnant women to walk miles to the next village to have their babies. After women trained by GWWI built two rain  water harvesting tanks, the clinic has delivered over 30 babies and the government has taken notice and provided the clinic with additional support.

Godliver told the story of a woman who spent 25 years as a commercial sex worker to support herself and her two children after her husband left her. Inspired by the training she received through

Godliver Businge

Godliver Businge

GWWI, she’s now a skilled mason and respected member of her community, hired to work on local water projects. In fact, 70% of the women who have participated in this program have increased their personal income.

If you’re still not convinced what an awesome program this is, watch this video of the women involved with GWWI. You can keep this work going by making a donation and/or sharing this story on social media. Like the Facebook page follow them on Twitter @womenwater and do what you can to help this ripple spread!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 7, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Guardian Princesses

Tired of watching and reading about the princess who waits for the prince to come save her? Worried about the impact that will have on a youngster in your life? Well then you’ll love today’s Feel Good Friday the Guardian Princesses!

I first learned about them through this Upworthy article. The summary provided on their IndieGoGo campaign page explains, “The Guardian Princesses are new super heroines who work together to protect the people and the planet.  They are a group of racially and cuturally diverse leaders who model compassion and intelligence, as well as the power of knowledge and collective action. Our stories transform the cultural meaning of the princess from a damsel-in-distress to brave heroines providing better role models for all children.” You go, girls!

The Guardian Princesses were the idea of UC Riverside Professor, Shetsu Sigematsu, who was concerned about the effect the princess culture was having on her young daughter with it’s focus on external beauty and the need to be rescued rather than take charge of a situation. She decided she couldn’t fight the power of the princess so she wrote new stories. Not only do these princesses offer fabulous role models for young girls, but the stories also meet the Common Core requirements for all you teachers in the house.

The first three books are out, you can order them here, and there is an IndieGoGo campaign underway to launch a book for the next princess, Ten Ten, Guardian of the Skies. She’s “the first ever gender independent East Asian super heroine.” What’s not to love?

You can learn more by listening to an NPR story from last year and stay current by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @GPgeneration1

Last, there’s a music video you can watch and get stuck in your head in case there’s any other princess song you need to let go.

 

 

 

 

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October 31, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Giants Community Fund

Giants fans in San Francisco and beyond are certainly feeling good this Friday as the Giants celebrate a World Series victory with a parade!

There’s another reason the Giants are today’s Feel Good Friday topic and that’s the Giants Community Fund. For the last 20 years, the team has sponsored the Junior Giants.

As explained on their website, the Junior Giants “is a free, non-competitive and innovative baseball program for boys and girls ages 5-18 years old.” The Community Fund provides all the uniforms, equipment and training and serves over 21,000 kids.

But it’s not just about learning how to appreciate and play baseball. “Junior Giants focuses on the four bases of character development – Confidence, Integrity, Leadership and Teamwork – and offers programs in Education, Health and Violence Prevention.”

Their Round the Bases Reading Program encourages kids to read during the summer months by awarding Giants branded awards as the kids reach various achievement levels. You can learn more about the program by watching this video and following the fund on Twitter @giantscommunity

 I would love to tell you more about it but I’ve got to get to the parade!

 

 

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October 24, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Globetops

As I sit typing this blog on a MacBook Pro, I think about an old PC sitting in my closet that I no longer use. Is there a Feel Good Friday solution for what to do with my old laptop? Of course there is! The best news is it will work for your old laptop too.

Globetops is a non-profit organization founded by Becky Morrison which, according to their Facebook page, “connects people who have laptops they don’t use anymore with someone in the world that needs one.” So simple and yet, so awesome!

The Globetops site says that “roughly 220 million tons of old computers and other tech hardware are trashed in the United States every year. 50% of those computers are in good working order.” By donating your laptop to Globetops, you not only prevent your computer from flowing down the e-waste river, but you also empower someone to use technology to improve their lives and connect with the world.

The laptops are distributed in Guinea, Haiti, India, Nepal, Brazil, Kenya and the United States. You can watch this video to follow the journey of a laptop and see how it works. Much like Kiva, if you’re interested in donating a laptop, you can either give it to the organization to send to any project or choose a specific recipient whose story moves you. Current people in need of your old laptop can be found here.

While you’re waiting for the latest upgrade to whatever you have, get excited to donate your soon-to-be-old laptop by reading the origin story of Globetops in this article from Daily Good or viewing this gallery of photos guaranteed to make you smile.

As with all the groups profiled on Feel Good Friday, you can stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Globetops

Excuse me while I go dig through my closet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October 17, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Louie’s Legacy

Perhaps today’s Feel Good Friday should be renamed, Look Good Friday. Why? Because Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue is raising funds by selling a 2015 calendar titled “Hunks and Hounds”.

I first learned about this while swooning over, I mean reading this Huffington Post article. Yes, it has pictures.

According to their Facebook page, “Louie’s Legacy is a non-profit, grassroots all-breed animal rescue which saves, rehabilitates and rehomes animals from high-kill shelters across the United States.”

If you live in or near Cincinnati, OH or Staten Island, NY you can foster or adopt one of these animals. Anyone who loves shirtless men and animals can support the organization by buying a calendar at this link.

I haven’t been able to figure out who Louie was but the organization in his name is doing great animal rescue work. Louie is leaving quite a legacy.

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October 10, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Parikrma Humanity Foundation

A year ago, Feel Good Friday highlighted the work of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani advocate for girls education and today she shares the Nobel Peace Prize with another Feel Good Friday subject, Indian child rights campaigner, and founder of GoodWeave, Kailash Satyarthi! On this Feel Good Friday we’re going to share more good news about education in this part of the world.

The Parikrma Humanity Foundation was founded in 2003 in Bangalore by Shukla Bose. As stated on their website, “Parikrma’s ambition is to ensure that quality education is accessible to marginalized children.”

Children from the poorest slums in Bangalore typically go to government run schools, when they go at all. The education provided is substandard and dropout rates are high. To combat this Parikrma’s model focuses not only on delivering top quality education with an emphasis on learning English, but also 3 meals a day and comprehensive health care and family care.

Parikrma schools educate students from levels K-12, afterwards they provide scholarships to college or vocational training before placing the children in jobs. With four schools and 1500 students, Parikrma is making a huge difference in the lives of these children and their families!

To learn more you can read this in-depth article from the Christian Science Monitor and watch a short video with fabulous music that shows how much change you can affect with 1/2 a day’s salary.

To get involved as an international volunteer check this link. As always, an easy way to keep yourself educated about what Parikrma is doing is by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @parikrma

 

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October 3, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Bridges to Prosperity

If you’ve been following Feel Good Friday (and probably even if you haven’t), you’ve heard of people building houses around the world with Habitat for Humanity. Well it’s a new Feel Good Friday and time you heard about people building bridges around the world with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P).

Their mission, as stated on their website, is a simple one. “Bridges to Prosperity provides isolated communities with access to essential health care, education and economic opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers.”

B2P was founded in 2001 by Ken Frantz, a man who saw a broken Ethiopian bridge in a National Geographic photos and was compelled to rebuild it. Since that beginning, they have built 140 bridges around the world and, much like Habitat, B2P partners with local builders to use local building methods and materials in the bridge construction.

Their vision of “a world where poverty caused by rural isolation no longer exists” is slowly being realized. Data on their website shows that after a bridge is built, “12% more children enroll in school” and there is a “24% increase in healthcare treatment, 18% increase in women employed (and) 15% increase in local business”.

Living in a city where the bridges I cross to get things done are iconic and photogenic, it’s important to realize how vital something as simple as a well-contructed footbridge can be in a community of people that walk everywhere.

To learn more about the work being done by Bridges to Prosperity, you can watch a 3 minute B2P promo video or the 11 minute TEDx talk from CEO Avery Bang. As always, like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @B2P

 

 

 

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September 26, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Read Indeed

You know I love literacy projects and this Feel Good Friday I want to let you know about one that was started by an 8 year old! 

Maria Keller is an avid reader and was surprised when she learned that not all children can afford to own a book. This inspired her to start Read Indeed

As their website explains, “Her original goal was to collect and distribute 1 million books to kids in need by the time she’s 18. She accomplished this goal before the age of 13! Now she wants to distribute books to all 50 states in the U.S. and every country in the world.”

She’s a much more ambitious youth than I ever was. It’s no surprise Maria received a Jefferson Award in March of this year. You can watch the news report about Read Indeed here to see Maria in action.


If you support the idea of children around the world having access to books you can get involved by donating either books or money or, for those of you who live in Minnesota, you can swing by the warehouse to do a little book counting, sorting and hauling.


As always, stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page, following them on Twitter @ReadIndeed or watching for an upcoming report by CNN. Read Indeed, indeed!

 

 

 

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September 19, 2014

Feel Good Friday – GoodWeave

One of my sources for the Feel Good Friday inspiration is KarmaTube. They send weekly videos to my email (they can send them to yours too) and I wanted to share one I saw recently.

The short video, Stand with Sanju, explains the problem of child labor in the carpet industry and what GoodWeave is doing to stop it. For a more in-depth look at this campaign, read this article from Kristina Bravo at Take Part.

I found the most concise summary of their work on the GoodWeave website. “The handmade carpet industry exploits nearly 250,000 children. GoodWeave is helping to combat this problem and transform the rug industry by certifying child-labor-free rugs and by providing education and opportunities to rescued and at-risk children.”

It took a coalition of businesses and NGOs to establish GoodWeave in 1994. The first carpets were exported from India to Germany and now GoodWeave operates in India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Germany, the UK and the USA.

 Since those initial shipments, GoodWeave has sold 11 million carpets which has enabled them to free almost 3,600 children from looming rugs and send 11,000 children to school! Their success depends on donations and people purchasing GoodWeave certified rugs. Where can you find them? Check this page for a retailer in your city.

There are plenty more videos you can watch on their YouTube channel. Like their Facebook page  and follow them on Twitter @GoodWeave for updates on the Stand with Sanju campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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September 12, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

It’s been a few months since Feel Good Friday focused on animals so today we’re going to Thailand to learn about the Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary.

British traveler, Katherine Connor, was inspired by the courage of a young, very ill elephant named Boon Lott (survivor in Thai) when she was volunteering at an elephant hospital in Thailand. So inspired that she launched an international fundraising campaign to get him the medical treatment he needed and stayed in Thailand to help care for him. When he died, she created the Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary in his name.

As stated on their website, “BLES strives to rescue and protect the elephants of Thailand from abuse and ultimate extinction. We provide a safe home where we focus on individual survival and growth in numbers.” With the use of elephants in industry in Thailand ending in 1989, many of the mahouts (people who care for the animals) began using their elephants for illegal logging or tourist entertainment in order to feed their families and their elephants. City life, and often being pumped with drugs, reduces the elephants’  life expectancy due to stress and malnutrition.

Not only does BLES care for the animals, they also employ local mahouts to work at the sanctuary. Again from the website, “We are deeply committed to our village community and provide jobs and housing to several mahouts and their families. We encourage local participation in BLES activities and promote education about elephants and their plight as well as the environment.”

