Friday, December 29, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Mothers Against Drunk Driving

It's almost New Year's Eve! Time for celebrating, which for many people will include drinking and for some will include drinking too much. That's why today's organization is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The statistics are alarming. Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash. There are 300,000 instances of drinking and driving each day which result in 10,497 deaths per year, or one death every 50 minutes.

As explained on their website, "the mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking." When they say end, they mean zero victims of drunk driving. Watch this 3:25 min video to learn more or keep reading.

MADD was created in 1980 when Candice Lightner, a mother in California whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, started working to change drunk driving laws in her state. She brought a picture of her daughter with her to meetings and hearings, a tradition that continues to this day.

Since then, fatalities due to drunk driving have declined by 50%, all 50 states raised the legal drinking age to 21 and made it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

MADD gets these results by focusing on the following areas:

  1. Supporting more high visibility law enforcement such as DUI checkpoints
  2. Ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers - this requires the driver to use a breathalyzer in order to start their car
  3. Advocating for advanced vehicle technology, which in addition to self-driving cars, includes developing a Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety - technology that would automatically test a driver's BAC through breath or touch before starting the car
  4. Education for parents, teens and the public at large

MADD also has a range of victim assistance programs which include providing emotional support and helping people navigate the criminal and civil justice systems. You can contact your local office or call the 24-Hour Victim Help Line: 877-MADD-HELP

To support the work of MADD there are a number of ways you can get involved. Create a tribute for someone in your life, lobby, volunteer, donate and spread the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @MADDOnline

Wishing you a safe, happy, feel good new year! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Community Christmas

Last year at this time, I wrote about Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, a non-profit that provides companionship to elders during the holidays. On today's Feel Good Friday, I'm going to highlight one of their partner organizations, Community Christmas.

Their Facebook page provides the best description of who they are: "Community Christmas is an organisation dedicated to providing companionship to as many of the elderly in our communities as possible so that no one is alone on Christmas Day who does not want to be. Our events are held in local halls, run by local volunteers and largely funded by local businesses and donors."

You've probably deduced, from the above spelling of organization, that Community Christmas is based in the UK. Well done, old chap. Founded in 2011 by Caroline Billington, Community Christmas started with two lunches and has now grown to over 500 events.

On Christmas Day, many shops are closed and public transportation is minimal, leaving few options to socialize for the estimated 250,000 - 500,000 older people across the UK spending the holiday on their own. A statistic on the website says that "87% of older people want a traditional Christmas, spent in company."

Most of the events promoted by Community Christmas are free and low-cost traditional lunches, however, if you are organizing an event, you're welcome to invite people to a local pub or knock on a neighbor's door to share a cup of tea and a piece of Christmas Cake. Make that a neighbour's door.

If you live in the UK you can organize an event or search for one to attend. No matter where you live, you can support the work of Community Christmas with a donation and by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @communityxmas.

Merry Feel Good Monday!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Holiday Gift Guide

If you're like me, you might spend this weekend doing some last minute shopping. Since it's Feel Good Friday, I want you to find gifts you can feel good about buying.

For a start, odds are your favorite organizations (and most of the ones featured on this blog) sell branded merchandise on their websites. Whether that's supporting under-resourced studentspandas, or the ocean, you can wear that merch with pride and let the world know what's important to you.

If you've got people in your life who would be happy with a gift given in their name, you can support an organization like Heifer International and purchase livestock, trees or seeds to help end poverty and hunger around the world.

If you're looking for something that you can wrap up in a box and tie with a bow, check this out.  In 2014 I put together a list of organizations I profiled that year with a description of the products they sell and who benefits. It includes rugs that raise money to educate at-risk children, beauty products made by women who have survived trafficking and prostitution and lights that can be used by you and people in countries without reliable electricity. You can review the full list here.

I also did a quick internet search and came up with this list of "26 Gifts That Give Back" compiled by Woman's Day magazine. Items you can purchase include beanies that benefit pediatric cancer research, headphones that use company profits to provide hearing aids for people in need and dog leashes that support animal rescue organizations around the country.

Now that you have so many options, you can feel good about shopping!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Virunga National Park

Do you love gorillas? Me too! So do the people of Virunga National Park, our Feel Good Friday organization for today.

If you get a chance to watch the Netflix documentary, Virunga, I recommend it. This is where I learned all about Virunga National Park and the rangers that are risking their lives to protect it.

If you haven't heard of this park, the website gives you a quick breakdown. "Virunga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on the border of Uganda and Rwanda. Virunga is Africa's oldest national park and is also the continent's most biologically diverse protected area." In addition to all that, "Virunga is home to about a quarter of the world's critically endangered mountain gorillas."

