Friday, December 27, 2019

Feel Good Friday - EcoPeace Middle East

Another Feel Good Friday from Jordan, another post about a local organization. This time - EcoPeace Middle East.

With offices in Amman, Ramallah and Tel-Aviv, EcoPeace Middle East is "a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists." Founded in 1994, their primary objective is "the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage."

The organization was formed because there are many shared resources, such as the Jordan River Basin, Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea that require regional cooperation in order to maintain and preserve. EcoPeace approaches this by hiring local researchers from Jordan, Palestine and Israel then identifying the root cause of the problem and developing a common vision of how the researchers can influence decision makers, the media and the general public in their respective countries.

EcoPeace uses both bottoms up and top down approaches and covers themes related to geographical context, socio-economic projects and climate change.

Bottoms up projects include Good Water Neighbors, a way to involve local communities in solving regional water issues, and an eco center where locals and tourists can learn about and experience the shared environment.

Top down projects are based on research, publication of policy briefs and events to focus each country on advancing policy recommendations. You can read details about all of the ongoing, active projects here.

If you'd like to support the work being done by EcoPeace Middle East you can make a donation and spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @EcoPeaceME

Next stop, Egypt!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship

Happy Feel Good Friday from Jordan! In anticipation of being off the grid during my travels, I wrote and scheduled some Jordan-related posts before I left, including this one about the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship.

Established in 2004, the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship (QRCE) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping develop technology entrepreneurship in Jordan.

The four areas of focus for the center are:
  • Networking - connecting entrepreneurs so they can share their experience and knowledge
  • Recognition and awareness - highlighting innovative technology startups and identifying potential opportunities
  • Capacity building and support - providing training, mentoring and support services to help entrepreneurs establish and expand their technology companies
  • Funding - providing assistance with fundraising during the initial funding and early growth stages
Examples of the QRCE programs include: a monthly startup huddle, where entrepreneurs can pitch ideas and discuss challenges and solutions; an annual competition where university students identify technology solutions for challenges in Jordanian society; and Global Entrepreneur Week, connecting young people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators.

In the last 15 years, over 30,000 people have participated in networking activities, 4,000 attended bootcamps and training workshops, 300 jobs were created and 25 startups were founded. You can read about successful program alumnae at this link.

To learn more and spread the word about the work being done in Jordan, like the QRCE Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @QRCE.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Habitat for Humanity

It's another Feel Good Friday post about Habitat for Humanity. Why? Because I'm currently on a Global Village trip building houses in Jordan!

Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity has been working with people around the globe to fulfill their vision of "a world where everyone has a decent place to live". They do this because the need for affordable housing exists in every community.

Habitat works in over 30 countries with their Global Village program and since their founding, they've helped more than 29 million people build or improve the place they call home. Families apply for Habitat homes that will be sold to them at no profit. Once approved, they are required to make a down payment and monthly mortgage payments. In addition, they must put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" into the building of their own home and the homes of other Habitat partner families. Habitat considers the work they do a hand up, not a hand out.

I've volunteered on seven Habitat Global Village trips (Guatemala, Peru, Romania, India, Chile, Madagascar and Kyrgyzstan) and they've all been fabulous experiences. Being on a team of volunteers who are using vacation time to build houses with the families that are going to live in them is inspiring. Getting to interact with local people you might not meet as a tourist is an added bonus.

If you want to support the work of Habitat you can join a Global Village trip, make a donation, shop so you can wear your support, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @Habitat_org. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Be An Elf

Thanksgiving is over so it's officially okay to make this Feel Good Friday post about Christmas and tell you all about Be An Elf.

Be An Elf was started by Hans Dohm and Patrick Reynolds in 2004 with a mission "to make more underprivileged children smile on Christmas morning, and to inspire people with the real spirit of Christmas." They started by handing out presents to children who had written to Santa, now they help other volunteers adopt letters to Santa and mail gifts. Be An Elf works in conjunction with the USPS's Operation Santa (which I wrote about here) to promote their program and recruit volunteers.

In previous years you had to pick up a letter from a post office in a participating city. This year, children's letters to Santa will be made available online so people can adopt a letter from anywhere and mail gifts from 19,000 postal branches.

Families can also go to the Be An Elf site to read tips on writing to Santa and increasing the likelihood of their letter being adopted: tell the truth; ask for basic needs first; bundle letters of siblings into one envelope so volunteers can adopt the whole family and use Santa's address - 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888.

If you still have questions you can check the FAQs. If you need some inspiration, read these letters from previous years. 

When you're ready to get into the Christmas spirit, there are three main ways you can support the program:
  • Go to the Operation Santa site, adopt a letter and respond
  • Donate to Be An Elf and let them buy and send Target gift cards on your behalf
  • Check these examples of how to promote Be An Elf on social media
Letters to Santa should be mailed no later than the 14th so volunteers have time to shop, and gifts need to be in the mail by the 20th to ensure an on-time delivery.

This program depends on volunteers like you so be sure to spread the word by liking the Be An Elf Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Howtobeanelf. Ho, ho ho!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Few Good Friday - REI #OptOutside

Some people call it Black Friday but it will always Feel Good Friday to me. Another group that encourages you to do something other than shop today is Recreational Equipment, Inc., more commonly known as REI.

