Friday, September 30, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Action for Happiness

Today's Feel Good Friday is a win-win. Not only do you get to feel good about the work Action for Happiness is doing, you can easily get involved and improve your own happiness!

Action for Happiness was founded in Britain in 2011 by Lord Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon, specialists in economics, education, politics and social innovation. Why? Because they want to use the ability to measure happiness "to increase well-being in our personal lives, homes, schools, workplaces and communities."

As explained on their website, this organization is "a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. We want to see a fundamentally different way of life - where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others."

The three fundamental values of the group are:
1. We can each affect our happiness and the happiness of those around us.
2. We need to prioritize the things that cause happiness (positive relationships, good mental health).
3. Helping others is essential for a happier society.

If it sounds a little too woo woo for you, fear not. Their approach draws on the latest scientific research, which you can learn more about in the recommended reading list or by checking out the section titled "answers to sceptics." (I know, skeptics but come on they're English).

There is a 9:07 minute introductory video about the organization you can watch to hear from Director Mark Williamson. You can also download a guidebook that list the 10 keys for happiness. If you like what you see, you can explore the ideas such as helping others, living mindfully and learning resilience by checking out the online resources. For each key you'll find facts, articles for further reading and actions you can take immediately.

If you want to join the movement, you'll be asked to make a simple pledge: "I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me." I think that's a pretty good policy whether you make it official or not.

In addition to all the resources on the Action for Happiness website, you can also stay informed by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @actionhappiness.

Finally, congratulations to those of you who made it to the end of this post. One of the 10 keys to happiness is to keep learning new things, which you just did. Well done!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Feel Good Friday - SCORE

Ever dream of running your own business and being your own boss? Today's Feel Good Friday organization, SCORE, can help you make it happen!

In their own words, "SCORE, America's premier source of free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs and small businesses, is a nonprofit resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). We have over 300 SCORE offices across the country offering free business mentoring and low- or no-cost workshops."

SCORE volunteers, now numbering over 13,000, have been mentoring small business owners, and aspiring small business owners since 1964! Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, there are chapters across the United States, including many in the Bay Area.

People who access the services of SCORE do so throughout the lifecycle of owning a small business. In 2014, 33% were considering starting a business, 30% were in the process of starting a business, and 37% were already in business and looking to take it to the next level.

There is a wealth of information on the SCORE website including the benefits of receiving mentoring, a series of training courses and workshops you can take, and reasons to put your own expertise to use and become a volunteer mentor.

If you're looking for some inspiration, you can read a variety of SCORE success stories here and even sort them by business stage and industry. As always, to stay in the loop with the national organization, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @SCOREMentors.

SCORE has the goal of helping 1 million clients by 2020. Perhaps one of them will be you!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Touch*A*Life

We spent last Feel Good Friday in San Francisco, California. So, in an effort to provide variety, today we go to Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Touch*A*Life is, as stated on their website, "an international humanitarian organization that embodies the principle of loving kindness to serve the world's poor and displaced." The organization was started in 2004 by Mavis Ching after being inspired by a man in Indonesia who had been feeding the poor for over 30 years. You can read more about her and TAL's beginnings here.

While Touch*A*Life keeps some basic medical supplies on hand to distribute and connects people with other aid organizations, the main program of TAL is their Free Meal Program. From the first batch of 52 egg sandwiches, they now serve almost 6000 vegetarian meals a month to people living in and around Siem Reap. The program is "driven by the belief that people in need deserve, and would welcome, a helping hand that also lifts their spirit."

In this 3:24 minute video, Mavis explains the origins of TAL and you can see many of the children and volunteers involved with the program. If you are planning a trip to Cambodia, you too can be a volunteer! If Angkor Wat is not in your future, you can support the children of the area with a donation.

There are lots of photos posted on the website and you'll find the most current ones by liking the Touch*A*Life Facebook page.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Feel Good Friday - San Francisco Symphony

I had a feel good Thursday at the San Francisco Symphony last night and that got me wondering if there were any programs that would make them a good subject for Feel Good Friday. The answer? Yes!

The San Francisco Symphony has been a part of city life since their first concerts in 1911 and they've been a part of San Francisco classrooms since 1988.

As explained on their website, the Adventures in Music (AIM) program "includes in-school presentations by music ensembles, specially designed classroom curriculum, classroom materials and a visit to Davies Symphony Hall for a private concert by the San Francisco Symphony." There are two programs targeted to students in different grades and together they reach every student in grades 1-5 in the SF Unified School District. That's more than 25,000 children in 95 schools! You can watch a 2:20 min video of the program, and see adorable kids playing triangles, here.

In addition, students from kindergarten to grade 9 can attend special concerts which help introduce them to musical concepts and ideas. Materials are sent to the classroom ahead of the concert and teachers can also request a visit by an education docent to help prepare the students. Students from grades 9-12 are invited to attend open rehearsals of the symphony and teachers can find many helpful resources at this link.

For kids who want to continue to learn more about music there is a separate website, SFS Kids, where you can read about and try to play a variety of instruments, conduct an orchestra of animals and compose your own music!

If you want more SF Symphony in your life, you can buy tickets to a performance, watch their extensive collection of videos and stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SFSymphony.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Feel Good Friday - La Tortuga Feliz

Today Feel Good Friday is going to Costa Rica for a little Sentries Bien Viernes!

La Tortuga Feliz (the happy turtle) is a volunteer-run organization in Costa Rica focused on turtle conservation. Poaching, fishing nets and pollution have taken their toll on the turtle population and La Tortuga Feliz (LTF) has been working to reverse that decline since 2006.

Volunteers work with people in the local community to patrol the beaches looking for eggs before the poachers find them. As explained in more detail on their website, "These local inhabitants guard/patrol the beach (Caribbean coast of Costa Rica) together with volunteers, collect the turtle eggs and bring these eggs to a hatchery which is manned by volunteers on a 24 hours basis. Volunteers also participate in the care for and study of recuperating adult turtles in the turtle reduce and rehabilitation centre."

This turtle conservation work provides income for the locals, which the people at LTF hope will take away the necessity for locals to poach the turtles and their eggs. Many of the people working for LTF are former poachers who are happy to earn money saving, rather than killing the turtles.

Volunteers pay $35/day for room and board, which seems like a pretty sweet deal. While you're spending time learning about, and saving turtles, you can also take Spanish lessons and bond with volunteers from around the world! Not convinced yet? Check out the videos on their home page and view their photo gallery, which both give you a great idea of the work being done.

If you can't book your plane tickets to Costa Rica just yet, you can follow the work of La Tortuga Feliz by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @latortugafeliz1.