It was founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium, primarily to protect the mountain gorillas living in the area. The last few decades have been dramatic. In 1994, over one million refugees from the Rwandand genocide came into DROC, placing pressure on the park forests and wildlife. In 2007, people from the charcoal mafia (for real) killed nine mountain gorillas to eliminate any motivation to protect the park. Despite all this, partnerships between the park and foundations were formed in 2008, and the park is now open for tourism.

In addition to hosting tourists who come to visit the mountain gorillas, Tongo chimpanzees and Nyiragongo volcano, the park runs several programs. Their main focus is protecting the 95 habituated gorillas and surrounding wildlife. Senkwekwe Center, located in the park, is the only facility in the world for critically endangered orphan mountain gorillas. Rangers also protect the elephant population, which has been reduced from 3,000 to 400, and are training bloodhounds to apprehend and arrest poachers in the park.

The people who do this work do so at great risk. In the last 20 years, over 150 park rangers have been killed protecting Virunga National Park. The Fallen Rangers Fund was created to support widows and children of rangers killed in the line of duty.

To support the people and wildlife in Virunga, you can make a donation and stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @gorillacd. Best of all, if you're planning a trip to Africa, you can support the park by visiting! I think that's the win-winiest option of them all.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Five Year Anniversary

Hello friends, today we're celebrating the FIVE YEAR anniversary of Feel Good Friday!!

Whether you've started reading this blog recently or you've been following the entire time, I'm happy you're here. I'm also thrilled to say, even though I post a new story every week, there are still plenty of people and organizations in the world doing good work and I'm going to keep sharing what I learn with you.

This week I thought it would be fun to look back at the most viewed posts for each year. Let's go!

2012 - Tess Felix
The first ever blog on November 30, 2012, was about this Stinson Beach artist who uses plastic washed up on the beach to create her art. Beautiful work and makes you think twice about using that straw the waiter just gave you.

2013 - Wheels for Humanity
It's the United Cerebral Palsy program that brings wheelchairs, and motorcycles modified with wheelchair platforms, to people with disabilities in developing countries. One of their success stories is a young Indonesian woman who got a modified motorcycle and then became an outreach officer for Wheels.

2014 - WriteGirl
What do you get when you partner teen girls with professional writers in a mentoring program? Creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills. All that and dozens of anthologies. Write on!

2015 - The Plastic Bank
Plastic banks in Lima and Haiti let people trade the plastic they gather from their neighborhoods and beaches for money, goods and services. That plastic is then recycled and sold as "social plastic" to companies who want to participate in the reduction and reuse of plastic while also empowering the people who collected it.

2016 - Southern Poverty Law Center
For over 40 years the SPLC has been monitoring hate and extremist groups, training law enforcement, providing expert analysis for the media and shutting these groups down through exposure and lawsuits. The also have a program for schoolchildren called Teaching Tolerance and focus on children's rights, immigrant justice, LGBT rights, economic justice and criminal justice reform. No wonder they were the most viewed post of 2016!

2017 - Save the Children
This year's top post was about the work Save the Children is doing to support people in Puerto Rico affected by the hurricane in September. Disaster relief is only one of the ways they help. There are also programs focused on literacy and early education, global heath and nutrition and child protection.

Thank YOU for being a part of Feel Good Friday. Your comments, likes and shares make me feel good about telling these stories and helping them gain a wider audience. See you next week!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Feeding America

I hope this Feel Good Friday comes as part of a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend for you. With much of the focus of this holiday on both family and food, I want to highlight an organization that is Feeding America.

As succinctly explained on Twitter, Feeding America is a "nation-wide hunger relief charity helping more than 46 million Americans yearly including 12 million children and 7 million seniors." You can read some statistics on hunger here. The quick story is that 72 billion pounds of edible food goes to waste each year in the U.S. while 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger.

Feeding America came about in 1979 when Van Hengel, who established a food bank in Arizona in the 1960s, created a national organization for food banks called Second Harvest. The name was changed to Feeding America in 2008 to reflect the mission of the organization and it's since grown into a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across the country.

Here's how it works. "Feeding America secures donations from national food and grocery manufacturers, retailers, shippers, packers and growers and from government agencies and other organizations." The food is shipped to and stored at food banks across the country who distribute it through pantries and meal programs like the SF-Marin Food Bank. There are also a variety of programs such as Disaster Food Assistance, a Backpack Program and a Senior Grocery Program, all of which you can read about here.

