Friday, July 27, 2018

Feel Good Friday - WildAid

I've been asked where I find the groups I profile on Feel Good Friday. Sometimes it's organizations I have experience with, other times I search for ones that connect to current events, this time I saw an ad for WildAid at the Fruitvale BART station. I'll take inspiration anywhere I can find it.

As explained on their website, "WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts." They are the only organization in the world focused on reducing demand for endangered species products and they target many of their efforts in Asia where demand is highest.

After watching this very high quality intro video, I learned the following shocking statistics about the illegal animal trade:
  • 33,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory
  • the world's tiger population has dropped from 100,000 in 1900 to 3,800 today
  • 90% of the world's rhinos have been poached in the last 40 years
  • since 2000, 1 million pangolins have been trafficked for their meat and scales
  • 73 million sharks per year are killed so their fins can be used for soup
No wonder WildAid's tag line is "when the buying stops, the killing can too".

In order to get the message across that conservation can be exciting, WildAid uses a small budget and lots of donated media to deliver messages with the quality of the worlds best tv ads. You can see examples of these videos here.

In addition to slick production value, WildAid harness the power of celebrity. They have an impressive roster of celebrity ambassadors who all champion different animals: Yao Ming (sharks), Lupita Nyong'O (elephants), Zhang Ziyi (pandas), Leonardo DiCaprio (tigers), Jackie Chan (pangolins), and Prince William and David Beckham (elephants and rhinos and sharks, oh my).

Their awareness campaigns have made a difference. Consumption of shark fins in China has gone down 50-70% in recent years. Three years after a 2012 campaign against the ivory trade featuring Yao Ming, prices for ivory had dropped 50% and the governments of China and Hong Kong announced they would ban ivory sales. In Kenya, elephant poaching has dropped from 390 per year to 90.

You can see what WildAid is doing for your favorite animal by checking out their programs page. To support their work you can make a donation, apply for a job or spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @WildAid. Now do yourself a favor and go to the website to learn more about pangolins!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Aim High

Yesterday I met with with several students participating in the Aim High program and am inspired to share the story of this organization for today's Feel Good Friday.

As explained on their website, "Aim High expands opportunities for low-income middle school students and their teachers through a free summer learning and enrichment program." Yesterday, that meant coming to Autodesk, touring the gallery and chatting with me and my colleagues about career goals.

The mission of Aim High is that it:
  • Nurtures the promise and potential of middle school students from low-income neighborhoods
  • Prepares students for high school, setting them on the path to college and future success
  • Inspires the next generation of teachers and educational leaders
The first program took place in 1986 at Lick Wilmerding High School in San Francisco with a class of 50 students. Since then, the program has been expanding to schools around the Bay Area. In 2017, over 2,100 students participated in the program across 18 campuses.

In order to prevent summer learning loss, the students receive 150 hours of instruction over five weeks. In addition to morning classes, there are afternoon enrichment activities in sports and the arts and field trips to local companies. Check out this breakdown of a typical day.

You can read details and personal stories about the impact of the program here. Statistics on the website compare Aim High graduates to the national average of low income students. Aim High students graduate high school on time at a rate of 98% vs. 76% and enroll in college 98% vs. 52%.

If you want to support the work of Aim High there are many ways you can get involved: donate, visit a program or convince your company to host a career day! At a minimum you can stay in the loop by liking the Aim High Facebook page and following them on Twitter @AimHighProgram.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Feel Good Friday - RAICES

Over the past few weeks, many of you may have seen or contributed to the social media fundraising campaign by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, also known as RAICES. Having learned about them during this recent fundraiser I'm making them our Feel Good Friday origination for today.

Founded in 1986, "RAICES is the largest immigration legal services non-profit in Texas, focusing on underserved immigrant children, families and refugees." In response to the current situation of immigrant families being separated at the border, RAICES crowdfunded $20 million which they brought to Washington DC earlier this week to cover bail bonds of migrant mothers who have been detained. You can read more about their efforts to #ReuniteEveryChild in this article from The Hill.

On a daily basis, "a diverse staff of 130 attorneys, legal assistants and support staff provide consultations, direct legal services, representation, assistance and advocacy to communities in Texas and to clients after they leave the state." These services include assistance with residency, citizenship, asylum, DACA and family reunification. Education and outreach programs focus on immigrant accompaniment and refugee resettlement.

The list of accomplishments from 2017 is impressive:
  • closing 51,000 cases free of charge
  • serving
    • 7,000 mothers and children in family detention
    • 680 DACA applicants
    • 6,000 unaccompanied children
  • resettling over 300 refugees
  • training 642 volunteers
RAICES has offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. There is a selection of know-your-rights workshops that you can request for your organization as well as several educational videos on the website.

If you'd like to support the work of RAICES, the easiest way for most of us to get involved is to make a donation. For any readers living in Texas, you can join the Accompaniment Network or sign up to become a volunteer.

Everyone can stay current on the work of RAICES and the status of their bail bond offer by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RAICESTEXAS.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Canine Companions for Independence

While I was searching for an Independence Day related organization to talk about on this Feel Good Friday, I came across Canine Companions for Independence and decided to highlight them.

As summarized on their website, "Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships."

Headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, there are six training centers and multiple chapters around the United States. Canine Companions breeds Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers then volunteer puppy raisers provide 14-18 months of basic obedience training and socialization. Next the dogs return to Canine Companions for specialized training before being partnered with their human companions and completing a final training program together. This 2-minute video gives a good summary of the process. 

There are four types of assistance dogs, all provided to participants free of charge:
  • Service dogs - assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks such as turning on lights, opening doors, pushing elevator buttons and pulling their partners in wheelchairs
  • Hearing dogs - alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds like doorbells, alarm clocks and smoke alarms
  • Skilled companions - bred to be calm and affectionate, these dogs work with adults and children under the guidance of a facilitator
  • Facility dogs - work with a professional in a visitation, education or healthcare setting
Reading through the stories on the website illustrates how life changing a canine companion can be for both the people who train them and the people who rely on them.  If you're in need of an assistance dog, there are online resources to determine which dog is right for you. If you live near a training center and are interested in being a puppy raiser you can learn more about what's required and request an application here.

Whether or not you're able to raise a puppy, you can support Canine Companions in their goal of helping children and adults with disabilities live more independent lives. Make a donation, join a DogFest Walk'n Roll event and show your love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ccicanine.