Friday, May 27, 2016

Feel Good Friday - SOS Children's Villages Kyrgyzstan

As many of you know, beginning June 4th I'll be spending two weeks in Kyrgyzstan on a volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity building houses with the people of Barskoon. Habitat is just one of many organizations working in the country. On this Feel Good Friday, we're going to feature another - SOS Children's Villages.

Their mission statement from the website is, "we build families for children in need and we help them shape their own futures." Further reading explains the organization's history. "The first SOS Children's Village was founded by Hermann Gmeiner in 1949 at Imst, in Austria. Hermann Gmeiner devoted his life to supporting children in need..." Initially focused on children who were abandoned during WWII, there are now more than 2,100 programs in 133 countries.

Villages operate under the family approach pioneered by SOS. Each village is made up of several homes which are run by a child-care professional, who lives in the house and acts as a mother to these children. The children in the house are raised as brothers and sisters and natural brothers and sisters are always kept together in the same home. The people living in the village support each other and create a community together.

There are two villages in Krygyzstan. The one in the capital of Bishkek was created in 1999 and 142 children live in 14 family houses. There are a variety of personal development programs for the kids, as well as an SOS football (as in soccer) team. The other village is in Cholpon-ata. It began in 2002 with only 14 children and now houses 114. Activities and programs for kids in this village include optional English classes. You can read detailed stories about the kids and the house moms on the website.

There are many ways you can support the work of this organization. You can also like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @Kyrgyzstan_SOS, though if you don't read Russian, all of your good feelings will have to come from looking at the pictures.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Feel Good Friday - UniversalGiving

I'm spending all my free time preparing for my upcoming volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity, a group I've been involved with for the last 18 years. I want to help you find your Habitat and that's why today's Feel Good Friday organization is UniversalGiving.

I learned about UniversalGiving through their founder, Pamela Hawley, a fellow improviser, who created the organization in 2002. In their own words, "UniversalGiving is an award-winning website that helps people give and volunteer with top-performing projects all over the world." The best part about this is these projects are reviewed for their finances, management team, acheivements and many other categories AND "100% of each donation goes directly to the cause"!

It may sound impossible but it's true. UniversalGiving helps for profit companies scale their corporate social responsibility programs and fees for those services cover operations costs. That means any money you donate really does go directly to the organization you choose. This supports the vision to "Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life."

So how do you make this a part of your everyday life? Visit the website and see the current opportunities! You can give a gift, such as books to support children's literacy, fund a project, like earthquake relief in Nepal, or volunteer! Anyone else want to go to Thailand to help elephants?

To keep current with organizations vetted by UniversalGiving and new volunteer opportunities that arise, you can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @UnviersalGiving. As for me I'm off to find my convertible pants!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Junior State of America

With the current U.S. presidential election season being so crazy interesting, how in the world do we convince young people to get involved in politics? Feel Good Friday knows how... the Junior State of America!

What is JSA all about? As stated on their website, "the mission of the Junior State of America and the Junior Statesmen Foundation (JSA) is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society."

They do that with civics education and leadership programs for high school students. What began in 1934 at the Montezuma Mountain School for Boys in the Santa Cruz Mountains, has become a national organization with chapters all across the country and 500,000 alumni!

During the school year, students organize all aspects of this school-sponsored extracurricular club. That includes planning and executing political-awareness events, conventions and conferences at the local, state and national levels.

When the school year ends, there are a variety of pre-college summer programs for high school students. Activities include student debates, excursions to historic places, and presentations from influential leaders. You can read this breakdown of programs to see the costs and the offerings. For those of you with high school students (or who are high school students) in the Bay Area, there are classes at Stanford!

I feel good knowing there are young people who are interested in developing their leadership skills and making a difference in their communities. If you want to feel good about this on days of the week other than Friday, like the JSA Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @jsajuniorstate #bethepeople.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Feel Good Friday - SF SPCA

I've been watching a friend's kitten all week and we haven't talked animals here in awhile so, today's Feel Good Friday is all about the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals!

The SF SPCA was founded in 1868 and, as I learned on the website, it is "the fourth oldest humane society in the U.S. and the founders of the No-Kill movement." Their mission is "to save and protect animals, provide care and treatment, advocate on their behalf and enhance the human-animal bond."

Services they provide include what you might expect such as adoptions (over 4,000 cats and dogs each year) and veterinary care (over 9,000 spay/neuter surgeries - free for pit bulls and feral cats). They also include dog training classes, online behavioral resources for dogs and cats, and youth programs like animal summer camps and volunteering opportunities.

The SF SPCA's focus on overpopulation, barriers to veterinary care and behavioral issues are part of the Vision 2020 a "plan to end animal abandonment in San Francisco by 2020". You can learn more by watching the four-minute video Vision 2020. If you'd like to see something a little less serious (and yet serious about feral cats), check out this spoof, Catlandia, which stars my friend Rebecca!

Support the work of the SF SPCA by trapping feral cats, volunteering or donating some money. If you want to stay in the loop, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @sfspca. Now I'm off to search the online resources to find out how you get a cat to stop climbing up your leg like a monkey in a tree.