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 - Carbonfund.org

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 Carbonfund.org comes in.

Founded in 2003, the motto of Carbonfund.org 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. Carbonfund.org 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 Carbonfund.org 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.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Villalobos Rescue Center

Happy Feel Good Friday from New Orleans, Louisiana! If you've ever watched the show "... " then you're already familiar with today's organization, the Villalobos Rescue Center.

With locations in New Orleans and Assumption Parish, the Villalobos Rescue Center (VRC) is the country's largest rescue facility for pit bulls. The center is run by Tia Torres, who started it as a wolf and wolf hybrid rescue center in California in the 1990s.

While working as a youth gang counselor for the City of Los Angeles, she had a chance encounter with a very friendly pit bull at the animal shelter and petitioned animal control to release the dog to her. Tatanka was the start of the pit bull rescue.

In 1999, in partnership with Los Angeles City Animal Services, Tia formed "The Pit Bull Support Group" to help owners with spaying, neutering and training their pets and in 2006 she started employees parolees to help rehabilitate and retrain the dogs at VRC.

VRC relocated to New Orleans in 2011 due to rising costs in California and has now expanded to take in dogs of all breeds. Each month they take in 60 dogs, adopt out 30-40 and spend $280,000 to keep the center running. Adopted dogs get added to their "happy endings" alumni page of the website.

If you want to support the work of the Villalobos Rescue Center you can make a donation, sponsor an individual dog or adopt a dog. If you happen to live in, or be visiting New Orleans, you can volunteer as a dog walker, take a tour of the facility or shop for merchandise and dog treats. No matter where you are, you can like their Facebook page and watch Pit Bulls and Parolees!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Help a Mother Out

Sunday is Mother's Day, which makes Help a Mother Out a perfect organization to talk about on Feel Good Friday!

Founded in 2009, the mission of Help a Mother Out is "to improve baby and family well being by increasing access to diapers for families in need."

Why diapers? They're expensive! An average baby will go through 10,000 diapers in their early years and at a cost of $80-100 per month, that's out of reach for many low income families. Keeping a child in dirty diapers for extended periods of time can lead to health issues and without a supply of clean diapers, your child won't be allowed to attend most child care programs.

Help a Mother Out distributes diapers through a network of social service partners. This includes family resource centers, homeless and foster children services, public health departments and facilitated parent support groups. Most of these groups are in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area but there are also partners in other locations in California and one in Austin, Texas. You can see the complete list here.

In the 10 years they've been operating, Help a Mother Out has provided over 9 million diapers! This short video explains how the San Francisco Diaper Bank works. Families who qualify for CalWorks, have children under 3 years old and are SF residents can pick up six packages of diapers per month. 

Social workers report being able to provide diapers to their clients lowers their anxiety and financial stress. It also helps the social workers build trust and enables them to start discussing and offering other resources to their clients. You can read some testimonials here.

If you'd like to support the work of this organization, there are many ways to get involved. You can donate money, donate diapers, host a diaper drive or join a diaper sorting and distribution event. You can also like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @helpamotherout. Happy Mother's Day!


Friday, May 3, 2019

Feel Good Friday - MALDEF

As you prepare to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and the Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla, take a moment to learn about today's Feel Good Friday organization, MALDEF.

MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Founded in 1968, their mission "is to protect and defend the rights of all Latinos living in the United States and the constitutional rights of all Americans."

Their court cases and public policy advocacy focuses on five areas: education, employment, immigrants' rights, voting rights and access to justice.

This work involves desegregating public schools, ending discrimination in hiring and promotion practices, eliminating barriers that prevent immigrants from achieving full integration into society, and fighting for voting rights and equal rights. MALDEF is also leading litigation, advocacy and education to prevent the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Whew!

In addition to details on all their court cases, the website also has a resource page with links to a scholarship guide, leadership programs, projects with partner organizations and publications you can download.

If you want to support the work of MALDEF and live in Chicago you can attend the 50th Anniversary Gala on June 7th. For those of us who don't, you can make a donation here. Everyone can help spread the word and show the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @MALDEF. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Feel Good Friday - SERVE

After watching the news from Sri Lanka about the bombings on Easter, I went looking for something positive happening in the country that I could highlight on Feel Good Friday. That's when I found SERVE.

