Friday, 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 history, explore 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.

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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!