REI is an 80-year old, member owned co-op that sells everything you need for an outdoor adventure. Since 2015, they've closed their stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving, paid their 13,000 employees for a vacation day and encouraged them to #OptOutside.

Four years later, REI is taking it up a level and encouraging people to join them in a nationwide day of action they're calling Opt to Act. They'll be hosting events with different organizations to clean parks, beaches and riverbanks across the United States. If you need some inspiration to get motivated, watch this one-minute video then search for a cleanup effort near you.

Today's day of action is only the beginning. REI has created a 52-week plan consisting of simple actions you can take to "reduce your impact, get active, and leave the world better than you found it". Examples include switching to electronic bill notification and payment, bringing washable cutlery to use at work, and checking your tire pressure to maintain optimal gas mileage. If you're interested in participating, you can read about all the actions here and sign up for weekly calendar notifications.

In addition to recommending ways for all of us to make a positive impact, REI is taking steps of their own. They've expanded their rental offerings and are piloting a used gear buy-back program for members so that gently used gear can be resold and its life can be extended. They're also aiming to operate at zero-waste by the end of 2020 and reduce plastic packaging for both themselves and their partners.

Whether you start your action today or at some point this year, be sure to let the people in your social media circles know. Post your stories and photos on the REI Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @REI. Be sure to tag them with #OptOutside!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Alameda Food Bank

Thanksgiving is less that a week away and I've got food-related organizations on my mind. That's why I'm focusing today's Feel Good Friday on one close to home, the Alameda Food Bank.

The website explains their history and mission: "Founded in 1977, the Alameda Food Bank is a non-profit organization that helps Alameda residents in need by providing nourishing food in a compassionate and respectful manner with the support of dedicated volunteers and local partners."

In the 30+ years the Alameda Food Bank has existed, it's gone from 2 volunteers serving 35 recipients a month to over 160 volunteers serving 5,000 people a year! That's 7% of the island's residents. If you live in Alameda and need food assistance, you can read up on the eligibility requirements and food bank locations here.

The Alameda Food Bank volunteers work hard to distribute more than 1.3 million pounds of food on an annual basis. Over 900,000 pounds of that food comes from community partners, such as local grocery stores and community gardens across the island.

Volunteer opportunities include picking up donations from community partners, helping clients shop for their shelf stable and produce items or washing and sorting donations. You can find out more and sign up here. If you need convincing, watch this video of volunteers explaining what they love about the time they spend volunteering.

If you don't have the time to volunteer but still want to support the Alameda Food Bank, you can drop off a turkey for the 2019 Turkey Drive or make a donation of food or cash. Stay in the loop year-round and promote their work on social media by liking their Facebook page.

Whether you spend it with family, friends or all of the above have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Feel Good Friday - No Kid Hungry

We're less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving, a U.S. holiday that people celebrate with family, friends and food. That's why today's Feel Good Friday is focused on an organization working to end childhood hunger, No Kid Hungry.

No Kid Hungry was launched in 2010 as a national campaign of the nonprofit organization Share Our Strength. Their promise is that "every single child in America has the food they need to grow up healthy and strong."

The No Kid Hungry website outlines some startling facts about hunger. More than 11 million children in the U.S. live in food insecure homes, meaning their families don't have enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life. That's equivalent to 1 in 7 children.

No Kid Hungry has a variety of programs to tackle this problem.

Examples include:
  • providing guidance to educators on maximizing healthy school breakfast programs so that every child gets the nutrition they need
  • working with local organizations to launch and operate free summer meal programs and funding mobile meals trucks
  • helping schools secure resources for after school meal programs
  • teaching parents and caregivers how to shop for and cook healthy, affordable meals
  • researching the issue of child hunger and sharing resources and best practices
  • advocating with government agencies to strengthen programs for children's nutrition
Since they started in 2010, No Kid Hungry has provided over 1 billion (yes billion) meals!

If you want to be a part of the solution, and have something to talk about with these celebrity supporters, there are many ways to get involved: donate, attend a fundraising event, or contact your representative and advocate for kids! As always, share the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @nokidhungry.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Military Mama Network

It's the Feel Good Friday before Veterans Day and I want to highlight an organization that is supporting veterans, the Military Mama Network.

Founded in 2013 by five people sending care packages to the troops in 2013, the Military Mama Network now has over 20,000 volunteers who support their mission of "sending love to our troops and their families at home and overseas."

As explained on their website, "we support our veterans and their families, whether by food donations or visits on behalf of far off family member, cards or a warm scarf for the winter." They also have a page for veterans which includes links to resources such as chiropractic care, guitar lessons to help cope with PTSD and support while transitioning from military to civilian life.

Work with currently deployed troops and their families includes sending care packages, cards and a tradition called Fallen Fridays where people are encouraged to tell the story of a loved one who has died in the past week and perform and act of service in their honor. You can read about all the Military Mama Network missions here.

If you'd like to support the work of the Military Mama Network you can make a donation, shop for merchandise or get involved by joining a local chapter or joining their Facebook group. Stay current by following them on Twitter @MiliraryMamaNet.

