Friday, November 25, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Planned Parenthood

Happy Feel Good Friday! I hope everyone was able to spend some time yesterday connecting with family and friends and finding reasons to be thankful. My list of people, experiences and things to be grateful for is long, and since the presidential election, I've turned my gratitude and Feel Good Friday focus to organizations standing up for people in the United States. Today - Planned Parenthood.

The motto of Planned Parenthood is "Care. No matter what." Their website provides the following summary, "Planned Parenthood is a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide." The organization just turned 100 in October and if you don't have time to read the rest of this post, do yourself a favor and at least spend 1:53 minutes watching their video, #100YearsStrong.

While many people associate Planned Parenthood with abortions, of the 2.5 million women and men that visit Planned Parenthood annually, abortions make up only 3% of services they provide. 80% of clients receive services to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In addition, every year, "Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health care, education, information and outreach to nearly five million women, men and adolescents worldwide."

To learn more about their clients and their work, you can check out Planned Parenthood at a Glance. There are online resources you can access to learn about sexual health, pregnancy, general healthcare, relationships and more, as well as an extensive video library. You can also find a location near you if you need healthcare.

There are a number of ways you can get involved and show your support of Planned Parenthood, including liking their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @PPFA for Health. For those of you who want to take a political stand you can support the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. The front page of their website states, "We reject your hate. We resist your threats. We aren't going anywhere. #WeWontGoBack" @PPAct.

Now, I'm going to close with some news that warms my heart. The NY Daily News reported on Tuesday  that, since the election, Planned Parenthood has received over 200,000 individual donations, 50,000 of which were made in the name of VP Elect, Mike Pence. If you too would like to let him know that you stand with Planned Parenthood against his efforts to defund this organization, here is the donation link and here is his address:

Office of Governor Mike Pence
Room 206
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

Thank you to everyone who reads and supports this blog. May you all have an inspiring and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Feel Good Friday - ACLU

As I mentioned last week, the outcome of the US presidential election is influencing what organizations I write about on Feel Good Friday. There will come a time when I'm back to panda preservation and art programs for kids but not yet. Last week it was the Southern Poverty Law Center and this week it's the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union, more commonly referred to as the ACLU, was created in 1920 in response to the "Palmer Raids". Fearing the Communist Revolution in Russia would spread to the United States, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up so-called radicals and arresting them without warrants. A small group of people banded together to defend them and so the ACLU was born.

Their work is summarized on their website as follows, "For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States". This includes, denouncing the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII when no one else would, fighting off attacks on women's reproductive rights and defending free speech. More details on their cases throughout the years can be found here.

The current focus of the ACLU is challenging Donald Trump, should he attempt to enact any of his campaign promises that violate people's civil liberties. The response from the public has been to donate over 8 million dollars in less than two weeks.

On an ongoing basis the work of the ACLU includes topics such as criminal law reform, national security and religious liberty. You can view the full list of issues and subcategories here. They also have guides to help you know your rights, for example what to do if you are stopped by police, immigration or the FBI. In the upcoming days it will also be useful learn more about anti-Muslim discrimination, what to do if you are detained for taking photographs and your rights during demonstrations and protests.

To support the work of the ACLU, become a member, volunteer with your local affiliate and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ACLU. Because as they say, "freedom can't protect itself".

Friday, November 11, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Southern Poverty Law Center

I try to avoid discussions of politics on Feel Good Fridays because I want this space to focus on the good works being done by people around the world. That being said, the rise in hate crimes only days after the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is what inspired this week's organization.

Once again, we celebrate the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). If that's ringing a familiar bell it's because we profiled their school-based program Teaching Tolerance in this post last month. Today we're focused on what they do to fight hate.

As stated on their website, "we monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement." There is an interactive map of the 892 hate groups in the U.S. so you can see where they can be found.

In an effort to bring these people to light and to justice, SPLC maintains a extremist files database of prominent extremist organizations and individuals and explains their ideologies. They also "publish investigative reports, train law enforcement officers and share key intelligence, and offer expert analysis to the media and public."

So what does all this monitoring and tracking do, besides make you depressed realizing how much hate is out there? As the SPLC explains, "over the years, we've crippled or destroyed some of the country's most notorious hate groups - including the United Klans of America, the Aryan Nations and the White Aryan Resistance - by suing them for murders and other violent acts committed by their members or by exposing their activities." That's what happens when you tangle with a law center!

In addition to fighting hate and teaching tolerance the SPLC has programs focused on children's rightsimmigrant justice, LGBT rights, economic justice and criminal justice reform. You can click all these links now or you can wait... this may not be the last time we turn to the Southern Poverty Law Center on a Feel Good Friday.

Support this important work with a donation and by liking the SPLC Facebook, the HateWatch Facebook page following them on Twitter @splcenter.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Hav a Sole

It's Feel Good Friday! Put your feet up and read about this week's organization, Hav A Sole.

As they state on their website, "Hav A Sole's mission is to provide the homeless and at risk youth population with quality footwear to encourage healthier lifestyles and prevent disease, while fostering a sense of community along the way."

The organization was founded in 2014 by Rikki Mendias. Having lived in a shelter in Southern California with his mother when he was younger, and going to school in shoes with holes, he was profoundly impacted by a woman who took him to buy two new pairs of shoes. His boost in confidence turned into an obsession with shoes, which led to him owning over 150 pairs. He realized he could encourage volunteerism and build community by giving away new and gently worn shoes. You can see Rikki and here him tell his story in this 2:11 min video.

In the two years the organization has been operating, they've given away over 7,000 pairs of shoes in 13 cities and now have partnerships with shoe manufacturers Nike and Saucony. At the shoe giveaways there is always an emphasis on the power of choice. People get to pick shoes that they want rather than having to take whatever is available.

The benefits of this program are listed on the Hav A Sole website: "bringing communities together, igniting the inspiration to give, preventing disease, encouraging healthy lifestyles, instilling confidence and showing that we care." Kudos to Rikki and his team of volunteers for setting up mobile shops and bringing high quality footwear to people who need it.

You can visit the website to see photos and videos of the group in action. If you've got new or gently worn shoes (or cash) you'd like to donate, you can do that here. As always, you can show your support via social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @havAsole.