SERVE, which stands for Socio-Economic, Ecological, Religious, Virtuous Empowerment is "a non-profit organization established in 1999 working with and for the rights of children and families" in ten districts in Sri Lanka.

SERVE partners with social workers to support community development through self-help groups for women and programs for children. Their approach focuses on social empowerment (community problem solving), economic empowerment (forming groups to save money that can be loaned to members), and political empowerment (solving neighborhood issues). You see them in action in this short video.

Current projects include running children's centers to provide homework help, computer classes and art classes; supporting women in prison with skill development, income generation activities and reintegration assistance; and providing karate and life skill lessons to adolescent girls to help them develop self-discipline and confidence.

If you want to support the work that SERVE is doing, they welcome volunteers to help in the classroom with English, computer, arts and music instruction or professionals who can help with teacher training, IT support and social work. Donations are also accepted and you can keep current with SERVE by liking their Facebook page.

If you'd like to make a donation to help the victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka, you'll find resources and options at this link.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Feel Good Friday - World Monuments Fund

As is sometimes the case, my Feel Good Friday inspiration today came from bad news that happened earlier in the week. This time it was the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. It made me wonder if there was an organization dedicated to protecting monuments and historic places and it turns out there is - the World Monuments Fund.

Founded in 1965, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) is a private nonprofit "dedicated to saving the world's most treasured places". They do this by working with "local partners around the globe to provide financial and technical support for preservation, restoration, and long-term stewardship". Since their founding over 50 years ago, the WMF has raised 300 million dollars, trained or employed over 1000 people and conserved over 600 sites!

Not only do they respond to sites damaged by earthquakes, floods and wars, they also have several proactive programs. That includes World Monuments Watch, a global nomination-based program that uses cultural heritage conservation to empower communities. For example training Syrian refugees in Jordan as stone masons so they can rebuild monuments destroyed during the war in Syria. Learn more in this short video.

In addition to training craftspeople in restoration, the WMF works with communities to build economic, technical and governmental infrastructure to protect and preserve historic sites. If you want to learn more you can check this link and read about their featured projects.

You can support the work of the World Monuments Fund by traveling with them, making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @WorldMonuments. If you'd like to direct your donation to the restoration of Notre Dame, you can do that here.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Feel Good Friday - The GroundTruth Project

I'm always on the lookout for good news to share on this blog. A recent story on the PBS News Hour led me to today's Feel Good Friday organization, the GroundTruth Project.

Based in Boston, the GroundTruth Project, as explained on their Facebook page, "provides in-depth reporting on social justice issues while training a new generation of global correspondents in the digital age."

Since their founding in 2012, they have provided more than 150 fellowships to early-career journalists who are on the ground reporting on social justice issues.

Stories focus on public health, the environment, religion, humanitarian crises and human rights. The PBS report I saw was about survivors of the Rwandan genocide who have turned to photography to document their country's resilience 25 years after the massacre. Click this link to view the story.

All GroundTruth fellows receive journalism security training, funding for reporting time and expenses, and editorial mentorship. Their work, which can be in print, photography, film or radio, is published on the GroundTruth Project website and through editorial partnerships with major news outlets. You can view all the special reports here.

To support the work of the GroundTruth Project, you can make a donation. To keep current with what they're doing you can sign up for one of their newsletters and connect with them on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GroundTruth.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Legal Services for Children

A friend of mine sits on the Board of Directors for the organization Legal Services for Children. When I learned more about their work, I decided they were a perfect candidate for Feel Good Friday.

Established in 1975 and based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the mission of Legal Services for Children (LSC) is to provide "free representation to children and youth who require legal assistance to stabilize their lives and realize their full potential."

They take a client-oriented, holistic approach that uses both legal advocacy and social work services to help children and youth (up to 21 years old) in three major areas:
  • Safety and stability at home - assistance with the guardianship process and representing children in foster care cases
  • Success in school - help with enrollments for students that are homeless, undocumented or in foster care; representation at expulsion hearings; and assistance filing complaints
  • Freedom from deportation and detention - free legal screenings and advice about legal options, as well as representation in immigration cases
The impact of LSC is impressive. In 2017 they served 1,443 youth in 25 different languages and held 100 outreach and training community events. Victories included helping their clients secure permanent residence, asylum, employment authorization and legal guardianship as well as getting deportation proceedings terminated and school expulsions cancelled. You can read more metrics and watch stories about individual clients here.