Happy Veterans Day!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Soldier's Angels

How was your Halloween? If you've got leftover candy that you would rather donate than eat, I've got a Feel Good Friday recommendation for you... Soldiers' Angels.

As explained on their website "Soldiers' Angels provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and their families." It was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, after she realized other soldiers serving in the Army alongside her son would appreciate care packages like the ones she was sending him.

In the early days, a small team assembled and sent care packages to the troops. Today, Soldiers' Angels has teams that operate internationally. Their programs are broken into categories based on the populations they serve: veterans, deployed, wounded and families.

Examples include visiting patients in VA hospitals, writing cards and letters to deployed soldiers, providing adaptive laptops for the severely wounded or injured, adopting and supporting a family during the Christmas holiday and sending sympathy and remembrance cards to families who lose a loved one in the line of duty.

Finally, there's the Treats for Troops Halloween candy collection program. Local businesses, often dental offices, accept donations of Halloween candy from kids in exchange for buyback prizes. Soldiers' Angels takes that candy and adds it to care packages for deployed service members.

Details of all the programs can be found at this link and if you want to register for services you can do that here.

In 2018 alone, Soldiers' Angels supported over 500,000 service members, veterans and family members. Since their founding they've sent over 850,000 care packages, over 6,000 voice-controlled/adaptive laptops and sent 1.8 million cards and letters!

If you want to support the work being done by Soldiers' Angels, you can look for a candy drop-off location, make a monetary donation, become an Angel volunteer, and support them on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them Twitter @soldiersangels.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Feel Good Friday - 'WEEN DREAM

It's Feel Good Friday and the time to get your Halloween costume together is running out! Luckily, there's 'WEEN DREEM.

Founded in 2014 by Kelsey Meeks and located in New Orleans, Louisiana, 'WEEN DREAM "gives free Halloween costumes to children in need across America." To date over 10,000 "'WEENSTERS" in 38 states have received costumes.

As explained on their website, 'WEEN DREAM focuses on children "who are faced with unique challenges, including those with special needs, physical and/or mental disabilities, homeless children, kids living in poverty or at shelters, children with serious medical issues, kids in the foster care system, and kids who have experienced a recent trauma or natural disaster." Whew!

The costume application period runs from August 1st through 30th every year and includes applications for individuals, families and groups. Matching begins August 31st and costumes are picked up or shipped between October 1st and 12th.

The organization is run by volunteers and depends on costume donations from people around the country. If you have some new, or gently used, complete costumes you no longer need, you can check the FAQs to find out how to donate them. Bonus points if you've got one of the highly requested costumes such as Black Panther, Wonder Woman or Harry Potter. Donations are accepted year round.

If you don't have any costumes but still want to support 'WEEN DREAM you can make a monetary donation, purchase storage and shipping supplies from their Amazon Wish List, or review the guidelines posted online and host a costume drive. As always, you can stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @WEENDREAM. 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Arts Outreach

I'm headed to Los Olivos, California today and so is Feel Good Friday! Although only one of us will be wine tasting.

Our Los Olivos destination is Arts Outreach, a nonprofit community arts organization based in the Santa Ynez Valley. Their mission is "promoting the visual, literary and musical arts in the Santa Ynez and Los Alamos Valleys".

They began in 1980 with five volunteer artists as an arts-in-schools program, placing artists in the classrooms to teach and perform. Today, they have over 70 professional artists helping them out.

Arts Outreach still places artists in the classroom to work in partnership with the teachers and holds art classes after school and during the summer. Summer classes can include, art, music and theater. There is also a 20-week singing workshop called Valley Glee, which culminates in a performance for the community.

Adult programs include art classes that teach a variety of mediums and an outreach program that brings concerts and artistic events to retirement communities and senior living centers.

If you live in the area, you can get a taste of Arts Outreach by participating in the upcoming Gingerbread Wonderland fundraiser. Enjoy dinner and wine, then decorate a gingerbread house. Or maybe you should reverse the order.

For people not in the area, you can show your support of Arts Outreach by making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ArtsOutreach1.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Feel Good Friday - It Gets Better Project

Did you know today is Feel Good Friday and National Coming Out Day? What a great reason to highlight the It Gets Better Project, an organization whose vision is "a world where all LGBTQ+ youth are free to live equally and know their worthiness and power as individuals."

The It Gets Better Project began in 2010 as a social media campaign run by columnist Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller. Now it's a global movement. Their mission is "to uplift, empower and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) youth around the globe." They do this through storytelling and building community.

Over 60,000 people have shared their stories of resilience and hope in order to inspire others. These videos are on the website and include posts from Laverne Cox, Adam Lambert and even President Obama. If you want to share your story use this link to upload a video or submit it in writing.

Community building takes place a few different ways. There is a support page on the website that will connect you to over 1100 organizations in 40 countries that offer support to LGBTQ+ youth. You can filter by location and category to find the best resource for your situation whether you're in crisis, need legal help or want to find a social community. There are also resources for educators, and over 625,000 people have taken the pledge to speak out against hate and intolerance.

You can support the work of the It Gets Better Project by taking the pledgevolunteering, donating, and as always, connecting on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ItGetsBetter.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Feel Good Friday - The Town Kitchen

It's been two months since I posted a Feel Good Friday story about Oakland so it's about time I told you another tale from the Town.

