Friday, May 29, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Stitches of Hope

It's Feel Good Friday and once again I've spent my Thursday evening in search of a story that will put a smile on your face. What inspires me is how many of the organizations I find began with the good intentions of one person. Today is no exception.

Stitches of Hope is a group founded by Kay Eva with the simple goal of "Bringing hope to Cambodia".

In 2004, Kay traveled from her native Australia to Cambodia on an awareness trip. During that time, she met parents who sold their baby for $20 to buy food to feed the rest of their family. Deeply affected by this story she wanted to do something to support the community but was unsure of what she had to offer. After discussing it with a friend, she returned to teach underprivileged women and young girls how to sew so they would be able to earn an income. As stated on the website, "Since Kay's first trip to Cambodia, she has returned more than 20 times, working tirelessly to help Cambodian mums and dads, boys and girls to gain a better way of life."

A lot has happened in those 20 visits and Stitches of Hope has expanded well beyond the original sewing center. The program now includes housing and education for children, monthly food packs for the elderly, an agricultural project that supports HIV widows and funding for the medical treatment of cancer patients!

You can learn more about Kay and Stitches of Hope by reading this article on the Daily Good website and find details about the various programs offered at this link.

Program fundraising events take place in Australia. If that's where you live, you should go! If not, consider making a contribution or liking their Facebook page to support the people of Cambodia.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Rainbow Reading Gardens

If you've been following Feel Good Friday, you know I love stories about literacy, libraries and the like (alliteration too). Today, we're going to visit a group that has established 29 children's libraries across 14 islands in Eastern Indonesia - Rainbow Reading Gardens! Or Taman Bacaan Pelangi, for those of you who speak Indonesian.

It started in November, 2009 when founder Nila Tanzil brought 200 books to a small village called Roe. As explained on the website, "Our goal is simple: more books and more libraries means kids in remote areas in Indonesia are given access to books and stories that will open a whole new world of opportunity." The original library in Roe now has over 3,000 books!

These are not the libraries I grew up with in the United States. Many times, these libraries are located in people's homes. You can watch a very short video of a fisherman named Pak Baco, who agreed to host a library in his house in hopes that the kids in his village, including his own, will expand their horizons and even go on to get a university education.

These hopes are shared by the people working for the organization. "At Taman Baccan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), we encourage children to dream big. And books will inspire, broaden their horizon and motivate them to reach their dream." In the last five years, over 6,000 children in Eastern Indonesia have had access to the books in the libraries.

If your summer travels take you to Indonesia, you can volunteer at a library and meet some of the children in person. If you'll stay closer to home this summer, you can always donate some cash, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @pelangibook. If you don't do it for me, do it for LeVar Burton.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Confections with Convictions

Chocolate is something that makes me, and I suspect a lot of you, feel good any day of the week. But this is Feel Good Friday so we can't just talk about chocolate, we're going to talk about chocolate with a purpose!

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor's People Making a Difference series profiled Dale Anderson and his chocolate shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Confections with Convictions. (You can read the full article here.)

Dale is a counselor who works with juveniles involved in the court system, a licensed builder, and now, after years of training, a chocolatier. What makes his chocolate shop so special is that he hires young people whose felony convictions make it difficult for them to find employment.

He wanted to find a way to help the youth he was counseling become productive members of society. The idea of the chocolate shop was inspired by the play on words in the name, Confections with Convictions. Not only would he employ young people with convictions, the shop operate with the following convictions (taken from the website):

  • Making wholesome, delicious, high quality confections;
  • Utilizing organically grown, Fair Trade, & locally sourced, ingredients whenever possible;
  • Treating our customers, employees, and suppliers in an honest, friendly, and professional manner;
  • Supporting environmental stewardship through our choices of ingredients, processes and packaging;
  • Providing fair compensation for our employees, and for those whose labors provide our ingredients and supplies;
  • Hiring people who have barriers to regular employment; and
  • Working to make our business, community, and world more peaceful, just, joyful, and environmentally sustainable.

Since Confections with Convictions opened in 2010, 12 teens have fulfilled their community service by working at the store and 5 have gone on to other careers.

To learn more you can watch this short video to see Dale and some of his employees, read an article about the shop on the Huffington Post and like their Facebook page to hear the latest news.

Of course, if you're ever in Kalamazoo, stop by the store and pickup some chocolate so that you can feel, smell and taste the goodness!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Bay Area Proud

We've spent the last few weeks out and about in the world so this Feel Good Friday we bring it home to the San Francisco Bay Area!

My goal for Inspiration Safari, and the Feel Good Friday series, is to share stories and videos of people making a positive difference in communities around the world. One NBC station is sharing similar stories with a local focus in a series called "Bay Area Proud".

"Each week NBC Bay Area's Garvin Thomas profiles the people, the groups, and the companies making the Bay Area, and the world, a better place to live. Bay Area Proud stories are success stories; inspiring profiles of those making a positive change in our communities."

Having just highlighted people cleaning up from the earthquake in Nepal last week, this story (and video) of a man who has been cleaning up the streets of Oakland for 36 years caught my eye.  36 years! Watch it here. 

You can learn about other members of our community who will make you proud by searching through the stories at this link: Bay Area Proud You don't need to own a TV to stay inspired by your neighbors! 

To make sure you always know what the latest and greatest story is, like the Facebook page and follow the reporter, Garvin Thomas on Twitter @garvinthomas. I wonder if he'll ever want a co-host...

Friday, May 1, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Women For Human Rights, Single Women Group - Nepal

It's been almost a week since the devastating 7.8 earthquake in Nepal. The death toll has risen to over 5,000 and an estimated 2.8 million Nepalese are displaced from their homes.

It's difficult to find a reason to feel good under these circumstances and yet, there's always hope. Today's Feel Good Friday is focused on Women for Human Rights, Single Women Group. Since last Saturday they have been mobilizing volunteers to distribute food in different areas of Nepal. While there is more need than this group can possible address, they are doing what they can and updating social media with calls to action tagged as #HelpInAnyWayPossible.

And what do they do when they are not providing earthquake relief? Provide support to widows in the country, both young and old. They refer to the widows as "single women" because the term widow has such a negative connotation in Nepal.

According to their website, "Discrimination against women in Nepal is prevalent, due to the structure of the society deeply rooted in Patriarchal thoughts. Women are constantly marginalized and single women (widows) are in a (sic) even worse state. Single woman are considered as symbols of ill-omen and the cause of the death of their husbands." You can hear more about this by watching this 5:49 minute video.

Their mission is a simple one, "To empower women economically, politically, socially and culturally in order to live dignified lives and enjoy the value of human rights."

To accomplish this they divide their areas of focus into five pillars, which you can read about in detail here. Briefly, they are as follows:

  1. Create awareness of victims of cultural torture and provide a scholarship fund and school supplies for children of these single women.
  2. Train women in the development of different kinds of income generating activities, provide micro loans and education on effective ways of saving money.
  3. An advocacy campaign for the human rights of women as well as counseling and skills development to help conflict affected women recover from traumatic experiences and reintegrate back into society.
  4. Improvement of single women groups to articulate demands to improve their situations by securing rights from their local bodies of government.
  5. Building networks at the South Asian regional and global levels to increase awareness of the rights of single women.

Since the creation of WHR in 1994 they've changed laws ranging from increased property rights for single women to being able to get a passport without a male relative's approval. They now have a membership base of over 100,000 women in 73 districts!

To follow their progress on earthquake recovery and their work with single women, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @WHRNepal.