If you're an attorney who wants to help and has time to volunteer, you can apply to become an LSC Pro Bono Attorney. You'll receive training, support and access to an online resource library. The rest of us can make a donation and show our support on social media by liking the Legal Services for Children Facebook page.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Plastic Soup Foundation

This week the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics! That inspired today's post on the Plastic Soup Foundation.

Preventing plastic pollution is a favorite Feel Good Friday topic and the Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF) has been working on this problem since their founding in 2011. Based in Amsterdam, the mission of PSF is, "no plastic waste in our water!"

To achieve this mission, PSF focuses on raising awareness of the problem, running educational programs in schools and promoting solutions which will keep plastic out of the oceans in the first place. They use humor to get their points across as demonstrated in this mock commercial for plastic soup. A clever way to explain how 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year and is lethal for many marine animals. Not so funny anymore, is it?

They are running several active campaigns including asking consumers to stop using personal care products with microbeads; organizing trash hunts where people pick up, identify, register and dispose of trash; and developing a Plastic Footprint, a standardized way for corporations to measure their use of plastics. You can read about all their campaigns here.

There are a variety of ways you can support the work of the Plastic Soup Foundation, including making a donationshopping for sustainable, durable products and downloading the My Little Plastic Footprint app to learn more about the problem and get inspired to reduce your personal plastic footprint. Want more people to know about the Plastic Soup Foundation? Like their Facebook page (best if you speak Dutch) and follow them on Twitter @plasticsoupfoun.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Feel Good Friday - United Farm Workers of America

My neighborhood in Oakland is celebrating Cesar Chavez day tomorrow, which is why today's Feel Good Friday is all about the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).

You may know the UFW because you remember striking farm workers in the '60s and '70s, the fasts of Cesar Chavez or because you boycotted grapes in support of farm worker rights. Younger people may recognize the UFW slogan ¡Si Se Puede!, which President Obama translated to English and used in his campaigns, Yes We Can!

Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla, the United Farm Workers of America is "the nation's first enduring and largest farm workers union" with the vision of "working for a safe and just food supply". There are four pillars supporting their vision:
  • Integrity: Doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
  • Si Se Puede Attitude: A personal and organizational spirit that promotes confidence, courage, hard work, and the belief that we can do the impossible.
  • Dignity: Recognizing and respecting the inherent worth of all people.
  • Innovation: The active pursuit of new ideas.
As they've done since the beginning, the UFW champions legislative and regulatory reforms for farm workers. Current campaigns focus on issues such as: immigration, with a bill to provide a path to earn lawful permanent residence; overtime, so that farm workers are paid time and a half after 8 hours work; reforming the unsafe labor practices of the largest dairy that supplies milk to Starbucks; and a voter registration drive. 

If you want to take action on any of these issues or learn about additional campaigns, you can click this link and fill out a short form to contact your congressperson. 

Other ways to support the UFW are to make a donation, shop for merch and spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @UFWupdates. 

¡Si Se Puede!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Ruhama

It's Feel Good Friday, St. Patrick's Day is coming up this weekend and it's still Women's History Month, so I searched for an organization in Ireland that works with women and found Ruhama.

Since 1989 Ruhama, based in Dublin, Ireland, has been working "on a national level with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation." This short video from the CEO, Sara Benson gives you a good introduction to their work.

As explained on their website, all services are free and confidential and are offered to "women who are currently involved in on-street and off-street prostitution; women who are exiting prostitution; women who are victims of sex trafficking; and women who have a history of prostitution." Specific services include counseling, housing support, work placement, mobile street outreach and court accompaniment. You can read the full list of services here.

Ruhama also advocates a legislative framework that decriminalizes those in prostitution and works with national media to raise awareness of prostitution, sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

When they celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2014, their records show they assisted more than 2500 women from over 60 countries!