Want to get directly involved supporting BLES? Take a trip to Thailand, stay at the sanctuary and work as a volunteer. With room for only 6 guests at a time, you need to plan ahead since they are currently fully booked through April, 2015!

If you’re not able to visit, you can adopt an elephant for $30/month. Profiles of the sanctuary elephants can be found here. More ways to stay involved from the comfort of your own home – watch a short video of frolicking elephants here. Read a more in depth article at this Christian Science Monitor link and be sure to like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @BLESELE

 

 

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September 5, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Pack for a Purpose

I’m back from Burning Man and have most of the dust out of my life! Most.

It was a good, and sometimes frustrating, time in the desert and I have ideas about how I will do things differently next time. One thing for sure, I will pack less.

For those of you who have already mastered this art and find yourselves with a bit of extra room in your suitcase every time you travel, let me introduce you to today’s Feel Good Friday organization, Pack for a Purpose!

In 2009, Rebecca and Scott Rothney had the idea to use extra space in their luggage to bring supplies to a school in Botswana. They worked with their safari company to determine what supplies the school needed and Pack for a Purpose was born.

Their mission, as stated on the website, “is to positively impact communities around the world by assisting travelers who want to bring meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit.” With the help of fellow travelers, more than 30,000 pounds of supplies have been brought to communities that need them.

Check the destination page to see if you’ll be traveling anywhere near a Pack for a Purpose project. With partners in more than 50 countries, the odds are good!

So next time you hit the road, leave some room in your suitcase to bring supplies to your destination. Once you’ve made your donation, you’ve get room for some local souvenirs. Win-win.

Learn more by watching this introductory video and stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @PackforaPurpose.

With back to school sales in all the stores, this is a great time to start plotting your next adventure!

 

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August 22 & 29, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Burners Without Borders / Black Rock Arts Foundation

This Feel Good Friday is a two for one – both inspired by Burning Man! Why? Because on Monday I leave for Burning Man and will be there next Feel Good Friday with no internet connection.

As they explain on their website, “Burning Man is an annual event and a thriving year-round culture. The event takes place the week leading up to and including Labor Day, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The Burning Man organization (Black Rock City LLC) creates the infrastructure of Black Rock City, wherein attendees (or “participants”) dedicate themselves to the spirit of the community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.”

Burners Without Borders (BWB) and Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) are the two feel good examples of Burning Man’s year-round culture we’re going to highlight today.

BWB takes its name from Doctors Without Borders and has a similar mission of providing help around the world. From the website, “BWB promotes activities around the globe that support a community’s inherent capacity to thrive by encouraging innovative approaches to disaster relief and grassroots initiatives that make a positive impact.

It started in 2005 when some burners (Burning Man participants) went to Biloxi, Mississippi to help rebuild a Vietnamese temple that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers continue to provide disaster relief, helping people in the Philippines rebuild after Typhoon Halyon and people in Colorado rebuild after the recent floods. Some examples of their support for community initiatives include fundraising for maternity clinics in Nicaragua and sending post Burning Man bikes to Namibia with Bicycles for Humanity. You can see a full list of their projects here and find out how to get involved.

To stay connected via social media, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @B_W_B

BRAF was also founded by burners with the mission to “support and promote community, interactive art and civic participation”. More from their website on how they work – “Through our Grants to Artists and Civic Arts programs, BRAF works with communities in the Bay Area and around the world to collaboratively produce innovative, relevant and pioneering works of public art that build community and empower individuals.”

This includes providing grants and fiscal sponsorship for artists bringing their work to Burning Man as well as public displays of art outside of Nevada. People living in San Francisco may remember the recent interactive monkey piece outside the Exploratorium or be familiar with the rotating art pieces along the Embarcadero at Pier 14. All brought to you by BRAF.

You can see examples of this art in their online gallery or watch videos on their YouTube page. Stay connected by liking their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @BRAF

I’ve got to get back to packing and preparing for the big event so I will leave you to enjoy the art.

See you in two weeks!

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August 15, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Comic Relief

Comic Relief USA was a non-profit organization “created in 1986 by comedy writer, producer and actor, Bob Zmuda, to raise funds to help those in need.” From what I can tell on the website, they have not been active since 2010 but I remember many a fundraising show hosted by Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal. Why shouldn’t laughter be a way to help people in need?

For their 20th anniversary in 2006, they raised money for the people of New Orleans who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. You can watch a clip of Robin’s standup from a 1987 Comic Relief show here.

While the US organization seems to be no more, the UK version of Comic Relief, which got its start a year earlier in 1985, is still going strong!

Like its US counterpart, Comic Relief raises money to fund projects that help people in need. You can go to this interactive map to see exactly what they’re doing. International organizations they support work on issues such as climate change, people affected by HIV and AIDS and people affected by conflict. Domestically they support issues related to mental health, young people and alcohol and using sport for change.

Since 1988, Comic Relief has celebrated Red Nose Day. From the website, “It’s the one day, every two years, when people across the land can get together and do something funny for money at home, school and work.” Doing something funny and wearing a red nose sounds like fun, but then what? “Comic Relief spends the money raised by Red Nose Day to help people living tough lives across the UK and Africa.” Kind of makes you want to get a red nose, doesn’t it?

You can watch highlights from the last Red Nose Day here or go to their YouTube page for additional videos. To keep up on social media, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @comicrelief and/or @rednoseday.

Despite the fact that sad things happen in the world , there is always something positive going on and finding those stories is what Feel Good Friday is all about. Thank you for following and supporting us!

 

 

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August 8, 2014

Feel Good Friday – WE CARE Solar

It’s Feel Good Friday and time to shine a light on a great project that brings light to maternity wards in developing countries!

First some statistics from the WE CARE Solar website. “Maternal mortality worldwide accounts for 300,000 deaths a year; 99 percent of those occur in underdeveloped countries.”

Dr. Laura Stachel, co-founder of WE CARE Solar, went to Nigeria in 2008 to study ways to lower maternal mortality. She discovered that lack of reliable electricity was a huge problem which impaired maternal and surgical care and often resulted in patient death. She contacted her husband and energy educator, Hal Aronson, who created a portable solution using solar panels to power LED lights, headlamps and walkie talkies. She brought this “solar suitcase” back to Nigeria where it was well received as having the potential to save lives.

Together, Dr. Satchel and her husband founded WE CARE Solar. Their mission, as explained on the website, is “seeking to improve maternal health care delivery and thereby reduce the number of women who die in childbirth or pregnancy in the developing world.”

To date, “approximately 300 Solar Suitcases have been assembled and sent to 25 countries around the world.” You can go to this interactive map to see how many suitcases are in each country and what the impact of having them has been.

Dr. Satchel was recently celebrated as a CNN Hero for her work bringing solar suitcases to clinics around the world. You can read the article on CNN and watch a video about the project here. For more photos and videos visit their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @wecaresolar – let there be light!

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August 1, 2014

Feel Good Friday – RainCity Housing

Happy Feel Good Friday!

Today, we revisit a popular topic on this blog –  the homeless. Of course I don’t mean popular because we love it, but popular because it is a big issue that many organizations are working on.

This time, we go to RainCity Housing in Vancouver to see what they’re doing to fulfill their vision of “a home for every person”.

You may have seen the recent online article by Take Part about bus benches that convert to shelters for the  homeless. This is only one of the innovative solutions RainCity provides!

As they state on their website, “The homeless are not homogenous. By offering a variety of housing and support options, RainCity Housing can ensure that appropriate, supportive environments are available to our clients.” These environments include emergency, transitional and long term housing. They also have housing designed to meet the unique needs women and people living with mental illness, addiction or other health challenges.

Although their focus is “housing first” other services provided include community outreach to the chronically homeless, food support and life skills classes on issues such as medication administration and money management.

Statistics from their site show that last year alone

  • 149,845 meals were served 
  • 58,968 interactions were recorded, all leading towards personal goals 
  • 29,660 shelter stays were provided 
  • 180 people previously homeless were assisted in securing independent housing 

Individual success stories are published at this link on their website and you can watch their Open Your Heart News Videos here. As always, to keep most current, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @raincityhsg.

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July 25, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Upworthy

If you’re a fan of Feel Good Friday, it’s quite possible you’re already a fan of Upworthy.

It’s a website created in 2012 by “Eli Pariser, the former executive director of MoveOn.org, and Peter Koechley, a former managing editor of The Onion who also worked at MoveOn”. (For all the details, read this early review of their site in The New York Times.)

Under the tagline “Things that matter. Pass them on.” Upworthy curates video content that has more substance than most of the viral videos I get suckered into watching. The mission statement from their original launch read, “Hi, we’re Upworthy, a new social media outfit with a mission: to help people find important content that is as fun to share as a FAIL video of some idiot surfing off his roof.”

If you’ve never seen any of their videos, this “best of” link is a good place to start. Topics include, among many others, community, diversity, environment, gender, inspirational and political posts. Their videos always have an impact and whether they make me angry or happy, I’m glad I watched.

As a person who is also trying to get more positive, important and inspirational stories out in the world, I love to see what they offer and I’m impressed with how their cleverly written headlines make me click on videos I might not have watched otherwise. Inspiration Safari could learn a lot from Upworthy!

To stay in the loop, like their Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Twitter @Upworthy. I’m doing all three!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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July 18, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Girls Who Code

We start today’s Feel Good Friday with some statistics that don’t feel good. “In middle school, 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.3% of high school girls select computer science.”

This info comes from Girls Who Code, an organization formed in New York in 2012 that works “to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.”

During the academic year, their nationwide clubs offer computer science education and tech industry exposure to girls from 6th to 12th grade.

For the last two summers they’ve operated a Summer Immersion Program. As they explain on their website, it’s “seven weeks of intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with engaging, career-focused mentorship and exposure led by the industry’s top female entrepreneurs and engineers.” For girls in the Bay Area, this year’s programs are taking place at Intuit, Facebook, eBay, Twitter and Square to name a few.

One of the statistics that Girls Who Code reported after the program in 2013 is that “99% of participants said they are considering pursuing a career in technology and 81% definitely intend to do so.”  You go, girls!

You can get more information in this short article from PC Mag and since they are a technology focused organization, the best way to stay in touch is by using technology! Like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @GirlsWhoCode. I’ve managed to do it and I was a Sociology major!

 

 

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July 11, 2014

Feel Good Friday – It’s Not About Us

Today’s Feel Good Friday is quick, simple and fabulous.

It’s Not About Us is an organization in New Zealand focused on “finding, developing and implementing solutions that target the root causes of poverty, suffering and need.”

As explained on their website, they “research, design, develop and implement solution focused systems and process’s that target underlying causes rather than consequences”. They also raise funds and work “to develop turn-key systems that allow other people/groups to undertake their own autonomous missions/projects that fit with (their) vision.”

The products they’ve developed include a hydrobine which can bring water from a low pressure source to a water tank that can supply a village, and a fire pipe which cooks with less smoke, less wood and more heat.

Currently, they’re raising money to bring a hydrobine to Vanuatu. You can watch this video to see the installation of the first hydrobine in 2013. If you like what you see, you can support this campaign via their Facebook page.

