Friday, July 29, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Year Up

Today's Feel Good Friday is all about an organization called Year Up. Why? Because on Monday, an intern from Year Up will be coming to work in my office!

Year Up, was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2000. It's an organization whose slogan is "closing the opportunity divide". And just what is that divide? As explained on the front page of their website, "6 million young adults are disconnected from stable career pathways" and "12 million jobs requiring post-secondary education will go unfilled in the next decade."

"Year Up's mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education." In a single year.

They do this through a mix of training. Six months of technical and professional skills training taught in the classroom followed by a six month internship with one of Year Up's corporate partners. Throughout the program, students earn college credit, receive a weekly stipend and get the support of staff advisors, professional mentors and a dedicated social services staff. You can learn more by watching this video.

Results are dramatic. Of the 14,000 young adults who have been through the program since it's inception, "85% of graduates are employed or enrolled in postsecondary education within four months of completing the program" and "over 90% of corporate partners would recommend the Year Up program to a friend or colleague."

There are locations throughout the US, including Year Up Bay Area, and many ways for you to get involved. Share this information with a student you know, become a mentor, or make a donation.

I'm looking forward to meeting our Year Up intern on Monday and to staying in the loop with the program by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @YearUp and @YearUpBayArea.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Raphael House

Have you ever wondered how I keep coming up with Feel Good Friday organizations every week? Well, sometimes I talk about places where people I know work or volunteer, sometimes I try to be topical and other times I see an ad on the side of a MUNI bus. Well played, Raphael House, well played.

Located in San Francisco, CA, the motto of Raphael House is "Inspiring Families. Illuminating hope." Their mission is "to help at-risk families achieve stable housing and financial independence while strengthening family bonds and personal dignity."

The history section of their website explains that Raphael House began in 1971 as "an emergency shelter for single mothers and their children" and, after relocating to bigger space in 1997 they became "the first homeless shelter for families in Northern California."

They offer a variety of programs in the community. The residential shelter program provides not only a family-centered shelter, but also case management, job placement services, mental-health counseling and educational workshops. Up to 60 families per year participate and 85% of those find stable housing. Support for these families continues through the bridge program, which serves over 300 families per year. Children staying at Raphael House can participate in an interactive children's' program and an academic enrichment program which includes tutoring, mentoring and scholarships for extracurricular pursuits. 

To increase the good feelings on a Friday that could really use it (ooh, vague yet topical), check out the success stories and news pages. From two college-bound teens who participated in the academic enrichment program to two girls who sold lemonade for $0.50/cup and donated their $40 in profits to Raphael House there are plenty of stories to make you feel good.

So now that you love Raphael House, how do you support them? They have both short and long term volunteer opportunities for those of you living in the Bay Area. You can also make a donation no matter where you live. 

As always, be sure to stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RaphaelHouseSF. I've done both of those things and am now going to the store. I've got a sudden craving for lemonade.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Girl Up

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday group because of the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls and NPR you guys. Stop laughing. Focus on NPR.

The story I heard was about how the UN created a new video version of the Spice Girls' song Wannabe as a call to action for the Global Goals campaign promoting the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. You can read the article, see the video and learn all about that initiative here.

What I got out of that story, in addition to an ear worm, was an introduction to Girl Up. As they explain on their website, "We're the leading global community of passionate advocates changing policies and raising funds to support United Nations programs that help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl."

Why girls? A quick look at the website should convince you. 75% of HIV infected youth between the ages of 15-24 are girls and complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second most common cause of death for girls 15-19. With some help, girls can make big changes. "Every year of schooling increases a girls future earnings 10-20%."

Just this week the 2016 Girl Up Leadership Summit took place in Washington DC, bringing together 300 girl advocates from around the world to "participate in leadership training, learn from influential speakers, engage in skills-based workshops, and lead an official lobby day on Capitol Hill."

What's the impact of all this girl power, you ask? In the 5 years since Girl Up's creation, they've raised $5,600,000 "for programs working to improve the lives of adolescent girls." Current countries Girl Up focuses on are Guatemala, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, India and Uganda.

Specific programs vary from basic education and health service training in Malawi to increasing the legal age of marriage to 18 in Guatemala. You can read about these and other initiatives here or watch a 2 minute video celebrating 5 years of impact.

Now that you're all fired up and inspired, you can support the work of Girl Up by becoming an advocate, making a donation or spreading the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GirlUp. Sisterhood IS powerful!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Free Rice

It's Feel Good Friday and you want to relax by playing a game on your phone. I get it. Today, instead of crushing candy, connecting dots or killing zombies with bok choy, may I suggest Free Rice?

Free Rice is an online trivia game with a twist. As they explain, "For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger." Their goals are to "provide education to everyone for free" and to "help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free."

Topics include humanities, math, language learning, sciences, English, chemistry, geography and SAT prep. The categories can be challenging if you pick the right one and, thanks to the sponsors who advertise on the site, every correct answer translates to a donation of 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme (WFP)! Want to learn more about the WFP so you can feel good about wasting time playing games? Of course you do.

"The United Nations World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency on the front lines against hunger." (You can tell it's an international organization because the of the extra "me" in program.) As stated on their website, "The World Food Programme's mission is to save lives and livelihoods, and to improve the nutrition, food security and self-reliance of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people."

Their work involves responding to emergencies, preventing hunger by distributing school meals and meals to people living with HIV and AIDS as well as promoting women's empowerment "as a key to improving food security for all." They work all around the world and in 2015, 76.7 million people in 81 countries were assisted directly by WFP. Of all these people, 82% were women and children.

You can read more info from their year in review here or browse their collection of stories. They really are living up to their motto of "fighting hunger worldwide".

To support the work of WFP, you can make a direct donation then stay in the loop by liking both the Free Rice Facebook page and the World Food Programme Facebook page. In addition, you can also follow both groups on Twitter @Freerice and @WFP respectively.

While I encourage you to do all of the above, I admit that the most fun way to fight hunger around the world is by going to Free Rice and answering trivia questions. You'll be surprised just how quickly you can put together a bowl of rice. Now get out there and rice up!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Sea Shepherd

What does today's Feel Good Friday organization have to do with the Fourth of July? Absolutely nothing. Let's move on.

You may know of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) from Whale Wars on Animal Planet, however, I just learned about them from a friend.

As stated on their website SSCS is "an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species."

Established by Paul Watson in 1977, "Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas." They have a variety of campaigns focused on whales, turtles, sharks, seals, sea lions, dolphins, reefs and bluefin tuna. Current efforts include Operation Jairo II, protecting sea turtles in the US, Costa Rica and Honduras and Operation Milagro II, a campaign to defend the endangered Vaquita Porpoise in the Sea of Cortez. Details and videos can be found on their campaigns page.

You can support the work of Sea Shepherd by making a donation to a specific campaign or the organization as a whole. If you're good on the water you can crew at sea on one of their campaigns or if you're prone to get queasy you can volunteer onshore with a chapter near you.

Other ways to get involved are to like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @SeaShepherdSSC and buy clothing and other items with their bad ass Jolly Roger logo! That's my kind of direct action.