If you live in Ireland, you can get involved with Ruhama by volunteering. No matter where you are, you can show your support by making a donation, liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RuhamaAgency.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Feel Good Friday - SHE-CAN

Not only is today Feel Good Friday, it's International Women's Day. That's why we're highlighting an organization that supports women around the world, SHE-CAN.

SHE-CAN stands for "Supporting Her Education Changes A Nation". As explained on their website, the organization "empowers low-income women from countries restoring peace with the education, leadership skills and mentorship needed to become change-agents at home."

The process involves working with local partner organizations to identify young women with high potential, providing test preparation and connecting them to a team of mentors who will help the women apply for college in the U.S.  Mentors also host scholars and provide emotional and financial support.

SHE-CAN gives the scholars leadership training, career guidance and helps them secure internships so they can return to their countries as leaders, ready to make positive changes in their communities.

Currently, scholars are being identified in Cambodia and Rwanda, two countries that have experienced genocide in the not-so-distant past. You can read the stories of scholars and alumnae at this link.

The results of SHE-CAN's work are positive. Since 2011:
  • 55 low-income women have won full-ride scholarships to 23 U.S. colleges
  • 17 women have graduated and are now emerging leaders
  • 220 professionals are SHE-CAN mentors, increasing the network of support
  • $15 million in scholarship funds have been awarded
Sisterhood is powerful!

If you're interested in becoming a mentor, info sessions are happening now. You can also support the work of SHE-CAN by making a donation, and spreading the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SHECANGlobal.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Feel Good Friday - DIY Girls

Last week we talked about an organization focused on young men so for today's Feel Good Friday, it's all about the young women and the support the get from DIY Girls.

Founded in 2011 by Luz Rivas, the mission of DIY Girls is "to increase girls' interest and success in technology, engineering and making through innovative education experiences and mentor relationships."

The reason it matters is that less than 15% of girls show an interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) between 4th and 8th grade, which translates into women representing less than 25% of the STEAM workforce and Latinas representing only 2% of employed scientists and engineers.

DIY Girls focuses on girls in grades 5-12 in underserved communities in the Northeast San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. 97% of girls served are Latina, 2% African American and 1% Asian-Pacific Islander. Since 2012, over 3,000 girls have participated in various DIY Girls programs.

These programs focus on electronics, coding and invention - you can read an inspiring article on a team of DIY Girls who invented a solar powered tent for the homeless here. There is also a summer camp and an active alumni group that creates a strong support network for current and past DIY Girls.

If you work with girls, you can order a club kit, which provides materials for six one-hour sessions including a paper circuit kit, art bot and interactive friendship bracelet. All of us can support the work of DIY Girls by making a donation and showing the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @DIYGirls. You go, girls!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Feel Good Friday - My Brother's Keeper Alliance

President Obama was in Oakland this week participating in the MBK Rising! summit. That's a great reason to highlight the work of My Brother's Keeper Alliance in today's Feel Good Friday.

My Brother's Keeper was launched by President Obama in 2014 as "a powerful call to action to close opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color." The MBK Alliance was launched as a nonprofit in 2015 to scale and sustain this mission and it became an initiative of the Obama Foundation in 2017.

The MBK Community Challenge, "to build safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear paths to opportunity" has been taken up by 250 communities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Communities include groups such as: Oakland's Urban Strategies Council, working on eliminating persistent poverty in the Bay Area; Boston's Mass Mentoring Partnerships, Inc., serving mentoring and youth development programs; and San Juan's Puerto Rico Community Foundation a group that makes community philanthropic investments.

MBK Alliance forms a network with these communities and provides curated funding opportunities, technical assistance, courses through MBK University and invitations to national conventions like the one that just happened in Oakland. If you weren't in attendance, you can watch the main stage event with President Obama and Steph Curry here.

If you work with an organization that supports young men of color, you can register for the MBK network at this link. All of us can promote My Brother's Keeper Alliance by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @MBK_Alliance.

Now that I've done that, I'm going to try and track Obama down to see if wants to come over for dinner.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Good News Network

I've been posting Feel Good Friday stories for over six years. Part of what makes that possible is having a set of go to resources, including today's organization, the Good News Network.

The Good News Network (GNN) has been publishing positive news stories from around the world since 1997, way more than six years! Founded by Geri Weis-Corbley, the website gets millions of page views each month.