The Town Kitchen is "a community-driven food company that employs and trains our youth by delivering chef-crafted meals to corporate clients." 

Founded in 2015 by Sabrina Mutukisna and Jefferson Sevilla, the Town Kitchen provides underserved youth (ages 16-24) with fair-wage jobs, healthcare and job training programs. About half the employees are foster youth. That's important because Only 50% of children in the foster care system finish high school, making it harder to find employment, and 20% will experience homelessness during their first year on their own.

The Town Kitchen is located in East Oakland and 75% of employees live in the community. When they deliver meals in the wider Bay Area, it gives them increased responsibility beyond the kitchen and exposure to corporate environments. When they first started, the Town Kitchen was delivering 20-30 meals a week, now they deliver 700 - 2,000 meals a day!

Get a glimpse inside the kitchen with Chef Sevilla and the employees in this short video.

If you'd like to support the work of the Town Kitchen you have many delicious options. Go to the website to order lunch for your office or fill out this form to book catering for your next event. You can also show the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TheTownKitchen.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Jump!

Did you see the PBS Newshour story on Jump! this week? Well I did and that's why I want to tell you more about them in today's Feel Good Friday!

The work of Jump! is best summarized by the mission statement on their website, "Jump! is a nonprofit organization that helps seniors achieve what's left on their bucket list, and highlights those special seniors who continue to live extraordinary and inspirational lives." I think of it as Make-a-Wish for seniors.

Founded by Webb Weiman five years ago, Jump! provides the funds and logistics for seniors to cross items off their bucket list, whether that's sky diving, driving a race car or learning to play an instrument. Jump! also makes short videos of the seniors' activities which they can share with their friends and families and which Jump! uses to inspire other seniors to fulfill their bucket list wishes.

If you want to take your Feel Good Friday to the next level you can watch some of the Jumpisodes here. Seniors fly biplanes, drive semi trucks and 90 year old Mary rides a purple Harley! Keep the inspiration going by watching videos of the "super seniors". These are people who spend their time playing baseball, playing drums and making blankets for hospitalized children.

If you, or someone you know, is ready to fulfill a bucket list wish, you can fill out an application here. If you'd like to help make a senior's dreams come true you can make a donation to Jump! and support their work by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @myjumporg. What's on your bucket list?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Fridays for Future Global Climate Strike

The Feel Good Friday blog has always been a friend of the environment which is why we're focusing today's post on Fridays For Future and the Global Climate Strike.

If you've been following the news you know that today people in 150 countries will join student activists in a climate strike to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. You can read about activities and find a local march here.

These marches are organized by the student-led movement, Fridays For Future, which began "in August 2018, after 15 year old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis." Her actions went viral on social media and she decided to continue striking every Friday until the Swedish policies meet the standards in the Paris agreement.

Students across the world were inspired by Greta's actions. They used the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike to spread her call to action and now they are walking out of school to bring attention to the issue of climate change. If you need more inspiration, you can watch this interview of Greta Thunberg on the Daily Show. She takes passion and commitment to the next level.

When you're ready to organize your own strike, you can find all the resources you need here. If you want to join a strike today, you can use this map to find one near you. Be sure to tag all your social media with #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike and stay current with future events by liking the Fridays For Future Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Fridays4future.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Jane Goodall Institue

I recently saw a photo of climate activist Greta Thunberg with primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and it made me realize, although I have written 347 Feel Good Friday blogs to date, not one has been about the Jane Goodall Institute! At least not until today.

Founded in 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) website gives a great summary of their work: "We are a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected - everyone can make a difference."

Not surprisingly, the main focus of JGI is protecting chimpanzees and their habitats. Field research continues in Gombe, where Dr. Goodall first started her work in 1960. JGI also uses science and technology to help local communities identify their needs and develop conservation action plans which they can implement.

Specific projects include efforts you might not expect such as: rehabilitating and releasing 18 mandrills since 2008, scholarships for over 300 girls in Tanzania to complete their educations, and helping people construct beehives and learn how to produce and harvest honey to sell. There are many more projects which you can learn about at this link.

Another major program of JGI is Roots and Shoots, founded in 1991 by Dr. Goodall and a group of Tanzanian students. It's a youth service program with a mission "to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals and the environment." Hundreds of thousands of young people in 120 countries are working to solve the problems they've identified in their communities.

What impact is all this work having? There are over 3 million acres of habitat covered under conservation action plans, 290 chimpanzees and gorillas are receiving care in the sanctuary, and over 5,000 Roots and Shoots programs are in place creating positive change right now.

YOU can also create positive change! Donate some money, encourage a young person (under 16) to start a project with Roots and Shoots, become a chimp guardian or shop for merch.

Stay in the loop by liking the Facebook pages of JGI and Roots and Shoots and following both organizations on Twitter @JaneGoodallInst and @RootsandShoots. "Everyone can make a difference."

Friday, September 6, 2019

Feel Good Friday - World Central Kitchen

If you've been paying attention to news of Hurricane Dorian and associated relief efforts, you may already be familiar with today's Feel Good Friday organization, World Central Kitchen.

Founded in 2010 by celebrity chef Jose Andres, the motto of  World Central Kitchen (WCK) is,"wherever there is a fight so that hungry people may eat, we will be there."

