Friday, April 24, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Sugar Empowerment Society

We've spent the last two weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area learning about organizations that help kids get on stage and get outdoors. Well, the pendulum is on the move and we spend this Feel Good Friday with a young woman working to prevent honor killings and child marriages in Pakistan. Hey, when it swings, it swings.

Khalida Broni founded the Sughar Empowerment Society in her native Pakistan to give women wings. Sughar translates into "skilled and confident women" and reflects the mission of the organization.

As explained on their website, "Sughar is a non profit social enterprise organization based in Pakistan. Operating in the most tribal and rural areas of Pakistan, Sughar provides socio-economic opportunities and empowerment to women by giving them trainings, resources and opportunities to grow as as leaders within their communities."

The goal of the empowerment programs is simple. "At Sughar Women Program we aim to create a society where women are not killed for honor, but are honored and given equal status." Offerings include a program to help women mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change as well as a one to help them buy land and learn how to generate income from that land. The most popular program is 6 months long and trains women on basic education, life skills, traditional embroidery and enterprise development.

Recent initiatives include creating a hub that houses the 6 month training program with other local non-profits, a fund to raise money to help the programs continue AND a fashion line called Nomads which sells the clothing that the women make. Your purchases will directly support the Sughar Empowerment Society which, to date, has worked with over 900 women!

Want to learn more? You can listen to Khalida Broni's recent 14 minute TED Talk, like Sughar's Facebook page for photos and updates and follow them on Twitter @SugharWomen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Bay Area Wilderness Training

Happy Feel Good Friday! We spent last week in Marin learning about kids in the performing arts and we're going to keep it in the Bay Area this week by going to Oakland and learning about kids in nature.

Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) provides teachers and group leaders with wilderness training and access to a gear library with the goal of getting young people out into California's wilderness areas.

The mission of BAWT, as stated on their website is "to create opportunities for youth from the San Francisco Bay Area to experience wilderness first hand. To achieve our mission, we train teachers and youth workers, provide outdoor gear loans, give financial support and foster community collaboration."

Their main course is the Wilderness Leadership Training, a five day backpacking course in which you learn all the skills you need to lead youth on a multi-day backpacking adventure. You learn these skills by backpacking in Sierra Nevada mountains and role playing with your fellow educators. There are also one day courses in subjects like water safety, map and compass reading, and games.

Once you've completed a training, you have access to the gear libraries where you and your students can rent all the equipment you need for an overnight trip (backpacks, tents, cooking supplies, shoes, etc.) for FREE! There are also opportunities for grants and scholarships to help with the cost of a trip.

The idea is that there shouldn't be any limitations on you, as an educator, bringing your students into a natural environment where they'll be able to learn things other than what can be covered in an indoor classroom.

If you want more information about BAWT you can read this article from Bay Nature or watch a 7 minute video and hear from kids who've gone on the trips. As always, like their Facebook page to stay in the loop. Who else is ready to make a plan and get outside!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Performing Stars

Today we're going to celebrate Feel Good Friday with a song and dance while we learn more about Performing Stars!

As summarized on their website, "Performing Stars of Marin is a non-profit organization founded in 1990. We provide access to professional training in the performing, visual and literary arts, as well as social skills and various enrichment opportunities to youth who are underserved due to economic, cultural or social barriers."

Programs for children include ballet, zydeco music and theater classes, among others. Not only do the children learn the artistic skills, they "build pride, character, discipline and self-esteem." As a person who has been involved in the performing arts since I was little, I agree with the mission statement: "Our programs help youth develop good work habits and positive social skills, enhance academic performance and professional readiness, improv critical thinking and communication skills, and gain the confidence they need to overcome the limitations imposed by poverty."

You can watch this CBS report on local musician Narada Michael Walden, who recently won a Jefferson Award for his support of Performing Stars, and see some of the kids singing. You can also see young zydeco musicians in action in this short video. (How do I get one of those musical metal vests?)

Performing Stars will celebrate 25 years of service in Marin with a tribute to Motown fundraiser on September 26th! If you're unable to attend, you can send a donation at a time that is convenient for you and your wallet.

As always, be sure to like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @PerformingStars to keep up with the latest classes and performances. Maybe that's how I'll find out how to get one of those musical metal vests. Seriously, they look so fun!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Nowzad Dogs

You may be reading today's Feel Good Friday subject and thinking, say what now? Zad?

If you've never heard of Nowzad dogs you're not alone. Nowzad is not a breed of dog, Now Zad is a war-torn town in Afghanistan where soldiers from around the world are stationed to keep the peace. So what's with the dogs? In 2006, Royal Marine Sergeant, 'Pen' Farthing was befriended by a stray dog and he realized that it wasn't only the people of Afghanistan who could use some stability. He also saw how the animals provided the soldiers much needed comfort and company. In 2007 he founded Nowzad Dogs.

Their mission, as stated on the website, is "To relieve the suffering of animals in Afghanistan; including companion animals, working equines, stray and abandoned dogs and cats and all other animals in need of care and attention, and to provide and maintain rescue, rehabilitation and education facilities for the care and treatment of such animals with no voice but ours."

Nowzad runs the first and only stray dog shelter in Afghanistan. Just outside of Kabul it houses 100 dogs and 30 cats (separately, of course). The animals are fed, exercised and cared for by vets. The goals are to return the animals to their homes in Afghanistan, or fly them to the home country of the soldiers who adopted them.

Soldiers patrolling in Afghanistan often come upon stray dogs and cats who they adopt and bond with during their tour of duty. Nowzad raises funds to reunite these dogs with their soldiers, sending them to the soldiers' home countries. To date they've reunited over 700 companion animals to their soldiers!

Finally, Nowzad operates a clinic (funded solely by donations) that cares for the animals and spays and neuters them to try and curb the population of strays and stop the spread of rabies. The clinic is staffed by four Afghan nationals, including Afghanistan's first two female veterinarians. You go girls!

You can meet some of the soldiers and their dogs by watching this short CNN Heroes Video. As always, you can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @Nowzad for all the latest and greatest news. That and pictures of dogs and cats. Feel Good Friday!