See? That was quick, simple and fabulous!

 

 

 

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July 4, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Swords to Plowshares 

Happy Feel Good Forth of July Friday! As we celebrate the independence of the USA, I want to take some time to highlight people who defend our country and an organization that defends these veterans.   

As explained on their website, Swords to Plowshares “is a community-based, not-for-profit veteran service organization that provides wrap-around care to more than 2,000 veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area each year. We are committed to helping veterans break through the cultural, educational, psychological and economic barriers they often face in their transition to the civilian world.”

Swords was founded in 1974 by six veterans who were concerned with the unmet needs of veterans returning from Vietnam. Early services focused on discharge upgrades, employment, training and educational assistance.

40 years later, Swords has programs focused on employment and training, legal services, supportive housing, health and social services, women veterans, as well as national advocacy and policy. The last update on their history page states, “Today Swords is operating with a budget of more than $8 million each year and employes over 100 employees across seven sites. With the support from foundations, corporations, state and federal grants, Swords is able to provide services to veterans from all walks of life and a variety of complex needs.” Most recently, they received $1.35 million grant from Walmart, which they will use to expand job training programs for veterans throughout California.

To learn more about Swords and the work they do, watch this 3 minute introductory video or attend a free play highlighting issues of women veterans. Details here. You can always like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @vetshelpingvets. Best of all, if you’re looking for work, they’re hiring!

Now get outside and grill something.

 

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June 27, 2014

Feel Good Friday – DreamPower Horsemanship

If you’re like me, when you think of Gilroy, you think of garlic. Not only is Gilroy the “Garlic Capital of the World“, it’s also home to DreamPower Horsemanship, the organization I’m profiling on this Feel Good Friday.

Founded by Martha McNiel in 2002, DreamPower Horsemanship is a non-profit organization that provides equine assisted activities and therapies to people with special needs. They have a variety of programs, including equine facilitated psychotherapy, therapeutic horsemanship, and working with veterans with PTSD.  Their mission is “Building lives filed with dreams, and the power to make dreams come true.”

As explained on their website, “Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy is provided by the synergistic team of the horse and the therapeutic riding instructor, who is a licensed mental health professional. In the barn setting, therapeutic activities provide powerful tools for building self-awareness, self-esteem, appropriate boundaries and a sense of personal responsibility. Therapeutic interactions incorporate the power of the horse, the clinical skills of the therapist and the hopes, dreams and challenges of the person working with the horse.” While this treatment is still considered experimental, according to the Equine Psychotherapy website, “Equine therapy provides students with skills of patience, self-confidence, trust, and compassion.” All that and you learn to ride a horse!

DreamPower also a Ponies & Preschoolers program to help children get ready for kindergarten and you can set up a team-building retreat if you want to get your whole crew to experience the power of working with horses. It’s the only organization I’ve seen so far that not only includes a link to meet the staff but also a link to meet the horses.

To learn more, watch this short documentary by Alexandra Granados or like their Facebook page to so you can be in the loop with their upcoming events.

 

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June 20, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Orange Duffel Bag Initiative

I’ve had the color orange on my mind lately – probably because I’ve been watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black and trying not to race through the episodes too quickly. While I think it’s a great show, it’s not very appropriate for Feel Good Friday.

Luckily I found something orange that is! The Orange Duffel Bag Initiative is a program in Georgia that helps at-risk former foster kids. 

Founded in 2010 by Sam Bracken, he was inspired by his own experience which he describes in this CNN interview as  “Being raised like a whacked out version of the Brady Bunch on an episode of Cops.” Yikes. There was a point in his life when all of his belongings fit into an orange duffel bag and that became the title of the book in which he shares his life story, as well as the name of the foundation. 


As stated on their website, “ODB’s focus: To provide life plan coaching via certified life and executive coaches to at-risk youth, award ODB graduates a laptop computer to bridge the digital divide, and provide ongoing advocacy and to raise awareness about the barriers at-risk youth face in their quest to become self-sufficient.” They have a coaching program to help high school students who are homeless or in foster care to complete their educations, as well as a program focused on coaching for college completion.

You can get more details by watching this 4 minute PSA, listening to an NPR interview with an ODBI graduate or reading this article from the Christian Science Monitor.

To stay in the social media loop and get the most up-to-date info  like their Facebook page or follow them on Twiiter @OBDInitiative – I do! Now back to Netflix…

 

 

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June 13, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Oceana

I just found out that June 8th was World Oceans Day. You may have spent the day cleaning up a beach cause you’re cool like that, but I totally missed it.

In order to make up for my oversight, and because I just saw my ocean rowing friend Roz Savage in San Francisco last night, today’s Feel Good Friday is going to cover the work of Oceana, an international organization dedicated to “protecting the world’s oceans”.

Why worry about the oceans? Oceans cover 71% of the globe and are the beginning of the food chain, yet we treat them as giant dumping grounds and expect them to be an infinite resource of delicious dinners.

As explained on the Oceana website, the problem is “we are taking too many fish out of the water… we are putting too many pollutants in the water… (and) we are squandering the ocean’s resources.” (click here for more details)

So what is Oceana doing to help? Again from their website, “Oceana, founded in 2001, is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Our offices in North America, South America and Europe work together on a limited number of strategic, directed campaigns to achieve measurable outcomes that will help return our oceans to former levels of abundance. We believe in the importance of science in identifying problems and solutions. Our scientists work closely with our teams of economists, lawyers and advocates to achieve tangible results for the oceans.”

Impressive, no? They have campaigns focused on stopping ocean pollution, promoting responsible fishing, protecting marine wildlife and more. To support their work visit their take action page to see how you can be a voice for the oceans.

You can also visit their page on living blue for sustainable seafood guides, recipes and ways you can help. As always, take a moment to like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @Oceana. We don’t have to wait for World Oceans Day to make a difference for the oceans of the world.

 

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June 6, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Kiva 

Believe it or not, this is the 80th Feel Good Friday post and we’re going to celebrate by talking about Kiva!

Kiva is a San Francisco organization with a worldwide impact. Their tag line is “Loans that Change Lives”. Founded in October 2005 by Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley, Kiva combines the concept of micro lending with the power of the internet so that people who have money to lend can support entrepreneurs around the world. The process is illustrated in this short video titled How Kiva Works.

 To answer the question of what motivates the people of Kiva, we turn to their website. “We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others. We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.”

In the last nine years over 1 million lenders have given almost six-hundred million dollars in loans to Kiva entrepreneurs with the very impressive repayment rate if 98.84%! If you every felt that you couldn’t make a difference in the world, get your $25 out and see just how much you can do!

This post only scratches the surface of what Kiva does and the impact these loans have. If you want to learn more visit their website, watch a Ted Talk by Jessica Jackley or a 15 minute documentary from Frontline where the reporter goes to Uganda to visit Kiva entrepreneurs.

If you like what you’ve seen and want to get involved, lend some money to an entrepreneur, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @kiva.

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May 30, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Streetside Stories

The recent passing of Maya Angelou made me reflect on how much I enjoy her books and poetry and reminded me how powerful it can be when people share their own stories.

I’ve highlighted literacy programs in past Feel Good Fridays – teaching adult literacy at Project Read, empowering girls to tell their stories at WriteGirl and sending children’s books to countries that don’t have any through the African Library Project. Today we’re coming back to the San Francisco Bay Area to talk about Streetside Stories.

Streetside is a program established in 1989 by Seth and James Levy. Their mission, as stated on their website, “Through the power of storytelling, Streetside Stories cultivates young people’s voices to develop literacy and arts skills, fosters educational equality, values diversity, and builds community.”

They have workshops both in school and after school and use a variety of storytelling methods including writing, theater, filmmaking and more! Since their inception, they have helped over 21,000 students. What makes this so powerful is the students get to share their own life stories. To see some examples, as well as a great introductory video to Streetside, check out their YouTube channel.

If you’re in the Bay Area and want to support Streetside while having some fun, check this link for details about an upcoming croquet garden party on June 21st. As with all Feel Good Friday subjects, I encourage you to like their Facebook page and/or follow them on Twitter @StreetsideSF. I do!

 

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May 23, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Today’s Feel Good Friday story is both for your soul and your body!

Magdalene is a residential program in Nashville, Tennessee for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. It was founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt’s campus. A few facts from their website:

  • For two years, we offer housing, food, medical and dental needs, therapy, education and job training without charging the residents or receiving government funding.
  • Our six homes function without 24-hour live-in staff, relying on residents to create a supportive community, maintain recovery, and share household tasks.
  • Women come to Magdalene from prison, the streets and from across the Southeast and the country.
  • The women of Magdalene/Thistle Farms range in age from 20-50, and many have been sexually abused between the ages of 7-11, began using alcohol or drugs by 13, have spent years in and out of jail, and have spent on average a decade on the street prostituting.
  • 72% percent of the women who join Magdalene are clean and sober 2 1/2 years after beginning the program.

So how does a great program like this get any greater? With their social enterprise, Thistle Farms, founded in 2001. Again from the website, Thistle Farms “currently employs nearly 50 residents and graduates, and houses a natural body care line, a paper and sewing studio and the Thistle Stop Cafe. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases of Thistle Farms products directly benefit the women by whom they were made.”

Told you this was a feel good story for your body and soul! Learn more about the program in this Huffington Post article by Executive Director, Becca Stevens or see the residents in action by watching the 3 minute video, Thistle Farms: A Look Inside or 9 minute NPR story from 2011.

If you believe in their philosophy that love heals and you’re ready to do more to support these women who are rebuilding their lives, like Thistle Farms on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or treat yourself to some of their beauty productions by going shopping

 

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May 16, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Homeless World Cup

I read an article in the San Francisco Examiner this morning just in time for Feel Good Friday. It’s about a local filmmaker documenting a soccer league for the homeless. You can read the original article here.

The film, “GOAL! The Incredible Journey follows the trip of five women who were selected to represent the United States at the 2013 Homeless World Cup. Through their story we explore how soccer can help people take control of their lives.” You can read more about the film, watch a clip and can contribute to the project on their Kickstarter page.

Yes, yes, but what is the Homeless World Cup? As defined on their website, “The Homeless World Cup is a network of 70 international partner organisations that use football to improve the lives of homeless people throughout the world.” After seeing the spelling of organizations and calling soccer football, you will not be surprised to learn the group was founded by Mel Young from Scotland and Harald Schmied from Austria “who came up with the idea at a conference on homelessness, in Cape Town in 2001.”


And why organized sports? Again from the website, “When a homeless person get involved in football they communicate and build relationships with others; they become teammates, learning to trust and share; they have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time and prepared to participate. They feel part of something. These skills and attributes are all transferable to daily life and therefore help homeless people see that they can change their lives.”


There is an organization with similar goals in the US called Street Soccer USA. With teams in 18 cities they have a 75% success rate of helping participants reach their goals. It is from these leagues, including a local San Francisco team, that players are chosen to represent the US the World Cup. 


