Friday, June 29, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Birthday Dreams

Having just celebrated a milestone birthday yesterday, I wanted to know if there are any birthday-related non-profits I could write about for this Feel Good Friday. The answer is yes!

Birthday Dreams, in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, "is dedicated to bringing joy, hope and dignity to homeless children with the gift of a birthday party."

There are two types of parties Birthday Dreams provides. The first are onsite parties run by volunteers. These take place at homeless and transitional housing shelters and include cake, ice cream, presents and often games and entertainment. A Birthday in a Box is just what it sounds like - cake, a gift, balloons, party hats, streamers, plates, forks, napkins and a party game. Open, assemble and enjoy.

In addition to donating items (or cash) for the festivities, volunteers attend the onsite parties, bake cakes, buy gifts and party supplies and deliver the boxes. To date Birthday Dreams has held celebrations for over 6,000 children. You can get an idea of what the parties are like by watching this short video of twins enjoying their big day.

There are testimonials on the website so you can read what the impact is on both the kids who get to celebrate and their parents. If you live in the area and want to volunteer at a party or make the birthday cake, you can check this calendar of upcoming events.

No matter where you live, you can still support Birthday Dreams with a donation and by spreading the word on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @BirthdayDreams to get all the latest updates.

Happy birthday!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Feel Good Friday - PFLAG

June is Pride month and Sunday is the Pride Parade in San Francisco, so I'm going to spend this Feel Good Friday talking about one of my favorite groups that marches every year, PFLAG.

Formerly known as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG was "founded in 1973 after the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son" in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in New York. Today, "PFLAG is the nation's largest family and ally organization."

As explained on their website, "PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression."

A great example of respect and affirmation can be seen in this video called, Parents Coming Out. It shows how important and meaningful it is for LGBTQ people to have parental support and how the coming out process affects the parents as well.

PFLAG's priorities are proud people, loving families, safe communities and a diverse and inclusive world. The work they do includes not only marching in Pride parades, but also providing resources and guidelines to make schools safe, advocacy one-pagers for people who want to reach out to their legislators and a project called Straight for Equality, which is a guide on how to be a straight ally.

With 400 chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and over 200,000 members, you can find local and online support here as well connect with events happening in your community.

To help keep the PFLAG flying, make a donation, buy a shirt, and stay active on social media by liking their Facebook page, following them on Twitter @PFLAG and using the hashtag #ConnectedByPride.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Engineers Without Borders USA

Odds are you've heard about Doctors Without Borders but did you know there's also an Engineers Without Borders USA? Well it's Feel Good Friday so you're about to learn.

The mission of Engineers Without Borders USA is stated on their website, "EBW-USA builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world's most pressing challenges." You can see a quick video summary of their work here.

Founded in 2002 by Dr. Bernard Amadei after he took 14 of his civil engineering students to Belize to construct a clean water system, EWB-USA is now operating in 46 countries working on 698 infrastructure projects. Volunteers in the 275 EWB-USA chapters partner directly with communities to meet their self-identified needs.

The International Community Program focuses technical assistance on the areas of water supply, civil works, sanitation, agriculture, energy and structures. Specific projects include building bridges, roads, biosand filters and harnessing solar power. In the communities that work with EWB-USA, 75% are able to sustain the projects once the engineers leave. That helps fulfill the organization's vision of "a world in which every community has the capacity to sustainably meet their basic human needs."

More experienced volunteers can join the Engineering Service Corps and provide engineering project support to governments, NGOs and United Nations agencies. These larger-scale programs focus on disaster relief, agriculture, infrastructure, water, sanitation and hygiene and energy. From improving hospital systems in Sierra Leone to rebuilding wells in Ethiopia, the Engineering Service Corps is focused on creative and lasting solutions.

Finally, for volunteers who want to stay closer to home, the Community Engineering Corps was created in 2014 to assist with engineering projects in both urban and rural communities across the United States.

If you are an engineer and want to volunteer with EWB-USA, you can learn more here. The rest of us can support this important work with a donation and by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @EWBUSA.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Feel Good Friday - GirlVentures

Summer is coming and for many people that means camping trips in the great outdoors. One group that brings young people into nature is today's Feel Good Friday organization, GirlVentures.

Founded in 1997 and based in San Francisco, GirlVentures "inspires girls to lead through outdoor adventure, inner discovery, and collective action." As explained on their website, "we envision a world where girls and women lead inclusive, resilient communities and where nature is accessible to everyone and conserved for future generations."

GirlVentures is built on the shared values of inclusion, integrity, empathy, creativity and community and their summer programs, ranging from 7 to 14 days, are targeted to girls from 6th to 12th grades. While hiking, kayaking and climbing through the Northern California wilderness, the girls and their mentors explore "identity, social justice, leadership, health, and the environment."

Surveys of participants show that after completing a course:
  • 93% believe they can now be leaders
  • 93% are more confident to be themselves regardless of what others think
  • 92% believe their bodies can do more than they initially believed
All programs are offered on a sliding scale so that everyone has the opportunity to participate. During the school year options include rock climbing and a spring break course for girls of color. A list of online resources, books and other camps for boys and girls is available on the website year round.

To support the work of GirlVentures you can make a donation, volunteer and spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GirlVentures.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Feel Good Friday - League to Save Lake Tahoe

I'm having a fabulous Friday and feeling good because I'm heading to a friend's wedding in Tahoe. That inspired me to make the environmental organization, League to Save Lake Tahoe the subject of today's Feel Good Friday.

Lake Tahoe, located in Northern California is the largest Alpine lake in North America. If you live in, or have ever visited California, you've likely seen the iconic blue sticker declaring the mission to "Keep Tahoe Blue". More details can be found on their website: "The League to Save Lake Tahoe is dedicated to protecting and restoring the environmental health, sustainability, and scenic beauty of the Lake Tahoe Basin. We focus on water quality and its clarity for the preservation of a pristine Lake for future generations."

Founded in 1957, "the League focus has been monitoring development and recreation plans, and working with local, state and federal lawmakers to save Lake Tahoe." With over 6,000 members in 46 states the League has helped secure millions of dollars of public funding, advocated for limited development on wetlands and led the effort to ban two-stroke jet skis.

The work of the League centers around four areas:
Specific and practical examples include sweeping and marking storm drains, increasing public transit and launching a bike share program, forest stewardship days, a program that trains visitors to identify and report aquatic invasive plants, regional stormwater monitoring and the traditional beach clean up.

If you're inspired to do your part to Keep Tahoe Blue you can donate, volunteershop (a bumper sticker is only $2) and follow the social media buzz by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @KeepTahoeBlue.

Click here for more Tahoe fun facts and if you can, plan a visit!