Last year, with their partners, Feeding America provided food for 4 billion people! To see what this looks like in action, watch this short video. When not distributing food, Feeding America also raises public awareness about hunger, conducts research and has policy staff in Washington DC to advocate for programs that protect people from hunger.

To support their work you can take action by becoming a volunteer, an advocate, or donating some cash. You can also show your appreciation by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @FeedingAmerica. "Together we can solve hunger".

Friday, November 17, 2017

Feel Good Friday - The Circle

Ever find yourself wondering what Annie Lennox has been up to post-Eurythmics and solo music career? Then this is the Feel Good Friday post for you!

In 2003, she performed at the inaugural concert for Nelson Mandela's HIV/AIDS Foundation - 46664. The next day several of the musicians visited hospitals, orphanages and townships to meet people affected by this health crisis, many of them women and children.

Motivated by what she saw, Annie Lennox created a non-governmental organization called The Circle. As she explains in her intro message on the website, "the concept of The Circle came from the notion of women supporting, connecting and inspiring each other to become advocates and change agents, through our passion, skills and ideas."

Because women around the world remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation, the vision of The Circle is "equality for women and girls in a fairer world."

They strive to meet this goal by connecting and advising women, amplifying their voices and funding their causes. The Circle has "raised over £1.86m which, working with partners, has been used to reach and make a difference to over 100,000 women and girls in more than 13 developing countries."

Current projects include youth empowerment workshops in Rwanda which teach up to 150 young people about gender equality, domestic violence, business skills and more. You can see a short video of the project here. There are also projects to run a women's shelter in South Africa, educate girls in India, prevent child trafficking in Nepal and train women to become rickshaw drivers in Pakistan! The complete list of current projects is here.

If you'd like to support the work of The Circle, you can join one of the member circles organized by region and profession, volunteer your time, donate your money and keep up in the social media circles by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TheCircleNGO.

Right now, if you donate through this Charity Stars link, you'll be entered in a contest to win a fight to London and join Annie Lennox for "An Evening of Music and Conversation" next spring! Sweet Feel Good Friday dreams ARE made of this.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Mercy Housing

Not only is today Feel Good Friday, for me it's also moving day! That's what inspired me to share the work of Mercy Housing.

What I learned from a visit to their website is that, "Mercy Housing is one of the nation's largest affordable housing organizations." It was started in 1981 by the Sisters of Mercy to provide affordable housing options to local residents in Omaha, Nebraska. Since then, Mercy Housing has grown to serve over 152,000 people across 41 states.

Their mission is "to create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities."

This is achieved through the the Mercy Loan Fund, which provides loans to community developers to build affordable housing, and the Mercy Housing Management Group, which provides property management for the Mercy housing communities. In 70% of Mercy properties, resident services are available to help residents create stable lives. These services include health and wellness classes, health screenings, cooking classes, finance classes, after-school care and more.

To support the work of Mercy Housing, you can volunteer your time or you can donate your money, knowing that 93% of donations go directly to program delivery. To stay in the know, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @mercyhousing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Tress for the Future

"We believe in the power of trees." Me too! That' why Trees for the Future is today's Feel Good Friday organization.

Since 1989, Trees for the Future has been working with farmers in dozens of countries to plant over 115 million trees! As they explain on the website, "planting trees provides families with more than just food. It provides income, empowerment, unity, leadership, education and even saves lives. When we can teach people to value themselves and their environment, they see amazing improvements in their standard of living."

Here's how it works. People from the Forest Garden Program provide training, mentoring, seeds and nursery supplies to groups of farmers over a four year period so they can plant specific types of trees and crops in a systemic manner. First comes fast-growing fertilizer trees to stabilize the soil. Next are the fruit, vegetable, nut and timber trees which have a higher value and require advanced skills to maintain. The final phase of the project is transitioning ownership of the trees to the farmer groups that have been planing and maintaining them.

These forest gardens "provide families with sustainable food sources, livestock feed, products to sell, fuel wood and up to 500% increase in their annual income." All that and combating deforestation too! You can learn more about Trees by reading some stories from the field or watching this short documentary (19 min) released in October, 2017.

If you like what you learn, there are a variety of ways you can help including fundraising, donating and volunteering. As always, stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Treesftf. "Plant Trees. Feed Families. Change Lives."

Friday, October 27, 2017

Feel Good Friday - The Unity Council

This Sunday there is a huge Día de los Muertos festival in my new neighborhood! It's sponsored by today's Feel Good Friday organization, The Unity Council.

As explained in the "about us" section of the website, "The Unity Council is a non-profit community development corporation committed to enriching the quality of life for Oakland residents, with a focus on the Fruitvale neighborhood. Our Mission is to help families and individuals build wealth and assets through comprehensive programs of sustainable economic, social, and neighborhood development."