Intrigued? You’ve still got time to buy a plane ticket. “The 12th annual Homeless World Cup tournament will be held in Santiago, Chile from 19th to 26th October 2014. 64 nations and over 500 players will travel to South America to show the world how a ball has helped change their lives. This will include players representing reigning champions Brazil (men’s) and Mexico (women’s). The 8 day tournament will be held in Plaza de Armas in central Santiago and over 100,000 spectators are expected to watch the action unfold.”


Can’t take a trip to Chile this year? You can always follow the action on the Homeless World Cup Facebook page and the Street Soccer Bay Area Facebook page.

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May 9, 2014

Feel Good Friday – WRAPA Nigeria

As I write this blog, over 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram rebels have still not been found or freed. That’s not a very encouraging Feel Good Friday story. Yet, in a country with 174 million people, the most populous in Africa, there has to be something to feel good about. Enter the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative or WRAPAwrapalogo

Right now they are very involved with this situation and are a member of the #BringBackOurGirls team currently holding a meeting with the Chief of Defense Staff in Abuja. Three months ago, they won a $750,000 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.


As they state on their Facebook page, their mission is “Actualising the legal rights of women, in private and public through mobilisation, sensitisation and provision of legal and other support services.” A wrapa is a one piece cloth worn by Nigerian women and the selection of that acronym was intended to underscore the national outlook and impact of the group. Programs and services provided include legal aid, counseling services, advocacy and skills acquisition.

You can read the full article from the MacArthur Foundation and watch a video on the organization here. The article explains that the reason the group was chosen as one of the recipients for this award is because, “WRAPA has shown effective leadership in advocating for women’s rights on some of the most controversial and critical issues affecting the lives of Nigerian women, including consent to marriage and a woman’s right to custody after divorce, which is not guaranteed to women in the country. It has successfully represented women in high-profile cases that involved invoking due process in appealing harsh punishments under Sharia law.”

So take heart knowing such an effective organization is working to bring back our girls and will continue to advocate for women’s rights in Nigeria when this crisis is resolved. For the most current info on the group and their work, follow them on Twitter @WRAPA_NIG

 

 

 

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May 2, 2014

Feel Good Friday – WriteGirl

WriteGirlLogo“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen!” 

That advice comes from today’s Feel Good Friday organization, WriteGirl.

I learned of the organization when I read this article about WriteGirl’s founder, Keren Taylor on the CNN Heroes website

The quick summary – in 2001, Keren was laid of from her job as a sales executive and she used that life change as an opportunity to launch WriteGirl, “a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls.”

Photo Credit: WriteGirl

Photo Credit: WriteGirl

Girls are paired with professional writers and meet with them weekly in the Core Mentoring Program. Girls can also attend monthly creative writing workshops. In the workshops, the girls “explore poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, persuasive writing, journal writing, editing and more.”

In the last 12 years, 100% of program participants have both graduated from high school and gone to college  To date that’s around 500 girls! WriteGirl has published a dozen anthologies of the girls’ writing, which you can buy here, and in 2013, Michelle Obama presented the group with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Programs Award!

Photo credit: WriteGirl

Photo credit: WriteGirl

 

To learn more visit their website, watch some short videos and like their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

Write on, WriteGirl!

 

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April 25, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Lovin’ Spoonfuls

Last August, Feel Good Friday introduced you to the Food Recovery Network at the University of Maryland. Today, we’re taking it from college campuses to the grocery stores near you! Well, near you if you live in Boston.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls is an organization that facilitates the recovery and distribution of healthy, perishable food that would otherwise be discarded. Lovin’ Spoonfuls works efficiently to deliver this food directly to the community organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact.”

As they explain on their website, in the United States we throw away 40% of our food while 49 million people in the country go hungry. Ashley Stanley experienced this first hand one day when she saw produce in the back room of a supermarket that was going to be thrown away. She put it in her car and drove it to a homeless shelter and that gave her the idea to create Lovin’ Spoonfuls in 2010. 

Now in 2014, they have 3 refrigerated vehicles on the road collecting food from such partners as Whole Food’s and Trader Joe’s.  Since their inception they’ve distributed 1.3 million pounds of rescued food in the Boston area!


To learn more, read this Christian Science Monitor article, watch a short video on their mission page and meet some of the people involved or like their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

 

 

 

 

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April 18, 2014

Feel Good Friday – ArtIsMobilUs

You know what makes me feel good on a Friday? Art. You know what makes me feel even better on a Friday? Art that comes to me.

Enter ArtIsMobilUs, “a mobile art gallery and roving arts incubator bringing art to people everywhere while providing platforms for exhibition, arts education, creative collaboration, and community engagement to multiple communities.”

Translation? It’s art on a bus!

The mobile gallery was founded by Richard Felix in March of 2012. The bus has two 8’x24′ murals on the outside and a walk through gallery on the inside. It’s a great way to share the art with people who might not see it otherwise.

The bus – soon to be busses – travel throughout the Bay Area at special events and on the following schedule: 1st Thursday of every month at the SF ArtWalk and 1st Friday of every month at Oakland’s First Fridays.

Keep an eye out for the bus rolling through your neighborhood or get involved by becoming a volunteer. Be sure to like their Facebook page so you’ll always know where to find them.

 

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April 11, 2014

Feel Good Friday – The Street Store

It’s Feel Good Friday and we’re getting on the retail pop-up bandwagon!

You may have seen a temporary retail store or restaurant pop-up in your neighborhood only to be gone after a day or two. Well Kayli Levitan and Max Pazak have applied the same concept to create a pop-up clothing store for the homeless in Cape Town, South Africa called The Street Store.

They wanted to provide homeless people with a dignified way to find donated clothing. Clothes are displayed in an outdoor space and people can shop for what they want, not just take what they can get.

You can watch this 2 minute video to see the affects of the store or read a Daily Good article for some more in depth information.

As homelessness is not unique to Cape Town, Kayli and Max have created open source files with the signage and instructions so you can host a pop-up in your city. Keep this in mind as you delve into your closets for some spring cleaning.

After some recent press they’ve had 139 people take the pledge to create a pop-up so you may see a Street Store in your neighborhood.

Want to be the first to find out when their upcoming Tedx talk is available on line or otherwise stay in the loop? Visit and like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @TheStreetStore.

 

 

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April 4, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Roots & Shoots

janechimps

photo credit: Jane Goodall Institute

We all know Jane Goodall for her work with chimpanzees and the recent video of a rescued chimp who hugs her before returning to the wild. 

But what is Roots & Shoots and how did it get it’s name? The ever-optimistic Dr. Goodall explains the name in her own words in this 1:11 min video.


Their website explains the purpose of the organization. Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face.  From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.”

The best part about this is the encouragement for people not to become overwhelmed by every environmental issue that’s going wrong but instead focusing on steps we can all take to make a change for the better. She said it best herself in a quote I recently discovered, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” 

Since it’s inception in Tanzania in 1991, Roots & Shoots has expanded to 130 countries with over 150,00 members! Whether you join a project or donate money, Dr. Goodall’s birthday wish, which she shared on a live broadcast Google+ hangout, is that the work being done by Roots & Shoots continues with or without her.

As always, you can keep up with this remarkable woman by liking Jane Goodall on Facebook or following the Jane Goodall Institute on Twitter @JaneGoodallInst. I hope I’m half this awesome when I’m 80.

 

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March 28, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Mama Hope

Pack your bags because today Feel Good Friday takes a trip to Africa, this time via an organization based in San Francisco – Mama Hope.

As explained on their website, “The Mama Hope story began in 2006 when founder Nyla Rodgers suffered the sudden loss of her mother, Stephanie Moore, to cancer. In an effort to heal from her terrible loss, Nyla traveled to Kenya to meet a young man whose education her mother had sponsored since 2001. To her surprise, she was greeted by hundreds of others whom her mom had also helped. Nyla describes that day as the day that her work found her … and Mama Hope was born.” To see Nyla share this story in more detail, you can be watch this 5 minute video

Today Mama Hope is working with partner organizations in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Their approach involves listening to the community members to find out what they need, such as a health center, goat farm or solar computer lab, then raising funds for the project. Locally supplied materials and labor are used in order to stimulate the economies and create a community that is invested in the project. 

There is also a movement called Stop the Pity. “Mama Hope feels it is time to re-humanize Africa and look to the positive change that is happening. Through a series of videos Mama Hope wants to show the light of the people we serve in Africa.” That’s what we’re trying to do at Inspiration Safari as well! You can watch the videos here

But wait, there’s more. Mama Hope has a Global Advocates program, “a competitive, professional training corps that achieves the mission of Mama Hope through first-hand project development.” Your advocate term lasts 9 months, including 3 months in country. It’s like a mini Peace Corps for those of you who, like me, don’t want to make a 2 year commitment.

Whether you apply to be an advocate, donate some money or like their Facebook page, learning more about Mama Hope will make you feel good. Happy Friday!

 

 

 

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March 21, 2014

Feel Good Friday – LuminAID

Let’s start our Feel Good Friday post with something that doesn’t feel very good. 

Imagine the electricity in your town has been knocked out by a natural disaster or perhaps you don’t have reliable electricity in your town to begin with. According to the Bible, “God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Easy for him to say but what are the rest of us supposed to do? 

Enter LuminAid, a solar-powered, waterproof, inflatable light created by college students Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta as a disaster relief solution in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  After graduating, they launched a wildly successful 

The lights pack flat so you can ship 50 LuminAID lights in the same space it would take for 8 conventional flashlights, making it a great addition to disaster relief packages.

So what if you live in a city where electricity is plentiful? Well, how about supplementing your earthquake preparedness kit (or whatever kind of kit you have if you don’t live in California)? You can also take it on your next camping trip!

Here’s the best part. LuminAID has a “Give Light, Get Light” program. You can buy a light for yourself, donate a light or get a discount when you do both. As they explain on their website, “we partner with NGOs and non-profits all over the world to distribute LuminAID Lights to individuals who will greatly benefit from a safe, rechargeable light source.” 

They’ve been profiled by many different news sources and you can watch those videos here or you can read the origin story in Anna’s own words on the Huffington Post. There’s also a Facebook page.

I just ordered a light for myself and one for the Pencils of Promise program in Ghana. When it arrives, I’ll be ready for a power outage or perhaps a trip to Yosemite! 

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March 14, 2014

Feel Good Friday – National Women’s Council of Ireland

With March being Women’s History Month and St. Patrick’s Day around the corner I wanted to check out what’s going on with my Irish sisters this Feel Good Friday. Turns out, these are some very busy ladies!

The National Women’s Council of Ireland has been around since 1973. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to lead and to be a catalyst for change in the achievement of equality between women and men.

They work with women in the areas of leadership, health care, economic independence, care and care work, reaching out to young people and building the women’s movement. This can include increasing women’s participation in politics, the media and the boardroom, fighting for reproductive rights and equal pay and empowering young people. Whew!

On International Women’s Day (March 8th) they set up a pop up Soap Box in Dublin so women could have a public forum to speak their minds. From the photos on Twitter it looks like it was a well attended, successful event.

Anyone in Ireland who’s reading this blog can get very actively involved with the group. The rest of us can follow the news on their Facebook page.

Now that you know what’s going on…  Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

 

 

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March 7, 2014

Feel Good Friday – ChopChop Magazine

It’s Feel Good Friday! Who’s hungry besides me?

