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!