Friday, October 28, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Janwaar Castle

This week, I turned to one of my sources for Feel Good Friday stories, Karma Tube, and I'm very glad I did. It led me to today's organization, Janwaar Castle.

Located near New Delhi, India, Janwaar Castle is a community organization founded in 2016 by Ulrike Reinhard with one purpose, "to uplift the lives of the villagers in Janwaar, especially those of the Janwaar children." The main activity used to bring the children together? Skateboarding!

In this 7:30 min video, the Barefoot Skateboarders of India, you'll see how skateboarding together brakes down barriers between children, empowers girls to interact with the boys, and increases all of the children's participation in school due to the rule, no government school = no skateboarding.

Next month (Nov. 12 - 14) Janwaar Castle will be hosting a skateboard challenge that will bring together girls and boys ages 6 - 16 from all across India to compete and to celebrate skateboarding. There will also be trips to the jungle and education about nature and village life.

While the skatepark is the main focus, the people of Janwaar Castle are also fundraising to build an infrastructure to support access to clean water year round. Another project is the Rural Changemakers campaign, the first step of which is "a compilation of photographs of children from Janwaar, talking about the goals they have in life, their passions and their hopes." You can see those photos here.

The goal is for children to be empowered to move forward with their own learning. That's embodied by the principles of the organization, some of which include: resilience over strength, practice over theory and we over me.

If you like what you see you can help Janwaar Castle by making a donation. You can also keep current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Janwaar_Castle. Now take off your shoes, get on your skateboard and go make some friends!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Teaching Tolerance

Today's Feel Good Friday organization is Teaching Tolerance. Why? Because right about now the world (and yes, I mostly mean you, United States) could use a lesson in tolerance.

Teaching Tolerance (TT) was founded in Montgomery, Alabama by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. As explained on their website, the organization is "dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experience for our nation's children." Their philosophy is to view tolerance "as a way of thinking and feeling - but most importantly, of acting - that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them. Yes! More of this please.

TT carries out their mission by providing FREE educational materials to teachers and other school practitioners in the U.S. and Canada. Resources include a quarterly magazine (the fall edition is focused on the 2016 election) and film kits that include Oscar-winning documentaries.

The publications, classroom resources and professional development aides available can be targeted to specific grades and they cover the following topics: ability, appearance, family, gender expression, immigration, media literacy, race and ethnicity, religion, school climate, sexual orientation, the civil rights movement, gender equity, rights, wealth and poverty. Whew!

For the last 14 years, there has also been a campaign called Mix It Up at Lunch Day, which encourages students to move outside of their comfort zones and connect with someone new (and different from them) over lunch. It happens annually on the last Tuesday in October and the benefits are explained in this short video.

You can learn more about Teaching Tolerance by reading this informational brochure or the current magazine issue, access free resources on their website and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Tolerance_org.

Now let's all get out there and practice some tolerance!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Pandas International

It's Friday and it may be hard to feel good with all the election news bringing you down but fear not. Today, for a complete change of pace, Feel Good Friday celebrates Pandas International!

Pandas International is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by Suzanne Braden and Diane Rees after they learned about the plight of the Giant Panda on a trip to the Wolong Panda Center in China. According to the World Wildlife Fund, "despite their exalted status and relative lack of natural predators, pandas are still at risk. Severe threats from humans have left just over 1,800 pandas in the wild."

The mission of Pandas International is "to ensure the
preservation and propagation of the endangered Giant Panda." They do this by providing "public awareness and education, support for research, habitat preservation and enhancement, and assistance to Giant Panda Centers."

You can watch an adorable (how can it not be?) 1:47 minute video here to see lots of pandas and learn about the work Pandas International is doing. They partner with Giant Panda breeding centers and reserves in China to provide medical equipment and supplies. Programs they support include captive breeding, reintroduction, environmental enrichment and bamboo reforestation - because 99% of a pandas diet is bamboo! Details of the programs and annual reports can be found here.

If you'd like to support the work Panda International and the reserves in China you have a lot of options! You can adopt a panda, though at a cost of $10,000, you may prefer to sponsor a year of worming medication ($25) or year of bamboo ($300). You can also host a panda party to raise funds, volunteer in China, buy panda schwag, or show your support on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @PandasInt.

And because we all need to keep our spirits up through November 8th, I offer you a parting gift: live panda cam!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Feel Good Friday - League of Women Voters

It may be hard to believe but this Feel Good Friday we're going to talk about something both election-related and positive: the League of Women Voters.

As explained on their website, "The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy."

The League was founded in 1920 by Carrie Champan Catt, six months before the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified. You can take a deeper dive into their history and click this link to see photos through the decades.

The mission of the League is "making democracy work". One of the ways they do that is through protecting voters. This includes ensuring compliance with laws like the Voting Rights act, as well as modernizing voting systems and expanding both early voting and online voter registration.

Speaking of which, "The League is one of the nation's largest and most longstanding community based voter registration groups." Once they've got you registered, they can get you educated. The website will populate with detailed information for your area once you input your address.

You can also use this directory find a local league to get information on issues affecting your city and state. For example the League of Women Voters San Francisco hosts candidate forums as well as publishes both an Easy Voter Guide for the California statewide initiatives and a pro/con guide for San Francisco measures. I'm very happy to have found these resources!

Finally, the League directs additional efforts into reforming money in politics, defending the environment, advocating gun safety and more. You can get the complete breakdown of their work here.

The most current information can be found on their blog or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @LWV and @VOTE411 for election info.

While I certainly have an opinion of who you should vote for on November 8th, what will give me the biggest Feel Good Friday feeling is knowing that people are engaged and participating so please, get out there and vote!