Friday, 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!

Friday, 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

Friday, 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.

Friday, 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 WRAPA

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

Friday, May 2, 2014

Feel Good Friday - WriteGirl

"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

Photo credit: WriteGirl
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
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!

To learn more visit their website, watch some short videos and like their Facebook page to stay in the loop.

Write on, WriteGirl!