WCK has been in the news a lot recently because one of the services they provide is disaster relief. Responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, WCK is making sandwiches while waiting for access to Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. Their website explains how their relief efforts work. "By partnering with organizations on the ground and activating a network of food trucks and emergency kitchens, WCK provides freshly made, nutritious meals to survivors of disasters quickly and effectively. Last year they responded to 13 disasters around the world.

Once immediate disaster response needs have been met, WCK provides several long-term programs. Food for thought has built over 140 improved cook stoves and cooking equipment for schools and community kitchens. Sink to Stove has provided over 500 school chefs with food safety and sanitation training. Ecole des Chefs is a 5-month culinary arts program that prepares aspiring chefs to work in commercial kitchens. The 40+ graduates have all been placed in internships and 60% of them have been placed in jobs when their internships ended.

Finally, there is Plow to Plate, a program aimed to "increase food security in Puerto Rico by providing funding, training and networking opportunities to smallholder farmers and businesses that support local agriculture." This program has awarded $910,000 to 55 grantees and works with over 500 volunteers on partner farms.

If you like what you see you can support the work of WCK by volunteering, dining and dashing (if you live in DC) or making a traditional donation. As always, stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @WCKitchen.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Rainforest Action Network

I've been following the news of the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest these last few weeks. That's why today's Feel Good Friday organization is Rainforest Action Network.

A San Francisco-based organization founded in 1985, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) "defends forests, communities and climate through non-violent direct action, organizing and education."

They work with environmental and human rights groups in 60 countries "towards a world where the rights and dignity of all communities are respected and where healthy forests, a stable climate and wild biodiversity are protected and celebrated."

Programs focus on three major categories: forestsclimate and communities. Some specific projects are getting Conflict Palm Oil off store shelves, stopping the Keystone Pipeline, and distributing over $1 million in grants to indigenous-led organizations fighting to protect traditional territory in forests around the world.

RAN uses a three-pronged theory of change:
  1. Target the companies and industries driving the most deforestation and climate change
  2. Partner with and support frontline communities who feel the greatest impact from these challenges
  3. Identify and move the legislative and regulatory levers of change
They've been winning campaigns with this approach since the beginning. In 1987 Burger King agreed to cancel $35 million in cattle contracts that destroyed Central American rainforests. In 2001 they helped pass a conservation measure that protects 3.5 million acres of Canada's Great Bear Rainforest. In 2017 Abercrombie & Fitch adopted a policy to address deforestation and human rights abuse issues in their supply chain. You can read about more RAN victories on the How We Win section of their website.

If you'd like to support the work of RAN you can make a donation, volunteer your time, and keep in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RAN.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Feel Good Friday - APOPO

Today's Feel Good Friday is all about the rats of APOPO (an inspiration I will neither confirm, nor deny, is based on something I saw in my neighborhood).

The work of APOPO, a Dutch acronym describing landmine detection, is summed up in their tagline: "we train rats to save lives".

Since the organization's founding in Belgium in 1997, APOPO has been training scent detection rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. This 45-second video, made for their 20th anniversary, gives a quick overview of the programs.

This work is necessary because there are 61 countries in the world with hidden landmines that injure over 8,000 people each year and prevent communities from farming on productive land. Using metal detectors to find the landmines is a slow and dangerous process. Here's where the rats of APOPO come in.

Dubbed HeroRATs, the African giant pouched rats from Tanzania have a highly developed sense of smell, are easy to train and too light to detonate the landmines when walking over them. They're also fast! An area the size of a tennis court would take a human with a metal detector 4 days to clear. A HeroRAT can search the same area in 30 minutes! APOPO's landmine program is currently operating in Angola, Cambodia and Mozambique.

HeroRATs not focused on landmines are trained to detect tuberculosis. Each year there are 10 million new global cases of tuberculosis and 1.6 million people die from the disease. HeroRATs sniffing sputum samples are faster and more efficient than microscopy. HeroRATs can check 100 samples in 20 minutes vs. a human checking 25 samples per day. Samples identified as positive by the rats are verified by lab technicians. Watch a short video of how it works here.

Although it may seem unconventional, the results are impressive. Since they began over 20 years ago, APOPO has destroyed more than 106,000 landmines and the HeroRATs found over 12,000 TB-positive patients, improving clinic TB detection by 40%. To learn more, explore the website for stories of people who have been impacted by APOPO and read all the rat FAQs your heart desires.

If you'd like to support the work of APOPO you can make a traditional donation, adopt a HeroRAT, shop for merch or create your own volunteer position! Keep current on stories from the field by liking the APOPO Facebook page and following them on Twitter @HeroRATs

Friday, August 16, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Defenders of Wildlife

This week a policy change was announced that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. That's why we're highlighting a Feel Good Friday organization dedicated to protecting these animals and their habitats, Defenders of Wildlife.

As summarized on their website, "Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America."

All of their programs focus on one of these three broad imperatives:
  • Prevent species and their habitats from becoming imperiled.
  • Protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.
  • Restore the health of vulnerable species and their habitats.
You can check in on what Defenders is doing for individual animals or an individual place by viewing the wildlife or wild places sections of the website to find your favorites. One example is getting the voluntary tax donation check-off box put on tax forms for the California Sea Otter Fund and warning signs put on flushable kitty litter because it's harmful to the sea otters.

