Friday, 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.

Friday, 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?

Friday, 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.

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? 
photo credit: Kushan Dave 2013

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
The Wello team interviewed 1500 community members in order to develop the WaterWheel. What does that mean for the people who use it? "By giving people easier access to potable water, the WaterWheel frees up valuable time, and in the process, removes barriers that prevent children from going to school and empowers women to engage in more productive activities. Research shows that when women have extra time, they choose to spend it on activities that boost family income, education, health, and wellbeing. Women with even a few years of education have smaller, healthier families, and are more likely to send their children to school. Female education is a key means of breaking the cycle of poverty."

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. 

Friday, 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: I really do love learning about and sharing these stories!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Feel Good Friday - Kristian Ruggieri, Adventure Philanthropist

Laying bricks in
Wait a minute. Who starts the new year making themselves the subject of the Feel Good Friday post? Looks like I do!

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.

Painting walls in
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.

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:

Posing for a photo with
Omar in Chile
If you've got a story of your own to share, Erin wants to hear from you. You can reach her at Like her Facebook page while you're at it so you never miss out on a good dose of inspiration!