Established in 1964 to ensure political representation of the Latino community during the civil rights movement, the Unity Council has grown into a $19 million community development organization that reaches 8,000 clients each year. The Unity Council mission statement: "We believe everyone should have the opportunities to find self-sufficiency and advancement, no matter their language, background, or neighborhood." is reflected in their development programs.

Programs cover everyone! From children participating in head-start groups through career exploration for teens to a senior center that provides activities and educational classes to those 50 and up. There is a career center that can help with job search and job readiness, a Business Improvement District which supports local businesses and organizes neighborhood cleanups and a Farmer's Market! You can check out the full list of programs here.

If you want to support the work of The Unity Council and live in or around Fruitvale, you can volunteer your time. No matter where you live you can always donate your money!

Stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page, following them on Twitter @TheUnityCouncil and going to the festival on Sunday! I'll be there (after I do some more packing) so let's connect!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Napa Valley Community Foundation

Today's Feel Good Friday focus is the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Here's why.

The NVCF is a local organization providing support in response to the devastating fires in Northern California.

They've raised $1.2 million from over 3,400 donors for the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, which was established in 2014 after the earthquake that took place in Napa. Last Friday, they distributed $565,000 in grants to 16 local non-profits and, while there is no more capacity to accept in-kind donations, they continue to accept an need gift cards to assist evacuees. You can drop off a pre-paid Visa, MasterCard or American Express gift cards in $25, $50 and $100 denominations at Cope Family Center at 707 Randolph Street in Napa and Up Valley Family Centers at 1440 Spring Street in St. Helena.

When not in disaster response mode, the Napa Valley Community Foundation connects donors with charitable projects. As they explain in the "what we do" section of their website, "We mobilize resources, inspire giving, build knowledge and provide leadership on vital community issues to improve the quality of life for all in Napa County. We are a public charity; a grantmaking foundation; a philanthropic advisor; and a staging ground for people, resources and ideas. Every day we link donors to projects that do good in our community."

They make over 200 site visits a year to local charities so they can identify gaps and opportunities and make recommendations to donors. Donors can join a Community Impact Fund to pool their resources, start their own fund or work on estate planning. Non-profits can follow this link to apply for a grant.

If you're able to help people affected by the fires and want to work with a local organization, please consider a monetary, or gift card, donation to the Napa Valley Community Fund. To keep up with the latest information on the disaster relief efforts, and year-round updates, like the NVCF Facebook page.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Hip Hop Architecture Camp

Can hip hop music and culture inspire kids to become architects and designers? Of course it can - it's Feel Good Friday!

I learned about Hip Hop Architecture Camp when the creator Michael Ford came to Autodesk to give a presentation. [Disclosure time: Autodesk has been working with him to launch camps around cities in the US this past summer. That's what he came to talk about and that's why all the kids are wearing matching Tinkercad shirts in their videos.]

You can watch Michael's TedX talk to hear him explain Hip Hop Architecture or read this description from the website: "Hip Hop Architecture explores the intersection of Hip Hop culture and the built environment through three interconnected realms; media, professional practice, and academia. The goal of Hip Hop Architecture is to increase the number of underrepresented populations in the practice of architecture while simultaneously creating a new approach to architecture and design, one base on the Hip Hop's founding elements (DJ, Emcee, Graffiti and B-Boy/B-Girl). Hip Hop Architecture is a manifestation of the widely accepted fifth element of Hip Hop, Knowledge of Self."

The vision of Hip Hop Architecture Camp, is "to use hip hop culture as a catalyst to increase the number of underrepresented communities in S.T.E.A.M. fields." You're likely familiar with the science, technology, engineering and math portions of the acronym. The A stands for art and architecture.

These one week camps introduce kids to architecture and urban planning through the lens of hip hop culture. At the end of the week they not only create models of the communities they've designed, they also create a hip hop music video that summarizes their work and experience. You can get a great overview of the program by watching this 5:46 minute documentary encouraging kids to Build It Up. If you're curious to see the results from the camp you can watch a number of the camp mixtape videos and even download the songs here.

In 2017, camps took place in Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit, Bronx, Oakland and Richmond. If you'd like to see a camp come to your city, get involved and host one! Hip Hop Architecture Camp is free to students and you can help keep it that way by making a donation. To stay in the loop and share the social media love, follow Michael Ford on Twitter @HipHopArch.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (#4)

Normally, I try to stay away from Feel Good Friday repeats but as long as men keep shooting groups of people, I'm going to keep talking about the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

I don't revisit this blog this for every mass shooting and yet, this is still the fourth instance in 2 years. The original post is below, but first some updated info.