Other programs focus on: conserving imperiled species, advocating for international species, protecting wildlife habitat, promoting coexistence between humans and wildlife, defending conservation laws, innovating for wildlife conservation (science, meets technology, meets policy), and combating climate change. Whew! You can read details about these programs and blogs on current efforts at the "our work" section of the website.

Ready to fight for those who can't fight for themselves? You can help protect the Endangered Species Act by filling out this short form to write your Representatives and visiting the action hub for other ways to get involved.

You can also support the work of Defenders of Wildlife by making a traditional donation or adopting an animal (and getting a photo and a plush toy of the animal you adopt). Finally, don't forget to share the social medial love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Defenders.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Feel Good Friday - People in Plazas

With two mass shootings and a massive ICE raid in the U.S. this week, it feels trivial to post a Feel Good Friday story. And yet, that's the reason I started writing this weekly blog almost 7 years ago. I wanted to remind myself and everyone else that even while terrible events are taking place, good things are happening too.

So today, let's talk about the joy and music that People in Plazas brings to the community.

People in Plazas is an organization that produces free noontime musical concerts in San Francisco public spaces during the months of July, August and September.  As they explain on their website, "Our mission is to encourage visitors, residents and workers to use our outdoor public spaces. We strive to make these spaces "everyone's neighborhood".

Now in 15 locations across downtown San Francisco, there are over 120 concerts each summer reaching an audience of more than 30,000 people. People in Plazas also produces movie nights, poetry readings and artisan fairs - all to encourage community use of public spaces.

While it's a delight to stumble upon a concert on your lunch break, you can also plan ahead. Go to the website and look for concerts sorting by date, location, genre or even specific band. You can also find out who will be where by liking the People in Plazas Facebook page and following them on Twitter @PeopleinPlazas

Friday, August 2, 2019

Feel Good Friday - East Oakland Collective

I'm keeping this week's Feel Good Friday super local (to me) with the East Oakland Collective.

The East Oakland Collective (EOC) is member-based community organizing group. Founded in January, 2016 by East Oakland resident, Candice Elder, the mission of EOC is "serving the communities of deep East Oakland by working towards racial and economic equity."

They do this with programs focused on civic engagement and leadership, economic development, and homeless services and solutions. This includes the SuSu Lending Circle, which provides zero-interest loans to participants who pool their resources, and the Homeless Rapid Response Team which is on-call 24/7 to provide food, supplies, and crisis management services to encampment residents.

A popular program that's been in place since 2017 is Feed the Hood. It's a bi-monthly event that brings together volunteers to assemble and distribute lunches and hygiene kits to the homeless. Since they began, volunteers have given out 20,500 lunches and kits to over 4,500 people in Oakland. The next Feed the Hood date is on August 12th and you can register to volunteer here.

You can learn more about the origin of the East Oakland Collective by reading this article from Oakland Magazine and checking out more articles and videos on their news page. There are many ways to support the work of EOC. You can volunteer, donate money and share the love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @EOakCollective. #WokeEastOakland

Friday, July 26, 2019

Feel Good Friday -

Happy Summer! Have you taken your vacation yet? Whether you drive a car to your destination or jump on a plane, you're increasing your carbon footprint. Fear not, that's where comes in.

Founded in 2003, the motto of is "Reduce what you can. Offset what you can't." Their mission is to "encourage everyone to continually strive to reduce their carbon footprint through sensible energy reductions combined with cost-effective carbon offsets to eliminate their overall carbon footprint."

Why is that? The average American's total carbon footprint (including emissions from your home, car, air travel and everything you use) is 50,000 pounds per year!

If you want to shrink that number, read recommendations on the website of how to reduce your carbon footprint. For example, keep your car tires properly inflated, upgrade your lighting and appliances and buy local. There's also an entire section on tips for your wedding.

The other half of the equation is offsetting your footprint. supports three types of offset projects: energy efficiency, forestry and renewable energy. For example, providing technology at truck stops so drivers can power the interior of their trucks without idling their engines; reforesting 25,000 acres of abandoned cattle pastures in Panama; and promoting wind turbines in China which generate energy, reduce carbon dioxide and provide local employment opportunities. You can read about those projects and many more at the links above.

So how does all this work? As an individual you can calculate your carbon footprint using preset options or by inputing specific information about your home, car and flights. Use the resulting dollar amount and buy some offsets to support the various projects. You can also use your money to plant trees. At a cost of $1.00 per tree, it's an affordable way to improve air quality, preserve biodiversity, control flooding and provide habitat for wildlife. Businesses can participate too.

If calculating your footprint and purchasing carbon offsets is too much effort, you can still support by sending in an old school donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Carbonfundorg.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Sea Inspiration

Having spent a few days on the beaches of Hawaii this week, I wanted to find a Feel Good Friday organization that focused their efforts on the ocean and I did, Sea Inspiration.

Founded in 2009 by Ray Hollowell and located in Honolulu, the mission of Sea Inspiration "is to bring healing to people and the sea by sharing positive, healing and inspiring ocean experiences." They do this through three programs: My Beach Report (MBR), Healing Adventures and Inspiring Videos.