Before you go out and order a burger with pink slime or a sandwich with bread made from yoga mats,  let me introduce you to ChopChop Magazine.

The quarterly magazine (published in both English and Spanish) promotes the mission of ChopChop Kids, “an innovative non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and teach kids to cook real food with their families.” As they continue to explain on their website, “we believe that cooking and eating together as a family is a vital step in resolving the obesity and hunger epidemics.”

The magazine “is filled with nutritious, great-tasting, ethnically diverse, and inexpensive recipes. It also has fun food facts, games and puzzles, and interviews with healthy heroes ranging from kid chefs to professional athletes to the White House Chefs.”

Great if you have kids or the attention span of a kid when trying to follow a recipe! I’m no French chef but am convinced even I can make these dishes.

While ChopChop is distributed at public schools, children’s hospitals and health centers, you can also subscribe or read their content online.

To learn more about Sally Sampson and the creation of ChopChop three years ago, you can click this link to an article about people making a difference. To stay aware of the latest awards, recipes and news, like their Facebook page. Yum!

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February 28, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Bushman & Street Performers

Today’s post is inspired by the recent passing of Greg Jacobs, who worked as the Bushman at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco for over 20 years.

Photo by Aida Daay

Photo by Aida Daay

He would carefully select and weave together tree branches then sit behind the leaves, hidden only to the most distracted people. As tourists passed, he would shout and move the bushes to startle them. Greg had no end of creative banter to encourage people to donate for the entertainment he provided, “I made you holler, give me a dollar”.  Those trying to snap a free photo would hear, “If I took a picture of your bush, I’d pay you.”

I got to know him working down at the Wharf, rolling by his spot with my group of tourists on segways. He would shout to them, “Tip my wife we’ve got 13 kids.” Later I told them, “I don’t know why he says that we only have 6.” He made the best Wharf husband.

While the people he scared had a love or hate relationship with him. He was beloved by me and the other people that work at the Wharf. You can see why by watching this 10 minute documentary I made two years ago.

I will miss him and want to use this Feel Good Friday to celebrate not only Greg, but all the other street performers that put their talent and energy out there every day with no guarantees of recognition or reward.

If you live in the Bay Area, you’ve seen them at the Wharf, outside the theater, or in the BART stations. You can also find them in front of every major tourist attraction and landmark, worldwide. They sing songs, do magic tricks, paint themselves silver, drum on plastic buckets, play steel drums, twist balloons into flowers and get this song stuck in your head.

So the next time you see someone busking for their rent money, take a moment to watch, listen or participate. If you can toss a few bucks in their hat, even better. You never know when it will end.

 

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February 21, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Washed Ashore

It’s time to return to a favorite subject this Feel Good Friday. People turning plastic from the ocean into art to educate others about plastic pollution.

Our first ever FGF post was about Tess Felix, an artist in Stinson Beach collecting plastic that washed up on shore and turning it into art. In the second Inspiration Safari episode we talked to Roz Savage, a woman who rowed the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans solo to bring attention to plastic pollution.

Today we’re going to talk about Washed Ashore, a project that lets volunteers create large sculptures from plastic trash from the Oregon coast.

Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to educate and create awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art.”

Founded and run by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi, Washed Ashore is doing just that. In their first year, over 1000 volunteers to cleaned up 7000 pounds of trash and turned it into 18 large scale sculptures! In 2011 the exhibit came to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

If, like me, you missed the exhibit when it came to California, there’s hope. You can watch a 4 minute video explaining the project or a 10 minute excerpt from a longer documentary. More photos can be found on the Washed Ashore website and you can like their Facebook page to stay up on the latest and greatest news.

As fantastic as all this art looks and as wonderful it is at getting the message about plastic pollution out, I look forward to the day when the artists run out of materials.

 

 

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February 14, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Poemgrams

Happy Feel Good Valentine’s Friday!

As you know by now, I like to use the Feel Good Friday posts to talk about the little guy. To share a story you may not have heard of before. Well today, I’m mixing it up and giving a shout out to PayPal. Here’s why.

For the last eight days, I have been one of 12 poets taking part in a the Poemgrams project. People would send in email requests or chat with us live and we created personalized poems on demand, for free just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The response was fantastic and it certainly kept me on my toes. I wrote 221 poems in 6 days – more poems than I have written in my entire life up to this point. Although mine were all of the rhyming Dr. Seuss variety, I still had two men tell me my poem brought a tear to their eye and one deployed solider say it was like I read his mind. Poetry is powerful, y’all.

Today, an improviser will be in San Francisco reading poems live for a select few. This will be filmed and, I’m sure, available online soon enough.

While I can’t share the poems I wrote for any of the people, I will share a poem a man asked me to write about Diet Coke, his eternal happiness.

 

Diet Coke, I love you,

what more can I say?

 I need to have you in me,

each and every day.

I’m going to tell you something,

even though it’s sappy.

Diet Coke, you make me,

eternally happy.

If you’d like to read more about this project, follow the link to this Wired magazine article.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

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February 7,  2014

Feel Good Friday – Surfing for Change

Ready to hang 10 this Feel Good Friday? Me too.

Meet, Kyle Theirmann, a 21 year old pro surfer who has created an organization called Surfing for Change. As he says on his Facebook page, “Surfing for Change is on a mission to shatter the myth that activists don’t have any fun.”

After learning that a coal powered plant on a beach in Chile was being funded by Bank of America, Kyle made a short video encouraging people to move their money from BofA into local banks so that money lent out would stay in local communities. He shared the video in his surfing community and they helped spread the word. 

350 million dollars worth of moved money later, Kyle makes a point to create a short film about a social or environmental issue on each of his surfing trips. He focuses on the power we have to create a better world through everyday actions that we take.


To learn more about Kyle and Surfing for Change, you can watch his 6 minute Tedx video to hear how he got started. His full catalog of videos can be found on his website and you can read an article Kyle wrote about the problem of trash in Bali for the Huffington Post (and watch a 13 minute doc) at this link.

As always, you can stay in the loop by liking his Facebook pageCowabunga, dude!

 

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January 31, 2014

Feel Good Friday – GoldieBlox

Although Beyoncé and I would like to think girls run the world, it’s really not true.

Worldwide women are 50% of the population but only 13% of engineers. So is anyone doing anything about this? Yes! Feel Good Friday would like you to meet Debbie Sterling, engineer and founder of GoldieBlox, “Toys for future innovators.”

You may recognize the company’s name because of their legal battle over use of a Beastie Boys song in a promotional video. (This Slate article still has the original video if you missed it.)

Putting all the hullabaloo aside, the story of how Debbie created an engineering toy for girls is one of creativity and persistence. You can hear her tell it herself in this Tedx talk.

My summary: she wanted to inspire girls to be the next generation of engineers and realized that combining an engineering toy with a story  they could read was the way to do it. After having her idea rejected by a tech incubator and a toy fair, she turned to Kickstarter in 2012. Over 5,500 people contributed to the project and it received 191% of the requested funding. You go, girl!

 

In very recent news, GoldieBlox won an online contest sponsored by Intuit and will have a commercial in the Superbowl! Now you’ve got a reason to watch even though the 49ers aren’t in it.

You can read more articles on the GoldieBlox about page, stay current by liking them on Facebook and if you’re ready to buy a toy for that 4-9 year old girl in your life, operators are standing by.

 

 

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January 24, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Wonderbag

Last week, we talked about Wello, a system for transporting large quantities of water in a rolling barrel, rather than in a container on the top of your head. My guess is, if you’re reading this, your water comes out of a tap from every sink in your house.

This Feel Good Friday, I want to talk about something that can benefit everyone – the Wonderbag!

What’s so wonderful about this bag? As explained on their website, “The Wonderbag is a non-electric, heat-retention cooker that allows food that has been brought to a boil, to continue cooking after it has been removed from the fuel source.” An old concept, but one that Sarah Collins, modernized to help women in her home country of South Africa.

For women using the Wonderbag it means they need less wood, gas or paraffin to cook their meals, saving them time and money gathering fuel and reducing the smoke in their home. Plus, these women spend less time watching their pots boil, giving them more time for childcare and other activities. For you, it means slow cooking a meal and being able to leave the house without worrying you’re going to burn it down.

 

The visual and impatient among us will appreciate this video, which gives an excellent summary in less than two minutes. Those of you who like your news a little more in depth can read this recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Best of all, for every Wonderbag sold in the US, one is donated to a family in Africa! You can order one on Amazon right now. If you’re unsure what to cook, you can check the Wonderbag recipe page. All that and a Facebook page too.

Will you be the first on your block to own a Wonderbag?

 

 

 

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January 17, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Wello Water

I’ve got water on the brain. Not in a take-me-to-the-ER bad way, in a good way. 

I’ve been reviewing the footage from our Inspiration Safari interview with Gemma Bulos, director of the Global Women’s Water Initiative, in order to make a screening deadline. She’s taken the innovative approach of working with the people in the communities she serves to create solutions to the water crisis. So has Cynthia Koenig the creator of Wello, which is why we’re talking water on Feel Good Friday.

 

wello_cynthiakoenig

photo credit: Kushan Dave 2013

Cynthia Koenig created Wello and worked with people in India to create a more effective and ergonomic way to transport water. Their mission is “to effectively deliver clean water to a thirsty world.” Great, you think, but why the focus on water collection? 

If you’ve done any travel in developing countries, you’ve seen women walking with containers of water on their heads. While it make look picturesque, it is literally a pain in the neck! As described on Wello website, “The time spent fulfilling this basic need keeps many children out of school and prevents women from carrying out all the domestic and income generating work for which they are responsible. In much of the developing world, it is often necessary to walk five miles (8km) or more every day to fetch water. In the dry season, it is not uncommon to walk twice this distance. Collecting water can be dangerous too. The traditional method of carrying water – carrying a 5 gallon (20 liter) water bucket on the head – can severely damage the spine, causing severe pain and even leading to complications during childbirth. In some countries, walking to find water exposes people to the dangers of land mines.”

 

photo credit: wello 2013

photo credit: wello 2013

For further information you can read articles in The Guardian or Humanosphere, watch the short film Hello Wello or watch last year’s TedxTalk, which includes the short. As with most of the groups I profile, Wello has a Facebook page and they’d like it if you like it. 

 

 

 

 

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January 10, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Destination Hope International Medical Missions

 

We’ve kicked off 2014 talking a lot about Adventure Philanthropists – people who donate their skills, time or money while traveling. I like to think of these people as being on an Inspiration Safari.

To learn more about this, you can read the book by Erin Michelson or read my interview with her as a fellow Adventure Philanthropist here.

For today’s Feel Good Friday, I want to let you know about a group a learned about from a friend, Destination Hope.

As they explain on their website, it’s a group of plastic surgeons who volunteer for medical missions to “treat birth defects and other deformities among individuals in the developing world.” Children born with facial deformities “are often disadvantaged when it comes to education, finding jobs, or starting families.” The people of Destination Hope want to level the playing field for these children so their primary work is reconstructive surgery for cleft lips and cleft palates though they also perform burn reconstruction and other procedures.

