Friday, January 19, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Build Change

Like many of my Feel Good Friday subjects over the last year, I learned about today's organization from a conversation at work and I want to pass it on!

"Build Change trains homeowners, local builders, engineers and government officials to construct or retrofit disaster-resistant buildings in areas vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons."

Founded in 2004 by Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, the mission of Build Change is "to greatly reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses caused by housing and school collapses due to earthquakes and typhoons in emerging nations." Locations with current projects include Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines.

An important aspect of the work being done is that the reconstruction and retrofitting process is driven by homeowners. Build Change involves homeowners in the design of their new homes, trains them how to purchase high quality building materials and provides technical assistance to homeowners so they can oversee construction of their homes. You can watch this 5 minute video for details or keep on reading.

Build Change has a six-step approach to safe homes:

  1. Learn first - forensic engineering studies to determine why specific buildings collapse
  2. Research and design for earthquake-resistant houses - those that are culturally appropriate and preferred by homeowners, as well as low cost and locally sustainable
  3. Build local capacity - training local masons, carpenters, engineers and homeowners, including programs to train women to become builders
  4. Stimulate local demand - making new homes affordable and easy to implement and creating simple building codes and inspection systems for governments to enforce
  5. Facilitate access to capital - supplementing grants and financing from relief agencies
  6. Measure change - documenting changes made on the houses and testing skill development of people trained
In the last 14 years, they have enhanced the safety of over 250,000 people and 50,000 buildings, trained more than 27,000 people in safe construction techniques and created over 12,000 jobs. If you'd like to put a face to a number, you can read success stories of the people who were directly impacted here.

Now that you know the effect Build Change has, you can support their work by volunteering your time, donating your money and/or becoming a social media fan by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @BuildChange.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Hope for Haiti

Oh how we're in need of a Feel Good Friday. After some recent, disparaging remarks made about the country of Haiti, I want to share the story of an organization that's working directly with Haitians to make positive changes.

Hope for Haiti was founded 28 years ago by JoAnne Kuehner with a simple mission, "We work to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children." As explained on the website, their model is a holistic approach that "connects, heals, and empowers rural communities on the road to sustainable, long-term development." You can watch the short video, Rethink Haiti, to see the people Hope for Haiti is helping.

Their programs focus on five key areas for development: education, nutrition and healthcare, clean water, infrastructure and economy. They partner with local organizations to support work already being done to increase the success rates. Examples include providing financial support for schools, advanced medical training for Haitian medical professionals, and installing and maintaining solar-powered Ultraviolet water purification systems.

The impact of the work is impressive! Hope for Haiti has distributed $100,000,000 in cash and in-kind donations for program support. This money has been used to train 137 teachers, provide 45,000 books to students and build 12 classrooms. They've hired a full-time, Haitian clean water technician to maintain their 13 clean water sites and trained 38 men and women in traditional and modern culinary practices, 70% of whom are applying their skills in the community.

You can read the impact section of the website for even more stories. With 95% of revenues from donations going directly to the core programs you know that if you donate, you'll be helping the people of Haiti. You can also get involved by purchasing jewelry or cookbooks at their online store.

As always, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @HopeforHaitiFL to give Hope for Haiti some social media love.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Feel Good Friday - StopWaste

It's the first Feel Good Friday of 2018 and we're making StopWaste our new year's resolution!

I recently moved to Oakland, in Alameda County, and saw a billboard for this organization at a BART station. "StopWaste helps Alameda County's businesses, residents and schools waste less, recycle more and use water, energy and other resources efficiently." Those are resolutions I can get behind!

Beginning in 1976 with the founding of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the organization expanded in 1990 after voters approved a measure to create the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board. While these names may be long, their definition on the website is short: "a public agency reducing waste in Alameda County".

They provide many resources for business and schools, but I'm focusing on what they do for residents. There are guidelines for recycling everything: hazardous waste (including electronics, batteries, and medicines), food scraps, plant debris, and construction debris. I've learned that there's a drop off center close to my house that will accept the paint left by the previous owners! (Too bad the previous owners didn't know about it.)

There are also tons of resources dedicated to preventing waste that can be used by everyone, no matter where you live. Links to stop your junk mail, reduce packaging waste, and tips on how to make your home more green and create sustainable gardens.

The billboard I saw was related to food waste and for good reason. "Nearly 40 percent of all the food produced in the United States goes to waste, and of that, 95 percent ends up in landfills or combustion facilities." In Alameda County, "food scraps and food-soiled paper are the largest single item" in the waste stream comprising 35% of what's thrown away.

If you want to see your own impact you can take this 10-minute food reality check and then visit for guidelines on how to plan, store, eat and compost your food. They've got recipes, shopping lists and videos. I'm eager to get their advice on celery that's lost its crunch.

Whether or not you live in Alameda County, you use this info to make changes to reduce waste in your life. How do you stay in the know? Bookmark the website, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @stopwasteorg.

Happy New Year!