My Beach Report "is an educational sea adventure show hosted by students, for students, to help them SEE the SEA - and inspire them to get active." Young people learn about the marine environment and how they can have a positive impact on sea life.

There are Healing Adventures designed for military veterans and young people with disabilities or terminal illnesses. Both programs focus on getting people in the water to experience surfing, paddling, snorkeling and swimming with marine life.

Inspiring Videos are just what they sound like! The team at Sea Inspiration wants you to experience the beauty of the ocean in hopes you'll be inspired to educate others and protect the seas. You can watch a short introductory video here and catch the rest on their video page.

Does all of this make a difference? Of course it does. You can go to the success stories section of the website to read testimonials from wounded veterans and the story of a girl with leukemia who got her wish to meet Kama, the surfing pig. That one even has a video.

Want to support the work of Sea Inspiration? Click this link to see your donation options and follow them on social media by liking their Facebook page.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Leilani Farm Sanctuary

Aloha! I'm heading to Haiku, Hawaii for a few days so I did a quick search to see what's going on there and found a perfect Feel Good Friday organization - Leilani Farm Sanctuary!

Founded by Laurelee Blanchard, Leilani Farm Sanctuary is an all-volunteer run refuge for rescued animals. There are cows, chickens, cats, goats, rabbits, donkeys, peahens, pigs, deer and ducks living together on the 8-acre farm in Maui.

At the sanctuary, they host at-risk youth programs, school field trips, special needs children, elder activities and farm tours for the general public. Their overall goal is to educate people about the animals and give them a new perspective.

They also run humane education and therapeutic programs. As explained on their website, "most of the animals at Leilani Farm Sanctuary were orphaned, neglected, or abused. Through interaction with these animals, children from troubled homes learn forgiveness, courage, strength, leadership skills, trust, empathy, and kindness. The animals become role models, helping children learn to forgive, overcome their pasts, and reach toward a hopeful future."

You can learn more and see many of the animals in this introductory video and then explore their entire video library.

If you're visiting Maui, you can take a tour of the farm. If you live there you can volunteer. No matter where you are you can support the ongoing work of Leilani Farm Sanctuary by sponsoring an animal, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @LeilaniFS

Friday, July 5, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Bay Area Girls Rock Camp

Happy Feel Good Friday! Summer is upon us, time to sign up for a program with Bay Area Girls Rock Camp.

Founded in 2008 and inspired by a camp in Portland, Bay Area Girls Rock Camp (BAGRC) is a "non profit organization that empowers young people through music, promoting an environment that fosters self-confidence, creativity and teamwork."

The camp is open to self-identified girls and trans youth ages 8 to 18.  Campers participate in music lessons, workshops, group activities and performances.

Specific programs include: GRASP (Girls Rock After School Program) a 10-week course where girls learn an instrument, form a band, write a song and perform it; Summer Camp, a one-week version of GRASP; and Women's Rock Camp, a one-day version of these programs for those of us 19 and older. All tuition from the Women's Rock Camp goes into the financial aid fund for the other programs.

BAGRC serves hundreds of youth each year thanks to the support of, that's right, people like you. If you live in the Bay Area you can volunteer and anyone can make a donation of money or gear.
You can also share the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @BAGRC. Rock on!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Feel Good Friday - True Colors

Happy Feel Good Friday and Happy Pride! San Francisco celebrates with a parade on Sunday, we're celebrating with a story about True Colors today.

True Colors was founded in 1994 and is based in Connecticut. As explained on their website, they are "a non-profit organization that works with other social service agencies, schools, organizations, and within communities to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth are both recognized and competently met."

They provide cultural competency and skill-building training to over 6,000 professionals each year. Programs for youth are held in their Connecticut locations. This includes Friday night activities such as games, movies or crafts, and a six-week summer program called Queer Academy, which empowers youth to become community leaders and social justice activists.

True Colors also manages the state's only LGBTIQ mentoring program and they organize an annual conference which draws over 3,000 attendees. On top of all this, their website has an extensive list of resources to help you find reading materials, community centers and hotline numbers.

If you'd like to support the work of True Colors you can become a mentor, volunteer or make a donation. As always, stay in the know by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TrueColorsCT. Happy Pride! Let your true colors shine.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Feel Good Friday - GRID Alternatives

Happy Summer Solstice! It's the longest day of the year and we're celebrating with an organization that's focused on solar and renewable energy, GRID Alternatives.

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Oakland, California, GRID Alternatives is "working across the United States and internationally to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities." They are the nation's largest nonprofit solar installer serving families in California and beyond.

GRID targets communities impacted by underemployment, pollution and climate change. They partner with affordable housing organizations, job training groups, government agencies, municipalities, utilities, tribes and local communities to make using solar energy a win-win.

GRID provides job-seekers in the community hands-on training opportunities by teaching them to install no-cost solar for people in low-income households. They also drive renewable energy policies at the state and local levels, develop and implement shared solar projects and make electric vehicles more accessible. You can read specifics of all their programs here.

Their efforts have made a big impact: 14,561 households served; 42,054 participants trained and 930,636 greenhouse gas emissions prevented.

