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!