"Since 1994, the Brady law has blocked over 3 million prohibited purchases" of guns. That's good news but the Brady Campaign is striving to cut the number of gun deaths in half by 2025.

Their main areas of focus are educating people about the risks of guns in the home (because 80% of unintentional firearm deaths of children under 15 happen in a home), changing gun laws (because 40% of gun sales still require no background check) and holding gun manufacturers and sellers accountable in court (because 90% of guns used in crimes were supplied by 5% of dealers).

Read the original post to find out ways you can get involved and if you haven't already done so, contact your elected officials: 202-224-3121

Friday, October 9, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

In the almost 3 years I've been writing these Feel Good Friday posts, there have been a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the most recent at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. So today we're going to focus on an organization with the goal of "cutting gun deaths in half by 2025", Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

You may remember Jim Brady, Assistant to the President. He was shot and paralyzed during an assassination attempt on Ronald Regan in 1981. It wasn't until 1993, the Brady Bill, which required a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases, was signed into law by President Clinton.
Today the Brady Campaign is "the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence." Their mission, as stated on the website, "is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries." You can go there to read shocking statistics on gun violence. A few highlights are below:
Every day, 89 people die from gun violence: (now 93)
    • 31 are murdered
    • 55 kill themselves
    • 2 are killed unintentionally
    • 1 is killed by police intervention
    • 1 intent unknown.
Every day, an additional 208 people are shot and survive. (now 222)
In order to reduce these numbers, the Brady Campaign focuses on policy and legal changes, as well as a public awareness campaign. They ensure that all of their programs and efforts have an opportunity for impact, that no one else is doing similar work and that the actions fit into their core values. You can read their full list of solutions here or watch a 16 minute video Pathology of Gun Violence, which explains their strategy in great detail.
Support the work of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence by visiting their take action page, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Bradybuzz. Enough is enough.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Save the Children

If you've been watching the news, you know that Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria and the people living on the island need our help. Natural disasters aren't a reason for a Feel Good Friday but the people and organizations that turn out to help are.

You can check this PBS blog for a list of organizations that are bringing assistance to the area. Today, I'm focusing on one - Save the Children.

First off, Save the Children has people on the ground in Puerto Rico and has set up a Hurricane Maria Children's Relief Fund. You can make a donation here. Now for some background.

Save the Children began in 1932 with programs that provided "clothing, school supplies and hot lunches to school children in Harlan County, Kentucky." The organization now has programs in 120 countries and reaches 157 million children around the world.

This 3:25 minute video gives an overview of the work they're doing to provide children with a brighter future. It can also be summed up with this statement from their website: "Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In the U.S. and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children - every day and in times of crisis - transforming their lives and the future we share."

Programs focus, not only on emergency response in natural disasters, but also on disaster preparedness, literacy and early education, global health and nutrition, child protection and child sponsorship. You can read about the programs in more detail here or watch videos on their YouTube channel.

With 86.5% of funds received going directly to the programs that affect children, Save the Children is a great place for you to donate your money or shop for farm animals and refugee basics bags to support people in need. As always, stay connected by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SavetheChildren.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Feel Good Friday - The Obama Foundation

Happy Feel Good Friday! Yesterday I was at a conference in Utah where Michelle Obama was a featured speaker. She was inspiring, articulate and charming and it made me wonder what she and that husband of hers have been up to lately. Here's the answer: The Obama Foundation

You can click here to watch a short message from President Obama or, you work in an open office environment and forgot your headphones, you can read more below.

The foundation has just been created and, as stated on their website, "Our mission is to inspire and empower people to change their world." The goal is to make programs accessible to people with and without experience. "We'll equip civic innovators, young leaders, and everyday citizens with the skills and tools they need to create change in their communities."

There are four programs in place to help realize this goal:

  • A fellowship for civic innovators, which they see as "organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and more" to help amplify the impact of their work. 
  • A summit for civic leaders from around the world, which is taking place in Chicago. 
  • Training Days to teach young people across the country to engage in civic life.
  • My Brother's Keeper Alliance to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color.
The Foundation will be located in the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, and construction is underway.

This is a developing story and since there aren't always opportunities to chat with Michelle about it, the best way to keep up with what's happening is to jump on the social media train by liking the Obama Foundation Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ObamaFoundation.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Feel Good Friday - AWARE

I got back from Singapore this morning and while I'm still awake, I wanted to share the work of AWARE on this Feel Good Friday.

AWARE stands for Association of Women for Action and Research. Established in 1985 by a group of women who wanted to use research to approach women's issues in a coherent, consistent way, AWARE is Singapore's leading gender equality advocacy group.

