Friday, December 27, 2013

Feel Good Friday - AAA

The American Automobile Association, really?


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!

Friday, 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!!

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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?

Friday, 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 andCecil 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!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Eyes in the Sky

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! 

You may be asking yourself, "Are thoughts of turkey really what prompted this post?" Well, no. Admittedly, I recently saw a friend who volunteers with Eyes in the Sky and she told me about this very cool program that I'm going to share with you.

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."

Athena, a Barn owl
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!

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.
Teresa and Ivan, a Red-tailed hawk

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.

Friday, 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.

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, 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.

Friday, 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.

Friday, 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.

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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. 

Friday, 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.

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Hunger 2 Help

The 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.