You can get involved with GRID Alternatives by becoming a partner, a volunteer or by making a donation. Stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GRID. Let the sun shine!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Feel Good Friday - MedGlobal

I learned about MedGlobal from a friend who is currently volunteering with them in Bangladesh and decided to make them today's Feel Good Friday organization.

Founded in 2017 by physicians experienced in humanitarian medicine, MedGlobal is dedicated to "creating a world without healthcare disparity". As explained on their webiste, they do this through providing "sustainable healthcare services to the refugees, the displaced and the most vulnerable in crisis areas and low resources countries worldwide by deploying diverse short term volunteer medical missions and partnering with local organizations." They venture where many other NGOs choose not to go.

Since their founding, volunteers have donated 20,080 hours to conduct 365 operations and 69,678 patient consultations in 11 countries.

In 2018, MedGlobal sent volunteers on 84 medical missions to provide care in Yemen, Sierra Leone, Syria, Lebanon, Greece and Bangladesh. They conducted over 340 surgeries and 46,000 consultations, all while upholding their core values of diversity, cultural competence and professionalism. You can watch a short video of their 2018 impact here.

Some of the current programs include: reducing infant mortality among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh with training for birth attendants; providing healthcare to Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and running 6 medical missions in war zones in Syria to address to address the humanitarian crisis.

If you've got the necessary skills and a willingness to travel, you can volunteer on a medical team or operations and creative team. If that's not an option, you can still support the work of MedGlobal by making a donation and spreading the word on social media. Like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @MedGlobalOrg and watch their vlog for the latest stories from the field.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Rainbow Railroad

We're kicking off LGBTQI Pride month with a Feel Good Friday story about Rainbow Railroad.

Founded in 2006, Rainbow Railroad provides emergency travel support to help LGBTQI people escape persecution and state-sponsored violence around the world. There are 71 countries where being LGBTQI is still criminalized. Rainbow Railroad works with community leaders and partner organizations in these countries to identify people who are in danger.

Once clients are identified, Rainbow Railroad provides support which can include information on routes to safety, resources for seeking asylum, moral support, financial support and connections to settlement agencies in safe countries in North America and Europe. While the specific support varies with each situation, on average it costs $10,000 per case to help someone to safety.

At any given time there are 30-50 open cases with the current focus on helping people in Chechnya, Egypt and Jamaica. In 2018 Rainbow Railroad had 1328 requests for assistance and was able to help 198 people claim asylum in a safe country. That brings the total number of people helped since they started to over 500!

You can learn more about Rainbow Railroad by watching this 2-minute intro video, reading stories of clients, and, if you live in or are visiting New York City on June 20th, you can attend the Journey to Freedom panel and join the discussion.

If you'd like to support the work of Rainbow Railroad, you can donate money, raise funds or volunteer. As always, you can help spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page
and following them on Twitter @RainbowRailroad.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Feel Good Friday - SolarBuddy

Yesterday, my coworkers and I assembled solar lights with today's Feel Good Friday organization, SolarBuddy.

Launched in 2016, the mission of this Australian organization "is to help improve the educational opportunities of 6 million children living in energy poverty throughout the South Pacific, South East Asia and Africa by 2030 by providing them with SolarBuddy solar lights to study with after dusk."

Why focus on lighting? 1.4 billion people around the world live in energy poverty, meaning they have no light or power once the sun sets. The use of cooking fires and kerosene lamps in the home creates indoor air pollution that causes 4.3 million deaths per year.

An impact assessment commissioned by SolarBuddy found that students study 78% longer when they have a solar light. In addition, having a solar light means less money spent on lighting and less reliance on diesel, kerosene and burning wood for fuel. That's better for the health of both people and the environment.

SolarBuddy has programs for schools, corporations and conferences. In all cases, the people involved learn about energy poverty, renewable energy and global citizenship and then get to work assembling solar lights that will be distributed to children around the world. To date, volunteers in 500 schools and 80 corporations have assembled and donated 84,000 lights. This video gives a great summary of the programs.

You can support the SolarBuddy team by getting your school or workplace to host an event, making a direct donation and spreading the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SolarBuddyOrg.

The light I made, now headed to a child in Papua New Guinea!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Feel Good Friday - unCommon Construction

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization from a tour guide I had in New Orleans. For every 5-star review he receives, his boss makes a donation to the charity of his choice, unCommon Construction.

Founded in 2015 by Aaron Frumin, the motto of unCommon Construction is "Building houses. Framing character."

This non-profit provides high school students with apprenticeships in the construction industry. Every Saturday students from four schools in New Orleans meet with experienced volunteers on a construction site to build a house from start to finish. The project is over at the end of the semester when the house is complete. While working, students get both hourly pay and school internship credit. Students also earn a matching "equity award scholarship" from revenue generated from the sale of the house. This can be used for further education, industry certification or tools.

This 4-minute video gives a great overview of the program and shows interviews with students on the worksite.

Not only are students who participate in the program earning money, credit and learning a trade, they also develop leadership and other soft skills through the process of working with the volunteers and other students.

If you'd like to support the work of unCommon Construction, you've got options. Those of you who live in New Orleans can hire them for a project or volunteer on a build. No matter where you are, you can shop for swag, make a donation and show the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @uCCNOLA.