Their vision is "a society where there is true gender equality - where women and men are valued as individuals free to make informed and responsible choices about their lives." Their mission, "to remove all gender-based barriers so as to allow individuals in Singapore to develop their potential to the fullest and realise their personal visions and hopes." AWARE fulfills this mission through research and advocacy, education and training and support services.

Current research and campaign efforts include programs focused on housing for single parents, ending marital immunity for rape, and training low-income women to become professional caregivers in the eldercare sector. Educational information includes fact sheets and resource links on issues such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, contraception, abortions and eating disorders. Support services include a helpline you can call to get connected to counseling, a legal clinic and a sexual assault care center.

How does AWARE make people in Singapore aware of the issues and their services? Through links on their website, a book series, and training workshops for corporations, schools and the community.

If you'd like to stay aware of all the great work AWARE is doing in Singapore, you can get involved by volunteering, making a donation and liking their Facebook page.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Feel Good Friday - United Way

This week in nature has brought us hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. While there are many organizations that work in disaster zones, the one I'm focusing on for today's Feel Good Friday is United Way.

In response to recent events, they've created a Harvey Recovery Fund to support communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. "100% of individual donations to this fund will be distributed to local United Ways in the affected areas." If you've been affected, call 2-1-1 to get connected to resources for health and human services 24/7.

Now, back to the beginning. In 1887 a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together - not for drinks at a bar - to create United Way. As explained in the history section of their website the purpose of United Way was "to collect the funds for local charities, to coordinate relief services, to counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies and to make emergency assistance grants for cases that could not be referred." That year they collected $21,700. In 2016 public support was over 90 million dollars!

United Way is the largest privately-funded nonprofit in the world. There are 1800 United Ways in 40 countries and territories, 2.9 million volunteers, 9.6 million donors and 61 million people served annually. If your short on time, this intro video gives a brief overview of the work they do.

Their mission is focused on three areas: "United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community." For details on the various programs, I encourage you to browse the sections "Our Focus" and "Our Work".

One educational initiative is Born Learning, which provides parents and other caregivers with tools and information to understand childhood development as well as advocate for policy change. Income related programs include career training, job search assistance and credit counseling, to name a few. Their health initiatives include not only providing people access to medical care and nutritious food, but also working with local schools, governments and community-based non profits to provide parks, bike paths and playgrounds.

If you want a reason to feel good Saturday through Thursday, you can read success stories here that include connecting 26,000 youth in San Francisco to jobs and providing Hepatitis B vaccinations for 9,000 people in Mumbai, India. You can also check out the United Way docu-series, The Hero Effect, for uplifting stories of individuals making a positive difference in their communities.

Support this organization by joining a group in your area, volunteering your time or making a donation. United Way is the first Feel Good Friday organization I've found that will let you donate Bitcoin! You can also stay current by liking their Facebook page, following them on Twitter @UnitedWay and connecting with your local chapter.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Akili Dada

These Feel Good Friday posts give me an opportunity to do some virtual globe trekking. Last week we were in California with the Surfrider Foundation so this week we're going to Kenya to profile Akili Dada.

As summarized on their Facebook pageAkili Dada is "a leadership incubator empowering the next
generation of African women leaders." In Swahili, "akili" means intellect, ability, strategy, knowledge, competence and "dada" means sister; a term of endearment, respect and familiarity among women.

I learned about this organization when I read Zachary Ochieng's blog on about a 19 year-old woman in Kenya who established a library that now serves 1000 students! As explained in the HerStory section of the website, "Akili Dada was founded in 2005 by Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in Africa." She and her husband used money given to them as wedding gifts to fund the first four high school scholarships.

"Akili Dada's mission is to nurture transformative leadership in girls and young women from underprivileged backgrounds to meet the urgent need for more African Women in Leadership." Their vision is, "a world in which African women leaders are actively participating in key decision-making processes across sectors." The strategies to achieve this vision focus on financial investment, leadership development, mentorship and skills training and are carried out through three main programs. 

The Young Changemakers Program provides high school scholarships, mentoring, leadership academies and requires the participants to develop a community service project. 121 girls, ages 13-19 have developed leadership skills and created social change initiatives that have affected over 27,000 community members. Watch this video of an Akili Dada graduate who has founded a developer school to teach people programming.

The Gap Year Program takes advantage of the mandatory gap year between high school and university to provide girls with skills based learning, such as coding and social media, experiential learning through internships and mentorships and intensive college preparation courses. The 52 girls that have been through this program have logged 8,778 hours of community service and volunteer teaching.

