Friday, February 24, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect

It's Feel Good Friday and once again time to highlight an organization that is standing up for people under attack. Today, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

You may already be familiar with the organization as they've been making recent headlines for stating that President Trump's remarks condemning anti-Semitism haven't gone far enough. You can watch a rather animated CNN interview from Tuesday with Executive Director, Steven Goldstein, here. The following day he acknowledged Vice President Pence for traveling to St. Louis to clean Jewish graves desecrated in the recent surge of anti-Semitism.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect was founded in 1959 by Anne Frank's father. Their mission is similar to other civil rights organizations I've recently profiled on Feel Good Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. As explained on the website, "Through educational programs and grassroots organizing, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect calls out prejudice, counters discrimination and advocates for the kinder and fairer world of which Anne Frank dreamed." (Anyone needing a quick Anne Frank refresher can read more about her here.)

What's different about the Center is that, "it uses the diary and spirit of Anne Frank as unique tools to advance her legacy and to educate young people about the consequences of intolerance and the need to work toward a world based on mutual respect." Educational programs include traveling exhibits, workshops for educators and live performance programs for K-12 schools and any community organization who would like to see the words of Anne Frank come to life.

There is also an essay contest for middle school students (with a chance to win a trip to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam) and the Spirit of Anne Frank Scholarship Awards which are given out annually to "students who have proven themselves exceptional leaders in combating intolerance, prejudice and injustice in their schools and communities." Applications are currently being accepted through March 17th.

As with all Feel Good Friday organizations, if you like what they do you can support their work by volunteering your time, donating your money and liking their Facebook page.

Their Twitter homepage @AnneFrankCenter focuses on the current campaign to support refugees, "America denied immigration to refugee Anne Frank. Open your heart to refugees and immigrants today." #SaveEveryAnne

Friday, February 17, 2017

Feel Good Friday - UNCF

It's Black History Month and Feel Good Friday is celebrating by showcasing the good work being done by UNCF!

Originally known as the United Negro College Fund, you may recognize their motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Since 1944, UNCF has been helping African American students attend and graduate from college.

Their mission is explained their website. "UNCF envisions a nation where all Americans have equal access to a college education that prepares them for rich intellectual lives, competitive and fulfilling careers, engaged citizenship and service to our nation."

They fulfill this mission by providing scholarships and support programs to students as well as investing in the institutional capacity of their member institutions, 37 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). You can read more details here.

The impact has been, dare I say huge? With $4.5 billion in donations since their inception, UNCF has helped over 430,000 students graduate from college! Their current campaign, "Build #BetterFutures" has the goal of raising $500,000 during Black History Month for HBCU students. Your donation is considered an investment in a young person and if you need a little inspiration, you can watch videos of the students here.

Their website is full of information on how to apply for a scholarship and ways to get involved by making a donation, becoming a volunteer or attending an event. You can also stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @UNCF. The more educated and engaged citizens, the better!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Feel Good Friday - Children's Book Project

You've heard the phrase, "think globally, act locally"? Well, this Feel Good Friday we're going to "think federally, act locally". No, it's not as catchy but with the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, I need to counter it with some positive education news on a local level, which leads us to Children's Book Project.

I learned about Children's Book Project from a teacher friend of mine and a quick visit to the website explains their mission. "The Children's Book Project was founded to help build literacy by providing new and gently used book for free to children who need them. Since 1992, we have given away over 2.4 million books for children in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond." (Emphasis totally mine.)

Because they know reading aloud to children helps their brain development, and yet you can't read what you don't have, Children's Book Project collects books for children ranging in age from infants to teens then distributes them to childcare centers, homeless shelters, schools and to individual teachers, caseworkers and community workers. It's much like the African Library Project I wrote about in this blog in May, 2013 but these books go to kids in the Bay Area.

If you've got books to donate, there are several drop off sites in San Francisco and the Peninsula. If you need to obtain books, you can visit their office in San Francisco. Check here for address and hours.

Children's Book Project is always accepting volunteers to help sort books, people willing to organize a book drive and, of course, monetary donations. You can also support them on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ChildrensBookSF

We can't predict what the next four years will be like in the Department of Education but we can take direct action now to ensure that every child who wants to read a book has a book to read.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Feel Good Friday - International Rescue Committee

For those of you who have been following the Feel Good Friday posts for the last four years, you've probably noticed they are becoming less random and more topical. In response to the recent executive order to suspend refugee resettlement in the United States, I'm profiling the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The shortest description from their website explains, "The International Rescue Committee helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future." You can watch a short video to see their work in action or see President and CEO, David Miliband, being interviewed on the Daily Show here.

It was in 1933 that the "American branch of the European-based International Relief Association (IRA) was founded at the suggestion of Albert Einstein to assist Germans suffering under Hitler." Who knew? Maybe you, but certainly not me. You can read the full history of the organization here.

More recent IRC efforts have focused on Syrian refugees, Nepali earthquake survivors and uprooted families in Burundi. In 2015 alone, more than 23 million people benefitted from IRC programs, helping them gain access to primary care, clean drinking water, job skills training, legal assistance and moreIRC's work focuses on economic wellbeing, education, health, power (as in, know your rights) and safety.

IRC has 29 offices around the US that support newly arrived refugees by providing immediate aid, including food, housing and medical attention. As explained on the website, "refugees are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval who have crossed borders to seek safety in another country. Most eventually go home when it's safe, some stay in temporary refugee settlements, and a tiny fraction resettle in a third country, such as the U.S." In 2015 the U.S. helped resettle 9,961 newly arrived refugees and we have pledged to resettle 110,000 refugees in 2017.

There is no need to fear refugees coming to the U.S. since they are vetted more than any other group seeking entrance. Most are referred for resettlement by the UNHCR (profiled in in this FGF post from Sept, 2015). Detailed information about refugee vetting, resettlement and the current situation can be found at this link.

If you want to support refugees, both those coming to the U.S. and worldwide, but are not always available for an impromptu airport protest, check out the how to help page and stay in the social medial loop by liking the IRC Facebook page and following them on Twitter @theirc.