Friday, October 30, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Humanitas (Nursing Home/Dorm)

For most of us living in Western countries, gone are the days of multiple generations living in the same house, but that doesn't make a very compelling Feel Good Friday story. Here's what does... a nursing home in the Netherlands that gives college students free rooms in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month!

I learned about Humanitas by reading this Daily Good article. The arrangement was inspired by the  combination of a student housing shortage and a decision to stop funding continuing care for citizens over 80 not in dire need. The result was less older people being able to afford nursing homes and rooms going vacant - enter the students.

Always on the lookout to save money, these students are able to live in the nursing home rent free by interacting with their neighbors. Some of their volunteer hours are spent teaching the elderly residents how to email, Skype and use social media. Not only does this keep the residents engaged by learning new skills, but they also gain the tools needed to communicate with their families. The model has gained in popularity and now there are two additional nursing home/dorm combos in the Netherlands, one in Lyon, France and one in Cleveland, Ohio!

If the program continues to be successful, I hope the students will help the residents set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. For now if you want to follow what they're doing, your best bet is a plane ticket. :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Feel Good Friday #150 - The Salvation Army

You guys... this is my 150th Feel Good Friday post! To celebrate I looked for an organization that's been around 150 years and found The Salvation Army.

Odds are you're familiar with the red kettles you see outside grocery stores during the holidays and you may have even gone to the Salvation Army to donate, or buy, a couch, an outfit or some household goods. Yes, but what were they doing 150 years ago?

It started with William Booth preaching to poor congregations in 1865 London. According to the history section of the website "Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity" and soon began preaching to others. It wasn't until 1878 that Booth renamed his "Hallelujah Army" the "Salvation Army".

Their religious beginnings can still be seen in their mission statement today, which "is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination" but their work isn't focused on religion. As their tag line says it's focused on "Doing the Most Good".

Again from their website, "Each year, thanks to generous donations, The Salvation Army serves nearly 30 million Americans - or one person every second - from a variety of backgrounds. People who come to us for assistance will be served according to their need and our capacity to help - regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation."

Their services include those you might expect: hunger relief, housing and homeless services, adult rehab and assistance for the elderly, veterans and youth. They also provide prison ministries, missing persons services, emergency disaster relief and work to combat human trafficking! Money you drop in the red kettles goes to support all of these programs as well providing "Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for families in need, including families of prisoners." You can get details on any of these programs here.

There are tons of inspiring videos you can watch on The Salvation Army YouTube channel. Then, if you want to support this organization that's been going strong for 150 years, you can donate your money, items or time.

As always you can stay in the social media loop (certainly not an option in 1865) by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS. 150 years, 150 posts... thanks for celebrating this Feel Good Friday with me and The Salvation Army!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Feel Good Friday - EveryoneOn

I'm writing today's Feel Good Friday post from Oregon, which I can do thanks to the Internet. That did, however, get me thinking that not everyone in the US has easy access. In fact, 1 in 5 American households do not have home Internet. There's a group that's working to change these statistics for the better, EveryoneOn.

As they explain on their website, "EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy training accessible to all unconnected Americans. We aim to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans - regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level."

That's important because low income and minority communities are least likely to have access to the Internet. High cost, lack of digital literacy and not recognizing the relevance of being connected are the main culprits. Those of us with Internet access know it's not all cat videos on YouTube, it's also a way to find a job, stay connected with your friends and family and access basic information on an infinite number of topics. Yes, including cat videos.

EveryoneOn relies on philanthropic support and Internet providers who offer $10/month plans to qualifying families. They also provide low-cost, refurbished computers and tablets and links to computer training around the US that you can discover by typing in your zip code on the home page.

Since you're reading this, I know you've got an Internet connection which you can use to read some EveryoneOn success stories. After being inspired, you can stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Everyone_On.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

In the almost 3 years I've been writing these Feel Good Friday posts, there have been a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the most recent at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. So today we're going to focus on an organization with the goal of "cutting gun deaths in half by 2025", Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

You may remember Jim Brady, Assistant to the President. He was shot and paralyzed during an assassination attempt on Ronald Regan in 1981. It wasn't until 1993, the Brady Bill, which required a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases, was signed into law by President Clinton.

Today the Brady Campaign is "the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence." Their mission, as stated on the website, "is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries." You can go there to read shocking statistics on gun violence.A few highlights are below:

Every day, 89 people die from gun violence: 

      • 31 are murdered
      • 55 kill themselves
      • 2 are killed unintentionally
      • 1 is killed by police intervention
      • 1 intent unknown.
Every day, an additional 208 people are shot and survive.

In order to reduce these numbers, the Brady Campaign focuses on policy and legal changes, as well as a public awareness campaign. They ensure that all of their programs and efforts have an opportunity for impact, that no one else is doing similar work and that the actions fit into their core values. You can read their full list of solutions here or watch a 16 minute video Pathology of Gun Violence, which explains their strategy in great detail.
Support the work of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence by visiting their take action page, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Bradybuzz. Enough is enough.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Girls on the Run

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization, Girls on the Run from my friend Una, who is a volunteer coach at her local council.

What I love about Girls on the Run is the mission posted on their website, "We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running." The program began in Charlotte, NC in 1996 with a group of 13 girls and grew into the non-profit organization Girls on the Run International (GOTRI) in 2000.

Now GOTRI serves "over 168,000 girls in 225+ cities across North America each year". So what exactly do the 120,000 volunteer coaches do? They facilitate the curriculum with groups of 8-15 girls.  The programs last between 10 and 12 weeks and are designed for girls in different age groups. All of the programs end with a Girls on the Run 5k event.

The after school program for 3rd - 5th graders focuses on "helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what's important to them. Then we look at the importance of team work and healthy relationships. And, finally, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world." Physical activity is woven into all the lessons to help build healthy habits.

Girls from 6th - 8th grade can choose from the Heart and Sole program, which is similar to what's offered to their younger counterparts and also includes help with other issues such as boundary setting and decision making. Girls in this age range can also participate in the Girls on Track program, which includes discussions and guidance around more mature topics such as "eating disorders, internet safety, relationships, cyber-bullying and tobacco and alcohol use."

All of these programs are designed to support the vision of Girls on the Run, "... a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams."

If you want to support this vision, you can! Volunteer as a coach or running buddy or donate some money. As always you can provide your support through social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GOTRI. You go, Girls on the Run!