The Innovation in Leadership Program is a year-long fellowship targeted to young women ages 18-35 and helps them build entrepreneurial and career readiness skills so they can develop solutions for the challenges facing their communities.

You can watch this 16 minute introductory video for more details and to hear from program graduates  or check out their entire video library. If you like what you see and you live in Kenya you can become a mentor at Akili Dada. If you don't, you can always make a donation and support their work by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @AkiliDada

Friday, August 25, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Surfrider Foundation

It's another Feel Good Friday where I share an organization I learned about while volunteering with my coworkers. This week it was picking up trash at Ocean Beach in San Francisco organized by the Surfrider Foundation.

The Surfrider Foundation was created by a group of surfers in Malibu, California in 1984 to protect their favorite surf spot. As the organization has grown, the mission has remained the same: "The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network." This video shows you what people are fighting for.

With a national network of 84 chapters, Surfrider volunteers are the first response to local threats in coastal communities across the US. Campaigns organized by Surfrider focus on issues related to beach access, clean water, coastal preservation, ocean protection, and plastic pollution. They've had over 400 victories since they started counting in 2006, including banning plastic bags in my home state of California!

The beach cleanup project I worked on helped with the Rise Above Plastics campaign. Did you know that "plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris"? Me either! As with all their campaigns there is an intro to the topic, as well as information and tips on what you can do and links to partner organizations also working on the issue. In the 2 hours our group was at the beach we cleaned up 900 cigarette butts, 80 pounds of trash and 30 pounds of recycling! Use this interactive map to see the campaigns happening in your area.

Volunteering your time and donating your money are great ways to support and protect our oceans, beaches and waves. You can also take action from the comfort of wherever you are right now by contacting your elected officials, liking the Surfrider Foundation Facebook page, following them on Twitter @Surfrider or going shopping! Doesn't that feel good?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Showing Up for Racial Justice

The reason I started writing these Feel Good Friday posts in 2012 was to focus on good work being done as a counter to all the negative events that dominate the news. Some weeks are harder than others to find the good, but I always do.

Given last weekend's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA and the murder of Heather Heyer, I'm going encourage you to read my November post on the Southern Poverty Law Center to see what they're doing to combat hate groups. Next, let's talk about today's organization, Showing Up for Racial Justice.

As explained on their Facebook page, Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) "is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability."

Why the focus on whites? SURJ "believes in collective liberation -- and that none of us can be free until we end white supremacy. SURJ's role as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society."

In order to realize this goal, SURJ employs three core strategies:

  • Delegitimize racist institutions
  • Fight for a fair economy that refuses to pit communities against each other
  • Shift culture (meaning the underlying beliefs folks have about people and the world) in a way that undermines support for white supremacy
These strategies are used when organizing community events and providing resources on topics such as direct action, fundraising, working with the media and facilitating meetings. There are chapters throughout the United States, including one in the San Francisco Bay Area, and if there isn't one near you - you can start a new chapter.

If you've been looking for a way to turn your anger into action, I recommend you attend a local eventvolunteer your time or donate your money. You can also show your support on social media by liking the SURJ Facebook page and the SURJ Bay Area Facebook page. If you want to make a difference on Twitter, you can follow @ShowUp4RJ and @surjbayarea. It's time to show up.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Biosphere Foundation

Happy Feel Good Friday! There is so much emphasis on what divides us these days, I'm going to take a moment to celebrate what unites us. Earth.

The Biosphere Foundation (BF) works to "inspire intelligent use of the earth's natural resources and empower individuals to become leaders in biosphere stewardship." I learned about them while watching a 30-minute program called Vanishing Coral, which I recommend when you're done reading this.

BF was founded in 1991 by three people who spent two years in the research facility Biosphere 2 and came out with a greater appreciation of how our daily actions affect Biosphere 1 (aka earth). Recognizing that the health of the biosphere is decreasing due to climate change and a growing human population, BF works directly with local island people whose livelihood is most affected by the ecological changes.

A visit to their website explains the four focus areas of their work:

"(1) implementing conservation programs which are community-based and sustainable;
(2) restoring coral reef, mangrove and forest ecosystems;
(3) creating educational programs that inspire people to care for the biosphere and get involved to make a difference; and
(4) providing an unbiased, "trusted source" of data about the biosphere to the users around the world."

A fun example of getting the local community involved in a coral reef conservation program is this video of students on Menjangan Island in Bali, Indonesia. They sing about not throwing plastic trash into the sea, set to the tune of Bob Marley's Jammin.

Much of the work of BF is done from the sailing vessel, Mir, which sails between conservation programs in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and produces short films about the ocean along the way! You can learn more about the ship as well as current conservation and stewardship programs at the Biosphere Foundation website.