Articles are sorted into five categories: USA, World, Inspiring, Animals and Heroes. Recent stories include: a man in Brazil turning recycled tires into animal beds; a man in Seattle who delivers roses to widows, military wives and single ladies on Valentine's day; and a farm in England where you can do yoga with alpacas. Goat yoga is so 2018.

If you want to make sure there are outlets for positive news stories, you can support the work of the Good News Network by becoming a member, and contribute to the community by sharing a story. There's also a shopping site where you can support a charity with your purchase while you get a GNN discount!

If your world could use a regular dose of "news to enthuse", like the GNN Facebook page, follow them Twitter @goodnewsnetwork and buy a copy of the Good News book! You don't have to wait until Fridays to feel good.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Fair Fight Action

If you watched Stacey Abrams' response to the State of the Union address this week, you heard her mention her organization, Fair Fight Action. What's it all about, you ask? Feel Good Friday is here to explain.

As stated on their website, Fair Fight Action's mission is "to advocate for election reform and engage in voter education and turnout to secure the voting rights of Georgians."

Why does it matter? Read stories of Georgians who showed up at their polling locations to vote and found extremely long lines that required they choose between missing work and voting, people told they were registered in a different county than the one they lived in and had been voting in, and people given provisional ballots for a variety of suspect reasons. I had heard about midterm election shenanigans in Georgia but reading so many people's individual stories is rather shocking.

Fair Fight is working to promote fair elections, voter participation and voter education. They are also raising public awareness of election reform, lobbying the Georgia state legislature and engaging in targeted voter registration and outreach programs.

If you live in Georgia and have an election day story to tell, you can share it here. If you want to support Stacey Abrams in her effort to reform elections in Georgia you can make a donation and spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @fairfightaction




Friday, February 1, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

If you've been following news in the U.S. this week, you know the polar vortex is causing record low temperatures in places like Chicago. That presents problems for everyone, especially the homeless. There are local groups providing support, including today's Feel Good Friday organization, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CHH).

During this week's extremely cold weather CCH has been connecting people to shelters and warming centers. Estimates from 2016 found there were 16,000 people living on the streets of Chicago and over 80,000 homeless when you count those who are "doubled up", or living in other people's homes. Over 11,000 of these people are unaccompanied youth between the ages of 14 and 24.

To address the issues around homelessness, CCH has been following the same mission since 1980: "We organize and advocate to prevent and end homelessness, because we believe housing is a human right in a just society." 

Their programs include outreach by community organizers, a Reentry Project that certifies high-performing ex-offenders and matches them with subsidized housing, a creative writing program and a Speakers Bureau comprised of 15 formerly homeless youth and adults. In 2018, they reached 3,250 people in 63 venues to discuss topics such as providing homeless families with access to affordable housing, advocating for educational rights of homeless youth and securing job training and living wage employment.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless also provides free legal services to over 450 clients per year and advocates statewide for programs and policies that support homeless youth and adults.

To preserve their independent voice, CCH does not accept government funding. That makes donations from supporters an important part of their ability to continue the work they do. You can become a supporter by donating here, volunteer with the #BringChicagoHome campaign if you live in Illinois and, no matter where you live, you can like the CCH Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ChiHomeless.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Mermaids

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization, Mermaids, because Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently joined a gaming livestream that was raising money for the organization. You can watch that interaction here and read more about Mermaids below.

Mermaids is an organization based in the United Kingdom that provides "family and individual support for gender diverse teenagers and children". As explained on their website, "We work to raise awareness about gender nonconformity in children and young people amongst professionals and the general public. We campaign for the recognition of gender dysphoria in young people and lobby for improvements in professional services."

Mermaids has helped thousands of people since their formation in 1995. They have a help-line you can call and they run support groups for youth and their parents. In addition, the website has tons of resources, including links to videos and articles that are designed for young people, parents, and professionals. They also provide trans-inclusive diversity training for schools, organizations and private companies.

You can see the impact Mermaids is having on young people and their families by watching this 4-minute film, #IKnowWhoIAm.

If you'd like to support their work, you don't have to stream your Donkey Kong game on Twitch. You can buy and wear some merchandise, make the traditional donation and raise awareness on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Mermaids_Gender.