Because the medical professionals donate their time and work with resources in country, costs are minimal. “$250 is often enough to cover the cost of one cleft lip surgery for one patient in most countries.” Results, however, can be dramatic.

To learn more about this organization you can watch videos from their missions or like their Facebook page. If you want to support their work, they’d be happy to help you write off a donation of some of your cold, hard cash!

If you know of a person or organization that could use a Feel Good Friday shout, leave the info in the comments section or send a message to me at: kristian@inspirationsafari.com. I really do love learning about and sharing these stories!

 

 

 

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January 3, 2014

Feel Good Friday – Kristian Ruggieri, Adventure Philanthropist

Wait a minute. Who starts the new year making themselves the subject of the Feel Good Friday post? Looks like I do!

Laying bricks in Madagascar

Here’s why.

On December 13th, the subject of FGF was Adventure Philanthropist, Erin Michelson. (You can read the original blog here.) The summary is that she traveled the world for two years donating her money, skills and time. She dubbed it adventure philanthropy and upon her return home, wrote a book to share the stories of the people she met and inspire others.

I met Erin at a book signing in San Francisco in November. When I told her a little about my Inspiration Safari films, she asked to interview me as a fellowAdventure Philanthropist!

The films I’ve made and my volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity are what make me an Adventure Philanthropist.

Posing for photos with Omar in Chile

The great thing about this is – if you’ve ever combined an adventure like traveling with a donation of your money or your time, you’re an Adventure Philanthropist too! Now don’t you feel good?

You can read my interview with Erin here: http://www.goeringo.com/2014/01/01/inspiration-safari-interview/

If you’ve got a story of your own to share, Erin wants to hear from you. You can reach her at Erin@GoErinGo.com. Like her Facebook page while you’re at it so you never miss out on a good dose of inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

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December 27, 2013

Feel Good Friday – AAA

The American Automobile Association, really? 

Yes.

AAA makes me feel good every day, not just Friday. They can assist you with travel, buying a car and connecting you with tons of discounts. If you’re me, they’ll also jumpstart your car, change your flat tire and tow you when you blow a head gasket, burn out a clutch or otherwise breakdown on the side of the road. As a side note, I swear I spread these (and other) distress calls over 22 years and two cars.

The reason they are the topic of today’s Feel Good Friday post is because of their Tipsy Tow program. New Year’s Eve is this Tuesday and a lot of people will go out, celebrate and ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. This can be problematic if you’ve driven to the festivities. Research from the CDC states, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impared drive. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.”

AAA is here to help. From 6pm on December 31st to 6am on January 1st, AAA will provide a free ten-mile tow home for drinking drivers and their vehicles – whether your an AAA member or not!

If you need this service, call 800-222-4357 (AAA HELP), tell the operator “I need a Tipsy Tow” and they’ll send a tow truck out to get you and your car and drive your drunk butt home. Even if you don’t need a tow but you’re happy that it’s an option, show your support by liking their Facebook page.

For those of you living and celebrating in San Francisco, MUNI is FREE from 8pm Dec. 31st to 5am Jan. 1st. Most other Bay Area public transportation companies are offering free, and extended hour services that night as well so do yourself a favor and use them!

Thank you for all your support of the Feel Good Friday blog in 2013. I can’t wait to share 52 more reasons to feel good in 2014! Have a fabulous, safe and happy New Year!

 

 

 

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December 20, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Heifer International

Looking for a last minute gift that will keep on giving? How about a llama for your mama or some bees for your honey? 

You may be familiar with the work of Heifer International, a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty and caring for the Earth. As they explain on their website, since 1944, they have been providing “livestock, trees, seeds and training in environmentally sound agriculture to families in more than 40 countries, including the United States.” To date they’ve helped 20.7 million families!

 

It works like this – you go to their website and donate an animal, like a sheep, pig or water buffalo. Depending on how much want to spend you can donate the entire animal or a share of it. Prices range from $10 – $5,000 so there’s something that will work for everyone.

 

That animal, and training on how to best care for it, is provided to a family in need. Much like Habitat for Humanity, whose philosophy is to provide people with “a hand up not a hand out”, Heifer’s core philosophy is Passing on the Gift. “This means families share the training they receive, and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. This extends the impact of the original gift, allowing a once impoverished family to become donors and full participants in improving their communities.”

So whether you donate a heifer, some rabbits or a flock of geese (sorry, no seagulls) – your gift will improve the lives of not just one family, but many. Up to nine times the impact!

If you’ve already finished your Christmas shopping, don’t worry. They’ve got gifts for every holiday so you can shop at Heifer any time of year.

Not yet convinced? Check out this celebrity PSA or watch other great videos on the Heifer YouTube channel

As always, you can follow their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

Until next Feel Good Friday… Merry Christmas!!

 

 

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December 13, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Go Erin Go!

homeI can hear your questions already. Who is Erin, where is she going and why feel good about it?

Erin Michelson is an Adventure Philanthropist who recently returned from two years of traveling around the world, volunteering with local organizations and blogging about them on her website Go Erin Go. Not only did she donate her time, skills and spread the word about the works these groups are doing but she also invited her blog followers to decide how to donate her money. It was voluntourism on steroids!

If you missed that boat (like I did) you’ll be happy to know she just released a book that recounts many of these stories. You can read my review here. Even better, you can find photos and short videos of the people she writes about on her website if you want to take your armchair experience to the next level.

Reading her book or her blog, you may realize:

a) you are an Adventure Philanthropist

b) you’d like to become an Adventure Philanthropist

c) you are quite happy as an armchair Adventure Philanthropist

Between the volunteer trips with Habitat, the Inspiration Safari filming in Africa (because even though that wasn’t the name at the time, that’s totally what it was) and Erin calling me one, I’ve realized that I’m an Adventure Philanthropist! I’d definitely like to keep it that way. Habitat Mongolia in 2014 anyone?

What next? You can watch two video summaries of Erin’s travels below. After that, stay in the loop with her adventures by buying the book, subscribing to her blog or liking her Facebook page. That’s what I’m doing!

 

 

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December 6, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013)

Today Feel Good Friday, along with the rest of the world, celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela.

There are tons of news stories and tributes out there to read, watch or listen to – including this audio history from NPR. What I can contribute to the conversation is my own story.

The anti-Apartheid disinvestment campaign was going strong when I was in college, as was the song Free Nelson Mandela. A friend reminded me that some UCSB students went on a juice fast, which sounds silly but, according to Wikipedia, University of California, in contrast to the limited action undertaken by Harvard, authorized the withdrawal of three billion dollars worth of investments from the apartheid state. Nelson Mandela has stated his belief that the University of California’s massive divestment was particularly significant in abolishing white-minority rule in South Africa.” So there.

I remember watching with the rest of the world as he became the first democratically elected leader of South Africa then won a Nobel Peace prize. The 46664 concerts, referencing his prisoner number, raised money for his various foundations and brought out a host of international stars. 

 In 2007, I had the opportunity to travel in South Africa and visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. You can go back and read the heymissk blog archives here.

Similar to Alcatraz in some ways, an island prison very near a vibrant port city, it was different in many others. Rather than just bank robbers, many of these inmates were political prisoners. Those that are still alive guide the daily tours of the island, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Their focus is on reconciliation and bringing the country together in order to move forward.

 

Although not completely free of racial tensions, the spirit of Nelson Mandela could be felt as I traveled through South Africa. Practically every backpacker I met was reading Long Walk to Freedom, his autobiography which will soon be released as a movie, and he was a leader that most locals were happy to talk about with visitors.

 

Buzzfeed posted a list they call “15 of Nelson Mandela’s Most Inspiring Quotes“. Of all the ones they chose, my favorite is this:

 

Why not make today the day you start living the life you are capable of living?

 

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November 29, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Glide Memorial Church

It’s Black Friday and many people are out shopping, thankful for the extreme deals. It’s also Feel Good Friday and we’re taking a moment to be thankful for Glide Memorial Church.

Built in 1929 and located in San Francisco, CA “GLIDE’s mission is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.”

Yesterday 5,000 meals were served to the homeless and other people in need for Thanksgiving (ABC news story) but GLIDE is active year round. As stated on their website, “From serving nearly 1,000,000 free meals a year, to providing affordable housing, free or low-cost state-of-the-art healthcare along with dozens of other programs that help the poor, GLIDE is unconditional in its love, support and commitment to the community it serves.”

Janice Mirikitani and Cecil Williams

Those of you living in the Bay Area can attend a Sunday Celebration or help out as a volunteer. Everyone can visit the video page to see a history of the church and their programs or like their Facebook page.

Now back to family, board games and leftovers!

 

 

 

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November 22, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Eyes in the Sky

eits_logo

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and you may be thinking about turkey (mmm, turkey) but Feel Good Friday is here to talk about raptors! 

eits_athena

Ahtena, a barn owl

As they explain on their website, “Eyes in the Sky (EITS) has been Santa Barbara Audubon’s key wildlife education program since 2000. It features seven birds of prey that serve as education ambassadors. All were rescued and rehabilitated but, due to permanent disabilities, can no longer survive in the wild. They were adopted from wildlife rehabilitation centers that would otherwise, by law, have had to be euthanized.”

If you live in (or visit) Santa Barbara you can visit the center to meet the birds. If you’re a teacher in the area, you can make arrangements for EITS to bring one or more raptors to your classroom for a storytelling program. That’s a show and tell day you don’t want to miss!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Teresa and Ivan, a red-tailed hawk

For those of you who live too far away to drop by, there’s a video of Max, a Great horned owl that you can watch here. You can also like the Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s Facebook page to stay in the loop.

Finally, apologies if this post made the Alan Parsons Project song Eye in the Sky get stuck in your head. If it’s any consolation it’s stuck in my head too.

 

 

 

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November 15, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Make a Wish, Batkid

Many of you may be familiar with the work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It’s an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions at the rate of one wish every 38 minutes. Wishes can range from meeting a celebrity or visiting a city to having an army-themed playhouse.

Today, the city of San Francisco is conspiring with Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area to transform into Gotham City so a 5-year old with leukemia, named Miles, can be Batkid for a day.

http://sf.wish.org/wishes/wish-stories/i-wish-to-be/wish-to-be-batkid

 

He’s got a busy schedule:

  • 10:00am – getting a call for help from the Chief of Police and heading out in his batmobile to rescue a damsel in distress from the Hyde Street cable car line
  • 10:15am – stopping a bank robbery at 500 Montgomery Street
  • 11:15am – lunch, while a flashmob dances in Union Square to let him know Giants mascot Lou Seal has been kidnapped
  • AT&T Park for the rescue and the City Hall to meet Mayor Lee and get a key to the city

If you can’t take part in the adventure but still want to know what’s happening you can stream Miles’ press conference live at 2:30 PST at http://www.csnbayarea.com/, follow along on Twitter using #sfbatkid or check the Facebook page for updates.

Today, Feel Good Friday is even prouder than usual to call San Francisco home.

 

 

 

 

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November 8, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Operation Gratitude

 

Veterans Day is Monday and Feel Good Friday wants YOU!