If all of this makes you want to show mother earth some love, you can make a donation to support this work and follow the adventures of the BF team on Facebook and Twitter @biospherefdn.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Feel Good Friday - International Sanctuary

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization, International Sanctuary, because a coworker volunteers there and just came back from a trip to India. Here's what you need to know.

International Sanctuary, or iSanctuary, is an organization that "empowers young women rescued from human trafficking through education, income, health care, and community." Founded in 2007 by Stephanie Pollaro, "iSanctuary has served hundreds of young women in Mumbai, India and Orange County, California." Mumbai has one of Asia's largest red light districts and Orange County is a major stop on the trafficking circuit.

The problem of human trafficking is explained with some shocking statistics from the iSanctuary website: 45.8 million people are enslaved in the world today, 80% are women and over 50% are children. Every country, including the United States, is affected by this $32 billion a year industry.

The mission of iSanctuary "is to empower people escaping human trafficking to embrace their true identity and worth." The vision is to have 10 new sanctuaries worldwide by 2020 and funds are currently being raised for a location in Uganda.

The existing sanctuaries in Mumbai and Orange County are the next step for survivors after they are rescued and their basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing are met. iSanctuary provides medical and dental care, education, counseling, life skills training, micro loans and financial training, university scholarships, job training and employment! Since inception, iSanctuary has served over 300 women and girls and enabled them to create better lives for themselves and their children.

Watch this 2:09 minute introductory video to see the women whose lives are being changed and, if you like what you see, support the work of iSanctuary by volunteering your time, donating your money or shopping for Purpose Jewelry, made by survivors.

Liking the International Sanctuary Facebook page and following them on Twitter @isanctuary are great ways to stay in the loop and share the work being done to combat human trafficking.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Hen Power Project

On this Feel Good Friday we're going to try and stay above the fray and tell you about a group in based in the UK called the Hen Power Project, also known as the Hensioners.

Run by Equal Arts since 2011, the Hen Power Project engages older people in "arts activities and hen-keeping to promote health and wellbeing and reduce loneliness."

The Hen Power Project, also known as Hensioners (pensioners + hens, of course) is now active in more than 40 care homes throughout Australia and has the following goals:
  • Prevents loneliness, isolation and promotes elderly health and well-being.
  • Provides seniors with socialization by meeting others while care taking their hens.
  • Encourage seniors to be creative by designing coops and purchasing hen breeds.
  • Create intergenerational exchanges by visiting schools and school children.
  • Help lift the spirits of other seniors by visiting care homes with their hens.
  • Encourage elderly to keep active and maintain fitness levels.
This Guardian article provides the origin story of Hen Power and shares some studies that show caring for hens has reduced the need for antipsychotic medication in the care homes with resident hens. If you've got 7 minutes to spare, and want to see adorable elders with adorable chickens, you can watch this video that shows the impact caring for hens has on the people in these residential communities.

If you like what you see, you can support the work of the Hen Power Project with a donation and spread the social media love by liking their Facebook Page and following them on Twitter@HenPowerProject.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Daily Table

For today's Feel Good Friday we're heading to Massachusetts to see how a former president of Trader Joe's is using his experience to run a non-profit grocery store in Boston.

Daily Table has been providing healthy, affordable food in the Dorchester neighborhood since June, 2015. What's the big deal? Some statistics from their website explain the need: 48.8 million Americans live in food insecure households, 34% of American adults over the age of 20 are obese and 80 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US each year. That's the big deal.

Doug Rauch founded Daily Table to address these issues. As they explain on their website, "At Daily Table we believe that delicious, wholesome and affordable food should be available to all. We are on a mission to help communities make great choices around food by making it easy for them to choose tasty, healthy, convenient and truly affordable meals and groceries. And we do this in a respectful manner that honors our customer, engendering dignity."

Daily Table is able to meet this mission by partnering with like minded community organizations, a variety of funders and over 50 local food suppliers.  They procure and sell "wholesome, nutritious food that is excess or overstocked from grocery stores, food suppliers, manufacturers, restaurants and growers". This is all done in a retail setting that looks (to me) a lot like Trader Joe's.

In addition to food sales, Daily Table offers free cooking classes, online recipes and guidelines on how you can buy enough food for three meals a day for an average of $45/week!

You can learn more about the organization by reading this article from the Christian Science Monitor or checking their FAQ page. Depending on where you live and what you do, you can get involved by supplying food or volunteering. And no matter where you are, you can show your support for Daily Table by making a donation and liking their Facebook page. Yum!