Wants you to do what? How about getting involved sending a care package and a letter of appreciation to someone in the military? 

 

10 years ago, Carolyn Blashek founded Operation Gratitude. As they explain on their website, “Operation Gratitude seeks to lift morale in the Military Community by sending care packages addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed overseas, to their children left behind, and to Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors and their Care Givers.  Operation Gratitude Care Packages contain food, hygiene products, entertainment and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.”


Their current program is focused on sending the troops all that excess Halloween candy you have laying around – unless you already ate it – and care packages for the holidays will be next on the list. To date, they’ve sent out 989,147 packages!


You can see Operation Gratitude in action in this 4 minute CBS videofollow Carolyn Blashek on the Huffington Post where she is a regular blogger and like their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

 

 

 

 

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November 1, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Corazón de Niña

Today’s Feel Good Friday coincides with Day of the Dead (Día de Muetros en Español). It’s “a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.” (Thanks, Wikipedia).

 

So, let’s go to Mexico! A local restaurant in Puerto Vallarta is hosting a charity event to raise money for Corazón de Niña – a shelter for teenage girls. As they explain on their website, Our goal is that the girls grow with security, love, values and education in order to become healthy, strong and independent women and thus change the cycle.  The girls know that this is their home until they are ready to leave the house and fly.  We are the only house in Puerto Vallarta with a focus on adolescent girls, insisting on maintaining the girls together with a variety of ages.”

Keeping the home running isn’t easy. To make ends meet, the girls sell donated items on the weekends and they subsist on food from Costco that is past it’s expiration date. All the while they’re trying to build out the house to accommodate more girls. 

How can you help? If you’d like to make a donation and want it to be tax deductible in the US, you must make it through the Casa JoJo Foundation. You can watch the 6:22 minute video they made here.

As always, you can stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page or best of all, make a plan to visit in person! Now you’ve got an excuse for a little vacation in PV! You’re welcome.

 

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October 25, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Pro Mujer

Ever wonder what happens when you invest in women?

As explained on the Pro Mujer website, “Women reinvest 90% of their income into their families to grow businesses, improve their living conditions and provide education and healthcare for their families.” This was the hope of school teachers Lynne Patterson, an American, and Carmen Velaso, a Bolivian, when they founded Pro Mujer in Bolivia in 1990.

Their program is more than just business, education and housing loans. Pro mujer also provides women with  business and empowerment training as well as high quality, low cost primary health care. Since it’s beginnings, the program has expanded to Nicaragua (1996), Peru (1999), Mexico (2001) and Argentina (2005) and become “a leading women’s development, health and microfinance social enterprise that provides women in Latin America with vital services that are typically out of reach but essential to breaking the cycle of poverty.”

The results they list on their website are impressive. “Pro Mujer has disbursed more than US$ 1 billion dollars in small loans that averaged $407… provided business and empowerment training, preventive health education and primary healthcare services to approximately 1.6 million women and their 6.4 million children and family members.

Most recently, Pro Mujer joined a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action to promote healthy habits among their clients and enhance the medical services they deliver.

You can read more about the group’s origin and clientele in the Christian Science Monitor’s Difference Maker article, meet the women on their YouTube page or like them on Facebook to say in the loop.

 

You go, girls!

 

 

 

 

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October 18, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Lava Mae

As a tour guide in San Francisco I’m often asked why there are so many homeless people in the streets. It’s a difficult question and my answer is usually that it’s a combo of tolerant locals, decent services and good weather. None of this makes life on the streets easy but there’s a new bus in town that’s going to make it easier for homeless people to stay clean.

Doniece Sandoval is raising money to turn a decommissioned MUNI bus into a mobile shower and sanitation service that reaches the homeless where they are. The project is called Lava Mae – Spanish for “wash me” and a designed to sound like a woman’s name. (Perhaps the bus is a sister of Sallie Mae?

As stated on their website, “In San Francisco, where we are launching our project, there are 6,500 homeless people making the city’s streest their home. There are only 8 facilities, each with one or two stalls at most, where they can shower. That’s (sic) translates to 16 showers for 3,100+ people.”

 

Although their IndieGoGo campaign has ended, if you’d like to donate to the project to ensure that everyone in San Francisco has the ability to stay clean follow this link.

You can get more details by reading a recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, watching a short video in which architect Brett Terpeluk explains how exactly you put showers on MUNI or liking their Facebook page to stay in the loop. 

 

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October 11, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Malala Yousafzai

Not only is October 11th a Feel Good Friday, the UN has declared it International Day of the Girl Child.

So let’s talk about a girl who’s been in the news again lately, Malala Yousafzai. An advocate for the education of girls in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by the Taliban in an effort to silence her. She was 15 at the time.

One year later, not only has she made an incredible recovery but she has also created the Malala Fund to support the rights of girls around the world to go to school and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She was recently on the Daily Show to promote her book, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban“. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch the interview it here.

On her 16th birthday (July 12, 2013) she gave a speech to the United Nations Youth Assembly which you can watch here and her interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN will air this Sunday at 7pm EST.

Watch the interviews, buy the book or like the Malala Fund’s Facebook page.

If you’re interested in learning about more organizations focused on girls, including the Global Women’s Water Initiative – the stop on Inspiration Safari – you can read this article from the Huffington Post.

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October 4, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Karma Kitchen

Perhaps it’s time to change the name of this blog to Food Good Friday because here comes another story of people making a positive impact with food.

We’ve talked about programs that feed the hungry – from young kids starting gardens and growing food to college kids redirecting excess food from the dining commons. Well, now here’s something wonderful you can do that feeds YOU!

Karma Kitchen is a monthly Sunday brunch that has been taking place at Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California since 2007. What’s the big deal about brunch, you ask? There are no prices on the menu and, save for the cooks, the restaurant is staffed by volunteers.

At the end of the meal, your check arrives with a zero balance and the following footnote: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you.”

To date Karma Kitchen has served 38703 meals and their self described “volunteer-driven experiment in generosity” shows no sign of stopping. Not only is there a Karma Kitchen in Berkeley, there are also kitchens in Hayward, CA, Washington DC and Chicago!

You can get more background on how it all got started by reading this article from the San Francisco Chronicle or watch a short video from Go Project Films.

Join Inspiration Safari in liking their Facebook page and if you want to go to brunch on Sunday, leave a comment and let’s make a date!

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September 27, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Camp Diva

Last week we learned about support for children in Nepal. Today Feel Good Friday brings you a story about children in Virginia.

Camp Diva was founded in 2004 and named after a 5 year-old girl who was killed in a firearm accident earlier that year. Her mother, Clover, wanted to create a program that would support young girls and develop in them some of the characteristics her daughter possessed. She teamed up with Angela Patton and Camp Diva was born.

Their mission as stated on the website is “to provide opportunities for teen girls to prepare themselves spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and culturally, for their passage into womanhood.” Every summer they have a five week long retreat and during the school year there are several after school programs available for the girls.

There is also an annual “Date with Dad Dinner and Dance”, an event designed to strengthen the relationship between fathers and daughters and provide a place for them to spend quality time together. What’s most unusual about this event is that they’ve brought it behind prison walls!

A documentary film called, “Locked In NOT Locked Out” is being made about these father-daughter dances in prison and there is a trailer posted online.

To hear a first hand account of how the prison program came about, you can watch Angela Patton’s TEDx Talk.  As always, if you’re short on time but want to make sure you’re in the loop, like their Facebook page and while you’re there, like the Inspiration Safari Facebook page too!

 

 

 

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September 20, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Kopila Valley Children’s Home and Primary School

Feel Good Friday is on a young person roll. 

From Katie in South Carolina to William in Malawi and back to the United States to meet the Burrito Boyz of San Diego, kids these days are sure a lot more active an involved than I was when I was their age. Today, I want to let you know about Maggie Doyne. 

At the ripe old age of (now) 26, she runs the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and Primary School in Surkhet, Nepal – a project she started when she was only 19. Meeting young children in need during a trip to Nepal after high school prompted Maggie to call home and have her parents send her the $5000 she earned babysitting so she could start sending Nepalese children to school.

That led her to creating first an orphanage, then a school and finally a foundation. Like you do.

The goals related to Nepal are outlined on their website:

“Our Vision To sustain and improve the quality of life and the future for children of Nepal.

Our Mission To create a self-sustainable living community for destitute children that provides their most basic needs and also contributes to post-war recovery and peace in the nation of Nepal.”

As for the foundation… “BlinkNow is a grass-roots organization working to empower young people to become pioneers in developing their own solutions to world poverty. The organization targets under-developed, war-torn countries where extreme poverty exists. These nations have high rates of illiteracy, disease, child labor, and unstable governments, thus making them the prime focus for our organization. The organization has established its initial project in Nepal, Kopila Valley Children’s Home.

 Amazed by the work and can’t get enough right? Well, you can still read an interview with Maggie at Communicate Good or a longer article in the NY Times, watch a short video of Maggie and the students or like her Facebook page to keep current with their news.




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September 13, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Hunger 2 Help

H2H_logoThe last few Feel Good Fridays have focused on work being done by adults so today we shine the spotlight on some kids – the Burrito Boyz from Hunger 2 Help.

This group in San Diego, California began in November, 2010 after Michael and Mehrnaz Johnson got their son Alec’s very long list of items he wanted for Christmas and decided to give him some much needed perspective. As stated on their website, “Not only were they hoping to teach their son and his friends not to take things for granted, they wanted to DO something to help others.  After just their first Sunday downtown serving 54 hot breakfast burritos and bottles of water, the group knew they had started something special.”

There are now 7 burrito boyz and a Girl Scout troupe that make and serve burritos to the homeless every Sunday – so far that’s 149 Sundays and over 40,000 meals! 
 
Their mission is to help nourish the spirit of the street homeless of San Diego by providing hot food and comfort. Well, FGF says, mission accomplished!
To learn more, you can watch a video from CBS news on their website or like their Facebook page.
As for me, I’m off to find a breakfast burrito. Mmmm, burrito.

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September 6, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Gulabi Gang

If a vigilante group has vision and mission statements, are they really vigilantes? Men who have felt (literally) the wrath of Sampat Pal Devi and her Gulabi Gang would say yes.

The Gulabi, or Pink Gang – so named because the members wear pink saris – was founded in 2006 the Banda District of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. According to their website, “this region is one of the poorest districts in the country and is marked by a deeply patriarchal culture, rigid caste divisions, female illiteracy, domestic violence, child labour, child marriages and dowry demands.”

“The Gulabi Gang was initially intended to punish oppressive husbands, fathers and brothers, and combat domestic violence and desertion. The members of the gang would accost male offenders and prevail upon them to see reason. The more serious offenders were publicly shamed when they refused to listen or relent. Sometimes the women resorted to their lathis, if the men resorted to use of force.”


The big stick smack downs of abusive husbands and corrupt officials are a last resort but knowing they are a very real possibility makes people listen to what Sampat Pal has to say. Since it began, tens of thousands of women have joined the gang, whose mission is to “protect the powerless from abuse and fight corruption to ensure basic rights of the poor in rural areas and discourage traditions like child-marriages.” 

The group has started a school to educated the girls and boys in the district and they’ve bought sewing machines. The idea being, if young girls can earn income for the family through sewing projects, they family is less likely to marry them off at an early age for dowry money.

You can watch a short video about the group here or check their video page to see more in-depth coverage. As always, you can like them on Facebook if you like them.

Are the women of the Gulabi Gang justified in what they’re doing or do you agree with the quote most often attributed to Gandhi, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”? 

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August 30, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Hug Nation

Perhaps a desire to get out of town has put busses on my mind. Last week we went to Michigan to learn about The Detroit Bus Company and today we’re going to talk about the Hugmobile.

Those of you going to Burning Man keep your eye out for the Hugmobile –  though a giant pink RV shouldn’t be that hard to find. It’s the way John “Halycon” Styn gets around to spread his Hug Nation message. That message – “The world would rather hug you than hurt you.”

 

Hug Nation is a webcast John founded with his grandfather, the extremely optimistic Reverend Caleb Shikles. Their goal was to have a weekly, world-wide virtual group hug.  Although Rev. Shikles passed away in 2007, the Hug Nation broadcasts continue and John takes his message to Burning Man every year.

You can watch an inspiring Tedx talk about gifting and gratitude on YouTube, watch their live broadcasts, and/or like the Hug Nation on Facebook to stay in the loop.

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August 23, 2013

Feel Good Friday – The Detroit Bus Company

People in San Francisco use the cable car as a legitimate form of public transportation but not everyone gets to ride a landmark to work. In some cities, including Detroit, public transportation is sorely lacking.

So why is Feel Good Friday taking a road trip to Michigan? Because in 2012, with funding for the public bus system cut and plans for a streetcar line through downtown Detroit cancelled, Andy Didorosi bought a school bus, had a local graffiti artist paint it and created The Detroit Bus Company.

He started by providing fixed bus routes but the company has morphed to include city tours, charter busses andwith financial assistance from the Skillman Foundation, free rides to after school programs for students.

Not only that, they have live mobile bus tracking so you know exactly where the bus you’re trying to catch is. Something larger public transit systems could use. Yeah, I’m taking to you MUNI.

You can read the full story and watch a short video at this link from the Huffington Post.

If you want to learn more about bus routes, tours or buy a t-shirt, visit The Detroit Bus Company website. As always, show your support and stay in the loop by liking them on Facebook!

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

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August 16th, 2013

Feel Good Friday – Food Recovery Network

Today’s Feel Good Friday topic is food. Mmm, fooood.

Everybody loves food but not everybody has food. According to the Food Recovery Network (FRN), 1 in 6 people in the US don’t know where their next meal is coming from. If they happen to live near a FRN chapter, it could be coming from a college campus.

Food Recovery Network was founded in 2011 by Ben Simon and other students at the University of Maryland – College Park. For as much as college students eat, there is always food left over in the dining commons at the end of the night. When the students found out this food was being thrown away, they got student groups to volunteer to collect the food and bring it to local organizations that feed the hungry.

In the beginning they were recovering 150 – 200 pounds of food per day. Now they have chapters on 21 college campuses and have collected and donated 166,354 pounds of food! What does that mean? Well, 100,000 pounds of food = 80, 261 meals and can feed 75 people 3 meals a day for a year.

This reduces food waste, feeds hungry people and reduces the emission of methane gas coming from rotting food in landfills. You can learn more about hunger, food waste and global warming here.

If you’re in college, start a chapter. If you’ve got 3:10 minutes you canwatch a video put out by the University of Maryland that shows you students packing up the food and driving it to an organization in need. As always, you can like their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

To stay in the loop with more stories like this, take a moment to like the Inspiration Safari Facebook page. I promise we’ll like you back.

 

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

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July 26th, 2013

Feel Good Friday

Sri Lestari and Wheels for Humanity

Several months ago, Feel Good Friday celebrated the work of Habitat for Humanity. Today, we’re here to spread the word about Wheels for Humanity.

UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Wheels for Humanity began in 1995 with the delivery of 130 wheelchairs to people in Guatemala. Their mission is to provide “mobility, dignity and opportunity to people with disabilities in developing countries.” Almost 20 years later, they now operate a 10,880-square-foot warehouse in North Hollywood, CA and a quick peak at their destinations map will show you they are worldwide.

Perhaps their most famous spokesperson is Sri Lestari from Central Java. Injured in a motorcycle accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down when she was 23, the loss of her mobility and independence plunged her into a deep depression and she rarely went outside her home.

That was until she learned of the Wheels for Humanity program that modifies motorcycles to include a wheelchair platform, hand controlled stick-shift and brakes and other elements that make them possible for people in wheelchairs to drive.

After getting some financial assistance, not only did Sri get a modified motorcycle but she also became an outreach officer for Wheels and now travels the country providing support to the estimated 2 million people living with disabilities in Indonesia. Recently she drove over 750 miles from the capital, Jakarta, to Ubud on the island of Bali on a campaign to empower disabled people.

As she states in this much more detailed article in the Christian Science Monitor, “I think I am a good example. So many parents will see the positive things from me – that even if they have children with a disability, they have a brighter purpose, that hopefully their children can be like me. They can be free and independent.”

Want to stay inspired by Sri’s independent spirit? Follow and like her Facebook page and do the same for Wheels for Humanity.

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

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August 1st, 2013

Next Stop on Inspiration Safari

What Inspired Kristian Ruggieri to Kickstart Inspiration Safari

One of the main reasons I started Inspiration Safari is because of the trips I’ve 017taken with Habitat for Humanity. Where’s the connection you ask? Give me a moment to explain.

I’ve gone on six Habitat for Humanity trips in six different countries and always had a fantastic experience. On every trip, a group of strangers uses their vacation days, donates their money and volunteers their time to work together with a group of families in a foreign country building houses. Over the course of two weeks, this random assembly of people morphs from strangers to a team to friends.

When I say you work “together” with the families, I mean it. Standing in a line passing bricks, hammering different ends of the same truss or shoveling rocks into a DSCN0500wheelbarrow. Not only is it hard work but it can also be a very humbling experience. No matter how much you know about (insert your profession here) that doesn’t translate into being very good at mixing cement by hand and cement is what gets the house built.

I don’t want to give the impression that Habitat for Humanity trips are all about manual labor. They’re also about getting a more personal and intimate view of a country than you would if you were visiting as a tourist. Having the local dance teacher in India remove all the furniture from his small living room so the team can watch his students perform, being asked by families in Chile to write your name in the Bible that they are given at the house dedication ceremony, or being blessed by the 82 year old matriarch of a rural village in Madagascar because you’re helping build homes for her great grandchildren. Beautiful experiences like this happen on Habitat for Humanity trips ALL the time.

School Strike a PoseThat’s the connection. In my travels I’ve learned that there are countless stories of people working together to make positive change but these stories are not being told. Inspiration Safari wants to change that. We’re going on a journey to find people who act, make a positive impact and inspire those around them. I would love it if you’d join us.

For a glimpse of my Habitat for Humanity trip to Madagascar in 2007, click HERE.

Kristian Ruggieri is the host of Inspiration Safari

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July 28th, 2013

Next Stop on Inspiration Safari 

We are Scary

Inspiration Safari started with the invaluable help of a Scary Cow – a San Francisco based independent film coop.

Open to everyone of any skill level, Scary Cow’s mission is to build a film community that actively learns to make better films by making films.

Scary Cow is run by its members and any received revenue goes back out to its members in the form of screenings, budgets, classes, and more.

Scary Cow has made over 200 films and given out well over $150,000 in budgets since their start in 2007.

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July 28th, 2013

Get Inspired This Week:

The “Inspiration Safari Brings You” Series

Article #4: Our Plans for This Week

While we are producing the next Inspiration Safari episodes, we have decided to document on our website, Twitter and Facebook pages what we have been up, issues related to pre-production, as well as to bring you interesting articles and video clips from around the web.

During the past weeks we have been populating our website, Twitter, Facebook with interesting posts, articles and clips. We will also start sharing more videos on our YouTube channel as soon as we have our posting schedule in place and have edited our next clips. We will also create a LinkedIn page dedicated solely to Inspiration Safari.  

Now it’s time to start reaching out and spreading the word, and we will need your help by referring friends and family to our pages.

If you would like to take action now, please subscribe to our website newsletter (on the top right of your screen), like out Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

If you watched and liked our pilot episode Recology, please remember to Like the video by clicking on the thumbs up icon and Subscribe to our channel.

We are are very exited with next weeks plans and hope you have a fabulous week!

Best,

The Inspiration Safari Crew

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July 27th, 2013

Get Inspired This Weekend:

The “Inspiration Safari Brings You” Series

Article #3: Our Favorite Places

This weekend we decided to share with you about our travels throughout the world and our favorite places, including a video city tour of San Francisco, where we shot our Inspiration Safari pilot episode Recology

Have a great weekend!

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

 

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July 26th, 2013

Feel Good Friday

Did you ever wonder how dogs learn to be guides and get partnered with people in need? Well, I did. Today, Feel Good Friday goes to San Rafael, CA to visit Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Click HERE to read the article. 

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

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July 25th, 2013

Trouble Getting Inspired?

Next stop on Inspiration Safari:

How to Get Inspired (by WikiHow)

 

We have been talking about inspiration the entire week. But you may ask yourself… how?

Here’s a humorous take on How to Get Inspired.

Click HERE to read the article.

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

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July 21st, 2013

Get Inspired This Weekend:

The “Inspiration Safari Brings You” Article Series

Article #2: Forbes’ Top 100 Inspirational Quotes

paints_n_brush

During the pre-production of our next episodes, our crew wants to get you inspired as well. While we were looking for interesting articles to bring you, we came across a compilation of the top 100 Forbes’ motivational quotes.

Here’s the one we chose to share with you this weekend:

” Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.”  Mark Twain

Article: Top 100 Inspirational Quotes. Click HERE to read it.
Image: WPclipArt
Source: Forbes

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn more about Inspiration Safari.

 

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July 20th, 2013

Get Inspired This Weekend:

The “Inspiration Safari Brings You” Article Series

Article #1: The Holstee Manifesto

 The-Holstee-Manifesto

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July 19th, 2013

The Feel Good Friday Project

Every week we spread the word about the Feel Good Friday on our Twitter and Facebook profiles.

This week we went to Estonia and learned more about its Bank of Happiness.

Click HERE to visit our Facebook page and learn about what money cannot buy.

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July 11th, 2013

Here’s the latest article about Roz Savage, that will be featured in our next episode. If you are interested in what she’s doing, you will love watching our next documentary about her:

The rower who rewrote her obituary

Long-distance rower Roz Savage swapped a life of management consultancy for solo adventures on the high-seas

Roz Savage rowing across the Pacific from San Francisco to Honolulu
Roz Savage rowing across the Pacific from San Francisco to Honolulu
Source: The Irish Times

Click HERE to read the article.

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Special thanks to Tech Liminal (Anca Mosoiu and Pieter Hartsook) and  Scary Cow.

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Inspiration Safari is a world tour in search of and showcasing some of these great stories! Click on the Watch tab to view a few clips of these great people and their projects.

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